Lunar Essence Arts IV – Profiling

Many 18th c. treatments for psychological dist...

This is a hard one...

Profile Enacting Method:

Prerequisites: Intimate Training Recollection, Essence 3, Intelligence 4

With this useful knack a lunar can create subsidiary brains in the image of another mind. Such a project requires a detailed study of whatever information the user can find about the target. The user may designate up to (Perception) targets per lunar month, making an opposed essence check against each with a storyteller-determined modifiers (normally +2 for exceptionally detailed information, -2 for extremely vague information. An additional -4 modifier applies when targeting a Titan or one of the Fair Folk; their logic does not conform to the principles of creation).

On a successful check, the user has manage to put himself or herself “in the target’s shows” so precisely that he or she can deduce the answer to any one relatively simply question about the target – including one of said targets deepest secrets, intentions, or motivations. While the answers are generally relatively simple (“He’s going to attack the town of Axon’s Heights next. It fits his overall strategy”), they are accurate on a win.

If the target wins the opposed essence check the user gets no answer. If he or she wins by three or more, the user will deduce incorrect information about the target. If the user botches his or her essence check, the target’s mind has proven too complex and powerful to simulate safely; the user may either undergo an immediate limit break or temporarily fall under the control of the simulated mind. While this is not actually possession – the original target will never know – and the simulated mind cannot cause the user to gravely harm him- or her-self, it can cause him or her to assault a friend, give away valuable information, or otherwise make a great deal of trouble. Fortunately, the duration of such an episode is rarely more than a few minutes.

Exalted – New Manse Powers

The Statue of Liberty's head, on exhibit at th...

No, you need the ORIGINAL for it to work!

One problem with building Manses is that the local gods are almost certainly using any worthwhile demesne already. A strong demesne can support a powerful sanctum, and thus the god or gods using that power will be loathe to give it up.

Charles would rather have their cooperation than their opposition, and has serious objections to wrecking peoples homes, and so is working on the following series of manse powers.

  • Spiritual Stronghold (2): A physical structure that actually occupies a demesne is a far more efficient focus of magical power than a sanctum which primarily exists elsewhere. A manse with this power is essentially a spiritual condominium; up to a dozen spirits may establish sanctums rated at the manse rating or three (whichever is better) within it by simply being invited in by the hearthstone bearer. While such sanctums cannot ever generate hearthstones, they otherwise obey the usual rules for a manse empowered by a demesne of the manse’s level. If a pre-existing empowered sanctum already exists, this power allows it to be smoothly integrated into the manse if the god or gods using it and the builder agree. Otherwise it will lose power normally when the manse is completed.
  • Spiritual Nexus (2): The manse is a nexus for spiritual energies. If a great many people pay attention to it, it can convert the spiritual energies they focus on it into the equivalent of a Cult which the hearthstone bearer may either draw on or assign to some god associated with the manse. Thus, for example, turning the Statue of Liberty into a Spiritual Nexus might yield the equivalent of a Cult ****. Elvis’s Mansion might, perhaps, yield a Cult ***, and so on. Simply building a massive, impressive, building (like a full-scale gothic cathedral) is usually worth a Cult * or **.

Charles is, in fact, planning on getting a lot of people thinking about some of his manses by installing things like World of Warcraft servers in them.

  • Ambrosial Font (2): If added to a Spiritual Nexus, this useful power allows the energies of the manses “cult” to manifest as quintessence and ambrosia inside the manse, which gains properties roughly equivalent to Yu-Shan in this regard – although, if they are removed from the manses influence, they will instantly vanish as usual.

This, of course, will make those “apartment slots” a very hotly-valued commodity indeed. Access to even small amounts of Quintessence and Ambrosia is rare for a Terrestrial God – which is where most such manses will be built. After all, in Yu-Shan who needs this?

  • Essence Battery (1): The manse produces a reserve of motes that it makes available to attuned characters within the manse. Such a reserve contains 25 motes, renews itself at the normal recharge rate of the manse, and this power may be taken up to once per level of the manse.

Another modest-but-handy benefit.

  • Awakened Little God (1): The manse’s little god is an awakened ally of the hearthstone bearers. Such a god cannot be truly slain while the manse endures, and can usually be constructed as an Essence-3 spirit if the manse is rated at *** or less, essence 4 if it’s rated at **** or higher.
  • Sacred Ground (1): Thaumaturgists within a radius of (100 x Manse Level) yards may draw three motes from the manse to power thaumaturgy with up to (Manse Level + 2) times per day each. This does not count as an action; the motes are simply available when needed.

Wednesday Game, Possible Delays

Unfortunately, I will very likely have to be late to tomorrows UT game – and it is possible that I might have to miss it entirely. Hopefully that won’t be necessary, but I won’t know until tomorrow afternoon.

Exalted – The Crystal Arena (Artifact **)

Crystal ball

Caught in Crystal

Crystal Arena (Artifact **)

A Crystal Arena is actually pretty simple: it’s a crystaline sphere resembling a classical crystal ball. The characters who want to use it simply touch it, commit three motes of essence (or willpower if they have no essence pool) to it, close their eyes, and sit back to wait a few moments for the arena to “take form around them”.

Actually, they never leave their chairs. The “arena” is a purely a group mental illusion – a nigh-perfect, if consequence-free, temporary simulation of reality. “Within” a Crystal Arena’s simulated setting (which may be virtually anything the users know enough about) characters can hold parties, train in the use of wildly destructive spells and charms, and engage in wild, free-for-all battles (whether directly or with whatever support they could actually draw on) without actually risking injury or expending resources other than the three original motes of essence. If they want to, they can go completely unhinged.

Users may freely opt to conceal supernatural abilities or alllies from the Crystal Arena, but – in that case – those concealed abilities will not affect the outcome and cannot be used in the simulation. They may also opt to commit nothing to the Crystal Arena, but – in that case – they are merely obeservers. The user’s will still be able to hear such observers commentary – after all, their actual ears continue to function perfectly well despite their immersion in the illusion – but observers cannot actually affect events “within” the arena.

Characters training “in” a Crystal Arena need not fear injuries, and can simply drop out and then begin again when they “run out of” motes, willpower, or endurance – a considerable advantage. The user of a Crystal Arena reduces training times by one-half and allows user’s to go into experience point debt – albeit by no more than eight points.

A few Crystal Arenas are in use as entertainment centers – either as “gladatorial arenas” which allow the most extravagant opponents and powers or for more personal activities. Fortunately, the fact that the user’s must commit essence to the arena voluntarily and may withdraw at any moment has prevented their use as instruments of torture or interrogation.

  • Thaumaturgic Art of Illusion/Virtual Combat Arena. Takes effect in One Turn (+2D), Area Effect/Farm (to cover large groups, +3D), Duration up to Hours (+2D), Covers all senses, including essence-based senses (+6D), Detailed (+1D), Animated (+1D), Mobile (+1D), and Convincing (+1D) = Difficulty 17. 20 successes will cover that, so it’s (Class-B).
  • Thaumaturgic Art of Divination/What would have happened if the actions taken “in” the arena had actually occurred: Takes effect in One Turn (+2D), Area Effect/Farm (to cover large groups, +3D), Duration up to Hours (+2D), Individuals (+5D), Precise Results (+6D) = Difficulty 18. 20 successes will cover that, so it’s (Class-B).
  • Half Training Time is a Class-B general utility function – if that (things like doubling ground movement are a lot more generally useful) (Class-B).
  • Training effects start at Essence 3, and, while this one is very general, it’s also extremely limited; an eight-point maximum is fairly trivial. In any case, Essence-3 effects are Class-B powers, so this is (Class-B).

Artifact Design: Power 4 (4x Class-B), Usefulness 2, Plot Impact 1, Script Immunity 1. Net Rating = 8/4 = **.

A Crystal Arena can be awfully convenient if you’re trying to train, spar, or test your abilities quietly, but – in most cases – it’s easy enough to slip off into wilderness for things like that anyway.

Exalted – Lunar Essence Arts III

Northernmost natural population

What do you mean, "You sense his presence"?!

Shapeshifting Refinement Knack

Transcendent Ecological Unity

Prerequisites: Hearth-and-Flame Shell, Hybrid Body Rearrangement, Essence 4, Stamina 5, Wits 3.

A lunar with this knack may become one with the land within a radius of up to (Essence) miles, sharing with it a portion of his or her exalted essence-boosting, transforming, and life-enhancing powers.

On the land’s side…

  • It will heal, as if it was Exalted – treating loss of vegetation, pollution, and similar superficial damages as “bruising damage” (this will often overthrow less-solid structures, toppling them with burgeoning verdure), rifts and erosion as “lethal damage”, and things like the depletion of resource veins as “aggravated damage”. Eventually, the underlying land will be restored to a more or less pristine state. Features which were not a natural part of the land, such as a vein of magical ore resulting from some magical event, will not be restored in this fashion. Similarly, a Shadowland cannot be cured by in this way. While the overflowing health of the area may mask a Shadowland, mere healing is insufficient to undo it’s close link with the underworld.
  • It’s creatures will multiply to fill the land, producing larger-than-usual numbers of healthy offspring and having them grow to maturity in months instead of years. If Transcendent Ecological Unity is maintained for six months or more in the same area, directed evolution and mutation* will repopulate the area with excellent copies of any species native to the area which have gone extinct. Sadly, these will never be precisely identical, but they will be good enough to rebuild the ecology and to make suitable hosts for the souls of individuals of the original species who may be awaiting reincarnation. [*Users who also possess Changing Plumage Mastery may also add mutations of their own choice to the local lifeforms, up to a limit of (Essence) mutation points].
  • The land and it’s creatures cannot be further tainted by, or dissolved into, chaos.

On the Exalts side…

  • He or she automatically becomes aware of the features of the land, including any demesnes, manses, special resources, or local oddities, within the radius of effect. Manses with magical concealment measures require an essence roll-off as usual.
  • He or she is automatically aware of anything in the area which can be sensed by any creature of the land within it, disturbs its vegetation, touches the ground, or disturbs its flows of essence. If someone is using supernatural stealth effects, or flying above it, an essence roll-off is required (if both, the stealth flyer gains a +2d bonus on the roll-off).
  • He or she regains +12 motes per hour, regardless of activity. The geomancy of the land is an endless well of strength for those attuned to it.

Unfortunately, claiming the shape of the land requires at least an hour of carefully infusing the user’s life force into it – an action requiring the commitment of one health level to the land. Maintaining the bond after departing the area is an even greater strain, increasing the cost to two health levels. Still, some Lunars – particularly those with Pain Tolerance or similar abilities – have been known to use this technique to protect and restore areas of the borderlands.

Eclipse d20 – the Sword-Saint

Ilustration of the Genji Monogatari, ch.5–Waka...

Targets, all of them.

In d20 combat-oriented characters are normally generalists. They may have a few areas of special skill – as determined by various feats – but, for the most part, they’re skilled with a wide variety of weapons and tactics.

There’s some truth to that. A grand master of the staff can usually do pretty well with a short rod, or with a club, or with various other items. A man who’s good with a longsword can usually do something with a scimitar.

On the other hand, training with a longbow won’t help you much with a lance, or a whip, or with a katana.

Thus specialists – masters of a particular weapon – are often pretty popular. The trick here is not to go overboard with the concept; a character who is really good with a particular weapon, and who knows a selection of special tricks with it, is good. A character who’s so specialized that he or she is useless without that weapon is not so good. They’ll be overwhelming when they can use their chosen weapon and useless otherwise (a situation that WILL come up if the game master is doing his or her job) – and neither is all that much fun.

The sword is pretty popular for this kind of build, so I’ll call it a “Kensai”. If a thousand bad movies can rip off classical Japanese culture, so can I.

The Kensai:

Race and Attributes: Assign these as desired to suit the game. This is, after all, a general build, not a specific character. Kensai should ALWAYS have a good Dexterity. Constitution and Intelligence come after that.

Available Character Points: 264 (level ten base) + 24 (L1, 3, 6, and 9 Bonus Feats) + 10 (Disadvantages) +18 (Duties) +9 (Restrictions: the Kensai will never use a magical version of his or her favored weapon; it would sully purity of their technique) = 315 CP.

  • Those “Disadvantages” are usually things like being hunted by rivals, an irrational obsession with proving their own combat style supreme, being outlawed for killing people in the attempt to demonstrate their supremacy, having a reward out for their deaths, dependents, and annoying would-be students.
  • The Duties are usually related – teaching students who “prove themselves worthy”, rooting out enemy schools, serving some sponsor, redeeming their honor, or protecting the innocent.

First up, we’ll need the basics for a warrior-type: Hit Dice, BAB, Saves and Weapon Skills.

  • Hit Dice: 1d12 (L1, 8 CP) +7d10 (L2-8, 42 CP) +2d8 (L9-10, 8 CP). As the Kensai reaches high levels, he or she normally invests more in defensive skills than raw toughness.
  • Warcraft: +6 BAB (36 CP), +3 BAB, Corrupted/only in melee (16 CP), +3 BAB (Specialized/only with chosen weapon, 12 CP). That’s more complicated than it needs to be – but it does ensure that the Kensai is tolerably competent with a lot of weapons, good in Melee, and VERY good with his or her chosen weapon.
  • Base Saving Throws: Reflex +8 (24 CP), Will +3 (9 CP), Fortitude +3 (9 CP).
  • Proficient with All Simple, Martial, and Exotic Weapons (15 CP) – but No Armor (0 CP). In most depictions, the weapons specialist appears without armor – but they do seem to be at least competent with almost any weapon, if only because they can somehow adapt their training and skills somewhat.

That’s 179 CP already. Of course, combatant basics are always expensive.

Other Abilities (136 CP):

  • 13 Skill Points (13 CP): Spend these however you want – but skills like Tumble will prove very very useful. If they’re allowed in the setting, a Martial Art focused on the character’s chosen weapon is a must-have. With the Fast Learner ability below, that’s (13 x Int Mod + 31) skill poitns – which should be enough.
  • Adept (6 CP): pays half cost for any four skills – generally including Tumble, a Martial Art, and two other useful physical skills. That will cost 24 SP at level 10, leaving at least seven to invest in minor things. With a high intelligence, a Kensai may be quite skilled.
  • Augment Attack (12 CP): The Kensai gets a +4d6 bonus to damage when attacking in some specific situation. Less pleasant Kensai usually take standard Sneak Attack. Skirmishers may take when using their split movement to attack. Those with particular vendettas may take their bonus versus rival schools, particular types of monsters, and other targets. Sadly, if they want to get it whenever using their favored weapon (which they almost always will be), the triple-cost modifier for “almost all the time” kicks in, reducing the bonus to +d6+1.
  • Awareness (6 CP): Always on guard, a Kensai is very difficult to surprise.
  • Block (Melee) with Master (6 CP): Specialized/only with the user’s favored weapon.
  • Defender (4 CP): add (level/5) to AC as a dodge bonus. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
  • Fast Learner (6 CP): Specialized in skills for double effect, for +2 SP/Level.
  • Finesse (4 CP): A Kensai prefers skill and fine control to brute force. He or she may use his or her (Dex Mod) in place of his or her (Str Mod) in melee combat. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
  • Imbuement, Improved (8 CP): weapons of the user’s favored type gain a magical bonus of (Level/3) when welded by the Kensai. Corrupted/this only works with a personal weapon, which the user must spend at least three days practicing with to attune.
  • Improved Critical (6 CP): With the character’s favored weapon.
  • Improved Initiative +4 (4 CP). Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
  • Lunge (3 CP): Specialized in the user’s chosen weapon only, this ability adds 5′ of reach to the use of that weapon as the user darts nimbly in and out.
  • Opportunist (6 CP): Once per round, when a melee opponent misses the Kensai due to non-armor bonuses, he or she may spend an Attack of Opportunity to make a counterattack against him or her.
  • Rapid Strike (4 CP): A Kensai is always focused on his or her opponents, and so may attack every four steps – thus, with Warcraft +12 with their chosen weapon at +12/+8/+4. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
  • Reflex Training (6 CP): A Kensai’s weapons are as natural in his or her hands as air is in his or her lungs. They may draw and sheathe weapons on or off action without it counting as an action up to (Dex Mod) times per turn.
  • Reflex Training (Combat Reflexes Variant) (6 CP).
  • Split Movement (4 CP): The Kensai may split his movement around an attack – moving, striking, and moving again. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
  • Trick (Stunning Attack) (6 CP): Wiser Kensai soon learn to deal with truly idiotic challengers, over-ambitious students, and similar nuisances without killing them. Less wise Kensai learn that it’s easier to run people through while they’re stunned.

That leaves 24 CP for some customization. In high-magic item games the Kensai will probably want to prepare for a specialized role – and perhaps boost their defenses a bit more with “multiple” on their block ability.

In low-item games, getting some boosts is most useful – so here’s a sample package for that.

  • Innate Enchantment (12,000 GP total “item” value, 13 CP).
  • Immunity/Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Major, Epic, Specialized and Corrupted/only protects innate enchantments that provide personal augmentations, 9 CP). This is mostly important so as to save having to recalculate bonuses every time a “Dispel” of some sort gets thrown around. It wouldn’t need to be “Epic” for that – but I don’t want to have to worry about antimagic fields either.
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Major, Trivial [only covers first level effects at caster level one], 2 CP).

That provides 12,000 GP worth of Virtual Items. In this case, we’re going with unlimited-use, use-activated, personal-only effects – for a total cost of 700 GP for cantrips and 1400 GP for first-level spells where the personal-only (x.7) modifier applies. Unfortunately, this only works well in low-magic worlds; in high magic worlds most items won’t stack with these enhancements.

  • (X)-Slayer (700 GP): Pick an opponent type and get a +1d6 bonus to melee damage when fighting that particular type of opponent. Sadly, the opponent type must be chosen when this ability is taken. Choose wisely…
  • Enhanced Attribute (1400 GP): Add a +2 Enhancement Bonus to a chosen attribute
  • Expeditious Retreat (2000 GP): Gain a +30′ bonus to all movement modes.
  • Force Shield I (2000 GP): Gain a +4 Shield AC, negate incoming Magic Missiles.
  • Fortune’s Favor II (1400 GP): Add a +2 Luck bonus to skills and attribute checks
  • Inspiring Word (1400 GP): Add a +1 Morale Bonus on saves, attacks, checks, and damage
  • Know Direction (700 GP). This just seems hand for a wandering swordsman. Who wants to get lost?
  • Resistance (700 GP): Add a +1 Resistance bonus to Saves.
  • Ward of Heaven (1400 GP): Add a +1 Luck Bonus to AC and Saves

That’s a grand total of 11,700 GP in value – leaving 300 GP. Unfortunately, hardly anything fits into that amount. Oh well.

The basics of this particular build were suggested by Mike, who wished to play such a character in Andrew’s campaign. I’m not sure how close this is to what he eventually wound up playing though.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

d20 – Summon Army

John Dee and Edward Kelley evoking a spirit

More! I want MORE!

First up for today it’s another question from Alzrius.

What sort of spell(s) would it look like to summon an army for a considerable amount of time?

I recognize that the problems with this request are the inherent relativity of the terms “army” and “considerable length of time.” As such, let’s presume that we’re talking about summoning no less than twenty (though certainly more) 2nd-level fighters (of a standard PC race, such as human) for 1 hour per caster level.

My instinct here was to use the rules for summon monster spells, wherein if you sink a higher-level spell into lower-level creatures, you can summon more of them, but between the number of creatures and the length of time you want them to remain, that rapidly becomes infeasible.

Hence, would a specialized spell that was less flexible than a standard summon monster spell (which allowed for a choice among several monsters, and could be scaled through lower-level summons) allow for such a spell to exist at sub-epic ranges? Certainly, not granting the standard celestial/fiendish template to “normal” creatures (which any standard humanoid race would surely be) would help too.

In short, what would the “summon army” spell look like?

Alzrius goes on to append the note that modern definitions of “army” tend to be awfully large – tens of thousands of men at a minimum – but spells like that are obviously going to be epic anyway.

Well, lets see now… The base point for comparison is indeed the “Summon Monster” spell template in The Practical Enchanter. To check the base for such a spell, a summoning spell for a specific CR2 creature can be cut down to level one. You just take the “one creature with a CR one above the listed limit” rule (I’d allow it; a second level warrior is hardly the most deadly CR2 creature out there) and the “only summons one type of creature” modifier and apply them to the level three base spell you need to summon CR2 creatures.

That’s potentially useful – but the one-round duration at level one means that your summoned warrior gets only one attack, which might well miss. A good old Magic Missile is more reliable, and Mage Armor is probably a much better defense. The duration of the summoning scales with level, but so does the damage of the Magic Missile and the duration of the Mage Armor.

To get twenty such creatures, we need +2 spell levels for 4d4, and another +2 spell levels for an additional 4d4 – for 8d4, averaging twenty.

That takes the spell up to level five. To get it to one hour per caster level is +3 spell levels – for a total level of level eight.

Either the fifth level version (Get’em Guys!) or eighth level version (Honor Guard) isn’t that bad a spell really. If you use the eighth level version your minions won’t be all that useful in any serious straight-up fight at the levels where you can cast the spell to summon them in the first place (unless you apply some special options to bring the spell level down), but sensible, loyal, and totally disposable minions have many non-combat uses. They can provide a suitable escort when riding into town, check for traps, pick up dangerous artifacts, dig ditches, go and hunt for food (and then vanish without eating any of it), act as servants, provide massed arrow support, create diversions, and so on. They aren’t too powerful, but they are fairly versatile and will be around all day.

Scaling up to a full-sized army using standard modifiers is trickier. The quickest way to do it is to summon squads instead of individuals. That’s a bit cheesy, but – once again – we’re talking second level warriors, so I’d be inclined to allow it.

Adding +2 levels jumps the CR of the summoned creatures to 5. Three level two creatures are CR5, so now we’re summoning 8d4 three-man teams. To keep this non-epic, drop the duration of the higher level version to one minute per level – keeping it at level nine and summoning sixty men for at least seventeen minutes. Call it “Charge of the Light Brigade“. Again, not the best ninth-level spell around, but there might be some uses for it – especially if you’ve got some way to power up the creatures that you summon.

Honestly, though, this is less than overwhelming. Meteor Swarm could wipe out this entire force in an instant. What we’ll want to apply next is the Compact metamagical theorem from Eclipse. Both the increase in numbers and the increase in duration can reasonably be taken as Metamagic – so we could use the theorem to take up to six levels off the spell; three for compaction and three to counter the metamagical boosts we’re building into the spell.

So: we’ll take a day to cast this (and probably store it when we’re done, -2 spell levels), use some expensive components (a selection of weapons perhaps, -1 spell level), owe a minor favor to the spiritual powers who are providing the spirits we’re summoning (-1 spell level), become exhausted when casting it (thanks to the strain of anchoring all those spirits, -1 spell level), and spend 100 XP casting it (-1 spell level).

OK. At CR7 we get six-man squads of second-level warriors – probably with a few siege weapons and such to go with their regular weapons. That’s a base of spell level six, reduced to five since we can only get those second-level warrior squads. We want one hour per level, so that’s +3 spell levels. We want a total of 8d4 squads, which is another +4 spell levels. Fortunately, we’re getting -6 spell levels from the Compaction theorem – which brings the total down to level six for “The Raising of the Lost Legion“. That’s pretty powerful – but we are requiring a day-long ritual and expensive components. If we drop those, leaving the favor, exhaustion, and 100 XP cost, we’re back up to level nine (“Iron Master of War“) which does seem suitable. A hundred and twenty men with siege weapons for a day isn’t really that big an army, and can still be dealt with fairly simply (Dispel Magic anyone?), but there are times I might prefer such a spell to Time Stop, Meteor Swarm, Summon Monster IX, or Gate.

Certainly not always, but I can think of some situations.

That’s about as far as we can go while still keeping our “summon army” spell non-epic.

Now, there are some “Army Creation” spells in the high-levels spells section of Eclipse:

  • Unseen Horde creates at least 500 invisible constructs roughly equivalent to a second-level fighter for one hour per level at level thirteen.
  • The Dark Hordes summons up to 36 CR worth of infernal beings with a maximum CR of 9 each for a years service (which could cover quite a few low-CR beings in groups) at level sixteen.
  • Army of the Dead raises 5000 HD worth of undead of up to CR 16 each and gives them some bonuses as an instantaneous effect (you’ve got to kill them to get rid of them) at level twenty.

Of course, level twenty is the level for spells such as Stars Like Dust, which makes the utility of armies somewhat questionable. Still, a variant on Army of the Dead which called forth a larger number of hit dice of creatures – limited to, say, CR 4 each and “normal” races only, plus giving up “complete control” in favor of “reasonably loyal” (in exchange, perhaps, for 20,000 hit dice in total) to colonize and work your land seems pretty reasonable.

A spell like Sowing the Dragon’s Teeth there would leave your upper-end dark lords without any real reason to go out and snatch populations – but if they’re casting 20’th level spells, they can probably handle getting some normal people to work for them anyway.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 69

Star Wars: Jedi Knight (series)

Not Again!

In the accretion disk, Ben – a ragged castaway at the beginning of time, cast ashore from the multiverse on shore of a black hole, sailing his tree across the endless skies – was considering… Presuming that it would be some millennia yet before the end of this world, what could be done?

Technology might not be as out-of-the-question as he’d assumed; the trees scavenged heavier elements by straining the dust from the wind. Those must be produced in the fusion ring and thrown up to condense into dust in cooler regions. Materials WERE available; you just had to bring the trees down as close to the fusion zone as was tolerable and harvest the heavy elements that way. It would be long and laborious – as well as dangerous and toxic – but the heavier materials would grow more abundant as the hydrogen inflow slowed and materials from the inner edge of the environmental zone began to drop back into the fusion zone to be run through the fusion plasma over and over again.

Besides… where would they go? There would be no planets or reasonable stars for epochs to come. Wander the galaxy fusing the interstellar medium for the materials and power they needed until planets formed? Become the Alpha Empire, and ensure that all life in the galaxy would be biochemically compatible? Convert their homes to tree-spaceships with subspace metabolisms and help cool the galaxy? Eventually see them evolve to plant-based intelligence and found the plant-folk civilization he had encountered on one of his earlier jumps? There would certainly be a fair amount of thermal energy to work with for a long time to come.

Perhaps simply wait out most of the time in stasis fields? But would that even work? The stasis field seemed to drop you to the base timerate of the cosmos, and – without active life to provide faster time for most of the universe, would stasis even get you much here? It would still be billions of years to wait.

He was certainly developing a skill in shunting in materials to work with… Perhaps it would be best to simply leave records somehow and teach any of the bird-people who could to shunt in materials or otherwise organize their escape? Maybe if he built a Holocron just to train force-sensitives to train codifiers?

Meanwhile, back on Coruscant – and despite Alys and Lazlo’s hopes that the mess at the Temple was winding down and they could simply deal with the military and get out – the chaos was still going on. Kira, of course, was missing out on it what with his quick trip elsewhere…

We dropped into a storeroom I estimated about 50 kilometers from the Jedi Temple. I saw Valerie sitting on a crate waiting for us still dressed in her offworld tourist garb. I could see the unconscious and drooling blue skinned body of what I can only assume was the bar patron she had been needling for food and drink propped up in a corner. For a brief moment the thought crossed my mind of what Valerie must have said to have gotten the guy to come back here alone with here and a flicker of annoyance occurred before I suppressed it. Unfortunately, Valerie still saw that and gave me a knowing smile.

(Sagramore) Wait a moment, did you just disconnect us from the universe back there?!

(Kira) Yep, disconnecting the right threads in a controlled fashion can enable you to achieve several nifty tricks if you know what you are doing.

(Sagramore) It sounds like a good way to commit suicide thousands of different ways while at the same time enabling you to do a handful of tricks.

(Kira) In many ways, I can say the same thing about the Force.

That proceeded to get the glazed look I have come to recognize that I was practically arguing with the Censor as opposed to Sagramore. Oh well, that does mean I can more or less cut loose in front of him and not really worry about the guy being able to give an accurate description of what I am doing to others. The Censor is both handy and an annoyance at the same time. At least more of the issues involved on my side I can deal with, unlike Ben and the others who want to put various ways to destroy the cosmos back on the “not banned” list.

(Kira) Regardless, Sagramore, this is my contact with the Varen: Valerie Soung. Valerie, this is Sagramore Wulfes of the Baramour. He wishes to discuss terms of defection.

There was a brief moment of recognition in Sagramore’s eyes as he heard Valerie’s name, followed by a glance back my direction. I didn’t need to be a telepath to see the wheels turning in his head wondering just how much of the story about me and the Varen had to be lies and misinformation. Best to keep him guessing and off balance I think.

(Valerie) Feel free to order whatever you want from the droids. The unconscious gentleman has been kind enough to tell them to supply me with what I want, and I have told them that what you want is part of what I want.

What does it say about me that I am finding it rather difficult to feel much sympathy for the guy?

All that time fighting and running around the Jedi Temple had left me with a bit of hunger and thirst though. I proceeded to order a quick meal from the droids while I looked over the guys clothes to see if they would fit me. Sadly, they were a bit too large for me, but then again, that would better hide the large amounts of weapons I was currently carrying. I was toying with continuing to wear the Jedi robe or swap into his clothes when Valerie wanted an update.

<Valerie> So what is going on?

<Kira> Jarik, in his insane depravity, has decided he wants to kill a significant fraction of Coruscant with bioweapons. Initially he wanted to do this to implicate the Jedi and cause a split between them and the Republic, but that plan is shot. His current batch of plagues are destroyed, his plan is exposed, and he is on the run.

<Valerie> Great, leave it to the Jedi and military to handle then.

<Kira> All well and good, except for the fact that this nutjob is probably on the power level that he can turn cooking yeast into a deadly plague just by staring at it hard.

I didn’t need the Bond to catch that twitch on her face.

<Valerie> And Jarik is the doctor on your team that went off the deep end?

<Kira> Yep, the same.


<Kira> Don’t take that tone with me. That was when your alternate’s husband was over here showing off. He got all sentimental and shoved Jarik into stasis instead of putting the bastard out of my misery.

<Valerie> My alternate’s husband? That’s your alternate you realize?

<Kira> Don’t remind me. I get back, Jarik is missing. I assume he is off gambling or something. We leave to retrieve you under threats from your father. We get back from that, and bounty hunters have released Jarik and he escaped before I had a chance to kill the bastard.

<Valerie> So you actually intend to kill Jarik this time?

<Kira> Yep, and you can add Jacob to that list next chance I get.

<Valerie> Well that makes today a good day!

<Kira> How so?

<Valerie> That’s two of your “friends” I get to kill without you whining about it.

I just stood there and stared for a minute. Part of me had to admire her directness and lack of scruples over getting the job done. And yet another part of me was annoyed that this was how she viewed my “friends”. Boy is she going to be a barrel of laughs to introduce to the family if this is any indication of how things might go.

<Valerie> Does your family get you nearly killed or attempt to go on mass killing sprees on a regular basis?

<Kira> Not a typical trait for Keldavs.

<Valerie> Then they don’t have anything to worry about from me.

Putting the argument aside for the moment, I focused my attentions back to the problem at hand. Jarik either needed to die or be rendered incapable of independent action. I didn’t have a second stage stasis generator available to trap him with, and he was well aware of that trick anyway. I didn’t have very good hopes on my ability to face him in single combat. Adding Valerie to the equation helped matters but not nearly as much as I would have liked. Plus how Sagramore would react under those circumstances was difficult to read at best. I considered trying to ask the Jedi Council for assistance, but it looked like they had managed to get inside the Jedi Temple now according to the news. So that put them out of reach. Indeed, the news kept replaying the scenes of the battle between Xiang and Chan over and over again. That was a disgusting display of power if I had ever seen one. They wouldn’t be of help in this either.

We couldn’t just ignore Jarik though. He was too talented to be considered disarmed, and he was bent on whatever this mad scheme of his was about. And the death and destruction that would entail for Coruscant was the last thing we needed now in the middle of this war with the Yeveetha. Well, I still have three belts of thermal detonators. Maybe that will make a dent in him.

Putting aside the how for later, I focused my attention on the issue of where. Reaching out with the Force, I searched for a power strong in the Dark Side of the Force nearby. The sheer amount of noise the city generated was difficult to wade through though. Immediately I could feel Sagramore, Chan, and Xiang. Valerie was significantly harder to pick up these days. I could sense the Jedi Council and other Jedi running around the Temple. There were also the remaining HoloSith beating a hasty retreat ahead of the Jedi counterattack too. Then I felt it, an immensely powerful Dark Sider fifty kilometers away and heading down into the depths of the planet. It looked like the reason I could sense him was that he was channeling the Dark Side into some technique, but it was difficult to tell what from here.

(Kira) Alright, who wants to go kill Jarik?

(Valerie) Count me in!

(Sagramore) Don’t really have much of a choice if we are to survive this.

(Kira) Alright, he is underneath the Jedi Temple and heading further down. We’re going to need a vehicle. Does the unconscious fool have one?

(Valerie) The “gentleman’s” tab isn’t enough to purchase a new vehicle.

(Kira) We don’t need a new one, we just need one able to get us near the Temple.

(Valerie) I know, I just would prefer stiffing him for a new one anyway.

Now suddenly I was curious to know what horrors of courtship the bastard had attempted. I found a set of keys on the guy’s jacket pocket and idly tossed those into the air. Precognition told me the vehicle these went to was parked out back. That also gave me a good whiff of the smell of alcohol on him and his clothes. It was no wonder the guy was unconscious given that smell.

(Kira) Right, shall we just go through the backwall so as to not create a disturbance as a Jedi, a Sith, and a young lady leave the backroom through the pub?

(Valerie) Lead the way then.

(Kira) Alright Sagramore, don’t resist this and it will work out fine.

He immediately began to protest as we pulled him towards the wall. At the very least his instinctive attempts to brace himself weren’t able to overpower both Valerie and I pulling him through. On the other side of the wall we found ourselves in the parking lot. Sagramore was busily staring at the wall we had just gone through while I hunted for the vehicle the keys belonged to. I was rather disappointed to find that the thing was a poorly supped up Hutt manufactured model. There is a reason why the term “Hutt Rocket” is not considered a term of endearment for a ride. I could tell Valerie’s opinion of the guy dropped even further when she saw it too. Oh well it will do for the short trip we needed it for.

Since I had the keys, I was the one that got behind the wheel. I could already tell this was going to be a chore to drive as I saw the shoddy upgrades done to the dashpanel and controls. It even didn’t want to start initially. Finally the engine started and I drove it out of the parking lot and towards the Jedi Temple. That proved to be a rapid lesson in controlling a repulsor car with too little handling for the (surprisingly large amount of) boosted power it had. Eventually I was able to get a handle on it without having to tap into the Force and Codex at all as we sped towards the Temple. I was too busy trying to keep the damned thing going straight to realize we had passed the police barricade until Valerie brought to my attention the pursuing patrol cars behind us.

(Police) This is the police. You have entered a restricted zone in a stolen vehicle. Land and surrender to police custody immediately.

That was fast of them to get a report on a stolen vehicle. Especially since the owner should still be unconscious on the floor behind some crates right now. Oh well, time for some fun then. I dove the car through several levels of traffic and then started running around buildings, relying on Codex and Force navigation to guide me. This thing wasn’t going to be able to stay ahead of them for long, but then it didn’t need to considering my ability to weave through traffic. A few minutes of that gave us enough distance to reach the destination and allow me to break their line of sight for a few moments.

Sadly, the owner had some friends – and they’d seen enough to check on their friend, wake him up, and call in a report.

“Dude, three Sith just jacked your ride!”.

We could bail out of the car and just fall to the street below without issue given our talents, but the car would quickly come to a stop without a driver. Hmm, on a second glance it looked like the owner had disabled a number of safety systems in order to get what performance gains he had. All it would take would be a simple wedge to hold the pedal in place while the steering control avoided buildings. It would need to be about so long, so thick, and preferably made of some sort of fibrous material to fit properly.


I proceeded to pull out the piece of the packing crate I had gotten earlier. I was most pleased to find it was a perfect fit for the situation at hand. Valerie watched me pull it out with a look of amusement while Sagramore was staring with a look of confusion.

(Kira) Alright, time to bail out the moment we turn the next corner!

I turned the car around the next skyscraper and threw open the door. Rolling out the side of the car, I glanced back upwards and saw that Sagramore and Valerie had also leapt out too. I telekinetically closed the doors before the police had line of sight on the car so they wouldn’t suspect a thing. With that done, I focused my attention on the ground below and all the cars zipping about at high speed underneath me. In fact there was one about to plow me over in a few seconds.

Without even really thinking about it, I tapped into a bit of Hypertime and gently landed on the hood of the car. Taking a moment to wave at the driver, I then backflipped off of the hood onto another truck further down. From there, I simply ran the length of the truck, leapt off the end and landed on another car. Cars were busily honking at me as I acrobatically leapt my way down to street level, all the while making it look absurdly easy as I did it. I was the first to reach the street behind Valerie and Sagramore as they gently floated down telekinetically beside me. I also got a standing ovation from all the people on the street who had watched my little performance. An older man sitting at a street cafe got up and handed me a drink.

(Old man) Bravo! The Jedi will occasionally drop down like your companions there from time to time, but none bother to put on a show like that! Let me buy you a drink as a toast to your showmanship!

Maybe I am a bit too paranoid, but I actually did scan the drink with the Force to check that it wasn’t a poison. Now assured that it wasn’t, I glady took the drink and made a show of taking a sip in front of the crowd as they applauded again.

(Valerie) I wish I had thought of doing that.

(Kira) Give it time. You’re doing better everyday.

Bidding the crowd goodbye, we departed into the substructure below the streets. Following the guidance from the Force and the Codex while chasing Jarik, we wound our way through the tunnels and passages underneath the city. We started running into fewer and fewer people as we made our way into the areas of the undercity that only droids went to for maintenance purposes. Soon enough we found a droid service elevator that looked like it went down towards where we were detecting Jacob. Unfortunately the access door looked to be made of a particularly dense material that was going to prove difficult to phase or cut through and it didn’t want to respond to requests to open.

Running precognition and probability analysis against the issue “helpfully” informed me to use a key to open the door. Well, since this looks like it is primarily used by droids, it stood to reason that one of the droids would have one. Running precognition and probability analysis against the droids running around to find a key told me to use a key to open the door again. Alright, something about this is weird and I must be missing something critical. I continued to stare at the door as Valerie got annoyed by my staring at a door.

(Valerie) Yes, it is a door. You going to cut through it or shall I instead?

(Kira) Hold on, I am missing something critical here.

Use a key….

Looking at the panel again, it looked like the key would be of a given thickness and length that would be slid along the slot to be read. It didn’t look to be magnetic per se, but some sort of an optical system, like it was meant to read an encoded crystal or something.

Wait a moment.

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out that blue piece of crystal I had gotten earlier in the warehouse. It did look to be of the right size, and the section that would presumably be slid through the slot was undamaged. I aligned the crystal at the top of the slot and then swiped it down in a smooth motion. A second later a light turned from red to green and the door opened to reveal an elevator car.

(Sagramore) Where did you get that?

(Kira) Found it in the Jedi Warehouse. I had a feeling it would come in handy at some point in this debacle, so I took it.

(Sagramore) That is awfully specific for precognition.

(Kira) Yep, instead I just did a survey of nearby alternate universes slightly ahead of us in the timeline for things that might be useful for me to have. With that list in hand, I just simply took the items suggested.

(Sagramore) That seems like an awfully circuitous and elaborate way of finding out what you should pack with you.

(Kira) Eh, all the techniques have their issues and blindspots. I find it useful to know what those limitations are and use them in combination to achieve results no single technique could.

Again that brought about the glazed look in his eyes as the Censor started interferring with his memory. Oh well, we loaded into the elevator car and pressed the button I felt would take us to the level Jarik was heading towards. That sent the car plummeting at a significant clip that was slightly alarming. We weren’t in freefall, but it was hard to take lightly just how far and fast we were dropping. Within minutes the metal and concrete substructure around us transitioned to stone and a metal framework. I could feel my ears pop as the air pressure around us increased.

(Valerie) Wait a minute, that’s bedrock! Just how deep are we going?

(Kira) I don’t know, the panel isn’t very indicative of depth. I didn’t think anything went this deep on Coruscant. Is this an old mining shaft?

(Valerie) Doesn’t look like it. There doesn’t seem to be any horizontal shafts or indications of exploratory drilling.

(Kira) Then what the hell is this? We’re kilometers underneath the lowest levels of the city from what I can tell.

(Valerie) At this rate we’ll be at the mantle soon.

(Kira) Odd, I am still sensing that Jarik is below us.

(Valerie) And it looks like we lost Sagramore.

I turned and saw that Sagramore had more or less mentally departed the premises. He was still here in body, but something about where we were was bringing the Censor down hard. What was down here that could do that?

(Kira) Watch it be a hidden shipyard for building Star Breakers or something.

At that point the elevator shaft around us opened up to reveal the largest room I had ever seen. I had thought some of the Republic government buildings like the Senate building or some of the largest cargo bays on the Mrs Beasley were huge. But they didn’t compare to this vista before our eyes now. One could easily park the Mrs Beasley in here and have room to spare. I felt Valerie become alarmed as she gripped my arm to get my attention. Turning to look at what she was seeing, I saw two Star Breakers in the foggy haze and what looked to be pieces of more.

(Kira) Oh crap.

I thought I was kidding about this being a shipyard for Star Breakers, but it literally looked like this place was an ancient Infinite Empire base hidden deep in the crust of Coruscant. This neatly explained where the Republic Codifiers had been able to stash Star Breakers and other Infinite Empire superweapons without anyone noticing. I just was now concerned with how many of these damned bases there were out there hidden practically in plain sight like this. Is this why the Jedi Temple was built in this location of all places?

And then I realized this was the same room Jarik was now running around in. Valerie reached the same thought as well.

(Valerie) We have to kill Jarik, NOW!

(Kira) I whole-heartedly agree.

Sagramore still was in a daze and was going to be useless in a fight as we reached the floor. I could sense Jarik was about a kilometer and a half away from here. At this range I could sense that he was pouring massive Dark Side energies into some sort of genetic manipulation technique. What he hoped to accomplish, I had no idea, but given where he was, I really didn’t want to give him a chance to finish. Unfortunately, I had my doubts about Valerie and I fighting him together in such wide open terrain like this. And if he managed to unleash some monstrosity or gained control of one of those Star Breakers, the death toll would be horrendous.

We took off at a run towards Jarik’s position. Valerie and I were doing what we could to shield our presence, but Sagramore was going to be detectable regardless of what we did. As we ran, I continued to evaluate various battle plans to use against Jarik and found the odds for most of them to be pretty bad. There had to be a plan that would work. Some way to use the situation to our advantage and win this. Otherwise there wasn’t much point to rushing forward and trying to win a hopeless battle.

Three belts worth of thermal detonators weren’t going to be of much help in killing Jarik out in the open like this. I’ve seen Sith of similar if not lesser power survive more than that. We were going to need something bigger, like that Rakata rifle or something if we were to hope of killing him quickly. But I didn’t have that with me, and it wasn’t like weaponry of that scale was readily available that would simply fit into the palm of my….

Wait a minute.

Realizing how stupid I was being I stopped running and started rummaging through my pockets. Valerie saw that I had stopped, and turned to see what I was doing. Her eyes went wide as I pulled out the space-field grenade.

(Valerie) What in the infinite hells is that thing?!

(Kira) Something else Optimization told me might come in handy: a space-field grenade. From what I understand, it uses a tiny piece of antimatter to power a lightsaber-level repulsive field blast in a multi-kilometer radius. It’s supposed to make quite a bang.

(Valerie) I’ll say, most any futures I foresee with that thing detonating end abruptly. How exactly is that going to help right now? While it might be able to kill him, it will also be readily able to kill us as well. Hypertime isn’t going to cut it on this one.

(Kira) We are probably the two best dimensional navigators in the Galaxy and you are asking me how we can dodge this thing?

(Valerie) I concede the point.

(Kira) Alright, where do you want to go visit? Let’s get our destination worked out so we don’t end up interfering with each other.

(Valerie) I am surprised you are asking. Of course the Codifier Galaxy is the easiest to aim for and we are welcome there.

(Kira) True enough, I’ll set the timer and drop this, after that we immediately drop out, right?

(Valerie) Right.

It only took a few seconds to figure out the timer mechanism since it looked to be using the same basic activation design of thermal detonators and other similar explosives. Before I clicked the activate function, I verified Valerie was ready. After getting the nod from her, I dropped the grenade and took a firm grasp of Sagramore and Valerie as we disconnected ourselves from the universe. We worked together in the blue mists of hyperspace to find the right thread that linked us to the Codifier Galaxy and then pulled hard.

Thanks to the Rakata installation being buried close to the mantle, it’s massive size, and the nigh-indestructible materials it was constructed of, Kira and company managed to detonate a hyperatomic weapon of mass destruction in the center of the biggest city in the galaxy without anyone noticing.

With a bright flash of light, we found ourselves in the middle of a busy shopping plaza. A number of people had seen our entrance and were gawking while others called for security. I could tell via the Force that we had to be on a city planet of some sort but it wasn’t immediately obvious which one or even if this was the right universe. I did manage to deduce that we were not in any immediate danger and so I wander over to a set of empty benches. The crowd did part to let me pass as they continued to gawk. No sooner had I sat down than a female’s voice next to me.

(Woman) Excuse me, but would you happen to be Kira Keldav?

I saw the voice had come from an attractive young woman that had pushed through the crowd around us.

(Kira) I am, please tell me that you are not a bounty hunter or something.

(Woman) I would love to get your autograph! You and your friends saved the Galaxy and the Republic from Huriel while stopping a millennia old war! Could you please make it out to Jenefer Arelli?

(Kira) Sure thing.

This certainly seemed to be the right Galaxy then based on what she had just described. As I signed the autograph she wanted, more began to line up wanting autographs as well. I could tell Valerie was suddenly annoyed with all the female attention I was getting but then she started getting her own requests as well once people began to recognize her too. I could tell that Sagramore was getting rather confused by all of this as he began to get requests from bystanders as well. Soon enough though I began to not feel well.

(Valerie) You’re not looking well. You seem to be turning a bit red.

(Kira) Yeah, I don’t feel so hot either.

(Sagramore) Probably the radiation pulse we took finally beginning to manifest itself. I’m surprised it took this long for you to start showing symptoms. I’ve been quietly compensating for some time now.

(Kira) Well, I was in Hypertime when the blast hit, so I probably got hit with a much less intense blast than everyone else in the Temple. It was probably frequency down shifted radiation that generated that blinding flash I saw.

(Valerie) Then we need to get you looked at by a medical facility.

The police arrived not long after that and requested confirmation of our identities. Valerie and I handed over our local identification codes and then vouched for Sagramore. That was when we found out we were on Codifier Coruscant. The police wanted Jedi to come and verify our claims though, but they were willing to take Sagramore and I to a medical center for preliminary treatment. The shoppers were disappointed that we were leaving and not going to be signing any more autographs, but the police were adamant about taking control of the situation.

At the medical center I was examined in detail and told I had received a significant amount of radiation. All in all, I apparently had gotten away with the equivalent of a large sunburn as opposed to anything more significant. I was given a number of supplements to take to help with the genetic and metabolic damage while given ointments for the burns themselves. As the redness faded and my skin finished peeling, I could see that my skin was darkening a bit. It took me a while to realize that was me tanning in response to the radiation blast.

A Jedi did show up during the treatment process, but he waited for a pause in the treatment instead of immediately demanding an audience.

(Jedi) It appears you have returned to our galaxy once again. You’re always welcome here, but might I ask what brings you here?

(Kira) I had to deal with an insane plague making Sith back in my home galaxy. He was threatening to unleash a number of those plagues on that Coruscant for whatever insane ends he had in mind. I was able to stop him, but the blast wave was impossible for me to survive without dropping out of the universe. Valerie and I figured this place was easy to aim for.

(Jedi) Commendable that you managed to stop such a madman. Of course the Jedi Order will attend to your expenses during your stay here. Now, might I ask about your companion Sagramore Wulfes? He has a great deal of medical expertise to be sure, but I can tell he is quite fallen.

(Kira) Has he caused trouble?

(Jedi) Not at all, although some of his statements have alarmed and worried some of the staff here at the hospital. We just have concerns about ones such as him, despite you and Ms Soung vouching for him.

(Kira) Well, he helped us track down the insane Sith trying to unleash the plagues in exchange for asylum. I figure that was worth a little bit of good faith, even if I don’t entirely trust him.

(Jedi) Very well. I shall leave the matter in your hands for now. Is there anything else you might require?

(Kira) We are probably going to need to borrow a ship and have a technician help us rig it for trans-temporal travel at some point. Navigating dimensions with a ship tends to be a bit less hazardous and a lot more controlled.

(Jedi) I think the Jedi Order and the Republic can arrange for a small ship to be provided. And there are always plenty of technicians available.

The local news was largely filled with more bits about the seemingly never-ending negotiations between the various factions of the Galaxy over Alys’s Constitution. It did look like things were heading towards peace, if not immediately towards unification. I was rather amused to see a comedy news program that was highlighting the latest rants from Mr Beasley and Elder Ben Therus about the immense dangers posed by Kira Keldav. Whether they were talking about me or the local version was hard to tell. Neither seemed to have a very good grasp on the whole idea that there were two Kira Keldav’s as far as the locals were concerned. Elder Alys was apparently busy keeping the various factions talking to each other, if not exactly working together.

Back on Coruscant-prime, Vi was having problems… It wasn’t just that Ben had vanished again (he needed a dimensional leash or something!); the reactor chamber was searing hot, and wasn’t going to cool anytime soon. Most of the doors were sealed, and probably too overheated to open readily. Alys was sending droids – but the closer they’d been to the center, the fewer of them had survived.

Worse, Jarik had made his own escape – and left behind a couple of thugs to shoot at him and plant his explosives. They were apparently thick – or possibly doped or brainwashed – enough to believe that Jarik would be coming back for them.

Disarming them, and persuading them that they had to get out before they all cooked was not easy. The door… was worse. Bypassing the controls and shunting all the available power into the opening-motors was useless. It was jammed too tight. None of them had the strength to operate the manual wheel is overheated and expansion-jammed as it was. There wasn’t any more power he could…

Oh. OF COURSE there was more power. The biggest hypermatter reactor he’d ever seen was sitting in the center of the room! All he needed was cables – and to not kill himself trying to route far too much power through the door drives.

The engine blew itself up in a sheet of flame in moments after he threw in the power – but it wrenched the door open far enough in those seconds to squeeze through.

Shipwreck had been late to Coruscant. He’d traveled with Xiang, and had insisted on stopping for a couple of private salvage-operations along the way – after all, he still had notes on a lot of hidden treasures – but the mess at the Jedi Temple appealed to his brand of opportunism. Could you claim salvage rights on a building?

Well, probably not – but with the military being obstructionist, he was willing to bet that he could find a way in for both himself AND the Jedi Council. Now, if he could get them to pay for it… Better to negotiate first and scan later! They were telepaths!

That actually more-or-less tied. The Jedi weren’t used to actually bargaining, particularly not over something as unimportant as a little cash.

Sadly, Shipwreck hadn’t really thought about what he was looking for BEYOND a way in when he slipped into his divinatory trance – except for one thing he’d had in the back of his head since he’d seen the Mrs Beasley; the biggest, most tricked-out, over-the-top, ship he could ever imagine – with fantastic amounts of treasure aboard.

The biggest and most impressive salvage claim in history – preferably of the multiverse, but he’d settle for a few thousand galaxies.

When he woke up, he was… standing on the surface of a planet, with patches of smooth metallic ground. The sky glowed a brilliant yellow, there were luxuriant patches of plants – of wildly different types – scattered about, and there were… dozens or hundreds of wrecked ships scattered around. ENDLESS salvage.

There was a Jedi Councilor peering through circular hole in the air behind him, and waving at him to come back – but the lure of the place was just too strong.

It wasn’t long before he stumbled across a “ravine” – or access corridor – going down, and into a clearly artificial planetoid.

It was GARGANTUAN – and the space between the outer hull and the central core was half full of… treasure. The plundered riches of a galaxy!

It also called for a crew of two hundred thousand or so – and had a couple of billion defense droids aboard. Fortunately, defense droids were relatively easy to fool with electronic manipulations and programming skills. All you had to do was stay out of the way, scan for control nexi, and feed new commands into the system.

When he got to the absurdly luxurious crew quarters it looked like… the last crewman had died of over-indulgence decades before, and the droids had sent his concubines and playthings home.

Something seemed to be wrong about that somehow. About the entire setup – but Shipwreck was too intoxicated with the lure of treasure to pay attention to such doubts. There were billions of artworks, statues, rooms of gems, and more – wealth and salvage beyond his wildest dreams.

Those doubts got resolved when he made it to the control chamber, with it’s viewing shafts; this was… a much older galaxy – and one apparently already plundered.

He should have paid more attention to that portal in the air!

The Jedi Councilor who’d followed Shipwreck – he was in a divinatory force-trance after all – had not been sure why he’d started meddling with the portal generator that some of the techs had built from Ben’s designs, opened a portal, and then passed through it – but he’d tried to call him back. When he would not return within the time limit for keeping the portal open… well, presumably it was the will of the force.

Wonderful. And the thing didn’t even seem to be rigged for transdimensional travel, even if he could steer it well enough.

That plaque – something about “Grand Prize” and “Imperial Succession Scavenger Hunt” was kind of worrisome as well. It likely meant that more claimants were on the way even if the thing WAS a stylized fake.

He had the robots start rigging for a transdimensional jump. It didn’t help that the thing seemed to be impossibly slow and lumbering, but he should be able to get at least ONE jump out of it…

Lazlo, meanwhile, had been running around collecting bounty hunters – and chasing the last of the ones who’d come in through the lower levels back out again. With the Jedi Council once again in the temple – and doing the same thing – it hadn’t been that hard. There would probably be stray parties of bounty hunters wandering about for days, but – in a building this size – that was almost unavoidable.

He turned his collected bounty hunters over to the Jedi and went to see what had happened to Ben…

What he actually found was Vi trying to get out; the outer door on the reactor containment was jammed as well – but at least the corridor was cool enough to live in.

Ripping the door off was easy enough. Dealing with the bounty hunters who were ALSO looking for Ben was not so easy – especially when they managed to set off another massive explosion that they had to be rescued from.

Fortunately, they didn’t try to resist Vi’s hypertime or Lazlo’s strength while they were trying to evade the explosion.

Fortunately, that was close to the last spasm of fighting. Lazlo and Alys could settle down to their honors and rewards and Vi could play the market while waiting for Ben to turn up again . And some time went by.

Shipwreck debated… Focus on Kira? He jumped around too much. Alys? No. Too likely to be in a conference room or something. Jacob? Hell no!

Eventually he settled on Ben, invoked the divinatory-trance again – what they heck, it had worked the last time – and tried to head for him.

Arriving near a primordial black hole in a primitive universe – with the hyperdrive in need of weeks worth of repair – was not what he’d had in mind.

Ben was quite shocked when a yellow star abruptly appeared in the sky – but wasn’t too shocked to realize that it HAD to be from outside, and therefore would have some of the resources he’d need!

He rigged his radio for more power and started signaling.

Oh gods! Was this where the “they built the first transdimensional tunnel generator out of wood” had come from?

Shipwreck was shocked to find himself being signaled by a black hole – but, having found that the yellow sky-glow was in fact manipulable as the galaxies largest light-show, and could be made to act as a speaker system as well thanks to it’s magnetic containment, used that to signal back.

They got together eventually – after some confusion over ragged, castaway, tree-dwelling Ben (an atavist version? Had someone REALLY wanted him gone?) and ruthless pirate Shipwreck who’d evidently lived up to his name to plunder the commerce of a galaxy – and gathered up quite a few of the trees and bird-folk as well. The magnetic flux, and low gravity, of the pirate planet’s upper atmosphere lighting-speaking system could support them while Ben rigged the drives for another jump.

That took them to an older universe – the archeological realm where humans were long extinct.

The actual scholars turned out to be more reasonable than their droids… This universe had… fended off the final empire by dismantling the grid and re-engineering themselves for slow time experience. That way they didn’t NEED faster than light travel. Aging was linked to information storage – which went into the force ghost, and so led to a slow but inevitable progressive mismatch between the spirit and the body until the breakdowns cascaded. The “Censor” was an early stage in the growth of a galactic mind – the blind tropism/survival urge stage.

(Ben considered that for some time… of which this 48 billion year old universe offered plenty). There might be some very old codifiers or hybrids running around indeed, only adding information to their personal experiences when absolutely necessary. How irrational could you get across 20,000 years?)

But why were they HERE? Normally they were drawn to galaxies that needed fixing! What need had brought them here?

Oh… The bird-folk didn’t mind not having a planet nearby, they needed lots of zero-gravity space stations – which this universe had in plenty. They were here for the infinite skies…

Back with Kira and Valerie…

True to the Jedi’s word, a ship was presented for our use not long after we were finished with medical and had given full reports to the Jedi and the government. They had even gone to the trouble of installing a second hyperdrive purely for use as a trans-temporal system. Valerie was looking over the ship with me when she suddenly spoke up.

(Valerie) It does seem that there are benefits to being in the public eye from time to time.

(Kira) Well, it helps to be seen as a great hero as opposed to a source of enough credits to immediately retire filthy rich.

(Valerie) We’ll have to do something about that bounty then. Still, once again you have managed to cobble together another success on demand with little to no support beyond these friends of yours. And you even managed to kill yet another powerful Sith using cunning and wits as opposed to brute force.

(Kira) Well I doubt Jarik is permanently dead since he likely knew the cloning technique. Besides, I would probably say a space-field grenade is a form of brute force.

(Valerie) You used the techniques at your disposal to realize you should grab it. Then you had the one thing at your disposal you needed to ensure a swift victory against a powerful and dangerous opponent with minimal risk to yourself and others. Not a bad job there.

With that Valerie got a strange look in her eyes I hadn’t seen before. Before I really had a chance to ask her what was wrong, she moved to pin me against the wall. The sense of alarm I felt quickly turned to surprise as she leaned in and kissed me rather passionately.

(Valerie) And you were actually feeling threatened by that poor drunk back in the pub!

(Kira) Oh like all those young women back in the mall wanting my autograph didn’t make you feel a bit jealous? And I will admit that poor guy is a lot like how I used to be before I was captured by the Sith.

(Valerie) That was a long time ago. Since then you have given me lost technologies, legendary techniques, a chance for true control of the Force, access to a planet’s worth of manufacturing capacity, and opened the door to the entire multiverse for me. And as a Varen you have continually managed to restrain the excesses of the other Sith, not gone on an insane rampage yourself, and proceeded to become the most famous former student of my Father and his Academy since escaping. What isn’t there to like?

(Kira) And yet you continually tell me of my shortcomings in your eyes.

(Valerie) Because as good as you’ve become, I still see that you can do even better. I am just providing the prodding to push you to do better is all.

(Kira) We aren’t so different from our local counterparts then, are we?

(Valerie) We just met under different circumstances is all. The rest has just been differences in background.

And with that she embraced me again and I returned it this time. Finishing that embrace, we completed inspecting the ship and declared to the Jedi that this one was more than adequate for our needs and thanked them. We left the Jedi messages to give to our local counterparts, loaded into the ship, and left Coruscant. Then the debate turned to where to try to head next. We could agree on returning to our own Galaxy readily enough. We had learned enough about the Republic Codifiers to warrant a report to the Varen. The recordings we had of the Star Breakers hidden underneath Coruscant should be enough to convince even the most cynical how serious the situation could get.

Returning to Coruscant though was asking for trouble after that whole fiasco we had just gone through. While I was beginning to have my suspicions regarding Alderaan itself, my bounty precluded me going anywhere near there anytime soon. Varen space was a possibility, but our business there at the moment would largely consist of submitting a report and then moving on again. No, when we got right down to it, it looked like returning to the Mrs Beasley and regrouping and rearming was the most prudent move right now. With that decided, we laid in a course we felt was likely to take us there and started the trans-temporal drive.

Handell and Ben could probably have made the journey a bit faster, but the two of us managed while Sagramore watched with curiosity. Nonetheless we ended up in Satellite-Coruscant system a few hours later (which was something of another shock to Sagramore). Another quick round of identification codes and verification occurred between us and the local military. Once we were positively identified in their eyes, we were welcomed and then informed of the Mrs Beasley’s location as it was busily working in the local Kuat system building a number of subspace relays and hyperspace navigation beacons for placement between the two galaxies. It was a bit of a long term project, but still a worthwhile one on a number of levels. With that information in hand, we quickly were able to lay in a new course for the Kuat system.

Arriving there, we found the Mrs Beasley slowing deconstructing a number of asteroids for raw materials. We were granted docking permission after requesting it. Landing in the designated shuttle bay, we saw that Virstris and a number of the others were already waiting for us. Valerie and Virstris took Sagramore off to meet with Lisella for debriefing and for discussions of asylum with the Varen. With any luck, Sagramore will have more valuable information regarding the activities and resources Jarik has at his disposal so that we might be better prepared for the next insane plot. While they worked on that, I figured now was as good a time as any to sit back and relax a bit. Unfortunately my efforts on that front were impeded by Alys wanting to interrogate me.

(Kira) Ah, I see you managed to extricate yourself from that mess quickly enough.

(Alys) Not without a lot of difficult explaining and covering for you. What were you doing running off with a Baramour like that in the middle of the battle and then bringing him here no less?

(Kira) Well, Valerie wants to run more tests on curing the Dark Side and mental disorders using the Codex. She’s been particularly keen on getting a Baramour for that project in an effort to reform them. It seemed like an opportunity to not waste.

(Alys) And it comes back to her again. Why in the Galaxy was she with you on Coruscant?

(Kira) We’ve gotten sort of attached to each other these days. Because of that she isn’t about to let me run around without being nearby herself. She wants to be able to intervene or help if things get ugly like they so often do around me.

(Alys) Which is odd considering you were rather fearful of her until recently. It all seemed to change about the timeframe you disappeared on Gruenn and then reappeared with the Varen around Codifier Alderaan.

(Kira) It’s difficult to explain right now, but due to a quirk of fate, I ended up in Varen space after that battle with Lecrouss. As part of that whole experience, I learned a great deal about what type of person I am, and why my powers are developing as they have been. It turns out that I owe Valerie a great deal and just never realized it until then. Because of what I learned, I’ve found that there are few people I can trust like I can trust Valerie.

Alys was clearly surprised by that as she went silent. She didn’t impede me anymore as I walked past her towards the Sith canton. I just wanted to find someplace nice and quiet to lay down, relax and think a bit. This whole fiasco on Coruscant has given me a lot to think about and has managed to make my ambitions to find my family a bit more difficult. The most immediate problem was the hordes of insane, stupid, and desperate bounty hunters that continually showed up whereever anyone looking like Kira Keldav arrived. I know Valerie was advocating exterminating enough of them to warn off the others, but there had to be a different way.

Recordings from the Holocron of Ben Therus – Session 68c, Heritage

An artist's conception of a supermassive black...

A bad time to not know where you're going...

Ben, meanwhile was confused. He’d arrived somewhere, but the place no sense! There was little or no gravity, there was an immense strip of intense blue light – call it “overhead” – that seemed to run into infinity, and there was some evidence that a powerful wind was carrying him along through an infinite blue sky! All he could see was a deeper blue away from the strip, with maybe a hint of red, and blueness which seemed to go on forever in all directions. This couldn’t possibly be a planet – there’d be SOME evidence of a surface, or cloud-layers, SOMEWHERE – and there were no landmarks save for the occasional… floating patch of vegetation. Wait, were those holding against a wind or somehow traveling upwind? What could be holding or driving them?

It wasn’t long before he smacked into one. At least it was something solid to sit on, even if it did mean putting up with a constant gale.

A good thing he had his pocket kits, since everything else had gone with the armor.

The tree-leaves and structure seemed to be biochemically simple and primitive (if extremely tough) – and he could eat the leaves and seed-structures – but the whole thing contained conductive filaments, on which there were… massive circulating currents, which powered much of the things bioprocesses. Photosynthesis was only a sideline, perhaps only really required while the things were small and not yet large ready to operate on electrical power. But where was the power coming from? Why was there so much hard radiation about?

Ah. A massive magnetic field. Enough to produce hysteresis currents in a long conductor, slowing it and counter-rotating it against a wind which seemed to vary somewhat with “altitude”.

That still didn’t make any sense – where was the wind COMING from? Why would it vary with the “altitude”? Why no gravity? There was no sign that they were freefalling TO anywhere. An immense space habitat rotating around a star? Why full of nothing but air, occasional moister patches, and dust?

Still, with a bit of improvisation with conductive wood and electrical power tapped off from the tree, he could improvise a spark-gap transmitter and a similar receiver.

Good gods, he’d been reduced to building his equipment out of wood, bark, leaves and parings from his own fingernails. Could this get much worse? Stone and hides would be a step UP.

That eventually got a response though – some birdlike people who lived in the trees.

Unfortunately, they weren’t much help. They’d never even heard of solid ground. They used tree-radios like his own to communicate. To them, the world was an infinite tunnel of wind… If you flew too far towards the light, it got too hot. If you flew too in any other direction, the air got too thin and hard to breathe. The world had been the same for many generations.

A telescope – assembled out of water and some bits he pulled in via the Codex – showed him much the same thing, although it did reveal a lot of turbulence in the blue light strip and lots of ultraviolet. There might be a few hints of other blue lights in the rest of the sky – but as far as you could peer out into it when there were clouds between you and the blue light, there was nothing much but a dim red glow. No stars… Shielding his pocket instruments showed that most of the radiation was coming from the strip of blue light.

Ben looked at the blue light overhead… and abruptly his perceptions shifted. He HAD seen that sort of thing before. Several times… NO. That COULDN’T be POSSIBLE.

But the turbulent fusion zone… the intense magnetic field… the freefall… the…

There was no other explanation that didn’t call for rewriting physics or crazed superadvanced aliens (and he’d always hated non-explanations like that!).

It wasn’t above him. It was below…

He was in an accretion disk around a rapidly-spinning galactic-scale black hole, floating above the tightly-compressed fusion plasma near the event horizon. The atmosphere was held together by tidal effects. Due to the oblate shape of the black hole, moving away from the equator was moving “uphill”. It was kept from dissipating into interstellar space “above” by the black holes immense gravity well, and it was fed and “supported” from the bottom by radiation pressure and by the waste products of high-order fusion reactions near the event horizon.

But… that would require an immense, ongoing, flow of hydrogen and helium into the black hole! An interstellar medium of unprecedented density!

Wait. Not… unprecedented…

A dim red glow, without stars save – perhaps – for their first sparks and the accretion disks of other black holes. Not the end of time, but the beginning. His telescope was looking at the afterglow of the Big Bang, still visible to the eye. Less than two hundred thousand years since the first light of creation… The gases of the ring-environment were cooled by expansion into areas around the edge swept clean of hotter gas and dust by the gravity of the black hole.

The presence of even a little life… would effectively accelerate the time in the environmental ring, allowing further cooling, reducing the turbulence of the fusion plasma to slow fluctuations and its radiation to more reasonable frequencies, and allowing still more life and still more time.

The trees might even be native, although it was almost certain that the bird-people were not. They must have arrived from an older universe – and had, with desperate courage, colonized the one location in the early universe where their descendants might survive for a time.

The ring-environment would eventually destabilize of course. The flow of hydrogen into the black hole would slow. The perilous dynamics of the extended accretion disk would tip beyond the point of stability – and the lower segments of the ring would fall into the fusion furnace. The rest would be blasted outward, into the forming galaxy around the great black hole – and would seed the galaxy with the genetic legacy of the first living things. Simple. Tough. Adaptable. It might take billions of years more before galaxies would bloom, but the legacy of the first life would continue, a heritage older than the stars themselves.

The bird-folk however… They were sapient, and fragile, and too complex a form of life to withstand such stresses. Barring outside intervention – in itself, calling for a miracle, given that they were likely the only advanced life forms in the universe – they were doomed. Without the resources to build a technology, and with nowhere else to go, the final collapse would be a funeral pyre for their race. Their legacy would be lost.

Well, when you lept across the dimensions unguided, didn’t you trust to the force to choose your destination? He always did seem to be arriving somewhere where things needed fixing….

He set to work.

Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 68b

The Battle of Coruscant Issue two of the Tales...

I need a vacation!

Alys swore again as the radiation-flash blazed through the Jedi Temple. She’d been through THAT (and the blasted radiation treatment) enough times to recognize it instantly! From the way the lights flickered – and the fact that they WEREN’T all a drifting cloud of vapor – Ben must have vented part of the reactor reserve. Why was he blowing himself up? Just to get the Baramour? According to the surviving droids… He’d intentionally incinerated himself (unless he’d dropped out of the cosmos again, which was likely), and his armor, and probably some of the Baramour – and, almost certainly, most of the bioplagues (which was something). Oh well, she knew better than to ask why he was destroying his own equipment these days.

Still, if the radiation-flash had been that bad through the fortress-construction of the Jedi Temple, it must have been horrific outside. Thank goodness Ramith had been wrapping the place in warship shields.

Unfortunately, she had to relocate. Between Chan, Xiang, the radiation-flare, the pressure of the military shields outside, and the widespread use of explosives by the Sith, Kira, and large numbers of bounty hunters, the area she was in was no longer stable. It was time to run… Luckily, enormous reaches of the temple were still just fine. It looked a lot more fortress-like now that a lot of the decorations had peeled off.

Lazlo, meanwhile, was calling for information on the Baramour. They kept using precognition to dodge his bounty hunters – and he wanted some of the moss-panels to use to make Sith blinds.

Well, that was creative. Given the chaos in the temple it would be easy to overlook a few blank spots in the force – and the temple already had quite a few of them anyway. She sent them over.

Meanwhile, back with Kira…

Reaching out with the Force, I could sense the various Jedi and Sith running about the Temple. I noted the location and direction of travel for the Baramour moving along the West Wall and backtracked to find the various plague canisters they have been dropping behind them. Sadly, I was going to have to get closer to be able to pick up the clouds of plague the canisters have released already compared to just the canisters. With the location of the next canister noted, I sped off through the walls in Hypertime.

About halfway there, I was blinded by an intense flash of light that seemed to go through the walls themselves. I dropped out of Hypertime before I ran into something to give my eyes a chance to recover as I reached out with my senses to determine what had just happened. Suddenly it felt like the entire Temple dropped a few feet. I hit the floor in a tumble as gravity reasserted itself. Soon my eyes recovered to show me still in the corridor I had been running along. According to my Force senses, whatever had just happened had affected a significant area around the Temple and the space above it for a long ways out.

(Kira) Alys, what just happened?

(Alys) It looks like the main Hypermatter reactor for the Temple just initiated an Emergency Vent cycle. Those within the Temple were subjected to a burst of soft x-rays, while those outside got a hefty dose of hard gamma radiation. It looks like one of the Lunar colonies got a near miss from the blast. It is even possible that Coruscant’s orbit has been altered by that blast.

(Kira) Should I be concerned that we might be heading into a critical containment failure?

(Alys) Doesn’t look to be any danger of that. It looks like Ben purposefully triggered it somehow. Ben is currently missing but that did force the Baramour team at the reactor to go into retreat. Indications are also coming in that the blast of radiation killed the vast majority of the plagues they had been spreading too.

(Kira) Well that is good I suppose.

(Alys) Ben also gave confirmation that Jarik is here with the Baramour.

Damn it. Jarik was not who we needed on Coruscant right now. If I run into my Codifier Alternate again, I am going to be sure to smack him for putting Jarik into stasis instead of drugging him into a stupor like the Arethi suggested or handing him over to the Republic. I am not as naive when it comes to insane Sith with far more power than sense.

(Kira) Right, we continue as is, except I will go after Jarik once I am done with the team on the West Wall.

Someone of Jarik’s power in the Dark Side was going to have a hard time hiding, even on Coruscant. At least now that I knew to look for it. Still the focus was on the Baramour team on the West Wall doing who knows what. Once I dealt with them, I could focus on chasing down Jarik after that. I just hoped it wouldn’t become necessary to use that spacefield grenade.

Lazlo, meanwhile, had hooked up with one of the Jedi – and had laid a successful ambush. It had taken some bouncing around, running on the ceiling, droid shockmines, heavy blasters, net projectors, flamethrowers, gas grenades, rapidfire concussion grenade launchers, and rather a lot of heavy firepower from the bounty hunters – but he and the Jedi had managed to render the Sith leader (thanks to a headbutt from Lazlo, which had gotten him much applause) and his assistants unconscious and get them into stasis (or, in a regrettable instance or two, deceased).

Fortunately, the bounty hunters were well-supplied with restraint options. Still, had that bit about “Fools, you will find no victory here! It is already too late!” been mere bravado?

Jarik’s bioweapons were too hazardous to leave to guesswork.

A conscious or unconscious Sith – or even a minion (aSITHtant?) with Sith training – could actively resist a probe. Fortunately, Lazlo was a master of probing minds that were in stasis…

It looked like Jarik was in charge because of his incredible skills – he’d been astounding as a doctor before, and now could glance at a bottle of yeast and mutate it into a deadly plage. Jarik had planted a variety of bioweapon release systems around Coruscant before he’d ever headed for the Jedi temple. Fortunately, they’d been timed to supplement the release from the temple, and so were on timers set for – the next day or two.


Sadly, his new Jedi friend kept getting fuzzy when told about things like the stasis belts. Blasted censor.

Lazlo fed that information to Alys, who got on the priority channels with Ramith again – with a confirmation from Chanoth (the Jedi he’d hooked up with).

Ramith hadn’t realized that there was anything out there that would make him LESS happy with this situation! Another eighty biocontainment setups and biohazard/demolitions teams to get to locations scattered around Coruscant… Still, at least he had firm information as to their exact locations. That was worth something!

There was a reason why he was the sector fleet admiral though. The orders were sorted out, and the operation was underway, within minutes.

Unfortunately for Alys, that burst of top-priority transmissions had been traced – and more of those blasted bounty hunters were on the way. She barely made it out ahead of them, and even that was only because of a desperate phasing attempt through the floor.

Wait, one had been carrying a pack with female evening dress in her size? What the… What kind of perverts had a bounty out on her this time?!?!?

That had been too close; she needed to work on her phasing! She’d better go find Kira… He was GOOD at the last-moment escape routines!

She headed for Kira’s current location – where he, of course, had problems of his own.

Luckily, I was running into fewer and fewer bounty hunters the closer I got to the Baramour team. Quickly enough I got ahead of them and around a corner out of line of sight. I was already suppressing my Force presence in order to maintain the element of surprise. Despite their attempts to move silently, I could still hear their approach as they came down the hall towards my ambush position. In less than a minute they would be at a section of hallway with no easy access out for some distance to dodge thermal detonators.

Then I felt a hand clasp my shoulder from behind.

It took everything I had to keep from crying out and stumbling out into the hallway. Turning to look behind me, I saw Alys standing there obviously startled from seeing me startled. I thought I was pretty good these days at detecting people stalking about, but obviously I was wrong. She then proceeded to start telling me how she was ambushed by bounty hunters and came running my direction since there were fewer bounty hunters this way. She wasn’t catching my gestures to be quiet though as any moment the Baramour would hear us.

(Baramour) You wouldn’t happen to be Kira Keldav would you?

Sigh, too late.

So much for the element of surprise. I turned to see an older man in the classic Baramour garb followed by a trio of normal looking assistants. I did reach out with the Force and confirmed that these four were the only ones in the vicinity and that none of the assistants were disguised Force users.

(Kira) I would, and you?

(Baramour) I am Sagramore Wulfes. I’ve heard quite a bit about you. Do you know that Jarik considers you to be his personal curse?

(Kira) It doesn’t surprise me considering the sheer amount of things I get blamed for. Although why some of the others aren’t included in that statement is a mild curiousity.

(Sagramore) Tell me, who brought Chan into this? I thought that sort of power was fictional.

The fact that Sagramore felt the urge to talk was setting off alarms in my head, but I wasn’t sensing any sort of an ambush around us nor was I sensing a plague or poison either. Is this a delaying tactic? If so, then what is he delaying for? To let Jarik get away?

(Kira) As did I to be honest. I thought it was all special effects and net hype. As for who brought him, I think he just sorta showed up and was drawn by the sheer amount of chaos going on.

(Sagramore) Bother. And tell me, is your bunch responsible for the defeat of all of my comrades here in this battle?

Well, I certainly had accounted for one team. Ben managed to drive away Jarik’s team with his stunt. It felt like Lazlo had brought down another, while the other group of bounty hunters and some Jedi were busily overwhelming the remaining team. It was probably a fair statement then.

(Kira) While we may not have been the direct opposition in all the cases, we certainly had a hand in it.

At which point Sagramore sighed.

(Sagramore) Very well then. I believe Jarik and this ill-conceived plan of his are both utterly insane.

(Kira) I can’t say that I disagree. Even if you had largely succeeded, the sheer reprisals the Republic would have inflicted back on the Sith and the Baramour in particular were not going to be pleasant.

(Sagramore) Indeed, and I would like to get myself out of this stupid mess. We believe that you have been receiving support from one of the Sith factions for some time now, and we know that you are working with the Artificers but I doubt it is them – it’s not like they have any kind of central organization. I would like to receive protection and shelter with whoever it is that is supporting you. In exchange, I would be able to offer antidotes, antibiotics, vaccines, a number of other valuable formulas, and my services.

I wasn’t detecting any hint of possible treachery in the near future, but then with all the chaos going on and all the precognitives that could be involved it was impossible to sort the noise from the signal. Through the Bond I could sense Valerie get a smug grin on her face. She either had inside information or made an incredibly good guess there as my own precognition hadn’t foreseen this scenario. And it wasn’t like the difference in power between us was that substantial these days either. When this is over I am going to pester her about it until she tells me how she did it.

I wasn’t about to admit having substantial contacts with Sith who weren’t Artificers in a location I could be overheard though. Reaching out with the Force and the Codex, I determined the only vector by which that information would be leaked would be via Alys right now. She almost certainly had to suspect I was working with the Varen to some extent given the fact that I had shown up in the Codifier Galaxy with the Varen, had been answering their questions fully, and been in Valerie’s presence ever since. Surely she had figured it out by now.

I glanced at her for confirmation that she wasn’t going to repeat what I was about to say. Then I saw that she wasn’t particularly happy with my reluctance to answer the question. She finally caught my intent though and nodded in assent, although I could tell she was going to demand explanations in the near future. Well, it wasn’t like the Bond with Valerie was going to be able to remain a secret forever.

Actually, Alys was more confused… Why would Kira need her confirmation? It wasn’t like they weren’t ALL entangled with the Sith. The actual galaxy had turned out to be a lot more complex than the Holo’s made it out to be… When all “Sith” meant was that you’d let out-of-control force powers burn an obsession into your brain, you wound up with everything from posturing super villains out to destroy civilization to… well, cooks, and doctors so pacifistic that they persuaded the germs to become symbionts instead of killing them, and martial artists obsessed with proving how tough they were, and more – all to some extent crazy, but some quite tolerably so – or even helpful!

And that wasn’t even to mention the various subgroups of Codifiers.

Oh, for some reason Kira was still waiting for HER approval? She gave it.

(Kira) I can work on arranging an audience. Sad to say, I don’t quite have the authority to make such decisions myself. In many ways I am still on probation.

(Sagramore) Then I would recommend vacating the premises. The window of opportunity for leaving is nearly closed.

(Kira) I have ways around such issues.

<Kira> Valerie, I’m going to be using the escape route and I’ll be bringing some guests that want to cut a deal. Can you discreetly find someplace quiet?

<Valerie> Me be discreet? You are the one with your name and face plastered all over the news. Half the Galaxy knows you are in the Jedi Temple right now.

<Kira> And exactly how much of that is my fault? I came in here under disguise and met with the Jedi Council about as quietly as be managed by anyone including yourself. What exactly would you have had me do differently?

<Valerie> Not gone in there with so many known faces.


<Valerie> You’re sighing at me again.

<Kira> And you’re being difficult.

<Valerie> I am not being difficult. Fine, I will discreetly find someplace quiet. Although I doubt it will remain too quiet with you around.

<Kira> Hey, one of us has to be discreet, and it obviously isn’t me.

<Valerie> True, maybe it will finally rub off on you if I keep it up.

<Kira> One can hope.

(Kira) Alright, Alys, it looks like Jarik has escaped for the moment. I am going to take Sagramore and his people outside the military blockade. After that I am probably going after Jarik. Do you want to come along?

(Alys) No, I think I am needed here more.

Much as she wanted to, she couldn’t run the Weaponized Jacob containment from outside the temple – and if those things got loose en mass they’d be an ongoing disaster for years to come. Besides… it looked like she would have to explain to the military. That would take caution; they already knew that Ramith knew more than most – and he was disconcertingly fast and direct in his thinking. Beyond that, she wanted to monitor Lazlo – after all, he’d been taking lessons from Sith Holocrons, and directly mind-probing Sith, again – and to try to find out where Ben had gotten to, and talk to this Vi person.

For that matter, the Military was still trying to keep the Jedi Council out of their own temple – on the not-entirely-unreasonable grounds of biohazards to Coruscant.

Hmm… Too fast? Come to think of it, Coruscant HAD taken very VERY little damage from a massed Yeveetha suicide-assault – and not a single Yeveetha ship seemed to have reached the surface – and he had been inside the temple, meeting with a couple of hybrids. Was there a special top-secret training program for the high command? Codifiers didn’t need to follow the Jedi Code to avoid “falling” after all…

(Kira) Very well, suit yourself.

She didn’t seem happy with what I was doing. But unfortunately I needed to get outside of the Temple and at the same assist my benefactors without actively defying the Republic Military. A precarious balancing act of conflicting responsibilities to be sure, but I know where my bread is buttered these days. And it isn’t like the Varen are the ones that kidnapped my family either. That distinction falls to the so-called good guys outside right now who have gotten here faster than the hostiles did, and have apparently been secretly manipulating the Jedi Council and their investigations.

The military can demand my arrest and interrogation all they want for all I care until they hand over my family. I’ve got things to do. Finally I got a message from Valerie that she was ready on her end.

(Kira) Alright Sagramore, I would recommend you and your assistants take my hand and focus your attention on me. This is going to be a bit disconcerting on your first trip.

With them all focused on me, it was a relatively simple matter to start disconnecting the threads that bound me to the universe while dragging them with me. Sagramore resisted at first, but quickly relented as I severed more threads. Soon there was just a few threads remaining, and finally just the thread to Valerie provided by the Bond. One quick tug on that resulted in the scene around us suddenly shifting to that of an underground warehouse. Valerie was still in her civilian disguise, but I could see the weapons were now out in easy reach in case she needed them. It didn’t look like we were going to be overheard here for the moment. I was pleased to see that Sagramore at the very least seemed to be shocked by the teleportation demonstration.

(Kira) Sagramore, meet Valerie Soung. She is my contact with the Varen Sith. Valerie, this is Sagramore Wulfes. He would like to discuss his defection from the Baramour.

Now to find Jarik and put an end to this nonsense.

Back at the temple, Alys was explaining to the Military – with fair accuracy, even if she was leaving out a few bits about Kira. Sadly, the military wanted to arrest Jacob, the Jacobs, and Ben – since importing bioweapons to Coruscant was a major offense.

Lazlo, on the other hand, was sent to medical for a checkup, along with everyone else who had been in close contact with a Baramour, and was in line for a medal and a stipend. At least in the eyes of the Republic he and Alys were once more major heroes!

Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 68a

Bounty Hunters vs. Space Pirates

Blasted Bounty Hunters!

Up with the Bounty Hunters and the cloned Bioweapon Jacobs, Ben was having second thoughts. Yes, given the levelof interest in Jacob the bounty hunters might be able to get some decent money even for a clone – but it certainly wasn’t wise to let them take them away, even with some space-moss paneling and a massive supply of sophorics to help keep each one restrained!

On the other hand… It wasn’t like he could STOP them. The only reason they weren’t fighting over HIM was because his bounty was minuscule compared to Jacobs. He was simply a way to get at Kira or Jacob.

He settled for trying to make the operation as secure as possible. Besides, while these Jacobs were grossly-powerful force-predators, one or two in any one spot could be handled. It was the prospect of hundreds at a time that looked like an absolute disaster.

It would still kill a lot of people though. At LEAST one of these idiots was bound to slip up…

Wait! Maybe he could do something about it! He had some stasis mines, if he could feed them enough power he might be able to black stasis the entire temple!

Well, the power systems evidently had lots of reserves… He told Alys what he had in mind and headed for the power core.

Alys had to agree. Some time in stasis would be a small price to pay to keep the weaponized Jacob’s from getting out. She’d keep watching over the droids who were watching over the Jacobs while he headed for the power core.

Lazlo, meanwhile, was checking his Email. It was a bit early – even if the Anti-Jedi were only a few hundred feet away they’d surely be routing their messages through a dozen nearby star systems just to conceal that fact – but most of the current chaos in the temple was probably beyond his help. Why not work through a little more of his backlog?

Sadly, as it turned out, communications in and out of the temple were limited at the moment. Not too surprising; the military was trying to seal the place off after all.

Then he discovered social networking, and was never heard from again – or, more accurately, decided to bodyguard Alys while she ran the droids. With all those lunatic bounty hunters running about the temple, she could easily get ambushed while she was running the droids.

Back with Kira…

With any help from the Jedi Council and the military likely to be a long time in waiting, I started evaluating different plans of attack for the remaining enemies running around. The Bounty Hunters were a simple matter of dodging and bludgeoning unconscious whenever I found them until this crisis was over. The HoloSith that were attempting to loot the place were either dead, unconscious, or fleeing so they no longer posed much of an organized threat. That left the Sith running around trying to kill everyone in the Temple. Given their use of bacta viruses, I suspected these guys had to be Baramour. The reckless use of bioweapon plagues was definitely top priority given that we were on Coruscant. Unfortunately, my ability to just outright kill a major Baramour assault by myself was not something I had a lot of confidence in.

Hmm, I am in the middle of a major warehouse full of stuff the Jedi thought prudent to stash away hidden from the rest of the Galaxy. Well, except for the stuff I had just blown up. I wonder if anything in here might be of use to me in the coming battles? Well, this was as good a time as any to practice using the Optimize technique against my Precognition. That ultimately directed me towards four different items: some sort of grenade, a piece of armored plastic from the remains of a packing crate, a battery for a lighting system, and a chunk of blue crystal.

I found the package description for the grenade readily enough. That apparently was some sort of antimatter grenade that took the radiation blast and used it to power a lightsaber type of effect capable of rendering nearly a two kilometer radius into atomic vapor. I suspect the damage from such a blast would extend well beyond that sort of range though, if not nearly as thorough. I just hate to consider the scenario that might call for me obliterating that much of the city. On the other hand, I couldn’t think of a more thorough way to sterilize a region while being able to hold it in my hand.

Right, that is going into one of the secure hidden pockets.

The piece of packing crate was a tough plastic material. While it wasn’t particularly effective as a stabbing or slashing object, it might prove handy if I need to interrupt an electric circuit I suppose. Another item for the belt then. The lighting battery wasn’t the same style as my power cells. I had no easy way of checking the charge on it, without licking it anyway. Perhaps I will run across something that needs to be powered.

The piece of crystal though was an enigma. It didn’t look like a piece of a holocron, and it wasn’t the right shape for a lightsaber crystal. It did have a rich metallic blue color to it. Something about it reminded me of that red glass knife Valerie likes to carry around. Apparently there was something about it worth stashing away in a secure warehouse like this. Part of me idly wondered if it might be an antimatter crystal with a thin layer of monopolium between me and annihilation.

There was a sobering thought.

My precognition though was generating more detail about the Baramour plan however. It looked like the general plan was to seed the Temple with a number of virulent plagues, and then set the Temple’s power system to overload. The hope was that the blast would kill most everything in the Temple immediately, followed by a rapid dispersal of the plagues across the planet as pieces of the Temple went on ballistic trajectories across Coruscant. At which point it would look like the Jedi had been secretly stashing away multiple deadly plagues on Coruscant and had lost containment during a horrific accident. As far as plans to discredit the Jedi went, it wasn’t half bad, but it was seriously vulnerable to backfiring if anyone caught on and let the word out.

Like I am going to.

(Kira) Alys, it looks like the Baramour plot to detonate the main power core and use the explosion to disperse a number of deadly plagues across the planet.

She promptly started swearing up a storm.

(Kira) Warn the military and record your conversation with them. After that, contact Ben and see if he can produce some sort of a miracle.

(Alys) A miracle?! What the hell sort of miracle are you wanting that you think he can produce on demand?!

(Kira) Putting the entire Temple into stasis would be a nice start, but whatever he can come up with to slow down or stop the Baramour from unleashing plagues and detonating that power core. I’m flexible.

(Alys) Fine, we’ll see what we can do.

(Kira) If he does create a stasis effect, try to give me at least a few seconds warning so that I can be prepared for it. I would rather not be stuck here waiting for rescue for an indeterminate amount of time.

(Alys) Alright. Ben is already on his way to the power core to intercept the Baramour.

(Kira) And I am going to see what I can do about those plagues in the meantime. Once I finish those, I am heading to the power core to support Ben.

(Alys) Understood.

Ben and Vi had managed to give the bounty hunters the slip while they were occupied with stocking up on Jacobs – mostly by virtue of Ben trying the invisibility trick again and Vi claiming that he had vanished into elsewhere again. At least no one was interested in Vi yet…

Vi was passing the time while he headed for the power core with placing bets and playing the stock market… Once the news of what was going on here got around, plenty of people would react quite predictably – and money was ALWAYS useful! He could make a small killing!

Along the way they had the misfortune to run into some bounty hunters with enough sensors to pick up Ben’s presence by non-visual means, and had a short battle – but Ben was pleased to note that he was now good enough with screens and phasing to handle most bounty hunters!

OK, admittedly it was by weathering the first storm of shots, dropping a stasis mine, and running away and closing some doors – but it was still an improvement over the last half a dozen times around.

The power core itself though… It was at least a cubic mile, and probably more! Most of it a hypermatter reactor! Far bigger than you needed to run a super star destroyer, and fully charged! There was enough destructive potential here… What could they POSSIBLY need…

It was OLD too. Well-maintained to the point of being periodically rebuilt – but OLD. Perhaps older than the Republic…

No wonder the place had been able to hold off the Yeveetha. This was a stronghold that went back to the Infinite Empire. It might not be able to withstand a Starbreaker beam, but with it’s shields full up it could weather the local sun going supernova.

Much, MUCH, worse was the fact that the Barramour were already here.

Worse to the point of utter catastrophe was that Jarik was leading this group.

With that finished, I reached out with my Force senses and tried to pick up the Baramour running around. I did sense four different teams running around the perimeter of the Temple dropping off plagues in their wake. The nearest one of those plagues was approximately five hundred meters to the southwest. Shutting down my Force presence again, I started to move rapidly towards the nearest cache of plague.

<Kira> Valerie, you may want to retreat a good distance away.

<Valerie> What now?

<Kira> Looks like the Baramour are planning to detonate the main power core and use the explosion to spread their plagues across a good section of the planet. The projections I am getting regarding the size of the explosion and resulting death toll are not encouraging.

<Valerie> Just how bad is it?

<Kira> The explosion I figure will leave a crater tens of kilometers across. The plagues are projected to kill at least a trillion if they get dispersed like that.

<Valerie> Of all the stupid…. what in the Galaxy are they thinking?! That sort of stunt will draw massive reprisals for certain!

<Kira> Well, they hope to pin the blame on the Jedi storing bioweapons in their vaults underneath the Temple. Alys is trying to undermine that by informing the authorities, while Ben and I try to thwart their plans directly.

<Valerie> Right, if the Baramour survive this, they are not going to find anywhere in the Galaxy to be safe haven any more.

I couldn’t help but agree. Valerie agreed to find someplace safe to hold up in for the time being while we seemingly battled for the fate of Coruscant and the Jedi Order. It was nerve-wracking how often I seemed to be put in the middle of these types of scenarios where a minor slip up in my performance could doom hundreds of millions to death. Where were the Jedi Council and Welhem when I needed them?

Finally I reached the first plague drop off. It was on the other side of the wall from me. I wasn’t about to phase through the wall just to get line of sight when there are safer ways to be going about this. I reached out with the Force and quickly verified that no one was on the other side of the wall, but I was able to detect the plague canister slowly leaking it’s lethal contents into the room. After I established a firm grasp on the plague and most of the contaminated contents of the room, I simply pushed with the Codex. I felt the disconnect occur along with the rebound back upon myself from the transistion I had just forced. Luckily my status as a Hybrid, plus the generally non-living aspects of what I was pushing against made the pushback managable.

Off to the next one.

It looked like the Baramour were dropping another canister of whatever plagues they had concocted every quarter kilometer or so. They were bypassing the bigger barriers where they found them, but still largely had to obey simple rules of walls and such. This slowed them down greatly, whereas I didn’t need to pay any heed to such minor obstacles and I could move in Hypertime. That ensured that I was rapidly gaining on the team ahead of me as I caused plague after plague to experience a sudden existence failure.

Soon enough I had caught up to the first Baramour group. By this point I had shut down my Force presence as best I could during my approach. I hugged against the wall that lay between me and them and listened to the sounds penetrating the wall. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but there were definitely more than one in there arguing about something or other. Right, I took off one of the belts of thermal detonators I had collected, activated the timers, and phased through the wall. It would have been embarrassing and awkward to say the least if I had found a pair of Jedi on the other side of the wall, but luckily everyone looked to be a typical Baramour or an assistant. They turned to look at me as one of them pointed my direction. I simply tossed the belt of thermal detonators into the middle of the room where the plague canister was sitting.

(Kira) Consider this a token of my affections for you guys.

I then phased back through the wall I had come through and ran in Hypertime down the hall behind one of the heavier walls. Even in Hypertime I felt that explosion go off as the floor shook under my feet. Now it was time to run back down the hall and kill any survivors. The wall I had phased through had been blown out into a twisted mass of metal. Through one of the holes in it I could see that both of the Baramour had survived that attack but the assistants were all either dead or dying. Pulling out my blaster, I began to fire heavy burst shots at the pair of them, striking one solidly in the chest as he fell to the ground. The other one dodged away to the side and outside my line of sight to my right.

I discarded the smoking remains of yet another blaster and began phasing through some more walls while using the Force to track his movements. I quickly ended up in front of him as he attempted to spray me with some sort of purple gel. Falling backwards to avoid the spray, I planted my hands against the floor and slammed my feet into his chest with as much Force Strength as I could muster at the moment. He impacted the ceiling and then landed on the floor on his feet. Apparently this one was the more powerful of the two in this group.

Out came his lightsaber as he charged at me. I flipped backwards off the floor and drew my own lightsabers to meet his charge. His strikes came in fast but not particularly skilled as he tried to push me back against the wall. All the sparring with Valerie was paying off as I quickly chipped away at his defenses and proceeded to push him back instead. Finally I managed to knock his lightsaber to the side with one swing while bringing down my other lightsaber on his wrist. That neatly severed his hand and disarmed him of the lightsaber. Knocking him unconscious and then putting him into stasis was going to be a simple matter now that he was running out of attacks. Valerie was going to get the Baramour she wanted after all.


That split second precognitive warning was all I got as I leapt up and backwards. I felt the massive explosion wash over me but cause little damage as I was prepared for it. Landing on the floor again, I saw that the Baramour I had been fighting hadn’t been so lucky as he was now plastered all over the walls, floor, and ceiling. To my left I saw a trio of bounty hunters.

(Kreedath) You see that?! I got one!

(Wookie) Wrong one you dumb ass! You were supposed to hit the other one!

(Armored one) Quit talking and keeping shooting!

That resulted in another trio of missiles heading my direction. Hypertime wasn’t going to cut it right now, so that left only one choice. Reaching out with the Force and Codex, I shunted the missiles out into the multiverse. One of them still detonated prematurely but did little damage as I reinforced my durability.

(Armored one) Well, that’s new.

(Wookie) I’ll just tear his arms off then!

(Kreedath) Me too!

They both charged at me as the armored one stood back to watch with his heavy assault blaster rifle. I planted my foot in the chest of the wookie as he charged forth only for him to catch it in his hands. He then proceeded to twist my foot in hopes of tearing apart my ankle. Thankfully the armored joint held and transferred the rotation to the rest of my body. I then used his own strength against him as I planted my other foot into the side of his head. That didn’t bring him down, but it did managed to get him to let go of my foot. That sent me spinning through the air and I landed on the ground in a not particularly graceful manner.

Which gave time for the Kreedath to get behind me and grab me in a bear hug. Pushing myself down with the Force, I was able to get my feet touching the ground for a moment. Using that as an anchor point, I pushed hard against the floor and rammed the back of my head into his face. That broke the bear hug as he grabbed at his bleeding face in reflex. I dropped on all fours and kicked his feet out from under him. I could sense the wookie approaching behind me fast though as I rolled to the side. The vibroblade stabbed into the floor where I had been only a second earlier. I fired one of the variable stars at the far wall and retracted the line the moment it impacted. That took me out of the reach of the wookie and the kreedath, but left me open to blaster fire from the armored one.

As I was pulled along by the variable star, I fired the other one at him. It collided with the chestplate of his armor nicely enough, but didn’t seem to phase him at all. Still, the one attached to the wall was retracting at high speed while the other one began retracting as well. Thankfully the armor I was wearing was reinforced against these kinds of stresses as I probably would have torn my arms off from the tension. As he became airborne, it wasn’t exactly a simple matter to swing the variable star with him on it to collide with the wookie and kreedath, but I managed to pull it off. They all collided and fell into a pile on the floor.

Now perched on the wall with the variable star anchoring me to it, I glanced at how the bounty hunters were doing. It looked like the Kreedath was now unconscious, although for how long was an open question. The armored one was stunned, but looked like he was going to recover shortly. The wookie, on the other hand, looked to be incredibly enraged by all this as he charged at me again while roaring loudly.

I disengaged the variable star and landed on my feet. Pulling my lightsabers to my hands, I then flung them both at the charging wookie. The wookie foolishly ignored the incoming blades as he kept charging and proceeded to lose his arms in the process. Annoyingly, this didn’t seem to phase him as he kept charging anyway. Hmm, I should have aimed for the legs instead. Still, this left him no way to grapple me as I leapt over and behind him. The wookie then proceeded to collide with the wall I had been hanging from just moments ago, and I finished the job with a strength enhanced kick slamming him into the wall again. The wookie then slid to the floor unconscious.

The wookie and the Kreedath were now both unconscious while the armored one was finally snapping back into alertness. While he took a moment to take stock of the situation, I telekinetically pulled my lightsabers back to my hands and ignited them again. In response the armored one dropped a number of smoke bombs. It looked like the idiot really seemed to think that using some sort of scanner and smoke would actually give him a leg up on the fight. Sure enough, the blaster shots started coming in fast and furious at that point. I used my lightsabers to block the shots long enough to get a good idea of the guy’s position. With that figured out I stepped into Hypertime.

The bounty hunter’s use of smoke may have impaired my senses significantly, but it also greatly impeded his ability to watch me with his own eyes. Scanners just don’t cut it when it comes to interacting with someone in Hypertime. As proof, as was able to rapidly move behind the Bounty Hunter before he even registered what had happened. As he spun to face me, I grabbed his hand holding the rifle and bent his arm behind him until the rifle was pointing at the back of his helmet. It then was a simple matter to push down on his finger sitting on the trigger.

Luckily for him, the helmet took the bulk of the damage. He probably was going to have a concussion at the least and possibly suffering from motor control and memory issues for a few days given how scrambled his brains were now. I let him slump to the floor unconscious and threw the rifle to the side. All the Baramour assistants were now dead, as were the two Baramour, but the three bounty hunters were all unconscious. That hindered my plans of using one of Baramour to satisfy Valerie’s request. Still this did eliminate two Baramour and their aides while still giving me an opportunity to replenish my stocks of weapons. I managed to get another set of thermal detonators for my troubles, along with a pair of replacement blaster pistols and some more smoke bombs.

I had just finished up collecting those items when I sensed multiple people running my direction.

(Voice) Over here, the explosions came from this way! I bet someone has found him!

Well crap.

I was readily proving myself to be more than a match for the typical bounty hunter in all this, but their sheer numbers were going to take their toll eventually. There were just too many to be fighting by myself in succession. Enough would get lucky shots to eventually bring me down anyway. It wasn’t like I had the regenerative abilities of a Force predator. Besides, the real danger was the Baramour and their damned plagues. Allowing myself to get distracted playing with these small fries was bordering on stupid.

Simple enough solution then: use Hypertime and Phasing to the next canister of plague. That neatly evaded the pursuing bounty hunters again. I did stop long enough to get back into contact with Alys again on the commlink.

Alys, meanwhile, was still running the efforts at Jacob-containment, evacuation, security droids versus Sith and Bounty Hunters (with a lot more success on the Bounty Hunters, but at least it was letting her relay the information on the six Baramour groups), sealing off the warehouse areas to keep the bounty hunters and surviving looters out, running damage control, directing biohazard sterilization efforts, maintaining the stability of hte power core, and more. She hadn’t been at all pleased to hear that Jarik was in the area. Of COURSE he would be, but that was NOT an individual she wanted within light years of any inhabited planet, much less her homeworld! That maniac didn’t NEED a superweapon, he was a walking galactic-level crisis all by himself!

Lazlo had gotten Alys to a nicely-secure area – and then gone off to chase Baramour. He’d looked at the situation, sighed, called the Jedi Council – and gotten them to authorize him HIRING as many bounty hunters as he could get to chase Baramour and Sith. He’d put that offer out on the internal communications system, and now had… rather a lot of takers. They’d still go for Kira or Jacob if they saw them of course – by now most of the sensible bounty hunters of the galaxy had given up – but they might as well take out some Sith while they were hunting for their big prizes!

The fact that he was being fed information from Alys – and therefore could lead groups of bounty hunters to their targets – made it easy enough for him to take charge. The Jedi seemed to have PLENTY of credit reserves anyway. It was amazing how well money in large quantities grabbed the attention of freelance mercenaries.

Alys was considering… That was an awful lot of Baramour: Jarik and an aide and some thugs at the power core (and now – sigh – locked in with Ben, which did not bode well), one at each of the main outer walls of the temple, and one heading to the roof (and no doubt about to meet Xiang and Chan; good luck with THAT).

Hey, wait! If they removed the moss from the holocron archives the sith holocrons would be back in touch with their original creators and would be majorly dangerous again instead of effectively being evil droid brains again!

Another project! She had the droids start running ahead of the bounty hunters who were takingthe moss panels to shield their private Jacob collections shoving sith holocrons into shielded closets and putting warning labels up!

(Kira) Alys, I’ve dealt with the Baramour team and all their canisters on the Southern Wall.

(Alys) Lazlo is getting the bounty hunters organized to go after the team on the East Wall. Another group is being rallied by one of the Jedi to go after the ones on the North Wall. Most of the other bounty hunters – and a lot of the extradimensional and minor Sith – are being dealt with by the other Jedi in the temple.

(Kira) How is he managing that?

(Alys) He got the Jedi Council to authorize payment to the bounty hunters for each Baramour captured or killed.

I had to admit that was an approach I hadn’t considered. Of course it helps that Lazlo’s bounty was nowhere near the value of mine.

(Kira) Alright, what about the plague canisters on those walls?

(Alys) I’ve got droids working on biocontainment in those areas, along with more droids moving to the power core to help Ben maintain containment of the Hypermatter Reactor.

(Kira) What about the Baramour team on the West Wall?

(Alys) We’re having issues tracking their position. The bounty hunters are concentrating on the North and East teams for now.

(Kira) Right, I am going after the West team.

(Alys) Understood.

Drat it! She needed to do something about the Baramour who were headed up!

Oh wait… She hated to think that Kira might be rubbing off on her – the thought was kind of disturbing – but sending up some of the remaining droids to shout insults at Chan and Xiang from behind the Baramour group got good results.

After watching a few seconds of those results – especially Chan’s performance – she made a note to herself to NEVER insult Chan Noldor, or speak of him in anything but the most glowing terms. She didn’t need somebody who could grab active lightsabers as an enemy.

Shouldn’t that be impossible anyway? Probably some force stunt.

She needed to let Ramith know about the Baramour – but she didn’t entirely trust him… She recorded everything, just to be sure.

Good grief. You actually COULD curse so offensively that a protocol droid would overload trying to figure out how to translate it into something diplomatic. She hadn’t been THAT bad even when the real chaos was going on!

Ramith ordered some of the ships to drop in around the temple and interlock their shields – blasting down into the cities substructure as required – and prepare to heat the area to plasma temperatures if necessary. A plasma bath would decontaminate everything if the worst came to the worst.

Oh dear. Well, it WAS a pretty desperate situation. At least he was waiting until everything was shielded.

Wait! Her PARENTS were reported amongst the refugees escaping from the temple? How could… Oh dear. Ben. By now she shouldn’t be surprised that a set of alternate parents were among the refugees at the alternate universe’s Jedi Temple. That was going to make the next family meal awfully awkward…

Down in the power core, Ben’s confrontation with Jarik was NOT going well. Jarik had been prepared for him and his environmental armor. He’d launched some sort of bioweb that was loaded with a hundred of more lethal bioagents and which wrapped itself around his armor and started eating it.

That didn’t leave many options. Facing Jarik WITHOUT armor was not an attractive notion. Dumping it elsewhere – even if he could get or phase out of it without exposing himself – would mean leaving a hotbed of active bioweapons laying about. Leaving it and retreating would let Jarik blow up the power core and spread whatever plagues Kira, Lazlo, and Alys hadn’t yet managed to eliminate across Coruscant. Half his systems were already compromised, and the bioweb would burn through to HIM shortly.

Wait; if he could vent off enough energy to burn the stuff off his armor… It would take extremely fine control to avoid vaporizing himself with the charge on the powercore, but it was the only chance he saw.

He frantically studied the reactor – and (thanks to a force point) the safety margins, venting points, and access points, were pretty obvious. He headed for the primary sky-directed vent. If he vented it over the armor while partially phased and activating the ultimate dodge… well, he didn’t know WHAT would happen – but he knew what that stuff would start doing to him when it burned the rest of the way through his armor in about ten seconds.

Vi, meanwhile, was sealing the doors. That would serve as biocontainment – and trapping Jarik inside would hopefully keep him from blowing up the power core. It would be suicide!

The thugs kept trying to stop him, but THEY were easy enough to deal with – and, fortunately, Jarik was focused on Ben…

Sadly, Jarik knew the clone technique – and was PLANNING on a suicide. That way he could be SURE that the power core went off and as many plagues as possible were spread. That was also why he had some backup plague packages planted around Coruscant…

Ben vented the reactor – and realized that he’d vastly understimated the power reserve and how finely he could control the release. The ion-flare turned his armor into monoatomic vapor as the “ultimate dodge” interacted with his phasing to hurl him a very long ways across probability lines indeed. The blast punched through the military shields around the temple, narrowly missed several orbital stations, and massively irradiated a few hundred square miles of territory on one of the moons. On the plus side, the radiation and plasma flare sterilized most of the Jedi Temple and left the outside bathed in plasma even before the military got around to it. 

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XV – Darkness Rising

Oscar Niemeyer: Cathedral of Brasília. The sta...

Interesting Geomancy!

Thanks to the Veilward, it was easy enough for Charles to pick a time when no one was watching – and to use his new amulet to shift across Yu-Shan to where his Inukami-driver had carefully chosen a nicely private spot and set up some wards and illusions.

That tactic probably wouldn’t work forever, but it should work for awhile.

Charles took along six Coatl as concealed bodyguards – after all, you never quite knew what was up when you were invited to somebody else’s stronghold – and the Inukami as a driver.

The address from the heavily encrypted e-mail led him to a walled villa. There were several guards manning the entrance – but, fortunately, he’d sent ahead. He had his Inukami driver pull up and announce him.

The guards were mildly surprised – they hadn’t really been expecting a youngster no matter what they’d been told – but the visit was on their list, and there wasn’t any sign of hostility or of major concealed weapons. They let him in.

Inside, the place was nicely appointed, if relatively modest. There was an attendant there to greet him. She looked like your average personal assistant, although the way she moved suggested some pretty extensive bodyguard training.

(Charles) “So what’s up?”

(Miss Pessoa) “Charles Dexter Ward? I am Miss Pessoa. Master Romero would like to see you upstairs.”

Drat! How was everyone on earth getting his real name? He hadn’t given it to the mercenaries, and he’d given them a blind Email drop. Were the dragon-blooded passing it around? That was a powerful illusion on Miss Pessoa too… It showed considerable expertise in the Art of Illusion and – underneath – there was an amalgam with what looked like a stone golem as its base.

Well, that was fair enough. HE’D brought some amalgam-bodyguards. His were just hidden under his clothes and behind the various artifact-auras and his own touch of illusion and shapeshifting disguises. He headed on up with the Amalgam; it was the only way to find out what was going on!

The Coatl really didn’t like that – but they had to admit that there wasn’t much of any reason for it to be a trap, and – if it was – that might be the only way to find out why.

Miss Pessoa took him to a very nice meeting room., where a middle-aged gentleman in stylish casual clothing was sitting at a big oak table. There were drinks as well – but they were obviously tailored for him; various juices, tea, and milk. There were snacks, too, mostly fruit. Information from debriefing the mercenaries perhaps?

(Charles) “Allo! What’s up?”

(Romero) “Good afternoon, Mr. Ward. I wish to speak to you about certain Manses. More specifically, those Manses you repaired a little while ago. I am curious about your methods.”

(Charles) “Oh. Well… the pattern’s already been set in a manse, and it’s kind of a living thing. It WANTS to either heal and be whole or to break free of the structure entirely and run wild – but the biggest tendency is to be whole; otherwise you could never build a manse in the first place. The power would tear it apart before you finished. So you just have to take some of its energies into yourself, and share a bit of your life with it to spark the healing process, and let the power draw the matter back into the pattern where it’s supposed to be!”

(Romero) “Ah. I am curious. Is this a teachable process?”

(Charles, quite honestly) “I don’t know yet. It might depend on having access to a healing manse as well, but It might not. Fortunately, most manses are hard to break!”

(Romero) “That is good for all of us. Otherwise, they rain acid, spit fire, and other dreadful things.”

(Charles) “Is it that you have one that needs fixing?”

(Romero) “Yes, I do. Beneath Brasilia itself, there is a Manse I would like to repair. Unfortunately, my own skills in geomancy are not up to the task. I am learning, but I would like to have control of the Manse before someone else obtains it.”

(Charles) “Is it far to get to or heavily defended? It would only take a few hours to start the process, but I’d need to get to the Hearthstone room – and it would be best to have the Hearthstone for at least a few minutes”.

(Romero) “It is beneath the business district. I know of a hidden way to get in. There is some Essence venting, but not many defenses other than that.”

(Charles) “Well, I don’t have to be back until later tonight, so there should be plenty of time!”

(Romero) “Then we should leave as soon as possible. I will prepare my things and meet you downstairs in a few minutes.”

(Charles) “OK!”

Romero came down a few minutes later in sturdier clothes and with a light duffel bag – and they headed into Brasilia proper. Wealth disparities were considerable in Brazil, and the capital was no exception, as they transitioned from slums to the grandeur of the business district.

Charles made a note to do some more fixing!

Their destination appeared to be an abandoned building.

(Romero) “One of my properties. I was working on it when we made the discovery.”

He unlocked the door and showed Charles in.

It was easy enough to see where the out-of-commission sewer pipes ended and the tunnel with Second Age murals began when he lifted up the tarp.

(Charles) “Hm! Not one of the oldest ones, but still a long ways back.”

Hm. Fire aspected. That seemed to be common; much like the North American South, Latin America tended toward Fire Aspect Manses; the place was one of many and looked to be rank-3. He made some notes…

(Romero) “I am very curious about these murals. The language seems to be like none I’ve seen before – but I think in-depth analysis can wait until the Manse is fixed.”

Hm. It looked a bit like the Realm’s variant, but there seemed to be some encryption here and there. Perhaps some secrets to look at later! On to the hearthstone room!

The mural work continued, and was pretty good. The art was mostly geometric shapes, which put the period at the late Scarlet Empire. It was pretty hot though; flames occasionally popped out from cracks in the wall and floors. Fortunately, both he and Mr. Romero had the defenses needed to just to walk through – but it was still pretty uncomfortable.

Wait, there was something kind of.. grinding sound up ahead?

(Romero) “What is that? I know the Terrestrial geomancer set up the patch kit properly, and the wardings on the dig site should have kept away most intruders.”

Charles ran a small clairvoyant effect ahead… It looked like… There was someone already in the Hearthstone room. A girl of about his own age, hacking away at the Hearthstone pedestal with a sword that was bigger than she was.

(Charles) “We’ve got a visitor who’s busily sabotaging the Hearthstone chamber. That’s a silly thing to be doing!”

(Romero) “What!? But that will blow up the Manse! Are they mad?”

(Charles) “Maybe! Lets find out!”

The hearthroom was just ahead…

(Charles) “Hello!… Uhm… Why are you doing that?”

(Girl) “Because this is the best way to blow up the Manse, silly!”

Mr. Romero was stepping forward and reaching into his bag.

(Charles) “Why do you want to do that? It would make quite a mess…”

Oh dear. Necrotic essence, plenty of power, Daiklaive… An Abyssal Exalted, and most likely a Dusk Caste. If she got in two or three more strikes with that blade, she’d have the manse on the edge of exploding. The Hearthstone was already shattered; there were bits of it all over the floor.

(Girl) “Oh, I don’t want to do it, but if I don’t, Mistress gets mad! And then the hurting starts! I can’t have that.”

With no hearthstone, however, Charles could attune the place directly. He boosted that to do it NOW – and started stabilizing the essence-flows and regenerating the damage. Quite a lot of it could be readily patched with the Forgestone and another speedup charm…

Of course, that left the girl and Romera free to act while he was busy.

(Romero) “Look, I don’t care how much hurting will happen to you if you refuse this “mistress,” but many more people will be hurt if you blow up a Manse in a major city!”

Romero had pulled out a fancy wand from his bag. It appeared to be Orichalcum.

Hey! That was a good idea! If he upgraded his wand with some magical material, it might work even better! He’d have to try that!

The girl took another swipe at the Hearthstone pedestal. The blade literally screamed through the air – but Romero pointed the wand at her, and the blade was wrenched from her hand. It clattered to the floor about ten feet away and moaned.

Charles promptly built a crypt for it, sealing it up in a lot of stone and steel.

The girl punched at Mr. Romero wildly, and managed to hit him squarely in the chin with the first blow. Unfortunately for her, he shrugged it off – and pointed the wand at her again. Sadly, whatever-it-was that he’d tried to do apparently didn’t work. He had stepped between her and Charles though – clearly concerned about the only-slightly-above-mortal-at-best thaumaturge.

Charles activated his ghosting technique, used the work-performing function of his Ring of Thaumaturgy with the Forgestone to get an hours production worth of superglue-coated bits of steel from Dudael, and used Telekinesis to stack them all around her and hold them there for the seconds it took the glue to set (and afterwards, just in case).

Even with just his passive enhancements running, he was monstrously good at Thaumaturgy. He easily blasted through her basic essence-resistance, filled up the space around her, and held the mess against her attempts to break through it. She was stuck – and Mr. Romero was impressed.

(Romero) “Impressive. I wish I had studied that particular discipline myself.”

(Girl) “Waaa! No fair! Meanie, using magic!”

(Charles) “Well you used weapons!”

Charles busily erected wards… Wards against the creatures of the underworld, wards against necromancy, wards against divination, wards against contacting the underworld, and more… If he layered enough wards, it should give them a few moments no matter who showed up from the underworld – unless they knew enough sorcery to weave a major counterspell.

(Girl) “When I tell my big friends about this, YOU’RE GOING TO BE SORRY!”

She was still trying to get out, but simply wasn’t strong enough – and the magic was on the outside of the metal, pushing in, and out of her reach.

Charles doused her thoroughly with alchemical sleeping drugs, which worked nicely. She still wasn’t up to resisting him without a charm, and didn’t seem to have one that was relevant.

(Charles) “Hm… I really think I’d better consult someone on her! I don’t know how to fix that!”

(Romero) “What IS she? I’ve never been punched so hard by a child!”

(Charles, with some surprise) “Um… An Abyssal Exalt. They’re really trouble!”

He sent a priority message to Lytek, asking about what to do. Exaltations could be trapped and manipulated – but hopefully there was a way to help her without killing her! He could make something that drained motes and willpower maybe… If they kept her restrained, and if exaltations could be captured and forcibly attuned to infernal cages, they could probably be captured and re-attuned to something else!

Mr. Romero was quite relieved that the Manse hadn’t blown up yet, and was reinforcing Charles’s wards with his own thaumaturgy.

(Charles) “The manse will be getting better… It doesn’t like being attacked that way!

Wait, what? The boy had attuned to the manse and started doing… whatever-it-was he did to make them repair themselves – either during the walk in or during the first moments of the fight? He could perform geomancy that fast?

Still a bloody good thing though.

Charles soon received a response from Lytek; he was sending down some functionaries with a slave collar and manacles to stop the girls Essence use. It would, however, be a little while.

Charles offered to bring her up if that would be quicker – but was informed that the Celestial Bureaucracy would rather not have any Abyssals up in Yu Shan. That was a part of what made the Abyssals so hard for him to work on… He did have an earthly manse secured for the work though.

Hm… No disturbances in the wards yet. If there were more, they probably didn’t have any fast travel effects available.

He told Mr Romero that Lytek had some agents on the way to restrain her.

(Romero) “Lytek? I’ve heard that name someplace… I just can’t place it.”

(Charles) “One of the gods; this falls under his purview.”

Mr. Romero blanked out in shock for a moment, then returned to full awareness.

(Romero) “But how can a being of light be associated with THAT?”

(Charles) “Well… the power in them was perverted by some very nasty creatures of the underworld thousands of years ago. That’s why so many wards… She might have backup, and they can be very nasty from what I’ve heard. I’ve never actually seen one before!”

There were times when it just didn’t pay to open your mouth. Right on cue, there were footsteps in the hall up ahead – and another wisp of necrotic essence.

(Unpleasant raspy complaining voice) “What’s going on here? This Manse should have been destroyed at least an hour ago!”

There was also hacking coughing and the sound of something slick and wet hitting the ground.

(Charles, quietly) “Oh dear! We have more trouble…”

(Romero, whispering) “More of whatever she is?”

(Charles) “Yes! Not good at all! And at least two… the complainer and the cougher”.

Charles took a moment – they should have at least a few moments thanks to the wards – and relayed that information to Lytek. Not that he could do anything unless his team was already on the spot – but he’d want to know and he might have some advice.

Well, a flash-review of the powers they usually showed was potentially quite useful, the news that the squad would be quite awhile longer was not so welcome, and the advice that getting out might be best was not at all welcome. “Fly you fools!” was very classic, but it wouldn’t do much good if the manse blew itself up around them!

Maybe he shouldn’t have installed that DVD player and wide-screen TV in Lytek’s rooms…

Side-thoughts went out the window as he considered… Some of those powers were NASTY. A fight was likely to be very bad! Leaving would be very bad for an awful lot of other people! So he had to defeat them without fighting – and they weren’t at ALL likely to listen to reason! They were out to wreck the universe!

Oh! He was standing in a freshly attuned manse – an endless font of magical power.

(Romero) “If we’re lucky, I might be able to distract them long enough for us to escape. But that still leaves the Manse undefended. What did you have in mind?”

Charles was studying desperately… Fortunately, the pattern spiders were willing to help him out with analyzing the structure of the manse, and he could accelerate the Dragon Vortex… As the voices neared, he drew on his other manses – and poured power into the manse, twisting it’s essence-flows into a a containment and weapon against the darkness.

Unleashed, the flood of essence blazed within the structure of the manse like a bolt of lightning caught in crystal. Power flared into manifestation as the dragon-lines knotted themselves into a new configuration. It wasn’t the most generally-useful configuration, and he’d never be able to change it – but it suited the emergency. How often was “I hit them with a manse!” going to be a viable tactic?

Thanks to his various enhancing artifacts and Dragon Vortex charm, Charles was capable of boosting the Manse’s powers by fifteen construction points – and could give it powers of up to one rank above its base while he did so. He added…

  • Consecrated to the Unconquered Sun. Creatures of darkness – such as the Abyssal Exalts – could not recover motes or will within the manse, and would take one level of aggravated damage and lose one will per minute they spent there (4 MCP).
  • Celestial Confluence (Wyld Revocation). Amplifying (double effect or half cost) all holy powers and life-affirming powers, and diminishing (double cost or half effect) all powers of the underworld and oblivion (4 MCP).
  • Chasm of Life and Death (Wyld Revocation). Warping the interior of the Manse into a pocket dimension of its own, isolates it from the power of the underworld and entraps – at least for a day or so – corrupted exaltations (4 MCP).
  • (Fire) Dragon’s Will (3 MCP). Allowing the manse to manipulate fire within itself – and to assault it’s unholy intruders with essence-fires.

Romero gasped as the walls suddenly dripped gold-and-ruby fire, flames lashing like serpents and weaving themselves into barriers. Geomancy, yes – that was obvious enough – but answering the boys call like a birthright and leaping to his defense?

God-blood. WHICH god?!?! Was there a god of manses perhaps? A universal earth goddess? Who – WHAT – was this boy?

Charles let the Manse’s little god steer the flames and started flurrying thaumaturgy with the Forgestone and his Ring of Thaumaturgy… Manse Repair – Erect Wall or Barrier – Raise Ward – scatter minor traps and annoyances (bear traps, caltrops, nets, glue, and other annoyances).

Thanks to the energies of Dudael, the Thumaturgy wasn’t costing much of anything – but the use of the work-speeding function of the Ring was a steady drain. He kept busy weaving complex invocations and otherwise stunting his Thaumaturgy to try to stay ahead.

Charles sealed off the hearthroom and hid the door – but even beyond the walls he’d raised he could hear them getting closer, and complaining about the flames – which they saw as the beginning of essence overload. It wouldn’t take them long to work it out though, especially once the power of the Sun began to sear their flesh.

(Charles) “Mr Romero? I’ve turned the power-flows of the manse against them. If we can stay ahead of them long enough, it should be enough to knock them out eventually. We’d better fall back. Fortunately, the more they hack through walls and wards and such, the more power they’ll burn.”

Romero pragmatically towed the girl along. If the worst came to worst, a hostage might come in handy!

They blocked more doors – including all the exits – and moved to try and stay ahead of the two Abyssals. As soon as they caught on, they’d know that there was only one quick way out of the trap; they had to catch and knock out or kill whoever was directing the manse’s energies against them.

Fortunately, their time and power was strictly limited.

In the hallways the broken walls and cracked floors were swiftly growing back as the Manse regenerated – and they could hear pained yells from the Abyssals behind them. One Abyssal was issuing a phlegm-ridden tirade – but with the essence-flows of the manse resisting and Charles running continuous repairs the damaging Performance Charm wasn’t accomplishing very much.

There were several explosions and many attempts to break the walls – all more-or-less for naught, as neither of the two appeared to be a physical powerhouse… Mr Romero and Charles were falling back as fast as possible while spellcasting – and the young Dusk Caste was still asleep.

The Abyssals did manage to get closer – but not close enough to get to Charles’s group. The last thing they heard from them was anguished screaming and the sound of sizzling flesh.

(Charles) “Oh Ick!”

Still, with the place cut off from the underworld, for all the horrible pain of their deaths, their souls would go to lethe instead of oblivion – which was probably the best that he could do for them.

That also left their Exaltations ready for Lytek to retrieve. That was a worthwhile victory in itself, even if he would MUCH rather have managed it without killing anybody!

Romero just shook his head. He looked quite impressed. Tricks like that were obviously quite limited – how often were you attacked while in a newly-attuned manse? – but they were obviously very hard to stop while you WERE in a manse…

A bit of clairvoyance revealed that their pursuers were indeed out of action. Their clothes were on the floor, a bit singed. The only traces of their bodies were ashes.

(Charles) “Oh dear! (Sadly) I guess we can stop now…”

(Romero) “Oh dear nothing, you just saved the business district from getting blown up. Not that we can tell the media, but still.”

(Charles) “But there must have been a way to avoid hurting anyone!”

(Romero, shaking his head) “Maybe, but one or both of us would be dead – and I’m not sure those guys would have wanted tea and tapas.”

(Charles) “Well… We’ll have to wait for Lytek’s crew to get here anyway. I’m not entirely sure how to bind and transport the power that was in them once it gets outside the manse now that it’s not in a body any longer.”

(Romero, looking at the ashen bodies) “Hey, more of that screaming metal!” He pointed to the floor. There was a fine soulsteel dragon’s tear tiara, a set of soulsteel hearthstone bracers, and a mask. The mask looked more elaborate than most models, and the stone in the bracer was the most intense black Charles had ever seen.

(Charles) “Oh, that stuff… It’s forged of tormented souls – usually from whoever was handy.”

(Romero) “Who does that? The Underworld again?”

(Charles) “Usually, yes.”

(Romero) “Well… I have so much more to learn about what’s going on. Where did you learn all this?”

(Charles) “I go to school in Yu-Shan, the Celestial City – and most of it’s in the history classes.”

(Romero) “That sounds exotic. Now, what are we going to do with these things? I don’t think breaking them will help anything.”

Charles considered… There WAS a thaumaturgic procedure for destroying magical materials to get motes, but it only worked on a tiny piece at a time – and he didn’t know if it let people out of Soulsteel or annihilated them. Theory suggested that basic Thaumaturgy wasn’t up to destroying souls unless you called on oblivion, but he didn’t really know. It had never been a big topic for research before!

(Charles) “I might be able to unmake the material – but I don’t know what that will mean to the people inside. Of course, even oblivion might be better than eternal torment – but I’d rather not resort to that without a LOT more study!”

By GM ruling it would take +8 successes on the material-destruction ritual to free the spirits in the Soulsteel as ghosts, and +16 to free them into Lethe. Once Charles got that figured out, he’d be quite pleased.

Charles put the soulsteel stuff away for the moment. It was definitely something for more research later.

He advised Lytek that they had two – and possibly three, because the girl was fading despite his efforts – loose abyssal exaltations for him to pick up. But if he shut down the manse enhancements, the other two exaltations would escape – and, judging by their reported and observed behavior would kill many more people! He couldn’t shut down the manse enhancements and let that happen either.

That was a bit of a shock for Lytek – What had the child DONE to kill two or three abyssal exalts?!? – but it was still immensely good news!

Charles, meanwhile, focused on keeping the girl alive – warding her as best as possible (sadly, thaumaturgically warding off a manse you were inside seemed near-impossible, even if he did manage to slow things and make them painless) and even absorbing some of the damage she was taking – but it wasn’t enough. The young dusk caste passed away more than half an hour before Lytek’s team arrived.

That left Charles quite depressed and upset. He REALLY didn’t want to be killing people! There might not be any external way to fix Abyssals while they were still alive, but he would have tried!

The gods were insubstantial by default, and asked if the man accompanying Charles knew about them.

(Charles) “Not exactly, but he’s a skilled magician, so it’s specific information he lacks, not the general stuff!”

The gods materialized over in the next room then, taking the forms of technicians – albeit ones with leaves and fire for hair.

Charles confirmed that they had come prepared to restrain disembodied abyssal exaltations.

(Blazing Oak) “Lord Lytek has trained us in some of the essential methods. And certain elements were helpful to us in that.” (There he was almost certainly referring to the Bronze Faction’s Jade Prison.)

Blazing Oak pulled several cylinders of white jade, chased with moonsilver and orichalcum, out of nowhere.

(Blazing Oak) “Where are the compromised Exaltations?”

It only took a few minutes to track them down, whereupon they used orichalcum tongs to retrieve them and slip them into the cylinders. The Exaltations seem to twitch and twist in the tongs’ grasp…

Well, that WAS a 2% improvement in the abyssal situation, and they almost certainly weren’t “comfortable” here at the moment. The Manse was gleaming with sunlight and the purity of the Unconquered Sun seemed quite close…

Charles double-checked to make sure they were secure anyway – as well as taking a quick peek to see if he could get any information. They were, after all, something else he might need to work on fixing. They did seem to be quite secure, especially after the gods put on the cylinders’ orichalcum caps. He couldn’t get much information on them though – at least not without using powers that were just a bit too revealing.

Mr. Romero tried to converse with the gods. Sadly, they were gods, and he was apparently just a mortal, so he was largely ignored.

Lytek was happy to hear that all three had been secured – and was willing to answer a few questions. He suspected that the exaltations might originally have been linked to Oblivion through devices called Monstrances of Celestial Portion – but Oblivion had been closed for millennia, and the Abyssals hadn’t been seen since the Reshaping until what mortals called the Second World War. He was researching their new ties, but hadn’t come up with much concrete material yet.

Charles volunteered to come by and make a maximal effort. He didsn’t want to burn that much power, or use magic that powerful, publicly if he could avoid it. It probably wouldn’t help much, but at least it was another point of view.

Lytek was grateful for the offer. Charles and Richof were really the only people he trusted with that kind of information – which would have been interesting news for Charles if he’d said so instead of thinking it.

Meanwhile, Lyteks team had really considered the situation, and were looking at both Charles and Romero with very baffled expressions indeed. Had two mortal thaumaturgists just eliminated three Abyssal Exalts? Had they somehow managed to trick the three into chasing them into a manse that “just happened” to be virulently hostile to Abyssals?

(Searing Flower) “You realize how lucky you two are, yes? You should be dead right now.”

(Charles) “I’m glad I’m not! And I’m glad we were in a manse I’d just attuned to so I could use it’s energy flows!”

(Romero) “We’re very good magicians!”

Romero kept quiet about what he’d seen. That was obviously private information – and a bit he wanted to quietly digest on his own.

The gods departed with the Exaltations. Since Charles WAS a resident of Yu-Shan they offered to take him along. Besides… they wanted to ask Lytek a few questions about the kid. Evidently he wasn’t just a pet!

(Charles) “That’s OK! I have to finish cleaning up here!”

It seemed fairly likely that the Celestial Security guys had no objections to abyssal exaltations without hosts – which was reasonable, they couldn’t do anything that way.

Romero made a note to ask to borrow a few “history of creation” textbooks that the boy was finished with. He had some catching up to do!

Romero was content with Intro to the Second Age. His knowledge of the First Age was good… Charles didn’t poke into his secrets, and he didn’t try to poke into Charles’s – despite his somewhat unprecedented geomantic talents. That was one of the drawbacks of the pure Solars only reincarnating recently. Second Age lore was a regrettable blind spot for most of them unless they found some study materials. He did want to stay in touch with Charles, if only because he was incredibly skilled with Manses. Still, Email and his real name would do – and he asked Charles to notify him of any changes.

Charles was glad he could help A manse that needed fixing and three abyssal exaltations back to Lytek was a pretty good score for the day!

On the other hand…. Lytek and Gramps would probably want an explanation! That was going to be HARD!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XIV – The Calm Before The Storm

Mount Shasta, looking south (Northern exposure)

You built it WHERE?!?

Time passed. With the functions of the Factory-Cathedral mostly under control and life settling into a routine – school, work at Dudael, private projects, ingredient hunting, and things going on back in Atlanta – some of Charles’s projects started picking up speed.

His report on Queen Merella readily got him into the advanced history classes. It wasn’t quite impossibly good, but was up there in the upper-ranks of god-blooded scholarship – easily enough to qualify for him for a research-assistant job if he hadn’t had a job already. [He’d gotten a very lucky 12 successes. Whether that was good or bad has yet to be determined].

The Factory-Cathedral staff – Bright Widget, Circuits of Adamant, Lelani, Catherine, and the other nine gods and seven mortals – had been surprised and pleased to discover that Charles saw no reason not to hand around lesser artifacts as bonuses when there were plenty in a production-run. That wouldn’t be possible with the more potent artifacts of course, as they well knew, but Charles wouldn’t be (publicly) producing those for some time.

There were even enough to give the dozen previously-unemployed gods he had chasing around after ingredients a bonus each… Still, between hiring those and scrounging for more magical materials, the Factory-Cathedrals budget was stretched VERY thin! A good thing that he had lots of Inukami who could make Orichalcum… Funny that that was one of the easiest things to produce. You could find almost anything naturally on occasion, and there was always wyld-questing – but making stuff was tricky…

  • Jade required Ambrosia – but any Ambrosia would do.
  • Moonsilver required ore from Wyld-touched territories or Ambrosia dedicated to Luna or essence tokens from lunar-aspected demesnes of rank 3+.
  • Starmetal required mining the bodies of dead gods (generally unacceptable) or Ambrosia dedicated to the Maidens.
  • Soulsteel pretty much required souls, and that was REALLY unacceptable.

Huh. He might just have to rig things up so he could go Wyld-Questing.

His after-hours work was doing well though. He’d finished up with his new charm (The Dragon Vortex), and he’d completed most of Gramps requests. Display glass for essence-communications gear, color-adjusting robes (well, he’d made up some self-cleaning, self-adjusting, always warm or cool and comfortable and provided-some-protection clothes that turned into any clothes you wanted instead. They were much better, and it was like those high-tech clothes he’d read stories about people wanting to design), knapsacks of holding, a selection of thaumaturgic talismans and alchemical supplies (which were easy enough to turn out by the hundreds with a Factory-Cathedral), and a few occult-enhancing items (the basic academy-set) had all been easy enough.

The Singing Staves though… The design was clear enough, but they’d be a LOT of work even with enhanced geomantic support, and some of the ingredients were really very awkward! Strings from a perfect-quality musical instrument used in a virtuoso performance for a supernatural audience could be gotten, and a bit of essence from a major earth elemental given in blessing could likely be gotten – but a recording of a harpists-demon’s greatest performance was going to be pretty hard! He didn’t like summoning demons!

He’d have to ask Gramps about those. The Singing Staves just might have to wait for a bit. He had the rest of the unofficial orders to do…

  • For Hiparkes he made two Jade Saddles (**). Those were quick and easy – and besides, he liked Hiparkes!
  • For Sal Montague he made a Swift Rider (***) and a Windslave Disk (* version). The Windslave Disk was pretty trivial – but the Swift Rider was a bit… conspicuous today. Charles used a bicycle as the basis and upgraded the design a bit with Ambrosia… That let him get rid of that pesky maintenance, cut down the power requirement, and even let him throw in a few thaumaturgic boosts while he was at it! The minor cost to invoke a wind-ward and x10 travel-speed boost might come in pretty handy, and he could use one of the extras himself! He’d been needing a better bicycle anyway! That way he could get to Savannah REALLY fast!
  • For Siakal (the Goddess of Sharks and Maritime Piracy) he made three sets of red jade shark-sized Death Fangs (* each) and some wave-stepping boots (**). Those were both easy. The “Death Fangs” were weapons – which Charles didn’t care for – but they were pretty trivial and were probably for her pet sharks or something.
  • Malakai Run-and-Gun had ordered a Soulsteel Windblade-class personal transport (***). That was kind of nasty, and soulsteel was awkward… and all it did was make blades on the thing anyway. You could put blades on a vehicle without soulsteel, even if it would take a bit of a redesign. Still, Malakai was paying with enough Jade – a talent of each color – to make a LOT of other things… Charles threw in some Quintessence and added some enhanced perfect greatsword blades to the thing; that would get Malakai an even better effect WITHOUT Soulsteel – and he could make it out of Orichalcum, make it faster, and just throw in a Fivefold Harmonic Adapter to let him attune it without a fuss.
  • WWW had ordered an Ultimate Document (***), which was – if somewhat underhanded – at least relatively easy to make.
  • Gustav Meyers had ordered an Adamant Reaper Daiklave (**) and Adamant Discreet Essence Armor with resizing capabilities (***) – both gift wrapped. That had been a bit of a problem though… Charles didn’t like weapons much, and Mr Meyers WAS bronze faction. Besides… Discreet Essence Armor wasn’t all that good. He used the Commando Armor design instead, in the version that just looked and felt like a sash. That would fit pretty much anybody, even if they did some shapeshifting!

He didn’t deliver them right away though. He was still kind of worried about how people were likely to react. At least he could hide things in Hoenheim in one of the alternate versions and behind some Celestial-Level Wards. That way they were elsewhere when he didn’t need to have the storage rooms open… Besides, even if he delayed for months, most of them wouldn’t be expecting anything for YEARS.

Back on Earth, the Inukami had gotten some lawyers aboard, and started quietly patenting some aspects of the bio-scanner. Since there were now a lot more of them, and the facilities could be better as needed, they could work on a lot more projects too. Setting things up at the bosses two new Manses took a little time – they had to travel by plane most of the time after all – but it was also easy enough.

An in-depth records search in Yu-Shan turned up several damaged manses on Earth. There were a fair number of minor ones – but only a few major ones of any interest in the Americas.

The was the Spire of Ramsthenes in the Adirondacks (Solar ***), the underground Caves of the Silver Remnant in Alabama (Lunar ***), the Frosted Temple of Nandarkara up in the Canadian Arctic regions (Air ****), the Palace of Verox Ran in the western Amazon (Wood ****), and the fiery Ruby-and-Adamant Redoubt in the depths of Mount Shasta (Fire ****).

Now those were pretty dramatic! And they also sounded like most of them would be worth fixing… He’d have to look into it and see if there were any special obstacles! They were probably self-stabilizing, but either no one knew how to fix them or they were terribly dangerous for some reason!

Manses… Oh yes! That was another important project! Demien and the rest of the Cauldron-Born could still use the Seven Whispering Winds Manse to get into Yu-Shan whenever they wanted!

Still, he’d reported that to the Sidereals. Surely they’d put SOME kind of guards on the place!

Seven Whispering Winds was in the middle of an abandoned region. That was kind of rare for a Gold Faction Sidereal with good connections – but then Demien was quite young and he’d had to accept some drawbacks to go with his high-powered manse.

Sadly, it was pretty likely that the deiphages were no match for the Cauldron-Born now. They might have turned the place into a freehold in the midst of Yu-Shan without anyone even noticing! Worse, there wasn’t a single reclaimed territory nearby to even attempt a watch!

Charles tried a little scrying…

Hm… It looked like someone had assigned a small squad of Celestial Lions to watch the place – and it looked to be much as he remembered from his few visits; creepy, somber, and quasi-funereal. Perfect for a Chosen of Endings.

The lions were currently changing shifts. The ones leaving looked pretty happy to be going.

That would never do. Yes, the lions were watching all the entrances – but that would never be enough and they WEREN’T going inside. The Cauldron-Born could probably run right over them!

He’d have to work on that hidden-attunement charm, call it “Coaxing the Delicate Bird“. It was theoretically possible (and, of course, once he started work, it wasn’t long before he had it).

Darn it. It might be a trap too. After all, he’d have to walk right in – and they could teleport to the place and might well be aware of what went on there. Could he get past the Celestial Lions at all? He might need some allies for this one – and, at least as yet, there wasn’t much of anyone but Kiko and Mitchell! Maybe he could think of someone with authority over the Celestial Lions?

Whoever-it-was who’d hired the manse survey team had finally sent a response; he’d like to set up a meeting on Earth about setting up a deal. He had a modest residence outside of Brasilia, well warded from all forms of mundane surveillance and most supernatural ones to use as a meeting place.

Well, the fellow certainly had no reason to be up to anything yet! He’d sent him what he wanted after all!

That was kind of awkward! It was a long ways across Yu-Shan to the right gate, and then it seemed to be almost five hundred miles from the Rio de Janeiro gate to Brasilia! If he was going to be running all over the Earth to find his ingredients, he really needed some faster methods of transportation than his bicycle. He could have an Inukami disguise itself and rent a car and speed it up with some Travel Thaumaturgy – but just crossing Yu-Shan would take most of a day.

Wait, there was a faster way in Yu-Shan anyway… Didn’t some god have an amulet that let him teleport around inside Yu-Shan by dissolving in a cloud of butterflies? Something Autochthon had made… Oooh, wait! If you tied it to the energies of the Canals, it would only work in Yu-Shan – but it would be fairly easy to make!

He’d need… some of the purest, finest, sand from the endless desert to melt into the alloy. The stuff that was normally… only found in demonic mines, since the dimension-spanning power of the Sands was – or had been – commonly used to widen the holes into Creation back in the second age. Oh, now THAT was awkward. No wonder there weren’t many duplicates of the thing around!

Ooh! Wait! He could use the Efficient Secretary Technique and Astrology in the Observatory to find out if anyone who might be persuaded to sell had some of the pesky stuff!

As it turned out, there were several individuals who possessed Cecelyne’s sands… Stinging Dunes, a powerful earth elemental of the American Southwest, collected the stuff. There was a powerful Terrestrial sorcerer in Miami who occasionally used it in her rituals. Finally, a mortal glassmaker in Milan had some of the stuff – and apparently thought that it was just really neat sand.

Now that was handy! He dispatched one of the Inukami to Milan immediately with orders to offer lots of money, perfect gear, and various other things and services in trade!

The glassblower, one Santhia, was a bit befuddled. He’d already gotten several other offers for the sand – and wanted to know what was going on. HE just wanted to make some neat silver decanters.

For good or ill, the Inukami was perfectly willing to explain…

(Inukami) “It’s simple enough Mr Santhia! It’s from another dimension and is an important magical catalyst! What it would do if you blew glass with it I really can’t tell… I’m rather surprised that you could wind up with some in your possession without knowing what it is!”

(Santhia) “One of my wealthier customers offered it in trade for a small piece. I had no idea what it was. But I recognized it as exceedingly fine material.”

(Inukami) “Well, I can easily get you materials or equipment in trade. The Sands of Cecelyne are very expensive stuff.

The Inukami thought it best not to point out that the Sands were worth more than enough to be dangerous… On the other hand, the fellow did seem to have at least HEARD of magic.

Actually Santhia dealt with occultists occasionally. He didn’t believe most of it, but they paid well and let him make some creative stuff, so he didn’t pry unless it seemed suspicious.

(Inukami) “Mr Santhia… I take it you have doubts about the actual existence of the supernatural world?”

(Santhia) “It seems like superstition to me.”

(Inukami) “Would you care for a demonstration or some examples? It would require only a few minutes. My talents are more… direct than most occultists. “

(Santhia) “If you believe you have power, I am willing to watch.”

(Inukami) “Very well!”

He threw up a quick ward against noise, so that no one would hear if Mr Santhia got too upset, sat back in the air, dropped his disguise – and provided a few telekinetic and visual effects.

(Inukami) “You see Mr Santhia, there are a considerably greater number of species, powers, and levels of reality than are popularly acknowledged. As a supernatural being. I can illustrate this for you a good deal more directly than most human mages, who are restricted to ritual magic.”

Santhia seemed to shocked to scream. The expression on his face was somewhere between fear and awe. That wasn’t quite right!

(Inukami) “Anyway, I work for a young mage of considerable talent, who could use sand from the endless desert of Cecelyne – which is what you happen to have. You shouldn’t fear me though; you – like all true humans – have potentials that I cannot match. I am simply aware of my abilities.”

(Santhia) “I had no idea such things existed!”

(Inukami) “They don’t come into most people’s lives much unless they seek them out – but you’ve come into possession of a rather rare and dangerous magical substance.”

(Santhia, stammering) “What is this desert? It looks like silver sand to me.”

(Inukami) “It’s the borderlands that separate the universe you see, and that surrounds you when you look into the heavens, from the realm of the great old ones. Some know them as titans or demons – but they are very dangerous powers. The sand of that desert… is both a bridge and a barrier. It permits passage through realms. Are you sure you wish to know more than that? Such knowledge can complicate your life a great deal.”

(Santhia) “N-no, that is MORE than enough. Please, what do you want for this? I would rather not have it in my workshop any longer if it is what you say it is.”

(Inukami) “The mage I serve wants to make an amulet of transportation. As for a price… What would you like? I am authorized to provide money, or special benefits, or lesser magical devices of several types.”

(Santhia) “No, no magic devices, I think. But if he can give me a modest payment and a supply of fine materials for my work, I will be happy.

(Inukami) “That is easily arranged. Are there any particular materials you would like or simply fine tools, sands, coloring compounds, and glasses?”

(Santhia) “If he could give me sand similar to this, but harmless, that would be good. The way it catches light is alluring.”

That would be easy! A bit of alchemy could make Mr Santhia some marvelous sands to work with!

(Inukami) “Done then? I shall leave my card; if you have any further difficulties in my areas of expertise, I will owe you a favor.”

(Santhia) “Th… thank you.”

(Inukami) “You are welcome!”

Santhia made a desperate reach for normalcy, and asked the Inukami if it needed anything else… Coffee? Tea? Biscuits?

(Inukami) “Tea is nice! And biscuits! But not if it’s too much bother!”

It might help the poor man settle back into his normal life! And the tea and biscuits smelled very nice! Clearly Mr. Santhia did well for himself!

Someone tried scrying on him on the way back to the gate, but no one tried to intercept or stop him! That was good! Charles needed the sand he was carrying! And Mr Santhia had had a whole handful! Enough for a full production run of artifacts, if just barely!

There was a wait for customs this time. After all, the sands of Cecelyne were what demons walked across to enter Creation, and even a bit was risky in the Celestial City. Customs – and the Celestial Lions – wanted the stuff as well contained as possible.

Fortunately, the Inukami was more than willing to contain it and did have an official reason – even if it was just “collecting ingredients for the Factory-Cathedral’s artifact making”.

The Lions still wanted to know what the sands of Cecelyne were going to be used for – although they certainly suspected. For all their rarity and danger, they were very useful for transit artifacts.

(Inukami) “The boss has some transport artifacts in the que, and thinks these will be called for for some of them! Fortunately, he was able to determine where some might be purchased, because they’re very hard to get a hold of directly!”

(Lion) “For very good reason. Now, what kind of transport artifacts were these? Nothing bothersome, I hope.”

Sadly, the Inukami weren’t much for lying or social abilities and were prone to canine-style enthusiasm about Charles – and there were certain complications already underway.

(Inukami) “I think he wanted to experiment with something for fast transport between the gates! He needs ingredients from all over, so collecting them faster would make his work a lot easier!”

(Lion) “That’s interesting. Does he have a list of people wanting one of these?”

(Inukami) “I don’t think he does at the moment. I don’t know if he’s even quite sure on the design yet, but he probably is. He’s very good at that sort of thing!”

(Lion) “Well! Tell you what. If you have him make one of these things for me, I’ll speed up your inspection. And give him my contact information too. I’d like to ask him a few questions.”

(Inukami) “Uhm. I can ask, and the boss is pretty obliging! And I’ll give him your contact information!”

(Lion) “Good!”

The inspection proceeded honestly and with reasonable efficiency – a rare thing in the Celestial City.

(Inukami) Thank you!

Charles considered his production run carefully… If word got out that he had them, the amulets would be pretty hotly desired. On the other hand, he might need a bit of the sands later on, and getting more was DEFINITELY a pain. He had enough of the sands for a full run of seventy-five though, with maybe a pinch left over…

He settled on a run of thirty. He’d have to be quite circumspect about using the things, but sooner or later someone would notice – but it would let him get to the gate

Exalted – Lunar Essence Arts II

A kusarigama, as on display in Iwakuni Castle,...

C'mon, something BESIDES a weapon for once?

Moonlight-Forging Narrative Artifice

  • Cost: —; Minimum Perception 4, Essence 3
  • Type: Supplemental
  • Keywords: None
  • Duration: Permanent
  • Prerequisite Charms: Monkey Shaping Emulation

A lunar exalt with this charm may shape items in his or her possession by including them in his or her personal tale. Whenever the user adds notably to his or her saga (each game session) an item in his or her possession that he or she used in a dramatic fashion during that episode gains +1 dot of artifact rating*. Items cannot rise above Artifact *** until the user achieves Perception 5. Items cannot rise above Artifact **** unless they’re used in a three-die stunt and the user has achieved at least Essence 4. Items cannot reach Artifact N/A until the Lunar achieves at least Perception 6 and Essence 8 and uses the item in the defeat of a truly epic threat. The exact powers gained by an item are generally in-theme, but are always ultimately up to the game master.

*Hopefully the game master and player will be able to agree on a worthy and interesting item to upgrade. If not, the player may pick three items and the game master may then select one of the three.

Exalted – Lunar Essence Arts I

Shapeshifting Refinement Knack: Dominions of the Earth’s Heart

Prerequisites: Essence 3, Stamina 4, Hybrid Body Re-Arrangement, Changing Plumage Mastery, and Internal Form Mastery.

 A lunar with this knack may delicately adjust the internal details of his or her current form to channel the essence of a demesne. Whenever the user is in a currently-uncapped demesne, he or she may spend a point of willpower (which is considered committed until this ability is deactivated), roll (Per + Occ) against a difficulty equal to the (Level of the Demesne +2), and cap the demesne with their presence. Over the next six ticks the user’s body begins to act as a living, mobile, manse. If the (Per + Occ) roll was successful, the user is in full control of spending their new supply of manse construction points. If not, the game master gets to spend half of them (rounded down). While the user cannot take any drawbacks other than reducing the level of the hearthstone he or she creates (which happens instantly), they gain (Essence/2) extra Manse Construction Points and the powers of Living Manse and Zone of Influence at no cost. They do not require any kind of control system, any defensive manse capabilities may act out to the edge of the zone, and the only form of “power failure” that limits them is the user’s death.

Sadly, some powers are off-limits. These include Geomantic Nexus, Archive, Divine Observatory, Ebon Dragnet, Integrated Utility Artifacts, Puzzle Manse, Shadowland, Soul Prison, Alternate Locations, Gate of Auspicious Passage, Inauspicious Citadel, Indestructible, Otherworld Gate, Outside Worlds Within, Sentient, Synergistic Overmind and – of course – anything requiring maintenance.

Thus if Striding Waters, an Essence-4 Lunar Exalt with this knack, happens to be in a Fire Demesne ***, invokes this knack, and doesn’t want to bother with much of a heartstone (lets say he wants a Memorial Iron Stone *) he gets 6 (Demesne Rating x 2) + 2 (his essence/2) + 2 (hearthstone levels given up) = 10 manse construction points to spend.

If he takes Masters Workshop or Workshop Manse (Say, for Craft Fire, Weed, and Earth), he – and anyone in the immediate area he cares to assist – gets crafting checks as if they were in such a workshop. If he takes Emerald Circle Feedback, he can suppress Thaumaturgy and Terrestrial Circle Sorcery within his or her range. If he takes Provider, he can will the area to supply food. He can create an Ultra-Deadly Trap within the area, use Fire Dragons Will to manipulate flame, or perform many other tricks.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XII – Current Dramatis Persona

美國洛杉磯天后宮一土地公像。Statue of Tu Di Gong (Earth God)...

Tu Di Gong

Since there are currently quite enough characters running about in the Chronicles to be awkward to track, here we have a quick list…

Celestial Gods:

  • Alkibar: God of Peculiar Objects Found In Bargain Bins, Rummage Sales, and Attics.
  • Bright Flower: A minor functionary of the Convention on Essence-Wielders.
  • Gorim Naku: God of Public Transportation.
  • Gri Fel: One-time god of the Imperial City, now would-be City Manager of Arcosanti.
  • Hiparkes: God of Horses
  • Ixiah: God of Thaumaturgy and Youngsters Playing Ninja.
  • Kanari: Director of Saturn’s Mercy Hospital.
  • Lytek: The Right Hand of Power, God of Exaltation.
  • Moonsbane: God of the Wyld Hunt (now restricted to Chimaera).
  • Rahamvar-Geta: A high-ranking secretary in the Department of Abstract Matters.
  • Scales-Of-Gold: God of Currency.
  • Terapishim. Once god of the Narakesh Mountains, now would-be Park Manager of Arcosanti.
  • Three Toes: God of Hipparions, and now once more employed.
  • WWW: God of the World Wide Web
  • Zarchian: God of Old-Fashioned Candymakers.

Instructor-Gods at the Oberian Geomantic Academy:

  • Chantico: Dragon-Goddess of Fire, Cookery, Possessiveness, and Precious Things (Craft/Fire, including Cookery, Investigation, and Larceny).
  • Coyotl Inahual: God of Feathercrafts and Thaumaturgical Talismans (Occult and basic Thaumaturgy).
  • Dangbin: God of First Age and Shogunate Lorekeepers (Lore Guest Speaker).
  • Kordath: God of the Keepers of History (Lore).
  • Mardistan: God of the Righteous War and the Guardian Blade (Melee).
  • Ningama: God of the Forge (Advanced Artificing)
  • Saraswati: Goddess of the Literary Arts (Performance and Linguistics).
  • Sindri: God of Order and Wisdom in Battle (War, Archery, and Melee/Staves).
  • Tu Di Gong: God of Herbal Blessings (Medicine, Herbalism, Craft/Wood, and Occult Herbology).
  • Veles: Serpent-God of Cave-Painting and Magical Caverns (Advanced Thaumaturgy and Basic Charms).

There are more instructor-gods of course, but Charles is only really acquainted with the ones teaching courses that he’s taken or is currently taking.

God-Bloods at the Oberian Geomantic Academy:

  • Headmaster Jun: A very senior God-Blood, Jun has the (somewhat thankless) task of keeping the school organized and meeting the demands of the staff and various divine parents.
  • Arith: The secretive son of a god of conspiracies.
  • Estanna: Estanna prefers messing about with boats, planes, and steeds to being in school.
  • Ferren: The clownish son of an out-of-work deity, who is attending on a scholarship.
  • Hiranaya: A fairly formidable fighter, with some command over his father’s flame domain.
  • Ovashin: The son of a mountain god, Ovashin has yet to adapt to his new and over-helpful aura, which causes items around him to try to facilitate whatever he might want to do. Instruments try to jump in to help him in music class, the ground tries to slide him to better positions in combat, and so on. Eventually he may get used to it, and which point it will start to be advantageous, rather than bothersome.
  • Siranaya: The daughter of a Goddess of Toxic Flowers, Siranya possesses a great resistance to toxins and some toxic abilities of her own.
  • Temerith: Child of a textile god, Temerith is a bit clumsy (especially in the combat class), but excels in the performing arts.


  • Aikiko “Kiko” Tanaka, Night Caste Solar. A student of Gri Fel and athletic adventurer.
  • Argentia, Nebula Caste Nocturnal. Daughter of Moonsbane.
  • Astrid, Nova Caste Nocturnal. Originally a Sidereal Half-Caste.
  • Bright-Moon Shiarra. A Lunar who’s assisting Wide-Eyed Dreamer with his curse.
  • Catherine Wingates, Empyrean Caste Nocturnal and currently an employee at Oudael.
  • Charles Dexter Ward, Twilight Caste Solar Artificer and Sorcerer, currently disguised as a god-blood.
  • Gustav Meyer, Sidereal Chosen of Secrets, Bronze Faction
  • Howard Cartier, Dragonblooded, the Atlanta Water Manse Hearthstone Bearer.
  • Jose Cisneros, Sidereal Chosen of Journeys, Silver Faction
  • Maella Tengu, Aurora Caste Nocturnal, currently a cook at Yesteryears.
  • Malakai Run-and-Gun, Full Moon Lunar, has yet to appear in person.
  • Mitchell Cartier, Water-Aspected Dragon-Blooded. Currently resident in Yu-Shan.
  • Rachel Cartier, Dawn Caste Solar. Something of a rival of Aikiko’s.
  • Rosa Cress, Sidereal, Chosen of Serenity. An investigator of weird occurances.
  • Sal Montague, Sidereal Chosen of Serenity, Gold Faction
  • (The) Morgans, one of Atlanta’s major Dragon-Blooded Clans.
  • Vaal Resfan, Comet Caste Nocturnal, Comet Caste. An over-excitable youngster from Yu-Shan’s slums.
  • Wide-Eyed Dreamer, a Lunar who is currently trying to break a Raksha-Lunar curse.

Notable Mortals:

  • Dr. Ceiliana Aguero: An anthropologist (and probable thaumaturgist) associated with the Atlanta Museum of Natural History.
  • Dr. Valenti: A paleontologist) associated with the Atlanta Museum of Natural History.
  • Dr. Winston: An Atlanta veterinarian, currently caring for the hipparions.
  • Jacob Anderson: A thaumaturgist who apparently lives near Atlanta.
  • (The) Mercenary Surveyors. A trio who were apparently hired to explore manses.
  • (The) Savannah Masons
  • Raymond Cisneros.

Others – exotic or so-far unclassified:

  • Daniel Clane: A higher-up in the State Department, and a specialist in dealing with magical problems.
  • Kaernock Jagua, Fey Knight.
  • Korbase the Incomparable: A naga-style mystical being. Possibly a god, demon, or raksha.
  • Richof “Gramps” Haldane: Charles’s grandfather, guardian, and mentor.

Exalted – Lesser Sigil of the Moon (Artifact ***)

Full Moon view from earth In Belgium (Hamois).

She's watching you!

Here we have the last of Charles’s designs for augmenting his young mortal and god-blooded friends – another general booster. At the moment, he fully intends to give each kid a Soul Sheathe (Artifact ***) loaded with one of his Least Rune Weapons (Artifact *), a Greater Ring of Thaumaturgic Mastery (Artifact **), a set of Commando Armor (Artifact ***), and a Lesser Sigil of the Moon (Artifact ***) (Below) – for a complete set valued at roughly Artifact ***** (throwing in a Fivefold Harmonic Adapter to let the kids get the full benefit of the Commando Armor) with an final attunement cost of (6 – the user’s permanent will rating). Sadly, this still won’t make the user an Exalt – but it will make them far better able to take care of themselves.

Lesser Sigil of the Moon (Artifact ***)

These versatile amulets gather the ambient magic of the moon and channel it into the bearer’s body and spirit – strengthening both against adversity and allowing the user to adapt to meet new challenges in a wide variety of ways.

  • Self-Powered. The amulets, meant for use by enlightened mortals and godbloods, have no attunement cost – although some of their functions do require the expenditure of motes (Class-B).
  • +1 each to all attributes (9x Class-A).
  • The user gains “natural” stamina-based Soak as an Exalt (Class-A).

Thaumaturgic Functions: These thaumaturgic effects can be dispelled normally – but can be reinvoked with similar ease.

  • Lesser C’hi Infusion: The user may temporarily infuse his attacks with spiritual power – allowing him or her to effectively attack immaterial beings. That’s Thaumaturgic Countermagic: Six tick casting time (+2D), Duration of up to (2x Essence) Hours (+2D), Affects all the target’s attacks (+2D), Specific Effect/physical attacks may injure weapon dematerialized entities (+3D). As a Class-0 effect this gets 10 automatic successes at a cost of 1 mote (Class-0).
  • Seeing with the Inner Eye: This ability allows the user to see the flows of essence, revealing the presence of immaterial spirits, spells, active charms, and similar effects. That’s Thaumaturgic Detection: Six tick casting time (+2D), Duration of up (2x Essence) Days or until dismissed (+3D), Single Target (+0D), Personal-Only (-2D). As a Class-0 effect this gets 10 automatic successes at a cost of 1 mote. Given its duration this ability can be considered active unless countermagic dictates otherwise (Class-0).
  • Draught of the Dervish: Filled with supernatural vigor, the user may Stunt as an Exalt or other supernatural being. That’s Thaumaturgic Alchemy: Six tick casting time (+2D), Duration of up (2x Essence) Days or until dismissed (+3D), No Components or Lab (+4D), Single Target (+0D). As a Class-0 effect this gets 10 automatic successes at a cost of 1 mote. Given its duration, this ability can be considered active unless countermagic dictates otherwise (Class-0).
  • Harpist on the Strings of Fate: The user is blessed with a knack of slipping through the tinyiest loopholes of fate, negating up to four botches per scene that would otherwise harm him or her. That’s Thaumaturgic Fortune: Six tick casting time (+2D), Duration of up (2x Essence) Days (+3D), Single Target (+0D), Four Botches/Scene (+4D), As a Class-0 effect this gets 10 automatic successes at a cost of 1 mote. Given its duration, this ability can be considered active unless countermagic dictates otherwise (Class-0).
  • Cloak of the Wyld Lands. This ability allows the user to assume temporary mutations. That’s Thaumaturgic Lifeweaving: Six tick casting time (+2D), Duration of up (2x Essence) Days or until dismissed (+3D), Single Target (+0D), Induces Temporary Mutations (+5D), Personal-Only (-2D). As a Class-B effect, this gets 20 automatic successes, providing 12 Mutation Points at a cost of two motes. As with all thaumaturgy, it does not stack with similar effects (Class-B).

Artifact Design: Power 5 (4x Class-0, 10x Class-A, and 2x Class-B functions), Usefulness 5, Plot Impact 2, Script Immunity 3, Components -3 (As usual, Charles designs around Ambrosia. Working in Yu-Shan it’s relatively easy to get – and it’s just SO versatile). That gives a net artifact rating of 12/4 = ***. Since the Script Immunity cost neatly balances the Component cost, the rating is the same both for making them and for buying them.

Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 67b

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith

Now who are you?

Xiang had rapidly grown impatient with the runaround in the Jedi Temple. It was like hunting for people in a super star destroyer, only in competition with several thousand bounty hunters – none of whom had any more idea of where find their targets than she did.

When the news started getting passed around that Chan Naldor had shown up… OK, she knew she wasn’t really Xiang – but she also knew that she was now as good or better than Xiang had been on the show. That had been one of the perpetual arguments on the boards… Xiang versus Chan.

It was just too good a chance to see how strong she’d really become to pass up – so she headed for the roof.

Chan was not impressed. Weapons, armor, and force-fetishes. Definite signs of weakness!

He let her strike first. If he didn’t strike at her force-fetishes, this might be fun! Sparring partners of any kind were hard to find and there didn’t actually seem to be a Yeveetha invasion force to defeat in single combat here! He needed SOMETHING for the media to see!

He let “Xiang” strike first, and sneered as she completely failed to injure him.

Xiang lost her temper totally. She’d had ENOUGH of being sneered at!

[The player, in fact, announced that Xiang would be spending a force point on the next attack, and the dark side be damned. Xiang actually managed to injure Chan – and tossed him back a good ways – but fell to the dark side with a bad die roll].

As Xiang blew her top, the Dark Side poured through her – and, in her fury, she accepted and embraced it. She (helped unknowingly by Chan) accepted all the power it had to give.

Chan was delighted! NOW this was going to be a fight! He hammered his fist into the roof – smashing a massive area and allowing the shockwave to clear the area.

Xiang flipped up a massive chunk of the roof, slashed it into razor-sharp slices with her pike, and sent them hurtling at Chan with the impacts that cut them free.

He parried them with his bare hands, throwing up a storm of chunks that forced the news media to keep a safer distance.

Fleet Admiral Ramith groaned. Now he had TWO superpowered nut jobs smashing at each other! Admittedly, the Jedi annoyed him enough that he had no objections to seeing their temple getting smashed a bit, but this was not the sort of thing he wanted to encourage! Not with all the rest of the trouble that was going on!

The fact that the damned Jedi Council – now disentangled from the Republic Senate and a series of strikes that had tried to take them out enroute – would be arriving (and almost certainly wanting to go in – it WAS their temple after all) within the next ten or twenty minutes or so was no help at all!

Xiang had trouble with the rebounding fragments of her own attack – but she’d followed it in with a flying kick. That rebounded from Chan’s cross-block, nearly throwing her off the roof of the temple – but it drove Chan through the floor, and made him waste a moment generating a shockwave to blast out a proper arena.

Their battle continued to drill down through the temple level by level as they found the structural elements of the armored building no match for their blows.

Meanwhile, Alys and Ben were in something of a panic. One Force-Predator variant of Jacob had nearly killed them all! Now they had… a hundred thousand. Hundreds ready to wake up – and a whole planet full of compatible sapient life-forces for them to drain.

Ben was panicking a bit too! He’d found a biological superweapon he couldn’t control and had accidently brought it to Coruscant! If the Jacob’s got loose… It was going to be catastrophic!

It took some persuading to get the Bounty Hunters to head up to the “Jacob Levels” – but the fact that the reward on Jacob was now so large that even a CLONE might be enough to make them rich was persuasive.

Hundreds of them. In each room! And some already stirring… Fortunately, the first one to break free – only semi-conscious, and seconds past “birth” – was an adequate demonstration to the bounty hunters that something had to be done. It had taken thirty of them, with fairly heavy weapons, to stop it.

Fortunately, while Ben and the Bounty Hunters focused on burning down Jacobs before they could activate their powers, Alys had a stroke of brilliance… She’d already been directing the security droids, the clean-up droids, and half a dozen other sets of droids – so she had some of them start taking the space-moss paneling that blocked the force up to line the rooms with the Jacobs in them. That would, at least, prevent them from sensing or drawing on Coruscant. Now, if only they didn’t start cannibalizing each other.

Meanwhile, back with Kira…

(Sith) Ah, what is this? It looks like a weak Jedi apprentice has had the misfortune of crossing my path.

Speaking of which….

I turned to see a older stereotypical Sith flanked by a pair of soldiers. It was hard to determine which faction he belonged to, although my bets were on HoloSith given the fact that he hadn’t shut up yet.

(Sith) Why I would almost feel sorry for you given your abysmal power, but then I would be lying. I do so enjoy slaughtering the weak and helpless.

(Kira) Uh, yeah, about that, are you done talking? Because I am rather busy and would like to get this over with.

(Sith) How dare you speak to your betters in such a tone! It is about time I taught you some manners!

I proceeded to pull out the blaster I had taken from one of the soldiers I had beaten senseless. Following the lessons Ilia had taught me, I accelerated my timerate while slowing down the timerate of the blaster’s crystal as much as I could. I was nowhere near the skill of the sniper in this respect, but on the other hand, I just needed to a good high powered shot.

(Sith) Whhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttt ttttthhhhhhhhheeeeeeee hhhhhhhheeeeelllllllllllll?

I then proceeded to pull the trigger. At this close range, my interactions with the Sith and his pals was preventing me from just dumping the entire power output of the blaster into a single massive blast. Smoke bombs might have helped things, but I was holding those in reserve at the moment. I could still fire off a number of powerful shots at high speed though. The first three he managed to parry, but the next three hit him squarely in the chest as the final two shots went wild. Obviously injured, he then leapt at me with lightsaber ignited. Unfortunately I didn’t have my own lightsabers drawn at the moment and had to rely on the bracers for protection as I blocked his attacks. First two swings I managed to parry, but the third slipped past my guard to strike my shoulder. Thankfully the armor held as he was now open to counterattack.

Adjusting the inertial effects of the hypertime interface while also enhancing my strength, I then proceeded to plant my foot just below his sternum. Making sure to push as hard as I could while following through with the kick, I flung him into the ceiling. There he impacted with a splat as the ceiling bent and cracked from the impact. Finally he fell to the floor with a wet thwump. The two soldiers looked at me, then the corpse of the Sith, then back to me and ran.

Ignoring them, I proceeded to go hunting for more Sith. Unfortunately it looked like those I hadn’t stopped or killed had now gotten through the foundation and were working their way to the warehouse storage area. That meant there were going to be a whole bunch of them together in a large room where they could support each other and keep an eye on me.

Well drat.

The odds of me being able to take on that many Sith simultaneously were not good by any means. Being a Hybrid may give me a leg up on things, but it’s not that overwhelming an advantage. I really hated to rehash the grenade trick this frequently, but it was getting to be the only choice on some levels. Oh well, looks like the path to the warehouse is down the hall to the right until I hit the elevators, up sixteen levels, and half a kilometer south.

I was about to head that direction when I heard an utterly primal scream of rage. I could feel the holocrons down here begin applauding as I felt an explosion of Dark Side power above me. Someone had apparently fallen during this whole mess. Then the building started to rumble as this new power and the other one I had felt earlier started exchanging blows. It felt like a super star destroyer was working on leveling the Temple floor by floor or something.

<Valerie> Oh now that is impressive, if completely idiotic.

<Kira> Mind filling me in on the secret? Or are you too busy trying to coax a second round out of the idiot?

<Valerie> Looks like Korda Varnal just went to the Dark Side in her duel against Chan Naldor. She is even holding her own now.

<Kira> Korda Varnal?

<Valerie> That’s Xiang’s real name.

<Kira> Oh, never really bothered to learn it since your therapy didn’t seem to change anything. Wait a minute…. that is the two of them battling it out above me?

<Valerie> Yep, they’re tearing the place apart according to the news cameras. And the therapy did work, she was able to acknowledge she wasn’t Xiang. Now if you would catch me some Baramour for the next rounds of tests….

<Kira> Catch you some Baramour? It isn’t exactly like catching squirrels. And what’s…. excuse me….


<Kira> Was this how it was like for you back at the Academy? You show up, someone immediately challenges you, and then usually meets a painful end?

<Valerie> More low class Sith and far fewer bounty hunters. Got especially bad once I became the top at the Academy. Eventually I made enough examples to deter the rest until the next batch arrived. You’re just working on the entire Galaxy at once it seems.

<Kira> Now as I was saying before I was interrupted there, what’s wrong with the Sith we’ve already caught?

<Valerie> Medical specialists are so rare and yet so very useful to have.

<Kira> Was it not too long ago you were chastising me for relying on crazy doctors?

<Valerie> Well yes, of course. I am working on making them not crazy.

<Kira> Sigh, I will see what I can do. But the odds of me running into one stupid enough to assault the Jedi Temple of Coruscant aren’t good.

By that point I had reached the warehouse. I could see a pair of Sith war droids standing guard inside the entrance. Stupidly they were looking inwards towards the center of the warehouse as opposed to at the door like they should have been. Deciding discretion was the better part of valor, I slipped past the droids without disabling them for the moment and started hiding amongst the crates of stuff. Peering over one of them to get a better look at the Sith raiders, I saw six of them hurriedly shoving items into bags and boxes and giving them to droids for hauling out. It didn’t look like they had sensed my presence yet, or they were too busy shovelling loot to worry about a minor hole in the Force in their midst.

They were carrying a lot of explosives. Interestingly enough, looked to be plastic as opposed to the thermal detonator type stuff. Enough to put a good sized hole in a building. It didn’t look to me to be enough to bring down the temple though despite their hopes. I wonder if it’s easier to slip through customs or if it’s readily manufactured if you know what you are doing? Sadly, it did look like these guys were smart enough to have separated the explosives from the detonators. So no variations on the grenade pin tricks here.

Well, that stuff needs an electric discharge to detonate. Force lightning would work, but that would expose me to counter attack and the Dark Side feedback of using it to attack living beings. I really didn’t want to have to rely on thermal detonators and getting into a massive six on one battle to win this. Hmm, I suppose I could try to shunt in an arc of electricity. It wouldn’t be nearly as controlled, but it would probably do the job quite nicely. Alright, now that I have line of sight, it should simply be a matter of….


I was prepared for the blast, unlike the Sith. On the other hand, I wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer intensity of the blast wave that hit me. It took quite a bit of straining in order to withstand that blast and even then, my skin and hair were smoking afterwards. By the time my eyesight finally recovered, I could see that a large section of the warehouse was now rubble. I saw one Sith running out the door and at least two more lying on the ground dead or unconscious. Most disturbing though was the fact that the blast had noticeably distorted the floor and ceiling.

That was probably a little too much electricity.

Still, I think the looters – or at least this batch – were more or less done here. Those not dead or unconscious were making a run for it. The droids were still mechanically going about the process of looting, but that was a minor issue in comparison. I was surveying the damage for any signs of a major structural collapse when I felt a Holocron reach out to me.

<Holocron> That was ruthless, treacherous, and utterly pragmatic. You have real potential there young man. Would you care for some lessons on other destructive and malicious techniques? I assure you that many of them could easily dispose of your enemies in a similar or even more dramatic fashion.

<Kira> Hey, I’ve always wanted to collect some Sith Holocrons. I figured with enough of them, I could start my own line of Sith Glitter Glue. Are you volunteering?

<Holocron> Unbelievable, so much potential and yet such a lack of vision. You could quickly be free of the threat of bounty hunters given a few proper examples. You would waste all the knowledge I possess just to make sparkly powder to sell to little girls?

<Kira> Actually, I consider it recycling.

Lazlo, meanwhile, had completed his dark side technique lessons with the Holocrons – after all, it wasn’t the techniques that were corruptive, it was using them for attacking – so all he had to do was to limit himself to the peaceful applications and it should be all right!

Wait, Alys said there were a pack of Sith coming in with the intention of causing mass death and destruction? That was just stupid! It had to be stopped!

He headed off to stop them.

Unfortunately, after a few moments of discussion, the Sith had concluded that the conversation wasn’t going anywhere, sprayed greenish gas all over, and departed. If only he’d had tea! Still, the gas didn’t seem to be instantly poisonous… It did seem to be making his old wounds hurt though. What, they had “recall old injuries” gas? How could that work?

Worse, they were splitting up – although still in groups that were big enough to be fairly tough to handle. They were closing blast doors in his face too.

He headed back to consult with Alys. He’d need her assistance to track multiple groups through this maze – and he needed to consult with her and the military about what this good might be. At least it didn’t appear to be fast.

Alys was busy swearing again. The bounty hunters wanted Kira and Ben and possibly Lazlo – although the rewards on him were small – and HERSELF? Wait, that one bounty contract wanted her alive, unharmed, and in EVENING DRESS? What kind of perverts were after her?

The Holocrons started offering her lessons in causing people horrible pain. At the moment, that was almost tempting – particularly when she got Lazlo’s report and started looking into bioweapons.

It was then that I became aware of a cloud of green gas beginning to leak into the room where a wall had failed. I wasn’t liking the impressions I was getting from that thing. Then Alys came over my commlink.

(Alys) Kira, we’ve got a problem.

(Kira) More bad news?

(Alys) Afraid so, I’ve been talking to Fleet Admiral Ramith….

Now why does that name sound familiar?

(Alys) And Lazlo. It looks like we have Sith running around releasing toxic bioweapon gas. A green gas being released by those guys in the stealth cloaking.

Now that over there is an ominous green gas too….

(Kira) You don’t say.

(Alys) According to the Admiral, the stuff activates the Bacta that’s replaced the tissues in old wounds and turns it back into it’s native form. It will eat the host until they dissolve into goo.

Lovely, now it looks like we have Baramour running around. Oh damn it all. This is probably what Valerie was subtly referring to when she talked about capturing a Baramour. I could feel that damned smug grin on her face from here.

<Valerie> And what were those odds again Kira?

Ignoring her, I turned my attention to the green gas slowly creeping it’s way towards me. Running various scenarios against Precognition and Assess Odds gave me the sobering figure of possibly a hundred million dying if this stuff got into the open air. Kept in the Jedi Temple, it would likely kill most everyone inside it. Disinfectant was not going to be available in the quantities we needed soon enough. And there was no way the Jedi and I could keep this many people from dying while also fighting Sith.

Damn it, time to do something drastic again.

(Kira) Alys, I need you to describe to me in as much detail as you can what this stuff is. I am going to try to shunt it out.

She put me through to some Republic military doctor who then began to describe the virus in as much detail as I was able to understand. As he did this, I reached out with the Force and started looking for what he was describing to me. Eventually I was able to sense a tiny pinprick of life far smaller than I had ever really noticed before. After doing what I could to verify this was what he was talking about, I expanded my senses as far I could muster. There was no way I had gotten all of it, but I definitely found most of it. Especially those very high concentrations in packages over there. That must be where the Baramour are at then. Having detected as much of the stuff as I could reach, I then tapped into the Codex and shoved.

The green gas in front of me quickly dissipated as did all the concentrations of the stuff that I could detect. Heh, Ilia had said that removing viruses required the skill of a Grandmaster Codifier to pull off. I was fairly certain that I was no Grandmaster of the Codex either. I doubt rubbing it in her face would really work, but it will still give me some satisfaction.

It wouldn’t. She’d been talking about viruses already in living bodies, not clouds of stuff in the air.

Meanwhile, Lazlo was fighting off his own infestation. Fortunately, he was touch enough that he hadn’t ever used all that much bacta – at least since his fight with himself and being blown into a replacement body.

(Kira) Alright, Alys, I think I got the bulk of it. There may still be traces of it around, but this will buy us time. In the meantime, I think I am going to be paying our bioweapon pals a visit.

(Alys) Understood, I am going to try and do what I can to assist.

Doubtless these guys had more than one trick up their sleeve. Probably a few more plagues and some really nasty creatures too. I was also operating with a distressing lack of support here. The bounty hunters were more likely to start shooting at me as opposed to the Baramour. Plus it seemed like Ben, Lazlo, Alys, and Xiang were busy with other problems. Jacob was MIA and I was likely to kill him the next chance I saw him anyway. Plus the Republic Military wasn’t making a concentrated effort on trying to restore order beyond establishing a perimeter and arresting anyone who came out. It makes me wonder if they are in on this, or merely taking advantage of the chaos for their own ends.

Oh well, I still have a few more tricks of my own to play here. If I am lucky, the Jedi have a stasis generator in the warehouse here. If I am unlucky, they did and I just blew it up. At least I still have some thermal detonators.

And where the hell is the Jedi Council?

The Council would, despite the delaying tactics, be arriving shortly – such things were easy enough to deal with – but they had been held up for a little while.

Ben and Alys, meanwhile, had realized that they were facing a disaster. They’d successfully gotten the Jacob’s restrained, but Xiang and Chan were smashing their way down through the temple. When they hit the levels devoted to cloning…

At least they’d stopped that blasted broadcast. Admittedly, it had been by smashing up that entire level in passing when Lazlo steered them that way a bit, but it was stopped anyway. That wouldn’t exactly make up for Ben importing a doomsday weapon and installing it in the Jedi temple though. The Council would NOT be amused.

On the other hand, it was hard to argue with the Military’s current shoot-on-sight order on Jacob, regardless of what the Jedi Council thought. Even Alys thought it would be no great loss!

It also made it apparent that Fleet Admiral Ramith had some idea of what was going on. That… would be worth investigating later on.

If they survived Chan and Xiang. People that tough should not exist! And neither should they be able to shatter armored glass in a wide radius by cracking their knuckles!

One of the bounty hunters calmly headed out, went up to the current scene of the fight and asked for autographs – while Vi placed bets (and set up some stock market manipulations; it was obvious that the news was going to hit the markets…).

That managed to stall things a bit. Lazlo headed up to discuss merchandising possibilities – while Vi and Ben frantically attempted to redirect their course with phasing and telekinesis enough to get them dropping dramatically down some elevator shafts, rather than smashing open the Jacob levels.

(Chan) “Bacta virus?!? When my grandmother was 714, and had been dead for forty years, she was STILL easily capable of defeating any virus!”

Lazlo promptly got them debating whether or not the Yeveetha qualified as a “virus”, and who was better able to defeat an army, and more – with the eventual upshot of the pair of them going off to fight a planetful of Yeveetha and see who got more. That was another major disaster he’d handled without having to fight anyone!

Exalted – Thaumaturgic Artifice II, The Soul-Sheathe (Artifact ***)

Charles is researching the technology of Exaltation – and, being practical, has concluded that, if you can’t do it all at once, there’s no reason not to try to do it – or achieve much the same results – piece by piece.

Soul-Sheathes are pretty straightforward: they’re a highly secure way to carry artifacts – and provide a couple of minor benefits that go along with them.

A soul-sheathe can hold up to nine dots of other artifacts. If the creation cost differs from the purchase cost, the user may use the lower of the two. Storing artifacts makes their functions available to the user while protecting said artifacts from loss or damage; anything attempting to damage or interfere with such an artifact must go through the soul-sheathe first.

Sadly, there are restrictions.

  • A soul-sheathe cannot store any artifact rated above four dots.
  • A soul-sheathe cannot store anything larger than artifact armor. Warstriders and such are out.
  • If an artifact has a required physical form other than armor (for example, a sword) the user must have some sort of sword to channel those powers into. Such a physical vessel acts as an effective duplicate of the artifact empowering it until the user drops the effect or transfers the power to another vessel.
  • The user must still pay the attunement costs of the stored artifact or artifacts.
  • A soul-sheathe bonds with it’s user’s soul. Sadly, this means that they are NOT usable by Exalts, who already have a far more impressive artifact bonded to their souls that takes up all the available space. Whether or not the arrival of an Exaltation will displace a soul-sheathe is up to the GM, although it does seem likely.

Overall, this is a Class-B power. Having your stuff broken or stolen isn’t usually a big feature of Exalted games anyway. (Class-B).

Self-Powered (Class-B). Since Soul-Sheathes have no other powers above Class-B, they have no attunement cost.

Soul-Linked. Thanks to the close bond with it’s user’s soul, the total attunement cost of the artifacts within the soul-sheathe is reduced by it’s user’s base will (Class-B).

Shielded: Since the source artifacts are well-shielded, any thaumaturgic or sorcerous effects they apply to the user are protected against countermeasures short of Celestial Circle Countermagic. That’s Class-A for resistance to Charms and Terrestrial Circle Countermagic, plus a level for protecting a group of effects, for a total of (Class-B).

Immaterial (Class-A): Soul-Sheathes are intangible artifacts attached to the user’s soul. Even when not so attached, they can only be touched by essence-wielders outside of spiritual sanctums and places such as Yu-Shan. Of course, given that anyone who matters is an essence-wielder, that’s not much of a “power”, although it does protect them against being found by basic body searches.

A soul-sheathe is programmable. They can be given simple rules governing when artifacts can be added or removed, when they attach or detach from a soul, under what circumstances they can be transferred, what qualifications a user needs to have, and when to accept updates. Since they are self-contained and have no true minds, they’re impervious to external manipulation. Since most of that is handled by their “Plot Immunity” rating, this is another mere (Class-A).

A soul-sheathe does provide some side-benefits; it’s close bond with it’s user’s soul both enhances and defends that soul. Using one grants the user…

  • A +2 bonus to their effective Awareness score (Class-A).
  • A +2 bonus to their effective Integrity score (Class-A).
  • A +2 bonus to their effective Resistance score (Class-A).
  • A +4 bonus to their effective Lore score, but only for understanding the functions and uses of any artifacts the soul-sheathe currently contains (Class-A)
  • A +10 mote bonus to their Personal Essence Pool. Note that, in our games, no combination of mote pool expanders will more than double a character’s total essence pool (Class-A).
  • Enhanced resistance to Mental Influence. Whenever the user spends one or more points of willpower to resist mental influence (whether natural or unnatural) they are treated as if they had spent one additional point. Thus, if the user spends two points of willpower to throw off a powerful compulsion, the two points count as three (Class-A).

Eight Class-A powers equate to four Class-B, two Class-C, or one Class-D power. Four Class-B powers equate to one Class-D power – and two Class-D powers equate to one Class-E power.

Overall Design: Power 5, Usefulness 4, Plot Impact 2, Script Immunity 5 (soul sheathes are indestructible, can’t be de-attuned or taken away without the consent of the player, and are plot-device difficult to keep from following their programming and moving about if and when that programming says to find a new owner), Components -3 (Charles uses Ambrosia), and Troublesome (only one soul-bonded artifact can be used at a time, -1), for a net artifact rating of 5 + 4 + 2 + 5 – 3 – 1 = 12, 12/4 = *** to craft. Fortunately, the fact that the components drawback doesn’t reduce their “purchase price” is neatly countered by the fact that three levels of script immunity comes free when you purchase a three-dot artifact – leaving it an Artifact *** in all cases.

Exalted – Building Commando Armor


Concealed Armor; It's a GOOD thing.

Commando Armor (Artifact *** or ****)

This particular armor enchantment package can be piled onto any type of mundane armor, but it’s usually stacked onto heaver stuff. Weaker armor generally just isn’t worth bothering with. It is worth remembering that powers can be traded out – hence a few tweaks can easily adapt Commando Armor for many other purposes.

The standard package includes:

  • Ability Bonuses: +2 to Archery, Awareness, Martial Arts, Melee, Resistance, Stealth, and Thrown. As actual skill bonuses, these also increase relevant defense values (7 x Class-A)
  • Nightsight (Class-A).
  • Hardness = One-half the soak of the armor, rounded up (Class-A).
  • Regardless of the base armor type selected, Commando Armor can look like any kind of armor (Class-A).
  • +2 Strength (Class-B)
  • Double Ground Speed (Class-B).
  • Regenerate one level of bashing damage every third action during combat, all in a minute out of combat (Class-B)

Artifact Design: Power 10 x Class-A, 3 x Class-B = Class-E. Adding in Self-Powered C (bringing the attunement cost down to 5 motes or two will) means Power 8, Usefulness 4, Plot Impact 1, Script Immunity 1 = 14.

  • Technomagical Version: Troublesome -2 (maintenance every week on penalty of various functions starting to fail, repair rating 2), for a net total or 12, and an artifact rating of 12/4 = ***. Note that, if you use Articulated Plate as the base armor you wind up with Soak +9L/9B, Hardness 5L/5B, Mobility -3, and Fatigue 2 – overall, an exact match for Gunzosha Commando Armor. If you wish to match it precisely, throw in the note that you can attune the armor with only one point of willpower – but, in this case, the remainder is made up the armor draining the user’s life force and inflicting him or her with accelerated aging.
  • First Age Technomagical OR Enchantment Version: Drop Troublesome (no upkeep is required), upgrade the secondary power suite to Class-D (for Power 9). Reduce the Mobility Penalty of the base armor by 2 (Class-B) and the Fatigue by 1 (Class-A). Sadly, this version has a net artifact rating of 15/4 = **** – however, if the mobility and fatigue penalties of the base armor are reduced to 0, it no longer counts as wearing armor at all.
  • Classical Enchantment Version: Components -2 (Usually demon blood and hearthstone powder in addition to the usual components for a rating-3 artifact), for an artifact rating of 12/4 = ***. Sadly, since the Components problem doesn’t reduce the purchase cost, classical versions count as four-dot artifacts when purchased during character creation.

Charles’s Enchantment Version uses Components -3 (Ambrosia) and is based on Perfect Armor (reduce Mobility and Fatigue Penalties by 1 each, two +1 bonuses split among soak (adds 1L/1B), mobility (reduces mobility penalty by one) or fatigue (reduces fatigue value by one) – increasing the number of successes required, if not the artifact rating. This allows him to upgrade the secondary power suite to include a Class-C suite of secondary effects – including several thaumaturgical tricks. While the thaumaturgical functions of the armor can be disrupted by Countermagic or suitable charms, they will soon re-establish themselves.

  • Self-Powered (Class-C).
  • -1 to the Fatigue and Mobility Penalty of the base armor. If this, in conjunction with the modifiers for Perfect Armor, above, reduce both of those to zero, the armor no longer counts as wearing armor for the purposes of charms and such that will not function if the user wears armor (2 x Class-A).

The Thaumaturgical Suite includes:

  • Generate a Shadow-Weaving Shield (as per desired physical shield) or up to a 10 x 10 wall on command. These have 12B/12L/12A Soak, require 12 levels of damage to destroy, and last for ten minues otherwise. This operates three times a day for free, each use after that costs 3 Motes or 1 Willpower (Class-A, for a Shadow Weaving Science effect).
  • Provides a blurring/multiple-image effect on command, adding +2 to the user’s Dodge DV (Class-0).
  • Maintains a thaumaturgical link to a Manse (usually Saturn’s Mercy Hospital): This provides the user with rapid healing, +5 bonus successes against disease and poison, and immunity to Shaping and Crippling effects (Class-0).

Charles can make the armor out of one magical material or another, but will usually make it out of Orichalcum – providing an additional +2L/+2B soak and +1L/+1B hardness. In this case, each suit will have a slot to mount an appropriate Fivefold Harmonic Adapter – allowing its recipient to make proper use of it. He normally uses Articulated Plate as a basis (even if it looks, thanks to that minor appearance-related power, like a simple breastplate – or even a shirt). This winds up with attributes of Soak +12L/+12B, Hardness 6L/6B, Mobility -, and Fatigue -, and so does not count as wearing armor for the purposes of charms and such that will not function if the user wears armor.

In the current, Exalted Modern setting, Commando Armor counts as Artifact Armor **** – and so provides it’s wearers with two levels of ox-body technique and perfectly caps damage from any attack or flurry at three health levels.