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!”
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
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XII – Current Dramatis Persona (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice, Part III (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Exalted – Dudael, the Hierarchical Forge (Solar Celestial Manse *****) (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice, Part II (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice, Part V (ruscumag.wordpress.com)