Charles Dexter Ward – Basic Background

玉山 / Yushan - 回程沿路風景

Image by Blowing Puffer Fish via Flickr

   Charles – a Twilight Caste Solar Exalted – was set up for Exalted Modern – but a few name-changes and the transfer of three ability points (the one point in Technology to Ride and the two points in Computer to Bureaucracy) are generally enough to make him work in an age of sorrows game.

   Musings in Yu-Shan:

   The war threatened to continue near-endlessly. Worse, it was only too likely that it would distract the Champions of Creation until some primordial, wyld, or underworld menace found a chance to destroy them all. Almost as dangerously, even if no such menace appeared, the battles would continue to spread destruction until someone – through the fortunes of war – pulled off a minor miracle and shattered what little organization was left on the Sidereal and Lunar sides. That too would eventually lead to catastrophe.

   A chance for reconciliation -for the fragile seeds of hope, trust, and acceptance to take root among the chaos – was needed. Perhaps this time he could find a way around the limitations of the Great Curse, even if his charges could not see it for what it was.

   Lytek, Lord of Exaltation, the Awakener of Heroes and Tuner of Paths, began to look for a few individuals with different possibilities. A few… experiments… to slip in amongst the usual run of candidates for those few Solar Exaltations that remained to him. Someone who could grow into their full power quietly. Someone more subtle than the usual hero. A child of Creation who might find a way around the trap that had seemed inescapable for millennia.

   A child of Creation who… time to grow… a knack for keeping hidden and being overlooked… an actual child perhaps? He’d never had much to do with one of THEM of course – but weren’t they notorious for finding a way to bend ANY kind of adult restriction?

   It was worth a few small adjustments and a few tries.

   Charles Dexter Ward, Age Seven:

   That had been a really weird feeling. Ever since he fell in the lake and there’d been that bright flash he’d been seeing all those neat spirits and things. Still, the cat-bus was really fun. It went to LOTS of neat places. He could do without that pesky Lytek who kept dropping by to pinch his cheek and pat his head though. Even worse than Aunt Telera.

   He was handy sometimes though! A god’s power-aura was good for a lot of stuff and made the BEST popcorn!

   Charles, Age Eight:

   Yay! Disney-World! Then Hawaii! Round-the-world! But why aren’t Mom and Dad coming?

   Charles, now in the custody of his busy patriarchal Grandfather after the disappearance of his parents, got casually towed along on some rather extensive travel – starting with a special treat. It took him quite some time to realize that – this time – his parents apparently wouldn’t be coming back.

   Charles, Age Nine:

   Charles wished the spirits would use a real roof instead of pretending with illusions… Every time he played with them and got wet like this he caught another cold. His head and his throat hurt and he couldn’t even eat his lunch. Still, at least spirits never went away on you… He stumbled miserably back to the house, but the servants found him collapsed just outside – and brought him to his grandfather.

 Lord Richof had fathered a lot of children, and had acknowledged – and indulged – a hundred grandchildren. What made one small, frail, grandson so important? Was it just that the sickly child needed his help so badly? Even for a human, he wasn’t well.

   It was a bad fever this time. He put a healing spell on him, but… Well it couldn’t hurt. He tucked the child in with the hearthstone that channeled healing energies. He didn’t need it any more anyway, and its unfocused energies might help the boy a bit even if he couldn’t actually attune it. Who knew?

   In the morning the boy was sleeping comfortably – and the hearthstone pulsed in time with his heart. That simply wasn’t possible.

   Evidently the feeling that there was something special about this grandchild meant more than that he was bright, ill, and well-behaved. He was what, nine? A bit young to start teaching him magic – or to be showing him the Manse he’d just inherited – but he really wanted to see how much the boy could learn.

   For someone who was apparently a normal human it was quite a lot. More than was strictly believable really – and more than enough to serve as a valuable aide at times.

   Charles, Age Ten:

   The Libram of Fallen Stars had been a lot of trouble to get. He’d had to get past the monster in the lake, get the seal on the tunnel open, solve the lock, break the ward around it, and then get out again. Still, it had been calling for him to come and get it for weeks on end. Presumably it was good for something – even if it was going to take a week to puzzle out the script.

   As it turned out, that took a little help from the Hoenheim Manse Guardian – and it showed him quite a lot. How to open and use the secondary aspects of the Manse, how to work more powerful spells, and how to read the Manse archives… an inheritance greater than he had ever dreamed, and yet – somehow – he knew that Devon’s way was not quite the path that he would follow in the end.

   Charles, Age Eleven:

   Well, Gorim seems to feel that I’ve grown up a bit, and lets me go anywhere I want to go now! Avalon, odd pocket-realms, wyld outposts, even Yu-Shan – although Yu-Shan seems sort of run-down for heaven though.

   Hey! There’s Grandpa!

   How did I get here? I took the bus from school, why?

   Lord Richof was startled for a moment, and then sighed. The boy was getting a lift from one of those minor gods he hung around with of course. Still, being the guest of a minor godling would only go so far in Yu-Shan; he added protocol lessons and his personal protection to his grandson’s guest-rights and enrolled him in one of Yu-Shan’s schools… There were a few classes available for the younger Sidereals and various half-bloods. The boy would probably fit right in.

   He was mildly surprised when Lytek took a small interest. It might just be a passing whim – but it might indicate something rather more important.

   Charles, Age Twelve:

   Charles was… quietly appalled when he studied the origins of Starmetal and Soulsteel. Forging either from Ambrosia was just fine of course, and a temporary voluntary transformation was reasonable enough. Using the body of some permanently-slain godling to make Starmetal was acceptable, if just barely so – as was the confinement of some irredeemable menace to make Soulsteel – but the unjust imprisonment or condemnation of innocent beings, was right out! If anyone ever brought him any of that stuff he’d have to see what could be done about it!

   While Yu-Shan has no labor shortage, an obliging – and apparently reasonably-powerful – magical artificer with no apparent factional axe to grind and no time in which to have developed any influence to use if he did have an agenda was a valuable resource, even if he did happen to look pretty young. Gods, and their god-blooded offspring, often looked a great deal odder than that. There was some speculation as to just who was pulling strings on his behalf of course – but the boy did seem reasonably well-qualified for being appointed to operate a modest artificing facility. No one entrusted him with anything major of course, but he seemed competent enough at working on minor trinkets. That would change only slowly – but the fact that Charles was willing to make room in his schedule for the requests of younger exalts, rather than leaving them to the apparently endless que that resulted from their elders butting into the lines, eventually began to be noticed – as did the fact that he was often willing to obtain his own mystical components.

   What Lytek noticed was that this child – and a few of the other promising experiments – refused to take command or to seriously influence other minds save by example. They were… Guardians, not Lawgivers. Amiable heroes and supporters of humanity, rather than burning inspirations and natural overlords. Creatures who reminded him of tales that were old indeed, of the creation of the Exalted in the morning of the world before the vengeful Primordials laid their curse.

   What could that mean? Had he made adjustments – or removed them?

   Charles, Age Thirteen:

   With his Talisman of Vigor completed at last, Charles was took a few days off – and looked around for another project. He’d only made a few friends since he’d started working in Yu-Shan. There weren’t too many likely candidates THERE, and his frequent absences were awkward to explain at home… It had been bad enough when he’d just spent a lot of his time hanging out in a pocket realm. Explaining being away for days at a time made it really awkward.

   At least one young Sidereal Exalt, however – Demion, the Amethyst Fury – had noticed that Charles had been knocking around Creation pretty widely in search of odd ingredients, and that he seemed to have both fairly substantial power and considerable expertise in his fields. Those might be very useful attributes when so few other Exalts were available – and, while his elders might look down on the god-blooded, they were not nearly so helpless as all that – at least in comparison to a less-experienced exalt such as himself.

   And it would help the youngster make a few useful contacts, and earn a few favors, around Yu-Shan. That would probably be good for him later.

   Demion recruited Charles to help him on a series of missions – investigating (and repairing) an ancient Manse, dealing with an eruption of ghosts and the energies of the underworld, and the trip into the Pyramid-Temple of Arnmalariss which led to the creation of the Cauldron-Born. Up until then his presence had been surprisingly useful…

   After that little disaster, from which only Charles and Kiko escaped, the follow-up debriefing by some annoyed older sidereals didn’t improve Charles’s mood a bit (seeing a bunch of people, some of whom he’d started to like, being semi-possessed by weird chaos things had not gone down well).

   He retrenched a bit for some time afterwards, although discovering that some of the Pattern Spiders did indeed seem to like him lightened things up a bit; those things were pretty cool.

   Still, he needed to figure out what could be done about restoring the Cauldron-Born to sanity, and it looked like he was just going to have to have some real training – and probably some allies – for that. He’d have to take more classes. Maybe even some of the non-theory ones.

   As this IS a character conversion/update, this is where most of the events of the first-edition Exalted Modern campaign fit in. Some of the results of those games have been subsumed into his second edition character setup, while a lot of the more peripheral stuff has been discarded. There’s only so much that you can pack into a starting character after all.

   Contemplations of Exaltation, Part II…

   Meditating in his chambers, Lytek wondered. That ancient malediction, that terrible power… The Primordials had laid their curse upon their enemies. Upon those who had stolen their dominion. Upon the Sidereal manipulators, upon the Lunar experimenters, upon the Solar lawgivers, and upon the Terrestrial legions who had carried the celestial banner across the world.

   Upon the usurpers who ruled Creation in their place.

   Was the Creation-Ruling Mandate itself, as handed down by the Incarnae, simply the final ironic component of a monkey-pot trap? Could freedom truly be as simple as THAT? As simple – and as difficult – as accepting and letting go?

   Even if it was… could he bear to follow where the children of exaltation led? To renounce the radiant hero-lords of the Primordial War that he had loved across the ages in favor of something new? He’d found it hard enough to try even a few small experiments on those few Solar Exaltations that remained to him…

   Still, the child-exalts did have a certain appealing quality all their own.

   Would it be easier or harder now that so many had returned?

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