Having seen the situation at Dun Shunkaha, Charles took a quick survey of a few of the other people, situations, and odd manses that were laying about… Yes, he sensed things that happened in Aden, but he only had so much attention to pay to things.
That was a little weird come to think of it. Could he make most of that unconscious like the kinesthetic feedback in a normal human body? Or perhaps delegate some of it?
Still, most things seemed to be going well… It really hadn’t been that long to start with, and the gates were reasonably well-hidden from hostile people. With plenty of resources and room, and a small population, there were few reasons for arguments outside of general human fractiousness. The worst dispute so far had been a local argument over whether they should expand the villages, more into some of the empty cities, or just ask.
The Baalgrogs had pointed them to the extra cities. Aden could handle a billion or two, and was set up for it. There was LOTS of room and magic in place to prevent explosive population growth and overcrowding.
Strange Manses included a spire on the western shore that emanated green light and hummed, a tree that seemed to be growing horizontally instead of vertically, and a ziggurat that appeared every morning and seemed to be inherently insubstantial.
Oh dear! What HAD he been trying to do there? Lets see… he vaguely recalled thinking about new lighting systems as an idle notion… Something about letting the light shine through elsewhere to exactly where it was wanted? And something to do with plant growth? Or was that another time entirely?
The tree… Hadn’t that been something Elzeard had mentioned? Something about deserts? The living-tree aqueduct notion? Or was it the shady banyan that made comfortable corridors across the desert and anchored sand dunes? And why as a manse?
And the immaterial one… Oh dear! He’d been thinking about his afterlife there! He probably had done something VERY odd! He hadn’t been meaning to start experiments like THAT for a little while yet! A tower designed to interface with the private heavens of those using the Dream of Heaven charm, or was it the cell phone tower for ghostly communications?
Well, he asked! The Guardians might have some idea of what he’d been up to!
Hm… According to the Guardians, the light spire seemed to be providing green light through Elsewhere. An examination of the links had revealed that demons avoided such illumination, no matter how much it was like home. The tree manse did seem to be equal parts water and wood, and produced lots of moisture… Was that the self-extending water-providing system?
As for the ziggurat… it did seem to be receiving transmissions from someplace charged with deathly Essence.
Deathly essence? His Dream of Heaven charm prevented real deaths, it didn’t involve any deathly essence… Oh dear! Had he been setting up to let people call deceased relatives on their cell phones? He couldn’t quite remember! He’d been very sleepy indeed that time!
Well, maybe it was the cell phone setup. He’d just have to take a look!
It was indeed an insubstantial ziggurat, made of obsidian and basalt. It had four entryways, one per side, at the top of sets of stairs. Antennae and communications towers protruded from every layer… Humans from ancestor worshiping cultures were already gathering, and setting up small refreshment stands, merchant stalls, and the like.
Well, no one had popped out yelling “Nooooo!” anyway…
Might as well take a peak inside!
Inside, the Manse was a bit cooler and darker than the rest of Aden – darker than even the Baalgrogs’ fleet of longships, which carried around their own private pools of shadow to be gloomy in. The necromantic energy was palpable, but controlled. It seemed to concentrate mostly around the smoky gray crystals in the interior. People were gathering around them and touching them. Occasionally someone would produce a small paper object, such as a nice suit or a car, and touch it to a crystal. The object then vanished.
Ah! The underworld-supplying function… Lightening up life there a bit with boosted grave-good supplies and a relay system for requests! Did the place store the memories of people who pass on to Lethe for them? That had been another of his ideas…
Hm! It would indeed perform that function, as long as there was a link – such as an item important to the deceased or a spell or something – in the place when a soul entered lethe – or, for that matter, was lost to oblivion. Huh. Which was more important? The Hun, the Po, the Memories… What was identity anyway?
What’s this? There were a bunch of people standing around one crystal, looking confused. From the conversation, a dead individual was attempting to make contact, but no one understood a word of the message.
Well, it definitely wasn’t an earthly language… Charles tried telepathy thaumaturgy!
(Ghost) “Finally, a thaumaturge! I was getting worried.”
(Charles) “Allo! What’s up? I thought things were generally fairly stable on that end…”
(Ghost) “Where am I? I was bringing a cargo shipment to Reinya’s World, and the next thing I know, I wake up and my ship’s buried in several teliks of this white stuff. I’m not sure how I got out, but here I am on the surface of the stuff.”
(Charles) “Hrm. Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you that you’re almost certainly dead – unless your route took you through the realms of the dead to begin with. Lets see… This location should allow ghosts to interact normally; shall I try to summon you?”
(Ghost) “Dead… dammit. My boss will not be pleased. You’re… not going to make me soulsteel, are you?”
(Charles) “That’s a horrible thing to say! It’s very hard to let people out of soulsteel!”
Hmm… Telik… a measure used in certain parts of space the Sidereals suspect were part of old Creation’s southeast.
(Ghost) “Okay, okay… definitely not going to make me soulsteel then. Boss said it was wise to ask in case I died. Go ahead.”
Charles went ahead and summoned him.
(Charles) “Allo there! Here! have a charm for English!”
The ghost looked like a cross between a satyr and a ferret.
(Ghost) “Hey, thanks! English, huh… how the hell did I get that close to Earth? That’s light years away from where I was heading.”
(Charles) “Oh, the tower here was designed to communicate with the dead I think – and it’s powerful enough to have quite a range… I’ll have to look into it; I was kind of sleepy when I created it, and a lot of the details escape me at the moment!”
(Ghost) “Wait, what? But you’re just a little-never mind. Anyway, this isn’t good! The boss worked really hard on that ship…”
(Charles, with interest) “What was it supposed to do?”
(Ghost) “Well… he’s been working on it with some of his buddies. He thinks the little folks deserve some protection on Wyldjumps, so he put in some anti-Raksha baffles and stuff and sent me on a test haul. I got through the jump in one piece. How’d I die, though?”
The ghost placed a paw to his chin.
Huh. Wyldjumps… more or less the Lunar form of interstellar travel. That WAS quite a range! They didn’t really have many Raksha troubles at this end of the universe!
(Charles) “You live near the Wyld then?”
(Ghost) “On the Tarvial end. Not sure if you’ve heard of it.”
Hm! That would place him more or less on that empire’s frontier. Still really quite near the serious wyld! The opposite end of the universe! And this fellow had the looks of a migrant from further out about him.
(Charles) “Ah. Well, at the moment you’re in a pocket-realm in Elsewhere, but we’re currently mostly linked with the Core of Creation; range doesn’t mean much when elsewhere is involved!”
(Ghost) “Think this is the closest I’ve been to Earth, then… Got anything to jog the memory? I’ve got some serious gaps here.”
(Charles, cheerily) “Hm… I suppose I can try!”
His telepathic probe ran into a charm that was blocking off the ghosts memories of his death. It was full of necrotic Essence. The source wasn’t quite at the elder Essence level, but it was pretty close. Still, it wasn’t being actively supported – and he had far more than enough thaumaturgic power to counter it easily enough!
Conveniently enough, peeking was a part of opening up those memories anyway.
Hm… The satyr-ferret had been in a well-used cockpit, going through the rainbow-colored tunnel of Essence that defined the Lunar “Wyldjump” interstellar travel charm… He’d emerged on the outskirts of a well-settled star system, with more than enough starship activity to qualify it as a trading hub. He’d been hailed by the system defense stations – and then, suddenly, black tendrils had grabbed his ship and drawn it out into the cold darkness of space. He’d frantically tried to pull away – but he’d felt a touch on his neck – and died. His new and confused ghost hadn’t been able to do anything but watch helplessly as a figure in a black void suit searched his void suit and grabbed a key from it. That individual hadthen opened up the door in the cockpit’s rear, gone into the holds – and come out a few minutes later with a package. It then activated various ship’s systems and used some other interstellar travel charm, opening up a way through inky, howling blackness – a path which had emerged at Earth. The new ghost had vociferously protested the entire trip, albeit to no effect. The figure in black had then pointed the ship towards the Earth, apparently aiming towards antarctica or the south pole, and programmed in a crash landing before teleporting away.
Huh. A serious deathknight could probably silence the ghost more effectively. The South pole… Wasn’t one of the major chaos zones there?
(Charles) “Anyone in particular you should tell about this?”
(Ghost) “Well, the boss definitely needs to know! Calls himself Undying Steer, but I’m pretty sure that’s an alias.”
(Charles) “Oh, it usually is! Hm… I have Righteous Hala’s number…”
He called her. He had to talk to her anyway!
(Hala) “Ah, it’s you, Charles. Something you need?”
(Charles) “Well, a couple of things! I’m talking to a new ghost from Tarvial who was running an errand for someone calling himself “Undying Steer” and got killed by someone who jumped the ship to earth through somewhere really nasty and needs to report now that I’ve broken the memory-block on him! Secondarily, I was going to run an errand out to the Wyld Regions, and I was wondering if you had any advice about it?”
(Hala) “Okay… that’s not good. I’ll try to find somebody capable of interstellar messaging for him. And what kind of errand?”
(Charles) “Courier trip of some sort. Should I put him on?”
(Hala) “Yeah, let me talk to him.”
Charles handed over the phone and they talked for a bit. When he handed it back he looked relieved, but a bit worried.
(Hala) “Some of my friends aren’t going to be happy about that one. The Convention of the Poles might have sent somebody to grab the ship by now, but I wouldn’t count on it. I’ll send my people down to investigate. His body needs to go back home… and I’d rather not have mortal researchers find the ship.”
Charles produced a small pamphlet – “Things to do when you notice that you are dead” and handed it to the ghost, who looked at him oddly, but read it.
(Charles) “And you’re welcome to stay for awhile if you want! There’s plenty of room here; ghost apartments don’t take up much space…
(Ghost) “Since it looks like I’ll be here for a while, sure!”
(Charles, to Hala) “Well, he can stay here for awhile. I don’t know about ships – but I do have to head out that way for awhile anyway!”
(Hala) “Yeah, I was about to ask about your errand. If you just need exotic ingredients, I know a guy who can shape some for you.”
(Charles) “Oh, it’s to retrieve some stuff for Gaia!”
While meetings with Gaia when she’s manifesting an avatar were not unheard of – sometimes she just liked to get out and meet people, or fiddle around with some creatures, or give evolution a little push – she usually didn’t meet with kids!
(Hala) “What kind of stuff?”
(Charles, doubtfully) “Maybe I shouldn’t go into that on a cell phone?”
(Hala) “Yeah… wow… I think I’d better come to where you are.”
This could be rather important! While Gaia occasionally intervened, she didn’t usually NEED anything! Gaia’s last major intervention that she’d needed something for had been… the Reshaping!
(Charles) “The gates are mostly around the Orrery at the moment!”
Hal turned up shortly. She’d gotten a quiet and discreet teleport through a friend, and had it set a good distance from the gate, and taken multiple forms on the way in, aside.)
(Charles) “Allo! Oh, and welcome to the Wraith Ziggarut!”
(Hala) “I don’t think this was here last time… but never mind for now! I’m sure you’ve got somewhere private set up.”
(Charles) “Oh, lots of places! Unless Zool is up top… but there should be plenty of private places around.”
He reinforced the privacy wards, and had some of his aides – there always seemed to be a few of the Guardians subordinates and Inukami hanging about these days for some reason – scout around… It seemed to be all clear for the moment – so he took them to the privacy manse… It had a bunch of tweaks to provide a perfect privacy effect, but was a silent witness so that someone else always knew things to keep them out of the library of secrets…
Hala sighed. Was the boy trying to have a specialty manse for EVERYTHING?
(Hala) “OK, I’m still a little incredulous. Gaia wanted you to get something for her? I can understand you finding her-she sometimes likes to watch and interact with the life around her.”
(Charles, looking a bit embarrassed) “Well… it’s one of those mouse-rat-cat-dog-tiger things… (in a rush) I wanted to put some gods back to work, and for that I needed to restore their domains, and for that I needed some planets, and they needed fixing up, and then I’d need some manses to make permanent gates, and those needed security, and will also link the planetary dragon lines into Yu-Shan and restore the old power levels, but a lot of manses in Yu-Shan seem to be broken, and some are damaged but stable, and powering things up again might cause a lot of explosions and geomantic disasters, so I need to fix all of them up, and doing that in any reasonable time will require attuning to them all at once, and for that I’ll need to use an awful lot of Wyld energy, and to keep things from getting out of control I need to have some help stabilizing the dragon lines in Yu-Shan, so I asked Gaia, and she said that she needed to have a tool Autochthon left, and that one of her Deva’s near the edge of creation had it, but would see me coming, and gave me a message from or about Gramps for her…”
(Hala) “Okay… take a breath there… Now tell me how you were going to do the stuff that led you to Gaia.”
(Charles) “Oh. Well, there are lots of barren planets, and some of the Guardians can fix them up with a few spells, and recreating extinct species is pretty easy. So that part is easy. Geographic features can be shaped and named readily, and having a few mortals accept the maps and names will work for most location gods and such. Manses are easy too, so I designed some to function as indestructible Yu-Shan gates to provide the links and bind the dragon line networks together. Fixing the manses… Well, I can normally only make a few at a time regenerate themselves, but if I use wyld energies I can boost that temporarily!”
(Hala) “So I guess you haven’t bounced this off the Department of Celestial Concerns or the Planning Group yet.”
(Charles, a bit tentatively) “I thought it would be better as a surprise. It’s much better for fixing things to be a pleasant surprise than it is to try to get permission. That will take centuries!
(Hala) “Not that I would mind fewer unemployed gods or more fertile planets, but both those groups could make a lot of trouble for you . . . and I don’t think they’ll appreciate you going over their heads. Although – what with the shell game you’re running – you might have a chance arguing with them.”
(Charles) “Well, the planets are mostly done, and the manses, and some other things… and Gaia likes it. I suppose I could just point out that she said it was fine… And curing up most of the deiphages and getting all the gods back to work would probably make most of Yu-Shan happy!”
(Hala) “Hey, I agree with that. Maybe you could talk one of her representatives into giving you a writ after this. It’d go a long way.”
(Charles) “Well maybe! And just running the errand will get things set up without necessarily keeping me from getting permission if it seems necessary.”
(Hala, nodding) “So… you’re heading off to the border to do this. You’re pretty well-protected against shaping, but Raksha aren’t the only threats out there. Pirates, Autocthonians, Abyssals… and you have to get out there in the first place. So what were you thinking of doing about that?”
(Charles) “Well… I have a direct gate or two, and I could just make a manse with one. There are some tests on the Stargate projects running now; but I’m not sure if they’re stable yet – but I could always wait a few days. I hope I can avoid meeting Abyssals (quite sadly);, it didn’t work out at all well last time. Pirates… well, they might be fun really, and I think I can probably make them stop anything naughty. Autochthonians… Well, they’ve got to be spread pretty thin, and I can always teleport!”
(Hala) “Ah, the naivete-wait, ABYSSALS? You met Abyssals? Tell me about that RIGHT NOW.”
That was definitely a “Mom” voice there!
(Charles) “Uhm… I was fixing a manse in South America with another thaumaturge, and three of them showed up to try and break it and blow up Brasilia. But… well, I powered the manse up to try and stop and catch them, but I overdid it and I couldn’t keep them from dying before I could get them out… At least I got their exaltations contained until Lytek could have them picked up, but he hasn’t been able to fix them yet. (rather distressedly) It went ALL WRONG!
Hala looked at Charles, dumbfounded. He’d been worried about the ABYSSALS?
(Hala) “It’s okay, Charles… you survived. I think many Exalts wouldn’t have. And what do you mean fix?”
(Charles) “Oh! Abyssal Exaltations are Corrupted Solar Exaltations; it’s fairly obvious when you examine one… But the changeover seems to be really hard to work on an Exaltation that isn’t in a host; a soul-interaction may be required.”
(Hala) “That explains some things, then… Still, you shouldn’t have exposed yourself like that!”
(Charles) “Well, outrunning an exploding manse is kind of hard… But I’ve got a lot more backup to call on now!”
(Hala) “Yeah, your own herd of souls. Still, I’ll be keeping an eye on you!”
Hala sighed. She would have liked to accompany the boy. He was grotesquely powerful, and might be able to withstand a pretty horrific assault – but she would bet that he could be kidnaped by anyone who asked him for help and led him off. If there was actually something to fix at the destination he might not ever notice that he’d been abducted! On the other hand… She had far FAR too much to do in Yu-Shan at the moment!
There was another way though.
Abyssals, run, for Luna’s sake!”
She did not even want to THINK about what would happen if they somehow made her mate a Neverborn! He might not be a “true” Primordial – but whatever path of transcendence he was on, it might just be close enough! It was hard to say where the exact boundary was anyway! At least he was still MOSTLY solar; the bond affirmed that!
Still… he did seem to be more resourceful than she’d dreamed. Three Abyssals would stymie even an experienced Lunar. Sure, a Full Moon could probably take one or two out, but they tended to run out of Essence fast.
If Hala had known about Devil Tigers she would be a lot more worried about that. She might have seen some in the Wyld and mistaken them for Primordials – but they weren’t exactly familiar…
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LIII – Dun Shunkaha (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LII – Lytek’s Inspection (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LIV – A Constellation Of Effects (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session VLIII – Testing Theories (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XXXIX – Gates of the Third Circle (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXV – Fishing in the Land of the Lost (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice L — Sidereal Stargate Generation One (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice – Sidereal Stargate Generation One (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice — Higher Souls (ruscumag.wordpress.com)