It was several weeks before Charles finally had an opening on his schedule – and the Deva Cutter affair seemed to be the priority to fill it…
Sadly, just getting in to see the right people was going to be awkward – and it would very likely involve some considerable risks to his various covers. On the other hand… it would be very wrong not to tell people about that kind of problem!
Oh well! At least he knew somebody he could go to in the Bronze Faction! And they were likely to be close to the head, since they were relations by marriage! Besides… there were only ten declared members of the Bronze Faction. They pretty much all had to know each other.
It would probably be best to take along a few distractions too – but that was easy! He had all kinds of things the Reclaimed Territories needed!
Lets see… Some strong warding talismans to help with their defenses, a couple more suits of his stealth armor, a dozen thaumic anchors (these can either sustain three thaumaturgic effects and renew them if they’re disrupted or – if a set of five of them is installed within a manse – can add a thaumaturgy-sustaining convenience effect to its effects), and some general alchemical stuff…
Oh yes! The Mardi Gras Raksha had finished up with that Oneiromancy mask that he’d asked them to make… An outward-facing glamour that acted to restore the sanity of mad gods within a considerable area!
OK, so it was pretty easy for any kind of god to resist, but sooner or later they’d fail to do so – and conditions in the area would start improving!
Getting in contact with Gustav required magic, since he didn’t have a cell phone (Charles promptly added a dozen minor-artifact smartphones to the supplies he was bringing) – but Gustav had encountered a snag in his current earthly mission… He apologized, but wanted to know if it would be all right if he sent his son Jorst in his place? He was present during the attack and instrumental in ensuring that the casualties weren’t even worse.
Charles considered… Jorst was probably god-blooded, and might not know enough history – or have enough ability to resist compulsions – to handle Deva Cutter. Almost as bad, he very well might not have the contacts to pass the information on. It would probably be best if he waited until Gustav was available in person.
(Charles) “Uhm… It really is very important – and somewhat dangerous – I think. Would it it be better if I waited?”
Huh. The kid was worried. What could that be? It was probably still nothing much – the boy was very young, inexperienced, and no Exalt for all his skill at artifice – but he did owe him some definite favors, and a few minutes of his time wasn’t a big one, especially if the boy was willing to wait until he got back.
(Gustav) “Ah. If it’s that important, and it’s not too inconvenient for you, I can stop by as soon as I get back. That should only be a few hours unless something else goes wrong – and I can make due on that favor I owe you”.
Well, after 20,000 years this was probably a fairly long-term plot. A little longer wouldn’t hurt!
(Charles) “It’s no problem! Should I wait at the reclaimed territory?”
After all, he hadn’t seen one – and there would surely be things that needed fixing! Besides… Gustav had been at this longer, and even his VOICE sounded pretty fatigued!
(Gustav) “That is a rather dangerous trip for a youngster Charles! Are you sure you want to try that?”
(Charles) “It shouldn’t be any problem!”
That was a bit weird… Was it just the youngsters total lack of fear there? There was such a lot of quiet confidence underlying that statement that Gustav didn’t even think to question it until quite a while later on. Well, the child probably had some protective and transport artifacts, which would make attacks on him rather a lot of trouble even with planning – and almost impossible in passing. Sheer speed was an excellent defense against deiphagy…
It did occur to him that he was tired, and overworked, and that it would be terribly nice to have someone – anyone! – outside of his staff come to HIM for once.
That entailed a trip deep into the abandoned territories, where the only lights came from homeless mortals and gods squatting in buildings – and the radiance of the reclaimed territories’ Manses.
Charles almost reflexively put up a few minor wards, and did a few of the most urgent repairs along the way.
To enter the Reclaimed Territory he had to enter an apparently abandoned building and meet with an apparently unemployed god… After signing a whole bunch of paperwork and submitting to all manner of detections, that god (an entity of water and darkness) cleared Charles for entry into the Occluded Observatory Reclaimed Territory – and a ramp opened up in the floor to provide a pathway in. Clearly a Manse Hidden Passage.
That was rather neat!
The passage led to a central chamber capped by an adamant dome, where small groups of mortals congregated. Balconies circled the chamber. Rather hotel-like really, although the place seemed somewhat academically inclined. More like a student dorm perhaps!
(A young man) “Charles Dexter Ward?”
(Charles) “That’s me!”
(Young man) “Welcome to the territory. My name is Jorst Jorgensen, and I’m the security chief here. Please follow me, Father is waiting.”
He was clearly a Secrets Half-Caste; the eyes gave it away.
Charles cheerily come along… Hmm… The place was very clean. Sterile, even. It was a Rank 3 Manse; the geomancy was clearly Sidereal, and the physical Essence is flowing more-or-less correctly. The place felt like it… produced a Rank One Hearthstone. It could use some more conveniences, but it was eminently livable. Some of the windows are a bit cloudy, though, and the outer courtyard has clearly seen some violence this month; that was visible through the windows. A Quintessence basin bubbled in the prayer plaza outside. It was quite heavily warded.
The living space must be fairly limited at Rank-3. It still needed better wards and some sort of defense against all those crazy gods… It didn’t need any major repairs though!
Even Charles didn’t feel compelled to wash windows when there were clearly people in charge of cleaning around… For once, he wound up leaving it mostly alone.
(Charles) “How many people here? Does the enclave go much beyond the manse? Do you have a lot of trouble? Anything you need here?”
(Jorst) “We are at our full capacity of about three hundred people; I don’t think we can hold much more in the Manse proper. We have no more trouble than most territories. Being a strictly Manse-based territory helps with the deiphages somewhat, though protecting the basin can be tricky.”
(Jorst, pausing to think for a moment.) “As for the other two points, Mother and Father often debate those. I have my opinions, but at the end of the day, they decide.”
Jorst led him into what appears to be a dead end, then into another secret passage. This one went up into what appeared to be a nice – if somewhat cramped – office area.
Hm… It looked like… hidden geomancy, secret passages, greater veil of shadows , some minor conveniences, and (probably) password controls. It was clearly livable, and probably wasn’t fragile, but it might require a little maintenance… The basic manse design was clear enough anyway!
(Charles) “Well… I do have some thaumaturgy-anchoring talismans here somewhere! They let you bind spells to the Manse, so they come right back if dispelled or broken, and make them harder to do either to. Would that help?”
(Jorst) “I would have to clear it with them, but the garrison would appreciate the assistance.”
(Charles) “Well, that’s a detail… There might be some stuff you could use though… I’ll think about it!”
Jorst knocked on one of the office doors. After a wait of several minutes (with Jorst looking slightly exasperated, and Charles sensing various detections), the door opened.
(Charles) “Hello Sir!”
Inside, Gustav is sitting at a desk with a good deal of paperwork. A cup of celestial coffee steamed next to him.
(Gustav) “Ah, good… afternoon, I believe. Please, sit down, young man.” (To Jorst) “Tell your mother I will have those forms ready before I leave.”
(Jorst) “Yes, sir.”
He seemed somewhat dubious, but did leave.
(Charles) “Thank you for taking time out to see me! I do think this is important though… There seems to be a bit of a plot going on to set the major powers of creation against each other”. I presume you have mental defenses? It might be a good idea to augment them or add a specialty ward for the moment; I don’t have too much experience with compulsions!”
Gustav looked at Charles rather oddly. A major plot against the powers of creation? And uncovered by a young godblooded? Somehow… that didn’t seem likely. Hopefully the boy had simply found a demon cult or something and was just overexcited – if he wasn’t simply wrong.
Still… the child had escaped from some situation that had – somehow – eliminated at least one Sidereal Exalt and several other probable Exalts! That said – at the very least – that he was resourceful, well-prepared, and knew exactly when it was time to run.
(Charles) “I’ve been able to obtain and examine the weapon that was used in the attack on you and your wife – and there’s a nasty compulsion on it indeed!”
There still was! He’d checked before starting to see if it had been withdrawn or worn off or something. That would have been embarrasing!
Wait, what? The boy had the weapon? If that was true, and it was carrying a compulsion… that changed the situation a LOT.
(Gustav) “Hrm. One moment while I place another ward, then.”
The room was already tingling with them. Even a thaumaturgical apprentice could have told that this man liked his wards. They were one of the handiest branches of Thaumaturgy around – but most thaumaturges did not go into the double digits with them in a single room…
Gustav also activated his own anima.
(Charles) “Shall I get it out? I’ve been keeping it shielded, but there’s no way to examine it while doing that!”
(Gustav) “Impressive… if it hasn’t overtaken you yet, I see no harm in it.”
Charles got it out.
(Charles) “As nearly as I can tell, this weapon is a fatecrafted switchklaive from the Usurption era, designed to let Sidereals defeat major menaces from outside fate. Such devices are rare; this is probably “Deva Cutter”, which matches the discription – including the concealment effects on it.”
(Gustav, examining the blade) “That would be the case. Where did you find it?”
(Charles) “It was on Earth, in the custody of Rachel’s family. It was not, apparently, her usual weapon. I believe that her companion at the time managed to get it away from her while she was recovering from the battle and turned it over to her family. They then asked me to have a look, since I worked on some items for them earlier.
The compulsion effect is nested within the blades own concealing effects, and is demonic in origin rather than part of the original design. It seems to be designed to make anyone who attunes it love the weapon – and attack the strongest person in the area in the way they think is most likely to work. It has an airy and abrasive feel to it, and a hint of faint laughter. It’s now several months old, and probably dates from only a few days before the attack.
I can render the compulsion more easily visible…”
Charles got out his alchemical powders, and his wand, and the chalk, and his various other bits of paraphernalia, and did so.
Gustav had been peering at the magics of the blade – albeit somewhat hindered by the need to work through his own wards. If he hadn’t been so concerned he would have been quite impressed as Charles drew the entwined strands of demonic essence hidden in the heart of Deva Cutter’s own magic into shimmering prominence. Yes, knowing it was there was quite an advantage – but Deva Cutter was a major artifact and had been designed for concealment. Analyzing its structure like that, and picking out the alien enchantment hidden in the original, was the work of a genuine master.
(Charles) “It apparently normally only affects someone who tries to attune the blade, but I don’t know enough about demon magic to be entirely sure! I suspect that someone with access to Yozi charms (if, perhaps, a bit short of information on current affairs) wants to provoke division between the major powers of Creation. The power level is impressive, although the targeting was poor; your Faction has much less influence than the Gold – unless there have been other, similar, attacks that I have not heard of. That might be worth looking into.
In any case, this goes well beyond my pay grade I think! And you are intimately concerned with this particular issue, and so I brought it to you first!
It does sometimes try to get people who are looking at it though, so best to be cautious there!”
(Gustav) “You’re correct in that it is demon magic, more specifically Adjorani magic.”
Gustav spent some time running his own analysis, avoiding handling Deva Cutter directly while he applied his tests.
(Gustav) “I would say a… fifth or sixth Rank Charm. It seems to be a sorcerous effect; otherwise, the magic would have dissipated by now. Some of my colleagues notwithstanding, I don’t believe the gold stars hate us enough to work with the Yozis against us… I do hope that a provocateur hasn’t infiltrated the city. That would be embarrassing for my division, the Celestial Lions, and who knows how many other bodies.”
His forehead wrinkled, although his facial expression didn’t change.
(Charles) “Oh good! Since you think it’s important too, I’m not wasting your time!”
(Gustav) “Anything involving Astrid’s safety is not wasting my time. (He sighed) And to think that a small child did what twenty mortals, two Half-Castes, and I couldn’t.”
The child had been quite right. This WAS important. Something was striking at the Sidereal Brotherhood – and was daring to use at least one Solar Exalt, however inexperienced, as a pawn in doing so. That was a most dangerous game!
It also meant that young Rachel… was probably not to blame. He wouldn’t be making her welcome… but the hunt for her was now going to be because they needed to talk to her, and find out if she had any more information – such as on how Deva Cutter had come into her possession – rather than an attempt to capture her.
Hopefully she’d be able to tell the difference, and would come out of hiding. Sadly, even if they’d been united, the ability of the Sidereal host to search creation – or even Yu-Shan and the Earth – was nothing like it once had been, and wherever it was that Rachel had gone to ground, it was well hidden.
(Charles) “Well… I got called in to study the artifact, so I didn’t have to do anything else!”
(Gustav) “Don’t worry about it, young man. We had some idea of what we were going up against, but not enough. Now, how would you like some juice?”
(Charles) “Yeah!… Oh, I brought along some thaumic anchors and things for you! I thought they might help with a reclaimed territory!”
Gustav called for a mortal servant, who came in with a variety of Quintessential juices on a tray while Gustav took a look at the various minor artifacts Charles had brought along…
(Gustav) “Hmm. Good work… who made these?”
Those being the anchors.
(Charles) “Oh, the manse-guardians are up to making those! They can make a lot of the minor stuff!”
Manse-guardians? As crafters? Ah! The boy must have control of a Manse dedicated to lesser artificing and with guardians designed for that purpose! That explained quite a lot! Such facilities were nothing like a Factory-Cathedral of course, but their guardians could competently produce small quantities of a wide variety of lesser artifacts – and could work on many different projects at the same time. That was a marvelous advantage for a student artificier!
(Gustav) “They must be quite capable thaumaturges. Now, I have a little something for you…”
He had the servant bring in a small box. Inside were a bunch of difficult-to-get thaumaturgical components (primarily for warding) – and an envelope containing a couple of tickets to the Opalescent Gardens Reclaimed Territory, run by Ms. Cress. It seemed to be part amusement park from the pictures. They were premium under-16 tickets (that being the age of legal adulthood in Yu Shan).
(Charles) “Why thank you! That should be lots of fun!… Oh, should I try to take Deva Cutter around to see whoever should see it in the Gold Faction and the Celestial Lions and such? It seems like something that concerns a lot of people.”
(Gustav) “If you take it to the gold stars, please don’t tell anyone I looked at it.”
(Charles) “I won’t! But it really does seem like I ought to take it all around…”
Gustav had to admit that it DID concern everyone – and it was surprisingly sensible of the boy to recognize that.
(Gustav) “Well, go ahead. Would you like me to put a tracing effect on it, in case worse comes to worse?”
(Charles) “That would probably be a good idea! Unless there’s a way to get that compulsion off of it, I wouldn’t want to lose track of it!”
Gustav sent the servants to fetch his Master Wand – a very classy one made of black jade and teak that he normally kept in a VERY secure box – and set up the tracer-link.
(Gustav) “Now, do you need anything else, young man? I fear I must complete this paperwork. Otherwise, Astrid will kill me.” (It’s hard to tell if he’s kidding.)
(Charles) “Only one other thing! I got one of the Fey to make this, since I thought it might be handy on the way here, but I didn’t really need it. You might be able to find a use for it though!”
He produced a curious mask – a vaguely stylized dragon-thing made of colored mirrors – that would, when worn or displayed, attempt to “cure” mad gods in a city-sized area… It was only a moderately powerful (if highly specialized) oneiromancy, and the effect would be slow – but it didn’t HAVE to be fast to start a gradual improvement.
There was a moment of some shock – the boy had contacts with the fey too? And could somehow get them to make wyld artifacts for him? – but it was swiftly followed by more analysis.
Gustav got back to his paperwork, using thaumaturgy to speed up the work. He put the master wand back in its box and had a servant carry it back to wherever it was he kept it – and called for Jorst to lead Charles back out – albeit with instructions to let him look around the central chamber, the commercial balconies, and the residential balconies if he wished – although the dome and the roof were the family quarters, and off limits.
Being in a hurry, Charles had to take a rain check on that one – and headed off to visit the Gold Faction.
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXIV – A Pointed Plot (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXVI – In Which We Catch Up With Everyone Else (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXII – The Logic of Lions (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXI – The Maiden in Durance Vile (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XX – Incidents of Artifice (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXVIII – Speculations on the Coming Darkness (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXIII – The Great Gates (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXVII – Hints and Allegations (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Indexing Updates; Player Blog Links (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XIX – The Shattered Mirror (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XVIII – The Question of the Divine (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Exalted – The Winding Way (Sidereal Manse **** or any Manse *****) (ruscumag.wordpress.com)