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!

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8 Responses

  1. So he IS descended from a Primordial. That leave the question of which one, Gaia or Auto? But it COULD be a different one other than the two, but that raises even more questions. Perhaps there was a primordial that was neutral in the Primordial War?

    • Well, it is looking that way – although that could still be a false reading thanks to all the concealing and distorting effects on him.

      Of course distant Primordial (and divine, and exalted, and demonic, and elemental, and ghostly, and animal [via beastmen]) ancestry really isn’t a distinction. It’s like being descended from Charlemagne. A mere twelve hundred years ago the man had at least twenty children over the course of his life with eight of his ten (known) wives/concubines – and by now, if you’re European or descended from Europeans, there’s about a 99% chance that he’s in your family tree.

      Still, it was supposedly the “most significant supernatural genetic origin” – which may be open to interpretation but probably means “biggest current impact” rather than “most potent no matter how far back”.

      No game impact yet however; regardless of backstory, his mechanics are still strictly solar, albeit with loads of custom stuff.

      As for Primordials… Well, even the canon material notes that some may have not participated in making Creation, while others may have participated and wandered off long before the Primordial War, and at least one fled the war and came back later (so several may have fled and not come back – or at least not made a fuss when they did), and the Wyld could always throw up some more.

      Still, presuming it’s right, Gaia seems most likely, with Autochthon a lot less so; kids are not really one of his themes.

      • Technically, having kids is part of his thing, if only a very minor part. Kek’Tungsssha, one of his Divine Ministers has “Reproductive Sex” as one of his/her/its domains, so it MIGHT be likely.

        On the other hand its more likely to be Gaia, what with life being a major thing for her. And if the relation is through a Deva that cannot be recognized, then perhaps it is one of her souls that is unaccounted for/onboard Gnosis.

        A third, and even less likely possibility, is that Aden is the child of both of them, what with the mixed themes of life and artifice. Maybe not directly, but perhaps by a union between some lowers souls. Still, the chances of that are slim to none.

      • It does seem more likely to be Gaia doesn’t it? After all, once you start getting into Third (or, far worse, Second) circle aspects primordial themes start expanding almost without limit.

        Personally, I suspect that the game master has simply ironically gone along with one of the (many) player speculations / smokescreens, since – regardless of his possible primordial-blooded status – the mechanics went pure Solar as soon as he Exalted.

        Still, in certain ways Charles is certainly taking the most direct route towards perfecting basic human aptitudes. Just picking up the Exalted book… A different world imagined, shared with others, and embodied in a physical object. Word processing programs, printing presses, and a hundred other pieces of implied artifice to go with the rest of the electronics cluttering up my office – implying vast industries, deforestation, and huge changes to the physical world.

        There isn’t anything more human than to imagine your own worlds, to work towards constructing them, and to have those efforts change the face of creation.

        It’s only masked because far too many Exalts seem to be focused on hitting things.

  2. […] VLIII – Testing Theories: Surveying Aden, Hala and the Souls, Supernatural Genetics. […]

  3. […] VLIII – Testing Theories: Surveying Aden, Hala and the Souls, Supernatural Genetics. […]

  4. […] VLIII – Testing Theories: Surveying Aden, Hala and the Souls, Supernatural Genetics. […]

  5. […] VLIII – Testing Theories: Surveying Aden, Hala and the Souls, Supernatural Genetics. […]

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