The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice, Part X

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the...

Are you sure this is the way to the post office?

The first destination in their little Exalt-search appeared to be a middle-class divine suburb where smoke was streaming from a townhouse window. It was predominantly red, but there were shades of orange and pink. More importantly, from the gods pointing outside and the mortals running around, apparently that was not normal…

Was the building on fire? Charles did a little divining to check. It might just be somebody firing up their aura or something… Ah. Pretty much the same energies as before, – although this felt more like the scholarly and investigative caste – but apparently no one there. An exaltation with no one there seemed unlikely, to say the least. It was much more likely that their anima shields them against magical detection.

So; presumably all of them were ready, and twenty had exalted in Yu-Shan. Evidently simple proximity played more of a role with these shards than it did with Lunars and Solars: that would make sense if they were designed to function in the current, much larger, universe. Given the close ties between Yu-Shan and Earth, that probably meant that most of the other eighty had manifested on Earth. Otherwise they might never find each other – and Exalts did seem to tend to collect in groups.

Did it cover indirect manipulations? He tried doing a little light-bending to peek into the window without direct magical divination.

Meanwhile, the gods seemed to be preparing their own Charms to cut through sensory distractions while Ms. Cress was taking out some kind of lens…

His light-bending revealed a nice bedroom and a lot of smoke, which seemed to form a lotus of sorts, its petals billowing to the ceiling in delicate columns. There was a somewhat frightened looking kid of about his own age in the middle of the lotus. She was quite faint, but visible.

Now that was some pretty good protection! It wouldn’t take much more magic – and perhaps only practice – to push her over into virtually complete undetectability!

(Ms. Cress) “Interesting… that smoke will cloud the mind of anyone who gets in it.”

Well, he had promised to hang back.

(Charles, to Ms Cress) “They probably don’t know that then. (He fished in his bag) Would you like a megaphone?”

It was origami – constructed from his supplies of paper with a quick telekinetic charm – but functional to shout through.

(Ms. Cress) “Thank you very much. Hmm, your skill is impressive. I don’t recall ever seeing you at the Cerulean Lute of Harmony for classes.”

Ms Cress tried to reassure the kid, putting a bit of Essence into it, bending fate a bit. Charles put up a modest ward against outside noises around the area to quiet things down a bit and make it easier for everyone to hear…

Wait, why would she be reassuring the kid that she was “almost certainly not Anathema, because Heaven’s defenses weren’t going off against her”? He’d thought that was just a line for the Dragon-Blooded. Was she very old-fashioned, a bit deluded, or was something else going on?

The girl did come out. She was quite confused, and apparently her divine parent was not at home – although he was enroute. When he did turn up he turned out to be Moonsbane – one of the old gods of the Wyld Hunt. Hence the reassurance about “anathema”.

Charles continued to stay in the background. He SHOULDN’T be detectable, but you never knew with gods with specific portfolios. He might have some weird unique power. Still, Lunars now had an alliance with the Sidereals and he’d thought that the Wyld Hunt fell apart with the Realm… Ah! Moonsbane had fallen since his halcyon days, but he had managed to hang on by claiming that Chimera were, at heart, still Lunars (which was probably even true). He did look a little worried about his daughter, but at least she wasn’t showing any sign of shapeshifting

(Ms. Cress) “No, Moonsbane, I don’t know what kind of Exalted she is. But she’s certainly not a Lunar. Yes, I am glad too.”

Ms Cress got contact information and arranged a time for an interview and some testing.

With the girl calmed down, and no longer radiating confusing smoke, Charles quietly slipped her a bag of candied nuts. That would still leave him with three!

Hm. Maybe Grandfather was right. He WAS eating too many sweets. Gramps always seemed to prefer plain dried fruits and nuts.

Argentia was quite appreciative. Charles continued the opportunistic god-blooded impression by leaving his artificer card. You never knew! She might need something.

As the daughter of a moderately powerful god who’d known better times, she was quite used to that sort of thing. The only surprise was that he was her age – but kid geniuses were somewhat common among the God-Blooded. Maybe a new aerial skiff if Daddy gave permission?

(Charles) “Maybe! Those are hard to get permission for these days!”

The next location was one of the slums. Charles cheerily trailed along. So far it had been quite interesting!

This time around there was a blatant trail of light in the dusty streets, slowly fading. It was a brilliant blue – still with an adamant resonance however. Up ahead there was an equally brilliant blue corona streaming to the top of the Celestial City’s dome.

(Charles) “That’s a new one too! Northern lights? Zodiac? Ion Rockets?”

Maybe they were linked to individual minor gods who didn’t have exalts before? There really wasn’t enough information to do more than guess at the moment… Still, it was already giving him ideas! OK, Ion Rockets were unlikely.

As they followed the trail, they saw occasional unconscious people along it. Some of them were mortal city police – but there didn’t seem to be anything seriously wrong with any of them. Just severe bruising, mostly concentrated on the head, neck, and back.

Charles did a quick check – but he was betting on beaten upon at high speed. Probably with a blunt instrument of some sort.

That was indeed what it looked like.

(Charles) “A speedster? That would also be a new one!”

As they closed in on the corona they could hear a crowd murmuring and a young man yelling above it. From the way his voice kept getting closer and farther away, he was running around at high speed. What could be made out was boasting that no one would ever hit him again.

Oh dear. Of course, it was likely that – in the slums – his only opponents so far had been humans, god-bloods, and minor godlings. Now he had a Sidereal to deal with.

(Ms. Cress) “Well, pay up, Bright Flower. You were one off on when the chaos would begin.”

Bright Flower paid Ms. Cress a bit of ambrosia for the apparent bet.

The young man, barely into adulthood, was running around a courtyard. He was very thin and frail-looking – but much healthier and stronger looking thugs weren’t keeping up with him. His anima was streaming behind him, comet-like. Mortals, god-bloods, and even a few poor deities were looking on, unsure of what to do. He was waving a jade stick, and there were various unconscious people laying around as well.

Charles mused on sending the young man a cricket-conscience illusion – but he was more tempted to put up a sign reading “FREE SPORTS DRINKS!”.

One of the gods with them had her hands on a gun. She seemed to be evaluating whether or not the youngster had a perfect defense – although she hadn’t yet drawn it.

Charles used a bit of telekinesis to set a can of soda, and then a plate of fudge (he had a lot left over from school!) on a handy low wall along the youngsters path. He was circling after all. Ah, bribery! What problems can’t you fix?

Unfortunately, he didn’t see them on the first pass, and the wind of his passage pulled them off the wall. On his next pass, he tripped over the can and did a face-plant into the fudge… It being the slums, the thugs were ready to take advantage of him – at least Ms. Cress stepped forward and told them to desist, backing the command with more essence.

(Charles) “Oops! Sorry!”

That was an awfully nice jade stick he had. It was white, finely engraved, and currently in the gun god’s possession. That was unusual for a brand-new exalt to have. Did he have the ability to manifest an artifact-weapon? That was known in some martial arts of course. He peered at it, trying to decide.

(Youngster, now back on his feet and arguing) “Hey, give that back, it came with the Exaltation!”

Movement so fast that it almost looked like teleportation. Cool! Charles handed him a handkerchief to get the fudge off with.

A rod or baton was the classical symbol of a message-runner. The speed might go with that… On the other hand…

He quietly snagged the rod to take a look at it. Hm… A Stud on it split it open to reveal a slim adamant short daiklave with… an age of minus five years? Adamant it is! And from the future – and he’d definitely had something to do with making it, or at least with making the prototype it had taken it’s pattern from. All the details were consistent with his style.

He couldn’t resist. The hilt had a number of unadorned spaces – so he resolved that, when it came time to make the prototype, he’d put a maker’s mark on it right… there.

And so there was. So the future could be changed, and the existence of items from it was highly probable – but not certain. He made sure to give the boy his card… He didn’t need any major paradoxes!

(Youngster) “It does THAT?”

(Charles) “Oh yes! You’ve been bonking people with the sheathe… Probably a better idea than using the sword though! Particularly since it’s existence may be a bit tenuous at the moment.”

(Youngster) “Tenuous… oh yeah, that word.”

(Charles) “Well, it shouldn’t be here YET I think. Somebody with a LOT of power is really rushing things!”

(Youngster) “Well I’m glad I have it! Will have it. Whatever.”

(Ms. Cress, looking at Charles rather oddly) “And I think we need to get you out of here.”

The youngster left the neighborhood with them, although Ms Cress didn’t yet give him back his sword. Charles gave him more fudge, since he didn’t get any of the last plateful, and all running had probably made him hungry.

He was indeed very, very hungry.

Hm. His initial probes had said envoys, diplomats, tactical specialists, assassins, and – well – “acquisitions specialists” (or perhaps thieves). So far it had looked like priest, investigator, and – perhaps – messenger or warrior. Variations or had there just not been enough information in his original scans? Perhaps he should be looking for an engineer / healer next?

Well, there were seventeen more stops to go… (they’d come to the Factory-Cathedral first, since it was a high-security area and there had been lots of reports). Fortunately he had lots of paper and endless ink supplies!

The gods frantically did their paperwork on the boat as they sped along the gold canal on Ms. Cress’s personal craft. Charles helped them out with ink and paper and filling stuff out when it was absolutely necessary.

Everyone was grateful for that – although Ms. Cress did have some questions for him along the way, mostly about when he’d started studying thaumaturgy.

(Ms Cress) “You are a very precocious young man, even by God-Blooded standards.”

(Charles) “Uhm… I had a knack! I don’t really remember that far back. I think it was five or so…”

(Ms Cress, appearing quite impressed) “At this rate, you may well Exalt. No Moon or Air Aspect, I’d say. But that is up to the Maidens – and, of course, to the gods of those Exaltations.”

(Charles) “I’d rather not I think! If you Exalt, you keep having to fight things.”

He was fairly sure that exalting as a No Moon or Air Aspect really would involve some major troubles and complications at this point, so that was true enough.

The next stop was, of all places, YesterYears!

That was cool! It was almost dinner time anyway!

Yesteryears was even busier than usual. Apparently one of the cooks had Exalted during the hectic lunch shift. She was in the back, still cooking!

Well, that probably wouldn’t cause any violence – although the waiters kept going back to her particular station, and the manager was having a hard time keeping them out. They could see ribbons of sinuous, asymmetric, multicolored (albeit mostly green) light streaming from there.

The light show was attracting still more customers.

That was also kind of neat… Green? That was usually life-healing-emotional-social effects, but also occasionally acid.

Her shift was over in a few minutes. Ms. Cress sent a god to notify her that the Convention on Essence Wielders would like to talk – while Charles will cheerily ordered food…

The cook was out shortly, along with meals for everyone… Her presence was intoxicating. As she passed by, whole tables of mortals turned to look, coated by her anima. The others at his table were only slightly shaken thanks to godly and Exalted fortitude.

She was a waitress before she graduated from culinary school. There’s talk of her becoming a waitress again.

Charles wavered a bit… It was a beguilement effect. Opposing her desires seemed all but unthinkable. Diplomat or negotiator? Social healer primary perhaps, rather than physical? A socialite at any rate.

He used a head-clearing charm and a mental-focusing charm. He really didn’t need it, but it did help him look normal.

Ms. Cress appeared especially shaken until she spent a bit of Essence.

There was the usual trading of contacts, but Ms. Cress sent Charles and the gods out to wait for her. That was fair enough! At the moment he had food to eat anyway…

She returned a few minutes later. She appeared reluctant to leave, but leave they did… She was the last one aboard the boat, and they sped off to the next destination. She seemed deep in thought for the whole journey down the canal. If she had anything to say, she didn’t mention it.

Oh well. If she kept working at Yesteryears, He’d probably meet her anyway.

The canal became slightly murkier, and the streets along the canal were dusty and untended, as they slipped into an outright abandoned quarter. Ms. Cress took out her cell phone and started working on negotiating with someone. Terms of passage?

It took a lot of talking for her to come to a compromise, but apparently whoever she was talking to or about was being bought straight to the boat.

An aerial skiff approached from deep in the abandoned region about an hour later. It hovered right at a door on Ms. Cress’s boat. The transfer was done with the utmost security.

And Charles continued to hang in the back.

The passenger was a middle aged woman of considerable beauty. Her anima was almost blinding, and sparkles with white and indigo arcs, rings, and waves. A four-point starburst appeared on her head. Ms. Cress knew this person, and greeted her warmly.

Charles had a feeling that no mundane deception would pass scrutiny in this anima. Fortunately, he didn’t usually engage in mundane deceptions – although he did, occasionally, allow people to trip over their own assumptions.

(Ms Cress) “Charles, Astrid. Astrid, Charles. Astrid’s father is a very important person among us.”

(Charles, bowing slightly) “Pleased to meet you!”.

(Astrid) “It is good to meet you as well.”

Astrid and Ms. Cress will settled down for the interview. It looked like… Astrid was a mundane agent for one of the Sidereal factions. They were dancing around which one like nobody’s business – and the anima was giving them a good deal of trouble with it.

So. God-blooded and very powerful and experienced. She was definitely in very good health and her eyes were a very deep violet. Charles stayed out of the way, but speculated… Were these exaltations – or at least this caste – designed to take more advantage of existing potentials? Exalting a god blooded with their own charms would definitely add some versatility. That would be an efficient variant on the Eclipse abilities, and Truth was probably more useful than Oaths. He’d have to check on that later on.

The discussion was a bit more technical this time around. Ms. Cress spent quite a lot of time asking Astrid about new Charms. Astrid mentioned being able to see sequences of events before and after they happen. Her husband – a Sidereal who was not mentioned by name – actually had to work to avoid her random blows when they sparred today. He even had to Duck Fate once.

Everyone had tea. Astrid wondered if this meant that she could finally attune to starmetal. Ms. Cress was noncommittal on that – and, while Charles was pretty sure that her natural attunement was to adamant, like all the others, if she was keeping her god-blooded abilities, that might mean that she’d be able to.

After tea, it was time for Astrid to go. It was far past the children’s bedtime, and her husband would likely be worried. She left on the skiff.

The remaining visits – at least the ones that hadn’t already been handled by other Sidereals – were relatively routine. Yes, there was some excitement and a few complications,

Ms. Cress made a note or two on Charles as well. The child was a remarkably good aide; he stayed out of the way and never endangered himself – and yet he was always on hand with a helpful bit of thaumaturgy. He seemed to be an expert scholar and artificer as well. He’d been quite a lot of help, and he would be well worth recruiting a few years down the line even if he never developed any further abilities – and, as a god-blood, he was likely to do so. She left him one of her cards.

Charles, too, was composing notes. Lytek would already know that the new Exaltations had found hosts of course – but he’d be needing his report as soon as possible. Hopefully Lytek would summon him again – probably along with a few other witnesses – but he sent the report in right away over the prayer-channels; it didn’t take much enhancing to transmit an “organized” prayer, and a bit of thaumaturgic tweaking let him turn it into a report appearing on Lytek’s desk instead of a generic lump of Ambrosia…

That trick took a big chunk of essence motes of course, but he had those.

After a long day of papers and visits and avoiding attracting TOO much notice, it was back to the Factory-Cathedral to close up and finish up his personal work (perfected boots that went with any outfit) before heading for home and bed.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice, Part IX

Apse at the Arcosanti experimental town.

Approaching the Orrery

School was largely uneventful the next day – although some of the other students wanted to know how he’d pulled that stunt off. It had really been cool!

He just informed them that he had a way to store a few spells, and that he’d had an offensive one stored just in case. Hopefully he wouldn’t need anything like that again before he cold get another one stored!

He could just tell that the kids were going to bug their parents for a spell-storing device now. Ah well. They WERE useful…

At work he once again lingered late (and watched for spies; there was a little more of that – but nothing too extensive. They just seemed to be observing right now) – and finished up the Verdigris Staves.

Then it was off to meet Gri Fel and Terapishim with their teapots, cookers, and a Verdigris Staff for Terapishim – at yet another restaurant with fair privacy.

They were glad to meet him. They’d been trying to iron out their old disagreements – which had turned out to be surprisingly easy when the places they were concentrated on hadn’t existed for many millennia.

(Charles) “Hello! How is everything coming along on your end? I found some Ambrosia Cookers and minor-artifact Tea Sets!”

(Terapishim) “We are getting along well! Gri Fel is not quite as effete as I thought! It takes a real god to survive in the slums. And these are some fine cookers.”

(Charles) “Oh, and I found this! I thought you might find it useful!”

He presented Terapishim with his Verdigris Staff. His eyes lit up at that.

(Terapishim) “I remember these! A Lunar artificer once crafted one for me. You must have many connections for a boy your age! This will be very useful in the desert.”

(Charles) “Well, I like to help! What else will we need?”

(Gri Fel) “We need to file the necessary paperwork for candidacy. I’ve been working on that, since I’m the one with access to the necessary channels. With what you’ve given us, we have a strong chance of being chosen, and a cross-bureau patronage should handle the political issues there.”

(Charles) “Oh good!”

(Terapishim) “And these smaller artifacts should serve well as donatives and gifts.”

(Gri Fel) “Now all we have to do is wait. Neither of us has the influence to rush this, unless you know someone who could push it through.”

(Charles) “Not offhand I’m afraid… I’ll keep an eye out to see if I can find something though!”

Hm. Where would it be good to look? The bureaus of Humanity and Nature were the obvious place to start of course. He’d have to see what he could find. He didn’t have any real connections there though. Gri Fel and Terapishim would appreciate any aid, since it was no fun being an unemployed deity – it was just that he didn’t really have any bureaucratic influence.

Maybe, someone in the bureau in the right chain of command needed something?

It took some effort – some divining, a few questions, and (mostly) just asking at the bureaus, before he learned that Scales-Of-Gold, one of the gods on the committee involving new cities, was getting tired of the gridlock on Arcosanti. Apparently having to do the meeting minutes every day was cutting into his crocodile activities time. Anybody who could help him with that, or help him cut through the arguments, would get his support in the decision process.

There wasn’t much more that Scales-Of-Gold seemed to want or need otherwise… Well, if he could get in to see him, maybe he could help! He did have some minor presents he could give.

Fortunately, since Charles had already attracted the Bureau of Nature’s attention, it didn’t take too many presents to get past the minor obstacles – and Scales-Of-Gold made some time for him.

(Charles) “Basically the proposal is that things have gotten a lot more complicated over the last few millennia. It used to be that a city god covered everything. Now cities have networks of parks, and greenspaces on the roofs, and subcities like chinatown, and populations far larger than they used to be. Same goes for a lot of other human institutions. Why not start assigning gods to handle those things in teams? It would open up a LOT of positions, so a lot of the quarrels over the old positions would go away – and a lot could get settled! Same goes for things like intoxicants. Couldn’t Burning Feather use a staff what with the designer drugs that come out every week?”

(Scales-Of-Gold) “Yeah, sure. We’ve got some people working on it. But what have you got for a pilot position? That’s the trouble, no one can agree on where to begin.”

(Charles) “I was thinking Arcosanti. That’s an argument-point anyway, but I hear that Gri Fel and Terapishim are putting in a joint application. Would that work?”

(Scales-Of-Gold) “Haven’t heard those names in a long time. I thought one or both of them had fallen to deiphagy a long time ago. Are they both still relatively sane?”

(Charles) “Oh yes!”

Well, they had seemed pretty sane to him.

(Scales-Of-Gold) “And I guess you’ll be wanting the credit for this.”

(Charles) “Not especially! It’s just nice to see things improving!”

(Scales-Of-Gold, with some surprise) “Huh. Well, the bosses seem to think you’re one to watch. If they really are filing, I’ll see what I can do. Gives me hope of getting splash time back anyway.”

Scales-Of-Gold’s message box was flashing – so Charles quietly departed. Barring some sort of Bureaucracy magic, that was probably all he could do. Of course, actually trying to set up a deal to be advantageous all around – instead of trying to ram it through with charms and social-fu – was probably totally alien to Yu-Shan at this point…

Oh boy was it late! He REALLY had to get some sleep!

Scales-Of-Gold did have to wonder… Was the child trying to just… fix things because it was nice? He wasn’t up to anything major, but to get even this far, he’d have to have some fairly unusual resources, as well as rather more ideals than anyone normally managed to hang onto in Yu-Shan.

That might be useful.

A few others already had that idea. Eventually, of course, Charles would attract serious notice. There were people keeping an eye on him now of course – but at the moment that was mostly because he was a child who’d been placed in an important position, and so presumably had powerful patrons who wanted to remain anonymous. By divine standards he was producing fairly minor artifacts and supporting relatively minor causes. Still, there might be some useful leverage there, even if it was unlikely to be anything too large on the scale of Yu-Shan. Once truly serious investigations began, the Siderals might take notice – and realize that he kept somehow disappearing outside of fate.

The next morning the Inukami let him sleep in a bit again – and packed him off to school still yawning.

First period was free, and thus went to working on his research paper. He had such a lot to do the rest of the day! He rapidly piled up the books and notes, using his new inkstone to take notes faster. It was very handy for that!

He was a bit sorry he hadn’t kept the bigger hearthstone, but the mercenaries had needed it. Still, he’d sent contact information, so he might hear from whoever was behind it!

No help at all with the next periods combat training though. Staff again of course

Several of the instructors were actually wondering why he hadn’t been transferred to magical evaluation – or even to magical combat – classes yet, but they could understand it if his parent wanted him to be able to handle physical violence. Still, it would really be nice to know who was backing the boy! He seemed to be able to handle it, but entrusting that kind of magical resources to a child was… perhaps imprudent.

Staff sparring proceeded as usual. They hadn’t yet gotten to the “go ahead and let the advanced students beat on him” mode yet, even if they were now sure that he could take it; he was making reasonably satisfactory progress without going that far as yet.

Charles was, as usual, very careful not to hurt anyone – although that was less trouble with a staff than with a sword.

That was appreciated by the other students – although there was a bit of injury-treatment anyway, when one of the clumsier students accidentally hit himself with his own training sword. Fortunately, it was just a mild concussion and bruising.

Charles made a personal note to get some boosting amulets made for everyone!

Then it was off to show off his botanical collections in Herbalism. Sadly, the herbalism teacher was currently meeting with functionaries of the Bureaus of Nature and the Sub-convention on Demons (a subdivision of the Convention on Essence Wielders).

Aw! He’d brought all the plants he found too! And they were substituting cooking!

Well… he could get quite absurd there, but he stuck more-or-less closely with actual cookery (Ok, with maybe a BIT of alchemy on the fudge. It always crystallized on him if he didn’t). Still, a lot of cooks in Yu Shan doubled as alchemists, so a little was fine.

His fudge was competent, if uninspired. He knew all the ingredients, but he’d never done much cookery.

Siranaya, however, was making a salad – and was struggling not to make it poisonous. Did she need a ward against poisonous plants over the salad mixing bowl? Ah, it looked like her touch also tended to turn things poisonous. Evidently, poison was a part of her nature.

There wasn’t much to be done by him except to check when she was done. She was the one who needed to learn control…

She’d managed to make it nonfatal, if a bit on the bitter side – but then poisons tended to lean that way.

The instructors judged Charles’s fudge as reasonably competent – if a bit heavy on the nuts.

They also advised him against eating quite so much candy and sweets. The endless sugar rush was not healthy for a youngster!

They both passed, although it was clear that some of the other students had odd heritages. Fortunately, the instructor was a semi-draconic entity, and could eat anything – including the lava souffle.

Charles only sampled carefully. Most of the stuff that was actually digestible was quite good, and some was delicious – although how he was supposed to eat gems was beyond him. He wound up passing on all the mineral-based stuff.

The make-up class for today was music again. Still on vocal music; Sanxian was next week.

Well, he wasn’t improving that fast, but at least he had the basic idea. That was perfectly normal for a slightly-better-than-mortal student.

For today, school being done was something of a relief! Off to work!

Which, by now, was completely routine, at least for the artificing part. Most of the time went into planning more artificing and testing whether or not his proposed ingredients would work.

Work at the factory-cathedral proceeded as usual for the first couple of hours. The machinery was churning right along, the purification systems were humming in vaguely musical fashion, and Charles’ planning went along with few hitches. Even the spies seemed a little less obvious today.

Then he spotted a flash of black light over by Essence Purifier Eight.

Uh-oh! That was unexpected!

Charles zipped over to check!

The workers in the area were in a bit of a state. A few were moving away as quickly (and as safely) as possible. Most were transfixed on the pitch-black dome next to the purifier. It had a slight indigo cast to it.

Was it not working properly? He could shut it down and let the place run on the other eleven… Black was weird though. Usually there was a more… active energy-display – and the input-output readings all seemed to be completely normal.

His own divinations said that the reactor was actually working just fine too.

The aura though… That actually felt quite familiar. It was very similar to when Lytek had called him in to look at his cabinet. At the center… he could make out the outline of one of the mortal workers. A black half-circle was glowing on her forehead. One of the more acerbic, yet hard-working line people.

Hm. Lytek hadn’t said, but those exaltations must have finished up! Neat!

The energies in there seemed to be shifting too. Vaguely Wyldish, but thoroughly under her control, it seemed. It even looked like Wyld-shaping might be possible in there.

Now a black half-circle could say Abyssal – but factory-cathedrals were poison to abyssals and demons and fair folk and such. Plus, they were usually round round with a portion missing for the abyssal marks anyway, and they bled.

(Charles) “Excuse me if you’re busy – but might I ask what’s up? Adamant is it?”

It looked like one of the priestly ones. Priests of Autochthon in a factory-cathedral?

(Charles) “Hm. If no one minds, we’re taking an early lunch break and will resume in an hour as usual!”

No one did. It was clear from the speed some of them ran that they feared that their co-worker might have gone Abyssal. Oh well! He’d straighten that out later!

(Charles) “Lunch? It might be best to settle down outside; harmonic adapters aren’t too sensitive, but some of the machinery will need readjusting if we don’t step out!”

(Catherine, the new Exalt, who seems distracted by something) “Oh, what? What, lunch? Sure thing, boss.”

It was off to the courtyards and shops nearby. Charles ate peanut butter and jelly for lunch half the time, but this was obviously a special occasion!

Hm. The anima might be a problem. Those stayed up for hours upon first Exaltation, and they couldn’t be concealed with thaumaturgy. Wait! He couldn’t readily cover it up, but he could easily add some extra light effects! The anima was very evocative of the stark night sky… He added some stars and such. She could probably pass for a night sky goddess at a glance that way!

Catherine didn’t seem to be thinking about that much at this point. She’d noticed that she did, in fact, have an anima.

(Catherine) “Black, no, indigo. That’s Endings, right?”

(Charles) “No, no… You’ve got a new one! Full of Wyld energies… I think it’s primordial! That’s really neat! Somebody is either making new Exaltations or has released some that have been locked away since the Primordial War!”

(Catherine) “Yeah, I just wish she would shut up.”

(Charles) “Someone’s talking to you? What are they saying? Can I listen?”

(Catherine) “Hard to make it out sometimes. Why don’t we get a private eating area? I’ll put in for half.”

There were looks as Charles came into the restaurant with an apparent night goddess, but with enough ambrosia, they could easily get a private room… Charles tried to listen in to whatever she was hearing with thaumaturgy. After all, if it was a voice-of-god (or primordial) and it was still talking, it might well be “loud” enough to make out.

It wasn’t easy… Even he could barely manage it. Whatever-it-was was deliberately trying to avoid notice except by her. He had to somewhat force his way into her mind. The voice in there was… girlish, frightened, and whispering in an incredibly archaic dialect of Old Realm? Could that possibly be the original Primordial version of the language? Frightened was strange too. Perhaps that was memories? But those shards were new. Was something going wrong out there? He could see this as an emergency protocol. There was an occult link there, but the source was heavily shielded.

It seemed to be a description of the shape of weather patterns in Central Asia eight hours from now, moving on to the nine hour point. Then it stopped for a moment and the voice revised herself, saying that it would like a storm front a little farther to the east. That was even harder to hear than the rest of it… It then transitions to bird migrations, starting about an hour from now. There are a lot of pauses, some lasting upwards of five minutes.

He memorized it for later study.

(Charles) “Hm. I think you’re hearing prayers! Perhaps prayers that are improperly directed? It might be prophecy of some sort of course, but I don’t entirely see the point. Perhaps the anima power is to hear prayers and divine conversations?”

(Catherine) “I thought Exalted needed Charms for that. Maybe I’m supposed to fulfill them?”

(Charles) “Maybe! But weather has it’s own bureau, and birds usually handle their own migrations… I never heard of them needing someone to help them organize them.”

(Catherine) “Yeah… something’s weird here. How do you know about this anyway? You seemed like just another god-kid.”

(Charles) “I read a lot, and it’s all in the books! You can study even if you’re just a god-blooded! Besides, a lot of the people in Yu-Shan get upset over anything new, and stop thinking!”

(Catherine, chuckling) “Hey, I can’t argue with you there. I guess my job is safe, at least where you’re involved.”

(Charles) “Why not? Things should settle down for you in a bit!.. Hey! They have candied fruit-and-nut cakes!”

(Catherine) “Oh, why not?”

After dessert they headed back to the Factory-Cathedral. Unsurprisingly, there were several gods there – and a Sidereal Exalt. From the blue, a harried-looking, middle-aged, Chosen of Serenity.

(Charles) “Hello! We had early lunch! How are all of you?”

(Sidereal, stepping forward) “Hello. Charles Dexter Ward, is it? I am Rosa Cress, temporarily assigned to the Convention on Essence Wielders. We detected a major fate anomaly on the Loom at this location. Is everything all right?”

(Charles) “Uhm, well – we had what I think is a Primordial Exaltation on the line. It was very interesting!”

That got a dead, shocked, silence and stares from the gods. Ms. Cress remained notably calmer, but he could see that she was trying to process the full magnitude of what he’d just said.

(Charles) “I think Autochthon is up to something, but that’s not really any of my business.”

(Ms. Cress) “Could you please tell me exactly what happened? If you have any speed enhancement thaumaturgy or Charms, I would very much appreciate it if you could use them. I have another nineteen locations to investigate.”

Mrs Cress smiled – albeit with just a bit of brittle stress around the edges, something most unusual for Venus’ chosen.

Charles put together a fast briefing-blip with thaumaturgy and threw in some illustrations! He used the Inkstone to put in a written report as well. In neither case, however, did he go into any detail on the voices Catherine had been hearing. It might be hard to explain how he knew.

Ms Cress appeared quite relieved. So many God-Blooded focused on the flashier Charms, and not the utility effects!

(Ms. Cress) “You have no idea how much easier this makes my work. Now, is the Exalt still in the area?”

(Charles) “Well, she was going back on the line at the moment… I think there may be more coming though. The Exaltation had an adamant resonance, and that suggests a minimum of at least a hundred to match the other types!”

(Ms. Cress) “That’s a bother.”

There was something odd about her facial expression there – but she gave Charles her card and asked that he give it to Catherine.

Was the boy just guessing to try an impress her? Still, he’d reacted with… enthusiasm, and not a trace of fear, and had thrown to together an excellent report with detailed observations. The boy was VERY well informed (possibly far too well informed) for a child, although that might be expected if he was actually qualified for his job.

Still, youngsters did often try to guess around Sidereals, especially of her caste. It didn’t cost them a thing – and if they were lucky they might get a credit, a connection, or a reward out of it. The Bureau of Serenity WAS one of the places with the most lax discipline.

Charles was checking to see if any of the gods needed anything. He could make up the time on the line later; it could run without him for a bit – at least as long as he could reassure everyone about Catharine (which took some doing) and remained in contact via thaumaturgic sendings. That wouldn’t be too hard.

The gods were quite worried. One of them had a bag of infinite brushes and computer batteries, but they were concerned about their supplies of ink and paper. There was only so much that they could carry with them, and this was likely to be a long investigation.

The weren’t telling him too much either. Perhaps they didn’t yet know.

He decided to tag along with endless supplies of ink and lots and lots of paper!

Ms. Cress was keeping an eye on him – and they were using the gold canals for this. They were unusually crowded right now too. Of course, he was – as always – polite, helpful and (perhaps annoyingly) apparently virtually impervious to fear and nervousness.

(Ms. Cress) “Are you sure you want to accompany us, Charles? This could be more than you could handle.”

(Charles) “But how will I find things out if I don’t go and look? And it’s all new, which means there might be new magic or principles for artifacts! And there’s no place safer to look from than the back of a bunch of gods and you!”

(Ms. Cress) “I would rather not have your parents angry at the Bureau for your death, dear. It makes our work that much harder. But if you promise to stay well back, I won’t refuse another mind on the job. I’ll sort through the paperwork later.”

(Charles) “I’ll stay back!”

(Ms. Cress, with a smile) “I’ll hold you to that promise.”