The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXIV – Fiduciary Divine

English: The Court of Chancery: This engraving...

But now with modern offices!

While Charles was busily building more manses to impersonate (or perhaps become) his “third-circle souls”, working on the Stargate project, mapping the earth’s dragon lines, running rescue missions, and otherwise keeping busy, several investigations were gathering steam – with some of the investigators coming up with scenarios that even he hadn’t thought of yet. Similarly, some of the Sidereals of opposing factions were beginning to wonder what they’d do if their colleagues started cozying up to him – or started major, formal, faction-level investigations. There seemed to be some very useful resources there.

Naturally enough, one of the first investigations to get formal revolved less around Charles and the mysteries around him and more around money.

Isn’t that always the way of it?

Ixiah had informed Charles that the head of the Bronze Faction and at least one silver faction operative had been in the audience during the Arcosanti test – and were almost certainly aware that he possessed some quite potent artifacts indeed. Charles was mildly concerned about a possible investigation into his affairs – but, as usual, figured that there wasn’t much he could do about it without provoking more trouble, and so was ignoring it outside of updating his various smoke screens…

Besides, if the Sidereals hadn’t figured out that he possessed plenty of artifacts long ago they wouldn’t be Sidereals. It was surprising that any had had the time to attend though – and that they had been able to get tickets what with the amount of divine interest at work. Had they pulled favors or rank?

Still, the possibility of someone in the audience focusing on him was why he’d used the manse seed, and mostly worked while the focus was on Gri Fel and Terapishim, instead of just constructing the place directly. They would have seen the bit with the Fey though. Pesky audience… There had only been two competing teams for diversions too; after all, Arcosanti WAS a very small city at the moment!

Just as gods often found mortal attempts to awaken their Essence entertaining, the employed members of the Celestial Bureaucracy often found unemployed gods’ attempts to find purpose entertaining – or just informative. It was always wise to scout out potential allies and competition.

Charles would have considered it a rather sour pleasure, but then he was generous to a fault.

Hm, come to think of it, the competition apparently hadn’t tried anything underhanded either. OK, it would have been pretty hard to do that during the test with everyone in a separate arena, but there had surely been lots of bureaucratic chances before… Ah, of course; there probably had been such attempts – and they hadn’t told him; Gri Fel knew perfectly well that intrigue was not his speciality.

Ixiah had heard some grumbling about that as well. Ostensibly it was about Celestial tradition, but Heaven had had a long time to get cutthroat, and that in itself was an unofficial tradition at this point. And Gri Fel did look a bit tired.

Well, his new effective “cult” and salary should help with that!

The first formal investigation was a joint sidereal one – but it got pushed off onto subordinates while the elders handled bigger problems.

Those subordinates pushed it off on others until they were down to… a couple of youngsters in training.

He was having a sandwich while doodling more designs for things – magical umbrellas, weird manses, an elsewhere-sifting net – when someone came knocking at the door of the Orrery to see him.

(Charles) “Oh, hello!… Can I help you? I have more sandwiches!”

It was a rather pale man in a dark suit and a girl in her late teens – from the eyes, respectively, Endings and Secrets. They weren’t showing any clear factional identification, but then that stuff was rarely really discussed officially anyway.

(Man) “Ah, yes. Some reports had come in and we were wondering if you could answer some questions.”

(Charles) “Don’t know! It depends on what they are I suppose…”

(Girl) “Thanks for lunch! I’m Cipher Child, and he’s Clarence Clearwater. Do you know a Gri Fel or a Terapishim?”

Huh… He could place her! She was a native of Yu Shan and was physically the youngest currently incarnated Sidereal Exalt. She still had two years of actual time in the role on Salvatore Montague (the most newly incarnated Sidereal) though.

(Charles) “Yes! Nice fellows!”

(Clarence) “We were wondering if you knew anything about their current activities, other than their recent bid for employment.”

Well, he had appeared in the records as an assistant, of course.

(Charles) “Uhm… Mostly trying to get a job I think? Isn’t that one of the major preoccupations of most unemployed gods who haven’t gone mad or been killed?”

(Clarence) “Oh, most certainly. Every god needs a purpose for those reasons you mentioned. But we were curious because of some reports coming from the Office of Dispensations.”

(Charles) “I haven’t heard of that one! What’s it do?”

(Cipher) “It’s a subdepartment of a subdepartment of the Bureau of Heaven. It controls salaries, earmarks, and awards for Heavenly service, including the dole. Clarence and I were asked by it to check out some of Gri Fel and Terapishim’s finances. All the gods who apply for jobs get evaluated by it.”

(Charles) “Sounds busy!”

(Clarence) “Oh, yes. It’s one of the more productive parts of Heaven. Anyhow, as my younger colleague said, we were assigned to investigating that particular team’s finances. We’ve gotten some unusual information on them recently.”

(Charles) “Well, they were pretty broke until recently!”

(Clarence) “And that is actually what we wanted to ask you about. As far as our research has shown, few in Creation recall Gri Fel’s existence, and those who know of Terapishim worship him because of his wondrous, multi-forked beard. Yet very recently, they have been seen with restored ornamentation.”

(Charles) “Oh! That’s simple; I turned up a prototype in with some very old stuff! It seemed to work, so I set them up so they could buy a few things to suit the job they were applying for!”

He had too! The fact that he’d put it there didn’t make it less true that that was where he’d found it when he went looking a few minutes later!

(Cipher) “Neat! I mean, what kind of prototype?”

Interestingly, she seemed to know exactly what Charles meant by the “very old stuff.”

(Charles) “Uhm… One minute!”

Charles started cheerily rummaging in his pack – eventually leaning into it waist-deep, which looked quite ridiculous, as it wasn’t anywhere near large enough for that. He’d strewn a dozen weird items around the floor by the time he came up with the Ambrosial Chalice, which – instead of being mounted in magical material – was serving as the mount for a thin band of magical material itself. It shimmered like a black opal, and radiated an ever-shifting corona of magical power…

(Clarence) “Oh my.”

They both seemed to know what that was.

(Charles) “It seemed like it would be handy for them!”

(Cipher) “Was there any information on the Manse with the stone? It’ll take a while, but we might need to watch it.”

(Clarence) “True… it could help with certain relief efforts.”

(Charles) “Nothing with the stone… But there’s probably something in the archives!”

That was true! There were lots of things in the archives!

(Cipher) “Hmm . . . we’ll have to do some more investigating, and I think I need to do some more research. But there’s nothing illegal about this. It’s not like the Bureaucracy can stop Hearthstone attunement, and it’s not even part of the treasury anyway.”

Oddly enough, Charles got the feeling that, even if any of those three conditions were true, she wouldn’t have a problem with it.

To be fair, on a large scale, it wasn’t too important. It took one Rank-5 manse to support three Rank-3 cult effects – and after a few initial experiments long long ago it had been judged an inefficient use of geomancy; you could just have the construction crew worship the gods you wanted to help – which was generally enough to provide a rank-three cult for four or five gods – and build a manse that did something more useful.

(Clarence) “We’ll have to make sure they’re not skimming, of course. But that would be highly unlikely for an unemployed deity in the first place.”

(Cipher) “And at this point, it’s a formality anyway… but the forms need to be filled.”

Skimming? From what? Random fountains?

The two also had a few inquiries about the manse seed; they had some of the readings on the testing since they were investigating the before and after. That was of some interest to Cipher; it had been really neat how the place just grew!

Charles gladly explained many of the technical complexities of the manse seeds… She didn’t actually understand one word in three – but evidently Charles knew how they worked in detail. And yet, according to Clarence, such things had not been used since the Balorian Crusade – and then it had been by Lunars, not the Shogunate.

(Clarence) “Where did you get all this information? I believe you attend a school in the city, but I don’t recall that being on the curriculum.”

(Charles) “It’s in the Archives of Dudael – and there are some references in other libraries around the city!”

Cipher looked thoughtful… It would be a pain to get into the archives, but if a kid not that much younger than her could find such cool stuff, what could she dig up?

Clarence appeared to be more practical, although he was curious as well. After all, getting approval would certainly be a pain! Generous though he was, Charles would surely have to wait for authorization and they did have work – including this task – that neither of them could get out of.

They didn’t ask quite yet. They had more people to interview, although they took a statement and gave Charles their contact information.

Cipher wanted to want to talk about Manses a bit more – even if her time was limited. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) for her, Charles LOVED to talk about manses! (Which was blatantly obvious) – and Clarence was also interested in the occult, although in different areas. He dids have one last question for Charles, as Cipher boxed up the sandwiches…

(Clarence) “Did you know of anyone else who was supporting Gri Fel or Terapishim? Their support team was notably light.”

Charles considered that. There was the Drunken Shedu, and perhaps Kiko – but she was still being incognito at the moment. Of course, if Gri Fel got the position, that might well change. Besides… he wasn’t sure what, if anything, she’d been doing to provide support! Bodyguarding? She hadn’t participated in the actual testing anyway.

(Charles) “Uhrm… There was the Drunken Shedu, and I think a fair number of people would like to see the deadlock on Arcosanti, and on getting multiple gods on jobs that have gotten more complicated, broken – but they’d support the competitors as well as Gri Fel and Terapishim! And I was helping of course! Or do you mean in the test? I think that was just me, but I did bring a bunch of stuff that might have been useful!”

(Clarence) “Ah, yes, the test. The records did include those items… and they weren’t recorded as part of their previous panoplies, unemployed or not.”

Hm? Charles had been talking about the stuff in his pack… They’d meant the staff and rod! He cheerfully acknowledged finding those for them too.

(Clarence) “Well, thank you, Charles. Cipher and I must be going, but we will contact you if we have any more questions.”

(Charles) “OK! If I’m not in, the servants will take a message!”

(Cipher) “And thanks for lunch. You saved us a lot of time.”

(Charles) “You’re welcome!”

They departed by air, since Charles DID live in a bad neighborhood. Cipher had seemed like she wanted to stay a bit longer, but duty called.

They should have said! Hm… having more time for conversations in the same amount of external time… Charles added some notions to his doodles! Many people would appreciate that one!

“His” new falcon, sent by the Lunar Righteous Hala, watched with some interest. Charles made sure that it got a snack too!

It appreciated that – although, while it had come with a perch and some gloves, Charles hadn’t bothered with the gloves – and had gotten it whatever it seemed to want; it was a guest after all! And it wasn’t like it needed to be watched; after all it had arrived on its own!

It had sat on its perch and kept an eye on things throughout the interview – but now it was more relaxed.