I finish looking around the island, and there is a little more time before I’m supposed to meet up with the others. I don’t have anything else I want to do, so I return to the balcony. I move past the golems and into the room before deactivating Peeping Tom mode. “I hate waiting.”

Mason startles and then yells, “Where the hell did you come from!?”  

“Outside; I just walked in off the balcony. There’s a decent crowd out there.”  Looking around, “Where’s Auntie?”

Grumpy replies, “She should be on her way back from the bathroom. She’s not used to speaking to crowds.”

“Hm. I figured Nirvana would be doing most of the talking.”

Still snickering a little at Mason, Gilden says, “You’re probably right, but that doesn’t reduce jitters, and the body always makes you think you need to pee as part of the flight response.”

“Yes, well, I don’t think anybody really needs to know I was taking care of business,” said Emma as she walked into the room. “Plus, if you haven’t thought about it, I doubt you will get a potty break once all those people start coming into the temple.”

We all looked at each other and then made a dash for the door. By the time we returned, Nirvana was sitting in a chair and dunking a black cookie into a glass of milk.

I winked at her while saying, “I already gave that one to the EA to add to the book.”

She smiled, “I know, but I wanted to share with Auntie. She likes the ones where we get to sing! Are you all ready now? If so, I’ll get started. Jeb, you’re on my left and everybody else on my right.”

Once we were arranged to her liking, Nirvana walked out onto the balcony with us. Then she leaps onto the balcony railing; balancing there, she looks out over the crowd and begins her speech, “Greetings and salutations to all residents and visitors! I, Nirvana, welcome you to Temple Island. Today is a turning point in The Dream, a necessary step to prepare you for the journey’s end. Life here in The Dream has become stagnant and routine. We must reawaken the hunger of humanity before we face the challenges ahead. It’s time to fan the creative spark into a bright torch flame. A torch you can use to explore the dark unknown for knowledge and treasure!”

“Today, my temple will open to the public. Those with faith in The Dream may approach the alter and request knowledge. Some will be granted a boon, a new magic system based on games from the past. This will be supplemental; it will give you additional ways to use mana, not replace the ones you already have.”

“These new systems will give rise to new powers and ways to abuse them. Conflict will occur, and Nirvana will change. But conflict shouldn’t be only between humans and their factions. A common foe to unite the people is needed! Thus, the wilds will be fruitful, the beasts will become stronger, and the desire for territory and hunger will lead them into conflict with humanity.”

“This temple will be a constant, a place where any may come seeking the boon of knowledge.” Gesturing to her right, “You may petition my High Priestess, Emma, and her staff for aid. There are limits to what they can do, for like you, they are only human.”

“The temple is not the only path to this new power,” gesturing to her left towards me, “my First Oracle, Jebediah Walker, opened the first cache of many. Lore and relics that were hidden where anyone could find them for over a thousand years, he claimed for his own on his second day as a resident. The suit he wears, the staff he wields, and the vehicle he drove through town yesterday are only small examples of his claimed treasures. The new magic systems are him sharing the bounty of his finds. He knows more than he has told anyone, even me! So, listen carefully for when he speaks, even I don’t always know if his words will bring doom or a boon.”

“Now, resources will need to be gathered to take advantage of some of these new opportunities. Monster parts, gold, gems, and more! Will you be a legend amongst artisans, or will you heed the clarion call to adventure? Will you risk everything for treasure? For Power? For Glory?”

“Those who would seek adventure, come to the temple and seek a boon!”

And with that, someone in the crowd yells above the din, “And what of this religion you touted?!”

“Ah, for those needing more clarity than the words at the beginning of my speech. There are no holy days, ceremonies, or rituals. You do not need to give up your beliefs or convert. My religion consists of your faith in The Dream and my ability to make it real. Isn’t that something you have been practicing all this time? What’s different? Now I have those dedicated to helping me here within Nirvana in addition to those outside Nirvana. I will grant rewards to those here in Nirvana who are helping me, and they will be an additional conduit between you and me.”

From out of the left side of the crowd, a man screams, “You traitorous bitch! You promised-”  He suddenly stops as his avatar stops moving.

“I did promise, and I am keeping my promise. Consider what I have said today very carefully. You don’t have to have faith in me or The Dream. If you want power, then do like Jebediah did and find it. It’s out there waiting for any fool to collect – and has been for over a thousand years! I am giving you, and those in attendance who believe as you do, one chance to calm down and carefully consider what you are about to say. Your punishment will be epic if you reveal what should not be in this public forum.” 

“In fact, I’ll clarify the rule.”

Server Rule Change:  Religious Freedom
Individual humans, digitized, revived, or visiting, are free to believe in and practice any faith they desire – ONLY to the extent that no other human is physically or emotionally coerced into renouncing their beliefs or adopting yours.  Religious factions may wage war as per the faction rules; and are subject to the penalties for war crimes like any other faction.

“You have your religious freedom; as much as you can practice to make yourself and those who believe like you better people. You are on notice. No longer will I tolerate acts of terrorism, kidnapping, or torture related to religion within Nirvana. Just as I have stopped them in the physical realm, I will end them here – but in here, I will end them with prejudice. If your words are insufficient to convert others to your faith, your factions will die out and become history.”

Unfreezing and dismissing the man with a wave of her hand, “How unpleasant. Now, this wasn’t supposed to be Q&A time, so we’re going to go downstairs and open the doors. Please form an orderly line before the steps; being first or last won’t change any results, and if you don’t get a boon today, you can try again on another day.

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