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!

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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.

IT WOULD BE CHANGED.

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!

Fairness!

Revolution!

So…

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.

Revolution.

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.