After Charles got back to Dudael – and some secure communications – he got in touch with Rachel through her old “trans-dimensional cell phone” (he ought to make more of those some day!) to find out why she’d apparently attacked Astrid…
The response was pretty prompt: Yes, she’d attacked Astrid. No, she didn’t remember a thing about it. One minute she’d been accompanying Kiko to a neat little unofficial athletics shop in the slums in that quadrant of the Celestial City, the next she was covered in blood, Kiko was dragging her away, and she saw this woman glowing white off in the distance. The glowing woman was carrying what she was pretty sure was a Chosen of Secrets. Fortunately, Kiko was disguised at the time. The only reason she knew that she had attacked Astrid was because Kiko had told her so… She was very worried, was currently in hiding, and was not planning to go back any time soon. She seemed kind of distraught over the entire business.
Hm… That didn’t sound like the typical solar madness. Amnesia wasn’t usually part of that sort of thing as far as he could remember… Had someone used some sort of mental compulsion on her?
According to Kiko, Astrid wasn’t the only person who’d been attacked – and she’d been carrying her husband back to their manse when she’d last seen her.
Well, if Rachel wanted to go somewhere else for a while, that could be arranged! And it would neatly keep everyone separated!
He gave them a basic description of the attack from the Sidereal point of view – and told her that the head of the Bronze Faction would like her restrained.
(Rachel) “Aw man. I’ve really screwed up.”
Yes, she would like to go someplace else, since they were likely looking for her.
(Charles) “Well… There are many places on earth, and there’s offplanet. There are also some extreme refuges – the underworld or… How about with the Dragon Kings for a bit?”
Then she recalled one more thing… She’d had this “neat curio” on her when she’d snapped out of it. Her grandfather and Mr. Cisneros were studying it right now since it was made of starmetal.
Charles thought it might be wise if he took a look at that if he could. He was, after all, an expert artificer – and he suspected that Rachel had been played. Probably an attempt to split the bronze factions attention off from current affairs to a wild solar chase – not that the reclaimed territories and their minority status hadn’t been pretty throughly distracting already. Still, getting them involved in a useless perpetual solar hunt would mean that they would accomplish nothing at all for the next century or two… They did kind of tend towards paranoia, and an apparent solar attack was not going to help that a bit.
Rachel promised to see if she could talk her dad into it then. He was a bit easier to maneuver into those things than her mom was.
She called him – and left a message for her mother – and decided to take Charles up on his offer of a month or two in hiding.
The selection of options for that was… just a bit appalling. How much of the universe did Charles’s grandfather allow him to knock around in anyway? Some of those places had been – supposedly – sealed away since the end of the last age! Others were in different galaxies!
Still, as far as refuges went, Tarvail looked quite advanced and peaceful – although the Lunars (and perhaps the Silver Faction) were likely involved there somewhere – but there was a much more exotic location on the list… Relkithian looked pleasant enough, if a bit alien to humanity – and the notion of actually visiting the legendary Dragon Kings was fascinating! The few remaining enclaves of their race had been lost for thousands of years! Scattered across the cosmos during… scattered across…
Relkithian simply wasn’t POSSIBLE. There weren’t that many Dragon Kings left in all Creation!
Some sort of private primordial project?!? An alternate timeline? Someplace thrown up by the Deep Chaos beyond the borders of the cosmos?
And Charles had ACCESS to such places?!?!
What kind of parent did he have?!?!
Still… Outside the known universe in a small world full of ancient solar allies – who might even be able to show her a few tricks – was certainly a good place to hide.
She settled for Relkithian.
Charles settled for bed. It was late!
Charles spent most of his free time in school the next morning tinkering with ideas for new manses… If the Demesne that was coming up in Arcosanti was powerful enough the Bazaar of the Bizarre would be really useful! It would be excellent “neutral territory”, it would add several hundred helpful, activist, guardians to creation and the city, and it would make it WAY easier to get all his shopping done! It would help Gri Fel AND Terapishim too! They’d both be pleased to have several hundred fairly high-powered deity-level enhanced humans supporting them and working to enhance the splendor and importance of their city and it’s surrounding lands! And it would keep everyone involved and with plenty to do!
Hm… Maybe he could build up the demesne a bit if it WASN’T strong enough? He hadn’t done that before, but the procedures were obvious enough… It would take so long though!
Well, there were ways to cheat of course… He’d have to bring some especially-equipped assistants though! If that horrible “Death at the Root” thing could do it (at least according to some of the old records), there was no reason why he couldn’t design something much nicer – and without all those other nasty effects built into it – that would do the same thing!
Outside of that though… He needed some highly-specialized high-powered manses to power some of his Exaltation experiments, and a place to stash things and people that was well out of the way – and it was hard to find high-level demesnes to work with on earth! Most of them were taken already! He might have to go offworld to find anything, but some of the Hoenheim gates seemed to go to other planets after all… He’d have to put together some scouting expeditions! All he’d done so far was to run a few probe-spells on the gates to get a general idea of where they went and a quick peek at what was there – but with a few geomantic precautions thrown in, a random location in the galaxy should be pretty secure!
He was still going to keep the gates to scary places closed though.
The locations of the Hoenheim gates included two in Yu-Shan (one currently in Dudael, one in the Orrery of Istilian), The Underworld, Malfeas (twice, making Charles a bit nervous), the Deep Wyld, Autochthonia, the Daystar, Gnosis, The Far Realms, six on Earth (the Great northern forest of Canada, Brazil, Kyoto, France, Siberia, and the Serengeti), Stormhaven (a pocket-realm adrift in Chaos, apparently dominated by a couple of Lunars), Relkithian (the last refuge of the dragon kings), the Endless Skies (an apparently infinite realm of flying patches of vegetation with no gravity), Kyrthia (a long forgotten – and apparently long-abandoned – city of the Jadeborn buried in deep tunnels and caverns, possibly an alternate creation), the “Elemental Plane of Earth”, Valandur (an apparently unpopulated forest-world), Rokugan, Tarvial (an advanced interstellar empire populated by several types of beastmen), and the Archipelago of Dreams (a realm of high seas and cloudsailing adventure allowing travel between hundreds of realms).
He’d have to go and take a quick survey in Arcosanti as soon as possible! Then he’d have a better idea of what he had to work with!
Oh, wait! He could send an Inukami to do it! They weren’t as good as he was of course, but they could take a day or so and run the survey from various locations around the city, and that should tell him pretty much everything he needed to know!
Charles – as usual – wasn’t really thinking about it, but erecting such a manse, and unleashing all of that occult power in Arcosanti, would not go unnoticed. Still Gri Fel might be quite willing to take some credit for REALLY knowing how to manage a city – especially one that was full of Manses and occult beings, like his previous one – leading to the conclusion that “clearly it had been a good idea for whoever backed him (even if no one was sure of exactly who that had been) to take a chance on him”.
Then, of course, the investigations into just how that much magical power had managed to collect under everyone’s noses would begin.
Charles, of course, was optimistically oblivious to such future problems. From his point of view, what would matter was that a city that had suddenly become so important, and which had that much essence running around in it, would need a staff of subordinate gods in Yu-Shan – and that would get even more disenfranchised gods back to work! Even better, the jobless gods had the biggest interest in getting things fixed! It was no fun being a homeless god living off the dole!
Sure, it was inevitable that – eventually – things would be traced back to him, but (according to his cheerful worldview) that shouldn’t be too hard to deal with! He was only doing good things, and who could possibly object to that?
For good or ill, his “secondary smokescreen” was doing well; most of the few people (other than the Celestial Lions, who relied more on observation and logic than on charms and guessing) who were seriously looking into his affairs were indeed currently working on (presumably) wild “theories” about his possible relationship to the Primordials. He’d need some non-amalgam servitors and sub-aspects to really play that role – but then he was already planning to make some manses that produced creatures like that for him, on experimenting with turning Manses into sub-aspects of himself, imbuing agents with some of his own power, and – perhaps – even gaining access to some sort of “internal world”. After all, didn’t everyone with a good imagination do that in a way? All you needed was a way to get inside of it… A properly-attuned Wyld zone might let you build an internal reality in a manse too, something like a Vault of Woven Dreams but with a lot more power behind it…
That sort of thing would probably be a job for some more custom charms – starting with some that enhanced the manse-link. That might not fool someone who had REALLY studied the primordials, but – perhaps fortunately – people who really studied Primordials and other oddities were pretty rare.
Kiko, meanwhile, was working on some advanced disguise charms… She’d had an interest in that aspect of solar power anyway, and after that little incident with Rachel and Astrid it certainly seemed like a good idea!
She might need a safehouse sometime too… After all, you couldn’t rely on disguises always working!
May be she ought to talk to Charles about that! The kid seemed to be pretty adept at not being around when he didn’t want to be and he certainly seemed to have the resources. He’d certainly made Rachel vanish really really well too! Surely there’d be something she could help him out with in exchange! That constant ingredient-hunting couldn’t be easy!
Catherine and Ms. Tengu were back late that evening… Ms. Tengu DID think that it would be a good idea to hide out for a bit – although she didn’t much care where as long as there were restaurants and it wasn’t too alien. She’d worked in food service for most of her life, although her heart’s desire was to be a popular musician.
It might be easier to achieve that outside of the Celestial City, where – until recently – any god or Sidereal with a Performance Excellency could easily overshadow her. Kyoto sounded nice…
Well, Kyoto should be reasonably secure for the moment – and Charles could readily make her a “panic button” amulet or something if she would like.
She would, so he did.
Along the way though Ms. Tengu and Catherine just couldn’t contain it any longer… They were about to burst with curiosity! How on earth had a child of Charles’s age gotten access to a private manse gateway network linking most of the major aspects of the known universe? Catherine had figured that Charles had a powerful patron to get the factory-cathedral job, but this was a bit much.
They just HAD to ask about the manse…
(Charles) “Oh, it’s a very old one! Gramps let me have it – it’s been in the family quite awhile – and I’ve channeled a lot more power into it to boost it up some! I’m not sure he ever knew about the gate-aspect of it though!”
(Catherine) “Wow. Your Gramps must have a lot of these Manses if he lets a-what, ten, eleven-year old?-have one. What’d you do to get it? He didn’t just give it to you, did he?”
(Charles) “Uhm… I was sick when I was six or so, and it has healing functions, and I bonded it while I was sick. So he let me have it! I think he was kind of surprised; he’d just put me to bed in it because it would help – or at least he thought it might… This manse is awkward to get to normally anyway!”
(Catherine) “You’re full of surprises. I figured you were a prodigy, but not like THIS. And your Gramps must be powerful or well-connected to own such a place.”
Actually Catherine had looked into the new boss a bit – most of the employees at Dudael had – but she kind of wanted to see what he’d say anyway.
(Charles) “Uhm… He mostly gets called Richof Haldane – but I’m not quite sure what he does! He never says! I think he doesn’t want me involved until I’m older! And I get along really well with manses!”
(Catherine) “Wha… HIM?” (That removed all pretenses.) “I mean, I heard rumors, but-“
She was visibly flummoxed.
(Charles) “Do you know what he does?”
(Catherine) “No. I just know he’s been in Yu Shan for at least two full Sidereal lifetimes. Nobody knows what he does. At least nobody on my level.”
(Charles) “Darn! But that’s a long time! Back to the end of the second Age I think! Well, there are lots of ways to do that, but it would give him some seniority anyway!”
(Catherine) “You’re telling me. Seemed like a decent enough guy the one time I saw him, but the looks the gods gave him… never seen them so humble. I can’t believe you’re his grandson! Sure there shouldn’t be a lot of greats on that?”
(Charles) “Oh well! Maybe a Jutun or something! It would be just like him not to tell me I think!”
(Catherine) “But if he’s one of those, he shouldn’t even be here. Ah well! Not my place to investigate.”
(Charles) “Why not? Gaia has some around!”
(Catherine) “Yeah, but she sided with the Incarnae, didn’t she? Unless there’s something going on here…”
(Charles) “Well, so did Autochthon, and there were a fair number who left before the war and so were neutral. And a new one might arrive!”
(Catherine) “Who knows what goes on that high up in the Bureaucracy?”
(Charles) “It’s still a pretty big assumption though! There are other possibilities too, starting with someone using an immortality stone! That’s lots of time to acquire backing and influence!”
(Catherine) “Yeah… he could be anything. I just know that the gods really stay out of his way and that he’s lived a long time.”
(Charles) “Oh well! Would you like to set up a refuge or private place somewhere?”
(Catherine) “What, for me? It’d be nice, and I have a feeling resources aren’t a worry for you. How about somewhere that has winters? You don’t get that in Yu Shan without magic.”
(Charles) “On earth then? I’m not too sure of the climate in most of the other places!”
(Catherine) “That’d be fine. How about this Alaska place? I hear sometimes day is night there.”
(Charles) “I’ve got northern Canada! That’s pretty close!”
(Catherine) “Good enough then. Thanks. Never hurts to have a safe house.”
(Charles) “Would you like an actual house? That location is pretty deep in the wilderness!”
(Catherine) “That’d be good, yes. Sure it won’t be too much trouble for you, though? I’m willing to help out.”
(Charles) “Oh not a problem!”
He drew on Dudael and assembled a nice little camouflaged lodge in the Great Canadian Northwest, with a selection of thaumaturgic wards and such.
(Catherine) “One thing though, it might need a garage.”
Charles cheerily added a batcave.
Jose and his familiar would appreciate that when she invited them over – although Charles had no idea that THAT was why she’d asked. Still, he didn’t mind adding a few things a bit! And obtaining title should be easy enough; most of the area was cold scrawny pine barrens headed for the arctic circle – and not worth buying even cheap.
Catherine was impressed… The kid must have a REALLY powerful divine parent! He was definitely something more than the usual god-blood! And – quite amazingly – not spoiled. She could have gotten a much worse boss!
Still, on watching carefully… It was all devices and thaumaturgy – remote access to Dudael, a boosted hearthstone, and… thaumaturgy. Amazingly GOOD thaumaturgy, backed by incredible geomancy, but still… thaumaturgy. Whoever or whatever the kid’s grandfather was, he treated the children well and trained them well – and somehow kept them reasonably human. She’d seen a lot of gods who had problems with that in her pre-Exalted lifetime. This was… a nice kid who cheerily used his pile of artifacts – and blew at least part of his cover – to go and rescue relative strangers.
Hoenheim had been something of a shock too. That gate was NOT on the map of Heaven’s gates she memorized in school! And the OTHER gate-destinations… Malfeas, the Deep Wyld, GNOSIS (?!?), and even the Underworld…
(Charles, noting her curiosity) “Was there something else?”
(Catherine) “Uh… yes. I’m going to come right out and say it. You know that the Sidereals would be very interested in this Manse if they knew it existed, right? You seem like a pretty bright kid.”
(Charles) “Well, most manses have a lot more potential than anyone gives them credit for! And the Sidereals are kind of argumentive anyway… But that is one of the reasons that I haven’t used this aspect much since I powered it up; it’s not just that it needs investigating first… The Sidereals should be able to figure out how to make their own if they want to anyway!
(Catherine) “Yeah. That’s smart of you. Thing is, Manses leading to places like Malfeas and the Underworld tend to unnerve them. They might want to confiscate it. You know, for ‘research.'” (The quotation marks were pretty clear in her tone.) Not that I’d tell. You’ve done too much for Maella for me to do that.”
(Charles) “Well, this one is pretty heavily warded, geomantically hidden, and outside of fate anyway – and the gates only exist in one mode anyway, and I could always drop the power inputs to make them merely a potential.”
(Catherine) “Whoa. Did you say outside of fate? Good thing you can hide the gates then. Those places are illegal.”
(Charles, cheerfully) “Only to build in places inside of fate… If it already exists, or you’re simply building in an area that already happens to be outside of fate, you’re within the rules – and Hoenheim is both!”
(Catherine) “Then where are we? Sorry if I’m getting in too deep, but you’ve got me curious.”
(Charles) “Oh, we’re in a wyld pocket left over from the second Balorian Crusade!”
(Catherine, whistling) “Your grandpa must think of everything, unless the place was already here.”
(Charles) “Oh, it’s from early in the first age I think!”
(Catherine) “That would explain a lot… Anyway, your secret’s safe with me. Not sure how well I can stand up if someone uses Charms on me, but anything else, I can stand.”
(Charles) “Well, I doubt that anyone would expect you to know such things anyway! And you have your own charms now!”
(Catherine) “Yeah… I can’t go into too much detail, but whoever made our Charms had funny ideas about how we should resist those things. Effective, but weird.”
(Charles) “Autochthon I think! Although, come to think of it, the Charms are probably heavily influenced by the secondary patterning!”
(Catherine) “I’m not so sure. But I might need to consult you on that some time. You okay with that?”
(Charles) “Sure! New stuff is always fun to look at!”
(Catherine) “Thanks. Anyway, shall we head back upstairs (Yu Shan)? We’ve got another day ahead of us, and you look like you could use some sleep.”
(Charles, who WAS starting to droop) “Uh-Huh!”
(Catherine) “Whoa! Don’t faint on me there!”
She did seem concerned.
(Charles, with some indignation) “It’s just yawning! It’s been a long day!”
(Catherine) “If you say so, you’re the boss.”
(Charles, absently) “Long day tomorrow too… I need to work on some manse construction techniques, so I need to find some unused demesnes and perhaps some damaged manses.”
(Catherine) “That, work, and school? That’s got to be wearing on you. Need me to pick up some more work at the cathedral?”
(Charles) “Maybe next! There’s a special project running…”
(Catherine) “Again, if you say so…”
OK, the kid HAD to have enhanced stamina there – but how many projects was he working on? Was he THAT obsessive about making things? That was really kind of worrisome! He seemed to be more-or-less taking responsibility for everything around him! He was way too young for that!
At least his manse-servants were waiting to take him to bed. They must be used to this… Hm… They looked like first-age magical creations. Was the manse still generating them? Was the kid Richof’s favored grandchild? He’d been given access to some incredible resources – not that he didn’t seem to be using them well, and earning the right to keep using them – but still…
A miracle that he was so nice and humble. She’d gotten where she was by being a nanny for Half-Caste and God-Blooded kids; she knew “spoiled” when she saw it – and she wasn’t seeing it.
Still, she’d have to keep an eye out for him… He might be TOO obliging. Freakishly so – and willing to deploy absurd amounts of power just to be nice to people. Did he even think about the implications of requests? Loom help them all if he ever ran into a subtle Abyssal. Or even an Infernal who was subtle. Or an Apostate alchemical. Or a mortal terrorist who had no qualms about nukes…
Well, maybe not the last one. She could just see him announcing gravely that “Weapons are BAD!”.
Maybe she should get that Chosen of Journeys who seemed to have a thing for her (why didn’t he just come out and say it? This was the modern era!) to watch him as well. At least no one else really seems to be exploiting all that power yet – and he did have some decent ethics. That was good! So many God-Blooded kids were treated more as pets or servants, and that really messed them up!
Still, she wasn’t going to sleep easily tonight.
Ah well. Tomorrow would be another day.
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XX – Incidents of Artifice (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXII – The Logic of Lions (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XVIII – The Question of the Divine (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXI – The Maiden in Durance Vile (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XIV – The Calm Before The Storm (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XIX – The Shattered Mirror (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XVII – Leonine Customs (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)
- Exalted – The Primordial Geas from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)