The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XXXVIII – Out of the Umbra

English: Niitaka Shrine(The shrine located on ...

Bigger on the inside is it? Well, it would HAVE to be wouldn't it?

Sadly, despite Mr Montagues calling them in, the Nocturnals hadn’t been able to help out with the analysis much; there was just no way of knowing what WAS “normal” for a young primordial! Nobody even knew how they came into being outside of “they appeared in the Wyld”. Still, Jose had been quite relieved when Mr Montague called for some help with the analysis, rather than for help with surviving…

He’d have ordered an assault if he had to – or if Montague hadn’t come back out (albeit not without asking whether he’d be along in a few minutes first, and not without regrets in any case) – but he was certainly glad that he hadn’t had to try it. A new aftershock war in the middle of Yu-Shan might not have gone at all well! It had taken most of the Celestial Exalts in existence to deal with one well-prepared primordial last time, and, while Charles might be a pacifist, everything they had on him implied that he was ANYTHING but unprepared!

And most of the other Celestials were gone, many of the Sidereals were unavailable, and the boy probably had plenty of allies of his own! With the gods still subject to the primordial geas such a conflict could easily have torn Yu-Shan to shreds…

He thanked the Maidens that the child’s world-body appeared to be utterly benign, and free of Yozi taint, and that he hadn’t had to order an attack.

Now, of course, he’d have to find some way to get an analyst into “Aden” and survey the place… It was still all too possible that the “child” was up to something underhanded! And there would have to be monitoring… As if anyone had ANY time to spare for that!

Oh by the Maidens… Monitoring one Jouten just wasn’t going to be enough! Monitoring a Primordial called for monitoring dozens of souls, in a wide variety of locations! Some things could be trusted to mortal and semi-mortal followers and children – even if they WERE terribly easy to avoid – but they’d all be lucky to get any sleep at all!

Oh DAMN IT TO OBLIVION! The boy was…. a top member of the school evasion club too!

“Prepared” was NOT the word… Could a Primordial possibly have an aspect in Contingency Plans? An overview was probably going to be the best that they could do… How many third-circle souls did the boy have anyway? Presuming that he’d finished creating them? That MIGHT give them some indication of his power level if they could find out – and a potential target if they HAD to go after him.

Gaia, Autochthon, and all the Incarnae… They’d faced better than thirty of these things during the primordial war? How in creation had they won? Just how much had they lost?

Charles, meanwhile, was very pleased… His third-circle “souls” were working out quite well! Sure, they’d be foci of study once people started really investigating, but they were GREAT in their fields of thaumaturgy! And, while thaumaturgy might not be the biggest power in creation (at least not unless you boosted it beyond all reason, in which case it was like anything else boosted beyond all reason) it generally didn’t damage the universe! He had enough things to fix already!

With as much geomantic power as his “souls” could back it with, they could perform thaumaturgy on a planetary scale. That meant he could do terraforming of barren worlds! And, even at that level, thaumaturgy was unlikely to show up in the loom! That way it wouldn’t bother ANYBODY!

Adding more people was just a tiny bit more trouble – but as long as you weren’t interfering with established destinies, there were more people around all the time. They just got added in! And that meant that no one would mind it if he made more room for people…

Hm… If you named places that were reasonable matches, and then opened the portals, could you put the territorial gods back to work too? Ooh, wait! The Stargate project would be good for the Sidereals and exploring the larger universe, but all he needed for prayer and paperwork and such to flow into Yu-Shan (and put some gods back to work) would be some manses on each new planet with continuously active gates there! After all, that was how stuff got from Earth to Yu-Shan… He could even use weaker gates, since if you set them up to transmit essence patterns only you’d have to be dematerialized to use them… And he could repopulate those planets with many extinct species, so that – when he hooked them up with gates that the interstellar dragon lines could use them as shortcuts – those worlds would feed into Yu-Shan and put various gods back to work like Three Toes had been put back to work when his portfolio was restored!

Now, if he set up some colonies… How much infrastructure? An awful lot of people seemed to find the slightly-pastoral or woodlands lifestyle pretty attractive… Hm. A few service-healing-and-utility manses around should cover a lot of what was needed, and a little basic thaumaturgy training and his artifact-granting charm would cover a lot more. It would probably be best to see how well that worked out before he did too much intrusive meddling!

And if the “frontier”, “backwoods”, and “small town” lifestyles didn’t work out for people he could always intervene some more! He had a LOT of intervention available after all!

As other Sidereals found out about what was going on they would, naturally enough, develop their own ideas about that to do about it… A few, of course, would feel that they had a weapon of mass destruction wandering through the streets of Yu-Shan, but quite a few others would want to try to influence his development…

The falcon returned a couple of days later, to once again be welcome – and to find snacks and such waiting (even if it didn’t say who got all the sandwiches).

It ate – but it also had something tied around it’s neck… When it realized that Charles wanted to look, it actually held up the item. It seemed to be a small bag… full of shavings of cold iron? That was odd! Was it worried about the fey? And did it want him to have it or was it for it’s own protection?

The falcon was holding the bag open and looking at him – and didn’t seem to be bothered by him being nearby with it open either. Charles picked up a filing, held it up, and pointed to himself questioningly; he could have used telepathy, but that seemed so unsporting!

The falcon did absolutely nothing to stop him when he took a filing – and moved closer to him when he pointed to himself. It definitely seemed to want him to have or carry some iron filings… Well, he didn’t really think it was necessary, but he was willing to be obliging!

(Charles) “Uhm… for protection against the fey? I don’t really need any I think – I already have some very strong protections – but OK!”

He tucked some away. He had no great objection to carrying some iron filings; you never knew when you might need to track down an alien corpse with a massive magnetic field! And there were several other uses!

Hm… He’d bet on another messenger from the Silver Faction or a group of Lunars showing up soon!

A messenger with an aerial rickshaw driver turned up at the base of the mountain a few hours later. If this kept up he’d have to install an escalator – or possibly a ski lift. He popped down to see what was up!

(Charles) “Hello?”

(Messenger) “Ah, Charles Dexter Ward? I have a message from a Righteous Hala for you.”

Righteous Hala? Oh yes! The Lunar lady he’d told about Deva Cutter!

The messenger handed over a warded scroll – which informed Charles that Righteous Hala would like Charles to visit her at her Celestial residence sometime, when he could manage it.

Well that was easy! He was having trouble with the elsewhere fishing net anyway! He’d go and visit! He sent her a message that he would be along that evening…

It was odd though… The invitation was simple and civil – but the impression he was getting from the calligraphy was less comfortable… It seemed like the message she would RATHER be sending was something along the lines of being hit with a hammerspace mallet… That and “What in OBLIVION do you think’ you’re DOING!?! In the secret Name of Ligier which destroys cities do you have any idea of how much attention THIS “secret identity” will attract? It’s like pretending not to be a pickpocket by dressing up as Jack the Ripper!”

A civil invitation to somebody’s residence should not have those connotations!

A Hammerspace Mallet is Raksha Artifact-0 – a trivial aspect of dream, the equivalent of a minor thaumaturgic talisman. When invoked into reality it produces the impression that some offending individual has been smacked with a big hammer and briefly flattened, complete with little birds (or some similar manifestation) circling their head. This costs one mote, unless the user is genuinely upset with the “target”, in which case it’s free. If the user wishes, he or she may roll Manipulation to see just how annoying the “target” finds the impression. In any case, there’s no actual attack roll, or defense possible, because there’s no actual effect.

Righteous Hala’s residence was across the city, in the Lunargent Ecological Protectorate. It was an exquisite compound with plenty of hunting room… And he could see what appeared to be dinosaurs running around in one of the preserves. That was neat! Those were hard to find!

He was conducted to the central building – a tall wooden tower. There was a modest crowd there to see him, including several children and falcon-humanoid hybrids. But the most distinguished one was the Middle Eastern woman, well over six feet tall, and heavily muscled.

Ooh, Beastmen! Those were rare – at least around Earth and Yu-Shan – these days too! He’d have to send some presents!

(Charles) “Allo!”

(Righteous Hala) “Ah, Charles. I see you received my message… and that Azure Glider reached your Manse with no trouble. Come in, I’ve prepared refreshments.”

(Charles, over whom refreshments had power…) “OK!”

Hala… was surprised by the sheer amount of naivete, above and beyond what she wanted to discuss with him. Had the child no sense of caution at ALL?

Inside, the tower was open; living space seemed to be on balconies and various birds of prey were everywhere. There was a massive feast set up in the middle of the central chamber, featuring a staggering varieties of meats, stews, fruits, and vegetables – nearly all of it natural, rather than made from Quintessence or Ambrosia. A good deal of it was extraterrestrial.

Hala set up the children at their table, and served them appropriate meals. Charles, on the other hand, was set up at the grown-up tables, where a falconman servant placed a lavish plate of meat in front of him. It was exquisitely cooked, with a wide variety of spices…

Charles, of course (and to the despair of his servants) was much more used to hamburgers and peanut butter sandwiches, and had a rather young palate for the spices… There was only so much that events could compensate for. He wound up quietly transmuting himself a little ketchup… That got him raised eyebrows all the way around – and Hala looked a little confused.

Still, the section of the table where he and Hala are sitting was throughly privacy warded.

(Charles) “Can I help you with something?”

(Hala) “You don’t have any idea what’s going on, do you?

(Charles, somewhat puzzledly) “Uhm… Dinner party?”

Hala slapped her forehead. She had to be as tough as she was strong, judging from the force there.)

(Hala) “I meant with the Sidereals investigating you. It’s not every day they pop in on young children.”

(Charles) “They’re just all worried cause I puzzle them! I should’ve put better shields up, but I fell asleep while one was visiting! And she peeked – which was totally NOT FAIR – and they got all bothered!”

(Hala) “And why is that? You’re working more hours than there are in a day. You didn’t think one would notice eventually? They SPECIALIZE in being snoops! Though I’ve got to say, that was an inspired bit of trickery there.”

Aw! He didn’t trick people! He just let them trick themselves… Of course, that was the best way – especially against entities as arrogant as Sidereals.

(Charles) “Well, they were already worried about Lytek, and the gizmos the kids at school got, and a lot of other things…”

(Hala) “They should be. You’re going to grow into power they can’t even touch. So… what do you plan to do with it? I’ve got a good idea, but I figured I should ask you personally.”

(Charles) “Lots of things need fixing! There are all those out-of-work gods, and the dragon lines are a mess, and there are damaged manses, and… (the list went on for a bit).

Hala listened with some incredulity… Did the boy actually think he could fix the universe? There didn’t seem to be any limit on his good intentions! Even for a child answering a what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up query that was a bit over the top!

(Hala) “I see. I’d heard you already started with a couple of the gods. That stuff was going to be easier when they didn’t think you were a Primordial. But that’s what happens when you let them in your house, isn’t it?”

(Charles) “Well, I needed them to help with some parts of fixing things anyway – and them watching won’t stop the fixing anyway now. And I doubt they have any actual plans for this sort of thing, so it will take them a long time to sort it out. Sidereals are GOOD at endless debate.”

(Hala) “They’re also good at sucking other people into it. What happens when they learn the truth? Granted, the Gold will be on your side, but they’ll want to… channel your abilities to their goals. Same for the Silver, though they’ll give you a LOT more leeway.”

(Charles) “By that time… who knows? It might be true!”

Well, it might be true now! Who knew? The lady did obviously know that he was a Solar Exalt though! Well, Lunars apparently knew those things sometimes…

(Hala, shrugging) “Maybe. I just know the Bronzers will try something, crippled as they are. Good move on befriending a couple of them, by the way. That MIGHT save your butt.”

(Charles) “They needed help more!”

(Hala) “You really are naive, aren’t you?”

It didn’t seem to anger her too much, though.

(Charles) I suppose! But being nice has to start somewhere!

(Hala) “Incarnae know Heaven could use more of it. Don’t forget to watch yourself though. I’d hate to see another small god steal your sandwiches because you didn’t have wards up.”

In all her seven hundred years Hala had NEVER felt such an immediate response to someone as she had when Charles had turned up in her office to talk about a yozi-touched weapon. She’d… felt exasperated and affectionate even before he’d opened his mouth.

Over twenty thousand years, and – in most cases – a dozen or so incarnations the Lunars had almost forgotten the Lunar-Solar bond. While Devon had been active over that period, he had hidden himself so well that Hala’s Exaltation had not encountered its bondmate in thousands of years.

It had taken her quite a bit of research – asking older Lunars about it, reading through ancient archives in Yu-Shan, and pulling in a few favors to get one of the No Moons to do a couple of demon-summonings – to sort out what was likely going on.

It was still hard to believe. The Solar Exalted were returning after twenty thousand years of absence? This polite, unassuming, boy was one of them? AND her bondmate? And seemed to be… utterly naive and unaware.

And now THIS. She apparently had a natural mystic bond with a child who thought that pretending to be a PRIMORDIAL was a good way to avoid attention?! What horrible thing had she DONE to deserve that!?!? OK, so they wouldn’t suspect him of being a Solar – but “Primordial” was one of the few things that would draw even more attention than a Solar!

To be fair, it looked more like he was trying to keep the Sidereals too busy debating to interfere much – which was a SLIGHTLY better plan (evidently even HE was not THAT naive) – but why a PRIMORDIAL?! As a way of building up power and resources while avoiding direct confrontations the colossal bluff seemed to be working tolerably well – but what would happen if and when someone DID try to confront him? They’d bring an army and overwhelming force!