It was only a couple of evenings later when Kiko came by.
Gri Fel and Terapishim didn’t have busy schedules to keep them from investigating in depth. For another, they were both fairly old – if somewhat weakened – gods. They had seen a lot, and Gri Fel had once been god of the biggest center of intrigue outside of Yu Shan. It was likely that Charles’s truly anonymous time was drawing to a close. Soon his secrecy would depend – perhaps far more securely – on the selfish interests of various powerful individuals who all wanted him protected for their own reasons.
That was when his unwitting involvement in conspiracies would begin.
Kiko had been working on her disguise skills, so that she could walk all but unnoticed among the mortals. She still hadn’t decided what she wanted to do once it was time for her to reveal herself. Certainly, she could make a name for herself in the same field as Gri Fel, but she was no politician. Vigilantism was a bit more appealing.
She’d been trying to keep the area around Gri Fel’s current residence safe, mostly by patrolling and the like, and had been making a difference in that neighborhood’s crime rate. It felt good, especially since Yu Shan’s laws on intoxicants and drugs were a good deal lighter less burdensome than most of Creation’s. That was one reason why she was considering vigilantism or bounty hunting once she got certain aspects of Charm disguises down.
She was hoping that Gri Fel would get the job he’d been talking about though. The money might trickle down to her, and it would be a good nest egg for her skate park.
She hadn’t seen why he was asking her about Charles (even if he was a nice kid), but she’d gladly told him about him making a minor artifact for her. Why not? It had been a pretty good trick! The kid was really good at artifacts!
Charles hadn’t heard of any problems with that as of yet, and he was keeping an ear (and a few agents) out – but he wasn’t a great politician and had rather limited pull. Still, just getting word of a problem was a lot easier than dealing with one was. Still, at least he could help her out with some armor and things…
Kiko would like one of those sashes – but wasn’t entirely sure how she’d pay for it, though. She was currently living off Creation-based Resources, and those didn’t go too far up in Yu Shan – and Charles had given her a lot already!
Fortunately, Charles was never worried much about payment – and didn’t regard such “minor” artifacts as particularly important gifts.
(Kiko) “How about this, dude? You let me have a sash – real cool how you get all that in there, by the way – and I help you with something dangerous when you need to go down to Earth. Deal?”
(Kiko) “Awesome! I can even hide it under my clothes!”
They settled in for munchies, since Kiko was tired of tea ceremonies.
It took quite some time of them playing video games and eating chips (and Kiko constantly losing, but not caring because she was too stoned) before Kiko recalled that she had an errand as well…
Gri Fel and Terapishim wanted to have a meeting – for which, of course, they’d issued another dinner invitation – to Maya’s Vistas, since it had excellent security magic for a restaurant.
Well, that was easy! After all, he had to eat, and it didn’t much matter where. He could do that anytime!
(Charles) “Did they say what it’s about?”
(Kiko) “Said it was about that job. Don’t know if there was any other reason, but Gri Fel said he wanted to talk to you as soon as he could.”
(Charles) “Oh! OK, I can make it today if it’s important!”
(Kiko) “Okay, dude. He told me to let him know when you could make it. Oh yeah, and he wanted to eat where you took him before.”
(Charles) “ Maya’s Vistas? OK!
(Kiko) “Yeah, that’s the place! I’ll go tell him.”
Kiko will put her disguise back on (Charles had to admit that she was getting pretty good at those these days) and headed out to let Gri Fel and Terapishim know that things were on for that evening.
Both Gri Fel and Terapishim were waiting when he turned up. (It was probably really important!) And Kiko was with them in yet ANOTHER disguise.
(Charles) “Allo! What’s up? There isn’t any problem I hope!”
(Gri Fel) “Oh, no. I was just curious about something, Charles.”
(Gri Fel) “I must say, I appreciated the tea sets, as did the committee members.”
(Charles) “Oh good!”
(Terapishim) “Same with the ambrosia cookers. But then Gri Fel bought up something that’s been bothering me.”
Now that was a puzzle. Perhaps some old feud or something?
(Gri Fel) “Yes. Where does a boy your age, even one running a major industrial facility, get the Quintessence and Ambrosia, much less the connections, for such items? Even Dynasts in the Imperial City had trouble getting such tea sets en masse.”
(Charles) “Oh! Well, I’ve got a good salary, and several manse-workshops and lots of aides on Earth, and finished artifacts are lots more expensive than the raw materials – so I just trade a few finished ones for the raw materials to make more things! Then I trade some of those for more raw materials, and so on!”
(Gri Fel) “And who gives you the raw materials? Those would be useful if we do indeed get this position. I’m certain the donatives alone would drain our salaries.”
(Charles, who had thought that he just answered most of that). “Well, the most basic one I use a lot of is Orichalcum, because it’s one of the few I can just make – all you have to do is get gold and have it thaumaturgically refined, and gold created through Alchemy works just fine. It works for the core of a lot of items made primarily of mundane materials. A lot of people pay in Jade – and always lots more than I need to make THEIR artifacts. Moonsilver and the rest are hard though; you have to sort through a lot of coinage before you can find any suitable for those materials!… I don’t usually work in Soulsteel at all if I can help it. It’s nasty!”
(Terapishim) “Yeah, that stuff will suck the Essence right out of you. Another question for you, kid: how fast can you make those finished items for trade? We might need more of them, depending on how things go.”
(Charles) “The little stuff? It doesn’t take very long, especially with Dudael and the other manses to draw on. There are more tea sets and essence cookers left anyway.”
(Gri Fel, driving to the point) “But can you make them in minutes? My assistant here told me the most interesting anecdote about your abilities.”
Kiko shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She really should have realized that that ability was Charles’s secret – but she was no artificer, she’d just thought it indicated excellent skills.
(Charles) “Not everything but some things! If it doesn’t upset anything very much you can slip stuff into the pattern pretty quick! For that you just need a little chaos, to fill up the spot where something COULD easily be, but isn’t NOW with enough potentiality to make it be there!”
(Terapishim, blinking slightly) “Kid’s pretty good if he can back that up, Gri Fel. Makes me wonder why he’s helping us out, other than just because.”
(Charles) “It would be mean not to!”
The two gods looked at each other – and then at Charles rather quizzically. Kiko just shrugged. As long as the focus wasn’t on her, she was reasonably content.
(Charles, explanatorily) “It’s a wrong thing in the pattern that needs fixing! There are a lot of things which do!”
(Gri Fel) “Oh, I certainly agree. It’s just that… well, people usually demand MORE.”
(Terapishim) “He’s worried you might be too good to be true. Now, I don’t see it, but then I’m not the city god here.”
That got Terapishim quite the look from Gri Fel, but he didn’t say anything.
(Charles) “More fixing? There are some things which are too complicated to fix now, and others I don’t have access too… Dudael is very helpful, but there are tools it doesn’t have!”
That got Charles a pair of very strange looks; what POSSIBLE tools would an operational Factory-Cathedral from the primordial era not have? The only better workshops in existence were The Dawnstar, the Primal Forge, and aboard Autochthon himself!
(Gri Fel) “Such a nice boy.”
He seemed to want to say something else there, but something was holding him back.
Gri Fel was actually surveying Charles’s essence in detail. The boy appeared at a glance to be nothing but a god-blooded – but there had to be something more for him to even come close to such abilities! A closer look might be revealing… What WAS the boy?!
There was a bit of fear there, although he was doing an admirable job of hiding it. If the boy WAS a Solar Exalt… He already had free access to Yu-Shan, control of one of its most powerful Factory-Cathedrals, numerous artifacts, and apparently controlled large numbers of artificer-assistants!
And the boy… STILL looked like a god-blood! Admittedly, one with rather a lot of geomancy wrapped around him, but… wait. Underneath the geomancy there were several powerful artifacts that seemed to be an internal part of the child, rather a lot of motes, and… secondary essence nexi? They didn’t seem to be links to external sources though… Could the child have internalized enough geomancy to be acting as a living manse? Was he playing host to other spirits? Was more than one soul incarnate in his body?
There was something about that thought that stirred OLD memories – and a peculiar internal resistance to probing further, even if he could.
Was the boy representing some greater entity? What might it want in return for the assistance the child offered?
Charles, meanwhile, was occupied with the food, which had finally arrived.
(Charles) “Was there anything else you wanted to know?”
It was amazing how grown-ups always missed that that question didn’t actually promise to tell them anything though.
There wasn’t at the moment. Everyone ate an excellent meal;, although Gri Fel was a little tense throughout. Terapishim wasn’t especially nervous though; he had been pro-lunar before he’d lost his job. If anything, he was enjoying watching Gri Fel dance around whatever was worrying him.
Gri Fel spoke finally:
(Gri Fel) “Oh, nothing else. But would you be interested in a visit to my sanctum sometime? You have been more helpful that most others in the past millennia.”
Gri Fel was nothing if not discreet, and wanted any demonstrations to be in private. If Charles’s abilities did seem to be Solar, he didn’t want anyone clamping down on the kid before he got his new position.
(Charles) “Certainly! I haven’t really been to a sanctum before!”
Of course, “sanctum” in this case meant “abandoned mansion I am currently squatting in.” – but it was polite to keep up the fiction.
(Charles) “Does it need any kind of fixing?”
(Gri Fel) “I always appreciate having a craftsman look things over. If you could do so, I would appreciate it.”
Gri Fel lived in an abandoned quarter bordering a slum occupied by gods of obsolete technologies. Smoke and dust filled the air across the border. His own place was indeed a dusty mansion, with an overgrown garden.
Kiko moved through the underbrush, overgrown flowers, and the like, quite effortlessly – carrying her patron. Terapishim just flew over the garden.
As Charles wandered through the gardens became clean, neat, and weeded, with various minor repairs done – all through Thaumaturgy.
Yes, it did look like Gri Fel had smiled there!
Even if it was still a bit nervously.
Charles was busy putting up a thaumaturgic ward against smoke and dust and noise, with a millenial duration.
The interior of the mansion was dustier, but still well-appointed. There was no way Kiko could ever keep this place clean (although it was obvious that she’d been trying) though; it would require a staff of several dozen, which Gri Fel obviously could not afford right now.
Charles added a quiet cleaning spell and another set of speciality wards. At least the place, as a part of old Yu-Shan, was geomantically harmonious!
Things became cleaner and the light shone in brighter, as the Unconquered Sun was currently ahead in the Games of Divinity. Gri Fel invited everyone to sit in his audience chamber, where someone (Kiko) had bought in a throne for him.
It was a very nice throne actually – the first ambrosial item of furniture Charles had seen in the place.
He fixed all the murals while he was at it. That vastly brightened up the place!
Gri Fel looked more relaxed already as he ascended the dais and sat down. In the throne, he really looked like somebody who could have been the god of the world’s most renowned city. He looked brighter, less shabby, and a good deal cleaner.
(Gri Fel) “Now, I wasn’t going to ask this in the restaurant, but could you demonstrate your techniques for me? I am curious about what Miss Tanaka has said about you.”
(Charles) “Uhm… Well, I could make something minor; it would need to be something that doesn’t make any significant difference to make it really quick… Oh! I know!”
He drew on Dudael (and thaumaturgic acceleration) to make a forty-eight Folding Servants – limited so that they drew their essence from proximity to their masters, and so couldn’t be set to doing things outside their owners household or be sent on more than brief errand. That made them about as trivial as artifacts could get.
That made twenty-four each for Gri Fel and Terapshim to help out with their cleaning and such! (And to get Kiko off the hook for it!)
That… got a reaction. Granted, they weren’t major artifacts – but they had simply appeared out of nowhere, generated by… thaumaturgy powered and supported by the primal geomancy of Yu-Shan and Creation. The deep levels of reality rushing to support… a child’s thumaturgy.
Gri Fel managed to stammer out a shocked “Thank you.”
Terapishim just smiled – but he was a rustic land deity, rooted much more in the here-and-now.
Kiko quietly sighed in relief. It would have been really embarrassing if Charles hadn’t done something impressive after all the glowing build-up she’d given him!
(Charles, absently) “This place could have servants without it disturbing anything at all really, and so could you (he nodded to Terapshim), and so you do. Which is the way it ought to be!”
(Terapishim) “Yeah, that is how things should be! Hey, can I talk with you, god to stripling? You won’t mind, will you, Gri Fel?”
(Gri Fel) “No, certainly not. I need to give these servant orders anyhow.”
(Charles) “And your garden and things will stay fixed… (With some startlement) Why couldn’t you talk to me?”
There was a long, silent, pause there.
Charles spent the time musing that it was too bad that all the Geomancy in Yu-Shan was already occupied. Otherwise he could have fixed Gri Fel up with some other boosts!
(Gri Fel, finally) “I had… suspicions… about what you were, and I was reluctant to discuss them in the restaurant. One never knows who is watching.”
(Terapishim) “And I was going to tell you, since I wasn’t sure he’d get around to it. There’s such a thing as being too paranoid!”
Charles was still a bit confused. After all, he was still only using thaumaturgy and manses. He was just getting the power for it straight out of geomancy instead of using his own.
(Gri Fel) “Geomantic power like that is normally not in the hands of God-Blooded, or even gods.”
(Charles) “I get along really well with manses!”
(Gri Fel, pausing and trying again) “It is a rare talent to do so. Where did you learn such abilities?”
(Charles) “Learn? Uhm… Gramps says I tuned one of his manses with healing powers to myself when I was six or so. I don’t really remember much from that far back… I was sick then!”
(Gri Fel) “Gramps being, if the rumors are true, Lord Richof Haldane himself.”
(Charles) “Yeah! What’s he do anyway? No one ever tells me!”
(Gri Fel) “Really? I would like to know myself. I know that he was not always involved in Celestial politics, or even in Yu Shan itself… He didn’t tell you?”
(Charles) “Not yet! I think he thinks I’m too young to be involved in whatever-it-is.”
(Gri Fel looked mildly disappointed.) “And he doesn’t know how you acquired these… miraculous abilities? I believe you implied that.”
(Charles) “Well, he hasn’t told ME anyway… Some of the fey creatures around home that have settled in on earth might know more, but they’re really unreliable about explaining anything. Most of the time they just make stuff up because it sounds more interesting.
(Gri Fel, sighing) “They will do that.”
(Charles) “They were always fun to play with though!”
Wait. That meant that the boy’s “home” had to be somewhere in the middle of a chaos-pocket or on the actual bordermarches in the depths of space! And that he’d been allowed to play freely with the local fey as a small child – and had survived that unharmed!
Blast it! The child was so… sincere and helpful and honest! How was it that every word out of his mouth just made the headache bigger?
(Terapishim) “Hey, what does it matter where he got them? If his powers were hostile to Heaven, the defenses would be stopping them!”
He examined Charles himself.
Charles was not so sure about those defenses personally, but that Abyssal girl was probably getting in via some sort of loophole.
Gri Fel was not so sure about the defenses himself, but he wasn’t too picky right now.
(Terapishim) “And you’re a real nice kid, with few dishonest bones in your body. You’ll probably get eaten alive up here when you’re older, but you’re helping us now, and that’s what matters.”
(Gri Fel) “I suppose you’re right, Terapishim.”
He was still wondering just what Charles was, although – now that he’d seen some of his talents in action – some of the assumptions had changed. “Thaumaturgy not Charms made quite a difference.
Kiko was busily directing the servants to clean the hall outside.
(Gri Fel) “I am thankful for your assistance, Charles. In all this, I forgot to let you know that we were indeed approved as candidates.”
(Charles) “Oh good! And that will set a precedent that will help get more gods back into positions! And that will make things better all around Yu-Shan!”
(Gri Fel) “If all goes well, we should be able to make our cases in the next few months. I will keep you informed.”
(Charles) “Thank you! Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help!”
(Gri Fel) “Certainly. Do be careful going home. This is not the safest of neighborhoods.”
(Terapishim) “Don’t worry Fri Fel, I’ll escort him home. No way am I letting him get hurt.”
He did – in part because he had a questions that he didn’t want Gri Fel to hear.
(Terapishim) “So, that Kiko kid. What is she exactly?”
(Charles) “Uhm, that’s not really my secret…”
(Terapishim) “Worth a try. Gri Fel won’t tell me.”
(Charles) “Well, it’s Kiko’s secret. It wouldn’t be fair for me to tell! She might tell you if you asked though, especially at a party!”
(Terapishim) “Mead and honey it is, then! Maybe next time we go to see Burning Feather!… Thanks, kid.”
(Charles) “You’re welcome!”
Terapishim dropped Charles off at the appropriate gate. It was far too late to do anything but go to sleep.
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XVII – Leonine Customs (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice part VII (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice, Part IX (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice, Part V (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XIV – The Calm Before The Storm (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XVI – Thaumaturgic Challenges (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XII – Current Dramatis Persona (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice part VIII (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XV – Darkness Rising (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice, Part II (ruscumag.wordpress.com)