Jaime Synge/Ear Of Babylon
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
The Ear of Babylon is a purportedly ancient cryptotech communication device or artifact possessed and used by Jaime Synge. The device is alleged to date back to the mythic age, specifically to pre-dispersion Babylon, and is possibly the last example of such mystical technology remaining on the planet.
The Ear appears as shell-like object which approximates the appearance of a freshwater clam, although constructed of a conglomeration of bone, shell, stone, and decorated by several semi-precious or common gemstones. Tarnished precious metals also appear to have been worked onto the surface to create rudimentary circuitry between the gemstones. The Ear fits well into a human-sized palm, although it is bulky enough to prevent it from being completely concealable within a fist.
The Ear is uses the clam's organic joint hinge to access the interior, which reveals more extensive circuitry, but also reveals the complex organic component of the Ear. The Ear is occupied by a invertebrate mollusc-like organism which apparently provides calculation and processing power to the device. Further investigation of this organism has been limited by the device's owner, so an anatomical description is not readily available. However, the Ear's resident organism will extend small pseudopods, filaments, and organic other sensory limbs during use.
Operation of the Ear of Babylon is difficult to ascertain. The device appears to rely heavily on the mystical talents or expertise of the user. However, this is incongruous with it's purported history of use, suggesting that the existing example of the Ear is somehow damaged, degraded, or otherwise non-typical in relation to other examples (alternatively, the origin theory may simply be incorrect). In any regard, the user manipulates the gemstones and circuitry patterns to establish wireless communication between digital and analog communication devices. The organism within the device may also extend limbs or appendages to further coordinate fine tuning of operations or commands, or to communicate incoming data.
In this capacity, simple observation of the device in use will lend observers to make an easy comparison to a modern communication device: the mobile phone and comm unit. Jaime Synge has demonstrated that the Ear can send both audio and text communications. The Ear is also apparently capable of hands-free operation, although this may be dependent on the user being capable of electrokinesis or some other compatible ability.
The mechanics of the Ear are not well understood, and the present owner of the Ear has refused to allow observers to make engineering analyses of the device. Cryptoengineers suggest that there is probably a biomystical, proto-alchemical rationale for the device's ability to simulate wireless communication. The process, as suggested by the device's purported origin, has been lost to time. However, it appears that the residing organism may operate as a central processing unit providing computational and networking coordination for the device. If so, there is a possibility that the creature may be sentient on some rudimentary level.
Although analysis of the Ear's mechanics would prove a significant academic discovery in the field of archeoengineering, the practical applications of such analysis are likely to be limited as conventional modern technology appears to have already duplicated the device's operational intent.
Tower of Babel
The Ear of Babylon is considered by certain esoteric theorists to be the cause of the "Confusion of Tongues" as described in the Book of Genesis. Providing instantaneous translation of communication and transmission of communication over great distances, the Ear of Babylon would have assisted in building an extensive and powerful network of information exchange. Such technology would have established any early human (or proto-human as may be likely) and overwhelming advantage over nearby competing civilizations. With the existing Ear remaining as evidence of this theory, it is possible that the Tower of Babel myth may be reconfigured as a technological cautionary tale rather than one of human hubris (or, at least, only a tale of hubris).
Jaime Synge has conjectured that the Tower of Babel may have been an attempt to create a global network of Ears of Babylon, or some other such global-communication project. Alternate theories (also put forth by Mr. Synge) was that the Tower was attempting to use these devices to contact extraplanar creatures, being, gods, or even extraterrestrials. Synge's conjectures have not been completely accepted by academics at this time, but a few have expressed "cautious enthusiasm" for these theories.
Confusion of Tongues and Destruction of the Ear(s)
The cause of the mythical "Confusion of Tongues" and the subsequent destruction or loss of the technology remains similarly unclear. Synge suggests several possibilities. One supposes that a catastrophic network failure occurred (whether by divine or mundane means), rendering the devices useless. Social influences include sabotage or outlawing by authorities, possibly by religious cults opposed to the hubric endeavor that the Tower suggested. Alternatively, given the biological components involved in the Ear's construction and operation, a simple plague or viral agent may have resulted in the death of the organism or corruption of whatever data processing capacity the device had. Synge also provides the theory that the devices themselves may have been a crossover vector for disease, resulting in wholesale destruction of the devices and organisms to prevent an epidemic.
Whatever the cause, any descriptions of the Ear of Babylon were effectively erased, and no mention of the device survived in any common folk tradition. By the time that the Davidic dynasty ordered the collection of oral tales and histories which would eventually comprise the Pentateuch and the Book of Genesis, the story was limited to a tale of divine vengeance and human folly. The remaining myths and esoterica which did mention the "many-tongued Ear of Babel" survived only in passing references unrelated mystical works and histories which were unavailable until the resurgence of Oranbegan libraries in this last century.
According to its owner, the device was discovered incidentally during negotiations over payment for services the mercenary warlock rendered. Its history through to the modern age is unknown. The prior owner, who has not been identified, reportedly kept the device as a unsaleable piece of "primitive art" that he acquired in Northern Africa.
At present, the Ear of Babylon is literally a one-of-a-kind item, significant for its cultural, mystical, and archeological rarity. The value on the open market would be considerable, but the fact that the device appears to rely upon a living organism makes such commerce rather unethical.
The fact that the device is also presently owned by a convicted murderer and very experienced combat magician suggests that acquiring the device through underworld connections would be rather costly in terms of manpower. However, discovery of another example of the device would be of great interest to the mystical collectibles community.