The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CVIII – The Tomes Of Doom

English: The Crypt of Saint Charles Borromeo (...

Not bad for a broom closet, even in Yu-Shan!

Shaping a pocket dimension had required that Charles come in person to do the shaping – but it had been easy enough to swap back out for his construct after it was done… Twenty-Two Warp hadn’t even noticed – although, to be fair, he’d had plenty of distractions to deal with.

Charles (because this WAS a side-trip after all) and Twenty-Two Warp (because he – however reluctantly – had other things to do) headed back into Yu-Shan, and into the sub-basements of the “Saigoth” building (currently serving as squatters’ accommodations for unemployed technology gods) leaving Twenty-One Weft to get the pocket-realm – and it’s various manse-resources – organized…

Someone else would probably find the place sooner or later – a pocket dimension full of primordial demesnes and indestructible manses in Yu-Shan would almost certainly draw attention eventually! – but by then Charles might have been able to get everything straightened out again… He hoped so anyway.

Still, routing the doorway through an indestructible door, gate-frame, and bar that blocked most magic would hold things up for quite awhile even then given that no one could dematerialize in Yu-Shan.

(Twenty-Two Warp) “I’d better report back to the senior Overseer. Be careful down here; even I’m not supposed to go any deeper in here than this sub-basement.”

(Charles) “I’ll be careful!”

Twenty-Two Warp bowed – rather sincerely – and headed off with his pack of lesser deiphages.

Charles continued on down with some slight trace of caution. Still… it WAS only a remote and the way down to the seventh sub-basement was clear enough… There were indeed wards against spirits though! They were.. powerful and well-maintained, and… exempted Deiphages. Now that was a little odd! In the same building with an assortment of gods?

It was pretty musty and dark… Charles called, but no one answered his greeting – so he made some light, and took a look around to see what was there!

Lit up… the place appeared to be a normal sub-basement, cleanly stripped of all valuables, with the remnants of Quintessential items strewn all over the marble floors. But a ways off in the distance… yes, that wall would look complete without enhanced Essence senses, but there was actually… an illusion covering up an elevator. From the style, Shogunate era manufacture. Evidently he wasn’t far enough down for books yet!

Charles headed over to the elevator! Hopefully it did not have buttons that said “Lower Yu-Shan” “Creation” “Underworld” “The Wyld”, “Malfeas”, “Zen-Mu”, and “Oblivion”… Would that make it a Hellavator?

Actually it simply seemed to go to the ground floor, this floor, and the three below, although those required a key… more interestingly, the elevator’s door was warded and alarmed against spirits and all types of Exalt. It seemed… confused about him first. Faint energies, invisible to the eyes of most, pulsed and wavered – and then decided that he could pass. Hm! Evidently he WAS becoming something… other than a normal Exalt!

Oh wait! That was a TERRIBLE test! He’d been forgetting that he wasn’t really there! It wasn’t warded against artifacts or remote links! Charles noted that he’d have to remember to run a real test one of these days – and promptly forget about it again with the new distractions. The elevator key… seemed to be a magical token; a slender, flat piece of adamant with orichalcum circuitry, easily held in one hand. It… was a complex pattern, but not too much of a bother for his current level of magical power and resources.

And then Charles abruptly realized that he didn’t have his pack with the gate or direct access to his resources! He was going to have to… have something sent over special! Physically! Or trade out again, and he didn’t want to keep doing THAT! It would completely negate the point of using a remote in the first place…

The “remote presence” trick obviously needed a lot more work. Not being able to use most of his resources and powers… he’d forgotten how much of them he used for minor, practical, details!

He didn’t want to draw too much attention… ergo; a minor messenger and a package! There were many messengers running the streets of Yu-Shan, although ones who ran to the empty and slum quarters demanded high fees… Still, a normal messenger wouldn’t really be safe, and couldn’t come down past the wards, and he had to have key made in Aden anyway… A kickaha should be able to come through though; the wards didn’t really cover them since they weren’t exactly gods, and if they got “killed” they’d just come back at the manse. A few extra protective wards, and a package well-shielded to appear strictly ordinary and a kickaha boy should be safe enough!

It took several hours, but the boy made it fairly unimpeded; compared to some gods, he looked fairly normal in wolf form… While he was waiting, though, Charles got a message from Gri-Fel.

(Charles) “Hello! What’s up?”

(Gri-Fel) “I have good news, Charles! Terapishim went to the Bureau of Nature a week ago, and they’ve finished planning for the acceptance ceremony.”

(Charles, with pleasure) “That IS good news!”

(Gri-Fel) “Unfortunately… his little shedu friend slipped up somewhere and forgot to let you know about the ceremony! I do apologize, and I know it’s on short notice, but do you think you could attend it tonight?”

(Charles, thinking quickly) “Uhrm… I think so! There’s usually nothing all THAT urgent in the evening!”

(Gri-Fel) “Wonderful! It wouldn’t even be happening without your help, so it wouldn’t be right to have you absent. We’ll see you there!”

(Charles) “Where is it?”

It was being held in one of the classical investment chambers at the Bureau of Nature. Since Arcosanti was built to blend in with nature, it seemed appropriate (and most of the wait has been over WHERE the ceremony would be held anyway). It would be… early evening, at least by Earth standards, although it was always hard to tell in Yu-Shan without a good artifact clock!

Charles made arrangements to attend.

Gri-Fel and Terapishim were both glad; as obliging as Charles was, they’d heard that he was quite busy.

An hour after that, the Kickaha boy arrived with the package. By then Charles had reconsidered a bit, and met him outside the wards on the elevator. You never knew!

(Charles) “Thank you there! That was very nice of you!”

(Sayid) “Thank you, Charles! Oh yeah… Gothmug wanted to know if you needed anybody to come along with you!”

(Charles) “I don’t think you can go through the ward… but I suppose you could try! You’re not exactly a spirit or a normal mortal, and it might not cover you!”

Sadly, it proved to be a bit too powerful for him.

(Charles) “Oh dear! I’m sorry there… Still, if you want to wait for me to come back up, you’re welcome to do so! Just be sure to call for an emergency evacuation if anything nasty comes up!”

The boy was annoyed – but at least the pesky ward didn’t throw him across dimensions like the last time he’d tried to penetrate wards. Still, he stationed himself by the elevator just in case something did happen.

(Charles) “You be cautious now! After all, it’s not like I’m really here; this is a projection at most, so you shouldn’t take ANY risks to protect it!”

(Sayid) “Got it!”

The eighth floor was a rather sterile and spartan archive. Bookshelves lined the walls and filled the floor, and there were several tables and file cabinets arranged near the elevator. The entire floor had been warded against detection: a Celestial tier upgrade to the Private Plaza of Downcast Eyes. No wonder Malinda had some trouble. From the back there was the sound of rustling and books being tossed.

(Charles) “Huh! Hello? Anybody in?”

The noises stopped. Someone wanted their privacy, so Charles wandered around looking at titles… A great many of the books had been badly damaged, and then painstakingly restored. They involved stories of the forbidden gods… The titles included “Chronicles of the Primordial Loyalists,” “An Atlas of Old Yu-Shan,” and “Records of the Trial of False Divines.”

Somebody had painstakingly removed all traces of anyone ever touching them.

Well… there could be magical traps in the text – but still… He set up to scan them to an isolated, non-sapient, computer as block images of each page with no interpretation of any kind… That ought to be safe enough until he could think of something!

A god in scholarly robes and a cap tried to sneak by – and made a respectable attempt – but apparently underestimated the noise running up a bookshelf could cause.

(Charles) “Hello!”

(God) “Gah! Hey, it’s you!”

(Charles, puzzledly) “Well, when I’m somewhere it usually is!”

(God) “You’re that kid who’s poking around in the underground regions! At least, that’s what some say you are.”

(Charles, enthusiastically) “There’s very interesting geomancy down there!”

He cheerily launched into a brief explanation, with illusion-diagrams, of some of the more interesting features!

The god listened with a great deal of interest…

(God) “I was researching some of that stuff myself. Things need fixing around here!”

(Charles) “They do indeed! All kinds of things are damaged in Yu-Shan!”

(God) “Hey, want to talk things over with my associate downstairs? We’ve got plans for that too, and it’d be interesting to compare. I would have asked a LOT earlier than this, but… we’re not celebrities, you know?”

(Charles) “OK! Just a minute while the scans finish!”

The scans were almost finished!

The god rubbed his eyes, which were encircled by a black mask.

(God) “Take your time! And… yeah, welcome to the offices of the Subsidiary Convention on Forbidden Gods! Such as they are, anyway.”

Huh! Hadn’t that convention supposedly been removed when the Sidereals got too busy for the Bureau to use assignment there as punishment?

(Charles) “OK! And it’s nice to see that the convention is still active! You never know when it will be important!”

(God) “Tell me about it… and glad you came. I thought sending the message through hot beverages was nutty, but it succeeded.”

(Charles) “So what’s up?

(God) “I’ll tell you more after you’re done scanning. Go ahead, you never know what might be useful for fixing this place up.”

(Charles) “It’s done now! I’ve been upgrading the scanner!”

The scholar-god directed him back towards the elevator…

(God) “The next floor down is as well-warded as it gets in Yu-Shan – not that this floor isn’t at a pretty high standard! I just want to be as secure as possible here!”

Charles headed on down – while the god accompanied him and chatted a bit about Celestial gossip. He… apparently didn’t get out much.

Charles wasn’t too connected to that sort of thing either, but was glad to share a bit of news en route!

The elevator doors opened up on another large chamber, re-purposed as office space and just as sterile and spartan as the floor above. There were several rather large cubicles here. Just like anyone else, gods hated cubicles, but everything here was ambrosial. That was… unusual. Usually if you were bothering to make it ambrosial you did something better than cubicles! Especially odd for a convention with a reputation like this one’s.

Also, the office was… strangely devoid of gods. Still, it wasn’t too large, still had some fair resources – and was doubtless supported by quite a few gods who didn’t actually visit the place for their own reasons. The god led him towards a room in the corner, which had actual, if non-matching, walls. The craftsmanship on them was sound, though… The door was currently shut.

And he heard a muffled cry for help coming from the office!

He threw open the door to see what was wrong…

It was a fairly typical office for a mid-ranked functionary’s place – and there was a young man standing in front of the collapsed functionary who was presumably in charge around here… Since she wasn’t dissolving into her component motes, at least she wasn’t dead for the day.

(Young Man) “Ugh, what a pain. Look, I can explain this!”

(Charles, doubtfully… was this staged? The coincidence level was pretty high if not!) “Uhrm… Excuse me!”

He put a ward around the functionary.

(Young Man) “She’s just unconscious. I needed to take her out while I considered the situation. But I’m glad you’re here, Charles!”

(God) “You could have been QUICKER on that, you know.”

(Charles, seeing that the goddess really wasn’t hurt – she’d been incapacitated by a rather high-powered thaumaturgical psychic sleep effect, and would be out for several hours – put a cushion under her) “So what’s up?”

The young man sat at the god’s desk – and seemed to enjoy the ambrosial seating.

(Young Man)”Okay, first, I want a promise that you’re not going to do anything rash, like trap us in indestructible walls. Got it?”

(Charles) “Ok…”

It wasn’t like he could actually do any of that through the link anyway!

The young man eyed him appraisingly – but relaxed.

Charles, meanwhile, had noted that the young man had an impressive array of artifacts – including a ring that hid his Essence signature.

(Young Man) “Great! Okay, I was sent here by my friends to grab a book from this place. It wasn’t easy getting past the deiphages to get to the building, and it was even harder sneaking this far in. I wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for him!” (And he nodded to the god.)

(Charles) “Uhm… Which one did you want?”

(Young Man) “It’s called the ‘Record of First Days,’ and my friends think it can help.”

Hm… That was legendary! It was one of the few primary sources on Primordial Yu-Shan… and it supposedly hit anyone who read it with the desire to worship the Primordials. Just POSSESSING a copy of that thing was a Severity 5 offense – at least in Yu-Shan.

From Malinda’s information… it was definitely at the lowest level and it hadn’t been scanned yet.

(Charles) “Hrm… That one is sort of mind-trapped, at least according to what I’ve heard! What do you need to know from it?”

(God) “His friends need a copy of the geomantic maps of Yu-Shan – all the geomantic maps. Normally I wouldn’t grant such a request, but I want that… THING… out of this archive. I… don’t even know how many it would have, but it should have some of the earliest in existence in its pages.”

(Charles) “Oh those! They ARE kind of handy for some things!”

(Young Man) “So, yeah, can you help me out? I’m pretty well-protected against that thing, but I don’t want to chance it – and you seem to be immune somehow.”

This really did seem kind of dodgy!

(Charles, who was busily letting some of the Adenic Thaumaturgists back in Aden work on the link – and run the scan through the celestial-tier wards (he was inside a lot of them anyway) and down to the lower levels…) “So why send messages in my chocolate?”

(Young Man) “Chocolate? Who would do a stupid thing like that?”

(God) “I did! I knew he was a nice boy who would take care of horrible things like that one.”

(Charles) “So why do you need the old geomantic maps?”

(Young Man) “My friends want to add more energy to the geomancy, and revitalize the Earth.”

Charles… had gotten quite a bit more perceptive over the last year or so… and from his understanding of body language…. This young man was GOOD at hiding things – his dodginess would have gone unnoticed by many mortals and Exalts – and the god was totally lying about being the one who sent that message.

He cheerily started talking about the Geomancy of Yu-Shan, it’s general history, and development, and layout, and many other details – although it would take a thousand years to go over it orally – just to see if they actually cared about that information or if they just wanted to get him to read that particular book.

Hmm… They seemed to care very much about it! The young man was even taking notes.

(Charles) “Anyway… it does need fixing, and that’s going to take some months!”

(Young Man) “At least!”

(Charles) “How were you planning to add the extra power?”

(Young Man) “Well, there’s plenty of energy out in the Wyld! We were thinking of running some through and filtering it through Yu-Shan’s geomancy. I’m not sure how we were going to get it to Creation, though – the lions would have a fit! And that would be bad!”

Sadly, Charles was not yet thinking about the Cauldron-Born… While he’d suspected that the Lions couldn’t really keep them from coming and going as long as Demien had that Hearthstone, he’d pushed it out of his mind; the only way to stop that was to damage a very old and powerful manse, and he would HATE to do that!

Besides… Windhiam knew the travel Charms to drive his car back and forth between Creation and Yu-Shan – although Charles had never known anything about that.

(Charles) “That’s a bit problematic unless you fed it into the substrate to be converted into Essence!”

(Young Man) “You’re definitely an expert, Charles! How would you suggest doing that?

(Charles) “Hm… the easiest way will be to add a step-function dimensional coordinate like I was planning on anyway… That way you could assign a dimensional value to the substrate and just feed it through the appropriate gates! Given that it’s already adrift in Elsewhere… you’d have direct access!”

(Young Man) “That sounds like complex geomancy… I’m not sure my pal will be able to handle that, though he’s working really hard on it. Could you make a document with the steps?”

(Charles) “It will take awhile! How much wyld energy did you want to be adding anyway?”

(Young Man) “Well… enough to affect the whole planet! The speed doesn’t matter – we’ve got plenty of time. We just want it to be… quiet, you know? People are going to need time to adapt, so they don’t go TOO nuts with things!”

(Charles) “Oh, you want it funneled out across the earth! That’s… Hm… I suppose it’s possible; it might or might not be best to go through Yu-Shan though! I’ll have to study it!”

(Young Man) “Thanks! I’ll give you a secure number, OK? It should work no matter where you are.” (He gave Charles his card.) “Now what about maps? Ours are pretty incomplete.”

Charles considered… A basic overview map perhaps? They were obviously up to something, but that wasn’t a big thing; practically everyone in Yu-Shan was up to SOMETHING… He produced one, with (of course) some annotations on particularly interesting details!

(Young Man) “That’s a start… anyway, thanks! I’m surprised at how helpful you’ve been – most people would call the Lions if they found something like this! And this way I can bring something back-my friends won’t be happy that I’ve failed to get the book, but they’ll just have to get over it.”

(Charles) “Well, maybe it will turn up!”

(Young Man) “Yeah, maybe… I’m out of here either way.” (To the god) “Sagacious Binder, right? Your boss isn’t going to be happy with you! Why don’t you come with me?”

(Sagacious Binder) “Sigh… that’s true. And I do like to go outside SOMETIMES. I’ll accompany you to a safer quarter, at least.”

A bit odd really Channeling in extra chaos was sensible enough; it was no wonder that off-earth Geomancy was weak what with how thin it was spread… but why Yu-Shan?

For the moment, he marked it up to a combination of “up to something” and “probably aren’t entirely clear on what they’re doing” (or they wouldn’t be after geomancy maps in the first place). At any rate, the god and young man departed up the elevator – and Charles warned Sayid to get out of sight, but to mark the scents!

Sayid did so – and apparently managed to pass undiscovered; after all… scent rounded corners.

He reported back that the young man smelled … FUNNY. Like a raccoon and … blue and mischief! He hadn’t even been aware that “blue” and “mischief” had aromas.

(Charles) “Huh! That’s dream-signature! Impossibility made solid, concepts given physical qualities… But… in an old archive in Yu-Shan talking about geomancy?

He was just about to start thinking about possible reasons “why” when the computer in the office chimed and woke up the functionary…

(Message) “Shadowed Lamp, has anyone come in asking about a message in their hot beverage? If so, direct them downstairs.”

(Shadowed Lamp) “Ah! What happened?”

(Charles) “Allo! I think you were knocked out by a rather strange person!”

(Shadowed Lamp, looking Charles over) “You must be Charles Dexter Ward! The boss said they were sending you a message today!”

(Charles) “That’s me!”

(Shadowed Lamp, looking over at the computer.) “Ah! You’re to go downstairs!”

(Charles) “OK!”

Downstairs… there were more bookshelves, but these were sealed off by wards AND private chambers. Some books – presumably the most dangerous of the bunch – were sealed behind their own wards and chambers. The environment was still sterile and spartan… but it was a near-ideal archive.

All of it was blocked off by adamant glass and a rather solid and warded door. There was a computer terminal here, with a camera and a message. The camera was transdimensional, and looked like it had been set up recently.

(Terminal) “Ah, it is you. I apologize for the secrecy, but this is highly sensitive business. Did you have much trouble getting down here?”

(Charles) “Not really! You had some intruders, but they mostly wanted to talk!”

There was a long pause.

(Terminal) “Bother. And here I had hoped that the security was good enough to prevent that. Could you tell me what happened?”

Charles cheerily described it!

(Terminal) “It’s my fault, really. I should have been closer to the office when I sent the message, and monitored things for the day. Now I have reports to write… but we don’t have much time. Have you spoken with any Bronze Faction members recently?”

Well, they hadn’t really requested secrecy in general, although the details were confidential as always.

(Charles) “Well, yes!”

(Terminal) “What did you discuss?”

(Charles) “Well, they thought that a geomantic crisis might be approaching, and were making some preparations in case something happened!”

(Terminal) “Something well within your field, I believe. How did they ask you to help?”

(Charles) “Well… helping make some preparations to get their mortal dependents to safety if the worst befell… So what do you need to tell me?”

(Terminal) “All right. Do you see the fourth chamber from the terminal, on the left? Do you also see the door in the back?”

Well yes, it was pretty obvious.

(Terminal) “Okay, go to the door. I’ll unseal the chamber. Don’t open the book inside; the contents don’t reflect the title at all. Scan it, then open the door in the rear and toss the book into that device. Then read the copy in Aden, under the best security you and your Devas can devise. Nowhere else. Understood?”

(Charles) “Well… I can scan it at least! Is it especially dangerous that your copy needs to be destroyed?”

(Terminal) “For you? No. For me? It could be lethal, but you need to know what’s inside. Return here when you’ve read it, and tell me what you think. And… I know you’ve scanned elsewhere. I collected these texts for a reason. If anyone asks you… the Subsidiary Convention on Forbidden Gods does not exist. Understood?””

(Charles) “OK!”

Well, it had been pretty obvious that he would scan the library; he was noted for picking up weird information that he had no right to have!

(Charles) “Would you like a private dimension to keep things in?”

(Terminal) “I… I would enjoy having one, but would it have signs of your involvement? I don’t want to embroil you in this any further than I must.”

(Charles) “Not a worry really! It’s not like I don’t give things away without much of a reason anyway!”

He fished out small ring-chancel…

(Terminal) “You’re far too trusting, Charles. Nonetheless… keep it for now. I’ll have Shadowed Lamp retrieve it.”

(Charles) “You’re welcome! Those are… pretty trivial items really!”

(Terminal) “Now hurry! This place is already compromised, and you don’t need to be here any longer than you must.”

(Charles) “OK… do you want everything packed up?”

(Terminal) “If you wouldn’t mind. I would appreciate it.”

Charles sent… well, pretty much everything, swirling into the Chancel. He left, handed the little bag of trivial-but-handy artifacts to Sayid (and sent him racing home) – and got rid of the remote body; he had to get to Gri Fel’s and Terapishim’s ceremony anyway!

(Terminal, in one last appearance) “Thank you for everything, Charles.”

(Charles) “You’re welcome!”

He had a party to get too! Fortunately… he could make it there in plenty of time.

OK, I think I’m sufficiently recovered to get back to posting again… Lets find out for sure. Sorry about the unexpected hiatus though.

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5 Responses

  1. Good to see the entries are starting up again, I kinda missed reading them.

  2. […] CVIII – The Tomes Of Doom: Remote Presence, Gri Fel and Terapishim are Accepted as Gods of Arcosanti, the Subsidiary Convention on Forbidden Gods, Mysterious Encounters and Ancient Tomes. […]

  3. […] CVIII – The Tomes Of Doom: Remote Presence, Gri Fel and Terapishim are Accepted as Gods of Arcosanti, the Subsidiary Convention on Forbidden Gods, Mysterious Encounters and Ancient Tomes. […]

  4. […] CVIII – The Tomes Of Doom: Remote Presence, Gri Fel and Terapishim are Accepted as Gods of Arcosanti, the Subsidiary Convention on Forbidden Gods, Mysterious Encounters and Ancient Tomes. […]

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