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.