The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XVI – Thaumaturgic Challenges

These are the 'Husband and Wife Trees', or Fūq...

Portrait of the North Wind

When Charles got back to Yu-Shan there was a highly-urgent summons to see Lytek waiting.

He probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Of COURSE Lytek would be upset.

When he arrived he got hustled past the Celestial Lions and Lesser Dragons that were part of Lytek’s security routine for the foreseeable future.

(Charles, to the assorted divine security staff) “Hi everybody!”

He could never understand why they always looked at him funny when he said hello. Weren’t the security forces supposed to be your friends?

Meanwhile, Lytek’s technicians were taking the Abyssal Exaltations to Lyteks (utterly secret and immensely well-defended) earthly manse. They didn’t want to risk taking them into Heaven. They were still more than a bit befuddled at the notion of a pair of near-human thaumaturges trapping three Abyssal Exaltations – but stranger things had happened.

Charles trotted up to the Secretary…

(Charles) “Hello Ms Rahamvar-Geta! Lytek wanted to see me! See!”

He presented the summons.

One of the lions looked him over, using its Charms to confirm his identity – and the secretary recognized the writ.

(Rahamvar-Geta) “Please, hurry in. Lord Lytek said this was a matter of grave importance.”

Charles cheerily agreed and headed on in as the lion gave him the nod; it’s charms informing it that Charles was, indeed, who he said he was.

Lytek’s subordinates were in their offices. They were pretending to work – and maybe working, a little – but nervousness was in the air.

Perhaps naively, Charles wondered why. They shouldn’t know anything about the Abyssal’s yet…. Surely the fact that Lytek wanted it kept quiet would indeed keep it quiet? Was it just the rush demand for him? Wouldn’t they all presume that Lytek simply wanted some artificing done?

He asked someone who looked less busy.

(Charles) “Er… What’s up? Everyone seems all nervous!”

(Silla, a functionary deity) “Errr… there are rumors a very important functionary is in the wing. I’m not sure, but Lytek’s office has been closed off for the past couple of hours.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, hopefully it’s not an audit or anything like that! I hear those are a pain!”

(Silla) “I don’t think it was that. The description was far too human.”

(Charles) “Oh! (Gramps maybe? He might have been worried too). Well, I’d better not keep Lord Lytek, the Right Hand of Power, waiting! This says urgent!”

The remaining guards passed him through in to Lytek’s office quite quickly, with the general air of getting a hot potato off their hands as fast as possible…

Gramps was indeed there, and didn’t look at all happy. He couldn’t even remember ever seeing Gramps look that displeased before! Even Lytek seemed concerned!

Charles would normally have given Gramps a hug, but he seemed pretty upset – and it might be with him…

(Charles) “Uhm… What’s wrong?”

Gramps took a breath before answering – and Lytek stepped back.

(Gramps) “My boy, what happened a few hours ago? Lytek told me you just risked life and limb and escaped through some kind of miracle!”

(Charles, apprehensively) “Uhm… I was just fixing a Manse, and three Abyssal Exalted showed up, and wanted to blow up the manse and the city it was in, so I made the manse stop them… but I didn’t include enough controls and it killed them instead of just catching them! I’m sorry!”

That got him some momentary blank looks – which he was too upset and apologetic to notice. The boy thought he might be in trouble for killing the Abyssal Exalts? Had he no caution at all?

(Gramps) “You were worried about them?!? Charles, I am more concerned about your safety! If they had gotten their hands on you, they would have surely slaughtered you! Who knows what they would have done to you after that? Granted, that was impressive geomancy there, and I am curious about the technique, but there are some things a boy your age should call for help against!”

(Charles, startledly) “Well, Mr Romero was along, and I did make walls and run away – and I called Lord Lytek here first thing… (somewhat thoughtfully) I don’t know if I could outrun an exploding manse anyway. They make a really big mess!… I did get the exaltations back though. Maybe Lord Lytek will be able to fix them!”

(Richof) “And you have done commendable work on that, my boy, but revealing your presence to the Abyssals was a grave risk. Did you believe they would stop damaging the Hearthroom?”

(Charles) “I was fairly sure they wouldn’t, so I fixed it, and walled it off, and set the manse to self-repair. We were headed for the exit; but I couldn’t be sure they wouldn’t catch us unless they were trapped in the manse.”

Richof’s temper cooled a bit. That hadn’t been a bad reaction really – in fact, demonstratably, it had worked (although he still wanted to know HOW), and evidently the boy had SOME awareness of danger (he’d been beginning to worry that he had none at all) – but did he believe that he could handle situations like that WITHOUT freakish good fortune?

(Lytek) “If I may speak?”

(Richof) “Certainly.”

(Lytek) “You are priceless, Charles, and I must admit to being fearful myself. I would rather not think about what would have happened if they captured you. I’m glad that you are safe, though I wonder if it is a good idea for you to be wandering too far from the Celestial City.”

Gramps appeared to be considering that proposal. That was bad!.

(Charles) “But… there are manses and things to fix that aren’t here and I need ingredients!”

(Richof) “Lytek does have a point, my boy. I believe you have agents to do much of the latter for you. The former will be more of a problem, though many of the Manses will still be there when you grow up. I do worry about you being able to defend yourself. After all, it’s hard to carry a Manse with you in combat.”

Charles looked thoughtful at that. Could you? At least if you had enough geomantic relays to tap into? Still, they did have a point. On the other hand…

(Charles) “Uhm… The manses I’ve got links with do quite a few protective things; would that help?”

(Richof) “Interesting… I had heard of such techniques. Would you care to demonstrate?”

Charles was too worried about being grounded for decades to worry about lesser secrets.

(Charles) “Well… We’d either need more space or… Oh! I think I can make something!”

Charles pressed his hands together, drew on Dudael, and created a Programmable Crustal Arena – it took a little less than three minutes, and, – since he’d forgotten to turn off the mass-production modifiers resulted in a rain of seventy-five of the things rolling around the room.

(Charles) “Oops! I forgot that Dudael would automatically make a full batch when I did that… Know anyone who could use some of these? Anyway, now we can test things quietly… I’m not really sure how some of the manse effects will actually work in practice though!”

Then he recalled that he was supposed to be trying to keep that ability quiet, and looked a bit embarrassed. Still, it was only Lytek and Gramps.

Lytek was not surprised in the slightest, and was quietly applauding. He was QUITE familiar with the crafting capabilities of Twilight Exalts – and was impressed by that aspect of Charles’s development, at least. For such a short time, he’d developed his talents to remarkable heights!

Richof, on the other hand, was somewhat startled – and took a glance at Lytek.

Charles had never seen Richof startled before.

Lord Richof… had assumed that Charles had friends, contacts, and aides, and had used them in an attempt to impress him. The amulet and rod the boy had given him had been just barely possible for a thaumaturgist with access to a factory cathedral and aides and resources. This though… He was no specialist in artificing, but thaumaturgists – however skilled – did not just create third-rank artifacts in minutes in wholesale lots! Not, at least, without access to tremendous sources of power! Could the boy be drawing on manses remotely THAT effectively? Was it possible that his victory hadn’t been a wild fluke?

(Lytek) “Err… I think they’re always in demand at the Crimson Panoply of Victory.”

(Charles, to Gramps) “Well, a factory-cathedral is a manse, and I get along with manses… Dudael is really helpful since I amplified it’s powers!”

(Richof, dryly) “Indeed.”

Was such a thing as combat geomancy possible? Who would ever have looked at geomancy for combat techniques? It was so slow!

Wait. His grandson was utterly uninterested in combat, but he was apparently sensible enough to know that it happened… Had he simply been exploring the depths of geomancy and stumbled across a way to use it in combat? If he’d somehow been able to bind his defenses to the virtually limitless power-reserves of a manse, that might explain a lot of his apparent fearlessness… Few casual threats could be expect to breach such a barrier.

(Charles) “These can be programmed with various sorts of threats and opponents… Will they do?”

Yes, they would – although Lytek wanted to at least start with a live opponent. Programmed ones were usually a bit generic and only ordinarily clever and strategic though.

Lytek spent some time making calls to find a good prospect – but eventually he found a minor war god he knew well enough to trust with a few secrets to serve for the initial test. Richof watched the process with interest.

(Richof) “Well, my boy, Lytek must want to see how you handle a fight outside the classroom.”

(Charles) “Uhm… well, OK! It’s just an illusion, so no one will really get hurt!… Do you want any special environment or anything?”

(Richof) “Perhaps a field. Nothing overly fancy, just something that will give us good visibility.”

It took some time for a war god – no matter how genuine his invitation – to make it past Lytek’s security.

This one appeared to be more of a strategist than an outright fighter, though the rapier looked quite sharp.

(Charles) “Hello!”

(War God) “I am Puissant Armiger, god of on-the-fly strategies, improvised weaponry, exploitable terrain, and misapplied artifacts. I understand that I am to duel you, child?”

(Charles, holding up one of the Crystal Arenas) “I guess! With one of these! Oh! By the way – would you like some? There are extras!”

(Puissant Armiger) “That was part of the deal, so certainly. And this should be an interesting scenario. Lord Lytek, when shall we begin?”

(Lytek) “Whenever both parties are ready, I believe.”

(Charles) “OK!”

Charles cheerfully invested his three motes in the arena and sat down – as did Puissant Armiger. Charles did exclude his usual set of Coatl bodyguards though – so they settled for observing with Gramps and Lytek.

Lord Richof found the Coatl interesting as well. Hummingbird-snakes weren’t really very menacing – but they looked like they had enough essence reserves to be fairly helpful in an emergency, even if they were (sigh) obviously intended more as aides than as bodyguards.

Puissant Armiger opened his senses and blurred across the field. Whether Lytek wanted to teach an overconfident child a lesson – all too possible, as the child appeared to be a mere god-blooded – or this was a serious test (or both), the first pass would show what he was up against…

The child evaded his initial strike, slipping to one side. It hadn’t been one of his best attacks – the sensory boosts and movement had slowed him up a trifle – but that was still quite impressive for a mere mortal! Puissant Armiger started to pull back for another strike – and the child… drew on a private reserve of time?! Ah! A junior sorcerer! He’d seem one or two of those pull off that stunt before. It was a good trick, and it allowed a sorcerer who knew the proper spell a couple of truly high-speed actions in any given fight – enough for a good attack or to set up some defenses – but it wouldn’t decide a fight unless you possessed some overwhelming power to bring into play and your opponent lacked access to ideal defenses… .

Ah, as expected, the boy was using his reserve to of time to act immediately after his own strike – flurrying some sort of defensive charm (multiple images? Not bad at all!) and an ambitious number of… thaumaturgies? Even with a few moments of reserve time, he couldn’t possibly get thaumaturgy to work quickly enough to be effective in an essence-battle! Besides… no mortal could possibly work that many spells at once and expect to succeed in anything even if thaumaturgy wasn’t as weak as a glass of water to begin with!

Then thaumaturgic magic bloomed around the child like a thousand-petaled rose, backed by… a flood of primal geomantic energies? That was the power of the Primordials! In the hands of a thaumaturgist?!?!

Puissant Armiger’s consideration of that small wonder – and it’s tactical implications – was cut short as the magical storm battered his defenses.

Charles had attempted to impress Lytek and his Grandfather so that they would let him out – and had gone more than a bit overboard.

  • Activating the Ghosting Technique – so that he could use it’s near-perfect evasion if he had to – was obviously a must.
  • Drawing on the energies of Dudael, Hoenheim, his various Artifacts, his Wand, and his own skills, Charles…
  • Stamped a foot and invoked the Fires of the Earth’s Heart – cracking open the ground to release a pyroclastic cloud to blanket the area for the next few hours. His manses would protect him, but it would probably be a nuisance to Puissant Armiger…
  • Thrust one hand upwards, invoking the Storm Dragon’s Talon – via his Sigil – and drawing a skein of lightning bolts from the sky, letting them reflect into his other hand, and tossing three of them at Puissant Armiger. With any luck, that would keep him busy blocking even if it was simply special effects wrapped around a trio of occult force-javelins.
  • Erected a minor ward against divine powers. That wouldn’t hold off any serious opponent for long – but every action, and bit of power they had to spend in breaking through it, would improve the situation.
  • Used his Thaumaturgists Ring, Wonderworkers Mantle, Dudael, and some occult crafting to fill the area with swiftly-assembled land mines…

He closed with another bit of stored time – completing his thaumaturgic storm before Puissant Armiger could ready his rapier for another strike.

Puissant Armiger’s defenses were good – but less than ideal. He was, after all, a strategist rather than a direct combatant. He blocked two of the lightning-blasts, but the third ripped through his divine armored clothing and chain vest – while the pyroclastic cloud scoured flesh from bone and the land mines provided a finishing touch. There was fire, explosions, wild electrical arcs, and other special effects galore.

With the brief battle completed, the arena shut down.

Lytek was impressed. Yes, that WAS only thaumaturgy – but it was thaumaturgy on the level of terrestrial circle sorcery, and – unless he’d missed something (not likely; he was the greatest known expert in creation on the powers of the Exalted), it hadn’t cost young Charles a thing. He’d simply pulled a flood of power out of the manses he was linked to. The boy’s general lack of fear – and his taking even a cautious stand against three Abyssal Exalted – might have more to back it up than he’d thought.

Richof was, once again, shocked. His grandson had power like THAT? How far had the boy delved into geomancy? There had been… at least three major manses, and possibly several minor ones, involved in that assault, plus a mass of artifacts – and it looked like most of the boys major defenses were passive geomantic and artifact effects! What had the boy DONE to his manses to fuel that kind of thaumaturgy?!?

(Charles) “Oh dear! That was entirely too much wasn’t it? I’m sorry Mr Puissant Armiger! I was nervous and used too many spells I think!”

(Puissant Armiger) “What exactly are you, child? I wasn’t expecting thaumaturgy that rapid – or powerful.”

Charles’s glance towards Lytek would normally have been pretty revealing to a strategy-god, but – at the moment – Puissant Armiger was too shaken up to really read the implications.

(Charles) “Uhm… There are several powerful manses channeling energy into my thaumaturgy, and I’ve got some hearthstones that speed it up, and some that boost it, and some artifacts that boost it a whole lot, and a really good wand, and some other stuff! I’ve never really tried attacking people with it before, and I kind of overdid it there… I’m sorry!

(Puissant Armiger) “I would suggest some contracting work with the war engineers in my bureau… but I can tell from looking at you that the mere THOUGHT of combat is almost antithetical to your nature. I do not mean this as an insult. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.” (Puissant Armiger bowed to Lytek). “Thank you, Lord Lytek. This has been instructional indeed. I don’t think you need to worry about his safety in the slightest – although I suspect he should still stay away from hostile Exalts, if he encounters them.”

Evidently Puissant Armiger didn’t know about the abyssals either.

(Charles) “Thank you!”

Puissant Armiger departed before he quite realized that no one had ever actually said what Charles was – and Lytek touched Charles in his usual fashion. Rather than just idle stroking though, he was making a much deeper evaluation… Just how much else was the boy holding in reserve and how good WERE his defenses? It was vanishingly unlikely that a brief flurry of magic had revealed his full capabilities…

There was the veil of course, and an interesting anima-enhancer (he wouldn’t be informing Richof about those), and… several absorbed artifacts and hearthstones (including some fairly impressive armor and protections against being restrained), and an interlocking web of geomancy, all shielded from external interference by the exaltation itself. How in creation had the boy managed that? He seemed to be – barring geomantic interference with his (rather numerous) manses – almost impervious to most of the more subtle effects. He’d shielded his form, and mind, and biological systems. The geomantic augmentations resulting from binding himself so closely to three supercharged top-ranking manses were just… a bonus.

Lytek had to smile.. The child had considered his vulnerabilities carefully and systematically, and done a remarkably good job of patching them – and had developed his abilities a long ways into his chosen speciality as well. If he hadn’t told Charles to keep his abilities as secret as possible, he might not have needed to worry nearly so much. The boy’s defenses were… a reasonable match, at least for a time, against any of the opponents who were really likely at the moment.

(Lytek, thoughtfully) “I think an Abyssal could conceivably harm him, Richof, but it would take powerful damage-augmenting Charms or a very large and powerful weapon. Less conventional forms of attack will hardly work on him. I believe I have underestimated your capabilities, young one, and I apologize for that.”

(Charles, with much relief) “It’s better not to be attacked anyway!”

(Lytek) “I agree with that.”

Lytek couldn’t remember the last time he was really personally attacked as such – hadn’t it been back during the Primordial War? – but when he hardly left Yu Shan in the first place…

(Richof) “Now, what have you done with these Manses, Charles? Techniques such as the ones you’ve used are supposed to be legendary.”

(Charles) “Uhm… Well, once you’re attuned, you can regulate the energy flows. At the most basic, that makes them self-stabilizing and self-repairing. If you amplify the energy-flows after that, you can make them do lots more things! And it helps everyone around them too!… We could go look at one I’ve already got set up, or if there’s one you need fixed I could take care of that!”

(Richof) “I believe I have one in need of repairs in Canada. Shall we head that way?”

(Charles) “OK!”

(Richof) “And Lytek, if you could join us…”

(Lytek) “Uh… um… certainly.”

(Charles) “If you’d rather make it a quick trip on the Yu-Shan end, I made some transport amulets! There’s one in each of your present boxes!

(Richof) “Oh! I honestly hadn’t had time to check. I hurried back as soon as possible when I heard of your encounter, my boy. I will certainly check.”

(Charles) “Well, I’ve got one and they’ll handle three, so that’s all right anyway!”

Lytek had just found his – along with a pile of other items, including some VERY discreet armor (just the thing for an excursion!) and a selection of other useful gadgets.

With Charles around he’d have to check his inbox more often… He thanked the boy, and promised to find a present for him as well – something of equal value, even if the child didn’t seem to think of artifacts as anything at all important.

Lytek notified his security that he was journeying to Creation, and would need an insubstantial bodyguard on the Creation end of the gate. Once that was secured, they were ready to depart.

Interestingly, at least to Charles, questions about the sudden journey stopped immediately when Lytek mentioned that Richof was accompanying him – although Charles spun a ward around Lytek to keep his presence in creation fro being detected – and Richof bolstered it. Lytek shouldn’t be detected by anything short of an elder exalt…

The manse in question was located up north, where the terrain started entering classic Arctic conditions. It was a minor air manse, currently being buffeted by a wild hailstorm with stones as big as a big man’s fist – a symptom of it’s power failure. The Manse was of late Second Age design, likely crafted by some Threshholder architect. There was hail inside too.

A couple of minor shields took care of that – and made it an easy stroll to the Hearthstone room.

Lytek was curious. Manses weren’t really a part of his domain, and he’d never seen one fixed before. Richof wanted to see the full breadth of the technique, and the best that Charles could do – and so Charles did his best to oblige.

That included the ability to attune a manse without the heartstone, consent, or the awareness of others, and using The Laborer’s Word to flash-attune – letting The Dragon Tamer’s Art bless the land nearby and start the Manse regenerating and venting instead of blasting the area. A quick use of the Instant Genius Method let him figure out the design (and what needed to be repaired) in the same action – and some quick thaumaturgic labor (with his Thaumaturgist’s Ring and a Mote and Dudael) performed those repairs.

With that complete, Charles began to use The Dragon Vortex to augment the manse’s powers – again, accelerating the process with The Laborer’s Word.

The manse flared with power, the tangled lines and nodes of essence crawling like serpents of fire through its structure…

Charles added Dynamic Architecture IV (at least as far as the points he was adding were concerned, 5)… That gave him the primary setup – the House of Winds (Air Dragon’s Will (3), Life-Sustaining (3), Immutable (2), Comfort Zone (2). Network Node (1), Geomantic Nexus (1), and Password Activations (1)), along with three alternates – one for power-relays with lots of concealment, one for workshops and artificing, and one for the anti-abyssal effects and divine apartments (even if he did need a manse-3 to do the full anti-abyssal setup).

(Charles) “There! It’s much happier now! All fixed!”

Both Richof and Lytek were silent for a minute or so – then Richof smiled.

(Richof) “Very impressive! Yes, very… impressive indeed. This should make a suitable subsidiary laboratory. Now, shall we take Lytek home, Charles?”

Lytek was stunned. His energy-aura was wavering in shock. He hadn’t seen that level of geomancy since… well, since Devon. He could almost feel sorry for three Abyssals walking unknowingly into THAT.

Almost.

Of course, the fact that Charles had called on the Pattern Spiders to show him the pattern of the manse had been an even greater shock. It was a simple enough trick in principle of course – ANY god could do you favors if you befriended it – but how had he managed to gain access to them in the first place? They were socially isolated, spent all their time on the loom, and were pretty notoriously standoffish, to the point where only a few Exalts in all the first age had thought of approaching them, and only a half a dozen had had any success…

Ah. And one of those had been Devon.

(Charles) “The only trouble is, making them entirely self-sustaining that way is a lot of work and trouble, and otherwise I can only keep so many active that way at a time…”

(Richof) “Still, that is an unparalleled level of geomancy.”

He examined Charles for a moment, then went back to smiling.

A trace of fatigue there – but most of those vast energies were apparently being pulled from the dragon-lines themselves. Charles was… simply acting as a catalyst. A specialized discipline, yes – but with that, and his thaumaturgic skills… perhaps staying in the Manse to face the Abyssal Exalts had actually been a wise decision.

Charles cheered up a lot. Gramps wasn’t upset with him any more!

They headed back through the gate, while Charles cheerfully rattled on about how much he LIKED Manses and Hearthstones and Artifacts and Geomancy…

He didn’t have many people to talk about geomancy to.

Richof did know quite a lot about geomancy, considering the number of Manses he owned – but his own abilities along those lines were much more classically thaumaturgical.

Lytek had always been more concerned with the Essence of Exalts than any other kind, but he did listen politely. Obviously exalting children had a few downsides; they could get you terribly invested in their welfare and they WERE prone to these enthusiasms…

He listened politely anyway.

Richof was considering… If Lytek – as God of Exaltations – could evaluate his grandson’s defenses with a touch, Charles pretty much had to be an exalt of SOME kind. Perhaps he was one of the new ones? But his powers seemed a bit well-developed for THAT.

When they got back to Yu Shan proper…

(Richof) “As much as I would like to discuss geomancy further with you, my boy, I have further business with Lytek. If you will excuse us…”

He looked very determined all of a sudden – and Lytek looked mildly worried.

Oh. Grown-up talk time. Grown-ups were like that.

Lytek used his own amulet, and teleported himself and Richof away – while Charles continued on. He still had the evening before he HAD to be anywhere!

And Puissant Armiger was off with a lot of new thoughts to consider – and some more magical protections to requisition. Ironically enough, some of those orders would soon be coming to Charles…

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4 Responses

  1. […] XVI – Thaumaturgic Challenges: Dueling with Puissant Armiger, Crystal Arena’s, Polar Manses, and Explanations. […]

  2. […] XVI – Thaumaturgic Challenges: Dueling with Puissant Armiger, Crystal Arena’s, Polar Manses, and Explanations. […]

  3. […] The House of Winds (scroll down): A minor wind manse repaired and amplified. […]

  4. […] The House of Winds (scroll down): A minor wind manse repaired and amplified. […]

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