The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXIV – Annotations of Anonymity

‪中文(繁體)‬: 荖濃溪源峽谷,位於玉山主峰東北側 The source of Lao...

Valley of Exposition

Charles didn’t know it – but his anonymous time was very rapidly drawing to an end… Like it or not, he’d simply meddled in too many things too quickly to remain in the background. The various groups on Yu-Shan and Earth might not know WHAT he was – but they were becoming quite sure that he was something more than a normal god-blood!

Of course, that had been inevitable sooner or later.

While he was getting people well settled aboard Aden, other people were trying to catch up with him about that… Still, whether fortunately or unfortunately, his next layers of smoke screens were almost ready.

They were likely to be quite interesting. “God-blooded” was a LOT less attention-grabbing than “Lesser Exalted” or “Possible Primordial”, or “Avatar of an Incarnae” or “Jotun”or “Akuma of Autochthon and Gaia”, or loads of other things.

Of course, in Yu-Shan just about anything was more attention grabbing than “God-Blooded”. Even “mortal” was often more interesting… Many gods considered watching mortal attempts to awaken their Essence a form of entertainment (it helped that they often involved elaborate rituals or drugs that caused strange behavior.)

Gri Fel and Terapishim had – not unexpectedly – asked about the “manse seed” after the tests. Would it work in creation?

(Charles) “Oh yes! I was planning to use it for you! “

They were very happy about that. Since it worked so well in the simulation, they had been going to ask.

They wandered off to get a little privacy…

Charles current list of entanglements includes

  • Devon: Whatever Devon did to ensure that his successor would acquire the devices and the manse that he’d left for him or her – and whatever plots and long-term purposes that involves. It’s just a bit odd that Charles doesn’t seem to have inherited ANY memories from Devon – or had much of an initial vision either…
  • The Fey: Several of the more powerful inhabitants of the Wyld Pockets in Creation have had an interest in Charles since early childhood – and that’s not necessarily restricted to the Atlanta Wyld Pocket; Wyld gates are relatively easy for Raksha to construct – and thus the Wyld Pockets are not nearly as isolated as most outsiders assume. The fact that Charles has been quite friendly, and has established some helpful facilities for them, and now has extensive contacts in Yu-Shan, is an invitation to intrigue. The fact that he’s using fey powers to provide therapy for mad gods is something else altogether…
  • The Dark Temple Incident: Charles escaped a situation that took out five or six Celestial Exalts, and it’s beginning to look like that might not have been mere luck and being unimportant. Their mentors and elders may be wanting to take a long and careful second look at that – and him.
  • The Cauldron-Born: By fusing their Wyld energies with human souls, these quasi-fey have become some of the most potentially dangerous menaces in Creation – reality-shapers with the raw power of a Celestial Exaltation to back their powers. Perhaps worse, the motivations and desires of a such unprecedented entities are entirely unknown – if they are stable at all. Worse, they have some notion of just how useful Charles could be to them – and know that he has some sympathy for chaos… Still, Charles really must find something he can do about the Seven Whispering Winds Manse that offers them access to Yu-Shan.
  • Dudael: Putting a god-blooded child in charge of a Factory-Cathedral – regardless of just how good he seems to be at operating it – was a pretty controversial move. Not surprisingly, there are still opponents – and several annoyed deities who feel that THEY should have the job, and are plotting to have it – or at least to eject the boy and have it open again. Of course, Dudeal may well have purposes of it’s own now that it finally has a hearthstone bearer who is capable or awakening it’s full power once again.
  • The Archivists of Heaven: Handing around minor artifact rings to help them keep the archives sorted out was kind, and obliging, and helped him out with a lot of research projects – but, unlike most of the groups in Yu-Shan, the archivists routinely share information, analyze it, and come to conclusions. Charles was very helpful, and they’re grateful for that, but they still want to know what’s going on.
  • His Teachers: They want to know a lot of things – like just who his parent is, who’s backing him, and how he obtained whatever-it-was he handed out to the other students. Even for a god-blood, his thaumaturgy and scholarship is pretty impressive – and there’s no real evidence that they’ve seen his full resources yet.
  • Museum Folk: The Hipparions have now been on Exhibit for several months – long enough to pretty well erase all doubts about their reality and to start inspiring all kinds of questions. They’re harmless enough in themselves of course, but the forces that want to keep magic under wraps are quite upset; it certainly looks to them like the scientists have been handed a thaumaturgic ritual – of quite impressive power – in technological form, and are trying to analyze it. A failure will start them looking elsewhere. A success… will start humans in on using technomagic, and down a path that may lead to the widespread, casual, use of magic. And they’re not going to ignore a blatant miracle.
  • The Bureau of Nature: There aren’t many thaumaturges powerful enough to reshape living things into perfect replicas of extinct creatures, thus restoring the species – and none so young, or willing to do it just to be “nice”. His attempts to start altruistically piloting solutions to Yu-Shan’s unemployment problems seem to have similar motives – and, while that project is useful, his motives seem to make him ripe for exploitation. Surely he will not be so naive for long…
  • Gri Fel and Terapishim: While they think that the universe bloody well owes them one after all this time, they’re still wondering exactly who – and WHAT – Charles is. He’s tapping into some extremely primal powers – and doing it awfully casually as well. That’s to their benefit at the moment, but they’re not used to being caught up in something that they don’t understand – and which may involve powers greater than their own.
  • The Bureau of Humanity: While structures – including manses – are no business of the Bureau of Nature, they are certainly a concern of the Bureau of Humanity, as are the future implications of training and enhancing thaumaturgists, introducing magitech to the modern world, granting humans godlike powers, and causing thousands of people to disappear before they’d normally be killed… While Charles’s usual status Outside of Fate and tendency to place most of his holdings and operations there is keeping the disturbances down for the moment, it’s going to be dramatic when they start taking effect – and the first flashpoint might well be Atlanta. WWW has also taken an interest in the scientific debate over the Hipparions – and he is a major figure these days. The recent test results – and the creation of a manse that grants local humans godlike powers – is going to attract attention as well.
  • Jacob Anderson: As a thaumaturgic specialist in manses with a sideline in Wards, Jacob has a better idea than most of Charles’s skill – and is well aware of various manse-related problems out there which desperately need fixing.
  • The Sidereal Exalted: The fact that Charles routinely wanders off outside of Fate could pass unnoticed in a mere god-blood – but now that he’s been entangled in the Dark Temple Incident, seems to have a massive “in” with Lytek, has gotten involved with the Nocturnal Exaltations, shown off some of this thaumaturgic skills, has taken an interest in the affairs of the bronze faction, has provided them with information on Deva Cutter, demonstrated the ability to enhance manses, provided numerous artifacts, is somehow involved with the “Lesser Exaltations”, and is getting entangled with divine politics, has definitely made him of interest. Of course, no single Sidereal Exalt has more than a fraction of that information, but more than one is now trying to look into the situation.
  • The Nocturnal Exalted: Charles is definitely involved with these (and, to judge by the gear that he seems to have made for them in the future will be involved with them even more) – but, given the current lack of any real information on them, exactly what they’ll be up to is hard to say. Still, he’s already rescued one of them from imprisonment, and provided refuges for others – and thus will likely soon come to the attention of whoever’s chasing THEM.
  • The “Lesser Exaltations” are attracting attention from the students, the teachers, and the students divine parents at the moment – but will shortly be attracting a good deal more attention than THAT. They blatantly are “lesser” – and may not really have much to do with genuine Exaltations at all – but they are still providing a remarkable amount of power, some of which can be (eventually) traced back to a couple of new “Exaltation Manses” in the Canadian wilderness.
  • The possibility that he may have uncovered one of the largest “treasure hordes” in history will be drawing attention on it’s own; a mere god-blood cannot possibly hope to hang on to such a find – and even if he’s turned most of it over to the Bureaus, there should still be a massive fortune left!
  • The Masons and the Terrestrial Exalts: Both of these groups are – quite reasonably – taking an interest in the new factor that’s impacting their plans – and a few of them (even if they are in a rather distant realm at this point) are now aware that Charles is capable of opening gates to places beyond the known cosmos – and is certainly something very VERY strange at the very least. They may well have an agent in Arcosanti; they were interested in the place and in the domain rising there.
  • The Evasion Club: One of Charles’s few after-school activities outside his work, and one of the best venues for the students to approach him – despite the fact that it’s basically a hide-and-seek and lose-the-pursuers game. After all, they have to meet before they can start.
  • Amazonian Demon Summoners: Whoever is setting demons to guard manses in the Amazon is presumably up to something – and may be a bit miffed at Charles for blowing so many of them up. At the moment, it looks like this might have something to do with whatever Deathlord was sending his or her Abyssal Exalted to blow up selected manses. That may also tie into Lytek’s attempts to “reset” the captured Abyssal Exaltations (which Charles tried to help analyze, but with no results as of yet).
  • The Celestial Lions aren’t sure WHAT he is – but they have deduced a great deal about his abilities. The fact that he was willing to provide them ALL with armor (no matter what he said about finding an oh-so-convenient “treasure horde”), and some other useful artifacts, was a plus however; at least it said that his purposes are probably compatible with theirs.
  • His personal projects currently include that mysterious Moonsilver Choker, repairing several manses (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 ****)), finding some way to get rid of Yu-Shans redundant paperwork, arranging some form of “Heaven” for souls (given that the eventual fate of all souls in Creation is to pass into oblivion, to be forged into soulsteel, to be eaten by a primordial, or to be absorbed by the Wyld – all essentially a final death or fate worse than death), and the Stargate and Stardrive Projects (designed to put most of the out-of-work gods of Yu-Shan back into business as well as make it easier for the Sidereals to correct offworld loom errors) – for which he needs the help of a Sidereal or two.
  • His recent Artifact Deliveries will have stirred up some interest as well. Most of the gods are simply gratified that they were apparently given priority treatment – but when everyone starts to compare notes, and discover that EVERYONE got their stuff way early, they’ll certainly want to know HOW.
  • The Lunars – or at least one of them – may know exactly what Charles is, but some of them are now keeping an eye on him as well anyway. The information on Deva Cutter, and the artifacts he brought them, may both be quite useful.
  • Aden Shining Dream, of course, is waiting to be discovered.
  • Perhaps most drastically of all, with the opening of a link between the refuge of the Dragon Kings and a Creation where humans still survive, any Exaltations there that have escaped some form of destruction, containment, or being lost forever in the infinite reaches of the Wyld may soon be clustering around the gate – ready to slip through, to briefly appear in Lytek’s cabinet (with a cargo of memories of the destruction of creation) and to once more choose hosts. It is even possible that some have already done so with that gateway’s second opening. That may not have happened – it may be that Exaltations are truly bound to their home realities, and may not thus “transfer” to another – but who knows?

In the face of that array of potential pursuers, Charles was… paying for a nice little dinner party! Gri Fel and Terapishim now had decent prospects, but at the moment they were still out of work, so it was Charles’s treat! His effective salary had gone up quite nicely recently!

It was a big enough dinner to feed several unemployed gods and some hangers-on!

Gri Fel and Terapishim’s friends, and the nearby slum, ate well for once. They didn’t taste ambrosia that often, after all!

Charles was pleased that they were having a good time.

Kiko was having a good time, too. After all, if Gri Fel got the job, she’d have a backer with some power! And money too!

Charles was tempted to provide her with a small cult, just to get her a little cash of her own. That only took a dozen or so people…

Come to think of it… Did Gri Fel and Terapishim have any personal cults at all?

Gri Fel was considered the unofficial patron of the slums of Yu-Shan – and perhaps, by extension of slums elsewhere – but that apparently didn’t really count. Terapishim had a tiny little cult who worshiped him because of his beard.

Well, the “Cult of the Beard” did sound like fun to him! Apparently people didn’t know who those impossibly ancient statues were OF, but the beard WAS quite impressive!

Still… he’d made a manse with an Ambrosial Chalice Hearthstone (***** of course) for Ixiah anyway, and that left two unused attunements! He could share a drink with Gri Fel and Terapishim!

(Gri Fel) “What does it do?”

(Charles) “Oh, it focuses spiritual energy! I just got a hold of it recently! It should be helpful!

Well, he’d finished up the manse about two months ago, and the hearthstone had finished up last month!

(Gri Fel) “Focuses spiritual energy, you say… well, I won’t refuse… and I see Terapishim has already finished his gulp.”

(Terapishim) “That is a strong drink indeed!”

They both got quite jovial… and were already looking a lot less ragged. Even their clothing and ornamentation was slowly repairing itself.

Well, it did give them both the equivalent of a Cult-3 and Salary-3 to work with. That wasn’t enormous, but it was pretty good by modern standards – and loads better than the Resources-1 they had to work with on the dole! It would even give Kiko some money to work with!

That was very good!

Fortunately, as a hearthstone effect, such a personal “cult” wasn’t regulated… The Sidereals (and Financial gods and others) still wanted to investigate sometimes – but there really wasn’t anything they could say about it. That was why those few gods who knew such things existed pursued them…

Anyway, this way, even if they didn’t get the job, they’d be OK!

Of course if they didn’t Charles was going to be looking for some serious bribery or something going on. It would have been quite hard to put in a much better performance!

Gri Fel took a hard look at the Chalice… ANOTHER tremendously potent item in the child’s hands… Indicating ownership of at least one additional rank-5 manse.

OH. Of Course. “Programable Manse Seed”. He had more than one… and access to archives full of designs if he actually needed any help with that.

And to think the child hadn’t really asked for anything in return… But then… he already HAD a pile of artifacts, wealth, all the magic he seemed to want or need, protection, a fairly important official position, good connections, access to the libraries of Yu-Shan, free passage across most of Celestial City, and the favor of mysterious powers. What would you offer him? How DID you return a favor?

Gri Fel really wasn’t that worried about it – the kid didn’t really seem to need anything, and the cosmos sure-as-oblivion owed him a few breaks by NOW – but some gods did feel obliged. All he seemed to need… was friends, contacts, and influence. Which he got by being nice and helpful.

Well, that wasn’t hard! Although the boy might run into trouble if he started helping someone that someone more powerful actively wanted to keep down one of these days (he’d heard a few rumors that he’d been spotted visiting the Bronze Faction; still, even they probably got to put in a few orders…). He was pretty much outside the system – and a complete loose cannon!

Federation-Apocalypse Session 201a – It Dropeth From Heaven Like Gentle Rain

Marty was taking advantage of Markov’s constant mental peeking at the hatchlings to peer a little deeper…

The hatchlings were so ruthless, so driven to defeat each other, so vicious in victory.

They were so YOUNG. Were they REALLY that… inherently cruel? Then why had Tethen become so… benign once enthralled? He’d written that sort of thing off to Kevin overwriting their personalities once – but now he knew that enthrallment didn’t actually do that!

He had the power. He probed deep into their minds.

Underneath the laughter at other hatchlings suffering, underneath the rivalry, underneath the enjoyment of inflicting pain on losing competitors, there was a thin thread of thought, pulsing like a fluttering heart: “It’s not me, it’s not me, it’s not me, I get to live today, IT’S NOT ME…”

Every agonized sob and despairing cry from another hatchling was a whisper in their ears, saying “I’ve clawed my way a little further up, Someone ELSE failed today, I’m a little closer to getting to grow up free and intact and have a life…”

Underneath every achievement and ambition and the desperate desire for approval – there was a frantic plea… “See! See! I’m doing well! Better than the others! Keep me! Keep me! When you’re picking who you have to abandon, or need to dispose of, or cannot feed, KEEP ME!”

And… underneath it all there was a tiny voiceless plea that had gone unanswered for five centuries, a part of the human mental patterns that underlay everything in the Manifold…”Love Me? Mother? Father? Please? Please? Oh please…”.

That was the price of the magical imprinting that taught them so much of what they needed to know before they were even hatched. They KNEW. It was the price of being able to breed so rapidly that a single pair could soon dominate a world. It was the price of being the apex predator – in a universe where so much of the prey was sapient.

There was a REASON why the gem dragons – natural telepaths – were so scarce. They could feel the pleading desperation of every hatchlings young mind, and how they would cling to any hope. They felt them when they were snuffed out or dimmed into suffering grayness by being bound into slavery – and they could not pretend that they weren’t really people yet. They could not bear to match the teeming hordes of offspring that the metallics and chromatics produced…

That… was unbearable. The rules of this reality… made it an outpost of hell. No wonder the place lured and entrapped souls!

And no wonder that Kevin, seeking a place where his darkest drives would pass unremarked, and touched by the power of the abyss, would settle on it.

And he… now had friends and children here.


Kevin… had already started that. The hatchlings he bound… were happy, were so useful that they were almost invariably well cared-for, and missed out on very little. Already, 90% of all new hatchlings were… destined for happiness. Was the utility and – optional – pain of the process just Kevin’s usual pretense of evil, meant to get that underlying fact past the chromatic rulers? Was he eventually planning to push that percentage even higher and to phase out the pain as it became accepted?

As for Kevin’s own hatchlings… He’d assured them that he would never sell, or kill, or abandon, or gratuitously hurt any of them beyond the pain of enslavement – a few bad days at most (were they just to keep “enslavement” from becoming popular?). He’d ensured that they knew that he cared for them, and that he would make sure that… they had fairly full and happy lives even if they wouldn’t get to reproduce. He hadn’t told them, but he was quietly arranging it so that most of them would even get to do that. He was… answering even the phantasms pleas. A granter of wishes indeed.

Still, regardless of what Kevin might have in mind – whether consciously or unconsciously – it needed to be speeded up!

Hm… Was there any good way to speed up that realization in Kevin’s mind? To at least bring it up to consciousness? His fondness for letting people gamble themselves into slavery notwithstanding, the level of background pain and misery here was completely unnecessary! Was there some way to go completely over the top and shove it in his face?

And HE… would have to bring Markov under control. even if it meant accepting – and working to reform – his own unruly suppressed desires – and soothe away those horrible, unbearable, fears in his children.

Viva Le Revolution! Realms of the Banefire

Беларуская: "Узяцце Бастыліі", Берна...

But guys, the door was open!

Life… isn’t fair.

A sizeable chunk of the population winds up holding the short end of the stick in early childhood, continue to hold it all their lives, and ultimately die with it jammed in some very uncomfortable place indeed.

The promise to make it fair lies at the base of many faiths. “It will be fair eventually; you just have to wait until after you die…”.

That’s a glittering, wonderful, promise – but a lot of people find that “after you die” part to be a bit of a crock, whether or not it’s true.

Idealistic (and exploitive) revolutionaries often promise to make it fair too – and you don’t have to wait until after you die. They say “Work with us, and it can be fair NOW!”

(Practical revolutionaries merely promise to make things a bit fairer, to oppose some specific abuse, or to go for some far more limited goal than “fairness”. THEY sometimes really do succeed, but they have a much harder time gathering recruits than the ones who promise some form of utopia).

Sometimes idealistic revolutionaries come into power. After all, the cry of “fairness” has a deep appeal to both youthful dreams and frustrated maturity. If conditions are bad enough, the status quo may be buried beneath a wave of revolutionary fervor.

Quite often such revolutionaries actually believe in what they have promised, and try to deliver “fairness” in accordance with whatever set of ideals they subscribe too.

This fails, as it must. Life is full of randomness, and it’s outcome can never be “fair”.

If it could, people, being human, would immediately start looking for advantages – preferably ones that could be passed on to their children. That’s a drive that’s built into every creature that cares for it’s young. MORE for Me and Mine, LESS for everyone else!

The revolutionaries who believe soon become frustrated. Either their ideals are unworkable – which is a hard thing to admit when you’ve fought a revolution to secure them – or someone is preventing them from being realized.

So they try to find out who’s betraying the revolution.

Is it dissidents from within? Reactionaries who don’t understand how important the revolution is and cling to old ways? Saboteurs from without?

No matter what they try to fix, or how paranoid they become, they fail to achieve Fairness.

A few may realize that they are pursuing the impossible, and abandon their ideals for a bitter retirement.

Most will try harder. Someone is ruining it for everyone! They MUST be found and stopped! By any means necessary!

With the phrase “by any means necessary!” the secret police rise, and the purges and persecutions begin. Competing groups, ideals, and faiths are outlawed. Covert campaigns are undertaken against neighbors – the presumed source of the presumptive sabotage.

It still doesn’t work – and admitting that NOW will mean now only admitting that their ideas are unworkable, but admitting that they’ve done unspeakable things in pursuit of unworkable ideas.

They already failed a lesser version of that test. A few, perhaps having grown older and wiser, may be able to admit that they have dreamed an impossible – if, perhaps, lovely – dream, and have failed. Their wonderful dream of fairness has become a thing of horror.

Most cannot resign themselves to failure. Evidently even minor uncontrolled factors can ruin their revolutionary dream!

Uncontrolled factors must be eliminated. Failure cannot be tolerated!

“For the greater good” they seek total control, so that they can eliminate the last opponents of, and barriers to, the revolution. They may still be idealistic – but they are also only human. Bitterness, frustration, the corruption of youthful ideals, and the lure of power and wealth, all take their toll.

Very, VERY, soon you have a classical totalitarian state – which may pay lip service to the original revolutionary ideals (after all, the slogans and rhetoric still appeal to the young and idealistic, and can still pacify the masses, and so still have their uses) – but which actually has nothing to do with them.

And, as the totalitarian state grows intolerable, and it’s leaders become more and more lost – whether to corruption, to madness, to a refusal to accept that their revolution is not working, or to simply losing touch with reality as underlings (in simple self-defense) tell them what they want to hear rather than what is actually going on – somewhere the cry is rising…

Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!




Once the Nephelim walked the land – mighty men, giants who wielded powers that none but gods should claim, some a match for a thousand normal men or more. They battened onto blood, slaying and growing fat and drunk with power. They lorded it over the world, seizing the wealth of the realm and of realms beyond, demanding obedience. They bound terrible forces to serve them, some in arcane devices, others walking free. Some called themselves heroes, others named themselves villains – but most knew them as… Adventurers.

Then the True Gods grew tired of their strutting arrogance, their demands, and their attempts to storm the gates of both heaven and hell. They heard to cries of the people for justice, and for fairness.

They spoke to Markai, a simple farmer. They showed him the way of the banefire.

When tools of magic, and creatures of power – including the bodies of the Nephelim themselves – were cast into the dark fires, that stolen power returned to it’s rightful place within the people of the land.

Even the Nephelim were vulnerable. They ate, and slept, and were distracted by their consorts, and grew both confused and aged. The whispers of the way spread amongst the ordinary people – and as the lesser Nephelim vanished, the people grew stronger, as the gods had meant them to be all along.

Eventually… the Nephelim were no more. The last fell, and peace, and prosperity, returned to the land. The greater wonders passed into memory, leaving only the lesser powers which mortals had been meant to wield, scattered evenly – fairly – amongst the folk.

But there were always those who sought the return of the Nephelim, or who – in terrible heresy – sought to become Nephelim themselves. Against them, Markai, and his sons after him, stand ever on guard.

And the rumors that they… hoard forbidden tools of magic for their own use, or secretly train as Nephelim, or that people vanish in the dead of night for ever more trivial reasons, and – perhaps most terribly – of the return of horrors long banished by the Nephelim (and now delighted to find the world near-defenseless against them), are surely no more than malicious rumors.

Still, however, with each talented youngster sacrificed to the banefire on suspicion of seeking to become a Nephelim, for each person that dies for want of the kind of magic that only the Nephelim could handle, for each civic enchantment that fails for want of the skill and power to maintain it, the whisper grows.


In the Banefire setting, the characters may be loyal guardians of the realm, using mortal skills and the limited powers granted by participation in the Banefire rituals to hunt down and destroy would-be Nephelim – and to defend the realm against all the other perils of a d20 universe without any adventurers to help them. Such individuals may gain levels, but it should be very slow – and each level will usually consist of a d6 Hit Die (2 CP), +1 BAB (6 CP), +1 to their total saves (3 CP), +1 (more or less mundane) Feat (6 CP), and +7 Skill Points (7 CP). Banefire Loyalists simply aren’t headed for superhuman power. They usually top out around level five.

Alternatively, they may be talented youngsters, with powers that have begun to go beyond the gifts of the Banefires – making them both likely candidates for the fires and perhaps the worlds only hope against the greater menaces to come…

Talented youngsters will gain levels somewhat more rapidly than loyalists, usually spending their points building up the foundation abilities they already possess to truly superhuman levels. Of course, given that such youths risk a horrible death in the Banefires every time they use or seek to develop their powers, they will doubtless need such abilities.

The People of the Banefire gain:

Proficiency with all Simple Weapons (3 CP), Shields (3 CP), and Light Armor (3 CP).

+2 BAB (12 CP).

+2 on any one Saving Throw (6 CP).

Adept (pays half cost for four skills of choice, 6 CP), with a +4 bonus on each of those skills (8 CP).

Inherent Spell, Corrupted for Increased Effect (L5 Greater Invocation, may produce any first level spell effect, +1-3 on save DC depending on the appropriateness of the invocation used) with +8 Bonus Uses, Corrupted for Increased Effect (+12 Bonus Uses), Specialized for Half Cost / user must gesture, and speak, and can be interrupted as if spellcasting, user may only produce a maximum of (Int/3) Arcane and (Wis/3) Divine spells per day and any extra uses are lost, user must preselect at least one-half of the effects to be produced (9 CP).

Innate Enchantment, all abilities unlimited use-activated, personal-only (x.7 cost) where applicable. 8000 GP base value (9 CP).

  • +2 each to any three differing attributes (4200 GP).
  • Immortal Vigor I (+2d6 – effectively 12 due to at-will use, +2x Con Mod HP, 1400 GP).
  • Warding Rune (1 + Caster Level/3, +4 max, resistance bonus on saves, 1400 GP).
  • Skill Mastery/+3 to a particular group of skills (1400 GP). Common groups include those linked to a particular attribute, stealth related skills, scholarly skills, priestly skills, travelers skills, and many other groups.

Immunity/Stacking limits when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (Common, Minor, Trivial – only covers L1 effects, 2 CP).

Immunity/the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial [only covers first level effects at caster level one], Specialized/only to cover initial racial abilities (1 CP).

At a net cost of 62 CP, the Banefire Template is at the upper edge of +1 ECL territory – and should provide a solid foundation for almost any kind of character. After all, it is an amalgamation and simplification of the usual “basic classes”.

The Banefire does have a point. While a few character backgrounds tell of hard struggles and training, rather more are filled with incredible strokes of good fortune, prophecies, miraculous interventions, incredible natural talents, inheritances, and other unearned goodies. It really isn’t fair for all those adventurers to get all the attention and all the free stuff.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXIII – City and Soul

English: knot design by Charles Godfrey Leland

Now let the gates be opened!

After the tests, the Proctor very much wanted to talk to Charles… The minor antics of mortal and god-blooded thaumaturgic assistants could usually be safely ignored – but in this case, the child evidently had access to some quite exceptional artifacts – and his thaumaturgy (or at least his mastery of wards) was strong enough to have been a notable factor.

Most unusual – and a very useful resource for a pair of down-and-out deities to have on tap. That stunt with the Manse had been pretty dramatic, even if it had required the use of a special, one-shot, artifact.

(Proctor) “Charles Dexter Ward?”

(Charles) “Hello! Can I help you?”

(Proctor) “I would like to speak to you about some of your activities in the simulation. It will help me properly judge the results… That was a most unusual artifact you used there. Could you tell me a little about it?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Well, it’s a programmable manse seed; you need to have it programmed with the design for the manse, the geomantic modifications you want made, and a high-quality geomantic survey, have it loaded with a fair quantity of ambrosia for raw materials, couple it to several hearthstones to provide the power – including at least one from a factory-cathedral – and monitor the growth and essence flows. It doesn’t take all that much personal power, but the seed itself is a fairly high-order artifact. It is fairly fast, but then it is a one-shot sort of thing!”

Actual Manse Seeds are Artifact *** – and still, of course, require an appropriate demesne or potential demesne, although they can perform enough geomantic engineering to boost one by one level. They do require that the site be surveyed, and a manse designed for it, and that the user spend rather a lot of motes and (normally) at least 48 hours guiding the project. Charles, as it happens, was cheating…

(Proctor) “Interesting.” (He will write that down…) “Would you be providing one of these to the actual city?”

(Charles, with some surprise) “Of course! It wouldn’t be fair to use one in the simulation otherwise!”

(Procotor) “I thought I should ask. You see, the Bureau of Destiny likes to know about these things beforehand. It seems safe enough, but any little factor could interfere with fate planning. I’m sure you understand.”

(Charles) “I wouldn’t want to do that! It makes more work for all kinds of people!”

(Proctor) “That’s a good mortal. Now, I am curious as to where a child your age would find such a device. I believe you run a factory cathedral, yes?”

(Charles) “Oh yes! One of the original ones, Dudael!”

(Proctor) “Impressive. I’m certain someone there can make such a device.”

(Charles) “Oh yes! It’s within the range we can handle!”

That “We” raised the Proctors eyebrow, and a few amongst the audience, although most of the witnesses assumed that Charles assisted with some minor task – rather than designing the whole thing. After all, to all appearances, he was a god-blooded child, although he was evidenly a talented one rather than a glorified pet.

Charles, of course, had meant “Dudael and I” more than “and the rest of the team” – but it was still true – and he had been raising some VERY good wards in the simulation.

(Proctor) “Well… do let both the Bureau of Destiny and the Bureau of Humanity know before you deploy that artifact. Manses aren’t built that quickly that often, and they and my superiors might want to observe.”

It wasn’t often that he recommended that a more-or-less mortal thaumaturge bring his or her activities to the attention of the bureaus in case they disrupted something – but the boy seemed to possess tremendous resources for a mortal, and great skill – and was entangled with some fairly high-level affairs; he would not be surprised if fate had something quite important in mind for the child…

(Charles) “OK! That design worked really well too! I won’t need to find another one I think!”

(Proctor) “A collector of schematics, are you?”

(Charles) “I was poking around in the archives! : There’s lots of stuff in there!”

The Proctor was a god of city planning, so that was only tangentially related to his field – although he could certainly appreciate the benefits of such things for cities.

(Proctor) “Oh, I’m certain. I won’t detain you any longer. I just wanted to ask you about that seed. It was fascinating to watch.”

Charles was somewhat relieved… He hadn’t asked what archives, or thought about what “one of the original ones” meant – although he might ask again sometime, or send the information on to someone else.

(Charles) “You’re quite welcome!”

Charles hadn’t hidden the fact that he’d unsealed the primordial archives in Dudael – but no one was passing that information around much either. The workers at Dudael were loyal enough (to their jobs if not necessarily to Charles, even if he WAS a pretty good boss and paid bonuses out of pocket) and most of the other groups that knew had their own reasons for keeping things quiet – and it would be a pain to visit an archive in a factory cathedral if you weren’t a worker there.

He might get some visitors eventually though – if only to see what other treasure-hordes might lay in the depths… After all, that had been Charles’s explanation for where he “found” his horde – albeit without mentioning that he was the one who put it there in the first place. Even the financial gods wouldn’t be able to hide that information indefinitely… Some were betting on various aspects of that find, while others wanted to exploit it in time.

Of course, shortly after the test results were released he’d probably be hearing from anyone who wanted a manse built or repaired…

Charles, meanwhile, considered the fact that the Proctor had asked and talked about giving notice on building a manse that way a very good indication… It probably meant that no one else had done anything comparable, and that Gri Fel and Terapishim were very likely to get the job!

A little later, Maella called from Kyoto. Some interesting things had happened there recently; while pursuing the patronage of the Wood Aspect Marukami family for her music career, she had encountered a ronin Chosen of Battles – and had gotten into touch with Rosa about her. Also, the Chosen had found some Garda Powder – a magical substance which greatly intensified fire. Apparently there were traffickers in Japan, and she had confiscated it from them… Maella didn’t want to have the stuff around – it was too dangerous – and so she was offering it to Charles for a reasonable fee. As an artificer, he could surely find some uses for the stuff!

Well, that was reasonable enough! It was called for in a number of designs – and he had plenty of money to pay for at the moment!

That would probably make him a target for any other serious competitors, but hopefully the need to try to get to Yu-Shan – or at least to Atlanta – to try and get the stuff would hold that down.

Anyway… Soon he’d have plenty of people settled aboard Aden – which meant he should probably give some thought to how to simulate a hierarchy of “souls”…

The first circle was easy! Quite a few of his manses had “bound servitor forces” – and they could easily represent what he needed… The Androids could handle computer services and technology, the Basilisks could handle minor defenses and still play their role as walking alchemical laboratories, the Cave Bears could handle medical situations and any shamanism anyone needed, the Centaurs could handle the wilderness scouting and guiding and research, the Drakes could handle the elemental manipulations, the Gargoyles could handle surveillance, the Golems could go on doing whatever-it-was they did (he hadn’t really meant for them to appear at all, they’d just shown up!), the Hobbits (another accident) could keep right on operating Inns and Restaurants and such (they were good at that!), the Kitsune could handle hosting and diversions, the Nibelungs could handle minor artificing, the Sphinx’s could go right on being mysterious, and the Trolls could handle heavy construction, bashing, earthmoving, and so on as they were meant to.

The Coatl and Inukami could probably continue as they were… As obvious Amalgams, they were never going to pass as anything other than aides anyway.

For the “second circle”… That was a job for the Guardian Forces! The Demiurges (empowered mortals) could fill in where needed, the Djinni could handle most of the manse construction now (and some other fairly high-end artificing), the Noldor could continue doing the (useful) things that most Raksha did (while refraining from the less useful bits), the Seraphs could handle the sorcery and spell-storing and other boosts, the Totems could continue to boost thaumaturgy and empower mortals and god-bloods, the Unicorns could inspire and work the social stuff – and the Warforged could continue to power and operate the weapons of the Spear of Aden.

The “third circle” – and dominant third-circle soul – was harder though! You could give your manse-guardians a bit of a boost with some inherent artifacts (add +1 manse creation point to the cost of a given force to add [manse rating -2] points worth of inherent artifacts to them) – and, for the most part, he had – but that didn’t really make them as powerful as he’d like…

He could just equip some of the Seraphs – or perhaps a few Warforged (there were more than he really needed after all) – with some artifacts, and let them stand in for third circle “souls” – but they really wouldn’t have the power that went with that status…

On the other hand, it might be quite some time before anyone went looking anyway, and they could buy time even then. Eventually he’d come up with something!

Federation-Apocalypse Session 200b – Markov versus Marty

Meanwhile, Markov had been trying to track down that fat mage who’d snatched Tokif – and apparently a few more of his enslaved offspring – right out of coalition territory! He’d called him fat! He needed to be tracked down and eaten!

He burst in on the young slaves he’d gotten from that “Kadia” place – they were good with the computer networks and things – and demanded that they start working on tracing, or searching, or whatever-it-was they did to find people! With magic, and technology, and whatever else they had!

That left them looking more than a little befuddled…

(Thrall) “But… Master… Isn’t that… you?”

(Markov, with some shock) “Wait… argh! You’re right! And I was looking forward to a delicious meal too… Hey, what would happen if I ate myself?”

(Shocked Thrall) “Urm… You might die? Eat me instead! I’m tasty!”

The master was a little odd today!

(Markov) “Nah, not enough meat on you. And I don’t like eating hatchlings. I don’t know… oh, wait, I do! Let’s arrange a hunt!”

(Relieved Thrall) “What shall we hunt master?”

(Markov) “Well, what’s in the area? And, more importantly, is it tasty?”

(Thrall) “There are mammoths a bit to the north! A couple of whites hold that territory, but they can easily be either bribed or enslaved!”

(Markov) “Well, let’s attempt to bribe them into the coalition first. If they refuse, THEN we can enslave them.”

The master wanted whites? Most of them were VERY stupid! Oh well! They could still recognize overwhelming draconic force when it was flapping it’s wings overhead, and the coalition certainly had it… Combined with a bit of bribery, that brought the pair into the coalition easily enough…

They didn’t bring any hatchlings with them though. This pair didn’t bother with creches; they just clutched every six months or so and scattered the clutches around at random!

Ah, white parenting! It reminded Markov of his primary self’s childhood for a bit…

Then it didn’t as Marty considered matters… ENTIRELY on their own? From birth? While trapped in glacial mountains surrounded by more powerful dragons, and with parents who would gladly kill them holding most of what hunting territory there was? No friends, no resources, no conversation, no emotional support at all, and nothing but an arctic wasteland to live in? Good gods… that sucked even WORSE than being subject to parental whims in a creche! At least most dragon parents gave their children something to eat besides each other!

Anyway… as members, the whites were not only quite willing to let everyone hunt Mammoths, but they didn’t mind them hunting any white hatchlings they ran across without sense enough to hide from more powerful dragons… It wasn’t like most of them didn’t die or get enslaved anyway! Any anyone could catch obviously weren’t tough or clever enough.

Markov found that more than a little… unsettling! If he hunted down and enslaved their kids, it would be a… wonderful present that would vastly improve their lives. If he killed them slowly, it would probably STILL be a kindly act of mercy! That was just wrong! How could you be properly evil when there was nothing you could possibly do to make a situation any worse?

He caught about thirty of them anyway… It was just too easy to resist!

He tried to distribute them among the coalition members before going out on the hunt – but most of the other nine members weren’t even especially interested… Whites mostly made rather incompetent slaves, they were weak and stupid and they were usually too scrawny to even be worth eating! If you needed to leash some guard animals somewhere, they were good at that!

Markov wondered for a bit… He hadn’t thought that most of his coalition members normally ate hatchlings… Ah; hyperbole “they aren’t even any good as MEAT!”.

Eating hatchlings mostly went with being extremely old and powerful – at the point where hatchlings seemed… almost nonsapient by comparison.

Oh well! Guard pets it was! On the off chance there were some less stupid ones in the mix, he set up the glacial areas as a free range where they could roam, fight, and possibly get enslaved. It wasn’t like the glaciers were any good for anything else after all!

The mammoth hunt was a lot of fun though! Mammoth steaks were big enough to satisfy even a dragon’s appetite!

Well, relatively young ones like Markov and his friends anyway.

Offworld, Marty tuned out the bloody feasting, and considered… It looked like Tokif could go back if he wanted; Markov had canceled the sale, and guaranteed that he wouldn’t sell hatchlings without REALLY good reasons – but it would still put him in a good deal of danger.

Tokif elected to think about that for awhile first. Everything he knew was in the Dragon Empire – but in Kadia… well, no one was after him!

Markov, having found out that Tokif was an item-creator, wanted him back too… Marty wasn’t so sure that was a good thing, although Tokif seemed to find it so. Was the boy still after his father’s approval? Marty could see how it would be hard to put a human in Markov’s place.

Tethen, however, wanted to go… Since he was a hatchling, and had escaped, it could be argued that he was no longer a slave (although it was a thin argument, since he hadn’t escaped before processing, or unaided – and that rarely flew without major support) – and he wanted a chance to beat up his old master and some of that hatchlings brothers…

Well, those were Vrysylin’s hatchlings, not his – and Vrysylin wouldn’t much care.

Far more importantly, Tethen had acquired a soul and was now a Thrall. It would be good if he was there to recruit Felan – and any other hatchlings who acquired souls – as Thralls. That was the only way Marty could think of to actually ensure their safety.

Blast it! Kevin didn’t even KNOW about this identity, or situation, and was in no way involved – and he had, yet again, managed to be the lesser evil!

Could that really be because he wasn’t evil at all? He certainly LOOKED evil…

Still… Thralls were GUARANTEED to live, and have children, and to be free, and to enjoy themselves – all the things that Hatchlings in the Dragon Empire were so desperate for, and had so little chance to actually attain. He LIKED the idea that his children would get to realize their dreams!

Especially when their dreams were mostly so small compared to those of other children.

Well, they could have bigger dreams later!

Markov was a bit startled as he considered the curious possibility that Tethen might show up intact again, off the leash, and wanting to move back in… That was funny! A proven loser would be a universal target! He dragon-laughed at the thought… The boy would be welcome to try again! He’d make it a hundred to one that he’d be back in a processing machine, or on a slave-processing rack, within a week!

Marty sent Tethen back anyway; Thralls were pretty good at taking care of themselves…

Markov was half right; Tethen’s old master, and four of his various allies sons, promptly tried to put Tethen back on a leash where he “belonged”. Surprisingly to Markov, if not to Marty, that left Tethen with five fine new slaves trotting along at HIS heels.

Felan tried to introduce him to his slave-creating art, and was surprised to find out that he seemed to be immune to the conditioning effects…

Still, at least the irritation was good for getting the remaining kids in Markov’s creche to start working together. In fact, he shortly got in a group of the free hatchlings asking if he’d authorize Felan to simply take and keep another sibling.

Marty considered that… Were they trying to bypass competing? But why would a group ask for a single slot? Trying to set a precedent? Well, he’d try to get Markov to explain that “chief aide” WAS a reasonable job, but that they’d have to hold a little friendly competition to find out who was best suited to the job – and the winner would get to be Felan’s new addition.

For once, for a few moments, Markov was absolutely speechless. Were they all crazy? They were a part of the target group of siblings and Felan still had authorization to simply pick one of them and have them done!

Then he realized (with some relief; mass insanity in his first group of Hatchlings would NOT be a good omen for later ones) that THAT wasn’t what they wanted at all!

That jarred Marty out of his battling business mindset… Oh yeah! The “position” that Felan had open was “slave” after all.

For once united, they both probed. What the hell did the hatchlings think they were up to?

It seemed that… the kids found having Tethen around really unfair and embarrassing – and felt that it ruined their own chances… He’d been defeated, mystically bound, fixed, and was another hatchlings property in another creche – and then he’d vanished, and came back with a lot more powers (they were pretty sure that THAT was unfair somehow too) – and Markov had let him back in! And he’d beaten up his old master, and four other young dragons, and taken them as slaves – and was being very powerful and dominant for free and it was no fair! It made them all look inferior to a slave! And all those extra powers meant that challenging him was a sure trip into a processing machine and slavery – and Felan wouldn’t just have him processed because he wanted to hold his authorization to just point and have the slaves process a sibling for him in reserve as a trump card! So they wanted Markov to authorize an extra so that Tethen could be properly enslaved again!

They hadn’t wanted to try to protesting directly, since they’d gotten the impression that Tethen was pretty favored – if only because Markov HAD let him back into the creche!

Now they’d be willing to put up with Tokif; he had a talent that helped them, wasn’t a big threat, had almost escaped on his own – and had never been formally enslaved, while Tethen had spent six months trotting around at its masters heels as an eunuch slave.

Marty… didn’t know what to do (outside, perhaps, of sending Tokif back; the Dragon Empire WAS his home after all). It had never occurred to him that the other hatchlings would see Tethen as a threat! But… they did, and he seemed almost invincible to them – and likely to get them ALL killed or enslaved – and so they… were willing to risk Felan choosing one of them instead to try to regain SOME chance of getting to grow up free!

But he’d been fixing that! They were ALL going to get better chances! He was arranging things so that… And they didn’t know that. Well DAMN.

Markov couldn’t say that the kids wanting to get rid of Tethen was unexpected – he’d known that letting him back in was going to upset them – but he’d expected one or another of them to simply defeat and enslave the boy; he’d already demonstrated that he was a loser… Still, all those extra powers the boy had somehow acquired had put a fang into THAT plan – and he had to admit that they really were an unfair advantage that none of the other hatchlings had any chance to match.

What was a shock was that the remaining hatchlings were willing to trust Felan on the topic… Sure, Tethen WOULD be a valuable slave for him, but coming to him, and asking him to allow Felan to simply choose another one of them? If he HADN’T been able to read them he might well have simply had the entire little committee slave-processed for being blatantly stupid!

Were they that desperate?

By all social standards they were right of course. Tethen had been a slave, and would have, and should have, stayed a slave – except for that weird wizard’s interference.

Marty pondered… Should he recall Tethen, or perhaps have him take a different dragonform if his presence really bothered the other hatchlings? And the kids were… trusting Felan. Was it simply that he was holding out a little extra shred of hope?

Meanwhile, Markov was considering who to consult… Philsantias was a disaster when it came to handling kids. His partner? The red girls? Tethen himself? The slaves?

He settled on the concubines first, since it WAS a creche matter.

Somewhat unexpectedly… all of them could see the hatchlings point. Even Tethen’s mother was more worried about Markov himself. She’d known that Tethen was lost of course, and while it WAS nice to have him back, she was quite sure that he was loyal to someone else! And with so many new powers… Was he he a danger to Markov? To her other and future children? “Free Power!” ALWAYS had a hook in it!

Felans mother was all for simply having Felan enslave Tethen; it was good for Felan – and that took a high priority since Markov favored him – let Felan keep a threat to hang over the others, got him a powerful slave, and defused a possible threat to Markov AND his coalition AND them!

Tethen… had no objections. As a Thrall he was property anyway, and if his master wanted him to wear a collar and serve someone else, so be it!

Besides… He was a telepath too now – and, as a Thrall, he was guaranteed as many chances as he needed or wanted. He WOULD get to live, and to father children, and to adventure, and to be free, and so many other things – while many of his siblings might well get… only one chance, and it was already small. They were terrified and desperate because they believed that HE might be taking even that away from them – as if they needed any more fear or stress. If comforting them, and correcting that error in judgement, called for him to be slave-processed – well, that was what ought to be done! It wasn’t really permanent for a Thrall anyway. HE would have more chances.

THEY might not.

Markov had to wonder if processing Tethen would make that annoying fat mage come back though. Still, if the bothersome mage snatched Tethen again, that also solved the problem! The risk was small!

Markov took that risk. He called in Felan and told him that he was free to claim Tethen at any time, without having Tethen count against his quota.

Marty sighed. The other kids did have a point; if Tethen was a threat to them he did need to be processed – and his very presence had been sort of saying “Defeated rivals may come back at any time! You will NEVER be safe!”. Moreover, Thralls were happy to do their owners’ bidding, and it WOULD be simply temporary. And a Thrall-slave would be VERY useful to Felan.

One quick-and-easy enslavement and serenity returned to the harem – and Tethen returned to trotting at a masters heels. He might even be able to try and recruit Felan and any others who acquired souls from that position anyway.

Markov still tested the committee… Not for slavery, but for powers and physical capabilities, handing out a variety of minor magical baubles from his personal stores as prizes along the way. They had been pretty unhappy, and they had been brave and clever about their approach.

Lets see now… He had a magic absorber/storer, shamanic spirit adept, one who talked to almost anything at all, a luckmaster, an at-will short range teleporter, an equipment absorber / self-cyberer, a relic master, a just-getting-started theurgist, a potion maker, a spell amplifier (who boosted her own breath weapons), a minor speedster, and couple of combat monsters… Nothing nearly as broad-scale useful as Felan, but still impressive specialities for Hatchlings – and Theurgy could be quite potent!

The speedster was one of the green boys – the one who’d defeated a blue sibling and who had been winning quite a lot in the dominance-fights – and was the most physically adept out of them. He – like most of them – hadn’t been displaying his full special powers in the dominance-matches. Better to have secret reserves.

That was quite sensible too! He got a good prize!

Markov did keep a discreet eye on the theurge though. That might come in very useful later on!

Young Wizards Beta!

Young Wizards goes Beta!

Tell your friends.


Yes, Young Wizards is now in the playable Beta version. This edition still lacks a few of the fancy details we mighty like, but it’s a working rulesset, with every spell ready for play. You can take a character through five full years or schooling and adventure.

Obviously, some bits stillo need finishing and tinkering. I wasn’t able to get the critters and enemies sections completed. I’m still developing the default school setting. And most importantly, I need potions and other magical items and goodies for characters to buy and make. Then there’s some reformatting to finish, and transferring it into a .pdf edition so I can add hyperlinks and a proper table of contents.

Still, the game works, weighin in a hefty seventy-four pages with minimal formatting. Enjoy it in good health.

Young Wizards Doc file

Federation-Apocalypse Session 200a – Flowers and Unicorns and Rainbows

English: View of Valira del Nord river (a trib...

And there must be a babbling stream, curved and rushing over rocks. The bridge must be slightly arched, crossing over mossy banks. The path must be...

Meanwhile, Valira – the formerly-possessed mouse-lady – and her two children had fled into the wilds of Kadia – although Kevin had sent a few Thralls after them to help them out.

(A Thrall, in the form of a talking songbird) “Ms Valira Turner? Please don’t hide! You can get very lost in Kadia without a guide! And we can help you and your children now that Lord Kevin has arranged for their resurrection! The other five are already with your sister.”

(Valira, with more than a bit of disbelief) “Really?”

(Songbird) “Yes indeed! They were easier for Lord Kevin to bring back!”

(Valira) “Where are they?”

(Songbird) At your sister’s Inn! Probably having some lunch by now…

(Valira) “Well… We’re obviously nowhere near there! There are no mountains like this near there! In fact…”

In fact, she was fairly sure that there were no mountains like this ANYWHERE. Valleys that were side-by-side opened out into… entirely different landscapes, that should have overlapped – but somehow didn’t. Looking back, there were far more places behind her than she’d actually passed by coming this way!

If she’d stopped to draw a large circle, she was quite sure that it would have a lot more than three hundred and sixty degrees in it! Despite her old geometry teacher!

(Songbird) “I’m afraid that it may take some hours to make arrangements for the trip back!”

The Thrall in songbird form knew that Lord Kevin’s little block-transfer would leave a usable gate once some other Thralls had switched the chunk of stone back and patched things up a bit – but if Mrs Turner went back now, the guards would want all kinds of explanations – and to lock her up again. They had no idea what was going on!

Valira considered… go back? No. Maybe a quick trip to get her other children once she was sure that they WERE still alive, and that this place was safe (or at least safer than the world of nightmares she’d left) – but for now they were probably as safe with her sister as they were going to get in the colony. Still… while this place might not actually be safer, it certainly offered lots of room to hide out in!

(Songbird) “Would you like some lunch yourself? I think the children are hungry and frightened and need a little quiet time!”

(Valira) “Y… yes. I think so… Would it be possible to get in touch with my other children?”

(Songbird) “There’s a pavilion with a luncheon around that grove of trees! It’s only a couple of minutes walk!… And we should be able to set up a connection within the day.”

There were gurgling streams, fields of flowers, a small footbridge across a gully full of mosses and tiny blossoms, weeping willows, and a quiet path through the woods – which was soothing and tension-reducing…

And there were some unicorns grazing in the flower-fields.

Cyarkian did have both horses and unicorns, as well as horse-people and unicorn-folk – but they didn’t normally frequent the swamp. She’d never seen any unicorns…

She kept looking as they walked along – and it wasn’t long before a foal wandered over, with one of the mares keeping an eye on him.

(Valira) “Er… hello.”

(Foal) “Allo! Do you like flowers? I like flowers! Those yellow ones are best! Except sometimes they have bees! One stung my tongue once, and it hurt for minutes before mommy made it better! Mommy is good at making things better! Daddy is good at changing things though! He can make all kinds of things! When I grow up I’m going to be like Daddy! Mommy sometimes says that I shouldn’t REALLY try to be like Daddy though! I don’t see why not though! Daddy has lovely meadows, and all the Mommies, and it’s very nice!”

(Valira, a bit weakly) “I like flowers too, dear.” (To the Songbird-Thrall) “Is it all right if I pet them?”

(Songbird) “It’s all right to pet them! Watch out for the Stallion though! He’s under a binding to be truthful, revealing, and to stay well away from habitations – but he still likes to recruit if he can get consent after a full explanation – and when he tells a girl that he’d like to make her a part of his herd, it’s very literal!”

(Valira, somewhat incredulously again) “All right.”

She asked the foal’s mother if it was all right to pet him. After all, she’d want others to do the same with her children.

(Mare) “Oh, it’s all right! We have a hard time scratching… You should listen to the bird though! I’d miss having young Delwin there very much, and he’s going to have a brother or a sister soon whom I’m sure I’ll love just as much – but it WAS nice to have hands sometimes! Still, I’ll get changed back eventually…”

(Unicorn Stallion, abruptly appearing) “What, passing on mixed warnings again my dear? You’re not really having too bad a time are you? Hm… A touch of mental trauma on the kids isn’t it? Shall I heal them up? I could take you and them into the herd if you wanted of course! It’s VERY safe, and no evils – unless it’s that Ruth girl! – would ever think to look for you and them running with the unicorns, and even if they did we’re almost immune to most magic!”

(Valira) “No thank you, I think I like being a mouse.”

And having hands!

(Unicorn Stallion) “Alas! Well, if you are ever in need of such a refuge…”

With lightining speed he tapped both kids, and then her hair, with his horn. There was a sparkle of blue-green light around the kids, and sun-yellow on her. She was… instantly refreshed, in a lovely outfit, and with a bunch of flowers in her hair. The kids were looking considerably more cheerful, and were neatly cleaned up as well.

Well, that was nice if weird! These magical worlds were throwing her for a loop! Possession, resurrection, conjuration… and all so CASUAL.

Meanwhile, the stallion was whispering something to the mare which made her blush a rosy pink aura starting from the horn – and the pair then vanished, leaving the foal – who was still being petted by the kids and rambling on about the various tastes of flowers.

He noticed that his parents had gone off – but there were a dozen other Mommies around, and it’s not like it was unsafe – or that he didn’t know exactly what they were up to. Unicorns WERE herd creatures after all!

(Songbird) “Are you all right? I know this can be a shock, but the pavilion is only a hundred feet or so…”

(Valira) “This is a just a lot to process.”

(Songbird) “Well, the pavilion will have a few mouse-waiters, just like the ones at home – and we will gladly serve up some food! Are you feeling better? Lord Kevin said that you’d probably be in shock after being brought back, and to make you comfortable!”

(Valira) “Yes I am. Thank you so much.”

So some godlike power had taken an interest in her well-being and that of her children? Maybe there was something to the notion of “Karma” after all…

(Songbird) “Oh good! Is there anything you’d like to know, or would like explained?”

(Valira) “What exactly happened to me? I have a feeling I was close to death or actually dead.”

(Songbird) “Well… From what we’ve been told, your body was usurped from the astral plane by a necromancer using out-of-body and possession techniques to go adventuring without much risk. He (whispering so that he kids didn’t hear) killed the children to try to use their spirits as tools and was gradually pushing you out of your own body! Lord Kevin made him stop though!”

(Valira, horrified) “Then it is a wonderful thing that he resurrected them. I can still scarcely believe that is possible!”

(Songbird) “Well… Lord Kevin is a Creator God and an Opener! There isn’t much he can’t do in one way or another! He was passing through Cyarkian and decided to intervene in a few nasty situations!”

A… Creator God? An entity with the power to create worlds? Taking a personal interest in HER?

Was that a gift beyond price or an unimaginable doom?

Valira… settled down to comforting her children, to finding out about the world she had found herself in – and to waiting for the promised communications link. She was reserving judgement, but at least at the moment, there didn’t seem to be much else she could do.

Eclipse Questions – Reducing Action Types

Today’s query from Jasper Merendino is about reducing the kind of action required for various actions in Eclipse d20 – most notably, reducing Full Actions to some other kind of action and with respect to the Enhanced Strike abilities.

This is one of the tricky ones, simply because most simple, generic, methods of reducing the time required for various actions destroy the game way too readily; you always get players who want to apply them to things like Movement (yes, I take full moves as free actions, why?) or Spellcasting or Full Attack sequences. That sort of thing tends to reduce a lot of situations to an initiative contest; whoever goes first wins.

For a more limited – and much less game-breaking – version of this I usually recommend Reflex Training (the “Get a free Standard Action so many times a day” variant), used to reduce a Full Action to a lesser one. Given that a Full Action pretty much equates to a Move Action plus a Standard Action, a use of Reflex Training can reasonably reduce something that requires a Full Action to a Move Action. That can be quite powerful and useful – but it’s also a so-many-times-per-day ability, which helps keep things under control.

If you do things this way, you’ll probably want to Specialize and Corrupt it. For example:

  • Specialized in whatever it is you want to do for Increased Effect to get it up to a full action.
  • Specialized in a smaller reduction – say to turn something that normally requires a Standard Action into something that only requires a Move Action.
  • Corrupted in that it can only be used as a part of a characters usual action, not as an interrupt.
  • Allowing it to be considered simultaneous (and thus stacking with) with the action that it’s “interrupting” is a reasonable Increased Effect Corruption.
  • Specialized or Corrupted to reduce the cost as usual.

The unlimited version of Reflex Training can be used in much the same way (“When I begin this particular action I get a free, immediate, standard action to finish it up in”) – but that one takes careful watching; and stern application of the “under particular circumstances” and “no more than (relevant attribute modifier) times in a round” part of the ability.

Still, the unlimited version is very handy for things like “When I go to attack with my Rapier, I get a free standard action to use to put an enhancement effect on it” or “I really hate Orcs, and go into a frenzy when facing them; I get (Dex Mod) extra attacks whenever I’m fighting an Orc!”.

If you want to go back to first edition days, and get loads of extra attacks when your warrior is “attacking opponents with less than one hit die each”, this will work for that too. That can be handy when a bunch of weak creatures are trying to swarm your spellcaster, even if low-level creatures are no longer serious threats to high level characters these days.

The Opportunist ability can work as well; it’s especially good for combining actions; “When I use Special Ability “A” I also have a chance to use Special Ability “B” and vice-versa” – basically saying that the character has learned an advanced, combined, form of the two base abilities.

While you can also use odd spell or psionic effects (Innate Enchantment) or a few other special abilities in particular cases, you can also use Immunity. The trouble with using Immunity is that this is an example of a Natural Law Immunity – requiring special permission from the game master. As a general rule, most game masters will let you get away with minor, tightly-focused, immunities along this line. For example, if you want to be able to get weapons out and put them away without it counting as an action of any kind – perhaps some innate knack just causes them to appear in your hands when you want them – you may be able to get away with taking “Immunity to the time normally required to draw or sheathe weapons”.

For more general speed-ups, there’s the Taskmaster section in an article on power packages over HERE.

In the specific case of the Enhanced Strike ability, some of our local settings – notably the Federation-Apocalypse game – allow more than one Enhanced Strike ability to be used simultaneously. That allows the people using knives to compete with the people using laser cannons and missile launchers relatively easily – but might break a lot of other games; that is essentially allowing combatants several free instances of the Opportunist ability.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 199 – Gold versus Red

With the creche under control, Markov elected to concentrate on building his coalition – with a focus on what his remaining local opposition (Ishvialsen, that gold who’d moved into the area) was up to at the moment…

As it turned out, he’d enslaved the four reds near his territories, and they’d recruited one and enslaved two – and the last independent dragons in the immediate vicinity were the ones holding territories between their coalition and the gold’s little empire.

And the whole mess was focusing down on a pair of red females – Fianvara and Gerthrid, a set of clutchmates who were actually friendly and cooperative – who had adjoining territories along the border.

Huh! Friendly chromatic clutchmates were really quite rare! Markov WANTED them! They were likely to be able to work together effectively without constant management! They’d make good allies! If he could impress them they’d make good mates too! Definitely not slaves if he could manage it; that would be a waste!

The pair were currently being confronted with conflicting offers of “Protection” or Enslavement or Membership… They could be fought over without even being directly involved if he just wanted to show up and show off. Of course, once they were being fought over, they’d be expected to join the winning side – one way or the other.

Markov loved showing off! He waited until Ishvialsen was making his move on the girls, and went to confront him – gathering his fittest and most magically-enhanced slaves as an entourage, taking along a sampling of his finest treasures as gifts, and taking along a number of his allies!

The numbers were… slightly on his opponent’s side, but he had slightly inferior (and much less loyal) dragons.

(Ishvialsen, a fancifully-decorated young gold with decorative inlays on his scales) “What? Winging to War? Your forces and allies against mine? That seems… wasteful. Many will die in such a battle! Most unprofitable!”

(Markov) “Hey, I don’t want a fight! I just want this fine pair of ladies on my side.”

Not that he’d have any objection to a fight if the gold was so inclined. He puffed his frills and chest to show his virility and dominance.

(Ishvialsen) “And I wish them too! Their territories march with mine, and I dominate in my own right – rather than with the aid of such untrustworthy “allies”. Are you quite sure that – while you are out here – your remaining coalition members are not enroaching on your own harem? That the ones here will not stab you in the back at a moments notice?”

Markov dragon-laughed… Felan’s enhancement-statue for the coalition had an approved subliminal manipulation effect on it – an influence towards loyalty to the group and not betraying it’s members! It wasn’t overwhelming, but it certainly helped! Between that and his ability to quietly sense their thoughts he was pretty sure that no one was thinking much about backstabbing him! Working together was just too profitable for the moment!

He really would have to do something nice for Felan there! Who ever would have thought that such a subtle effect could be so much help?

(Markov) “Nah, I’ve got the harem covered.”

There… had been some sort of suggestive effect woven into that little speech though! Designed to set the members of his coalition against each other – and to set the slaves to trying to escape while their master’s were fighting. It was well hidden, and subtle, and if he hadn’t been a witch with well-developed mental defenses he might never have noticed!

Fortunately, subtlety meant that HIS defenses could handle it easily – and that the conditioning of the slaves, and Felan’s emotion-influencing statues, mostly countered the effect.

Still… against a normal crowd of dragons… it would be a VERY good attack!

(Ishvialsen) “Come ladies! Settle this! There is no need for formal challenges! Submit yourself to me, and these interlopers may go home while you enjoy my attentions!”

Crap! The young women WEREN’T shielded! And the more tightly focused suggestion was pouring into their minds… If they consented, not only would it be a loss for him, but there’d be no way to turn this into a full challenge! He’d have to… withdraw gracefully! In defeat!

No! Losing was totally unacceptable!

Markov drew on exotic energies, and wrapped his own defenses around the dragonesses minds. There would be a price for that later – there always was – but LOSING to such a cheap trick was utterly unacceptable!

Besides… as a side-benefit, that would also make them well aware of the manipulation attempt!

Markov sat back to watch the fireworks – unless Ishvialsen was enough of a fool to attack him, of course.

(Fianvara, fuming and snorting small gouts of annihilating flame) “How DARE you try such manipulation on us!”

(Gerthrid) “Craven hypnotic tricks? It surely will not be long (glancing at Markov) before some other male in the area will add a pair of golden balls to his collection!”

Was that his cue? Time to strike!

(Markov) “How dare you try to bend these sisters’ minds to your sick desires! I won’t stand for that!”

(Ishvialsen) “Bah! I shall have them anyway, and your slaves for my own!”

(Markov) “Talk is cheap. Prove it!”

He took up his usual fighting stance.

(Ishvialsen) “Doom Swarm!”

Ishvialsen unleased… several dozen fairly decent (level four) attack spells – swarming force mouths that were trying to take out Markov AND his allies! Followed up by a well-coordinated strike from his slaves on anyone who could still fly!

He took down quite a few of the slaves, and several of Markov’s full allies! That was quite an initial shot! Some fine magecraft there! Felan’s enhancements were helping – but were mostly keeping them alive, not effective.

It was within the limits of Markov’s regenerative powers though.

It looked like… the fellow had massive numbers of command-triggered spells stored in the “decorative” inlays on his scales… That was actually fairly clever! And not too easy to detonate either! They just weren’t explosive really…

He’d also commanded a decent shield against physical attacks. He apparently figured that his slaves could handle Markov’s weakened allies! Still… that might indicate that he wasn’t all that physical!

He was also – quite recognizably – a theurgist. That wasn’t one of the magical styles which was usually available in this universe! An off-dimension visitor! Probably with an immense pile of triggered, special-purpose spells ready to go. No wonder heds been winning so easily! That wasn’t bad at ALL!

Markov had to wonder what had bought him to this realm? Oh well, there was no time to think too deeply on it! He had to come up with a way to deal with those.

Ishvialsen was somewhat annoyed that Markov wasn’t folding nearly as easily as the others – but he had a lot more spells!

The red ladies were somewhat impressed! That was a LOT of magic!

The Thralls amongst the slaves weren’t too badly off yet – Kevin was heavy on the protective powers – so Markov put them on counterspell-and-healing duty and tested Ishvialsen’s shield with a claw-based ranged Crushing Hammer.

It had better work! A few more swarm attacks like THAT and even HE would be going down!

It blew through the shield and staggered Ishvialsen – spoiling his next spell. He wouldn’t get to trigger so many things in the next few moments, although a ripple of healing energy played over him almost instantly. More stored magic obviously!

He needed to… peel those scales off him! Dissolving breath perhaps? In investing power in those decorative inlays he had acknowledged them as being separate from him!

He could do the modification… but he’d have to break the shields and strike at the same time to get it through. Fortunately, that was well within his power!

He’d best get on with it! Several of his more powerful allies were down, and the enemy was beginning to focus on him!

Markov struck again, blazing like a comet from the various incoming and outgoing energy discharges… His hammerstrike once again shattering shields, but this time followed by a blast of magic and a corrosive toxic cloud tuned to destroy those scale-inlays…

He had the Thralls make sure that the two red ladies were all right, and not caught in that.

They were falling back a bit… Males battling males was no business of females – except to laugh at the loser and to evaluate the winner and decide if they wanted him.

Ishvialsen attempted a quick counterspell, but Markov augmented the corrosive cloud with a burst of raw mana, easily hammering it past his defenses – and destroying many of his stored spells and runes in flares of wildly-discharging magic.

For a moment he had an opening – although throwing even more magic into that mess might not be advisable…

He threw in another Crushing Hammer attack, backed with even more power than usual!

Ishvialsen crumpled a bit, and started spiraling down… He was obviously gravely hurt – and was frantically trying to use some sort of transport device.

Markov blocked that! Ishvialsen was a very minor gatekeeper apparently, and didn’t have more than a fraction of the power of a single Thrall – much less seven or eight. Of course, he was FAR better at magic than most of them…

He hit the ground with an echoing “THUD!”… Definitely a broken wing and severely injured! Semiconscious at best!

Well, that settled that!

Without Ishvialsen’s support, the battle against his slaves – of dubious loyalty in any case – began to move ahead. What did they have to gain by fighting to the end?

The red ladies were waiting to see if Markov would start processing Ishvialsen on the spot, invite them to help, or (with suitable guarantees of safety of course) invite them to come and watch in his processing rooms… They were quite impressed! Ishvialsen had been an extremely potent mage, and yet Markov had prevailed despite being heavily outnumbered! He certainly wielded some potent abilities there!

(Markov) “Hey, you ladies want to see a slave processing machine in action? What do you say, sedatives or none? You pick! That’s only fair, since he tried to FORCE you to join him!”

A slave-processing machine? They’d heard some rumors… They’d certainly like to see one in action! No sedatives of course! Were there options to show off? Since someone had captured a couple of male clutchmates they had several nephews and a few nieces around who had turned out to be more trouble than they were worth!

(Markov) “Oh, there are options like you wouldn’t believe. Why don’t you join me in my domain? We can discuss you joining the coalition while he (jerking a talon at the now throughly-restrained Ishvialsen) gets his just desserts!”

There were a few more negotiations, but they gladly came along – towing along eight nephews and four nieces without telling them what for. During the trip Ishvialsen was – somewhat deliriously – protesting on the grounds that “this can’t happen!”. Apparently he felt that he was always supposed to win…

(Markov) “What, you didn’t think losing was possible? You almost threw me for a loop there, but I think I proved which of us was the better dragon!”

Hm… from his thoughts, Ishvialsen had believed that all his opponents were phantasms, there just to put up a fight – and lose. He’d been pretty drastically overconfident in the superiority of his magic too.

(Markov) “So what made you think I was a phantasm? Don’t tell me you can’t sense souls!”

(Ishvialsen) “Whaah? Nooo…”

Huh! Apparently not! He’d just been assuming that – in a world so far out and silly – there wouldn’t be much of any.

Oh well! Mindprobing the semiconscious wasn’t much of a challenge – and it wasn’t like any of it really mattered, or wouldn’t be available for the asking after he was conditioned!

It didn’t take long before he was locked in a processing machine – along with a dozen squealing hatchlings.

The red ladies tried out a variety of combinations on the nephews first – giving the medical systems time enough to get Ishvialsen fully conscious and ready to suffer – before setting him up for the slowest, most agonizing, processing-combination that they’d been able to find…

Marty had been trying to push Markov to send young Ishvialsen to Kadia before processing – but Markov had promised these girls that he’d let them do the processing – and now it was too late! Perhaps he could have him sent afterwards, using the excuse that Ishvialsen was just too sorry to have around?

Nah, even that wouldn’t work! They knew that he was a very powerful mage, and could be quite useful!

Markov… was viewing the young mans fate with pleasure – and as entirely just. After all, the youngster had tried to steal his harem, and enslave him, his kids, and all his friends just for the fun of it – and believing that he could not lose, and so not even allowing a fair fight. No one had FORCED him to come to the Dragon Empire and go on a rampage!

Marty sighed. The youngster had… tortured and enslaved a dozen adolescent males, and a couple of hundred hatchling-children, and enslaved and raped a dozen adolescent females, many of whom had simply been trying to live their lives, purely for his own pleasure and amusement. He’d listened to them scream… and laughed. Now he was screaming as he was tortured and enslaved for the amusement of some of his would-be victims. By dragon standards, by Kadian gambling standards… and by most of Marty’s own standards, the young man had gambled, and lost, and was now paying… an entirely-appropriate price.

Well, he had enough useful powers to make an excellent slave-servant! He shouldn’t have bet something that he REALLY didn’t want to lose!

Meanwhile, the red ladies were happily listening to Ishvialsen as he started to scream – with the pain turned all the way up and things set to “slow and painful”. The nephews and nieces would be providing a bit of background accompaniment, but they were hardly the main show!

Well… it was their due as dragons!

On due consideration, Marty felt a lot more sorry for the hatchlings than he did for Ishvialsen. A happily-conditioned slave was probably a better fate than he deserved!

Markov offered to let them join the coalition… He’d be glad to have them! Of course, from their point of view, there really wasn’t much choice. There weren’t many other holdouts – certainly not enough to form another coalition – and Markov’s resources were now quite sufficient to overwhelm theirs. Plus, that had been a VERY impressive display there!

Besides… being massively overwhelmed otherwise, they did let Markov fight for them. That incurred some obligations.

They asked if he wanted to father a few of their clutches. They were going to have a thousand or more over their lives, and it WAS one of the expected rewards for a male fighting on behalf of a female.

Oh yes, Markov was just FINE with that idea… Where could they possibly find a better male? Besides… that way they could add a bit more consciousness of his failure and loss to Ishvialsen’s misery!

Of course, capturing all of Ishvialsen’s properties added another sixty or so slaves and concubines to the coalitions resources – plus rather a lot of hatchling-slaves and Ishvialsen’s hatchlings.

A bit later Markov stopped by to see Felan privately… His tricks had been very helpful, and deserved some acknowledgment!

The boy was so obviously thinking “See! They ARE really useful!” that it was almost painful, even if it WAS quite true.

(Felan, looking bright, alert, attentive, and expectant) “Thank you father! I was sure they’d help!)

(Markov) “Well, they were very helpful! You’ve made me even richer.”

(Felan) “Ooh!”

Markov ensured that some of that wealth overflowed in his direction… More than a token too! Wealth, magic, and some tools to help with his sculpting!

As well as tacit permission to continue to subordinate the weaker to mid-level son’s in his allies creches – since the boy now had nearly twenty of them under control thanks to subliminal conditioning and a boosting statue made just for the lower-end types… They could be collected any time later on of course – and, until then, they were technically free and could hold more slaves and things for him, thus expanding his holdings for when he came of age. Fortunately, the other members of the coalition would all find having a few of their kids tricked into slavery far more funny than annoying… That was what weak or unlucky or incautious hatchlings were FOR!

Felan might learn more self-control – or even to share a bit – later on, but at the moment he was basically planning on one heck of a coming-of-age party.

And he’d DEFINITELY acquired a soul too! Evidently his current prospects were more than bright enough to pull one in! Hurrah! Soon he could start school – and meet Eogam in Kadia! He was a clever kid! He’d have a really major lead on the next batch before they hatched!

Markov might have to establish a “younger sibling” slave-allowance too!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXII – The City of Crystal Dreams

Apse at the Arcosanti experimental town.

Welcome to Arcosanti!

After a few couple of weeks – and a dozen or so more rescues (which, with practice, were starting to go more smoothly – for the moment), Charles got a message from “a drunken shedu” up in Yu Shan. Terapishim (and “that other guy” – Gri Fel from the description) wanted to see him…

Well… it was off to see them then! They should be about ready to start the practical “test” in their new city!

As it turned out, that was more-or-less the point… The test was actually carried out in a set of Crystal Arenas, since long experience had taught the Celestial Bureaucracy that actually doing tests in the real location often led to trouble – and a set of Arenas could handle multiple candidates testing at the same time, helped screen out sabotage and interference, and (with a little help from the testing room) would allow a years worth of tests to be carried out in a mere afternoon…

The testing chamber itself was located in the Bureau of Humanity, and was lavishly appointed and decorated with images of major cities throughout Creation’s history, done in typical Yu Shan style. Gri Fel and Terapishim were in the back, relaxing before the test began.

Huh! He couldn’t build them a manse in there! And he’d been hoping that that would really help… Maybe if he was allowed to join in remotely or as an ally? The arena could account for things that the participants knew would be available to help!

Gri Fel and Terapishim were quite happy to see him; they’d been really hoping that he’d be available to help out.

And allies – especially god-bloods and mortals – were allowed! That was a part of why Gri Fel and Terapishim had summoned him!

Charles was happy to see them too of course…

(Gri Fel) “Well, Charles, the day has finally come. We get to prove that our long millennia of unemployment have not worn on us. I was wondering if you would be willing to provide assistance for us in the testing simulation. If nothing else, it will show we can cooperate with mortals.”

(Charles) “Oh certainly! Why not? “

(Terapishim) “Not to mention that we’ve still got some competition, and they’re probably getting help too.”

(Charles) “They each get their own arena, and they see who does best in the simulation?”

The judges informed Charles that that was, indeed, the procedure.

Huh… He reviewed the Crystal Arena’s design for the moment… The systems wouldn’t necessarily show the observers outside too much of the details of what went on, and observers in the simulation would be limited to whatever charms they could use normally… The scale for outside observation would be fairly small effectively… They judges were mostly interested in the final results, although they were monitoring for demonic, deathly, or fey Essence.

Hm… He should be able to get away with accelerating things as long as he channeled it through an artifact.

He drew on Dudael for a moment and made sure he had something appropriate in his pack to use as a mask…

The proctor was ready to begin – so Charles attuned to the Arena.

That took him, along with his six Coatl, Gri Fel, Terapishim, and the Proctor, into a hyper-realistic simulation of Arcosanti and it’s environs – to be informed that the test would involve seeing how they handled several scenarios common to cities in contemporary Creation, including natural disasters, crime waves, and social controversies. At least one of thes scenarios would be of an occult nature, since that was what gods were often most vital in dealing with these days. Scenario effects and solutions would be cumulative, and there would be a preparatory period of one virtual month to get settled in, explore the city, and get acquainted with its people and resources. They did, after all, want to see what the city gods would put up in anticipation of such scenarios. Preparedness counted too!

Not too surprisingly, the Proctor – and the view the audience was watching – was primarily focused on the two Gods; a god-blooded artificer – however skilled – just wasn’t as noteworthy as seeing one of the great city gods of a prior age trying out for a new position.

That didn’t mean that a few people in the audience might not be primarily interested in Charles – but they’d have to settle from what they could get whenever he was on-screen, or was in the Proctor’s report later on.

Gri Fel promptly started touring the city – using his Rod of Construction to reinforce walls and foundations, to upgrade doors, to improve facilities and security, and to otherwise make small improvements in passing – just to start.

Terapishim embarked on a tour of the environs, using his Verdigris Staff to ensure that the local region was as fertile as a desert environment should be (and then a bit), enriching the earth, purifying contaminated areas, and using some sort of blessing Charm to ensure that the topsoil would resist any erosion.

While most eyes in the audience, the proctor’s eyes, and the illusion-focus, was on Gri Fel and Terapishim, Charles trotted right down into the middle of the nascent demesne, pulled out a weird vaguely egg-shaped mass of magical materials – a “manse seed” – and planted it there, covertly channeling his own power through it to cause it to grow into a Bazaar of the Bizarre Manse and activate the demesne.

OK, it was only a modest cube of sculpted stone on the outside – another vaguely-decorative element in Arcosanti’s landscape – but all three gods jerked with surprise as a wave of geomantic energies poured over the city.

Gri Fel and Terapishim recovered quickly – they’d almost been expecting something like this, given their young friend’s artificing abilities and his inquiries into the cities growing demesne – but it was impressive nonetheless!

The Proctor was… rather shocked. Yes, they’d included the nascent domain forming in the city in the scenario – but hadn’t seriously considered the possibility of anyone taking advantage of it in the short space of a one-year afternoon simulation! Unless he’d gone crazy, that was the power-signature of a Rank Four or even Five Manse! The demesne had only been Rank Three to start with! Within two HOURS?

It only took a few moments to get there – to find the last components of the manse inscribing themselves on the surface and growing from the ground…

Meanwhile, the young god-blood that Gri Fel and Terapishim had towed around was busy weaving… citywide wards against fires, toxins, pollution, flooding, pestilence, storms, wind, lightning, hail, falling buildings and lesser objects, breaking glass, falling injuries, volcanoes, meteors and glaciation (oh come on! had the child been watching disaster movies???). Commendable skill and thaumaturgical power there, but it didn’t explain the Manse or the power flooding through it!

A “Programmable Manse Seed”? What in the wyld was a… Wait; wasn’t this child rumored to have uncovered a horde of artifacts? No wonder Gri Fel and Terapishim had wanted to bring him in! There was no telling what he might pull out to help them out!

Which, he had to admit, was actually a pretty good argument in their favor.

As the manse completed, Charles collected one of the three rating-0 hearthstones and took the other two to Gri Fel and Terapishim.

Gri Fel and Terapishim were continuing their labors – showing the subtlety and craftsmanship that one would expect of powerful, experienced, celestial deities.

(Gri Fel) “Dear me! Completed so rapidly, right down to the hearthstones? Very impressive! And what do they do?”

(Charles) “Nothing much really! They just let the manse and those it empowers know that you’re on the board of directors! That should get you some assistants soon! It’s designed to empower city-guardians, and experts, and traders, and so on!

The simulation did include the people of Arcosanti, as well as visitors…

Speaking of those people, they were quite impressed and startled by the new quasi-sculptural, addition to their city – and several of their thaumaturgists were quietly investigating the apparent miracle…

It didn’t take them too long to determine that the manse was safe, and useful, and supported the city in a variety of ways – and offered a tantalizing hint of further power. It didn’t take much longer after that for them to decipher the three oaths.

One of the braver bell-crafting thaumaturges was the first to try out one of those. Reciting an oath to continue to live in his home and to continue his crafting seemed inconsequential enough. As the power of the manse poured into him, he abruptly became aware that it meant a lot more than he’d thought…

Over the next simulated month, the simulated city acquired thirty extra simulated guardians…

The first disaster was a serious earthquake, that might have collapsed several structures, and injured many, if it hadn’t been for the various wards and reinforcements.

As it was, there was a bit of minor structural damage here and there – but the manse was unharmed, injuries were negligible, and there were no serious collapses. In fact, the local mortals found – on close inspection (and after Gri Fel had made a hurried pass through the city with his Rod of Construction) – that most of damage seemed to be purely superficial…

Gri Fel and Terapishim had the guardians help out with disaster relief in the surrounding communities and with what little was needed in Arcosanti.

That attracted a good deal of local media attention though; news of it’s remarkable upswing in fortunes, and of the artistic and technical (and “new-age”…) renaissance going on there, was quite a good story!

Charles carefully downplayed the “mysterious appearing sculpture and small garden” reports. It wasn’t like there was any obvious connection…

Fortunately, the guardians were mostly involved with indoors work – packing relief packages and the like. Gri Fel quietly walked the city in mortal guise, using the Rod of Construction to provide secret assistance with repair and reconstruction efforts.

Over the next couple of simulated months, Arcosanti not only recovered but experienced something of a boom – it’s enhanced facilities drawing numerous occultists and beginning to make it a center of trade. The manse achieved it’s full quota of guardians and the stacked-up wards over Arcosanti reached the point where any more would start interfering with each other.

Then – of course – there was another incident… Arcosanti was in a fairly dry region. One day, construction workers hit a spring. Unfortunately, the spirit of that spring was quite irritated at being disturbed… There was soon modest flooding. Terapishim’s blessing kept the topsoil from being eroded by the water, preventing any side effects from that, but it didn’t directly affect buildings; the wards DID of course, but letting that go on too long would start making it obvious that something supernatural was involved. She was showing no signs of stopping. It looked like Gri Fel and Terapishim would have to negotiate with her.

Charles trailed along, but intended to mostly stay out of that one… He had no great social skills – although some of the three hundred guardians did.

Gri Fel and Terapishim brought along quite a few of the subordinates. After some intense negotiations (and their entourage did impress her), they managed to come to an understanding; she agreed to stop the flooding as long as they built some sort of shrine for her.

Charles could help with that! Why the place even had a fair touch of Geomantic power available!

He designed an extremely nice little manse – with the “divine apartments” and “access to Yu-Shan style goodies” powers.

She appreciated that quite a lot. As a Terrestrial spirit, she normally had little to no chance of getting those…

Terapishim’s powers over the earth helprf the land dry up quickly, and Gri Fel again assisted with what reconstruction was required.

After another three months the town was becoming prosperous thanks to the Manse… Artists were gathering there. With them come more conventional people – along with the steady flow of Occultists. Unfortunately, along with that came an increase in the crime rate… Disappearances seemed to be topping the list.

That was more Gri Fels field, although Charles deployed some scouts to help keep watch.

It didn’t take Gri Fel long to find that everyone involved seemed to have gone to a particular art gallery outside of the Manse.

Terapishim didn’t like the looks of the Essence around that place… It seemed awfully chaotic in places. Mild, but still troubling.

To Charles… It was a very nice art gallery indeed. It was also new – and the Essence was definitely fey.

(Charles) “Allo there!”

(Glassy-Eyed Attendant) “Hello there, sir. Welcome to our gallery. Are you interested in any pieces?”

(Charles) “Hm… Who’s your manager?”

(Attendant) “Oh, he’s busy right now. I wouldn’t disturb him.”

(Charles) “Ah, but I might like to buy a few of his pieces for my permanent collection!”

(Attendant) “Okay… “

She led him into the back, where he could hear a man and a woman talking… He was trying to get a kiss from her. She sounded intrigued…

Charles wandered in to have a look – and really wasn’t surprised to find a male fey feeding.

He did have a fairly human body, and had even hidden the ears – but it’s hard for a Fey to hide feeding on one’s Temperance. Charles could see the gossamer-like dreams flowing into his mouth.

(Charles) “That’s really not very nice!”

(Fey) “Ah! A mortal child, in here? Hmm. Even tastier!”

He tried to feed on Charles – and failed miserably. The woman, knowing that something is up, promptly escaped.

(Charles) “Really not very polite at all!”

(Befuddled Fey) “Wha… that usually doesn’t happen! Someone must like you.”

(Charles) “Well lots of people like me! You’re being rather mean though!”

(Fey) “Hmph! I suppose you’ll be wanting me to stop, leaving me to starve, then?”

Hmm! This was policy! Policy was more or less up to Gri Fel and Terapishim!

He consulted them remotely…

It was rare that fey dared to live in Creation’s cities these days. In old times, the city gods of Great Forks allowed Raksha as long as they didn’t overfeed. Other cities were often less lenient… but really, anyone could be a Raksha considering some of their Charms. Gri Fel (like the majority of gods) was a hardliner, but then his city was at the center of Creation. Terapishim was a bit more lenient.

Drat it! They seemed to be at an impasse right now!

Well, it wouldn’t take long to cultivate a small demesne in the hills nearby – there seemed to be a couple of rating-one demesnes out there already – and set up a freehold. The fey made GREAT artists and could – if willing – contribute some very interesting elements to a city. With the manse-guardians available to keep things under control a few Fey hanging about really shouldn’t be much of any trouble.

They struck a deal – and the manse made it binding.

Their small freehold would function as an artists colony nearby. That would let them contribute, get their motes, and be harmless.

Gri Fel took some persuading, but – as long is it was outside the city – was willing to put up with it.

There tests closed with a flurry of simultaneous, but minor problems – perhaps with the intent of seeing which ones were dealt with first, perhaps to see how many could be handled at a time. As it happened, with the manse-guardians helping out, and the artifacts, and Charles, there were plenty of people to spare to meet all of them simultaneously.

The simulations ended – and the proctors announced that the results would be tabulated, and announced in their turn, in a comparatively short time… about a month.

Gri Fel and Terapishim were both quite happy with how it had gone. They appreciated Charles’s assistance and promised to compensate him somehow if they get the position. They did seem fairly confident…

(Charles) “Not a worry! And I bet you do! I think it went pretty well!”

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXI – The Bicyclist of the Unpocalypse

Now that Aden was more or less fully landscaped, it seemed a pity that there was hardly anyone there to enjoy it…

Well… There were Yu-Shan gates all over the globe – including in a lot of troubled areas and places with natural disasters… Right then! He did have some contacts with the pattern spiders; he asked them where and how he could pick up people while creating the least possible disturbances in the loom.

That turned out to be… mostly in unimportant areas where pretty much everyone was about to die. Places where disaster was about to strike, where conflicts were about to roll over and destroy clusters of villages, where mass famines were wiping people out, where local warlords were rising, and where genocide was underway. If everyone was going to be wiped out in a few hours anyway, taking them away would create very little in the way of a disturbance…

When investigators finally showed up, there would be missing bodies, and – if they used detection charms – inevitable traces of whatever he used to take them away, but nothing much more than that. They’d mostly just presume the bodies were in a mass grave or some such, Lost bodies from wiped out villages were rarely very important to fate…

OK then! He’d drop by places where villages and such were going to be wiped out, open the secondary portals to Aden, and have the fey-style manse guardians collect people who would soon die otherwise. That way it would look like a normal fey “raid” using a chancel!

His first few trips got him quite a few people from developing countries, and even more from the more poorly developed ones. It was quite an eclectic mix! For a common language there were educational spells!

For explanations there were… er… Well, honestly, magic gates had opened up, magical elves of light mixing human, elemental, and animal features had come through them, and taken everyone away to a supernatural realm – allowing them time as practical to pack up their personal stuff! Could you get much more blatantly supernatural?

Some of them wanted to know how he’d done that. Others want to know if they’d entered the afterlife. More pragmatic ones were wondering what you want in return.

(Charles) “Well… I CAN help, so it would be rather mean of me not to! This isn’t the afterlife, but it might create quite a disturbance if you went back now – and there’ s not much to go back to anyway – but I have lots of space for people to stay! You’re currently aboard Aden Shining Dream, the Gears of the World. He’s rather young as of yet, so his world-body is relatively small so far!”

There was some hysteria – but that was pretty much inevitable. At least there were lots and lots of manse guardians available to soothe it.

Fortunately, quite a lot of the people he’d picked up were still “unsophisticated” enough to believe in magic – and the rest would get more accepting as they stayed.

Besides, the manse-guardians would reveal that Aden did answer prayers on occasion… And there was plenty to eat, good places to live, and lots of supplies waiting!

That alone made many of them quite happy – especially the ones from famine or drought-stricken territories.

The projects still created thousands of very low-grade loom disturbances as people vanished a few hours or days early – leaving no bodies or easily-transported personal possessions… Even in these hideously overworked times, the cumulative effect did not go unnoticed by the Sidereals… There was much speculation in the Forbidding Manse of Ivy as to The Fey involvement. As far as Fey “recruiting” went, this was a lot more benign than most styles!

As well as being a lot harder to trace, and nigh-impossible to reach in time to do anything about… Not that it really mattered if the Fey drained some folk who had played out their roles already – but any change in a pattern that had lasted for twenty thousand years was cause for concern. The Fey had been by turns ruthless, inhuman, glamorous, beautiful, enticing, terrible, benevolent, malevolent, glorious, chivalrous, studious, entertaining, and utterly chaotic – but they had NEVER been especially subtle!

The Pattern Spiders… found it somewhat funny! It was not often that a young Exalt – or whatever Charles was becoming – consulted them as to how he could minimize the disturbances he was creating…

That was a remarkably pleasant change! An entity that who was trying to avoid making more work for anyone!

They had quite enough work to do as it was!

There were similar discussions in the Cerulean Lute of Harmony as well… There weren’t many important people involved, and Charles had been taking precautions with the Spiders he knew – but it was still something they would notice, even if it was caught up in the usual bureaucratic morass.

Meanwhile, of course, it took Charles a few hours – even by artifact-bicycle – for each trip. After all, he had to physically make it to the area to open up the portals. They only had a five-mile range or so!

That meant taking quick trips whenever he could fit them in…

And meant that various groups – and especially the Sidereals – might soon be able to predict places where he’d be likely to show up. Once they caught on to the pattern, they could foresee disasters rather more easily than Charles could.

Still, it would take a number of trips for them to figure out the pattern. There would be plenty of chances for other kinds of trouble first – and troubled areas often attracted higher-powered types.

Charles was somewhere in the middle east – he wasn’t exactly sure where – when the first of those complications popped up. It was a unit of some sort of mercenaries…

(Mercs, abruptly confronted with a North American kid on a bicycle) “What the?”

(Charles) “Hello! What’s up?”

(Mercs) “Where in the heck-Get down, kid!”

As bullets ripped through the air – and they returned fire.

(Charles, using a touch of widespread alchemical magic to denature any nearby explosives) “Hey! Stop that!”

Everything went silent for a bit. He could hear people attempting to fire guns, and failing. Well… At least that would give the fey time to evacuate the nearby villages he was collecting!

(Merc) “What are you doing here? This is a combat zone . . . and you don’t look like you’re from around here.”

(Charles) “I’m visiting just for a bit! I’m pretty sure that the people who actually live here don’t want to play this particular game though… What’s the shooting about?”

(Mercs) “A bunch of local leaders hired us to root out some extremists. Got nasty, as you can see. They’ve got the place wired with explosives. Lucky for us, our tech guys managed to defuse the ones around here, but they found us. And that’s about where you came in.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, there won’t be any blowing up for the moment.”

Hm. The mercenaries apparently weren’t on the about-to-be-killed list – but about half that village was… Oh well! There should be time to evacuate the village easily enough!

(Charles) “Well… it seems quiet enough at the moment!”

A few of the mercs considered that… You spent enough time on the battlefield, and you saw some stuff. If you were sensible, you didn’t get involved with the weirder bits.

Kids who stood in the middle of a battlefield hail of bullets unprotected and unharmed, and who waved a hand and caused every gun, grenade, mine, booby-trap, and explosive device on the field to spontaneously misfire, were sure as hell among the weirder bits.

Even the less experienced mercs were still in a bit of shock at Charles’s sudden appearance and all of the spontaneous weapons failures.

(Merc) “Yeah. We’d better capture those guys while we can. Uh… thanks, kid. I take it you don’t need help getting back?”

(Charles) “Not really!”

Why was that no surprise at all?

Report this to his superiors at the PMC?

It was either than or get really drunk and blot it out!

Charles pedaled off again after the place was empty – making a mental note; “Thautmaturgical disguise next time!”

Next time out he went as “Gateway”, a minor character he’d seen in a marvel comic book! That just required a cosmetic transformation! Gateway was a little old aboriginal guy, so he didn’t even need to change his size or anything…

He had to whip up an aboriginal bullroarer, but that was no real trouble!

The next few gates were as uneventful as swiping entire settlements of frightened people in the face of violence and disaster could be – but Charles and his manse-legions had more than enough power on their side to deal with large numbers of upset mortals and a few disasters and hostile mortals on the side.

Then one of them was a relief convoy. It had guards, but they were facing heavy attack – although one of them was impressively skilled with her gun… It wasn’t the transcendent skill Reku had, but it might be more than human.

Well… that called for a Ward versus Bullets around the convoy, an illusion of fires and dangerous explosions for outside viewers – to keep them from trying to move in too quickly – and sending in his “troops” to rescue people, with the gates disguised as convenient hiding places and low points that could serve as foxholes.

That was even far more true than it would have been if they’d been real foxholes!

The ward, of course, prevented casualties – while the illusions encouraged the guerrillas to keep firing. Of course, when they were fighting essentially-invulnerable defenders, they started to run short of ammo eventually – and had to fall back. Meanwhile, of course, Charles and the Fey had been busily ushering people through the gates – or urging them to duck into cover. Of course, that did leave a few who hadn’t been supposed to become casualties…

A couple got swept up with the others; “vanished during a massacre” was a very small disruption of fate when it came to mortals involved in a military operation after all… The rest who didn’t get swept up accidentally mostly hadn’t seen much of anything except that “some of the others tried to escape!”.

The fey were GOOD at that sort of thing! And it helped that the massacre was supposed to have been near-total…

By that time, however, there were some rescuers approaching. They were pretty surprised to see that the convoy was almost entirely physically intact – and that there was a distinct scarcity of dead bodies – except for that one woman, who seemed equally suspicious and grateful.

(Woman) “OK, I’ve seen my grandson’s comic books… Who the hell are you really?”

The others with her were surprised. She looked too young to be a grandmother!

(Woman, with some exasperation) “Hey, I’ve had work done.”

(Charles) “Oops! I was just helping!”

Oh dear! Were the rescuers supposed to be included in the massacre? It looked like… they were supposed to have walked into a guerrilla ambush. They didn’t know that of course… He really ought to snatch them! The Pattern Spiders might be annoyed! But… it would be very very rude to snatch people who were no longer in any immanent danger!

Annoying the pattern spiders really wasn’t very likely; As disruptions went, the unexpected survival of a few mortals was tiny – and the Spiders were used to thousands of bigger disruptions than THAT every day. Things like Abyssals exploding manses however… now THAT was a disruption!

(Woman) “Really, who are you? That’s a pretty obscure character.”

(Charles) “Er… But if I tell you it could really mess things up! I could get in trouble!”

(Woman, her eyes narrowing) “Oh, I get it… one of them. Tell you what. You saved our butts back there, so I’m going to be quiet.”

(Charles, somewhat doubtfully) “ Er… Right! One of “Them”! (hopefully) I take it they don’t ever explain anything? “

(Woman) “Better not to let them. Bad things can happen.”

The other people with her were looking restive and eager for action.

It was a good thing that she wasn’t thinking too much yet! She was probably thinking “Sidereal” – or whatever term she usually used – but soon she’d realize that there was no one else in the caravan, and that Sidereals usually didn’t disguise themselves as characters from comic books! Nor did they shapeshift… and a physical disguise was a bit hard with a pair of shorts and no shirt!

It would make her wonder all the more later, but at least he wouldn’t be there to be questioned! She might conclude that he was a Lunar, a Guardian Spirit – or perhaps a friendly thaumaturge…

(Charles) “Oh well! If everything is all right it’s probably time I was on my way…”

He unfolded his bicycle.

The woman let him go…

At least they have their stuff, if not their personnel… Still, the Sidereals were probably a lot better at this ninja stuff; maybe they did a correspondence course? Considering how far flung they often were from Yu Shan, it might be over thaumaturgical links funded by the Bureau of Destiny… Perhaps he could pretend to be a Sidereal pretending to be someone else for extra credit!

Federation-Apocalypse Session 198c – Organizing the Creche

Marty frowned… It looked like Markov was likely to remain “untamed” for quite some time… How was that possible? Markov was just an Identity! A role he took while he was in the Dragon Empire!

Was he using his own powers against himself? That would explain it – but only if Markov really did express some suppressed aspects of his own personality.

Oh well… He was getting better at managing Markov, rather than just letting him run amuck.

As far as the youngsters went…the creche had been awkward to settle down; selling Tokif – and the ensuing mess with that fat mage! – had caused a LOT of unrest. If the hatchlings couldn’t trust Markov to make a reasonable effort to protect them there was no point in them staying past their first suspicions of his motives… It would just add an erratic parent to all the other dangers they’d be in ANYWAY.

Felan was doing a lot to regulate things – but Markov had still had to give the hatchlings some pretty strong guarantees that he wasn’t going to sell or enslave any more of them for minor failures to get them to keep up the dominance duels (they didn’t mind at all as long as they were SURE it was just practice!) and – in some cases – to stay at all.

He might not have bothered – but now that Felan was gradually getting them organized and enhanced, the creche was turning out to be surprisingly useful! (Besides, anything to keep that weirdo mage from popping up again, stupid humans messing with his territory…)

In any case… regular practice fights might help them get to the point where they could produce a supply of grandchildren!

One kid wanted to know if those new guarantees would apply to Tokif as well if he somehow made it back; after all, Markov had probably never gotten paid…

Actually Vrysylin had paid, since the escape was not Markov’s fault (and he WAS lawful) – but it would be honorable enough to return it and cancel the transaction…

Markov did. He wouldn’t want to develop a bad business reputation anyway – and why not let it apply to the boy? Even if it had only succeeded with outside help, he’d made a very impressive attempt at escaping on his own.

The rest of the kids in the creche were surprisingly pleased. When Markov probed, It appeared that… Tokif had been turning out to be quite handy; he’d had the ability to make cheap talismans with a spell in them. Not so many a month, but enough to keep a few emergency charms on you…

He hadn’t been too strong a combatant without using them though, and he’d hated to use up valuable talismans on casual fights.

Huh… That explained the losses – and made it obvious that simply selling Tokif would be quite a waste! That was a rare and highly valuable talent!

Wait a moment there… Witchcraft, Talisman-Making, Mystic Sculpture… Just how many of his hatchlings had seriously exotic talents? He hadn’t checked on all that many! Whatever had happened to good old blast-and-smash? There was nothing wrong with that!

Markov started secretly hoping he got a few more like that, just for a contrast, and tradition’s sake.

He’d have to scan and probe them all, just to make sure that he was not surprised.

There really were quite an assortment…

Marty sighed. Oh yes. Godfire. It WOULD have something to do with all this! Just like his daughter from Faerun; the realm permitted high-end magic, and so a bit of power expressed itself in the kids.

Markov was pondering… his Hatchlings seemed to have access to a far wider selection of powers than usual – many of them totally unavailable to most dragons – and were getting some general boosts! That made even the slaves potentially very valuable! He wouldn’t be willing to part with any of them except through duels for a start! And he’d have to try and get any that he’d sent away, or had been captured, back! Maybe even the ones he’d sent off to that “Kadia” place!

He… might even try steering some of the less-dominant kids into non-combative middle-class careers as aides and such… He did need people to handle supplies and such. While that had always been the domain of the lesser races, the “glut of females” – and the chance of satisfying male dragon instincts without major dominance battles – was a unique new development in the Dragon Empire.

Felan was continuing to organize the creche… there were PLENTY of outside targets, and they had a growing coalition to move into as adults… They could ALL collect suitable households if they could just be useful enough to be allowed to collect larger numbers of hatchling-slaves from beyond the household before the other creches started catching on – and working with each other to grab more slots in the next generations parental lottery gave them ALL much better chances than fighting each other indiscriminately.

He didn’t know WHY the other creches hadn’t caught on yet, but he was glad of it – and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity! Every other test-passing male he and his siblings could eliminate NOW meant two more mates for each of them later on!

Still, his remaining siblings had fallen into line after he’d had one slave-processed as an example… A number of them had been of the opinion that Markov wouldn’t really have given him that authority, but having one done had neatly removed any doubts about that.

He might have picked Tokif – but he’d already dropped out of Markov’s favor and been sold… Weirdly, he’d felt kind of… pleased when Tokif had actually managed to escape from becoming a slave to an outsider. He hadn’t even objected to the notion that he’d be welcomed back if he managed to pull off a return…

Besides, Tokif had been handy to have around. Having a couple of emergency-escape talismans could be really handy, as Tokif himself had so well demonstrated!

He’d considered Korven – he’d been running up a pretty good string of dominance-battle victories (even if he was being silly to not keep more of his abilities in reserve!) – but Markov was favoring him a bit due to those victories, so it might be impolitic to have him screaming in a processing machine.

Then his clutch-brother Aimon had sounded off – yet AGAIN – about how HE had just as much right to be favored as Felan did.

Well… the dimwit was pretty physically oriented, would make a useful servant/bodyguard, and had just more or less volunteered… Being processed and conditioned would make him a LOT easier to get along with… and it WOULD be a distinct pleasure!

Felan beckoned to the waiting servants and pointed to Aimon.

(Aimon) “Hey! Let go slaves! You can’t do this! Markov would never allow it!”

Markov had been watching – and decided to drop by.

(Aimon) “Father! There you are! Make Felan let me out! He had no right to have the servants put me in…”

Aimon’s demands abruptly ended with in frantic squeal of pain and horror as Markov dragon-laughed and reached into the slave-processing machine with draconic strength to pull some of the restraints very painfully tight indeed.

(Markov) “Ah, I see you’ve made your first slave-selection Felan! An excellent choice! Do you want to get him started right away, or would you prefer to torment him for awhile first?”

The boy HAD been a good fighter, but being dumb enough to question Markov’s preferences after his brother had taken down three siblings already and been awarded another sibling-prize was just begging to be enslaved! Felan was the favored one for very good reasons!

Felan and Markov spent a few father-and-son bonding moments making Aimon scream before leaving him to provide the entertainment and getting on with the meeting – with Markov sitting in as an observer.

Except for the occasional outbreak of laughter at Aimon’s screams, whimpers, and pleas as he was processed, the rest of the creche-meeting was fairly straightforward; Felan was now the unquestioned favorite and dominant, and the others were pleased to discover that he actually had plans in mind that would be good for all of them – well, discounting Aimon and the other slaves anyway!

His – well, it’s – shrieks were quieting as exhaustion set in by the time the meeting was over.

Hm… Lets see… After you noted that Korven had defeated Thamor, that reduced the number of free hatchlings in the creche to… fifteen. Five males and ten females.

Black Males (0 Free):

  • Osbric: Washed out in testing, enslaved.

Black Females (2 Free):

  • Adie:
  • Corbel: Test-dodger. Still property of her chosen master, who defeated Tokif.
  • Famke:
  • Kaschi: Lost a challenge-match in testing, enslaved, currently with Marty in Kadia.

Blue Males (1 Free in creche, 1 Free with Marty):

  • Thamor: Won an Academic Scholarship, but was enslaved by Korven.
  • Tokif: Fled to avoid enslavement, in Kadia with Marty. Owns a gold slave.
  • Varifen: Won an Academic Scholarship, is going to school.

Blue Females (2 Free):

  • Adele:
  • Delcinaria: Test-dodger. Currently in Kadia with Marty and her future mate.
  • Felit: Test-dodger. Currently in Kadia with Marty and her possible future mate.
  • Riassa:

Green Males (3 Free):

  • Aben: Owns a copper slave. Is currently being slowly bound to Felan.
  • Baffin: Captured and enslaved while hatchling-hunting. In Kadia with Marty
  • Korven: Owns Thamor. Quite physically oriented.
  • Seidan: Played against Eduar (SM) by Felan, Property of Felan
  • Shantis: Killed while hatchling-hunting. In Kadia with Marty
  • Tethen: Enslaved by a neighbor’s hatchling, now in Kadia with Marty. Ensouled and Enthralled.
  • Vedic: Is currently being slowly bound to Felan.

Green Females (6 free):

  • Bitha: Is currently being slowly bound to Felan. Effectively property.
  • Devi:
  • Eriss:
  • Kantha: Owns a copper slave
  • Maya:
  • Rana: Test-dodger, now with Marty in Kadia with her possible future mate.
  • Rani: Is currently being slowly bound to Felan.
  • Vrinda: Lost a challenge match in testing, enslaved, rescued by Marty from being eaten,in Kadia.

Red Males (1 Free):

  • Aimon: Enslaved by Felan.
  • Felan: Current dominant in the creche, owns numerous slaves. Now ensouled.

Red Females (0 Free):

  • Ghislane: Washed out in testing, enslaved.
  • Silver Males (0 Free)
  • Andras: Lost to Felan, enslaved.
  • Eduar: Lost to Felan, enslaved.

Silver Females (0 Free):

  • Arlin: Test-dodger. Currently with Marty in Kadia with her possible future mate.
  • Melita: Washed out in testing, enslaved. Currently belongs to Felan.

Well, girls were always slower and more subtle about eliminating each other than the boys were! Still, they were winnowing down quite nicely! Even if the boys seemed to have pretty well stabilized for the moment!

That was so cute that he just HAD to pass out some rewards! Some nice new toys and minor magical gizmos for each free survivor!

Heck! The slaves could have something! They were still his kids after all… Some fancy collars – enough to let people know that these were VALUABLE slaves – and some cushions to sleep on, and some chew toys, and extra food, and so on… In fact, he put the cushions in adorable beds suitable for valuable slaves or pets! They were superior to most hatchlings, even if they were slaves!

The slaves were VERY happy to find that Markov still thought of them as something other than utterly disposable property (although that may be partially due to their tendency to have special powers).

Some of the hatchlings were rather puzzled – but saw no reason why not. Felan, of course, was showing off his sibling-slaves as living artworks, and was pleased; they SHOULD have good accouterments and display cases!

Markov had to laugh at that. Artists… Well, no reason not to have the beds for his slaves tailored so as to make each one as appealing as possible!

If only because – with him thinking of them as personal works of art – he was likely to take very good care of his sibling-slaves. That was kind of nice!

Marty, meanwhile, was rather horrified… That was nineteen kids down out of the original 34 – and more destined to lose out! It looked like… Markov was expecting maybe 20% to make it out of the creche and into competition with the rest of the world – which would eliminate most of the remainder! That was horrible!

At least the ones in the creche – where Ailill’s processing machines were used – were happy!

Still… At least Markov was giving the slaves some consideration – and wasn’t eating them!

Well, to be fair. Markov had never really been interested in eating them or any other hatchlings! There was no challenge there!

Federation-Apocalypse Session 198b – The Voices of the Dawn

With Kevin quietly inveigling their latest evil necromancer, Mr Cartwright was quietly asking for an explanation of what was going on from Marty.

(Marty) “Kevin just transported everybody to his personal dimension. I think he was going to try to build new bodies for the woman and the two kids bound to her.”

(Cartwright) “And is the lizard the one that was possessing the woman?”

(Marty) “I believe so. Isn’t he, Kevin?”

(Kevin) “Yep! But there really is no such thing as Death – especially for master necromancers who often carry their powers over to their next life – so it’s much better to get people settled and doing something useful than to just kill their bodies and ship them off across the cosmos to start over!”

(Eyes) “So you wish to offer me a job as a teacher of magical and necromantic arts in a realm without death?”

(Kevin) “Oh no! The offer was for training in other arts and teaching some theoretical survey courses in necromancy!”

(Feanor, privately to Mr Cartwright) “Well… He was very mean, but killing necromancers tends to be even LESS permanent than killing other major powers! They tend to come back quite quickly! So Master Kevin would like to get him settled in somewhere more permanent and perhaps get him some training in other arts! That way he won’t NEED to be a mean necromancer any longer! And – just maybe – he will change.”

(Eyes) “I see, so would I be teaching talented students at least? I suspect the opportunity to do a little research is right out though. So what other magical arts would you be offering training in?”

(Kevin to Eyes) “Oh yes. The automatic systems handle the dabblers and less talented. There’s plenty of chances for research, and some rather extensive libraries – and as for other arts… there are several hundred to look into”

(Eyes) “Interesting, well I am certainly willing to take a look into what you have to offer.”

(Kevin) “Well, here are some employment brochures… And I’ll assign some aides, some transport, and so on… Would you like the aides to take forms of your own species?”

(Eyes, with considerable surprise) “You have shapeshifters at your disposal as simple aides?”

(Kevin) “It’s one of the powers I bestow on the youngsters who opt to work for me!”

(Eyes) “Why do I get the impression I am not the first you’ve recruited in this manner?”

(Marty) “Because you’re not?”

(Kevin) “Well, with limitless resources, the easiest way to resolve a lot of issues is through bribery!”

(Eyes) “Can it really be called bribing when the resources involved are supposedly unlimited?”

(Kevin, cheerily) “It depends on which end you’re looking at it from I guess!…. So, if you’d like some aides, would you like males, females, or neuters?”

(Eyes) “I think we are going to go with females in this instance.”

(Kevin) “Easy enough!”

There was nothing for diverting a mage from dangerous research like a big party!

(Eyes) “Very well, can we at least get somewhere more inhabited now? I am sure some people find this type of view scenic or something, but I’m not really adapted for it.”

Kevin teleported them all to one of the smaller cities – in this case one with an antique (1950’s) futurism theme over the Core base – crystal spires, greenery, currently drifting above a wild gorge and a swampy area full of dinosaurs.

(Eyes) “Lots of people and magical enchantments to support them here. Your resources must truly be nigh unlimited to be able to afford building a magical city like this. I cannot even begin to fathom the amount of metal and zenni it would take to build all of this.”

(Kevin, absently) “Most of them are empty and on automatic maintenance at the moment. I just created them as a part of creating this universe.”

(Eyes) “Even construct automatons to maintain it all?”

(Kevin) “Easier that way!”

(Eyes) “And the parrot has a domain like this one as well?”

(Marty) “Not quite like this one, but pretty close!’

(Kevin) “His is more cartoonish!”

(Eyes) “Cartoonish? I am not familiar with that term.”

Marty explained cartoons – and demonstrated with illusions as necessary.

(Eyes) “And one would make their own domain to look like this?”

(Marty) “Hey, I was born in a dimension that was like that. It’s what I know. Besides… it’s not just looks! It’s the laws of nature and magic and life and death too!”

(Kevin) “Even the power to create universes bows to habit!”

(Eyes) “And what are those disgusting hairless monkeys that are all over the place?”

(Marty, swapping back to his normal form) “They’re humans, and that’s what I look like when I’m not visiting animal based realms.”

(Kevin) “Oh they’re common here! Humans are the original base stock for the Manifold; most of the other races are just transmigrations! And even where they’re born that way, humans set the original mental patterns…”

Meanwhile, Feanor had temporarily assigned himself to explaining things to Mr Cartwright and answering his questions – of which there were plenty, including not a few personal ones.

(Eyes) “So these humans are the base stock of reality? Why do I get the feeling that the rodents are closer to humans than many of the races in my world?”

(Kevin) “Quite perceptive of you! They are indeed, since the Core Reality is technological – and so is that of the rats and mice!”

(Eyes) “So this is really a world of wheels and steam then?”

(Kevin) “Fusion and Force Fields mostly!”

(Eyes) “More terms I don’t understand. Worlds of wheels, machines, fields, and fusors. Worlds of moving drawings and illusions. Worlds of magic and animalistic races. Worlds of hairless apes that are the dominant race in reality. Maybe these resources are truly limitless.”

(Kevin) “Well, for practical purposes at least…”

Meanwhile, Mrs Turner and her two children had quickly ducked behind a tree to and had been quickly trying to put as much distance as they could between them and the rest of the group – particularly the chameleon. The teleport had neatly taken care of THAT of course, but they had no way of knowing that…

That left them wandering off into the uninhabited reaches of Kadia – where it was awfully easy to get lost.

Fortunately, Kevin had dispatched some Thralls to check on them, to explain a bit, and to keep them well-shielded for the moment.

(Eyes) “Very well, I think I want to see more.”

There was a quick tour – mostly for Mr Cartwrights benefit – as both Kevin and Marty turned much of their attention elsewhere.

Cartwright asked Feanor a LOT of questions about how the laws worked locally, the number of people coming and going, the gates to different locations, and the services offered. He was especially focused on asking questions about Core and the worlds there.

(Cartwright) “So ensoulment is related to how closely tied one is to Core? And ensoulment is the difference in why you were able to resurrect some of the children immediately and others not so easily?”

(Feanor) “Ensoulment… Souls maintain a core of identity between realms and always shape reality a bit. Their dreams come into being – somewhere. People who lack that quality… are aspects of the realms they belong in. They take various forms in those realms, and live in reality instead of shaping it – and can be fairly readily resurrected. The divisions aren’t strict though! Souls move in and out of normally un-ensouled roles all the time… I think it’s part of the merger process! The more souls that experience various roles, the more they have in common – and the closer each soul comes to having experienced everything! No one really knows – it will take many trillions of years for everyone to experience everything – but eventually… I think that we will all become one with the ultimate creator.

Sadly… Master Kevin may well be one of the last! He’s… happy enough in his role, and has lots of distractions – harems, and mates, and children, and pets like me, and dragon-rivals who try to intrude on his harem and get enslaved, and vacations, and things – but he may be trapped being the maintenance-man for Core and the catalyst for us to jump straight to the fun parts of infinity for a trillions of years… I’m glad I can distract him at times! It’s a fun job and he needs it!

Anyway… Souls are the one thing that cannot be created on demand.”

(Cartwright) “And how difficult is it to access Core?”

(Feanor) “Lord Kevin has lots of gates there! Want to look?”

(Cartwright) “I think that would be a good idea. The tales about the place have always fascinated me.”

Feanor went back to trotting at Kevin’s heels while some of the other Thralls took Mr Cartwright to see Core.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 198a – Yep! It’s Another Evil Necromancer!

Meanwhile, back with the Colony Council – in far slower time at the moment than the Dragon Empire (which was not helping the group maintain control of their identities there at all), the discussion on Kevin – and his contract – was still underway.

The Unified Church, Escrimera (and presumably the Divine Heavens), and Marty were a trifle appalled to find that Kevin was not at all in control of the ever-growing powers his Thralls got.

The colony council was less concerned with cosmic problems. Regardless of exactly who – or what – was truly in control of exactly what powers the… godling… bestowed, their concerns were a good deal more local. It seemed that that impossible contract was genuine – and no matter what stand they took on it, the impact on their culture was going to be considerable and the implications further-reaching than most of them were willing to contemplate.

No matter how genial, or helpful, “Kevin / Angkor” was, he represented… a social change as complete as the “singularity” that humans had sometimes talked about in their literature – all in one amiable… youngster.

Kevin fielded a few minor questions – but it looked like, for the moment, most of the council members were too engrossed in the computers and the contract-and-procedure details to know what to ask yet.

(Kevin) “Oh, would you like us to help you set up a city ward while we’re here?”

(Cartwright) “I suppose such a thing would be well within your power, wouldn’t it? Although I am seeing caution in letting you go full bore on this too. Do you perhaps have someone in your retinue that knows the details of how one is constructed so that making due with large amounts of power isn’t necessary?”

Kevin got the impression that he was trying hard to find a polite way to say that…

(Kevin) “Yes indeed; I wasn’t intending to do it with raw power; Raphael here would blow his top if he had to calm any more reality storms this month.”

(Escrimera) “Yes, I think it would be best to avoid a reality storm in an underground city.”

(Cartwright) “Very well, what will you need from us and would it be of any help to have our own people involved in learning how to care for and maintain it?”

(Kevin) “Well, it will slightly drain the energies of everyone who participates – but if enough people do, it will only be for an hour or two. Ergo… A really large street party will work; it will provide plenty of psychic and magical energy to work with – quite enough to set up the core of the ward.”

(Cartwright) “Very well, I think we can organize a party. The people need something to lighten their moods anyway.”

There were murmurings amongst the members of the Council, the Church Representative, and the Angel…

(Cartwright) “Would tomorrow suffice for your schedule? Or would you prefer another date?”

(Kevin) “Tomorrow should be fine… Oh, might we visit Ms Valira in confinement? I suspect she is responsible for binding the souls of the two remaining children she killed, and they need to be released. Worse, her presence within the area in her current state could distort the ward; she needs curing – or, possibly, if she’s gone undead on you, to be released to elsewhere or at least escorted beyond the walls during the ritual.”

There were more murmurings…

(Rat Rep) “Do you anticipate any danger to the city during this curing process?”

(Kevin) “It’s unlikely. Almost anything is possible however – but if she’s a focus of that much malignance, leaving her alone would also be very dangerous.”

(Cartwright) “Very well, is there anything you need from us during this process of curing the woman? Or do you just need our guards to ensure that no one interferes?”

(Kevin) “There shouldn’t be anything. Witnesses are welcome, but there is that small possibility of something going wrong.”

(Cartwright) “Our guards can escort you then to the confinement area. I will ask that everyone nearby not involved in the curing process be evacuated first though. That should only take a few minutes though. I shall also attend and any volunteers from the guards as well.”

(Kevin) “Well, thank you all for your time!”

Kevin cheerily wandered off with the guards – with a rather bemused Marty and Raphael trailing along…

No control at ALL?!?!

They were led into the depths of the city, down into the bedrock where large spacious rooms were no longer carved out of the stone, but instead individual rooms and hallways were carved out with far less concern for appearances… The stone was damp, and the air felt more than a bit stale. Along the way they passed an immense waterwheel, rotating slowly as an immense amount of water flows over it and rats and mice ran along it doing inspections and measuring wear.

Soon enough they came to a bronze door with four large rat guards watching over it. They all saluted the guards with them and Mr Cartwright.

(Cartwright) “Give me the keys to the cell please. These gentlemen think they might be able to do something with Mrs Turner. In the meantime, I want you four to go and tell those engineers to clear out from the time being. And tell them I don’t care if it’s scheduled inspection!”

(Cartwright) “Alright, she’s on the other side of this door. Do you wish to be let in, or just have a look through the peephole for the moment?”

(Marty) “I’d like to take a peek inside before we go in, just to be safe.”

(Cartwright) “Very well then. You can find the bolted little window at the top of the door. Just lift the handle and slide to the side to open.”

Kevin cheerily opened it up so that Marty and he could look!

Raphael was running a few divinations – but was trying to keep it quiet, which always made things take longer!

The moment Kevin raised the latch, before he could slide it to the side, it was forcefully torn out of his hand as the peephole slid open to reveal a glowing set of yellow eyes right on the other side.

(Eyes) “Well hello!!! It looks like they’ve brought someone with a good deal of power this time!”

Hm… Per Raphael, not undead – or at least not yet, although it looked like the process was well underway. No ward though…

(Kevin) “Hm… I take it you’ve taken up necromancy, as guided by assorted dark visions of insanity?”

(Eyes) “Perhaps. Have you come to offer up some of that life force you have so much of?”

(Kevin) “Lets see… exploiting the parental bond to use your children as spiritual minions? You must have been quite disappointed when only two of them proved suitable!”

(Eyes) “Yes, I was quite disappointed to have only gotten the two. Somehow, I was expecting a lot more than that!… So have you come to offer more therapy? Or have you come to be the hero?”

(Kevin) “It depends! You may actually be quite sane, at least as far as obsessive necromancers go! What is it you’re actually trying to accomplish?”

(Eyes) “Or perhaps, you’ve come to let me out of here!”

(Kevin) “That’s possible! It depends a lot on what you’re trying to do! Surely you’ve found that projecting evil auras and terror isn’t intimidating people into doing what you want; it’s just keeping them away. I fear the local culture is wrong for manipulating people that way!”

(Eyes) “Yes, this has indeed been quite the disappointment. I was hoping to harvest quite a bit of life force and souls for a little….. what’s the word….. experiment of reality shaping proportions. Perhaps you would like to participate? I am certain I could make it worth your while! I am sure someone like you has come to appreciate the value of immense power to shape reality the way you want to!”

(Kevin, privately to Marty and Raphael) “Possessed by a deceased necromancer perhaps? And likely one from a reality that doesn’t know about phantasms. Needs the mothers soul for the bond – at least initially – and a spirit moving in would account for the initial nightmares and terrible visions and slow progression into undeath.”

(Marty) “I think so. Probably going to be a pain to banish.”

(Kevin) “That’s doable! I take it that you possessed the woman for this purpose, in part because you felt that the Rats and Mice here doubtless bred very very rapidly indeed, thus creating a plentiful, and rapidly-renewing pool of fresh life force and children’s spirits?”

(Eyes) “Oh figured it out did you? And here I thought I was doing a good job of hiding my presence.”

(Kevin) “What, while announcing everything anyone would need to know to figure it out? Free hint here! Cultural blindness only goes so far! The best concealment effects in existence won’t help when you insist on making public proclamations!”

Hmm… it looked like… the mothers soul was still in there, and appeared to be struggling to hold onto the two children’s souls and to the body.

(Eyes) “And how was I supposed to know these rats and mice would turn out to be so weird and obstinate? Usually people get quite spooked by such things.”

Marty briefly considered chiming in with the word “Scouting!”, but didn’t want to give the fellow any clues… He was more focused on ensuring that whatever was possessing her body didn’t get out of the room…

(Kevin, to Marty and Raphael, with more privacy-precautions than usual) “Well… I see a couple of major options: (1) empower the mother, and support her. Problem; how to trap this fellow. (2) Encourage the mother to hang onto this guy – and take him into death-and-rebirth with her. Might not stop him, but should hold him up for some time and/or cost him a lot of accumulated power (3) Try and Exorcise and Entrap him. I’m not even sure how to do that though – unless we still have enough chunks of death knight swords for it. What do you think?”

Marty was for entrapping him; sticking them in the same soulspace sounds like it could really come back to bite everybody involved in the rear. He’d probably mastered the art of returning anyway… The trouble with that plan was that Kevin didn’t know how! Negative Energy had something to do with it though…

Kevin put in a quick research-query to the standby teams in Kadia.

(Kevin) “So what were you trying to get enough power together to do?”

He kept a smartclothes pickup focused on the guards and Mr Cartwrigh toot; their expressions were probably pretty interesting at the moment…

(Eyes) “Ah, I was wondering when someone would get around to asking me that. You see, my colleagues and I were most interested in resurrecting the Loa of the Swamp so that we might…. remake the place to better suit our needs.”

(Kevin) “Ah, thus the necromantic rituals with the skulls and such in the swamp. I take it you’ve found that the traces are spread so thin that they’re rather difficult to pull together at this late date? Thus your need for more power, and this gambit.”

(Eyes) “Alas yes, great rewards generally require great efforts, and this one is no different.”

Marty was wondering… Hadn’t there been someone he had a close personal connection to involved with those runeblades that had been used around Jerusalem.? He couldn’t quite put a face to it though – and that seemed odd. One of the deathknights? Oh wait! Maybe the old him!

Meanwhile, the guards were more than a little upset and horrified over all of this – but Mr Cartwright had a really good poker face.

(Kevin) “Anyway… you wish to raise the old loa, and with them the old realm from it’s ruins – thus providing a legion of the dead, the wealth of a kingdom, and the use of the necromantic potential of tens of thousands of the dead to continue with your research and conquests?”

(Eyes) “Why yes, that sounds about right. Would you like to have a share in that new order young man?”

Back in Kadia, there were some answers coming up on how to bind a spirit someplace… That had never really been Kevin’s field, although he thought that he might be able to use conjuration.

(Kevin) “It doesn’t seem of much value actually! I already own a couple of universes anyway, and I can always make some more!”

There were the Death Knight runeblades, a process similar to what Limey experienced, using tuned negative energy to drain the target of the mana needed to traverse realms (although you have to be careful not to break the links holding the soul to the local reality if you tried that). Holy Magic could do it with preparations and sufficient divine backing, a sufficiently powerful infernal entity might be able to bind the soul for a while to torment it – and there was always the classic method of binding a soul: throw it in a living body.

Well, that one was easy! Kevin could just send a few Thrall souls back to Kadia for new bodies – or use transformation magic to just create some. Even some of the Thralls could do that given a few minutes!

He had a few of the Thralls make a small nothing-is-happening illusion and ward and a shield against life force detection just down the hall and build some bodies – for the kids, for the mother, and a spare for the necromancer just in case the old one is unusable. Barely-living bodies wouldn’t have much life-force to detect anyway.

They went for reconstructions of the original bodies… With any luck, making some matches for the kids would let their mother drop them into them with a little healing and thrall help. She was probably paying close attention to the spirit plane at the moment anyway…

That would take a bit – and they’d need to shock whoever was binding things in the current arrangement enough for the links to reset to the new bodies.

Meanwhile, Eyes was expressing some doubts about his visitors owning universes…

(Kevin) “What, would you care to see?”

(Eyes) “I find such a boast more than a bit hard to believe to say the least.”

They bantered back and forth until the Thralls were ready…

(Kevin) “Well easy enough!”

Hm… It looked like, if he swapped with a mass of solid rock, there would be no real effect on the stability of the city.

Ergo, one block transfer! The cellblock area for a mass of solid stone! He could easily make an opening to the outside afterwards!

Kevin started working on that – and began letting a bit of his divine power shine through…

(Marty) “So… just how were you going to reshape the swamp, anyhow?”

(Eyes) “Remove and/or subjugate the interloping races, return the cities of our ancient ancestors to their height of grandeur, and begin spreading the might of the Loa across the land for starters! (to Marty) So what would you want? Females? Wealth? Lots of slaves to serve your every whim? Or perhaps to lead an army of the dead on a reign of conquest and destruction?”

(Marty) “Eh, I’ll pass. I’ve got enough of the first three to suit me for a while, and that last one sounds overrated.”

(Eyes) “Sigh, no imagination and too much imagination. You two aren’t much fun at all. I think the therapy people were a bit more fun. At least they could be disturbed.”

Well… with the soul-anchoring effect of Kadia, even if they slipped up on getting people into bodies, they’d just get new ones at the malls! It was block transfer time!

(Marty) “It’s hard to be disturbed when you’ve visited as many dimensions as we have.”

(Kevin) “Be fair Marty! It’s almost impossible to have enough females and servants! You just have to keep making new avatars to play with them!”

Kevin aimed for one of the currently unused sections, with mountains; that way it would be easy to arrange access to the outside.

With that, reality shifted and distorted around them, the Thralls, the new bodies, the guards, Mr Cartwright, and the cell door until they found themselves in a mountain valley at the edges of a lake. The guards and Mr Cartwright were more than a bit stunned at the transition – and they heard an evil cackling coming from the new bodies as a chameleon stood up.

(Eyes) “Ah, it looks like whatever you were trying to do has backfired, because now I am free to do as I wish! Now, I shall make one final offer for you to help me or else…. where the hell are we?”

(Marty) “Oh, we’re in his personal universe. I wouldn’t be that cocky if I were you.”

(Eyes) “Looks like a mountain lake to me.”

(Kevin) “In this section! There are lots and lots of places… when you’re making a universe for yourself anyway, why be skimpy?”

(Eyes) “Right, and how do I know that this isn’t simply the result of a teleportation spell to a mountain lake?”

(Kevin, sighing) “You’re a necromancer. Is there death here?”

(Eyes) “Of course there is death here. There is death everywhere. Watch and I will demonstrate…… what the hell?! Oh, now this is going to be hard to….. what’s the word….. rationalize? Alright who the hell are you and how the hell did those rodents manage to get someone like you in their service?”

(Kevin) “I was just visiting!”

(Marty) “Yep! We’re on vacation!”

(Eyes) “Vacationing to a city of rats and mice? You are weirder than I gave you credit for”.

(Marty) “Nah! Just in your usual universe!”

(Kevin) “And I am Kevin Sanwell, or Angkor Shadowfang, or many other names… As it happens, I am a Creator God, and I didn’t include Death in this reality; it makes it much easier to bestow immortality on those I link here!”

(Marty) “I’m Marty, the Comforter of Numerologists! My reality is next door.”

(Eyes) “Well blast, my powers have little effect in a place like this and I can still sense the bunch of you have substantial power left. Right, what are you planning to do with me?”

(Kevin) “Advanced studies in some other types of magic perhaps? And maybe teaching a few theoretical necromancy courses on the side? The pay schedule is really quite good, access to the facilities is free – and you probably do like the comforts and pleasures of life, or you wouldn’t have been so quick to offer them to Marty!”

(Eyes) “Wait, you’re actually trying to recruit me?”

(Kevin) “Why not? I create universes; the only resource I can ever be really short of is competent personnel…”

Eyes appeared to be at a momentary loss for words.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 197 – Philsantias Versus Sanity

Meanwhile, still in fast-time in the Dragon Empire, Raphael as Philsantias (who currently had firmly suppressed most of the instincts, drives, and memories that went with the dragon identity) was relaxing a bit while his investigations ran, his defenses were set up and reinforced, and he considered how best to get the most reward for getting a little more information on Ailill.

Then Segev – his young blue son – turned up…

(Segev) “Father? May I borrow your ritual magic chest?”

(Philsantias ) “Er… (those tools could be used for a LOT of different things!) What do you need that stuff for?”

(Segev, looking very proud of himself, and obviously expecting a big dose of approval) “Well… your set will do a better binding ritual than the sets they make for kids like I have! Varer (Phil’s bronze son who had scored so high on the academics during testing – and so was Phil’s current favorite hatchling) said I was dumb, and I said he was an arrogant jerk, and he said I needed to be beaten into submission so no one would have to listen to me any more, and I said he could just try it, and he did! He’s so “smart” that now he’s my slave and I’m hanging his academic excellence award on my wall as a mounting board for his sex and claws and fangs!”

Philsantias did a truly classic spit-take. In a species with a breath weapon, this could be rather destructive… The wall, ceiling, and computer console were going to need repair – but the nanites would handle that automatically.

(Segev) “And it will be good for binding the girls too!”

Philsantias deployed his divinatory powers to take a look almost reflexively. This needed confirmation!

Varer… was currently down in the slave-processing room, chained down spread-eagled over a slave-processing rack. He was battered, scorched, muzzled, and whimpering… Ergias – Phil’s young silver son who had washed out in testing and been enslaved at Ailill’s school – was currently pulling Varer’s claws out one by one with some pliers and swabbing out each bleeding claw-sheathe as he went with some sort of acid that dissolved the claw-root so that the claws would never grow back. He was handing the pulled claws to Segev’s young copper slave, who was using them as brushes to draw binding runes on Varer’s hide with the blood from the wound where his sex used to be.

Varer was screaming hoarsely and hopelessly with each yank and acid-burn, but no one was paying much attention to the protests of a new slave being processed.

There were a bunch of young metallic girls there watching – mostly some of the neighbor’s daughters – and occupying the remaining seven processing racks, with another one leashed to each rack other than Verer’s and one rack with TWO girls waiting to go on it! Even though they didn’t really seem to be restrained in any way that he’d have thought would hold them – and most of the ones watching were just giggling.

(Segev) “Varer should be almost ready for the binding ritual now!”

Philsantias gave Segev a covertly-horrified look – that was his BROTHER he had screaming down there! – and did a quick check on what had actually happened… and on just how this worked in the Dragon Empire, and what his options were. There had to be something he could do that fit in!

And Segev DEFINITELY wasn’t getting any ritual tools!

It looked like… Varer had issued the initial insults. While Segev was more foul-mouthed and creatively insulting in his replies than his summary had really indicated, it had still only been verbal name-calling. Varer HAD issued the challenge – and Segev had accepted, and had… pulled some fairly impressive combat tricks out of somewhere, and won easily.

By the laws and traditions of the Dragon Empire, a full formal challenge had been issued and accepted, and Segev did now own a new slave. The claw-pulling and the rest was one of the more common chromatic variants on the usual dragon-binding ritual. The metallic variant was… a bit less painful, but ultimately did much the same thing – as some of his own firmly-repressed draconic memories were informing him.

Obviously enough, his peers saw this as… quite normal.

Varer had started it. And… if Varer had won, as he’d thought that his superior magical skills would let him do easily, it would be Segev screaming on the processing rack right now.

Oh shellcrack! Sickeningly enough… Segev was more-or-less in the right! Even by most off-dimension standards! He’d simply stood up to being insulted and bullied…

Segev was peering at Philsantias’s expression with growing puzzlement and disappointment. He’d confidently expected that – since he’d won, and Varer was no longer a kid to be proud of or able to produce grandchildren – this would make him the new favorite! Why wasn’t he getting proper congratulations and approval? He’d done everything right! He was a winner, and Varer was a loser. What more WAS there?

Philsantias’s divinations continued relentlessly… Ergias was helping with the ritual since he saw it as a routine household task – and because he knew that Segev, who was dominant on the male side of the creche now (if only because this made him the ONLY remaining male in the creche) was entitled to his services after Philsantias, who had no current task for him.

Oh gods.

Philsantias turned his attention to the females – and to where Segev had learned those combat tricks – in hopes of finding a clue as to what to do… What in the nine hells was going on with THEM?!?

The females… Well, the Emperor had decreed that, within the next few years, all unenslaved hatchlings currently below young adult (50 years) had to be tested. Testing had an 80-90% failure rate – which meant being desexed and enslaved. As usual, most of the rest would be enslaved or killed in fights later. About 1% would make it to young adult, and start breeding. For males, being enslaved meant being desexed regardless. For females… male masters very rarely sterilized potential concubines. Ergo, submitting to a male who had already passed his tests and seemed dominant meant a 90%+ shot at “concubine and kids”. Ergo, a lot of the smarter females who were coming up on testing were looking for a good prospect… For dominant young males it was bonanza time. They wouldn’t be old enough to even start experimenting for decades – but the girls taking that route needed a master before their testing times come up. Since they wouldn’t be resisting, all the binding ritual required from them was a painless symbolic token of submission – letting their new owner leash or bind them was sufficient. As the only remaining male in the Creche, Segev was an EXCELLENT prospect.

Besides… The boy was quite charismatic and DID have that “bad boy” vibe going.

As for the combat tricks… Segev was wanting to work as a proctor at Ailill’s school. Normally phantasms couldn’t get divine endowments – but Segev could get them from Kevin/Ailill thanks to his direct link with… Philsantias himself. He was thus getting the “wants to work for Kevin” package – including the reflex actions, and some luck, and various other boosts. He didn’t entirely know why, but he knew that he had picked up a fair number of skills and tricks – and it had given him a lot more confidence.

The boy hadn’t done anything WRONG – but this was… it was horrible!

Philsantias was STILL trying to figure out what to do when Segev’s copper slave turned up to tell Segev that Varer and the girls were ready for their binding ritual.

Philsantias considered the copper slave for a moment… At least it was a brief diversion from his tortured son on the processing rack, who had now been reduced to incoherent moaning and twitching against his chains. The copper boy was HAPPY to be a slave – just like Ergias was!

Classically, slaves in the Dragon Empire rarely get to be too old or powerful. Eventually they become too resistant to the binding rituals, and try to escape too many times, and generally die for it – although presumably an unadvertised few did manage to escape from the Empire. Some became resigned to their situations eventually, but they were pretty much ALWAYS sullen and resentful – one reason why they’d gladly see their masters demoted to slavery with them.

However “Ailill” was doing it though… The slaves HE turned out were… happy to serve their masters, and got pleasure-feedback whenever they served well. They didn’t want to resist, or to escape – and tended to make sure that they didn’t develop any abilities that would interfere with… a long, happy, lifetime of servitude. All the drives that would have gone into territoriality, and the desire to reproduce, were going into a desire to be property and obey.

The slaves Ailill processed were likely to live far longer, and happier, lives than their combative, breeding, masters. All they’d be missing out on was the direct sensations of sex (unless they were breeder females, or used illusions, or telepathy, or other means – all of which were well within reach of even a dragon, even as a slave – to experience that too) and the pleasures of raising their own kids.

Of course, they got to play with their masters children, and not having their own meant that the enslaved males and non-breeding females also missed out on seeing 99% of their kids winding up dead or enslaved.

A lot like the Thralls really – although the effect didn’t go quite so deep; with the slaves mostly being phantasms, they had no souls to bond.

That “cheerful happy enslavement”, “protective lesser evil”, “pleasure from service” was so… so KEVIN that he probably should never have had any doubts about “Ailill’s” identity! The kid practically had it trademarked! He could just see it on some infernal personnel list… “Sanwell, Kevin, Demon King of Voluntary Slaves and Pleasure in Servitude…”.

Nah, that made him sound like he was the patron of bondage fetishes or something. “Demon King of Pleasurable Servitude” perhaps?

Oh never mind! He snapped his attention back to Segev – who was STILL waiting.


He let Segev borrow some of the ritual magic tools – the ones that would make the binding ritual easier on Varer, and reduce his pain. There didn’t seem to be anything else he could really do for the boy right away…

Besides… having a kid that wanted to work for Allil might be a problem! Even if – being only a phantasm – he couldn’t actually sign up.

He kept coming back around to the fact that – by dragon standards – Segev was the clear, and righteous, winner; Varer had failed the practical exam, and throughly deserved his fate.

It still didn’t sit well with Raphael, even if they WERE just phantasms. He remembered fathering them, and watching them hatching, and coaching them on their first steps and flight! He’d… have to see about buying Varer and doing something. It would be just wrong to free him into dragon society – so he’d have to find somewhere else to send him them.

Aaagh… and soon there would be… forty to sixty more coming along, the ones he’d just fathered on his harem in the past few weeks! Even more “his children” than the first batch! He couldn’t leave them to grow up in a world like this, watching a hundred go screaming into slavery for every one that could dominate and breed!

There was always Kadia, where it was acceptable to undo this sort of thing – but the Dragon Empire NEEDED reforming! Badly! He had children there, and would have more, and his grand-dragons WOULD grow up in a better realm!

Segev wouldn’t want to sell for awhile – Varer was good at bookwork and magic (which he would doubtless be having him do for him), and was a trophy – but he could always trade up a bit later or (maybe with a Thrall) – or, as the head of the household, simply demand that the boy sell or accept a trade on pain of enslavement.

Drat it! Now he was thinking like a dragon again! A trade up it would have to be! Maybe a pair of Thralls!

As for the females… well, that was OK; they were voluntary – and even if it was a bit weird from his point of view, what they were doing was just sensible. Segev would be starting adolescence – in about forty years – with one hell of a harem, but it looked like quite a lot of boys in his generation would be doing THAT.

Well, discounting the… non-female… slaves anyway.

Philsantias… simply couldn’t bring himself to give Segev his dose of pride and approval. Even if Varer HAD started it, and had been trying to do the same thing to Segev, enslaving siblings got no score in his book, no matter who had started it or who had said what to whom. He was disappointed in Varer, yes – but if they’d had a quarrel they should have come to HIM.

Segev was extremely puzzled and disappointed at the lack of approval – but his female fans helped fill in the gap initially. It looked like father – as a Metallic – had some weird attachment to Varer.

Philsantias was quite relieved that the remaining girls in HIS creche had all already passed, and so had no need to run off to be slaves… He even tried to look for things to be proud of in Segev for a while to blunt the metalic favortism – but couldn’t help noting that the “work for Kevin” benefits, and his reliance on them, might be a problem.

Segev… had excellent reflexes, was strong and athletic, and superbly charismatic. He was brave, and determined, and tough, and decent at tactics, and excellent at using his abilities effectively. He… soon had a few slaves from amongst the neighbors kids, who promptly started challenging him to get his new collection of slaves – but he sensibly only accepted challenges from kids with enough slaves and resources of their own to make the risk worthwhile. He even prepared cleverly…

He simply wasn’t as smart as Varer, or quite as perceptive. He wasn’t a brilliant scholar or mage or scientist (if there was any difference in the Dragon Empire), and never would be. He was simply much more physically inclined.

It had been silly of Varer to lose his temper and challenge him that way… They were only a few years old though, even if they WERE born walking, talking, and magically armed.

Still, while that was OK, that was pretty much the combination that Raphael saw… as less important. For him, relying on physical power was… an automatic disappointment.

Not enough to take some of the neighbors up on their offers to buy the kid from him as a slave – how in the manifold could they expect any parent to seriously consider such a thing was beyond him – but how could the child compete with what might have been?

Segev… tried harder and harder, putting himself at extra risk. He couldn’t understand why bringing home more slaves, and defeating other kids in battle and claiming their resources, didn’t seem to please his father.

Philsantias didn’t know what to do either; he certainly didn’t wish his son ill (and winding up screaming on some other child’s processing rack was certainly ill) – but if he kept that up, sooner or later he was going to lose.

Evidently even young dragons had the “make my parents proud of me” thing going – but every time he looked at Segev, he thought about Varer screaming… That kind of killed what little pride he could find in “My juvenile delinquent just neutered and enslaved your honor student and will shortly be in bed with your adolescent daughter!”

He tried having a talk with the boy when it really started looking risky.

(Philsantias) “It’s not that I dont like you, but I see the risks you are taking and it’s getting very dangerous! You will not be able to buy my affection by just being stronger than others, or by bringing in more resources.”

Segev looked rather pathetically lost and blank at that. What else WAS there? Everyone knew that only the strongest 1% – or less – would get to continue their bloodlines! Was there anything more important than that?

(Philsantias) “Yes, there are things more important than that, like … (Raphael stopped where he would normally have put in a bit about “being a good person and helping others.”) discovering new ways to make your life easier”

Segev was desperately searching for some hidden meaning… If his father didn’t approve of him, he might take it into his head to have him enslaved, or sold, or – for that matter – roasted for dinner or tortured to death! There HAD to be some way to win Philsantias’s good will! He was the only intact boy left! Didn’t that automatically make him the best? Where was he going wrong?

(Segev) “But… don’t slaves and wealth do that?”

(Philsantias) “Are slaves and wealth going to help with the next chalenge or insure that you make it to my age and hopefully older?”

(Segev) “But Slaves equals Resources and Practice and Wealth, and Wealth equals Magic Items equals Power! That’s a basic lesson! Isn’t that “Yes”?”

Drat it! Was there somewhere to turn for draconic parenting advice? It looked like “Dr Dracospock” was the usual source, and might be entertaining, but he was pretty sure that HIS work would mostly consist of a long list of signs of when it was time to discard a child… Divination would work, but it was very likely to give an answer he wouldn’t like – and there was no telling where the information came from… The Thralls were actually pretty good at parenting, but somehow they just didn’t seem appropriate as advisors.

That left Markov. He seemed likely to be the better source for such information.

(Markov) “Ah, hello again! Is it business, or pleasure?”

(Philsantias) “Dragon Parenting advice… so neither?”

(Markov) “Ah, that! What’s your problem? They keep cropping up!”

(Philsantias) “I have a kid trying to impress me who keeps going out to challenge more kids. He keeps winning – but eventually something is going to get him like this.”

(Markov) “Well… you can’t really tell him NOT to fight. That’s not how things work around here. Now what you could do is make sure he’s not getting in over his head. You could also join a coalition and monitor the fighting until he comes of age. Still… if he’s winning, good for him! If he loses… well, he’ll be someone else’s slave, and no longer your worry!”

Philsantias passed on some details… the kid had fought five outside duels now, and had been sticking to kids with enough resources to make the challenge worthwhile. He’d started with two defeated males and fifteen girls… He’d gone to 4 and 24, then 7 and 40, then 18 and 50, then 30 and 70 – and finally 45 and 102 – with more girls trickling in and the resources to simply start purchasing less-dominant boys who’d annoyed him…

Apparently he felt that SURELY daddy would be impressed and approving at SOME point! Even if very VERY few other hatchling males were willing to challenge him now!

Markov was mildly impressed… Felan would be ahead on females, but probably behind on males – even if he was allowed to claim them openly. Still, Segev was doing VERY well for straight combat-claims!

(Markov) “Oh yeah! Another thing you might want to do . . . keep any slaves the kid wins above a certain number until he’s of age. It keeps him from getting too swell-headed, and gives him an incentive to work for your approval! Besides… that IS pretty impressive for a hatchling! Why AREN’T you impressed?

(Philsantias) “But he already works hard for my approval! That’s why he keeps going out for more challenges!

(Markov, reasonably) “Well, are you showing your approval? I would be, and I know how you can be!”

(Philsantias) “But how do I show approval?… and I’m not sure I DO approve of all this conquest! It is impressive I suppose – but it’s not something great.”

Markov sighed. Fairly obviously, he might know it intellectually, but it hadn’t really sunk in on Philsantias that – in the Dragon Empire – draconic “parental authority” covered the unquestioned right to have your hatchlings enslaved, sold, roasted for supper, or tortured to death on a whim. A hatchling who wasn’t either safely anonymous or pleasing a parent was in deadly danger – and that did make them kind of desperate. Every time Philsantias rejected another attempt to please him, he was effectively telling the boy “I’m trying to decide between enslaving and killing you”.

Worse, the child was a chromatic, with an entourage, and numerous enemies, in the midst of a civilized, metallic-dominated, area. He didn’t even have anywhere to try to run to.

(Markov) “He’s just doing what he expects the adults around him to like… dueling, taking and processing slaves, and being ruthless.”

(Philsantias) “But I dont want him going out and constantly gambling with his freedom like that – and slaves and money mean little to me.”

(Markov) “Then tell him what does matter to you. He’s probably desperate for your approval. After all, around here, if Daddy doesn’t approve of you, you’ll get enslaved or worse.”

Philsantias was brilliantly intelligent. Surely he’d think of telling the boy something that he COULD do; he couldn’t suddenly become brilliantly intelligent unless he got a LOT of money to pay for a really powerful intelligence -boosting amulet!

Hopefully he wouldn’t ask the boy to “Free Varer” either. ANYONE could tell him that that would just trigger a “You STILL care more about the stupid slave than about me!” reaction. That would, of course, get Varer freed – but it wasn’t as if an ex-slave had any possible role in the Dragon Empire!

(Philsantias) “Ah, it is just so hard. He is a physical fighter type, I have always been mage type.”

Was Philsantias deliberately trying to drive the child insane with desperation? Couldn’t he approve of “success” unless it was obtained the way HE would do it? Was he really constantly telling an eight-year-old hatchling that “you can’t live up to my expectations” and “you’re worthless” when the boy knew that THAT equated to an upcoming death sentence? When the child was doing brilliantly? Hell, he almost felt like taking the kid in! As an adoptee rather than a slave!

Marty sighed. He had to admit that Raphael had that special brand of brilliance that sometimes turned into complete insanity. In a realm where mutilation and enslavement was considered a fair fate for a child who was simply disappointing, and “death by slow torture – and possibly roasting and eating alive” awaited a kid who actively annoyed a parent, Raphael had managed to come up with a form of child abuse that made an EVIL CHROMATIC DRAGON feel sorry for the victim…

(Markov) “Hey, there’s some things a warrior can get for a mage. Ingredients, materials, documents… You could have him hunt those down for you instead of fighting everything.”

(Philsantias) “hmmm… “

(Markov) “Perhaps something as simple as patting him on the head and saying “Wow! That is a lot! You’re doing really really well! You might want to stop for awhile though! The Creche is getting overcrowded with all those slaves of yours and even when you hit adolescence you won’t be able to keep up with more than a hundred girls too readily!”

(Philsantias, sighing) “Well I will have to try that. and I think I will tell him I was never going to sell him or anything worse.”

(Markov) “Yeah, definitely tell him you’ve got no plans for that. It’ll make him feel a lot better.”

It did. Segev was aware that he mostly had enough to satisfy his dragon-instincts now – and if father approved of him, he had EXCELLENT chances of getting to grow up to be a father… If you threw in the testing-losses, and the rivals he could afford to simply buy, he was already well up in the 1% of expected survivors!

Federation-Apocalypse Session 196 – The Slave Rebellion

English: "Capitão-do-mato" (slave hu...

Marty to the rescue! From... Er... Marty!

Felan was quite right. Markov’s errant daughters turned out not to have gone very far at all… They’d mostly attached themselves to some of his allies sons; the more dominant boys who had already passed their exams.

How dare they steal from him!

As hatchlings, the girls were no longer his property the moment they left the creche – but technicalities had little effect on an annoyed chaotic chromatic dragon! Heading over to the neighbors shouldn’t count! Those stupid little hatchlings probably weren’t WORTHY to have his daughters!

Of course, he couldn’t challenge a hatchling in another dragons creche – especially in the creche of another member of his coalition directly. It would be a massacre, and an offense against the parent, and socially unacceptable. You DIDN’T challenge down the age range ladder… It would be like sending a heavyweight up against a toddler!

Even other hatchlings couldn’t challenge them directly unless the parent approved – unless they came out and accepted such challenges of course… Dominance battles weren’t really all that satisfying though! Without a slave-collar in the offing it didn’t really mean much, and hatchlings rarely fought to their full potential without that threat hanging over them!

Wait… the parents were his allies. If he got them to agree to pit a few of the hatchlings against each other they’d have a choice between abandoning the semi-safety of their creches and accepting. Hm. If he just proposed making them fight for training and dominance, it was unlikely that anyone would have any objections at all!

Well, the hatchlings might object – they would be the ones who were being blasted, clawed, and battered after all – but who cared about that? They’d be learning valuable lessons about life!

Hm… He’d build it up a bit, have a few minor matches first, and then it should be easy enough to get the five with his daughters set up for the same day! He could probably just buy and slave-process them if they lost; most of their parents would probably be willing to take any good offer and he did have plenty of funds available!

He might even wind up with a really robust stable of hatchlings!

That did work out; he fielded some of his mid-level hatchlings, they actually got some useful training and experience, the dominance-battles started settling the pecking orders in the various creches.

When the five hatchlings with his daughters came up he fielded five of his stronger hatchlings (with Felans boosts and more) against them – and scored four out of five victories.

The parents had no objections to his offers – after all, some of the Hatchlings had been getting a bit too comfortable with surrendering rather than fighting to their full potential since they knew that there would be no serious consequences for a loss – and so he bought all four and sent them off to be slave-processed, instead of off to be treated for their wounds…

Oddly enough, one of his enslaved daughters – who’d been bought along with her now-enslaved master – came back after they took the boy to slave-processing instead of for medial attention and spoke up and… protested?

Weird! What was her problem? What did it matter who her master was?

(Delcinarea) “You’re really rotten! Why did you have to do that? Just to be mean? There was no need at all for it!”

That was weird too! A properly-bound slave shouldn’t be protesting like that, even with the old-style rituals.

Markov started probing… With his power level it was pretty easy!

It looked like… she had thought that her chances of “washing out” in testing – and becoming a sexless slave – were a lot higher then they were (well, they would have been a LOT higher without his reality-warping power backing his hatchlings). She wasn’t nearly as tradition-bound as most phantasms though… She’d done her own evaluations of the available boys who’d already passed – and had picked one with fairly practical talents. She’d… offered to belong to him voluntarily, and help him try out a new path; instead of trying for epic dominance, he could simply pick up enough girls who were trying to avoid testing to satisfy his drives without drawing challengers. That way he could grow up quietly, develop useful talents, join the coalition as a junior member for the protection – and have kids with his dozen or so girls. Their male hatchlings would take their tests (since their odds were better that way) and their females could follow in her wingbeats if they were willing. That way HE was very likely to grow up free and intact – and SHE was guaranteed lots of kids, a relatively stable relationship, being chief concubine (the bond on her was extremely minimal and easily broken if she decided to leave), a small but prosperous dragon-household, and some measure of success. And then… he’d had to go and spoil it, and have her carefully-selected mate enslaved, and ruin her bargain!

(Delcinarea) “What’s the MATTER with you? Don’t you want grandchildren?”

The Emperor’s testing decree was making it possible for Dragon-society to HAVE a safe middle class, and then Markov had to spoil it for her!

Actually, the Imperial Testing Decree had left the 1-50 year old hatchlings with a few choices:

Males could…

  • Attempt to leave the Dragon Empire. Such an attempt meant probable death even if it was successful – which was really unlikely.
  • Go in for testing. That meant a roughly 85% chance of low-pain desexing and happy slavery, a 14% chance of death or slavery in a slightly later conflict (and a probable high-pain transition to desexed slavery) and 1% chance of becoming a dominant – for at least a little while.
  • Volunteer for slavery to avoid testing. That got them a 100% chance of a painful desexing. Even if you submitted to a female, no self-respecting female would ever want to mate with a slave.

Ergo, males were – by far – best off to just accept it and go in for testing.

Females however… their logic started out the same, but the conclusions were very different. They could…

  • Attempt to leave the Dragon Empire. Such an attempt meant probable death even if it was successful – which was really unlikely.
  • Go in for testing. That gave them the same 85% chance of low-pain desexing and happy slavery, a 14% chance of death or slavery (with a roughly 50-50 chance of desexing), and a 1% chance of winding up as dominant female.
  • On the other hand, if a female volunteered for slavery to avoid testing… A female master would likely have them spayed. If, however, they picked a young male who had already been tested and seemed reasonably dominant, they had a very good chance indeed. Even if you hadn’t hooked up with an eventual real dominant, victorious males usually bred female slaves taken from other males, they didn’t normally spay or kill them. Taking that route gave you a 90%+ chance of sex, kids, and a reasonable level of happiness.

Ergo, if a female didn’t think that she was very VERY likely to pass the tests, offering herself to a dominant young male as a slave, and as an eventual concubine when both he and she reached sexual maturity, was a pretty reasonable choice.

And that meant… it was bonanza time for young dominant males who had passed testing. The struggle to be one would soon be even more intense than usual, because – for the moment – the rewards were even bigger than usual.

She was… busily throwing minor witchcraft-curses at him, since that was a power that wasn’t at all normal for dragons – and she didn’t think that he’d notice – and, even if he did, so what? He’d already spoiled everything, just because he was a big egotistical dinosaur who couldn’t see the muzzle on his own face!

And she’d been rather getting to like the boy too – and now he was screaming in one of her father’s processing-machines.

Hm. Fairly trivial curses, but cleverly tailored to pop up next time he was in a serious battle – and hopefully make him lose! That wasn’t bad!

OK, it was only basic witchcraft – she didn’t seem to have the power for anything else, and he (unlike a normal dragon) could easily spot and remove them even if one or two managed to stick – but Markov was busy experiencing a pair of quite unfamiliar emotions… Guilt and embarrassment. He’d been so upset that his daughters had foolishly run off to be enslaved that he hadn’t really paid any attention to the fact that it might actually have been a sensible and well-considered plan! The child… would be doing quite well by herself if he hadn’t stuck his nose into things. You shouldn’t ruin your kids plans unless they were bad plans, and this one hadn’t been bad… Totally untraditional of course, even if none of his kids seemed to pay much attention to what was “traditional” – but not bad.

He’d just never imagined that any rational plan could start off with “Get Enslaved!”.

Young Delcinarea believed that Markov would probably have her tortured to death for such defiance – but currently believed that her life and plans were all ruined anyway.

She had no idea that she’d just completely blindsided him… He was busy scanning the other girls – and finding that the all five had had roughly similar ideas, although they’d differed on strategy and in their ideas as to what kind of mate was best. Two had simply been planning to become slave-concubines on the theory that any male they could manipulate or steer wasn’t worth having; ergo, they’d just bear the children of whichever one wound up on top of the heap. Those two were fully ritually-bound, although that didn’t really hinder their plans a bit. That was somewhat more tradition-bound than the other three, although it was still a bit of a break with it.

Marty found it interesting that the kids weren’t as tradition-bound as most other phantasms. Was that a bit of his conscience shaping the realm, perhaps? Or was it just shaping the kids? They all seemed to be well ahead of the curve in a lot of ways – and especially on realizing new possibilities. And Markov… currently had no idea of what to do. That left him open to a little easy pushing… There had to be some way to handle this… Ah! He’d push him to earmark the girls and their newly-enslaved boyfriends for Kadia! That would get them out of Markov’s sight without any uncomfortable implications of his having fouled things up – or of releasing slaves – and once he had them in Kadia, he could easily have the slave-processing and binding rituals reversed! He could even offer the girls some more choices…

Markov – with a little pushing – did elect to sell the kids to his (somewhat vague) trading partner in Kadia… And Marty was quite pleased. That was his first major success at managing Markov… He just needed educating!

Meanwhile, however, young Tokif had lost his match against the owner of Markov’s other daughter… Worse, he’d submitted while still conscious, rather than risking taking the final shots, a few serious injuries, a week or two in medical, and being in pain for a few months (and a remote chance of being killed of course)! That was just pathetic! He was eight! He should be well past that sort of thing!

Then his blue partner – Vrysylin, the father of the hatchling who’d just defeated Tokif – offered to buy Tokif, partly because he thought that “keeping them on edge” was a good idea, and partly because Markov had just purchased two of his sons for the same reason. Perhaps today they should have just made it to enslavement – unless that would have meant risking having some of the hatchlings trying to run away… Still, their chances of surviving on their own were far less than a 50-50 shot!

Well, Markov had been quite pleased with Tokif when he’d defeated that gold hatchling – but he’d lost several matches, and THAT surrender had been just sad! Done!

Vrysylin waved for his own slaves to take Tokif away for the ritual.

(Tokif) “But you said it was just to dominance! Not fair!”

(Markov, tongue lolling in a dragon-laugh) “It was just to dominance! I’m just selling you because I feel like it!”

Tokif made frantic efforts to escape before Vrysylin’s slaves could get a hold on him… That was his right of course; as a Hatchling, if he escaped the Coalition’s holdings and Markov’s and Vrysylin’s control, he’d be free… Very likely to die of course, but free.

And that was better than being chained down to be tortured and bound into slavery!

Markov watched with much amusement; it was a combat arena! Not having any place to go was part of the point!

Marty’s concern was mounting rapidly! This is no way to handle your kids! Especially since Markov had forced him into the match to begin with and had told him that it was just to a submission…

Markov knew that little Tokif was doomed of course… He was already pretty battered and short of magic of course; he’d just lost a fight after all. He would be caught – and screaming on a processing-rack – in short order.

Vrysylin’s slaves had cornered him and were closing in – when he activated some sort of talisman and disappeared in a dimension-door flash. He reappeared well above the dome over the arena and off to one side, frantically headed for the border of the coalition territories – although with quite a lot of his owner’s current slaves taking off in pursuit.

(Vrysylin) “Hey! how big an allowance are you GIVING your kids anyway?”

Markov was startled himself… OK, you could get a one-shot talisman for that sort of thing for about a thousand gold – but he only gave them a hundred a month! Just for treats and things! It would take a LOT of saving to be able to afford such a talisman! Especially if he had any MORE magic on tap!

Huh. That might be a contributing factor to his indignation there; he might have won if he’d known it was serious enough to burn some expensive resources.

Nah. He was a lawful little blue! He’d still be a LOT more upset about being betrayed and sold on a whim when it wasn’t supposed to be a serious match!

He’d have to check to see what the kids had collected in the way of magic items though!

Huh! The kid DID have some more magic! He’d fired up some speed-boosting effect and was making a pretty good run for it! Still, at odds of thirty to one, and with many of his pursuers being older slaves – and even Thralls since a number of Markov’s own slaves had joined the pursuit – his chances were still very poor.

Marty was pretty indignant by this time… OK! He’d – somewhat – accepted that a lot of kids in the Dragonworlds would not get to reproduce, but casually betraying a child just because he wasn’t too enthusiastic about fighting gladiatorial matches for your amusement was going WAY too far! Even for Markov! Of course, he might not have if it hadn’t been an allies request – but STILL.

Should he have the pursing Thralls intervene? They’d gladly provide a little assistance. They were kind of rooting for the kid after all… (And were glad that Marty seemed to have changed his mind; that really had been kind of unfair, even for a dragon).

Oh never mind! He’d never much used his powers over gates, and there were some Thralls on call that could open magical ones.

A plump upstart human suddenly poked his head in, told Markov off, and then snagged the kid.

(Markov) “What the SHELLCRACK!?!? Blasted mages!”

The kid had been starting to plummet. He’d been hit with a hold spell, and thus Marty now had a totally paralyzed – and utterly panicked – dragon hatchling in his living room.

He cleared out all the babies and Thrall-girls who had infants to nurse and who couldn’t take a day out to come back in as orderly a fashion as possible.

As an afterthought, he drew on their massed power to rescue the other kids who’d vanished or been enslaved outside of Markov’s holdings.

It did make his living room crowded until the computers dissolved the outer wall to extend the place though.

Huh… mostly enslaved, one who needed to be pulled together again after being “killed”, one who was UTTERLY panicked (and chained down on a serving platter, and wounded where the “best cuts” had been being taken from).

(Thrall Houseboy) “Eww! Was somebody really eating… her is it?”)

(Mary) “I think so! What a jerk.”

(Thrall Houseboy, starting in on healing and soothing) “That’s really sick!”

Once she was healed and soothed, Marty released the chains and got her off the serving platter.

Now that she was calm, she was wondering who she belonged to now… She had apparently been quite throughly stolen after all – and even with Ailill’s conditioning she couldn’t work up too much indignation on behalf of her former owners.

Well, when Kevin made Thralls of little kids he just told them to have fun, so…

(Marty) “You’re mine now! I order you to go outside and play! The thralls outside will let you know more.”

(Dragon-Girl) “Yes Master!

He notified the Thralls that there were some new hatchlings in Kadia that needed housing and school and toys and other things – and, in several cases, at least partial de-conditioning and some regeneration. At least in Kadia that was… well, pretty much automatic unless they fell under the special rules for slaves that weren’t being set free… OK, make that some Thrall-minders to speed it up and to keep them under control as the conditioning started breaking down.

Hm… The girl who’d been… being eaten alive (oh, that was just… having Markov think of it was nothing like seeing the idea in action) had been being eaten because… her young master – she’d been a loser in a hatchling-challenge during testing – had been told that she wasn’t allowed to keep any dragonslaves, and she’d had no contacts to sell the one she now owned to for a decent price – so she had decided to host a dinner party for some of her friends.

Urgghhh… Little kids hosting cannibalism parties with live, screaming, victims. It was WAY past time to overthrow the Dragon Emperor.

Of course, that left the girl… rather upset at the thought that – somewhere – chunks of HER were digesting! She will began quietly agitating for the greatest of all masters to use his amazing, wonderful, powers again to use the link of her flesh to snatch the hatchlings who had been eating her! They’d make such GOOD slaves for her wonderful master!

Marty considered… Well… who owned those hatchlings?

It looked like… it was just some black dragon who’d sent in his hatchlings to be tested, had gotten back 85% slaves (as expected), and a couple of hatchlings with new slave-hatchlings of their own – whom the black had promptly said to get rid of.

OK, nobody at all important!

Marty had the Thralls peek in. If it was clear he’d snag them. If not, the girl would just have to settle for her own survival.. It was easy enough to determine that the coast was clear enough! A half-dozen young evil dragonesses had been having a mountain picnic, and were now wondering where their meal had gotten to! It had been delicious, and was surely too badly wounded to get far!:

He drew on the Thralls and opened a gate… it wasn’t like snagging a few random phantasms – even if they were dragons – was really much of a modification to the Dragon Empire or the Manifold!

The computers restrained them instantly.

There was much indignation, promises that their father would GET him, and wondering about where the male dragon who was obviously Marty’s master was! After all, who else would be snatching young (and, if they did think so themselves) marvelously talented and beautiful females!

(Marty) “Yeah, I’ve got no master. I’m one of the masters around here! Now, who wants a nice big roast?”

(Hatchlings) “Uhm… For us or FROM us?” “No!!!” “Er… Yes?” “Maybe!”.

OK! He got them a nice big roast…

They were quite willing to have some roasted meat – but wanted to know what he was going to do with them? (After one tried clawing at him and hit some mighty protective “spell”).

(Marty) “Oh yeah, that’s the force field. You can’t hurt me unless I give you permission.”

(Tokif) “Uhm… Ok… the spells worn off… Are you going to own me? I’ll be good! You’re obviously WAY powerful – but I won’t be competing for your harem! Not even when I grow up! Won’t that be enough? There’s no need to eunuch me!”

And the girls were talking too, wanting to know what HE wanted from THEM.

(Marty, to Tokif) “Sure, just go outside, play with the others, and talk to the human kids when they come up, OK?” (And to the girls – or at least to the one gold whom the Thralls said had a soul – probably how she’d gone from the typical LG to CE) “Have I got a deal for you!” (He pulled out a copy of Kevin’s Thrall-contract.)

She went for it quite promptly!

Who all did he have?

There were the two kids who’d lost duels during testing – Vrinda, who had been becoming a meal, and Kaschi, who was being a servant), the two who’d vanished while hatchling-hunting (Shantis – the kid who’d been “killed” and had needed to be pulled back together… fortunately, that was easy with a Phantasm! – and Baffin (whom some unfortunate stray hatchlings had been hoping to use as a bargaining chip to buy themselves SOME chance of survival under Markov’s coalition – or maybe even a trip to Ailill’s school to try to win a place there), Tokif of course, and Tethen (who, according to the Thralls, actually had a soul) had belonged to one of Vrysylin’s hatchlings.

Other than that, the other slave-children were all in Markov’s creche. At least none of them needed an emergency rescue at the moment… Most of them were even happy and well-protected.

Delcinarea, her chosen mate, and the other three girls and THEIR chosen mates would be arriving shortly – but none of them seemed to have souls yet.

Well… Marty offered Tethen Kevin’s contract too.

(Tethen) “Wow! Yeah! It wears off and leaves you with all kinds of extra powers? And you don;t age until then? And you get like 99% or MORE chances to stay intact?”

(Marty) “Yep!”

(Tethen) “Oooohhhh! YesYesYesYes!”

(Marty) “Okay, sign on up!”

After all, being a Thrall in Kadia was WAY better than being a slave in the Dragon Empire! And the fact that the boy was one of his kids – not that he knew that yet – made it even MORE free power!

Oh what the heck! Why not tell him?

(Tethen) “Errrrr?!?! You’re my father? is this like some of the stories about the Emperor’s kids being fostered out?!? Cause that would be WEIRD…. I mean, no offence, but you’re human! Is this like… by adoption?”

(Marty) “It’s complicated, kid. See, this is my normal body. When I go to your realm, I get a dragon body… and all the greedy, nasty urges that can come with it. Only what was going on was a bit much, so I decided to have my human body poke in and snag you. And when I’m not in him, he goes off to do things on his own.”

(Tethen) “Now that’s just WEIRD.”

(Marty) “That’s what having multiprojection and multiple identities does. One of my friends, Raphael, developed it all of a sudden, and he was confused for days.”

(Tethen) “I can see why!”

(Marty) “But, yeah, in another place, I’m a parrot. Most of the time I look like this, though.”

(Tethen) “Ooohhhkkkaaayyyy….”

Tethen wasn’t going to doubt Lord Marty – if only because he was used to being a slave and knew just what Markov or another dragon master might do to him if doubted – but that one was hard to wrap his brain around!

(Marty) “Tell you what. Why don’t you assume a human identity around here, and you’ll get some idea of what I mean?”

As for the five unrelated phantasm girls who had been helping to eat Vrinda alive…. he was going to just make them guests, and enroll them in the get-dragons-souls program with all the others – but his daughter thought that they should at least be slaves! They were eating her alive! It had really, really, hurt!

Oh well. It wasn’t like being a slave in Kadia was that bad, even for young dragons! Off to the dragon-stables with them! Heck, his daughter could even use the one who took the biggest portion as her servant-steed! That would be… the gold. Oh of COURSE. Oh well, so she’d have a Thrall-mount! Why not?

Federation-Apocalypse Session 194b – Future Concerns

The secondary characters got rather far into the future in this segment – hence posting it has been delayed a bit so that it’s closer to it’s proper point in the game timeline.

In the Dragon Empire, Markov had turned his attention to expanding his coalition… It was easy enough at first! He was far more powerful than any normal young dragon, if he did say so himself!

OK, enough of them had special tricks or extra powers to keep it interesting and challenging – but they were only young adults… It was climbing the ladder without waiting for age to bring him free power that would be the real challenge.

Over the first few weeks that led to them defeating six other young adults who refused to join or pay protection – adding their holdings, current slaves, hatchlings, and selves to their coalitions assets, recruiting four other dragons, and pushing three “associates” into paying for protection.

His partner was very pleased to have enslaved two male clutchmates he’d never gotten along with – along with a hundred or so nieces and nephews. His sister had been more cooperative with their new coalition – even if she had insisted on NOT enslaving a few of the nieces and nephews for the moment.

Well, females were like that sometimes. They fairly often gave hatchlings second chances, or even took in the stray offspring of their parents or siblings… Once in a great while they even took pity on strays with nothing to offer!

Females could be WEIRD.

By that time their their operation was drawing some local notice – and Markov’s subordinates were being pleasantly surprised at the variety of support available from Markov’s creche. They started wanting to know how he’d arranged that – and wanted Felan to train a few slaves for them.

It wouldn’t be long before they were noticed beyond the local level and some serious opposition appeared.

Meanwhile, Ishvialsen, their gold competitor, had been sweeping up minor dragons – blacks and whites mostly – in an attempt to match numbers. Now, however, he was starting to target the young reds – and it was becoming something of a race between their coalition and his solo operation as to who would collect them first.

Markov focused on the Reds… if there was a concerted effort to grab one, he’d show up personally!

Off-dimension Marty sighed. Evil rode to the rescue once again… He was beginning to see why Kevin did that; it was fun and doesn’t come with the baggage of being good! You didn’t need to worry about lapses of temper, or grabbing something for yourself along the way! Evil… expected a reasonable level of pure selfishness – and it didn’t really demand consistency either. You could do good deeds if you wanted; evil didn’t need to justify itself – and if you wanted to do something nice, you just did it – and if you felt some odd need to justify it for some reason you just came up with a selfish motive!

He was also beginning to see why a school which enslaved two-thirds of the students who went through it (even after the 85% washout rate during initial testing) actually seemed attractive to the Hatchlings… The academic programs were VERY good, and would prepare them far better than training at home – and the risk was actually somewhat smaller than being subjected to the casual whims of their parents and direct competition with other hatchlings in the creche.

At least he could probably get Markov to send the ones who wanted to go there. How could an aspect of HIMSELF be so hard to influence? Was there something to the rumors of some sort of “dragon kings” pre-human influence that rendered draconic identities hard to handle?

Markov wasn’t especially resistant to that notion anyway. If he paid ahead, any who wound up enslaved would just be returned to him – and they really were some good programs, even for the ones who wound up as slaves!

It would be a few months before there were openings. Ailill was expanding the school very quickly indeed, but the demand was vast (particularly amongst the Metallics). Still, it looked like most of the hatchlings would gladly go for that given the chance – except for the ones who would want to stick with Marty and his coalition-building!

Felan would probably fit right in in the duelist program, as would the others who really showed promise. Most of the others would go into the gambler, military, and adventurer programs.

Marty was actually rather pleased there. Those were his kids – the offspring of his mind, soul, and creative power, if not of his human body. Those careers could quite easily bring them to Kadia (and perhaps to their grandfather’s casino) eventually, and keep them in interesting jobs, even if he never entirely gained control of his unruly draconic identity… And at least the slaves would be pretty happy for the moment – after the initial pain – and he should be able to rescue them eventually!

Oh dear. Was it simply that fully integrating Markov would involve integrating some long-buried aspects of himself into his active consciousness that he’d really rather not? Kevin seemed to have more-or-less accepted a lot of the dragon-aspects into his personality – and showed the same odd combination of intense protectiveness towards “his” children in general (even if he did seem to accept every child in existence as being potentially his) and a certain ruthlessness towards any single one of them… How much of Kevin’s underlying personality had been taken over by his identities? Was he really focused on ANYTHING other than maintaining that rigid control?

Huh… He hated to admit it – but, in some ways, being Markov really was loads of fun. In fact, without even really thinking about it he seemed to have concluded that “lots of kids” was one of the perks of a multi-dimensional existence coupled with godhood. Social commitments – such as to his parrot-identities new wife – mostly went with the individual identities…

There really wasn’t any other way to do it – and Markov had more-or-less spurred that realization.

Of course, there was also the special “when a dragon…” rule – but Kevin had set the precedent for that one anyway.

The Thrall-concubines in Kadia were – of course – very pleased with that conclusion. They’d be allowed to please Lord Marty some more and to bear more of his children as well as raising the ones they’d already borne! That was wonderful news!

Limey was pleased as well! Marty was having fun (and was being diverted from his fun! Marty had almost lost patience with him a time or two, and he NEVER wanted THAT to happen!).

What Abigail would say… Well, it was on distant worlds, and perhaps she would never find out!

Meanwhile though… Marty was a bit exhausted from the ongoing battle of wills with Markov, and left that identity to run on it’s own for a bit while he forgot about the screams of tortured hatchlings.

Of course, Battling Business World seriously needed his attention too! The Number Lords were launching a major push. They’d managed to work out an alliance with the Final Bosses of the Video Game World – and an alliance with some of the Anime Demon Realms – and were trying to absorb Battling Business World into the realms of the numbers wholesale and use it to spread their influence throughout every realm with business offices.

They’d started in Japan, since England was already more-or-less subdued while New York had put up relatively little resistance to Lord Zero’s rampages after those ridiculous squirrels had cleared out.

And Japan was losing… They were currently trying to subvert the alliance by suggesting that compurters and video games were a way to eliminate all of the Number Lords other than ONE and ZERO – but the idea wasn’t gaining much traction. The Number Lords were primarily creatures of pure mathematics, rather than of calculation.

The local magic level wasn’t too bad as of yet (the Anime Demons needed it), but the demonic invasion force had included a number of hentai creatures (after all, those were some of the few that often won), including tentacle demons – and those were very hard on innocent young magical girls!

That was truly horrible! There was no time to waste! Marty took off for Japan immediately! CURRENCY CLOUD, AWAY!

Besides, there were a lot of battling businesspeople in Japan who might worship him if he could get them past the whole “Westerner” thing… Still, it should be easy to make friends and influence Kami at the moment! And rent a room at a traditional inn, and maybe get a kimono…

Back in Escrima, in the nursery, Marty sighed. He never would have believed that he would be such a bother to himself! Trying to keep his identities focused was a nightmare… Had he been this much trouble for Mr Leland? The man was a wonder!

There was no help for it; he was going to need some more Thralls to help keep things sorted out – preferably a half a dozen to dozen or so per world.

He kept forgetting that Thralls were eager to volunteer for any position working for Kevin or his associates. He got dozens of volunteers for everywhere, including the Dragon Empire.

He selected the best and sent them out!

Meanwhile, in Battling Business World Japan, the Comforter of Numerologists was finding the place a bit… devastated. Japan was used to video game attacks – but not in combination with anime demons AND hostile mathematics! The combination of massive physical power, an anime theme that often won, and the digits ability to manipulate the odds and drive men mad was pretty potent.

The Magical Girls usually formed the first line of defense – but, in this case, that wasn’t working out well! Too bad that innocence didn’t reset!

The assorted godlings, giant monsters, samurai swordsmen, mad scientists (and their sapient devices), giant robots, defense agencies, shapeshifters, and wizards were doing their best – but in the face of three simultaneous assaults, their efforts were not enough. Admittedly, Tokyo got leveled by giant monsters every day or so normally – but usually it didn’t stay that way…

That was BAD. The Number Lords had somehow cancelled the local reset! Marty got to work with Limey… Considering how loose the local reality is, he might be able to multiply the human defenders’ sizes with his Mathematics Magic and a bit of Dominion-based backing – or perhaps jump-start the reset at least! The defenders needed their infrastructure!

Wait… were they trying to progress the plot to post-apocalyptic japan? Not that! Anything but that! Everybody would be running around punching each other in the chest and saying “You’re already dead!” That got old really fast, especially when it happened to you every day for weeks!

Champions of the Gods

Champions of the Gods

Sometimes, you need more than a character. You need a Champion, a hero for the ages. And as promised, here are a few select alternatives for the great and powerful, at least equal to Spellfire.


Descendant of Deities

In ages past, Gods had a habit of enjoying the company of pretty young mortals, who rarely objected. Naturally enough, this left a considerable number of offspring running about, mostly human with with the blood of deities running in their veins. Not all of them know the sources of their power, but they do know they’re different from those around them. Somehow, they’re stronger, smarter, or tougher than anyone they’ve ever known. Even an experienced “normal” adventurer with magical assistance might not match one.

For good or ill, they rarely live a conventional life. Something in the divine blood cries out for danger and greatness, and they eventually must pursue it. And even when it promises only to a bloody death, it must be a great death – a story worthy of legend. A thousand years from now, no one will care what cause they died in. No, all that matters is that the Descendant died well. That’s what’s important.


Pick an attribute. Increase it by +5. Pick a different one and decrease it by -2 (this should almost always be Wisdom). Pick two major uses of your enhanced attribute (such as  a common skill check, or bonuses like damage to weaponry, control over spellcasting, or bonus to AC) and use it in place of different attribute.

Eclipse Rules  (30 CP)

Self-Development III (12 CP; Corrupted – Your ancestry is obvious. Everyone instantly knows what you’re good at.)

Finesse II (12 CP)

Attribute Shift: +2 for the favored attribute, -2 on a different attribute (6 CP)

This trick is obvious enough, but damn if it isn’t fun. The Self-Development would cost twice as much if this weren’t a Template, but like all templates receives a half-cost modifier on attributes. Note that the real power here is not in the attribute bonuses so much as the Finesse abilities, which make the character extremely reliant on only one attribute – which was just enhanced to superhuman levels!


Favored by Fate

Most people don’t have the power to truly alter their own destiny. Competition for the best opportunities is fierce. They must settle for avoiding a cruel death, hopefully improving their own position, and saving up for a rainy day. The lucky find a good chance and take it, hoping their luck holds while they build a small business. A few manage to strike it rich, becoming wealthy and powerful. But the Favored by Fate beats them all at their own game.

People may define this gift as fortune or luck, but both are wrong. Instead, the Favored man or woman twists chance, altering destiny and possibility. They may never even realize they can do this at all, but somehow everything goes right for them. When not on adventure, their trades somehow come out right, opportunity falls into their lap, and daily life smooths out. When danger threatens, it always seems to land elsewhere while the Favored’s attacks or spells hit home.

Mechanics You gain a total of thirty +1 bonuses. You can add any number onto any roll, but only to increase the die roll you made normally up to the maximum for that die. You can apply this to any die roll you make – attack, damage, spell penetration – anything you like. If you increase it a d20roll to maximum, it does still counts as a natural 20.

Eclipse Rules (30 CP)

Luck (6 CP) +Fortune (6 CP) +Bonus Uses II (12 CP)

Immunity: Break down Luck into +1’s (6 CP)

I assume that on average, a Luck adds +10 to the result of the roll. So Luck and its Bonus Uses each add ten “+1’s” for the player to use. The Immunity breaks it down into those smaller bits. It should really cost more, but this is the player’s piece of cheese.


Gifts of Gods

For reasons unknown to most, Gods, demons, and many other mysterious or incomprehensible powers choose some mortals for special attention. Perhaps they have a special destiny, or perhaps the individual chosen doesn’t matter at all, merely being a convenient vessel for an inscrutable divine game.

In the end, who cares? Some god hands you immense gifts for free,except that you may go and use them however you please. They’re yours until death (and often beyond) – books of mighty spells unknown to mortals, weapons forged for the personal armories of gods, magical creatures willingly serving you. Perhaps only the unwise would accept them and try to use them, but what madness would it be not to try it? Perhaps only the young and foolish would try to live their dreams this way, but would not anyone’s heart be made decades younger and more foolish with such a chance? However, it might end, you have a chance to become a king or hero, to ride across moonbeams or delve ancient mysteries.


Usually, a character gets a weapon or special item created by a deity or other power, along with a powerful pet. However, it’s always a flexible ability. The gifts could be almost anything the player can think up, as long as the poor GM will put up with it. (Won’t anyone think of the Gamemasters?)

As a base, assume the creature is a familiar, special mount, animal companion or whatnot with a base of two hit dice. Add a +4 ECL template of your choice – Half-Celestial is very popular and comes with wings. Add a further +2 to the creatures Base Attack Bonus, all saves, and armor class, as well as any two feats of your choice. The item granted should never simply be a +5 weapon or something plain. It shouldn’t grant attribute bonuses, either. Instead, get something unusual and unique, which changes your entire experience.

Eclipse Rules (30 CP)

Companion (6 CP) +Template II (12 CP) +Might (6 CP)

Privilege (3 CP) +Major (3 CP)

Calling it a Privilege might be pushing the point, but Eclipse doesn’t actually deal with Equipment. Again, this is cheese by design.


Protection of Powers

St. George fought the Dragon without aid from any man, but he was never alone. He could not even approach without falling prey to sheer rank poison of its breath, but his guardians raised him from the very door of Death itself – and more than once at that.

The Powers are always mysterious. Even if they’re emissaries of some known God or being, they represent the infinite touching the human, and no mortal may truly know their mind. They act according to their own lights, when and where they see fit. Yet some mortals attract their attention repeatedly. Not everyone can earn this level of protection – it takes dedication, even foolhardy devotion, to a worthy cause. Not everyone so protected need show any particular morality, for wicked powers act as much as good in this.


You buy magical effects at will, as if you had a spellcaster right next to you willing to sell. They just have the ability cast any healing or other recovery spells, affecting the character only. The maximum spell level you can receive is equal to a cleric of the character’s level, or level divided by 2, rounded down.

It doesn’t take an action; just act as if you always have a friendly cleric ready to heal you. You don’t have to pony up cash immediately, and anyone can beg for an immediate effect in need and pay it back later.

Eclipse Rules (30 CP)

Mystic Link (3 CP) +Power Link (3 CP)

My Little Pony (24 CP)

Alright, alright. The 24 points would go into detailing the powers of the being casting spells on the character, but it’s not worth putting out specific abilities, since it amounts to a Companion or ally which the party will probably never meet, and even if they did couldn’t fight.

Plus, I think it’s hilarious to imagine a mighty warrior protected by a cartoon pony.


Source of Might

For reasons incomprehensible to mere men, a few children born on this world know immense magical powers. They do not know mysterious spells or do things innately. Instead, they have power coursing through them – almost unlimited power. They take to magic easily, simply because they don’t run out of energy. Magical experimentation impossible for most, mystic journeys too long for common wizards, and even feats of endless magic – they may accomplish all this and more. Their destiny is up to them, but they have potential might far beyond that of other men.


You get three spell levels per round, available for almost anything you like. Spontaneous casters do very well with this, although you have no ability to store magic for later, more potent effects. However, it only takes a few minutes to restore your spells, and you can easily charge magic items or channel magical energy into objects. You can use Prestidigitation all day long.

Eclipse Rules (27 CP)

Shaping (6 CP) +Pulse of the Dragon III (21 CP; Specialized – Magical Nexus) Magical Nexus: Sources of Magic awaken magical energies and attract trouble. Ancient evils might reawaken when a Magical nexus comes around, or teleporting wizards get trapped by the Nexus’ field. The GM has a license to screw with you, and when trouble occurs, it almost always hits you first.

The Source has immense magical power – and enough trouble to pay for it twice over.


Weaver of Magic

Some possess the gift of pure magical might. They absorb and redirect magic, canceling spells thrown at them and turning them into fuel for their powers. Where the Source of Might has infinite reserves, the Weaver of Magic has incomparable flexibility.

Those gifted with the ability to Weave Magic need no spellbooks or long training. Instead, they twist magical flows to their whim as if any child could do it. While it’s quite possible for them to develop even more magical powers the usual (difficult) way, they often shrug and focus their training elsewhere. Why work hard for more when you already mastered the Art, after all?


This is basically Spellfire, but with some more definite rules. You can use Prestidigitation all day long, but you also have immense and flexible powers over raw magical energy. Using any of these abilities other than Absorbing magic is a Standard action. You can…

* Convert spell levels into attacks at 1d6/spell level radius or 2d6/ spell level on a single target.

* Put up a shield which cancels 4 damage per spell level used. It only lasts one round.

* Transfer spell levels into other characters on a 1-for-1 basis.

* Absorb up to Int score spell levels from incoming attacks per day with a maximum reserve equal to twice your Con score. Spells absorbed fully don’t take effect, including area spells. (Yes, your friends may throw spells at you and so forth.)

* Pick up to 20 total levels’ worth of spells (with no spell more than level 4) and use your stored spell levels to power them.

Eclipse Rules (30 CP)

Shaping (6 CP) +Dragonfire (6 CP) +Eye of the Dragon (6 CP) +Ride the Dragon (12 CP)

Straightforward enough. These are some of the flashiest and most potent abilities in Eclipse.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 195b – The Dragon Sculptor

In the Dragon Empire, young Felan was – rather busily! – looking for a way he could be allowed to keep more slaves…

(Felan, to Markov) “Uhm… Father? If I can find something useful to contribute to the coalition could I count as a junior member?”

Huh! That was fairly large indulgence! The kid must think that he had something pretty good! It probably wasn’t really good enough to justify membership – after all, if it had been he could have simply moved out and applied as an independent dragon. He was trying to keep staying in the creche as a backup position, which was sensible. After all, outside it he’d be just another random hatchling – which was a lot better than being a random human or something, but still had very little status, no support, and (almost certainly) very little to pay for protection with. Stray hatchlings had VERY high casualty and enslavement rates. If he was stupid enough to try to set up in the area independently at his age he’d be just another hatchling-slave soon enough.

Still, if he could actually do something useful to the coalition, granting him some extra privileges and rewards for it would certainly be in order.

Of course, his business skills were far beyond the boys – and he WAS a telepath! An advantage that he exploited unmercifully…

Ah. Felan was, of course, starting with an opening price that was far more than he expected to get. He’d LIKE to get membership, and thus protection, and a share in the profits the coalition was making – but what he was really hoping that he could actually get was… permission to keep lots – forty or fifty – more slaves, ownership of a couple of sibling-rivals, and having the silver slave girl assigned to him – just to complete the set with her two siblings.

Those two were happily wrestling in the corner, done up in a very striking black-and-silver motif (which set off Felan’s ruby-colored self very well indeed) – which was also cute! That entire clutch had fully earned their enslavements and the pain that had accompanied them – but now that it was over and done with it was just as much fun to see them happily enjoying themselves as it had been to see them being processed. They WERE still his kids after all…

As for Felan… he knew that he didn’t have too much of a bargaining position – after all, Markov was free to kill him or have him slave-processed on a whim (unless he managed to escape, which was a hatchlings privilege) – but he also knew that what he was really bargaining for wouldn’t cost his father much of anything – and he believed that what he had to offer was well worth it. Besides, he believed that Markov was actually somewhat protective and that he liked bargaining.

Well the boy was right there! And he had been doing well on duels! If he brought in three more slaves to replace the slaves he wanted, the last two would be reasonable enough! Of course, if he lost… well, those were the breaks!

Oh wait! The boy was actually offering something!

Felan explained… He claimed to have found a way to make sculptures and carved panels that – non-magically yet – granted permanently enhanced abilities to anyone who spent an hour or so handling and contemplating them.

Oh now THAT was unlikely! He’d never heard of such a power! For a moment he considered just having the boy slave-processed for wasting his time on silliness – but somehow… It did seem possible.

This application of Mystic Artist is, indeed, possible – at least if the GM decides to put up with it. If you use Mystic Artist to grant one or more Positive Levels, include Mystic Link and Power Link (or perhaps a slight variant) with those positive levels to keep the recipient in touch with the artwork indefinitely, and choose something like “Tactile Sculpture” as your medium, you can make immobile – and thus permanently active – works of art that will indeed continue to affect people indefinitely after their initial exposure.

In this case, young Felan is using a Specialized (for Double Effect, limiting the number of targets, requiring a fair length of time to start working, requiring expensive sculpting materials, and a few other restrictions) version of mystic artist and is using Harmonize to combine Greatness (granting two Positive Levels and two ten-sided hit dice) and Competence (to grant a pair of +2 Morale Bonuses). He’s also throwing in Subliminal and Whispers – used in the sculptures intended for slaves to keep them nicely docile and in the versions intended for friends to help them break mental influences.

That’s actually quite powerful, and can be upgraded later in a variety of ways.

Markov considered… That wasn’t a HUGE edge – and it probably wasn’t quite worth the boys asking price – but it certainly wasn’t far from it, and could easily be refined until it was by things like adding helpful enchantments to the statue to exploit the link. The fact that it could help many dragons at the same time was also quite notable – but it would be a bad idea to let the boy get too much out of a weak bargaining position just because he was his son! After all, he could always enslave the boy and have him just keep on sculpting for free!

Of course, free he might well come up with even better stuff later on – and it was nice to have your kids do well. Not too well though… There were enough outside challengers without them coming out of your own Creche!

Markov indulged himself a bit, using his superior business skill and ability to read the boy’s thoughts to beat down his price…

(Markov) “It is a nice trick, but not QUITE enough. Maybe worth the silver slave girl. Now, if you were to develop a breath weapon trick, that might get you permission to keep another couple of your rivals too!”

(Felan) “But… It really is pretty good! After all, it boosts everybody you want!… And in a way that’s compatible with most of the usual enhancements… (Felan switched tactics as Markov began to look impatient) I do have a breath weapon trick though! It turns the flame-energy into a great big speed boost for a few seconds!”

Hrm… reading his mind, the boy had a very special private trick too; one of his statue variants for slaves gave the slaves affected a mystic link to him (as well as a limited version of the blessing ability) as well; they still got a modest bonus – but he got to use some of their breath weapon abilities… Now that WAS pretty good! It was also more than a bit threatening – at least for any normal dragon. No wonder Felan had wanted to hide it! More than a few draconic parents would have eliminated the boy for learning a trick like that!

(Markov) “Ok then! You can have the silver girl and a rival! If you can work up another trick you can have another rival!

Felan valiantly tried to hide his dismay. He really badly wanted permission to keep a lot of slaves! And it wasn’t just so he could use their breath weapons… But he NEEDED to stay in the creche! On the outside he wouldn’t have enough protection to get along!

Markov carefully hid his grin! Crushing an opponent in a bargaining session was always fun! And Felan shouldn’t have hidden that other trick from him! If he’d told him, he might have let him have a little more there! Now he’d just have to reverse-engineer it!

(Felan) “If I keep them outside the creche can I have some extras? There’s a really good chance to pick some up right now!”

What, the boy was willing to try again at the risk of upsetting him? And was proposing a cheap workaround? He seemed to be… really afraid of missing out on something. Was that just the impatience of childhood? Markov probed more deeply.

Ah! It seemed that he’d discovered that a lot of hatchling girls had been looking at the odds… For a female, running away at random was really bad (a fairly minuscule chance of survival), going in to be tested was 85% spayed-and-enslaved, 14% enslaved later (and about 50% likely to be spayed), and 1% win – which usually meant “free concubine” anyway if you wanted one of the BEST males. Submitting to a dominant-seeming male hatchling who had already passed testing was still slavery – but it could be lightly-bound slavery, it let you skip testing and spaying, and it let you go straight to concubine when you and your master hit adolescence. That was much better odds – particularly when you weren’t in the top 30% or so who had a decent shot at passing.

The boy suspected that some of his sisters – the ones who had vanished shortly before they were due to be sent in for testing – had taken that option… Anyway, with a couple of decades worth of hatchling girls due to be sent in for testing in the next couple of years, he saw it as the chance of dozen lifetimes to really clean up! With a few more enslaved rivals to demonstrate his dominance he could easily catch thirty or forty! That would be really handy now what with the ability to draw on their powers – and it would mean loads of fun with pretty female slave girls waiting for him down the line when he hit adolescence!

And he desperately didn’t want to miss out on that chance.

Huh. He hadn’t really considered that. The kid was right; that WAS a really big chance for the boys in his generation and it really would be a shame for any of them – or at least any who weren’t slaves – to miss out on it. He’d have to think of something; he couldn’t be letting another dragon’s kids be more successful along those lines than his were!

Felan was busily trying to think of something else to offer of course.

Markov actually began feeling slightly guilty. The child was his son after all, and by far the most promising one in the creche at the moment – and he’d used telepathy that the child had no defense against and superior skill to beat him down on the deal until he really was being blatantly cheated. Was that really any different from challenging down a few age brackets?

Besides… It wouldn’t be long before the boy figured out how to use a few humans for a front and start marketing his services. At that point he might find a valuable advantage disappearing with the child – and he certainly didn’t want to make a habit of enslaving kids who did well, came up with useful things, tried to work with him instead of betraying him, and had some sense. He didn’t want to discourage or weed out those qualities!

Wait, what was that about the rivals? He was asking for permission to just pick a couple of his siblings – doubtless males – and have them enslaved and transferred to his ownership of course… but he wasn’t actually planning to actually do it?

What? That was WEIRD! Especially for a highly-dominant red! What was going on with him?

Ah… He was intending to solidify his dominance in the Creche by using the threat alone. He suspected that he might have to make an example of one, which was why he wanted permission to have two done. He expected the others to fall into line once after that – if just having one put into a processing machine and readied for it wasn’t convincing enough. Once they all accepted him as the dominant hatchling, then he could show them the positive side – his boosting statue effects. And then they could ALL score lots of slaves form among the stray hatchlings and the offspring of the other young dragons in the coalition – who mostly would not care in the slightest.

Hm… That was… almost like some of the metallic creche’s he’d heard of. Not very traditional for chromatic creche’s! Of course, most favored hatchlings (huh; evidently he’d about picked one) didn’t have a carrot to go with the stick… Favorites were usually granted better gear, some authority, ownership of a few siblings, and the threat of parental anger if the favorite was openly just attacked by a gang – which tended to lead to most efforts to dethrone a favorite being subtle efforts to usurp the position; with better gear and training favorites tended to win simple combat challenges.

Why did the kid want to keep as many of his siblings as possible free but cooperative?

Oh! Weird powers. For some reason… many of his hatchlings seemed to have access to weird special powers – and Felan recognized that (well, he would given his own) and wanted as many of them as possible on his side.

Well, that was a definite point! Who knew what useful stuff they might come up with if they worked together a bit? And it was a relatively small batch of kids anyway – so it was well worth the experiment.

Felan was trying to judge whether or not trying again would get him what he wanted – he NEEDED that second rival – or whether it would get him slave-processed.

Markov carefully gave him the impression of increasing frustration. Actually he was quite pleased with the boy! Nicely savvy for a child, some caution… he had a potential equivalent to Eogam (wait; who? where had that thought come from?) here!

Felan was playing the last card he had at the moment – diffidently pointing out the increased toughness his statue-tricks provided, but without saying a WORD about “more”. He was leaving that decision entirely up to Markov.

Not bad at all!

Markov grinned – and allowed Felan two rivals and the silver ex-girl – the silvers WOULD make a nice trio when he got done patterning it – and give him the authority that went with being a favorite. If he could handle it well the Creche might actually become useful!

No more slaves right now though – well, beyond those three if he took the rivals. Still, if he kept up the hard work, and gave the excess ones to him, he’d be in for a BIG present when he hit adolescence – and he let the boy know that. It would be a coming-of-age present for learning the ropes effectively For now… All sorts of small rewards to encourage that hard work and duels!

(Markov) “Well, okay… you can have two rivals, and some authority, and the silver girl, and I’ll hold any further slaves you capture for you – but don’t bother me about more until you’re an adolescent!”

(Felan) “Thank you father! I’ve got everything set up to start boosting any slaves and allies you select!”

(Markov) “Good boy!”

He’d definitely keep even more of an eye on threats and potential attacks on the boy then! This one was shaping up to be a real keeper!

Eclipse d20: The God-Blooded Template

Cuchulain in Battle


Quite a few myths and tales revolve around the sons and daughters of gods – but, oddly enough, such individuals are often little more than mortal. They often show some exceptional attributes or skills – but Gilgamesh, and Perseus, and Cuchulain, and Arjuna, and Oedipus (a fine example of why being a demigod often sucked), and many many other demigods from various cultures were quite mortal. They were generally amazingly talented mortals, but they were simply humans writ large.

Oddly enough by modern standards, divine parents – whether mother or (more commonly) father – generally do relatively little for their offspring. There may be occasional advice or short-term assistance offered at (fairly random) times – but demigods are usually left in the care of their mortal parent unprotected. Even at best the divine parent rarely takes an interest in their offspring before said offspring becomes a hero – and, given how many demigods die in acts of heroism, it seems likely that many more die before ever becoming heroes. While Hercules strangled the two snakes sent to kill him as an infant, he was exceptional even for a demigod – and it seems likely that the tactic worked often enough, or why would Hera bother trying it?

Demigods usually age and die fairly normally. They may well see their offspring – divine grandchildren – massacred by their divine aunts and uncles or even by their grandparent. Their divine parents may keep a celestial scrapbook of their offsprings mighty deeds – but their spirits usually wind up in the same generic (and generally dull and depressing) afterlives as everyone else’s after they die if they aren’t condemned to some special eternal torment for daring to think that they’re important or that it was perhaps wrong of the gods to inflict horrible torments and dooms on people, or to massacre innocent grandchildren over trivia, or otherwise treat people as playthings.

How DARE a child question the actions of his or her parent!

Demigods generally DON’T get much inherent magic, or blatant supernatural powers, or wings and claws, or weird immunities.

That’s a bit strange in d20, where having a far lesser being than a god for a parent can provide all kinds of powers. Half-dragons, half-celestials, half-infernals, half-jinn… All of them get powers that far eclipse those of most classical demigods. For that matter, half-celestials – such as the child of a Lantern Archon – can “inherit” powers that go far beyond those of their celestial parent.

No, that really doesn’t make a lot of sense, even by d20 standards. Oh well.

So perhaps gods are jealous of their power, and don’t pass much of it on – or maybe they’re fundamentally just people and the divine power is just sort of an add-on, rather than a part of their basic nature as it is for dragons and spirit entities. Ergo, their kids only get touched by that power, rather than having some of it as a part of them.

Thus they don’t need a very large template.

The God-Blooded (0 CP / +0 ECL):

  • Gain +2 bonus feats (12 CP).
  • Gain a +2 to any one attribute (12 CP). In worlds using the half-price attribute rule this should be taken as +2 to any two attributes.
  • Get Action Hero/Stunts, Specialized/only to produce effects related to their divine parent, the user does not necessarily know that this power is available and must actively call on his or her divine parent to use a stunt, only works when the user is currently in his or her parents good graces and is doing something he or she approves of (3 CP).
  • Get Major Favors/Their Divine Parent, Specialized/these only work well when the deity decides to act as a sponsor, and lends the character aid in some great quest or special mission. When the character asks for something, it invariably creates at least as many problems as it solves. Worse, the deity generally arranges matters to produce a great show – rather than the results the user really wants (3 CP).

The entire package is, however, both Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost. The God-Blooded are invariably entangled in supernatural affairs – whether or not they’re at all prepared to deal with them. They are pawns in divine games, peripheral targets in divine quarrels, and will be called on to run all kinds of divine errands (“quests”) and offer various sacrifices – and will be expected to do so out of loyalty and gratitude. Of course, even if their divine parent has never done a single thing to earn any loyalty and gratitude, it is very, VERY, unwise to say so.

Worse, other gods are likely to send monsters, and often their own children (if the two can be told apart) against them, to curse them or to send them to horrific fates (Fun fact! The number of demigods condemned to eternal torment exceeds the ratio in the general population by at least a hundred to one!), and even to just send them into bizarre situations to watch the ensuing “fun”. When a God-Blooded uses his or her “Stunts” or “Favors” it’s all too likely to attract such notice as well…

On the mortal side, God-Bloods are usually plagued by hubris – if only as a result of growing up surrounded by normal mortals, to whom they ARE arguably superior – and a wonderful variety of inherited divine character flaws. The normal folks around them will see their personal relationship to the great powers of the universe and expect them to deal with any inconvenient monsters, horrors from beyond, and attacking armies coming their way. It’s nice to be welcomed as a destined hero. It’s somewhat more awkward when people automatically expect you to be one.

That reduces the base cost of this particular package to ten points.

Fortunately for the cheapskates amongst us, the package also comes with some mandatory disadvantages:

  • The God-Blooded are ALWAYS hunted by something – whether they’re being casually harassed by various gods, have some horror on their trail, or are being pursued to keep some prophecy from coming to pass.
  • The God-Blooded ALWAYS have some major character flaw – effectively being either Insane or Compulsive when it comes up. They may fly into fits of rage, fear and retreat from some force or symbol of an opposing power, be impossibly greedy, or be subject to any of a thousand other psychological problems.
  • The God-Blooded have Obligations; they must undertake quests, uphold their parents name, carry out rituals, officiate at cult meetings, and perform dozens of other tasks for their divine parents – who gave them life, and are bloody well determined to collect as much of it back again as they possibly can on pain of, well, pain…

Altogether those three disadvantages are worth (-10) character points – giving this particular template, as befits the source material, a net cost of… nothing.

Nothing, that is, except your time, your undying loyalty, putting up with those disadvantages, and being constantly harassed by opposing gods.

Obviously enough, the God-Blooded Template is one of the classic answers to “Why US”!”. It’s because you’re the divinely-empowered destined heroes who will do what the gods have asked of you – or else.

It also works nicely for various other divine grants; simply trade in the usual benefits for thirty character points worth of other abilities; there are plenty of sample power-packages for that on the site. Such a package can be quite powerful, since it can focus entirely on a specific ability or go straight to higher-level powers. Thirty character points worth of Shapeshifting, or Damage Reduction or – say – the Path of the Dragon (to duplicate the Spellfire ability) can readily redefine a starting character as a youthful destined hero, a divine champion who may wield some amazing power – but who is relatively fragile and mortal outside of that ability.

Finally, it saves buying another sourcebook for that sort of thing. That’s one of the advantages of using Eclipse.

Eclipse and Eclipse II are available in a number of ways:

There’s the Freeware Edition at RPGnow or Box.Net. It’s complete, but – if you like it – it would be nice if you helped support the system by spending ten dollars to pick up the full package, which includes Eclipse, Eclipse II, the Web Expansion, and will be updated with Eclipse III when I get time to finish that up (a notification to download the package again will be sent out). There’s a review up which also briefly covers Eclipse II Here.

In print-on-demand we have the Softcover (30$), the Hardcover (35$), and the “Direct” softcover edition (24$) which uses a cheaper set of printing options to lower the price. Unfortunately, the cheap options are only available for printing in North America – so for anywhere else, the original versions are probably cheaper anyway.

Eclipse II normally comes with the Eclipse download package – but you can download the PDF on it’s own for five dollars here or buy it in Hardcover (32$) or – once again – in that cheaper North America only Softcover Edition.

By request there’s also the Combined Edition – Eclipse I and II – making sure that you have the complete system, and plenty of examples, in one volume. It’s available in Softcover (36$) and Hardcover (45$). Those are expensive but are, of course, notably cheaper than buying the books independently. Of course, only one person can use it at a time instead of two.