Exalted – the Hoenheim Manse

   Thrice widdershins around the hill in Wilson Mill park. Go past the mossy bridge over the millrun – where you can stop for a pastry in the goblin market if you dare – and continue through the labyrinth grove. Those who have safe-passage from the lord of the borders and who dare to walk where man has never tread will find a roughly fifty mile by fifty mile section of forested mountains that have somehow been overlooked in the middle of a twenty-five acre park for many centuries. If you know where to go – and there are many obstacles and diversions, but no trail – you may eventually find the Hoenheim Manse.

   Faerie is like that.

   This requires buying the Hidden Manse merit; The Hoenheim Manse is, in fact, located upon the marches of faerie, outside of fate, in one of the remaining small patches of the wyld that remain scattered about creation. It’s not really very large, and is strongly influenced by Creation – but it’s still best to be able to get along with the Fey if you’re going to spend much time there. This is one reason why the place needs maintenance; it has to have regular stabilizing rituals performed.

   While the details are long-lost (at least as far as Charles is concerned), the Fey ceded several of the manses in the area to Charles’s family at least a thousand years ago.

   The Hoenheim Manse is built almost entirely into a hill, nestled among the forested mountains and partially encircled by a babbling brook and slight ravine. A few small outworks and the gatehouse are built on the surface, but the majority of the structure takes the form of a great circular shaft in the center of the hill, built around a massive, flourishing (and apparently indestructible) oak. A close inspection of the shaft shows indications that the hills and mountains rose around the roots of the oak, leaving it unmoved while the land shifted. A spiral stair runs around the shaft, and provides the main access for most of the rooms which encircle the main shaft. The Hearthstone chamber, and most of the chambers that support it, are sealed down in the deepest layers, nestled amongst the roots.

   The central chamber, with it’s flowing springs, crackling firepit, and quasi-outdoor environment serves as the main reception hall. Oddly, some of the twisting passages around the hall will bring you back to it, but in a darker aspect and with a ponderous pendulum swinging slowly in place of the tree. The tree has not ceased to flourish, nor has the pendulum varied in its swing, in all the ages of the world (this is a cosmetic effect, since it does nothing whatsoever).

   Less notable rooms include the great Kitchen, once the domain of dozens of servants and now virtually deserted, the Music Room, the Formal Dining Hall, the Hall of Fountains, the old Armory, a splendid Chapel (although who, or what, it’s dedicated to is unknown), the Gallery (some of the paintings are very odd. A few have been said to talk to people occasionally), and the Collection Rooms (with many curious objects). The Cellars are deep and extensive, with at least one mighty sealed door barring a flight of steps descending into the unknown depths – although whether or not they actually go anywhere at all any longer is an open question; that door has been sealed for millennia. The main sitting room, with its massive fireplace, has been fitted up (somewhat incongruously) with an enormous entertainment center and video games system.

   Recent additions include a stockpile of raw materials, electrical power and internet access (provided by concealed thaumaturgic taps into human systems), a library, a computer, microwave, and other modern conveniences – all made possible by Charles’s considerable resources – as well as a series of environmental chambers, including Disney World, several Video Game Worlds, Hawaii (complete with a magma flow), and a set for Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall, all made possibly via the Outside Worlds Within spell. None of these have any really serious use – but they’re fun.

   The Hoenheim Manse (Wood V):

   The Hoenheim Manse provides a Hearthstone III (A Willow Branch Stone) and requires regular Complicated Maintenance (skilled and careful gardening and various minor rituals), resulting in a total of fifteen creation points.

   It’s basic powers are Dynamic Architecture V (5) and Password Activations (1). Those provide it with three different configurations for the remaining nine points and allow it’s transformations- and various other functions – to be controlled on command.

   Or, at least, to be controlled on command by Devon and those who have inherited his Soul and/or Exaltation. Charles has been unable to find any record of anyone else being able to access either the Forge of Eitri or the Gate of Heaven configuration.

   It’s three forms are:

   The Cathedral of the Trees.

   This is it’s basic form, and is the one the manse will revert to – to let it’s servitor do the maintenance – for at least one night every week. It’s the most “natural” configuration of the three, and features plenty of plants, small trees, and fountains.

  • The Tree of Life/Life-Sustaining V (4). The occupants do not age, gain +5 bonus successes on all Resistance rolls against Poison or Sickness Effects, and heal two extra levels of bashing damage per hour, one level of lethal damage per hour, and one level of aggravated damage every five hours.
  • The Gardener of the Ages/Bound Servitor (2). When in this form, the manse calls forth – or perhaps creates – a caretaker/ gardener/servant/aide for itself and it’s owner, a creature which is roughly equivalent to a god-blooded Thaumaturge. Unlike most Servitors, the Gardener normally will not get involved in combat and can usually be found pottering around the manse or dabbling in thaumaturgy.
    • Charles suspects that the Gardener is actually Devon’s soul, re-embodied by the Tree of Life (even if his exaltation was passed on) – and that, when he finally truly dies (hopefully of extreme old age), if he is still attuned to the manse, his own soul will be drawn to the hearthstone room and will have the option to take up residence there. The gardener declines to either confirm or deny this notion.
  • The Bounties of the Earth/Lesser Provider (1). The manse produces sufficient food and basic supplies – growing supplies of refreshing (and often quite exotic) fruits, grains, and vegetables, and providing wood, plant fiber, and other agricultural products – for a group of up to Magnitude (Rating – 3), or about seventy-five people.
    • Rather than the Rating +1 magnitude, or better than a thousand people, which could be supported by the full two-point Provider power.
  • The Obsidian Mirror/Local Surveillance (1). One room contains a polished obsidian mirror, a minor scrying tool which can be used to survey the area in and around the manse. Traditionally it can be used to see much more than that, and can even be used as a mystical gate, but that requires using actual spells, and isn’t really a function of the Manse.
  • The Winds of Spring/Comfort Zone (1). The manse provides a wonderfully comfortable environment, with pleasant breezes, warm and friendly fires (quite safe thanks to the place being almost entirely made of stone and metal however), and indirect lighting around warm pools of sunlight.

   The Forge of Eitri:

   In this configuration, the deeper garden caverns, and the flowing life-forces of the Tree of Life, are replaced by a massive complex of magical workshops and complex inscriptions which channel those overflowing life-energies into two mighty enchantments. The powers of this configuration include.

  • The Arsenal of the Nibelungs/Master’s Workshop x2 (4). This provides master-level workshops for Craft/Air, Earth, Fire, Wood, Water, Magitech, Glamour, Fate, Genesis, and Technics. In the Forge of Eitri configuration, elaborate workshops appear in the lowest levels of the Manse, buried in a series of crystalline caverns deep within the earth.
  • The Spirit of Times Long Past/Utility Artifacts (4). In this mode the Manse has (Rating x 2) “points” worth of built-in utility artifacts powered by the Manse itself – in it’s case, two rating-five “devices”. Technically this would only cost three points – but for two such powerful artifacts, boosting the price to four seems appropriate.
    • Whispering Echoes: When the Forge is active, the very walls of the manse resonate with arcane echoes of the skill and power of it’s ancient creators and his aides. These are an immaterial, but very real and powerful, rating-five artifact – a guiding spirit (which has learned across the ages) and now provides a +4 to the Craft, Computer, Linguistics, Lore, Occult, Medicine, and Technology abilities of those within the Manse.
    • Athanor of Devon: In this mode, one of the laboratories contains a complex occult distillery – a device equivalent to a Crucible of Tarim (Oadenol’s Codex, page 42).
  • The Notes of the Craftsman/Archive (1, for only three secrets): Amidst the runes and symbols inscribed on the walls of the workshops are a complete set of plans for three major artifacts – the Libram of Fallen Stars, the Talisman of Vigor, and the Orb of the Archmage.

   The Gate of Heaven:

   With this subtle modification an elegant flight of broad marble steps leads up to a massive gate sheltered beneath the branches of the great Tree of Life – and a series of caverns full of mystical tablets of gold-inlaid marble replaces the workshops and gardens. The functions of this mode include:

  • The Gate of Heaven’s Stride/Otherworld Gate (5). This is a private gate to Yu-Shan – an item of considerable potential and peril both, which is why Charles tends to keep it as quiet as possible. In fact, he prefers to avoid using it unless he’s VERY certain that no one will notice.
  • The Annals of Heaven and Earth/Archives II (4). These elegant tablets are found scattered along winding paths through cavern-gardens. Each records some powerful bit of arcana – including twenty Terrestrial Circle Spells, four Celestial Circle Spells, and two major secrets – a set of warding rtuals that can keep the Yu-Shan side of the gate safely hidden away even during those times that it exists and one dangerous plothook of the game masters choice (which has, occasionally, been known to change…).

   The Hearthstone:

  • Willow Branch Stone (Wood ***)
  • This mottled orb glows with the subtle tones of supple green wood and young leaves. The user shares the deep-rooted stamina of a tree, and may imbue the manse with their “-4” and “Incapacitated” health levels. The user enjoys the benefits of being within his or her manse at all times and, if he or she would be slain, utterly transformed, or otherwise destroyed, the stone will shatter an instant before that occurs – and the user will appear in the hearthstone room with those two health levels remaining – but all the rest will be filled with aggravated damage.

   Yes, yes… This is a manse of extraordinary power. That’s mostly because it’s designed for a character conversion. Charles Dexter Ward had a fair number of items and abilities that were edited out of second edition, such as a Gem of Incomparable Wellness (one of the few ways you could design a character with sorcery and investigative abilities, but no combat abilities, and expect him to survive for awhile). He also had a fair amount of experience. Now, a fair number of things were never used – and therefore can be safely discarded in converting to second edition – but stuffing him back into a starting-character framework, while remaining true to his history and abilities, is proving difficult.

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