Back in the Crater Lake Freehold Aikiko was torn… It wasn’t very nice to punch out little kids even if she COULD do it with no chance of actually injuring them – but she didn’t have much in the way of mental powers…
(Aikiko) “Hey, I need you to be quiet about being grabbed for a few hours! I’ll give you some candy!”
(Child) “But I might get in trouble!”
(Aikiko) “What, for having candy or being missing?”
(Child) “For being quiet! (With a bit of indignation) We can have candy!”
Aikiko sighed… this was where it would actually be GOOD to have some powers of unnatural mental influence. Still, the girl was just a little kid – and she might have enough Occult skill to hypnotize her for a bit.
The kid put up a surprising amount of resistance for a small child – probably that Awakened Essence – but was still overwhelmed in short order. By the time she’d wake up from her nap, Aikiko would be long gone…
There was no reason to be mean! She left her arranged comfortably and with some candy too as she vanished into the undergrowth, using the Behemoth Cloak to provide camouflage, and a bit of heightened sneaking, and throwing in her stealth charms – as limited as they were, they might be a lot of help!
Then she encountered an apparently-endless flood of small yappy dogs, sticking their noses everywhere and into everything and saying “Not here! Maybe here! Maybe Over Here! Lets all look!”
Uuugh. Yappy dogs were bad enough, but TALKING yappy dogs? Worse, visual camouflage wasn’t much help against scent… A leap up into the trees would at least break her trail – and her athletics charms made leaping from tree to tree a viable way to travel – but it was still going to slow her down.
Where were the stupid little things coming from!?
Oh good grief! The Raksha were undoubtedly just… whipping the things up as a stunt to help with the search! That meant… they were undoubtedly looking for anything taking to the skies, so she… had to stay within the canopy, avoid the ground search, avoid making too much noise moving through the treetops, and avoid getting above them while still traveling at a reasonably speed….
Even for her that wasn’t going to be easy!
It nearly turned into a disaster a couple of times – but she just barely managed. The yappy dogs failed, and morosely reported back to vanish into fantasy-land once more as, from the treetops, Aikiko saw… tens of thousands of yappy dogs, pouring back out of the hills around the central complex in a mighty fuzzy flood!
That was pretty neat, even if they were after her! She… could actually see the attraction of the Wyld there… The Raksha could be all kinds of fun!
Once you punched them and made them behave a bit of course!
As the yappy dogs vanished, a terrible flaming eye flared into existence on the top of a tower – and began peering about as dark horsemen rode out to patrol the borders… Hi Sauron impersonator!
Wait… were they… Gah! Just like Mechagodzilla! Whoever-it-was was drawing extra power from invoking popular images and cliches! But… didn’t you need a connection to both humanity and dream to do that directly?
Hm. The tower seemed to be part of a fairly straightforward Raksha palace really – pavilions and gardens and a few small towers overlaid with whatever fantasy was amusing today. At the moment it was tall white towers, soaring archways, and lots and LOTS of roses… straight out of “Sleeping Beauty”.
OK, that setup just SCREAMED “trap!”. Still, the fantasy didn’t seem all THAT strong. Two or three contributors most likely – just enough to be really annoying. Still, she wouldn’t want to take on all of them at once – and some of them might be Exalted. And she DID come here for information, not a rescue.
Gaaah! It could suck you in just by looking at it! She already knew where the Lunar was (and that he didn’t seem to need or want a rescue), and the three college girls seemed happy enough, and she was pretty sure that the other “victim” was a Cauldron-Born who’d set everything up, and everyone else here was either too mutated to take out without dying or a Raksha in the first place! Who would she be going in to “rescue”? Some Raksha playing the role of a “Handsome Prince”?
Something was REALLY funny about that eye though… Still, it didn’t seem to be the Eye of Balor; it was pretty obviously from the Lord of the Rings movies…
Aikiko’s valor had been strained enough with all this retreat-and-evasion – and kicked back with a vengeance,
She straightened up out of concealment, met the eye’s dread gaze full on, and tried to analyze it!
Uh-oh. Sidereal and Wyld Energies. Demien…
The eye flared with a terrible radiance, spotlighting her with a blaze of essence – and Mechagodzilla launched itself in her direction. Time to run, Valor or no Valor! Hopefully the ravine would give her some cover and advantage!
Aikiko’s anima banner flared as she poured power into her charms – and pulled on every speed- and endurance-enhancing mutation and boost that the Behemoth Cloak could provide. It felt kind of weird to retreat – but she had no desire to be captured!
Aikiko’s impressive speed, combined with a long head start, gave her a decent chance – but Mechagodzilla was faster and was closing with incredible speed, as if the distance was tiny!
Weird! Mechagodzilla hadn’t moved nearly that fast last time it was chasing her! And… the ravine seemed REALLY long…
Oh yeah! Raksha freehold!
Spending a willpower point popped THAT little fantasy and shortened the ravine right up – the exit was just up ahead – but Mechagodzilla was already almost ready to fire the Stasis-Beam / Ice-Cannon thing in a last-ditch attempt to stop her! And her without cover…
As Mechagodzilla fired, Aikiko leapt, spun in the air, and struck the rocky side of the ravine with her full power (and her smashfists) about halfway up – shattering hundreds of tons of rock and throwing up thousands more, sending an explosive wave of rock and earth into the air to intercept the beam. For long moments the barrier held it’s cohesion, cocooned and supported by pillars and buttresses of frozen air. While the air was slowly freezing around her, the bitter cold was buffered by her Cloak – next time she saw Charles he was getting a hug for that! – and the exit was only seconds away!
Aikiko launched herself towards the gate as a laser-and-missile barrage blew her hasty barrier to roiling dust – and the terrible cold of the stasis beam licked around her heels, encasing her to her knees in icy crystal as she emerged onto the lower slopes of the actual mountain.
And a deep rumbling voice whispered something about “Bye-Bye small worshiper! Watch again soon!”.
Uh, ok there… Whew!
Hm. It looked like she was… coming out of a small cave in the rocks, down near the base of the mountain, overlooking some forest. Still in the park though… There were some particularly fine fields of berries and such scattered about – and scattering of amerindians looking at her.
Well, cheeriness seemed to work for Charles!
(Various Indians) “Uhm… Who are you? Why is the pathway full of ice all of a sudden? Are the lords angry?”
Huh… There was some apprehension and urgency to those last few questions.
(Aikiko) “Mechagodzilla and I were playing tag! Don’t worry, I’m it, and I just made it out, so I win!”
(Indians, VERY nervously) “But how will we get back in?”
(Aikiko) “Well, he’s not after you guys… but if you’re worried, I can camouflage you!”
Oh wait! Mutated! They had no reason to be afraid of Mechagodzilla, but with the passage full of ice… they’d only have a few hours to get back in before they died.
Uhm… Wait! She could use a bit of linking thaumaturgy and… send a prayer!
It was worth a shot – even if she did feel utterly silly praying to a Kaiju that had just tried to catch her… Even if it was definitely less than hostile. It evidently had enough secondary weapons to have blasted the entire area – but it, and it’s pilots, had stuck to attempts to capture…
Were the Cauldron-Born… still trying to recruit her?
(Aikiko) “Oh mighty Mechagodzilla, have mercy on those outside and unfreeze the ravine!”
Well the range was pretty close (and she spent a point of Willpower to channel her Compassion dice, since she WAS helping others).
After a moment there was the crimson glow of laser-cannon fire in the depths of the small cave – and the ice melted away in seconds.
The Indians enthusiastically thanked her and the Great Totem.
(Aikiko) “It’s no problem! Tell him I said hi!”
(Indians) “We shall do as you command!”
Aikiko looked at the little cave for a moment… Not so very long ago she would have laughed SO HARD at the notion that Mechagodzilla hung out in fairyland in Oregonk and you could get there through a hole in the rocks near Crater Lake…
Then she considered the fact that Demien and his Lunar Friend might show up at any time, and even if the Raksha weren’t normally good for much in creation, they – and Mechagodzilla! – certainly WERE, and continued her retreat into to real wilds as quickly as she could… Oh good GODS. She was probably going to be plagued by a Manse in the form of Mechagodzilla from now on!
Sadly, under the command of the Cauldron-Born… She’d have to find a way to free it from their control!
And she’d even taken a job with Toho Studios; the shadow of Godzilla would ever loom over that company…
Half a day later, nearly sixty miles away, and checked into a small-town motel for cash under an assumed name, Aikiko was writing up a report… Lytek had to know about this! Heck, once she had her thoughts written down and organized she’d pray to him! Goodness knew, he probably didn’t get many directed prayers!
Lytek was not pleased… Just as he had an entirely new set of Exaltations to deal with (and he was still considering the ramifications of THAT), and had finally gotten a hold of some Abyssal Exaltations to work on, someone was starting to steal what was left of the old set, and was gluing Raksha (?!?) onto them?
Yes, that would almost certainly go away after the bearer died – and if, by some chance, it didn’t, he could undoubtedly get it off – but the very IDEA… He remembered the bad old days, when Chaos was constantly threatening to wash over creation far too well! The Balorean Crusade had just been a high watermark, not some mighty effort! At least in his opinion, the universe could generally do without chaos!
Aikiko had to agree to some degree there! She too certainly hoped the Raksha influence would go away after the Cauldron-Born passed on!
Lytek had to agree with her on Mental Demesnes though! They WERE weird!
It did seem like something a Sidereal Cauldron-Born would come up with though.
Huh… Charles would probably be interested too – but she wasn’t at all sure that she should tell him! He’d probably start designing an improved Raksha-Exaltation interface or something… He was far too tolerant of Raksha! They were dangerous!
Or at least very disruptive at times.
Lytek was… rather more concerned with the huge coincidence of recruiting that Lunar Exalt… Most of those didn’t incarnate anywhere near Earth these days! How in all Creation had the Cauldron-Born found one FIRST? And in – of all places – a small town on Earth right near where they’d been constructing a superweapon?
Had the Cauldron-born REALLY found some way of influencing who would Exalt? He hadn’t taken that bit in Aikiko’s report too seriously at first – hundreds of people and Exalts had thought that they’d found a way to influence who Exalted, and they’d almost universally proved to be wrong (with a few the results had been ambiguous and quite a few had demonstrated that recruiting mortal heroes, training them, and then throwing them into terrible danger greatly improved the odds) – but the coincidence level… More likely it was just a method of finding them – and either the timerate was accelerated inside the freehold or the sequence of events was a bit confused. At this point there wasn’t enough evidence to say either way!
Demien could certainly still access the loom; that was a built-in part of the Sidereal Exaltation – even if he WAS spending most of his time outside of fate (were the Cauldron-Born inherently outside of fate? Who knew?).
Aikiko seemed to recall that Tierna had some affinity with it too! And she’d had a God-Form Taking Relic that might have allowed her to infiltrate!
COULD the Loom be fooled? Only the Maiden of Secrets was likely to know – and no one in the cosmos was less likely to say! But a fantasy could dictate the actions of a mortal who didn’t resist it… Could the Cauldron-Born really make the Loom – and possibly even an Exaltation – see some schlub as the greatest and most destined hero in millennia, wrap him up in fantasies of mighty deeds appropriate to some type of exalt, and just sit back to see what happened? Even if they could only slightly influence things… that would be an incredibly dangerous secret! Even the Incarnae could only slightly nudge things!
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice Session LXXXIX – Lost Horizons (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXVIII – Pursuit Cantata, The First Movement (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXVII – The Azure Depths (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXIV – On The Oregon Trail (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXV – Fraternal Affairs (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXVI — Toho’s Tokyo Towers (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice LXXXI (Part I) – Too Many Cooks from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXIII — The Dark Tournament (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXVII – Aikiko’s Search (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXI (Part II) – Aftermath and Multiplication from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)