The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session VLIII – Testing Theories

Aden

I'm going to need a bigger magnifying glass!

Sadly, back in Yu-Shan – and despite Charles’s semi-automatic attempts to evade notice – the Celestial Lions had, of course, noted that he’d departed accompanied by three minor gods. Other watchers, however, had been monitoring where he’d started – and knew a good deal more. Peacefully leaving in the company of three gods who’d been lost to deiphagy for tens of thousands of years had put yet another wild theory on the loose – that Charles was a Greater Deity in disguise, and probably wanted to provide deniable support for the Bronze Faction.

Of course, among the Sidereals, that was competing with the “he’s a Primordial!” theory. That was mostly popular with the Bronze Faction and the Golds in the Cerulean Lute of Harmony (a gold stronghold by a small margin) – who might not entirely believe it, but who were supporting Mr Montague, since he was one of theirs and it was his theory.

Besides, while the elders would never admit it, Charles would probably have fooled them too.

Other factions and divisions of the Bureau of Destiny were more divided. After all, there was still the “Lesser Exalt” theory, the Half-Deva (or DOUBLE Half-Deva – whatever that would be) theories, the “Slumming Incarnae” theory, the “God-Blood with more Manses and Resources and Allies and Artifacts than ANYONE should have because he’s been set up as a colossal diversion” paranoia theory, the “disguised Exalt” theory (leaning towards Green Sun Prince amongst the Lunars, who weren’t too big on the “Primordial” theory), the “Unique Spawn of the Wyld” (more of a lack-of-a-theory theory really), the “Yozi Infiltrator! theory (fortunately not all that popular), and several more…

Most of the factions didn’t have any “official” theories yet though. That was good! As long as they were all debating and looking for evidence, they wouldn’t be interfering!

Ixiah had been tracking the theories… As god of Familiars he could get info from all of their familiars as long as it was nothing that would harm or hinder their masters – and “what their current wild speculation about Charles was” was about as harmless as it got.

He tried to put a serious mask on it – but he’d been listening to the reports with great glee and mostly for his own amusement. He hadn’t seen anyone sow so much confusion around Yu Shan since Lyserphosian, the god of LSD, had arrived.

Everybody had had to learn – as quickly as possible – not to make skin contact with after they had figured out who he was. That was not easy when you were trying to learn to recognize a constantly shifting hallucination. There were still some older gods who weren’t even sure that he existed… Still, Lyserphosian had become friends with Xaos the Hidden, God of Things Not Yet Known, very quickly, though. Xaos himself was so horribly Wyld-tainted (or so he claimed anyway) that he only met with people from behind a curtain.. It was hard to tell; all anyone had seen of him since he had returned from the Wyld had been an arm and what appeared to be the edge of a vortex of scintillating colors.

In Aden, Righteous Hala – who, almost alone among the Exalted, had realized that gaining access to one of Charles’s gates to Aden required little more than asking – had been making it a point to meet Charles’s other “Third Circle Souls”. It would be best to understand the entire hierarchy…

That had been… interesting. The “Souls”, of course, were as adult as they were ever going to get. They were dazzlingly intelligent and discerning, they were incredible experts in their fields (and very focused on them), they were immensely powerful, they were decent folk – obliging and pleasant enough under their weird rough edges and bizarre eccentricities – and they were quite loyal to Charles.

Of course, he’d presumably created them with serving and helping him as one of their major motivations – like any other manse guardian – and they were more or less… a part of him (which was still a bit disturbing! She’d heard of “Great Souls”, but even the most open-spirited rarely had the room to let a few hundred million people move in for a visit!) but he didn’t seem to have really issued any instructions beyond “help me out on a few projects” and “keep a portion of your attention on security for yourself, myself, and Aden” – and that was no more than basic common sense! He seemed to think of them as something between… allies, imaginary friends, aides, and employees.

On the other hand… they generally seemed to see Charles as a precocious (and impulsive) child to be indulged when appropriate, looked after most of the time, assisted or restrained when that was needed – and to be raised to adulthood. “Guardians” indeed.

Well, there were those reports of his lesser manse-guardians carrying him off to put him to bed… Was the boy substituting manse-guardians – and artificially-matured aspects of his own soul – for parents? Shouldn’t he be…

Wait. He wasn’t aging – and sure-as-oblivion he’d stopped it well before his apparent age. Was he… waiting? Somewhere down there, did he believe that if he fixed EVERYTHING he’d fix whatever had taken his parents away – and that they’d come back for him?

That didn’t seem likely if they’d gone before he could remember – unless he’d blocked it out somehow. If that was it, it was an incredible boon for the universe – and, hopefully, he’d be right.

Along the way she encountered several Sidereals – a number who’d used the Mirror-Shattering Method to take various small craft into Aden and several who’d managed to find and crack open a secondary gate in the brief time that they’d stayed put. It looked like… mostly Silver Faction who were using the Mirror-Shattering Method and mostly Golds who were sneaking in the secondary gates. All of them were busy… studying the place and trying to catalogue the souls.

When she told Charles about it, it turned out that he already knew… Well, he did have all those “souls” – and some sort of inherent surveillance that came of being inside of him – to help him keep an eye on things – and the Baalgrogs, for all their pretentious gothness and general silliness, were actually quite competent.

Charles had known they’d be coming – but he hadn’t expected them quite so soon… Evidently they could make SOME decisions promptly if they thought that it was urgent enough!

The Sidereals were having some trouble… For the most part they were simply analyzing the local geomancy, talking with the locals, and taking measurements – but the sheer number of second-circle quality creatures seemed to startle them. So did the fact that no one seemed to mind having visitors and that it was REALLY difficult for them to conceal their activities – especially around the third-circle souls and the manses that they used as headquarters. They didn’t seem to be at all nervous about it – but then it was hard to be nervous in Aden anyway. It was more heavily loaded with niceness than the hundred acre woods – which, of course, were by the Disney Cartoon Critter Guardian Manse.

One Chosen of Serenity did seem to be looking for that one – and was quite pleased when he found it.

Meanwhile, the Chosen of Battles in the group had found the Jedi Temple manse – although it had two competing factions; the Sith Droids and the Organic Jedi – with the occasional cyborg straddling the line between the Light Side and the Badly Overacted Side of Ham.

Still, they were good with those beamklaives – and did a lot of (not all that serious) dueling to “prove who was best”. Given that both sides were effectively identical, that wounds healed quickly within Aden, and that the “Jedi” and “Sith” were making sure that there were no really serious injuries to boot, that was a fairly useless endeavor.

The Chosen of Battles just shook her head, used the occasional perfect defense to avoid being inconvenienced by minor injuries due to being caught between the dueling sides, and got on with the analysis, and with attempting to catalog the Manse’s powers and investigating the servitors – an attempt that was having limited success in General; there were just too many unique powers, new aspects, and interactions with other manses to sort everything out in any reasonable timescale. Virtually everything was networked, and capable of manifesting all kinds of special-purpose powers when more geomantic energy was pumped in.

She was pretty interested in the manses that were linking Aden into fate enough to ensure that children born there had proper souls – and that souls from creation could incarnate there – as well as the one with the sympathetic loom artifact. It didn’t have much of any power over fate really – but it DID let the user see if everything was still working all right and if a particular action or experiment was likely to cause a major disruption in Fate.

That was… very considerate. It wasn’t really a MAJOR thing – there had been plenty of attempts at making a duplicate loom during the first age, and a monitoring device was a lot less complicated than those failed attempts – but it was pretty rare for anyone but the Maidens and the Sidereals and their Aides to even take a token interest in the proper workings of fate.

Ultimately, of course, the basic conclusion was that Charles… had a genuine world-body (and a spectacularly nice and scenic one), that the souls there were fundamentally aspects of HIS soul, and that he was amplifying and focusing his internal energy flows with Manses so as to support far more souls than he normally could. That was weird – but the internal structure of Primordials had never really been a well-understood topic. Perhaps that was how ALL Primordials sustained their souls…

After the (somewhat odd) success of the initial probe, there was fairly regular traffic for the next few weeks – Sidereals coming and going via the Mirror-Shattering Method.

Charles had the Baalgrogs start issuing visas, voucher books full of free meal coupons, and restaurant/inn directories – and received some thank-you notes shortly thereafter – along with yet another request that he come down to the office.

Not the Gold Factions upcoming appointment though… This one was from the Chosen of Secrets Almata Sandovar – who seemed to be good at keeping her factional leanings under wraps.

It would be rude to pry too – but Charles did check on her office! The “Department of Cataloging Creatures” would probably be much nicer to visit than the “Department of Exterminating things that are Outside of Fate”… In this case it turned out to be the “Subdepartment of Humanoid Extracreational Entities,” a subdepartment of the Subconvention on Extracreational Entities, which is itself a subconvention of the Convention on Essence Wielders.

Oh! Well, that was to be expected! He dropped by!

The Forbidding Manse of Ivy was the largest and most secretive archive in Yu Shan, a massive white basilica draped in vines. Charles didn’t have access to the archives proper because he hadn’t tested for them – so he had to wait while they extensively checked his invitation and had to have an escort at all times…

Ms. Sandovar’s office was located in the middle of the division’s working areas. It was private, well-warded, and had personal archive space – which was also well-warded.

(Charles) “Allo!”

(Ms. Sandovar) “Ah, you must be Charles. Please, sit down.”

She was more reminiscent of a technician than a scholar or a mage, and rather prim – and it didn’t appear to be an ultimate chair of doom or anything; it was just comfortable…

She had one of the divine aides bring in drinks – fruit juice for him, something else for her.

(Ms. Sandovar) “I’ll get right to things, as both you and I are busy. Some associates of mine have asked me to run some tests on you. They’ll be intensive, but they want to clarify some things about you.”

(Charles) “I don’t know if I like tests!”

He didn’t know if he liked dentists either, and that chair reminded him a lot of dentists!

(Charles) “What do they want to know?”

(Ms. Sandovar) “Well… there’s some question as to your origins. Personally, I think there are more important things to be worried about, no matter how powerful one individual is. Thus, I’ve pulled some favors to use a rare device and resolve the issue once and for all. It won’t hurt. Though (looking at him closely), I’m sorry to say, this device DOES resemble a dentist’s chair.”

Huh! It… sounded like a rarity from the Primordial War era. Primordials used things like it to root out Exalted from among their less-loyal servants. Granted, that usually wasn’t at all necessary – anyone who Exalted and wasn’t loyal tended to skip out – but they’d used them…

Huh. You know, the more you thought about it, the less sense the usual accounts of the Primordial War made. Humans were notorious for often preferring the horrible overlords they knew to the unknown – and heroism could pop up equally on either side. Wouldn’t rather a lot of Exalts been on the other side of the war?

Oh well! That kind of poking around would have to wait! After thirty thousand years any evidence that was left could probably wait a little longer!

As for the artifact… Hm… It would show… all Charms the target knew, the dominant nature of the target’s Essence, mote levels, health levels, and more or less everything inherent to the body – as well as showing how much time the user had spent in the Wyld. The option to scan a world-body that wasn’t actually there was set to “Off”.

Hm… That shouldn’t penetrate the Exaltation Veil, and he did have a Warding Stone that hid quite a lot of things from detections… Charms would show a bunch of “unknowns” that would be indeterminate because they were geomantically fueled from outside and were subject to change, more unique unknowns inherent to him, a few basics that were equivalent for almost anyone (and were still protected from detection by the warding stone), and… wildly mixed essence. The Solar part was well-buried behind the Veil, he was using bilocation to be in several different spots in Aden and here at the same time, the biggest essence-charge is from the adenic hearthstones for his third circles that were embedded in him, his health levels were more than mortal but less than a primordial in general, and his body was about human physically (he thought so anyway) but it was modified with thamaturgy, flooded with geomancy and healing energies, and not subject to most mortal weaknesses due to essence. He should show as god-blooded of some sort, but there was no telling of WHAT sort… He wasn’t at all sure that that would help the confusion in the slightest!

Oh well! He might as well let her look! The solar exaltation and essence were hidden anyway, and everything else would be a complete jumble! Not to mention that he has a set of graces and a charm that let him do wyld-stunts and had spent rather a lot of time in the Wyld fairly recently.

Ms. Sandovar was unable to cut through the confusion – although something did make her raise an eyebrow.

(Ms. Sandovar) “That’s… rare.”

(Charles) “What? I wanna see!”

(Ms. Sandovar) “Okay, hold your horses…”

She nudged a screen Charles’s way, and pointed to a line of Old Realm text indicating his most significant supernatural genetic origin.

(Charles) “Ooh! I don’t remember my parents! What’s it say!” (bouncing up and down a bit).

(Ms. Sandovar) “Deva-Blooded. That’s why I got this particular device. Most can’t even tell the difference between that and Demon-Blooded. That does explain some things… but not quite enough.”

(Charles) “Does it tell which deva? That would be neat to know!”

(Ms. Sandovar) “Here, let me check the wards.”

The wards were fine; after all, the Forbidding Manse of Ivy was one of the most heavily warded buildings in town.

(Ms. Sandovar) “Unknown, but I recognize the Primordial and I am in disbelief. I’ll have to report the results before I can tell you more than that.”

(Charles) “Aw! No fair! It’s my parent!”

(Ms. Sandovar, looking sympathetic) “I know, Charles, but it’s a security matter.”

(Charles) “Phooey!”

He looked closely at the artifact and considered making one of his own… It looked like a rank five… Drat it! He couldn’t tell if it was getting a real reading or just doing the best it could against the veil! Besides… he’d been rebuilding himself so fast that he wasn’t really sure what he was anymore anyway!

It wasn’t fair anyway! Still; there were only two Primordials still active that she’d be at all likely to recognize.

(Ms. Sandovar) “I will get back to you as soon as possible once I have reported my results. My backers will be very interested in this information.”

He still seemed pretty put out, so she gave him a treat – which he took.

Well, at least that was one appointment out of the way! But the Gold Faction with Mr Montague wanted to see him – and the bronze and silver would probably want to see him shortly too!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session VLII – Deiphagy for the Connoisseur

Varangian Guardsmen, an illumination from the ...

Watch out for the squirrels!

While Charles had been probing, the deiphages had been gradually coming out of it… By the time that he concluded that whatever-it-was had (at least for the moment) withdrawn into Yu-Shans nigh-impenetrable maze of geomancy – in which it seemed utterly at home, like it had either been there for a VERY long time or was designed into Yu-Shan itself – they were starting to think again.

(Charles, conjuring up some furniture) “Tea? I have sandwiches and things too!”

They sat down almost reflexively. Unemployed gods knew better than to resist gifts.

(Rodent God) “Where are we, child? This doesn’t look familiar at all…”

Charles identified the area – and apologized for how much it had gotten run down!

(Rodent God, twitching his nose worriedly) “That’s… several hundred miles from where I last remember being.”

There was general agreement on that point.

(Charles) “Uhm… I hate to have to ask, but when was that?”

(Lemuresque God) “If I may speak, Sir?”

(Rodent God) “Certainly.”

(Lemuresque God) “By mortal reckoning, Realm Year 825. I think… that dating system was falling out of use.”

(Charles) “Uhm, yes… (He checked to make sure that no one was drinking)… translating… I think it would be… about Realm Year 26,000. The exact dates are kind of hard to pin down that far back!”

They’d been sober. That made them even more so.

(Charles) “Fortunately, you haven’t missed all that many good things! Mostly… blah stuff!”

(Rodent God) “That explains the state of my robes, then…”

(Squirrel God) “Why would there be ichor on them… OH.” (He already looked skittish, but now!)

(Lemuresque God) “Oh dear. How many other gods have we…”

There were guilty looks all around.

(Charles) “Honestly, that seems to run more to injuries than anything else! After all, even if you really shred a deity in Yu-Shan they usually just rematerialize later!”

He didn’t mention mortals. It wasn’t like that would help in any way.

(Rodent God) “Yes, but the mere thought… and judging from my position, it was good that – I think – you warded yourself.”

(Charles) “Well, it’s no fault of yours! There seems to be something entangled in Yu-Shan’s geomancy that causes the problem!”

(Squirrel God) “What? That’s terrible!”

(Charles) “I think so! And if I hadn’t have run into you, I probably wouldn’t have noticed for quite awhile! So it’s very good that I did! Something will have to be done about it!”

(Lemuresque God) “Well, please tell whoever your guardian is. Where is your guardian, anyhow? The abandoned districts are no place for God-Bloods!”

(Charles) “Oh I live here! But I do have good protections… Now, it looks like one of the best protections is an active domain; you were all gods of various subspecies, correct?”

(Rodent God) “I was in charge of the Sub-Office on Varangian Tree-Dwelling Species… until that horrible explosion demolished the region. I’m Hanashi, Lord of Varangian Tree Mice.”

(Lemuresque God) “And I am Valkesh, Master of Varangian Lemurs.”

(Squirrel God) “Um… I’m Adani, Master of Varangian Squirrels.”

There seemed to be a bit of denial there.

(Hanashi) “So yes, that’s what we do – did.”

(Charles) “Hm. Well, I think those are in the files… (he produced a small computer). Could you help me pick out the right ones?”

They were a bit confused by the strange device Charles had pulled out – but once they saw the text, they interpreted it as a reader-artifact. They jumped at the opportunity – although they seemed dubious about a God-Blooded child asking… maybe he was a greater god in disguise?

(Charles) “Ah good! The genetic variances are relatively small, and they’re mostly imprinted on your attunements… That means all I need to do is get the experimental station to run up a sampling and find a place to re-establish them!”

(Adani) “Experimental… station? You’re going to revive them?”

He was trying to keep a stiff upper lip, but he was a squirrel – and even Charles could tell he was getting emotional.

(Charles) “Oh yes! I don’t like for things to be extinct! That’s no fun at all!”

(Valkesh) “I can’t believe it… after all these millennia… and I still can’t believe THAT.”

(Hanashi) “Surely you must want something for this deed.”

(Charles) “Why? I like to fix things! And Creation is a LOT bigger these days, so there’ s lots of room!”

They looked confused. That was NOT how Yu Shan normally worked… and “a lot bigger”?

(Hanashi) “As you’ve allowed us to know, many events have bypassed us. Could you elaborate?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Well, about 25,000 years ago the Scarlet Empress joined the Yozis, and shattered most of Creation’s defenses. With the Raksha rolling over everything as they marched in, Gaia intervened – and transformed some of the chaos around what was left of creation into… Well, I have an educational film! (He pulled up the “powers of ten” film) See, the Earth there is what’s left of the original creation… Everything else is new!”

(Adani) “Incarnae in the Pleasure Dome… that would explain the explosion, sir.”

(Hanashi) “I had thought Creation was done for. This is wonderful news.”

(Charles) “It is ridiculously bigger, but it’s also very messy and REALLY needs some fixing!”

(Valkesh) “You seem serious about fixing it, as well.”

(Charles) “You’ve got to start somewhere!”

(Hanashi) “That he does… he’s no mere God-Blood – and we are in his debt.”

(Charles) “No, no! I keep telling people, if it doesn’t cost me much of anything there really isn’t any debt!”

That boggled them. Just how extensive were his resources? They had really lucked out!

(Hanashi) “Well, if you say so… what is your name?”

(Charles) “Oh, sorry! I’m Charles Dexter Ward!”

(Hanashi) “Ah, Charles. I hate to ask… but could you help us clean up? We must look dreadful.”

(Charles) “Oh certainly!”

Hm… The robes were ambrosial, so they could be fixed with a bit of ambrosial reinforcement of their original structure and a simple cleaning spell. This group of functionaries must have been moderately successful or good at playing the system – although it was hard to know which after so many millennia. That was easy enough!

A visit to the experimental station on earth near Atlanta was definitely in order… Maybe that forest world would be good? Probably best to find places on one of the new ones though! Or several of them!

It would be best to avoid publicity though! The questions would be starting soon enough in any case, and he had things to do!

After a bit of explaining he used the Celestial Wings amulet to transport them all to the Atlanta gate – although they wanted to shapeshift into animals first. It was less conspicuous, made them easier to carry, and… honestly, they were worried about Charm loss. They wanted to make sure that they could still do that.

They still seemed to be in a bit of dreamlike shock – although company, and Charles’ presence, seemed to be helping.

They peppered Charles with questions about Atlanta’s trees on the way – enough so that he had to get a few answers from Elzeard…

The experimental station was quietly hidden away in the hills near Atlanta, and was basically a pleasant zoo-style place with outdoor-themed enclosures – and some new exhibits.

(Hanashi) “You MADE these? That’s… I had heard stories of Exalts doing that.”

(Charles) “Well no! I was with you! I had some aides look up the gene-patterns and run things up! It was a good systems test! Things were set up as of last month, but I’d never really tried!”

(Valkesh) “That’s incredible… the fur, it’s almost exactly as it should be.”

(Charles, anxiously) “Does it need tweaking, or is it just the brand-new-no-wear aspect?”

Valkesh examined the creature VERY carefully…

(Valkesh) “Well… I would take it as it is now, but if you want to be truly authentic…”

He went into great detail on the coat pattern – and Charles did the gene-tweaking. The gods were all quietly impressed by his skill. The few, small, lingering doubts they’d had that he was a lot more than a normal child were gone… Most gods of thaumaturgy were far less skilled.

(Charles) “And since you are all going back to normal this quickly… a lot of others ought to be curable!”

(Adani) “I would hope so. What little I remember feels like a nightmare!”

(Charles) “Hopefully it will be better now!”

Hm… That “Nightmare” phrasing was still making him wonder about Invara – but there were a lot of things best left untouched by most in the abandoned quarters!

Fortunately for these three, Charles’s meddlesomeness, and recklessness, sufficed. He was nothing if not helpfully impulsive!

Still, he needed to have someone pick some suitable spots on the new planets for the creatures and get back…

There was a little more tweaking of the creatures to their specifications, although nothing too extensive. They seemed leery of pressing Charles too far… They didn’t really care what planet he puts their species on though, as long as they had somewhere to live.

Charles doubted that they’d quite absorbed the notion of “planets” anyway. The tweaks were interesting though! Evidently there’d been some genetic drift from the original designs from the archives!

(Charles) “Ok then! The experimental station will be doing a week or two of observation on the first batches, then on to other planets!”

They were overjoyed at that… Hanashi looked like he wanted to ask Charles for something more, but seemed a bit reluctant to do so.

(Charles) “Is there anything else you need?”

(Hanashi) “Ah… well, we don’t really have homes anymore, and it’s clear just occupying abandoned ones isn’t safe for us. If you could find us roommates until we can get back on our feet, we would be grateful.”

(Charles) “Oh! I’ve got some sanctums set up nearby; would that do for the moment?”

(Valkesh) “Sanctums? How-never mind. What do you say, sir?”

(Hanashi) “That would be wonderful.”

Well, no one had been using the ones he’d set up in the House of Phantoms – and the interactive library function could help them get acquainted with the modern world!

And that left him free to get back to Yu-Shan!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session VLI – A Madness Divine

‪中文(繁體)‬: 荖濃溪源峽谷,位於玉山主峰東北側 The source of Lao...

Well, maybe it looked like that once - and eventually it may again.

With some of his Guardian “Souls” busily transforming barren lumps of airless rock into fertile, burgeoning, planets filled with assorted species of plants and animals (many of them otherwise extinct), and secondary “souls” working on constructing artifacts, manse seeds, and the Starlight Paths manses which would link those worlds to Yu-Shan (and also pour additional power into Charles’s geomantic network), Charles himself got to work on keeping attention focused on his doings in Yu-Shan. The Sidereals couldn’t possible monitor all his activities – the fact that his Guardians could be in three places at once guaranteed that since there weren’t enough Sidereals available at any one time to keep up with them all – and that meant that, for the moment, they could work quietly on Earth and on extrasolar worlds!

Hm… when it came to hooking up new planets to Yu-Shan It would have to be at least four at once to keep the energy-flows balanced – and a multiple of four would be better. Fortunately they didn’t actually take very long to set up; once you poured in enough geomancy to work thaumaturgy on a planetary scale, landscaping a barren chunk of rock with no one around to object was actually pretty simple… When you came right down to it, it was mostly the same set of spells that a normal thaumaturge would use in their kitchen garden or to bless their fields.

That would call up a lot of least gods of course, but most of the larger ones were created or appointed through Yu-Shan or though the beliefs of mortal races. After all, when you came right down to it, landscape features naturally blended into each other; water-bearing strata into springs, springs into creeks, creeks into streams, streams into rivers, rivers into seas… “Features” of the landscape were in the eye of the beholder. Until humans arrived, or more powerful gods too positions and thus defined prominent, unique, features of the landscape as something separate, the worlds would run smoothly without any higher-ranking gods.

Which should leave plenty of room to put most of Yu-Shan back to work! There would even be spots opening up for Celestial Planetary Gods – which would be prime appointments, at least after some mortals moved in… The bureaucracy COULD appoint Celestial gods for planets – but the procedures took centuries, and first you had to prove there was a need for the position. Most of the current planet gods were in their positions thanks to Sidereal and Lunar involvement.

OK, it might take quite some time to straighten out the bureaucratic mess, but once the various gods had their portfolios back it would be a big step forward – too much for anyone to have any hope of blocking in the long run. Who would bother anyway? Those positions would NEED to be filled!

Word would get out on that fairly quickly of course; the least gods of the plants and animals, of the soil and sea, and of the air, would all cheerily provide the information that they were only a few weeks or months old, and that before them there had simply been stone… The gods of the stones could speak of the transformation, and point to it’s source, and the stony witnesses there who had seen it happen. For those with ways to see it, there would be traces of the spells – and of the Adenic Essence which had bound other types of essence together into a unified whole to power them.

Once a major search was underway, it would not take long for things to be traced to Charles – and then requests for more planets would come in, as there were many unemployed gods – and not a few who sought advancement.

Still, that was more-or-less the intent! The universe was going to be full of life; that was one of the things it was best at!

Eventually, of course, there would be requests from specialty gods for non-carbon-based, or outright magical, creatures. They’d take Carbon in a pinch – they were pretty desperate – but as long as he was recreating things, some of the species that had lived in the borderlands of the Wyld would be nice!

Hm… Fulfilling those requests would require engineering some genuinely vast demesnes, or finding suitable worlds on the edge of creation. That would be harder – and it would put an open gate to Yu-Shan, and the core of creation, within fairly easy reach of the Wyld and its danger zones. That might have to be a “maybe later” – unless he could find some places where the rules were a little different, or where there were some really BIG natural demesnes…

Well, Creation was certainly big enough that there might be – almost certainly were – some such places. But how could he…

Wait! The Loom continued to report major foul-ups from across creation – so it must at least loosely cover it. Ergo, the Efficient Secretary Technique from the Orrery should be able to pull that information out of it!

Well, presuming that fate wasn’t too weak in such areas, and that things like that weren’t innately or actively concealed, and that nothing went wrong. Of course, given the scale of the search that required, that might take awhile even with magic. – but there was absolutely no reason not to give it a try!

The exotic-life divinities would be a bit disappointed with “wait and see” – but they’d already noted that – with Charles – that usually meant “I’ll think of something shortly”. They’d stick around…

Over at the soup kitchen quite a few people – both gods and mortals – were sticking around. The food was good, the place was comfortable (and extraordinarily well-warded), and there was definitely money – and thus possibly jobs – involved. The staff was pretty obviously temporary, and the intent was also pretty obvious – and attempt at a local revival.

It was the best prospect that had come along in centuries. Over the last twenty thousand years or so apathy had become something of a way of life – but there was always at least a flicker of hope. The mortal population, which was always full of youthful energy, was enough to make sure of that.

Charles left most of the hiring and such to his aides.

One magma-god watched Charles work his way down the block repairing things – and wanted to know if he needed anyone for his forge; it was pretty obvious that he was a crafter of some sort.

Well, forge-assistants were always needed when your artificing operations kept expanding!

Varthancanus was happy to help power the forge; he could ensure that the metal was always piping hot when it should be! And living inside the raging flames would give him a very comfortable private sanctum!

Well, that was fine! Charles had lots of forges anyway!

Renovating old and blocked-off buildings meant going into some of the very worst sections of the area – although it did reveal some quite interesting things! It looked to Charles like the quite a lot of the underlying architecture and geomancy was primordial, with no more than superficial modifications (understandable, even most gods weren’t qualified to tinker and the Incarnae had had a LOT to do back when they were moving in and were dealing with the basic features). In fact, rather a lot of it was still doing… whatever it did.

Part of it was probably the “everything is material” function, and part the “convert prayer to quintessence and ambrosia” function, and part the canal system – but there were tens of thousands of square miles of geomantic complexity in Yu-Shan. Even he’d never undertaken much of a general survey before; it was all over the place!

Hm… Yu-Shan resembled a sanctum – a bubble of reality blown in Elsewhere – but it was also a vast area of landscape and architecture, sustained it’s own internal geomancy, and had a designer set of conveniences and special powers built in.

A lot like Aden.

Now THERE was a disquieting thought! Was the entire Celestial City actually the world-body of a moribund Primordial? Or one that was trying to revive itself? Or – perhaps worst of all – one that had never been suspected? It would hardly be unprecedented; the essence of Gaia flowed through Creation – and it could certainly have inspired the transformation of the Empyreal Chaos into Malfeas.

Well, at the moment he had a lot of shops, manufacturies, and living quarters to get fixed up and ready to be used!

That was fairly straightforward actually… his usual style of quiet repairs, then sending in a few agents with cash to pay for starting things up, would do nicely!

Sadly, deiphages liked to hide out in the abandoned facilities too.

Charles was finishing up the repairs to a small furniture workshop when a small and ragged functionary slipped in… Its nails had sharpened into rather unhealthy looking claws over the years, and drool was slipping from its lips. Its eyes appeared blank and empty. Off in the shadows of the room he could see several other pairs of equally-empty eyes staring at him.

It was slowly approaching, looking for an opening…

(Charles) “Oh, hello!”

Hm! Well, first up, a small ward! (Just for him! He had to set out tea and sandwiches!) Then the return-to-sanity Raksha effect – and probe; if he could figure out what had happened to them, it might be fixable!

The former functionary squeaked when Charles erected the ward – but that brought the others shambling out of the shadows. It was hard to tell- the years had not been kind to their finery – but they might all be from the same office. It looked like a collection of rodents.

Since they couldn’t get at him they ate the sandwiches; they faintly remembered eating meals long ago – although now only succulent Essence would truly satisfy their hunger.

The probe however… it required a great deal of power – far more than almost anything he’d done so far – but revealed several things. They were, indeed, insane from losing their domains. They had all been gods of minor rodent species native to the Varangian City-States. More disturbingly, the deiphagy… was not something inherent to their being. Whatever was causing it was coming from outside of them. It… felt rather primal, almost inherent to the environment.

Very long-term sabotage? Notions about things competing and evolving? A symptom of the local geomancy losing power? A primordial draining power from ancient betrayers via some sort of great curse?

He tried warding the area against the power he felt! Who knew? It might work!

The deiphagic functionaries had been eating the sandwiches rather… mechanically before – but as the ward took effect, they were beginning to show signs of enjoying the meal – and their eyes were beginning to glint again – but something was trying to worm its way through the ward. It… felt like it was coming from beneath the floor.

The old “Devouring Earth” routine? Perhaps as some sort of Chthonic Worm? Could be a left-over primordial Behemoth – or perhaps an Ishvara? If one had been injured, and escaped into city-form… Such a creature would draw those nearby without compelling narratives and destinies of their own – such as an unemployed deity – into their own tale, and might well be able to feed through them. Devouring a victims sanity, and essence, was very, VERY, fey after all – and eating remotely was a reasonable extension of the theme…

He turned a nearly full-scale probe against whatever-it-was – but it had extensive protections, and faded away before the probe like mist. A bit like nocturnal essence actually – but the fact that it was fighting his ward left it somewhat open…

It seemed that… The region itself apparently attacked the minds of gods walking its streets and occupying its abandoned buildings. Being a near-mortal seemed to provide complete protection. Having a domain provided almost-total protection. Without a domain, any gods who entered the area would be under constant attack. Gods were nothing if not willful. They could resist for quite a while –

maybe even millennia. All but the most powerful would succumb eventually, though.

Wards would help against it, and so would geomancy designed to take it into account.

Either something had SERIOUSLY corrupted the area or someone considered this a design feature. Curse, damaged geomancy, side effect of prayer-channels going into reversed mode, an active creature… It could be any of those. It could even be a way to get rid of old gods who had become useless! It gave him an odd impression of being… natural. As if it SHOULD be there.

That was pretty disturbing!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session VL – I’m Going To Flurry Manse Construction! There’s No “Rate” Limit On That, Right?

English: Artist's conception of the spiral str...

Lets get organized here...

Back in Yu-Shan – and out on the cosmic frontiers – several of Righteous Hala’s Lunar friends had deduced from the questions she’d been asking about Solars that she had at long last once again encountered her Solar Bondmate – and that he or she was probably a shaping expert and perhaps an artificer.

That had stirred some real interest! According to the ancient tales, the Solars were the natural counterparts to the Lunar Exalted – and had been builders, organizers, and masters of chaos par excellence. That kind of support… would be awfully handy to have. Just as the Sidereals tended to incarnate relatively close to Earth – normally at least within the Milky Way Galaxy – Lunars often incarnated in the Empirical Galaxy, where mighty suns hung burning through a fog of chaos over the ever-shifting twilight reaches of Rakshastan.

Much of Creation was thinly-shaped at best. Gaia had not been able to maintain consistency across unimaginable reaches of space and time. She had called the lightspeed barrier of relativity into existence to slow the advance of the Wyld without truly understanding what she was invoking; not even the many minds of a Primordial could truly handle the new scale of creation. (The new physics had had many unexpected consequences, even if there were ways around it – but the “barrier” had failed in any case; the Wyld had not been advancing at anywhere near that speed to begin with).

Guardians were still needed.

The geometry of Creation these days is a bit odd, albeit not as exotic as many current human cosmological theories speculate. At the end of the second age, as the true Wyld poured in across the borderlands and the predators of legend devoured the foundations of the world, Gaia reshaped a thin shell of the onrushing wave of chaos into a near-infinite reach of space, filled with suns and worlds – often modeled on tiny fragments of creation that had been overrun, but not yet totally annihilated.

From the outside Creation is a sphere, approximately 24,000 miles across – large, but a mere bauble afloat in near-infinite chaos. A trip all the way around covers about 75,000 miles.

A trip to the center covers some ten to the one-hundredth power light years – and creations maximum circumference occurs halfway to the center. You could envision that as two cones, with their bases glued together; at one end there’s earth – and at the other, the Wyld. Now, think of an assembly of such double-cones with the earth at the center – a shape like a sphere covered with spikes.

Except that the spikes get smaller without separating, until they finally come together in a tiny sphere – creations border with the wyld.

That, of course is another planet – Rakshastan, the realm of chaos. Depending on how you look at it Rakshastan is either a fairly normal world, a wall of chaos that surrounds the cosmos with it’s skies full of the blazing suns of the Empirical Galaxy, a string of defensive manses and border territories held by an odd assortment of Bestial Races, Lunar Exalted Guardians, ancient colonies of Terrestrial Exalts, and random oddities, a heavily-defended ringworld with creation on one edge and a boundless sea of chaos on the other, the most chaotic world in an ultimately-distant galaxy that has been infiltrated by tendrils of wyld energies erupting from it’s central point, or the stronghold of the Raksha. It is the Borderlands of the Wyld. It can be all those things at once, and many more.

Humanity – or at least Earth – may never see Rakshastan. The Observable Universe is only about forty billion light years across – and the halfway point where things start getting a little odd is somewhat more than ten to the ninety-ninth power times further away than that.

Fortunately for adventures among the Fey, gates pay little attention to mere distance – but are hard to target. Going to the edge of creation is easy. Coming back again is a great deal harder…

For the moment, she’d simply told them that her mate was in Yu Shan – like several other Solars – and hiding. It wasn’t even really a lie even if he WAS hiding by being totally blatant – a method with quite a few potential downfalls even if it was hysterically funny… Did the boy do EVERYTHING backwards?

Still, they were pushing towards her at least putting them in touch with her bondmate; the supplies he’d provided on a casual basis had been quite useful; what might be be capable of if he were fully committed to their cause?

Charles, meanwhile, was taking advantage of his various “Souls” to undertake a great many projects at once.

All of the silly Sidereals needed rescuing! From themselves! They put on decent, if tired, faces most of the time – but when they got slammed they all tried to do far too much – a fact which they seemed to be incapable of admitting! Instead they just hit the Celestial Coffee until THAT no longer worked, and then they went on to the Celestial Uppers, and when they no longer worked it was on to the still-harder stuff – until the poor now-elder Sidereal had to start snorting Celestial Cocaine! They mostly only got to sleep during extrasolar Mirror Shattering Method trips! When being a natural insomniacs was considered a blessing something was REALLY wrong!

That was why some Sidereals told their children that it was a good thing there were only a hundred Sidereal Exaltations and that they had a whole universe to search in. The Sidereals might be arrogant and short-sighted, but as it stood they hardly had any lives at all – and that was just WRONG.

Hm… The Stargate Project would save them a BUNCH of time. He definitely needed to get in some more work in it! Putting more gods back to work should help them too! It might even let them spend some time with their kids!

He’d have to come up with something for the paperwork disposal too… It seemed important. Even the bureaucratic gods admitted that much… supposedly certain elements of the Celestial Bureaucracy had tried – but their proposals tended to get hung up in committee.

Oh well! That was why he was fond of unilateralism! There had to be SOME way to do it… If he could come up with some kind of device that did it, perhaps he could just present it to the Bureau of Heaven? The trouble was, you didn’t want to throw out the useful stuff along with the masses of useless rubbish – although, to be fair, if it hadn’t been needed in millennia, it probably was effectively useless rubbish anyway… Maybe he could just shunt the entire mess into a black hole? Most of it was effectively in one already; no one EVER actually looked at it! Maybe a god of paperwork could be persuaded to help out? OK, there would be less paperwork overall – but there would be a lot more attention paid to what was left! The stacks would become places to do research rather than landfill!

Meanwhile, down at the foot of the Orrery Mount, the soup kitchen – and a series of urban renewal projects – were moving into gear… The abandoned region had mostly been industrial in the first age – which was why it had been hit so hard by the chain reaction of collapses. There were a lot of abandoned factories around (with the requisite unemployed gods and desperate and/or rebellious mortals camping out in them). There were some small residential and commercial blocks in the area, though – run down, but somewhere to begin…

Wards and some support were basic – but thaumaturgy and crafting lessons, with help in getting workshops set up and going, were first up; small-scale artificing could – to a large extent – build comfort and prosperity directly, and was always needed when you started looking for outside sales… He had plenty of teachers, and could use somewhere to unload some of the really minor item-making tasks anyway! And the payments for that would bring some hard cash into the area!

Fortunately, his Prayerstone – combined with his gradually-enlarging Cult – gave him an effective salary large enough to pay for quite a few projects, even as an anonymous benefactor. A bit of a local economic jump-start shouldn’t be TOO difficult!

Until more gods were back to work there might be a customer shortage – but it should still work, especially once he got more gods back to work. They’d all need millennia worth of stuff, and a few open-but-underused workshops would be perfectly posed to take advantage of the new market!

Charles quietly used his own crafting abilities to construct suitable facilities alongside the kitchen. The Sidereals were observing of course, but the only ones likely to be concerned about it were the Bronze – since Charles was now showing signs of either support or competition. They hoped it was support; the previous signs pointed that way.

Hm… damaged manses, damaged gates, failing canals, and lower levels of prayer flowing into Yu-Shan. Did the power-inflow from the gates and prayer help fuel the energies of Yu-Shan? All that power had to go SOMEWHERE after it flowed into the city! Come to think of it, there had to be a place it flowed out again somewhere… Perhaps to power the Daystar or some such?

Another reason to get some more power sources hooked in! The interstellar ley lines weren’t much use – stretched too thin and running far too fast – but once he had some worlds full of extinct species and semi-reproduced old landmarks and features set up, they’d have to be hooked to Yu-Shan with appropriate manse-gates anyway…

Ah!

Starlight Paths Manse (Sidereal Manse *****)

A Starlight Path is a manse dedicated to a single, simple, purpose; they are gateways between Yu-Shan and some distant world of creation – but they are gateways for immaterial structures of essence only. Still, that means that the dragon lines of the destination world can be linked into the geomancy of Yu-Shan in the usual recirculating and amplifying loop, that prayers from that world may flow into Yu-Shan, and that any entity capable of dematerializing or otherwise entering a sanctum can use them – provided they can pass the guardians.

By default, a Starlight Paths manse is a simple, freestanding, black marble monolith – quite intentionally reminiscent of the one in “2001; A Space Odyssey” – but their Thematic Matching power means that that is rarely seen; they usually blend into the local environment.

Available Creation Points of 10 (Level Five Manse base) +5 (Hearthstone 0) +2 (Minimally Habitable, although some people could camp in the gateway corridor) = 17 Creation Points.

Guardian Force (4): A gate into Yu-Shan requires guardians – and opening them will cause a certain amount of disruption anyway. Moreover, Yu-Shan is desperately short of guardians and law-enforcement now. Ergo, each Starlight Path is capable of empowering some six hundred and fifty mortals – turning them into more Celestial Lions (who were originally empowered mortals anyway). Each gate thus comes with it’s own guardians AND with enough Celestial Lions to help straighten out the area around it.

Otherworld Gate (Yu-Shan), Limited/only transmits immaterial essence-patterns, and so requires the use of appropriate charms, magics, or thaumaturgy (4-1 = 3). As a permanently-active gate, this will allow the dragon-lines and prayers to flow into Yu-Shan – helping to reinvigorate the place. It also means that the physical gates on the Yu-Shan end, where immaterial and material creatures are indistinguishable, can be readily closed to keep things out.

Wyld Revocation/Independent of External Geomancy (4-1 = 3). Once the gates are full formed, they, and the manse that generates them, are sustained by the interstellar flows of essence. They no longer require external geomancy and are unaffected by geomantic sabotague or by changes in the demesne.

Indestructible (5). Once in operation, a Starlight Path is sustained by it’s own internal essence-flows, and is indestructible.

Network Node (1): The Starlight Paths are all linked together, and can pass information back and forth between themselves. This includes allowing easy communications between their guardians.

Magical Conveniences (1). A Starlight Path Manse provides:

  • Surveillance of the immediate area around the gate on the planetary side, complete with environmental information. No one who passes through the gates from Yu-Shan need be unprepared for what awaits.
  • Built-in locks and bars on the gates on the Yu-Shan side. Thanks to the indestructibility of the structure, no amount of damage can force the gates.
  • Automatic Doors: The gates can be activated and deactivated, or slightly modified, as per the usual gates of Yu-Shan.
  • Information Services: The Starlight Paths provide links into the communications networks of Yu-Shan, allowing the transmission of alarms, easy access to emergency services, and centralized monitoring of who and what passes through them.
  • Thematic Matching: The appearance of the planetary side of the gateway will automatically blend in with it’s surroundings; if in a forest, it may appear as a natural arch of trees, in an art gallery it may appear as a mural, in a ruin it may appear as an old carving of a gate, and so on.

Charles fully intends to install upgrading artifacts if there’s time – providing an additional nine manse construction points to work with. Those will add Geomantic Relays (5), Greater Sanctums (effectively adding in an apartment complex of personal level three sanctums for the staff, 3), and an additional set of Magical Conveniences (1) – also for the staff.

As his third-circle Guardians terraform barren worlds and populate them with appropriate plants and animals (including a wide variety of currently-extinct species), Charles will be placing a Starlight Path Manse at some convenient location on each one. When they’re activated, their gates will appear in Yu-Shan – “emerging from the walls of heaven” near the existing gates around the perimeter of Yu-Shan and opening up for business. He’s planning to get a fair number ready before opening up any of them; that way the new energy flows won’t be imbalanced, there will have been time to recruit some new Celestial Lions (although lots of spots will still be open), and the various extinct species – and places resembling (and named after) landscapes long gone – will be there to restore the domains of many currently out-of-work celestial gods. There won’t be many people on each new world yet – but humans are generally willing to spread into new territories. Fortunately, such planets come with Terrestrial Gods – but, without a direct link to Yu-Shan during their creation, not Celestial Ones.

There will need to be some earthly gates opened as well, but a fairly similar design will do for that.

As far as transport goes, these aren’t as good as the Stargate Project. After all, they only allow for a single destination. On the other hand, they’re permanent, well-defended, and should be a big help in reinvigorating Yu-Shan. They’ll also provide some really good jobs for thousands of Celestial Mortals – and give them the power (and an obligation and motive) to help the people who were down-and-out in Yu-Shan

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XLIIII – Ceiling Cat Says “A pox upon your Sidereal ways!”

ruki

Well, maybe

 

In which we catch up with – or encounter – one of the other characters again.

Ruki was used to waking up with a headache, no idea of where she’d been or what she’d been doing for the last few days, and with the place a bit trashed – but usually she felt a lot more hung-over and a lot less… energized and weird! There were places where she felt… numb, and others where she felt like she’d… swallowed a bolt of lightning. Worse, it looked like she’d managed to find some sort of underground pit to fall asleep in…

And when she hammered her fist on a concrete lump to try and clear up the tingling, it went right though it. Had she been working out while drunk or something? Hell, while she had a syndicate job to perform? Damn, she’d better not be late on that, or she’d be in some deep shit!

Things continued to get worse as she climbed out. She emerged in the middle of a warehouse, where two groups were starting a firefight in the middle of a warehouse full of some sort of super accelerant agent for fires and explosives.

That did NOT go well – except from the viewpoint of bare survival. She ran off one courier-type and some of his friends, and got away with a bagful of the stuff – might as well make SOME kind of profit – but if her hometown hadn’t been pretty close to hell on earth already she’d have been in deep trouble! The injuries were bad enough already. She wasn’t at all sure how she’d survived that blast…

A quick visit to a doctor friend of hers cleared up at least part of the mystery; somehow she’d acquired subdermal armor and some other cybrenetics – enough to be a complete mystery, but not enough to stand up to the Warehouse’s syndicate owners.

What the hell had she been DOING?!?! There were stories about that kind of stuff, but only in DEEP black-market operations and secret military projects! At least it should make it easier to do her job… She had to catch up with that bedamned courier and arrange to alter the package he was carrying – which meant a trip to Japan now that he was off the island – an dit might be a good idea to stay there for a bit afterwards…

Ruki was wrong. Cyberware was, in fact, an urban legend; the technology simply wasn’t available save in Autochthonia and from a few Exalts – all of whom used some magic in the mix. Ruki was in fact a Sidereal Ronin who’d undergone Autochthonian Alchemical Hybridization to allow her to take Alchemical Charms – a bizarre combination so unlikely that it was allowed only to satisfy the players fascination with anime-inspired cyborg martial artists. Still, this is Exalted. Very, VERY, little is so bizarre in a RPG that a player  and game master can’t find some way to justify it for a character – usually with a lot of plot hooks included. 

Unfortunately, in Japan, she ran into a selection of other mysterious types (such as Maella, a Nocturnal who was working with Ms Rosa Cress – to whom she sold her Garda powder), some gangers who’d gotten too big for their britches to be leaned on thanks to some really strange gear they’d gotten somewhere, and a selection of thugs with truly WEIRD powers.

Of course that led to her both finding out more about her OWN powers (What in the thousand hells had she stumbled into? What kind of implant could let her do things like THAT?) and into conning a shopkeeper out of the only switchblade katana she’d ever seen… She had no idea of how it worked, or how the blade folded up, or of why no one else had been able to open it – but DAMN that thing was handy!

She headed back home to try to find out – and ran into some sort of shapeshifting chimerical horror along the way, which ate a lot of the other people on board before she could chase it away! Since when had she stumbled into some sort of Anime? Life had never been like this before!

Another mysterious figure promised her more information if she’d look into another facility – which turned out to be devoted to grinding expensive electronics into fine dust that was then bagged up and stored away with great care!

More insanity. Still, the woman who’d hired her for that little job did tell her a few things – and pointed her to China and to a possible companion-blade for the blade she already had.

Well, it WOULD be sort of cool to have twin switch-katanas!

Unfortunately, that simple trip to an old temple in Northwestern China led to a battle with another freakish opponent (a tiger-totem Full Moon Lunar using Tiger Style). The fellow seemed to be very unhappy about the temple’s current occupants, and thought that Ruki was there to ally with them – which soon became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The occupants of the manse were, in fact, a group of Chinese and Russian “Starbreakers” – Dragon-Blooded Sidereal Hunters) – who (thanks to her fighting their attacker) mistook Ruki for an ally of theirs. Ruki managed (thanks to a lot of successful stunts) to push her shapeshifting opponent into retreating into a tiny form and flying away without QUITE flaring her anima (another bit which left her flabbergasted; what kind of implant could let you transform yourself that way?) – but was then distracted by finding out that she was now in a locked-down fortification with a bunch of guys with weird elemental powers who would apparently want to kill her if they discovered what kind of abilities she possessed.

Sadly, pinching herself to wake up did not work. Cyberware was bad enough, but a lot of this stuff seemed to be outright magic! Dammit! She needed more information, and – in retrospect – should have asked one HECK of a lot more questions before haring off on this weird chase! Had she been played? She’d never been much for groups, but it would be nice to have someone to call on for a little backup!

Ms. Cress had, of course, reported her encounter with a strangely-warped Ronin – but the Convention on Autochthonia had promptly mired itself in debate as to what to do about her. They certainly couldn’t place any trust in the Alchemicals! And for a Sidereal to be a hybrid with one, and to have thus placed herself outside of fate… that was inconceivable!

Sadly – or perhaps fortunately – for Ruki, between the Nocturnals and Charles, the Sidereals were pretty badly distracted anyway. One Sidereal gone weird was just one more thing on their plate – and not even a priority at the moment. They weren’t falling asleep on their feet in Bureau of Destiny quite yet – but it had gotten to that point in the past, and it looked like another such period was fast approaching. General stress and not sleeping took longer to catch up with an Exalt than with a human – but it happened eventually, and a lot of the younger ones didn’t recognize the warning signs.

Ruki managed to convince the “Starbreakers” that she was an Alchemical ally – but that still left her trapped in a manse with a bunch of quasi-retired semi-supernatural military officers, all with lots of old war stories and pictures of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and – in some cases – several more generations of grandchildren – that they were eager to show her.

Elsewhere Wallet: Artifact-0 (Thaumaturgic Talisman), Attunement 0 Motes (but some hours) and Cost ***.

Elsewhere Wallets can hold ten times the amount of pictures, cash, cards, and other rubbish as can be crammed into a normal wallet while still being slim and trim. As a bonus, they’re also waterproof, fire resistant, impose a 2d external penalty on pickpockets, and have a couple of small compartments – suitable for credit cards, KGB ID cards, or whatever – that only an attuned user can find or open.

More advanced versions exist:

At Artifact (*) they have an attunement cost of one mote and can only be opened by an attuned user or by someone that he or she wishes to do so and have a compartment which will always prove to contain some small, inexpensive, item specific to the user. One owner might always find his or her car and house keys there, another might always find a couple of cigarettes and a lighter, and yet another might always have post-it notes to hand.

At (**) they have an attunement cost of two motes and vanish into elsewhere when not in use. More importantly, only that subset of the contents that is currently convenient for the user will appear inside when they’re opened. Thus, if you’re currently carrying identity papers for three different warring realms, and present a patrol leader with your wallet, only those papers most convenient for your purposes will appear within – and you don’t have to know which ones those are.

At (***) they have an attunement cost of two mores and allow the user to spend three motes to instantly produce any wallet-sized mundane document the user desires (Investigation DC 6 to spot something wrong with the document itself). This does not, however, provide supporting evidence elsewhere; you may be carrying a valid-looking license, but there will be no record of it having been issued.

Ruki was initially impressed by the Russian “Air Aspect” who had managed to survive World War I, the Revolution, World War II, the Finnish conflicts, the purges, and the Cold War. He was the last of his brothers left – and still looked no older than Ruki did. His ability to adapt was most formidable – as was his ability to remember names, birthdays, descriptions, and other details about a couple of hundred grandchildren and other young relatives.

After hearing about the seventy-third Ruki was beginning to wonder if this was in fact a tactic designed to turn her into some maddened monstrosity (perhaps a “Fallen Zodiac”?) She was about ready to confess to being whatever-it-was they were hunting just to get them to shut up… Trying to take on the entire lot of them – even if they were an experienced team who knew exactly how to fight any “Insidious” who had happened to infiltrate – was looking better and better!

Verdan Arcanis – Starting Adventures

English: Rainbow across Himalayas, Auli

Yes, that is a long ways down...

Since the characters have opted to start in England, here we have a selection of adventures – both short and long – for them to undertake.

  • Dr Bennet Cooper, a scientist who was working on a theory of wireless telegraphy, reported considerable progress – greatly interesting Her Majesties Government – but recently broke off the relationship and retreated into his small estate in Scotland (on Spurr Dubh, near Torridon). Dr Cooper is a specialist in electricity and optics and was a regular correspondent with (select any scientific PC). His last few letters hinted vaguely at some remarkable discovery – but there have been no communiques from Dr Cooper in some weeks. Both his friends and the Ministry of War have become increasingly concerned – and either could spur an investigation, or at least provide the characters with an excuse for dropping in to see what’s going on.

This one is throughly small-scale and unofficial; a few train tickets and a coach-ride will get you there, you need not leave the United Kingdom, and you’re investigating a single small estate and household. What could be simpler than that?

  • The Darroch-Kline Expedition – yet another of the recent expeditions assembled in attempts to reach the south pole – is now drastically overdue, even given the rather generous margin for error in their estimated return date. Sadly, given the lack of long-range communications, this pretty much amount to “vanished without a trace” from England’s viewpoint. Since the intended (and most apparently practical) route was down Africa to allow for refueling and resupply, and thus entered the unknown long before reaching the pole. What divinations can be made indicate that at least part of the group is still alive – so presumably they are not currently stranded on a glacier or lost at sea. Ergo, it’s considered likely that the expedition has gone down along the way – most likely in the depths of Southern Africa. Her Majesties Government is directly sponsoring a rescue expedition – although not, it may be noted, an especially big one.

Unless the party has their own air transport, this one isn’t likely to leave the player characters in overall command – but heading off in the track of an expedition that’s already vanished isn’t the most popular of pastimes, so any competent group should be able to get themselves included. That means an airship trip, plenty of military-supplied equipment, exploration – and the perils of unknown Africa and possibly of Antarctica beyond. Secondarily, there really aren’t all THAT many aristocratic families – only about two hundred – so any player-character aristocrat may well have a personal connection with Lord Darroch.

  • Gokale – yet another of the several hundred small kingdoms near the borders of the various British-allied Indian states – wishes to import some modern, rolling-block, rifles. That’s a rather dubious enterprise, but the local Maharaja is willing to pay VERY well – well enough that simply taking out a loan, buying an airship, and sailing off to deliver the goods would be practical for anyone of the proper class to get such a loan in the first place.

This isn’t illegal – but it’s hardly very respectable. Still, if you can find a black sheep from a good family who’s willing to front for the group, and are willing to take what are obviously going to be some pretty horrendous risks, this is a fast route to your own ship, plenty of money (mostly in the form of some of India’s vast gemstone wealth), and – for the truly ambitious – perhaps a chance to seize a small kingdom of their own in the distant east. It’s also a good chance at a grand tour of the east if that’s what strikes your fancy. Characters with underworld or mercenary contacts may be most attracted to this option; they’ll certainly hear about it first. Anyone with a background in munitions or the military might hear about it though.

  • Germany, of course, is still expanding eastwards, into the disputed territories that lie between it and Russia. Her Majesties Government is – as many suspect, but none outside the military can prove – quietly supporting the Russians with occasional instructors, shipments of supplies, and other goods – all “acting on their own initiative” or as “mercenaries” rather than officially of course. For those with the proper connections and a willingness to run unsupported missions into a war zone, there are plenty of chances here for running in supplies, setting up resistance cells, pulling off daring rescues, reinforcing critical points, and otherwise acting as special operatives.

This ones pretty obvious; the characters will be undertaking missions as special operatives in a war zone. Less obviously, Russia is pitting it’s Bogatyrs, Shamans, and other old-style mystics against a modern technological war machine that mostly lacks similar figures – because most of the European-style magic-boosting belief systems are religious, and poorly adapted to war. Active-duty characters, those with military connections, and – of course – spies are the most likely PC-connections here.

  • The Thornton Convoy is a coaster-based trading expedition to the Far East which will be using aerial support and communications since that’s a tremendous advantage to have on call even if a coaster can carry more cargo than a thousand airships. They’ll be doing some trading along the way of course, exploiting the ability to burn wood for power to send small groups of guards and traders deep into the coastlines they’ll be moving along. They’re interested in hiring airmen, magicians, scientists, and guards for them, since the small inland trading groups will be pretty vulnerable. The organizers are offering a fairly modest salary – but they’re also offering some shares in the expedition; it it’s a success those may well be worth rather a lot.

Not surprisingly, this is an entirely public proposition; joining up may require beating out quite a crowd of NPC’s who also want the job. Given the tendency of PC’s to be exceptional and to be masters in their fields, that may not be so hard. This is, however, likely to be a rather long and difficult mission and a lot of the rewards will be shared. On the other hand, it comes with rather a lot of support too.

  • A Cambridge expedition is recruiting to go in search of a fabulous kingdom supposedly hidden in the Himalayas. Unsurprisingly given the source, the current list of members is stuffed full of professors and researchers, and so more active support and piloting staff is definitely a high priority. Of course, the college isn’t paying that well – but offers a great deal of freedom of action with the advantage of not going entirely off the map. Any similarly scholarly adventurers may well be quite pleased with the prospect of research credits and possible publications of their own.

Groups who like to examine and research things, or which lean towards scholarship themselves, may well find the notion of traveling with a crew of college professors quite attractive. When it comes to mysterious natural and supernatural phenomena it’s hard to beat having a bunch of experts on call – and it means that the PC’s are likely to get all the action and chances to collect non-scholarly loot. Of course, Cambridge will ONLY be hiring respectable individuals, and preferably ones who come with EXCELLENT references (the less respectable, the better the references need to be). Dastards, mad scientists, and uneducated louts generally need not apply – unless they have some clever scheme for getting around such a check.

  • Lord Carnarvon – widely regarded as a complete lunatic – is attempting to build a vessel capable of reaching the lunar surface. At the moment, however, he is essentially running on pure theory, and is seeking backers and cash. He’s reportedly ready to work with almost anyone given the general laughter which is currently being directed at him.

OK; Lord Carnarvon probably IS a lunatic – but if he isn’t, this is a chance to make history. If he is, or is simply overenthusiastic and wrong, you never know what he might have come up with that he thinks makes this possible. He’s also open to working with almost anyone; it’s not like he has a lot of choice – ergo, he could serve to gather a group together; all it would take would be for the various characters to all be interested in the idea.

  • A cultish religious group (claiming to be Druids) is currently sponsoring an expedition to a far northern island (it’s existence is disputed, although there have been a few reports – mostly of some rather dangerous vulcanism) which apparently possesses vast reserves of Lux. The Ministry of War is taking a covert interest in that; readily accessible stocks of lux-charged materials and powerful magical talismans could make quite a difference in the strategic situation. The religious bunch are quite closemouthed about the nature of their interests however. Sadly, the only aircraft they can afford is a damaged experimental model from some years back, and the thing is notably mostly because it didn’t maneuver properly when it was new. Once again, while the “Druids” have plenty of magicians, they’re short of combatants and airmen – which makes a perfect opening for player-characters.

OK. Here we have a mysterious magical group, with mysterious motives, making a grab for a great big power source, to be taken from a place where magic runs amuck, with the military looking on with great interest. No, no… there’s obviously nothing that can go wrong with THAT. Of course, if the group is after raw magical power, this is the expedition to join.

  • On the salvage side, a German airship recently went down in the “broad fourteens” in the North Sea with no survivors. The area is dangerous of course, albeit not as unrelentingly hostile as the mid-oceanic regions – but most people don’t think a salvage attempt is worthwhile despite the fact that the vessel lies in a mere seventy feet of water and parts of it’s structure come within fifteen or twenty feet of the surface.

Of course, a group of adventurers without a ship of their own may think otherwise. This is another one that’s fairly public, and will be well known to most airmen – but it will tale a certain amount of special gear to try and salvage the ship. That may or may not be available – and there’s likely to be some German competition as well.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XLIII – A Few Quiet Moments

Charles River Watertown

Why shouldn't it run uphill if it wants to? I'm a magician not a physicist!

It was almost a week before Shenji drew attention away from Harold’s new armor… but there came a time when a few Deiphages had realized that there was a regular trip going back and forth right under their noses.

The attack on the little convoy wasn’t all that sophisticated or large – but it was quite enough to be a serious menace to the children. The escorts couldn’t be everywhere.

Fortunately, every child had been near Shenji enough to have been warded repeatedly – and the two Coatl manning the link were quite willing to call in more help if necessary. The thaumaturgic spells they could launch through Shenji were limited – but quite effective when backed by Aden’s energies. The unexpected magical onslaught wasn’t decisive – but it was very helpful, and was finely focused on protecting the children.

It provoked some consternation among the guards though. They’d thought that the toy was simply carrying a ward! Was THIS why the child carried it around so constantly?

When they got home there was a bit of crying was Shenji is taken away for some investigation and analysis – which eventually had to be conducted in Harold’s presence as otherwise Shenji tended to disappear into elsewhere and reappear in Harold’s possession the instant that no one was actually watching it…

The link to an extradimensional realm was fairly easy to find now that they were looking for such a thing – but it was so heavily shielded that it wwas impossible to tell much more than that there was a guardian – or guardians – on the other end. The link wouldn’t transmit much beyond Thaumaturgy – but obviously the guardians Thaumaturgy was fast and potent enough to be a a considerable help. Whatever Charles had done to create his “Adenic Thaumaturgy”, he’d evidently shared it with his minions. Just like with Harold, he threw that kind of power around on whims…

Well, that WAS quintessentially Primordial!

There were a couple of other minor functions on the toy – but nothing too major. Whatever guardian angel was watching over young Harold however seemed to be quite another matter; it was evidently fairly powerful… Had Charles actually created a first-circle race of child-guardians? Still, at least there’d be no accidentally blowing up the territory then; Harold could keep his lion dog… that was good; he’d have been very upset to lose it – and it did keep laying protective spells on nearby children.

They HAD to find a way into Aden! All the evidence suggested that Charles was one of the most benign entities ever recorded short of the mercy-kindness-and-healing goddesses – but there were things you just didn’t take on faith!

Wait a moment… Charles himself had opened a way between the realms, and that meant that Aden could be reached by the Mirror-Shattering Method – at least if they could find the route. And finding out secrets was one of the things Sidereals did best.

OK, five days would be a terrible waste of time when Charles could open instant gates – but it would allow them to make an unexpected inspection… If Charles was up to something nasty behind the mask, that would probably be the only way to catch him out.

Meanwhile, over in Aden, Charles was getting his operations organized… Fortunately, his Third-Circle Guardians could appear in three places at once – allowing him to send some (via chaos gates) to start transforming some barren worlds into fertile paradises full of earthly species – many extinct on Earth – and burgeoning life. Once a few manse-powered towns were set up, they’d be ready for small populations of humans to be added to the mix… They’d also have demesnes, ready for manses to link them up with gates to Yu-Shan and Earth!

On Earth, small pilot projects – reducing the pollution level in rivers, small-scale reforestation, educational programs, the ongoing rescue efforts, encouraging microbusinesses, reducing erosion, investments in environmental technologies, and repopulating endangered species – were gotten underway.

Despite the immense geomantic energies being poured into those pilot projects through Aden’s Guardians, they were still based on thaumaturgy – and so neither disrupted the Loom of Fate nor damaged the structure of the cosmos, as true Sorcery was so prone to do. The little gods would be writing reports of course, and the humans would notice soon enough – but, for the moment, most of that activity could pass quietly.

At least until somebody paid some attention to the mundane news reports.

Back at school, the next week or so passed uneventfully. There was some awkwardness due to the presence of the Sidereal Half-Castes – but there was no overt hostility. Most divine parents didn’t want their children antagonizing their coworkers’ children.

The Evasion Club met on Saturnsdays, right before days off. Charles had been having fun with that one! It was a cross between tag and hide-and-seek!

Harold was very good at it, as was that daughter of a conspiracy god.

Some of the Half-Caste kids had made it a game to guess which one – although, of course, even if someone guessed right it would almost certainly never be confirmed. Some of the wiser Secrets Half-Castes were wondering if her father was even a conspiracy god at all. “Mother says being a conspiracy god is a good cover!”

They never said that to her face, though.

Of course Charles never said ANYTHING about his parents – and now that rumors were spreading about him among the gods he was getting some questions about them. He, rather sadly, simply told them the only bits he knew – that they had disappeared while he was still too young to remember.

That got him some sympathy, a mild bit of teasing about it… and a couple inquiries as to whether or not he remembered their names.

Well… Gramps had told him they were called Amalie and Theo Ward – but he’d never had much luck finding any real records on them. Maybe the kids who were asking would have better luck!

As it turned out, there was absolutely no record of them in Yu Shan – although there was some of the stuff you’d expect to find for a mortal in Creation. Not a lot though, and it wasn’t like that kind of stuff was hard to fake.