The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part VI

Overlooking the Tataka Saddle(Tataka Anbu) fro...

To the observatory

The next morning Charles dropped by the museum bright and early, complete with a file folder full of complex explanations – and the grass to give to the hipparions. He had checked, it seemed to be made to make them grow even healthier. It might still have been meant for him of course, but his digestive system wasn’t really meant for grass…

The hipparions seemed to enjoy the grass a good deal.

The museum staff, of course, was interested in repeatability and publishing, The research possibilities were quite incredible.

Charles had to admit that it might be possible to do it again – but also noted that he wanted to research it a bit more first. At least a month or two, and some additional precautions were in order.

The scientists wanted to know if he’d like some help. After all, the original device had apparently broken down. Perhaps some professional technicians might help?

Oh dear. They wanted to throw a research team at it… Charles told them that assistance might be useful – but he intended to take a week or two to examine the system and what went wrong first. After all, since he was the only one who really has any idea of how it worked, no one else was going to be of too much help in failure analysis – and he had to admit that the energies he was working with were not exactly well-understood.

They wanted to meet with him again next week then, after he got through, and see that report.

Uh-oh! Maybe if he stalled for a week or two something would come up!

Perhaps sadly, Charles didn’t quite realize that the museum folk couldn’t exactly MAKE him tell them anything at all; he had been paying THEM after all. It was probably a good thing that they still thought that of him as a combination of a child prodigy and the luckiest experimenter on earth.

That was the trouble with being a kid. Even with the vast, quasi-divine powers of exaltation, a grownup with a firm voice was still a grownup – and he got caught up in enthusiasm without quite planning out all the steps. He probably should have realized that no bunch of scientists would be content with one marvelous result with no known mechanism.

Fortunately, he HAD made the initial description plausible. It was all essence underneath, so you could use resonance imaging, throw in a few technomagical components to get the temporal resonance, and either feed that into an imaging program to look at things or into an organic matrix to do some reconstruction. OK, you’d need a fabulous burst of raw power fed into the system to do anything like what he’d done with Thaumaturgy – and you’d need a spark of life to work around even if the system COULD handle that kind or power and you had a source to make living creatures – but you COULD make such a machine – at least if you could handle making the technomagical bits to begin with and could supply the power needed to fire it up.

Back in Yu-Shan, and waiting for school to start, he found that rumor had it that Sidereals were slowly trickling into the city – but then those guys were often so stealthy that it was hard to tell how many of them were in and how many were out and pretty well impossible to know what they were up to. Well, unless they were meeting for a big purge, or an assault on Lytek or Gramps or something – which seemed pretty thoroughly unlikely, it was probably none of his business!

He doodled quite a lot of possible designs for the Rod of Construction in his spare moments between classes before he found one he was happy with.

His combat instructors were pleased; he was still no better than “novice with some talent” level in a lot of things, but at least he was starting to show some progress with a staff and was reliable about reaching for the hilt of the sword. They’d been starting to worry!

There were only two classes today, so he had a little free time before he’d have to get to work. He spent most of that in the small library-laboratory he’d set up at his Yu-Shan manse… There were some details to check on his preliminary rod design and the moonsilver necklace turned out to be quite a puzzle! It felt almost alive in his hands, even unattuned. Probing and analysis revealed several layers of sorcerous cloaking – one celestial and two terrestrial. It looked to be of second age manufacture, probably from somewhere in the east, but he couldn’t find any references that looked relevant at all – although, to be fair, he only had a few books to hand at the moment.

That was interesting, and perhaps a bit paranoid. He could crack the spells – but there was no way of saying what that might trigger, and any shield that could resist his probes was pretty good. Worse, the east was a big area, and a lot of stuff had been made there – and moonsilver artifacts from the period were, of course, usually made by Lunars – and they hadn’t been big on records back then. Perhaps he could consult a Lunar? Maybe when he gave the one fellow his personal transport?

No wonder that Alukbar hadn’t been able to crack the shields though. Worse, what if there’s a very good reason for them? It was active without an attunement – which could mean that it was a prison or something. He really needed to know more before he did any gratuitous meddling. At least it didn’t seem to actually be mobile – just twitchy.

He put it away – behind some ADDITIONAL careful shields, alarm-spells, and containments – in his Yu-Shan manse where a few of his Coatl and Inugami could keep an eye on it. That should keep it out of the way for the moment – at least until he could do a little more research.

Well, to be fair, it it hadn’t acted up in a merchant’s shop, it couldn’t have been up to anything TOO outrageous. He’d love to work on the puzzle, but he had so many commitments now!

So many mysteries and people in need, so little time!

The setup on the Fivefold Harmonic Adapters went swimmingly. It was running so smoothly that it was making him nervous… OK, they WERE easy, and the staff WAS good, and it was a fully-operational Factory-Cathedral in good repair – but there was so much intrigue in Yu-Shan. Surely SOMEONE would try to interfere.

He might have to take some very special precautions there!

After work, he put in some time on Ixian’s amulet. Sadly, even with all the power four Coatl could provide, that was going to take a couple of days unless he wanted to stay way later than he could easily cover… Just burning through most of his (and their) immediate power reserves on The Laborer’s Word didn’t take more than twenty minutes or so though even WITH the Dancing Dragon Ring to help out. The real limitation was on rebuilding his power reserves…

More Hearthstones and things would help though!

At home, there were ingredients waiting. His various agents hadn’t had much trouble with most of the basic stuff… A couple of the Inugami were following his designs to start building – and documenting – a machine which really COULD do detailed reconstructions (albeit not species resurrections) via temporal resonance imaging.

He spent the last few hours of the day sorting out and evaluating his components, and went happily to bed.

The next couple of days passed relatively quietly: There was school (where his obsidian blade had been nicely blooded, and wasn’t even chipped, and so he could work carving the runes into the wood for his after-work completion of Ixian’s amulet), a bit of time to spend on finishing up his designs for the Rod, and a few more minor projects… He had to find time to make a few more assistants though! He couldn’t find a way to make THEM self-reproducing and each one took all day to make!

Work was a marvelous display though, as the technician-priests begin consecrating the talents of magical materials and loading them into the forges – from whence they proceeded to the assembly lines, where other technicians will engraved each segment with appropriate auspicious glyphs and inserted the rings of adamant.

No one had yet noticed (or was really likely to notice) that the Factory-Cathedral had pocked up the Self-Stabilizing and Regeneration functions since Charles had attuned it’s (formerly rank-0) Hearthstone and had mastered Harness the Wild Dragon and The Dragon-Tamers Art. That would complete all the repairs, and handle most of the maintenance, automatically!

It also provided some blessings for all the mortals working there or living nearby, but – in Yu-Shan – who would notice?

It even gave the Hearthstone some minor functionality… It wasn’t much – but it would let him use the effects of the Factory-Cathedral from anywhere inside it, rather than actually having to run about physically fiddling with the machinery. It was all essence effects anyway, so that would be a big help in keeping his after-work projects quiet!

Even the painting was almost done!

Things began picking up again the next morning however…

He’d be in the advanced Lore classes as soon as he got by the interview requirement – and that was today, along with Introductory Herbalism and Melee Combat Training. Fortunately he knew all about the OCCULT properties of herbs, but he had to admit that his knowledge of the survival and medicinal uses of plants wasn’t so hot though.

Hm… It looked like Advanced History was taught by the same instructor – but with a variety of divine specialists in specific topics handling subclasses. The interviewer was one of the usual guests. Still, he showed up looking hopeful – and the instructor was glad to see him. Perhaps long-dead history wasn’t one of the most popular topics.

(Charles) “Hello Sir!”

(Dangbin) “Ah, hello Charles. I understand you’ve been recommended for my advanced course?”

(Charles) “Yes sir!”

(Dangbin) “Well, there are several requirements. You definitely have the grades to enter the class. Now, it does have a more substantial essay requirement than the standard course. Do you think you can handle that?”

(Charles) “I think so!”

(Dangbin) “Very well then. Why don’t you show me how well you can research and write then?”

That turned out to be an assignment – research one of these ancient historical topics and submit a paper on them within the next two weeks.

Hm… It looked like Dangbin was a specialist in the history of the first age and the Shogunate. That was awhile back! He’d have to write something interesting!

Well… Maybe not TOO interesting.

It was explicit that using your own memories of the era was NOT a source. Neither was going to speak with a friendly god… Clearly Dangbin valued scholarly research. Well, it should still be straightforward.

Lets see… He had the spread of the Great Contagion throughout a single direction, the interactions between Shogunate Daimyo in a particular region of Creation, the process behind the construction of the Five Metal Shrike (after all, it wasn’t all crafting), the rise of Queen Merela, and – for really ambitious students – reconciling the timelines of a Solar Exalted and his Lunar mate during the Time of Cascading Years.

Hm… The five-metal shrike… political process for support and authorization, research and design, industrial support, actual crafting process… It was certainly full of politicking. Also occasional duels, but that seemed to have been standard for the era. The actual crafting was almost irrelevant to the subject.

Well, he still had most of the history period to go and look up a number of things, and picking one of those topics could certainly be one of them… He had to finish up that Rod of Construction for Gri Fel!

Sadly, while there was plenty of information on constructing one and two dot artifacts in the school library – making an artifact was actually part of the graduation requirements – there was nothing on anything so grand as such a Rod. There was plenty of useful theory, though, and some blueprints for relevant tools and minor devices.

Charles happily spent the rest of the period on that – and showed up at Herbalism busily stuffing sheets of notes and copied diagrams and things into a set of folders.

The current unit was about finding plants out in the field; today’s class was about basic plant identification. The next one was application… There were permission sheets being passed out for a field trip into the deep amazon, where the more obvious God-Blooded students should be able to escape notice more easily.

Ooh, Fun! And a permission sheet for Gramps… He put it away carefully and studied basic herb identification; he only had a very basic grounding in that.

The instructor was taking a hands on approach. He ran everyone through certain characteristics of plants, then spontaneously generated samples and had the students identify them. He couldn’t sense any illusions being used, but he got the feeling that he might be saving that for more advanced applications… if he was even capable of illusions. That generally wasn’t a wood elemental thing. Of course a minor god of plants and herbology shouldn’t NEED any illusions for a basic class unless they wanted to talk about some highly magical or chaos-touched thing. You couldn’t have the students getting eaten!

Charles kept a careful eye on things though! Instructors liked to put in lookalikes and things as tests!

At least it was far too early for the god who wanted armor; he had to expect it to take a year at least. (He did. He was quite used to waiting on artifacts, and was very long lived. A year was hardly any time at all to him – and he would be surprised to get it THAT early, unless he’d forgotten just when he’d asked, which was likely. Time didn’t mean a lot to teacher-gods.

His instructor, the winged air god Sindri, was now sure of the consistency of his improvement.

(Sindri) “That puts you on an even footing with the other students. Perhaps we can have you spar in today’s class.”

(Charles) “Er… OK. Uhm… who with?”

(Sindri) “Why not Estanna? She’s been studying the staff as well.”

Sindri pointed her out. She looked to be a God-Blooded girl of about his own apparent physical age – and presumably of a similar level of skill.

Perhaps fortunately, Granmps was pretty pragmatic about things like “you don’t hit girls”. He was generally against hitting people, yes – but only as long as they weren’t attacking you. He said that “If a woman is attacking you, she’s a combatant and shouldn’t expect any special treatment on the battlefield.” Charles kind of suspected that the “hag from Malfeas” he occasionally complained about might have something to do with that.

Charles tried to keep his enhanced strength and reflexes down to something plausible.

Estanna’s technique wasn’t bad. It was clear she hadn’t been at this very long though, and she didn’t have his grace, but she was learning at about the usual rate. She seemed to have mastered a Charm that boosts her reaction speed.

They traded ineffectual blows for some time before breaking for a drink – which occupied most of the days class. They thanked each other politely afterwards.

This, of course, is a consequence of Exalted’s system. Students and Mortals may not ever be able to hit each other unless they’re highly skilled. Take two kids with crude, bonus-free, knives. Dex 2, No Skill, one die after penalty for a maximum of two successes. Defense 2; most people have a little dodge, if only from playing tag as kids. Defense wins ties. Normal mortals can’t stunt. Thus two untrained kids with knives may well be incapable of injuring each other. One of them will have to bring a gang.

Work was straightforward, but had a lot of dull moments to think in.

He settled on the Daimyo’s topic. Politics was not his thing, but he suspected that there were some similarities with how the various departments worked anyway. Besides, after that he had to talk to the Department of Nature and figure out what he could offer to a few Sidereals in exchange for a minor favor.

Now, ingredients for a Rod of Construction… The ceremonial implements from a masons lodge that’s had been around for at least a hundred years to be used to bless it and a rod of the finest currently available laboratory steel, along with jade caps for it to represent the finest of mortal artifice. One white jade cap for the inorganic materials, one green for the organic ones.
The rod he could special-order, but the Mason’s implements… those he’d have to borrow or swipe (not that he wanted to do THAT). Ones that antique would be mildly hard to come by unless they were on display in some lodge. – or were heirlooms for some Terrestrial clan. Weren’t the Dragon-Blooded tangled up with the Masons or something?

So. Elder mason’s lodges. Philadelphia, Washington DC, Boston, Charleston… the old cities of the original thirteen colonies would be best – preferably with lodges dating back to the colonial period and still in the same locations. He sent for a supply of the steel and produced a supply of the jade caps (they, at least, were pretty easy) and then ran some searches on masonic lodges…

He wanted old ones, with histories that indicated that they hadn’t burned down and been rebuilt or anything like that. Their tools might have been lost, and newer ones would be of no use to him.

That was a little odd actually. Masonic Lodges almost NEVER suffered any problems, or had to move, and the order ALWAYS seemed to have plenty of money and influence… Thaumaturgy? A few Wards and such would go a LONG ways towards keeping up their security.

Nothing much on Ebay or any online antique dealers either. He hadn’t really expected to get that lucky – but NOTHING?

Huh. He could just SEE the First Age Ebay. It would be absolutely ridiculous!

OK, the oldest continually occupied Masonic lodge on the American continent was in Albany. Others that qualified included one in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, one in Philadelphia, and more than a few throughout the former colonies.

Well, he could try hitting some of them. They’d quite likely be willing to make a deal; they could have their ceremonial tools back after he’s done, and he could give them a good ward or some materials or something. Still, there was no rush until he hit up the bureaus that were arguing over Arcosanti… He wouldn’t need the Rod at all unless there was some hope of success there!

He made a note to check the records in Yu-Shan to see if there were any damaged-but-stable manses scattered around. They were a real pain to fix by normal means, but he could do it easily now – and even if most of the damaged ones had blown up long ago, there had been enough of them that there might well be quite a few that had self-stabilized but which weren’t worth fixing given how much work – and how dangerous – that was under modern conditions.

Oh well. He’d have to do that in the morning.

The Yu-Shan schools took Saturday and Sunday off, but the Factory-Cathedrals only took Sunday off. Sunday was ostensibly for veneration of Sol Invictus, but really for the sanity of the staff. Still, even during the rest of the week, school was only three hours per day, and the factory supervision was only eight. Admittedly, Charles tended to linger at the Cathedral for half an hour or so afterwards – but there was no point in more than that; that blew through all the essence motes he had conveniently available anyway. Besides, there were festivals throughout the year, and things were closed up then too. The important thing in this case was that all that meant that Charles had tomorrow morning off! He could spend that time on his own projects!

As it turned out on the manse research, there were at least thirty scattered around the earth (none in Yu-Shan of course), albeit all originally of level three or lower – and with only moderately-useful functions that hadn’t drawn determined repair efforts. There might be a lot more at level one or so; they were hardly noticeable given how poorly-mapped the earth’s geomancy still was.

Hm. There were still a lot of pockets of wyld energies hidden in folds of space around the earth – vestiges of the wave of chaos that had once swept across creation. It seemed that it should be possible to do something with that. He’d have to think about it. He’d need that “chaos-repelling pattern” thing he’d read about first though… and maybe that “integrity-protecting prana”.

Oh well! There were lots of other things to work on too…

Now for the Masonic Lodges. Now that he’d thought up a way to help out an old and out-of-work God it would be mean not to do it!

Hm. He had all morning of course… The oldest lodge was in Albany, but other options included Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Philadelphia, and several other lodges scattered along the eastern seaboard.

On the other hand, it was more than a thousand miles to Albany, five hundred to Portsmouth, eight hundred to Philadelphia, and so on. All more than a bit awkward! And all the lodges in Atlanta were well under two hundred years old, which wouldn’t do at all. Still, there was Solomon’s Lodge in Savannah (Established in 1734). That was only… two hundred and fifty miles.

That was still about five hours by car!

Of course, he didn’t have a car and couldn’t drive.

Wait! The Tour de France bunch were managing forty miles an hour or so, and he had plenty of enhancements running… If he applied a couple of alchemical boosts he should be easily able to manage twenty or twenty-five miles an hour for an hour or so – and a travel-boosting effect could increase the distance that he’d actually cover by a factor of ten. He could just cycle over to Savannah!

And trying to get a ride would mean explaining to someone else.

He made it to Savannah with no trouble – but he was thinking about finding ANOTHER way to get back. That had been more work than he’d thought it would be!

At least the travel spell mostly took the shortcuts between places rather than making him actually travel at two hundred miles per hour. That would have been pretty conspicuous, even if he mostly had stayed off the main roads!

Savannah was a lovely community, although not nearly as big as Atlanta – ant the sheer quantity of historical architecture was quite impressive. Not as durable, or convenient, as they might be – but VERY classical!

He took a look around for the major dragon lines.

Hm. A rating-2 Earth Manse in the area, boosting Craft skills. Probably not like that one Fire-4 Manse he’d read about that instructed geomancers but made them really protective of their Manses though. Besides, it was almost certainly functioning just fine. It wasn’t like anyone would leave that much wild magic running around a city for a couple of centuries. It might be worth looking into sometime though!

Off to the masonic lodge. Most of those were community-service places to some extent, so there should be some open areas – and possibly a secretary.

There were indeed. The building was nice, and was constructed of sturdy brick. There was a statue of a winged lion to the right as he entered the building – and there was indeed someone manning the door to greet him. It did, indeed, have several active wards – and pretty decent ones. The most notable were the wards against mundane snooping and magical divination – and it looked like the latter was actually Terrestrial Sorcery. There were also protective wards against meddling with the brick and fire. That was actually some quite impressive skills!

Hm. There was a new one against “anathema” that was only a week or so old – and whoever had set it up was either supernatural or EXTREMELY skilled for a mortal – but it only actually covered Lunars. Were they having some trouble? Oh well! It wouldn’t keep him out at all.

(Charles) “Hello! Can I come in?”

The greeter was apparently a on the cusp of middle age.

(Greeter) “Hello there. You look a little young to be joining, and I don’t believe it’s family day. What do you need?”

Charles opted for straightforwardness. He’d done a bit of disguise-shifting of details, but was mostly counting on being far enough away from home that no one would know him.

(Charles) “I need to talk to one of your officials actually.

The fellow wanted to know why of course. After all, it was rare for a kid to want to talk to, say, the Worshipful Master. Perhaps fortunately, he’d also closed the outer door – and the wards against spying were thus back in full effect.

(Charles) “Well, I had a small trade in mind; I need a bit of assistance with a bit of enchantment, and there are various things you need. You still remember some of the old lore of construction, and that’s what I need.

The greeter was looking at him as if he didn’t understand – but he’d also flashed an old hand sign that – roughly translated – read “We should discuss this inside.”

Charles returned one that said “yes indeed”, and got escorted inside the inner doors…

(Greeter) “Now, what are you looking for?”

(Charles) “It’s simple enough on my side: I need to use your equipment to inscribe certain arcane symbols on these rods; it’s a necessary step in their consecration. In exchange… what do you need? I have access to a variety of resources.”

(Greeter) “I think the Senior Warden needed something for one of his projects. What was it… earth water, I think. And we could always use materials for the wards.”

Water from the depths? Now that was in plentiful supply.

(Charles) “Hm. I believe I have some in stock – and ward materials are easy enough.”

At the moment, the greeter apparently believed that Charles was an elder mage operating through an apprentice, or fey, or making himself look young, or some such – which was fair enough really.

He got passed up to the Senior Warden.

(Warden) “May I ask who sent you? We do like to keep a record of that . . .”

Well, there was no reason not to be truthful.

(Charles) “At this point I am assisting Gri-Fel.”

(Warden) “Who? I’m not familiar with that one.”

Hm. It looked like he’d been expecting him be somebody’s apprentice or an elder mage in disguise. Maybe a young Terrestrial at the most potent. They were walking him in, albeit not quite to the genuinely secret areas.

(Charles) “He’s an old god, although he’s lost some stature in these later ages.”

(Warden) “And what were you going to make with our tools?”

(Charles) “ A set of construction tools actually. There’s a great deal of construction work that needs to be done.”

(Warden) “This wouldn’t have anything to do with that Manse in Atlanta, would it?”

(Charles) “No, it’s more Arizona. I take it there’s some problem in Atlanta?”

(Warden) “Well, we’ve heard rumors that somebody attacked the Grand Water Lodge there. The owners aren’t really talking about it, but something’s putting a monkey wrench in their operations.”

Oops. That would be the manse that he and his friends had been forced to storm. Wait. They hadn’t damaged the manse… must be a separate incident. Probably not something he urgently needed to fix though, or he’d have noticed the disturbance. They weren’t too likely to try and call him to help out though. They were at peace with the Morgans, but not exactly friends.

(Charles) “Hm. I can’t say that I’m aware of any major problems there. This particular project is more concerned with original construction.”

(Warden, shrewdly) “Arizona… hmm, Arcosanti, perhaps? We’ve heard of interesting developments there too.”

(Charles) “Ah, you are well informed. Gri Fel may, perhaps, have an interest there in the future – so arrangements are being made.”

(Warden) “I was thinking more about the nascent Fire demesne there, but that’s also good to know.”

(Charles) “Fortunately the demesne is still potential only.”

(Warden) “Well, you’ve probably got more ingredients to find on that. Which tools did you need for this?”

(Charles) “The triangle of purity, the third seal, the corner-stone, and the scribing wand”

Ah. A ritual consecration through inscription. Straightforward enough – but if it called for tools as old and richly-enchanted as theirs, the resulting enchantment would be of considerable power.

(Warden) “We keep them in areas where only members are allowed to go. Excuse me while I retrieve them.”

Charles was shown to a comfortable chair – that had been made even more comfortable through certain thaumaturgical rituals – while the Warden headed on into the lodge.

Hm. After a few minutes of waiting, he could feel something straining against the anti-Lunar ward. That wasn’t really his business – but the anti-divination wards shouldn’t prevent scrying outwards. He took a look!

It seemed to be focused on.. a mosquito buzzing around the windows. The buzzing did sound frustrated.

He opened a telepathic link.

(Charles) “Hi there! What’s up?”

(Lunar) “Sigh… this place is REALLY well-warded. I am not having a good day.”

(Charles) “Why do you want in anyway?”

(Lunar) “Well, who’s asking? I can’t even see in there. Stupid thaumaturges.”

(Charles) “Uhm… Me? I mean, I don’t know who you are either, except that you’re running up against the ward these people have got up against Lunars… I need to borrow some of their tools for a bit!”

(Lunar) “Anybody on fire in there, or surrounded by hurricane force winds?”

(Charles) “Uhm… I haven’t seen anyone.  It would be kind of rude of me to crack their wards when I’m here to ask for a favor though. Still, if you need something simple I might be able to help.”

(Lunar) “Okay, do you know what a Terrestrial Exalted is? I need to find one and stalk them without being seen for a day. Now I was told they were hard to find, but geez. You wouldn’t know any, would you?”

(Charles) “Hm. I know where there are some… you’re not going to hurt anyone are you?”

(Lunar) “No, that’d completely defeat the point of stalking them. I need to get in and out without anybody knowing. And if there’s a bloody, torn-up body there, well, you know.”

The warden came back with the tools.

(Warden) “I heard the ward pop. Are you okay?”

(Charles, mentally) “Oops! I have to talk to this guy, but I’ll be out in a little bit I hope. Can you wait a few hours?”

(Lunar) “Yeah, sure. I’m getting out of here before he finds me.”

(Charles, to the Warden) “Hello Sir! I’m fine!”

(Warden) abalux48: “Did you see who hit the ward?”

(Charles) “I didn’t see anything where the impact seemed to be. Whatever or whoever it was was either very well concealed or very small. It didn’t throw much of any power – or even much physical force at the wards though.”

(Warden) “Well, at least it isn’t showing any occult skills. Here are the tools. When they’re not in use, keep them in this case.”

Even for Charles, keeping his eyes on that case was difficult.

(Charles) “Certainly sir! Just to make sure, you need some Deep Water and warding materials?”

(Warden) “That’s right. We might need to add more proactive measures to the ward.”

(Charles) “I shall ensure that you get them.

Rather more trust there than he would have expected unless something was up. He’d been expecting at least a deposit request or some such.(Warden) “Now, when will you be sending those materials?”

(Charles) “I should be able to send what you need within the next three or four days. I have both Deep Water and plenty of warding materials on hand.”

(Warden) “Are you willing to sign on that? And on the safe return of the tools, of course.”

Ah, a mystical contract. That was more like it!

(Charles) “Certainly. For that matter, would you like an additional surety? I can certainly leave something useful with you.”

(Warden) “I was about to ask. Perhaps a major talisman, or even an artifact if you have one.”

(Charles) “Ah, certainly. Will this do?”

Since he had some spares along, he gave the man an Amulet of Shadow Walking.

(Warden) “Well. That will certainly do.”

That was… a spectacularly valuable item to be willing to leave as surety! Their thaumaturgical tools were valuable, but not THAT valuable! Moreover… it was very hard to tell with Artifacts sometimes, but was that a trace of sap still clinging to the runes carved into the wood? Could it possibly be NEW? If so, that actually made it quite likely that the boy was serving a crafting-god if he wasn’t a VERY powerful mage in his own right!

(Charles) “Ah good.”

The contract terms were simple: they wanted the promised materials and the safe return of their tools. The penalties for returning the tools damaged or their complete destruction were slightly less harsh than losing them or having them captured. It was sort of the difference between losing your deposit and being shuttled away for questioning or worse and being hunted down outright. It also applied to the case that the tools were in.

Well, they did take a big risk with every loan, and they did obviously have the backing of Terrestrials. It was fair enough.

Hm. Taking a cab was going to be hell to explain. Not to mention pricey. A bus was just… no. Was there a rent-a-helicopter and pilot service that worked on short notice?

Yes there was, but it was booked solid for today. Still, he could offer enough money to buy out someone’s slot… even if it would take at least three thousand dollars.

Someone was watching him? Oh yes! Mr Mosquito! That was easy, since he was just around the block using a phone book.

(Charles) “Allo?”

(Mosquito, somehow speaking through the buzz) “Hey, what’s up? I didn’t think you were a kid. Ah well!”

(Charles) “Well, if you just need to hang around some dragon-blooded for awhile, I do know where some were living – but it’s in Atlanta.”

(Lunar) “Oh, I’m traveling anyway. Think you could give me a lift? I’ll split the cost with you.”

(Charles) “Well, all right – but I brought plenty of cash. I was thinking of taking a helicopter back, the ground route was just too much work.”

(Lunar) “Okay. Do you have a terrarium or anything like that?”

(Charles, flipping through the phone book) “Nope – but there’s a (quick flip in the phone book) pet shop two blocks over. They should have them.”

(Lunar) “Uh, yeah, about that… I’m kind of stuck.”

(Charles) “Uhrm… How did that happen?”

Well, there were some downsides to not using those tattoos any longer.

(Lunar) “I had a run in with… something. I’m still not sure what, but there’s this… okay, said too much already. Some kind of fey-Lunar hybrid.”

(Charles) “Oh dear. Reshaped you with wild magic?”

(Lunar) “Yeah. That’s part of why I need to stalk some Dragon-Blooded without being seen. I’m getting closer to removing this curse. But I’m afraid any attempts to shop right now are going to get me swatted.”

(Charles) “Mind if I have a look?”

(Lunar) “Uh, sure. Try not to poke too hard, okay?”

It was a synthesis of Lunar Shapeshifting and Fair Folk shaping magic. The Lunar Essence was providing a hostile shapeshifting effect, while the Fair Folk glamour was keeping it active until the story was complete. The story seemed to involve feats involving the Lunar castes in a backwards progression, No Moon to Full Moon. The mosquito had four tasks left to complete… The No Moon task had actually involved a trivia competition. The Waning Moon task seemed pretty clear; the Lunar was trying to do it right now. The Half Moon task involved a losing battle turned winning at the last minute. The Waxing Moon seemed to involve repairing international relations, and a great monster appeared in relation to the Full Moon task.

It was pretty obvious that those two magics weren’t supposed to blend too.

(Charles) “Huh… I don’t think I can break it either. It’s not supposed to work that way, but someone’s bent all the rules around you.”

(Lunar) “That’s what the elders said!”

(Charles, heading for the helicopter offices) “Well, I can certainly give you a lift…”

(Lunar) “Thanks! I’m sorry to get you involved in this, but being a mosquito bites.”

(Charles) “Oh, not a worry! It needs fixing, and if I can’t do it, it’s only fair to help! I might be able to stack ANOTHER shapeshift on top for awhile, but it would be strictly temporary – and it might have very weird or dangerous side effects.”

(Lunar) “I’ll ask you about it if I need it. That Waxing Moon task is going to be ROUGH if I can’t talk normally.”

There wasn’t any real trouble getting back to Atlanta – or in pointing the Lunar towards some dragon-blooded he could hang around.

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4 Responses

  1. […] VI – The Masonic Barrier: Masons, Lunars and the Rod of Construction. […]

  2. […] VI – The Masonic Barrier: Masons, Lunars and the Rod of Construction. […]

  3. […] VI – The Masonic Barrier: Masons, Lunars and the Rod of Construction. […]

  4. […] VI – The Masonic Barrier: Masons, Lunars and the Rod of Construction. […]

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