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Tears of the Oracle was the eighty-first Virgin New Adventures novel.

It was a return to the "main narrative" after the two previous novels, which went down different avenues. Irving Braxiatel, Clarence and Chris Cwej returned.

Publisher's summary[]

"Benny, you're ill. Let us help you. We want to help you. Really we do. This paranoia. These delusions. What you've done — it's driven you insane. Nobody wants to hurt you. We're your friends."

On Dellah, the shattered former home of Bernice Summerfield, only the Advanced Research centre survives — the last remnant of the once famous university. But it's under siege from fanatical groups of religious inquisitors, searching for new converts or dangerous heretics.

Benny would have to be mad to go back.

Jason Kane, Bernice's one-time husband and all-time opportunist, has found the ancient remains of the Oracle of the Lost on an obscure planetoid known only as KS-159. Or so he says.

Benny would have to be mad to believe him.

The mysterious Irving Braxiatel is looking for somewhere quiet to house his huge collection of... everything.

Benny would have to be mad to suggest KS-159.

The Oracle of the Lost, legend says, can answer any question. But the cryptic answers she gives are never helpful, and often dangerous.

Benny would have to be mad to reawaken her.

Or ask a question.

Or believe the answer.

Chapter titles[]

  1. Finale (1)
  2. An Account of a Meeting of the Funding Council of the Colloquian Museum of Ancient Artefacts
  3. Conversations
  4. Faith Healing
  5. Storage Facility X One Nine
  6. Transcript of a Lecture by Professor Edward Watkinson at the Colloquian University (Extract)
  7. Communication
  8. A Plea for Help
  9. Finale (2)
  10. Rescue and Survival
  11. Escape and Death
  12. A Visitor
  13. Jason's Story
  14. Mikelz's Message to Watkinson from the Delfus-Orestes Expedition (Extract)
  15. A Gamble
  16. Arrivals
  17. Extract from the Diary of Bernice Summerfield
  18. Departure
  19. Recollections of Divson Follett
  20. Excavations and Discoveries
  21. The Oracle of the Lost
  22. Finale (3)
  23. Post-Mortem
  24. Mikelz's Second Message to Watkinson (Fragment)
  25. Heat Seeking
  26. Report of Captain Riva Gordenski, Duty Officer Extraction Unit Five, Cavanora System - 11 September, 2515 (Extract)
  27. Links
  28. Gregor's Log (Extract)
  29. Correspondence of Louisa Mikelz (Fragment)
  30. Questions
  31. Merely Players
  32. Diagnosis
  33. Anomaly
  34. Research
  35. Extract from Living Archaeology, the Biography of Edward Watkinson, by Herve Pottle
  36. Conversation
  37. The Oracle's Story
  38. The Ship
  39. Visual Log
  40. Evidence
  41. Guilt
  42. Finale (4)
  43. Discovery
  44. Changes
  45. Answers
  46. Contacts
  47. Paracletes
  48. Personal Journal of Professor Edward Watkinson (Extract)
  49. Personal Journal of Ableet Gorvalis (Extract)
  50. Background Reading
  51. Transcript of Watkinson's Final Lecture (Extract)
  52. Observations and Arrivals
  53. Freedom of Information
  54. Identity Crisis
  55. In the House of God
  56. Confrontation
  57. The Tears of the Oracle
  58. Showdown
  59. Preoccupations
  60. Last Message to God
  61. Data Input
  62. Sanctuary
  63. Simulation
  64. Poisoned Chalice
  65. Finale (5)
  66. Fallout
  67. Question and Answer
  68. Closure


Although the People have negotiated a new treaty with their rivals, God is 87% sure that war remains inevitable because of the religious fervour spreading across Dellah. He has !Cin-ta!x of the Temporal Interest Group help engineer time travel, which is permitted by the new treaty, and it is rumoured that he is receiving advice from a man outside of the People whom he decides to send to KS-159. He also sends Clarence to give a small box to Benny.

On Dellah, Commander Skutloid, Garshal and Drexton defend the people hiding in St Oscar's University's Advanced Research Department from the religious fanatics, protected from the madness themselves by alpha-wave suppressors. Skutloid realises that Director Silvera too has succumbed to the illness and decides to defy his orders and send a message to Braxiatel for help despite the planet being in quarantine. Joseph hears the message and comes to find him.

Braxiatel, no longer with Renée Thalia, invites Benny to meet him at a spaceport and informs her that he intends on establishing a permanent collection with her help. He also shows her to Clarence, who updates them on goings-on in the Worldsphere and tells them that B-Aaron is looking into the new treaty and that God believes that she and Braxiatel are to be key players in the war. He gives Benny the box from God, which contains a holocube of one of Edward Watkinson's lectures, and Braxiatel later receives Skutloid's message.

Benny and Braxiatel return to Dellah to extract the Neo-Aretians, protected by Braxiatel's mental barrier, as a battle begins between the fanatics and Silvera's men. Drexton, already injured, sacrifices himself and Skutloid dies on Braxiatel's ship after returning Joseph to Benny. Braxiatel discovers that the alpha-wave suppressors were a placebo and Benny finds Jason waiting for her at the warehouse with evidence of where Oleg Mikelz allegedly found the Oracle of the Lost. He says that he has already visited the planetoid, now called KS-159, and found the temple and the Oracle.

Braxiatel wins KS-159 from Hayward Denson at a casino and Benny asks Divson Follett and Emilia Winston to join her, Braxiatel, Jason, Clarence, Joseph and Garshal, which they agree to. Denson, having placed a tracker on Jason, sneaks into the warehouse and offers to provide funding and to serve as their medic, telling them that they will not get past the satellite defences without him. Benny and Braxiatel agree.

On KS-159, the group find Mikelz's base and the eighty-year-old remains of a man and woman killed by shots to the head. They reach the temple and Braxiatel decides that they will each ask of the Oracle one question. Denson asks the Oracle if she is alive and Winston asks how old she is, both questions which she does not give a straight answer to. Braxiatel asks if he will ever return to his people, which he already knew that she could not answer. She tells Garshal that he will die alone in the dark, tells Clarence that he was once !C-Mel, but that who he will become is more important, and tells Follett that he will soon be finished. Finally, she tells Benny that the future war is not certain.

Denson discovers that the remains are that of Mikelz's wife, Louisa, and his assistant, Gregor and looks through Mikelz's files before somebody interrupts him. Garshal and Joseph find his body, mummified, and Benny notices that he is holding a letter from Mikelz to Edward Watkinson in which he discusses how the Oracle indicated that he would kill Louisa and Gregor and, with this knowledge, he came to believe that they were having an affair.

Whilst Jason initially declined to ask the Oracle a question, he returns to her and will not tell Benny what he asked. She reads Watkinson's biography, Living Archaeology, and notices similarities between his doomed trip to Paracletes and Mikelz's to KS-159 which Braxiatel believes are coincidental. She and Clarence search the living quarters at Mikelz's base and find letters and logs in which Louisa and Gregor, who were not having an affair, express concern for Mikelz and his obsession with the Oracle. Benny goes to speak with the Oracle, who says that she has an affliction in her brain.

B-Aaron speaks with simulation systems supervisor Zeb'Lan using a real-time interface and learns that God had Jason repeatedly watch simulations of himself and Benny. He sends a message to Benny and Clarence, but Benny is busy having Denson run tests on her and deduces that the affliction is due to the Mary-Sue she had a few months ago. According to Denson, she has about a month to live and there is no treatment beyond painkillers and sedatives. Garshal is found dead and mummified with a coin in his mouth, which Braxiatel recognises as a Neo-Aretian tradition.

Braxiatel suggests that he and Benny consult the Oracle to find out what happened eighty years ago, with Benny having begun to wonder if Watkinson had thrown himself into his work because he was dying. The Oracle tells them that Mikelz killed Louisa and Gregor before realising that the Oracle had manipulated him into wanting to destroy her as she longs for death. As revenge, Mikelz instead crashed his ship nearby to bury her alive. The group excavate the ship and learn that Mikelz sent a message to Watkinson telling him what happened before he dies instantly from a broken neck in the crash.

When Benny learns that Garshal had a coin in her mouth, she goes to inspect it, knowing that unlike Skutloid he did not believe in the superstition. The coin was one that she had found and given to Jason, indicating that Garshal had put it in his mouth before dying as a clue to who killed him. He tries to kill her and drain her life force before she kills him by hitting him with a lamp. His corpse is exhausted and aged. Benny passes out and, when she awakens, she asks the Oracle about Watkinson and is told that he came to KS-159, found Mikelz, Louise and Gregor dead and is now buried in the desert. The group locate the body and Braxiatel and Watkinson examine it, finding similarities between Watkinson's brain and Jason's.

Benny becomes suspicious of the team due to their hushed whisperings and them keeping a close eye on her, overhearing Braxiatel talking about "maintaining the human form". Braxiatel sends a communication cube to his people in another universe to ask for Cwej's help in investigating what happened to Watkinson on Paracletes. A monk gives Cwej a new body, which is short and stocky, and the communication cube through which Braxiatel contacts him, although he is surprised by the new body. He travels to Paracletes and finds journals which show that Watkinson was paranoid that his students were shape-shifters.

Braxiatel visits the Oracle and learns that she told Jason that Benny and Braxiatel are the people upon whom the future depends. "Jason", however, was actually an impostor. Benny believes that the group are plotting against her and, after pushing Winston into a wall, barricades herself in a room and escapes when Cwej arrives and offers to help. She runs into Jason and again escapes when everybody tells her that she is unwell and that they need to do further tests.

B-Aaron visits Yah!wey, the House where "Jason" was staying whilst on the Worldsphere and learns that he was actually a shape-shifter called Kebara, sent by God to ask the Oracle who would win the war. God arrives and explains that, after Kebara returned from the Oracle and told him that Benny and Braxiatel would be key players, he wanted to have Benny and Braxiatel distracted so that they would have no part in the war and had the mercenary Kebara mimic Jason to lead them to KS-159.

Braxiatel tells Benny about Kebara and shares what the Oracle told him about Watkinson. Watkinson, plagued by a parasite that fed on the certainty and belief of its host, came to KS-159 to infect the Oracle and make her blind to the future as revenge for Mikelz's death. When he died, the parasite moved into the Oracle as planned and remained inside her before moving into Kebara, making him believe that he was really Jason and having him kill Follett and Garshal for energy. It is now inside Benny and makes her disbelieve Braxiatel and shoot him. Benny runs to her room where Joseph, the only one that she feels she can talk to, is waiting for her.

On the Worldsphere, B-Aaron gives God a cryptic message from Braxiatel: he knows that God planted a cup in his sack, but it is in danger of becoming a poisoned chalice or a cure-all. Whilst this means nothing to B-Aaron, God tells B-Aaron to flee from the J-Kibb, which is linked directly to God's systems. The B-Aaron flies away from People space and God takes control of the J-Kibb, which is more concerned with its remote drone.

Benny shoots herself to get rid of the parasite and keep it from moving into anybody else. It jumps into Joseph, which it now knows is a remote drone of J-Kibb, and devours him completely with the intention of moving on to do the same to everything that he was connected to. However, God isolates the J-Kibb from everything else, leaving the parasite trapped, and sets in on a collision course. Clarence watches it.

Benny wakes up on her bed and learns that the gun that she shot herself with was a percussion gun and that the parasite only left her because she believed that it was deadly. Braxiatel summons B-Aaron into J-Kibb's drone and they, Benny and Jason go the Oracle and learn that the war now seems very unlikely to occur, which Braxiatel explains is due to God having crashed the parasite into Dellah to cancel out the religious fervour for which his people would have blamed God had it spread off-world. Jason suggests that he and Benny get married again, but she does not yet know her answer, and she heads off with Braxiatel in search of the Fountain of Forever to cure her affliction.



Food and drink[]



  • The Neo-Aretians believe that the dead need to pay a coin to the Journeyman to be taken to Kinova.


Time travel[]

Titles and offices[]



External links[]