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.”

4 Responses

  1. […] IX – The Dark Gift: Appointments for Arcosanti, Rise of the Nocturnals Part II […]

  2. […] IX – The Dark Gift: Appointments for Arcosanti, Rise of the Nocturnals Part II […]

  3. […] IX – The Dark Gift: Appointments for Arcosanti, Rise of the Nocturnals Part II […]

  4. […] IX – The Dark Gift: Appointments for Arcosanti, Rise of the Nocturnals Part II […]

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