Exalted Modern – Aquila-Class Military Shuttle and Helmstones (Artifacts ****)

Galaxies are so large that stars can be consid...

Do you perhaps have a more specific location?

The Aquila-Class Light Military Shuttle is a slightly-flattened, roughly egg- or manta-ray shaped vessel. While it’s primarily constructed with mortal technology, its essence-based drives provide both lift and thrust regardless of the external environment – allowing both limited underwater and low-orbit operations. Unfortunately, that same reliance on mortal technologies makes these vessels far more vulnerable than the mighty vessels of the first age – but the use of Essence Engines for lift and thrust does allow them to be more heavily armored, and more maneuverable, than common mortal vessels.

Inside, the pilots chair is surrounded by the usual banks of instruments, a set of head-circling screens which show a computer-processed and compressed spherical view with the instrumental data edited in, the usual aviation and weapons controls, sensors, communications gear, and all the other complications of a multifunction military aircraft. The passenger/cargo area (and the tiny bathroom and miniature galley) is strictly utilitarian, but does offer a rear hatch/ramp to allow the rapid boarding or deployment of the passengers, the dropping of cargo (or bombs), and a set of ports which can be opened to allow the passengers to look – or attack – out.

The Aquila is popular with small groups looking for a multifunctional vessel. While they’re not a good match for a dedicated fighter, or bomber, or transport, or scout, they perform creditably in any of those roles. They can defend themselves, deliver small cargos, carry out rescue operations, act as an air ambulance, carry small loads of bombs, and deliver commando strikes.

The fact that they also resemble the classical “flying saucer” is – at least for some characters – an enjoyable extra.

Very similar vessels are in service with some Sidereals, although the production is very VERY limited; by mortal standards this is a high-tech military aircraft, and one with a “classified” drive system at that. Getting the aircraft built is – for once – a lot harder than building the essence-engines and putting minor enchantments on the weapons.

The Autochthonians also use similar vessels – and in far larger numbers. Their limitations mostly lie in their relatively limited population and manufacturing base.

Aquila-Class Military Shuttle (Artifact ****)

  • Speed: 425 MPH (Aerospace), 40 MPH (Submerged).
  • Maneuverability/Instrumentation/Targeting: +2/+4/+3
  • Endurance: Essence Engine attunement cost of six motes. Add +2 motes each to indefinitely power the Atmospheric Life Support, Water Recycling, and VTOL capabilities.
  • Crew: 3/1 pilot, 2 optional gunners.
  • Cargo: Seven passengers, plus up to five tons of cargo.
  • Armor: 15L/15B, Hardness 6 (modern composite armor over titanium airframe).
  • Health Levels: Ux8/Mx16/Cx5/Ix4/D (metal plating over titanium airframe).
  • Weapons: Two “Light Implosion Bows” (twin Gatling Cannons, right and left arcs), “Medium Implosion Bow” (forward arc Missile Launcher). As modern weapons these each carry enough ammo for ten shots each. As an artifact vessel, gunners may also fuel these weapons with essence at the normal price for appropriate Implosion Bows.

Helmstones (Artifact ****)

Helmstones are escapees from out local Champions games – and are of little use in the classic setting since they’re almost entirely concerned with interstellar travel.

A Helmstone is a massive, spherical, blue-green gem, filled with galaxies of swirling essence-motes in all the colors of the cosmos. It will easily attach itself to any vessel – enhancing it to make it suitable for operation in space.

Helmstone: (Artifact ****. Attunement Cost 6 motes, must be attached to a vehicle to function). The powers it bestows include:

  • Spaceworthy: Any air vehicle it’s linked too can both travel in space and go FTL – although this adds +2 motes to the attunement cost if the engines, lifting, and control systems normally require air, and another +2 if they normally require fuel.
  • Shields: The pilot may reflexively spend motes to repair the vessel, even while damage is being inflicted. This costs 1 mote per level of damage so repaired up to a maximum of 25 motes – which is sufficient to repair however much damage is needed.
  • Scaling: Any air vehicle augmented by a Helmstone and in space will find that it’s instruments, communication systems, weapon ranges, and speed all operate on space, as opposed to planetary, range scales. The pilot may use the Survival skill to navigate normally.
  • Bergenholm: The passengers aboard a vehicle using a Helmstone are protected from acceleration effects, including crashes, and always experience normal gravity unless the pilot wishes to let them experience zero gravity.
  • Enduring: The pilot may store up to 30 motes within the structure of any vessel with a Helmstone attached. These motes are lost if the stone is detached, must be provided by the pilot, and can only be used to power the Shields and (if any are available) other essence-based ship systems.
  • Life Support: Any vessel with a Helmstone mounted on it always has a breathable atmosphere for it’s passengers, even if it’s an ultralight and otherwise open to space.

Exalted Modern – the Resource Background

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

And I'll take about three of those...

For the modern setting, where the universe is a great deal bigger, and things like individual ownership and control of massive organizations happen, a number of backgrounds need to be extended a bit. While ratings are still limited during character generation, it’s entirely possible for a character to become the ruler of several planets, or be worshiped by far more people than ever lived in the flat Creation of old.

First up, and most commonly, we have Resources…

Resources represent more than a sum of money. Resources represents both an ongoing income, the ability to handle money wisely – saving and investing – and the ability to come up with stuff that mere money won’t handle directly. Having a pile of jade, or gold, or whatever you’re setting is using for money bigger than a mountain won’t get you into touch with the legendary mercenary Exalted Assassin (I’d say what kind of Exalt, but then he’d have to kill me) Withering Hand Of Entropy (unless maybe it’s as a target) – but Resources-5 will.

Resources (and Income):

  • 00) Desperately Struggling. A few thousand a year.
  • 01) Lower Class. Ten or twenty thousand a year.
  • 02) Middle Class.
  • 03) A Million a year.
  • 04) Ten Million a year.
  • 05) A Hundred Million a year.
  • 06) A Billion a year.
  • 07) A Hundred Billion a year.
  • 08) A few Trillion a year. The income of the US Government.
  • 09) The yearly Gross Domestic Product of the US.
  • 10) The yearly Gross Domestic Produce of the Earth.

Purchase Ratings are based on what can be done at that level, but will be a bit of a strain and will require planning or credit. Ergo, here’s a sample purchase for each resource level:

  • Cheap groceries for a week is a resources-0 purchase. Thus most characters with no resources are living day to day, which takes such purchases down to the “negligible” level – presuming nothing goes wrong.
  • A new high-definition TV set is a few hundred dollars – a resources-1 purchase.
  • An almost-new car is around ten thousand dollars – a resources-2 purchase.
  • A good sized house is several hundred thousand – a resources-3 purchase.
  • The most absurdly expensive cars cost about two million – a resources-4 purchase.
  • A jet fighter costs about twenty million dollars – a resources-5 purchase.
  • A battleship costs about a hundred million – a resources-6 purchase.
  • A Nimitz-class Aircraft Carrier costs about 4.5 Billion – a resources-7 purchase.
  • A private Apollo Program costs about 150 billion inflation-adjusted dollars – a resources-8 purchase (in reality it was spread over years as a succession of resources-7 purchases).
  • A private World War II – or at least the American side of it – cost between three and five trillion inflation-adjusted dollars, and so was a Resources-9 purchase. The original had to be paid for over many years, since the US Government is only a Resources-8 organization.
  • Rebuilding Human Civilization after a global cataclysm would be a Resources-10 purchase – if there was anyone left who could pay for it and anyone to buy it from. Maybe you can make a deal with the Raksha, and mortgage the earth for a few decades.

If you want single, unique, large-scale items, what you want is the Artifact background. Thus, if you just have to have your own F16 Jet Fighter, it would be a Resources-5 purchase. Buying it as an Artifact, it’s Artifact-3 (two dots lower than the resource cost) – and it’s status as an Artifact does offer it a couple of benefits; it’s presumed to be enchanted enough that it’s various systems can be powered by Essence as well as by conventional fuel and munitions. A few committed motes will give it an indefinite range (as well as free up fuel space for cargo) and depleted weapons systems can be reloaded by spending a few motes.

If you want a fabulous palace or other structure, a few dots in the Manse background will do it. After all, if the place doesn’t produce a hearthstone, there’s no reason why you can’t describe it as simply being blessed by the local spirits, supported by a trust fund, or provided with special equipment to account for whatever minor powers (conveniences, a small staff, etc) that do come with it – and if it doesn’t produce a hearthstone (and you can reduce the mote regeneration that it would normally supply as well), there’s no reason for anyone more powerful than you to want the thing.

For example, a two-dot palace or mighty manor – perhaps Elansholme, or Grantley Manor – has… 4 Creation Points (Base) +2 (Sacrificed Hearthstone Levels) +1 (Two sacrificed mote regeneration levels) +2 (Maintenance) +2 (Fragility 1) = 11 Creation Points. Since it really has no significant magical powers, you can probably talk the game master into building it without a demesne. What does it really need one for?

Spend these points on… Comfort Zone (1, and probably arranged by clever architecture rather than magic), three incidences of Conveniences (3) and a set of Greater Conveniences (2, probably including a security system), Servitor Force (2, note that these are not BOUND Servitors; they’re simply reasonably loyal employees. Ergo, the cost is reduced to two points), Hidden Passages (2), and – since there’s one point left – some Minor Tricks and Traps (1), representing decent locks, some hidden compartments and wall-safes for valuables, and so on.

That suffices for a palace better than any historical one, and certainly as good as any modern corporate headquarters/showplace – and one that’s really of no interest to any major power of the setting.

Fabulous palaces are cheap. What did you expect? This IS Exalted after all.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session LXI – Dreams and Iron Bars

Devil's mask Naga raksha, Sri Lanka Polski: Ma...

Yes, we’re watching YOU. And from a lot of places that you can’t see…

The Raksha of Creation’s Wyld Pockets are not the terrifying horde of the Balorean Crusade – or even a significant threat, at least on Earth. Their territory is small, their population limited, and the Earth is entangled in a net of iron. Modern communications, automatic weaponry with steel-jacketed slugs, iron tanks, grenades with iron shrapnel, countless platoons of well-trained and well-coordinated troops using those weapons, attack helicopters, and planes can really ruin a Raksha’s day.

They could deploy the magics of dream of course – but Behemoths are as vulnerable to modern military force as their masters, shaping weapons are of little use in Creation, Adjurations might lend some strength to their owners, but hardly enough – and, while Oneiromancy could affect great swathes of the mortal world, deploying such powers was one of the few guaranteed ways to draw gods, thaumaturges, and even the occasional remaining Exalt into open battle in support of the iron hordes.

There was no profit in that. The remaining wyld pockets and freeholds, the last refuges of the Raksha, were far too small to resist major assaults. They might survive – the Raksha were good at hiding and vanishing – but that was, at best, undignified.

Besides… after twenty-five thousand years, save for a few of the most clever and cautious, the elder Raksha were long gone. The younger Raksha were throughly used to living upon scattered islands of wyld energies – never of more than Middlemarch intensity – surrounded by reefs and seas of barren order. Certainly some Raksha ventured forth to live among the humans – but such venturesome sorts often perished, leaving the isles of chaos where Raksha might come into being to the cautious and stealthy, well used to being surrounded by mortals. The glories of pure chaos, and the terrors of the Unshaped, belonged to an elder age of legend.

The Raksha faded from the terrible army of chaos, bright with the glorious banners of dream, to the People of the Hills, occasional predators upon the stray and forgotten.

Today the Raksha inspire artists, interact with those lost in the wilderness as whim strikes them, inflict bizarre fates upon those foolish or unlucky mortals who accidentally intrude upon their fastnesses, bargain with those few thaumturges who know of their existence – and draw the occasional runaway, sickly, or unwanted child to them. When resources are scarce, one cannot be too picky – and Raksha have many tools to beguile mortals and for remolding them into what they wish.

One of their strongest is Mutation.

Raksha have several ways of mutating things, including Thaumaturgy, manipulating creatures exposure to the Wyld, using Behemoth Forging Meditation or Subversion and Transformation Artifice (sometimes with an upgrade to affect mortals instead of just animals), and so on. In these days of scarce resources, the vast majority of Raksha will grant their servants some mutations – a reward, a fulfillment of fantasies, a wedge driven between them and the rest of the mortal world, a barrier to escape, and a way to make them last a LOT longer…

The most popular package – at least around the Atlanta Pocket – includes Exalted Healing (4), Longevity (2), Wyld Tolerance (2), Fur (1), and a Tail (1). Fortunately, Wyld Tolerance, Fur, and Tails don’t count towards being “Too Wyld to Live” (since Wyld Tolerance explicitly doesn’t and Fur and Tails are normal mammalian features) – which means that most Feybound are quite capable of venturing forth on long-term missions for their masters even if they ARE far too mutated to successfully rejoin human society.

  • Exalted Healing (2): The user heals as an Exalt. This is important to Raksha servants because the Errata classifies draining virtues, willpower, and so on as a Crippling effect – and Exalts heal from those, albeit slowly. This mutation thus means that a Raksha’s servants become indefinitely reusable – and is generally quite useful as a bribe as well. Given that this is Exalted, those who want to focus on this can build it up; At (4) it prevents scarring, stops bleeding almost instantly, grants +2 versus disease, poison, and infection, and heals disabling and crippling effects after a week of rest or two weeks of activity. At (6) the user heals 1B/Minute and 1L/Hour regardless of activity level, is immune to infection and mundane diseases, gains +4d versus supernatural diseased, and ignores the Crippling keyword; such effects go away as soon as the damage levels are healed (a few minutes if the effect does not inflict damage levels).

The old tales of “Changelings” – of a sickly fake left in the place of a healthy infant – are a modern distortion of an ancient bargain; trade a sickly child to the Raksha in exchange for a few thaumaturgic or dream-magic blessings of health and productivity and protection for the rest of the family. The Raksha get a new servant, you and your other children will be blessed – and your sickly child will get to live.

  • Longevity (1): Combined with a little life-extension Thaumaturgy – easily within the reach of any Raksha who wants to take a few minutes every decade or so given their dice pools – this can readily raise the lifespan of a Raksha’s Servants to five or six hundred years, and possibly more. This cuts down on the need to replace servants, makes older ones reluctant to leave – since losing their life-extension effects may well be fatal – and is another great big bribe. Upgrading to (2) makes the user even longer-lived – while (4) grants complete immunity to aging, whether natural or supernatural.

Unfortunately, having your life-extension fail when you’re several centuries old tends to be bad for a mortal. Thus the tales of those rescued from the Fey occasionally crumbling to dust…

  • “Fur” (1*): Regardless of the exact nature of the covering, this provides +1d Survival, means that your servants do not require clothing, and adds +1L/+1B Soak – enough to avoid many minor accidental injuries. More importantly, this lets the Raksha show off their personal styles and very clearly marks their servants – making it nigh-impossible for them to return to normal society. Not having to bother recruiting a tailor is a minor benefit. This mutation does not count when determining if a creature is “Too wyld to live”.

As usual, this mutation can also represent feathers, scales, or various other dermal protections. The Raksha often throw in a few cosmetic touches – patterns, colors, animal-styled ears or minor features, and so on. Yes, there are indeed plenty of anime cat girls out there. Please don’t make Malfeas incinerate them with radioactive fire.

  • Tail (1*): These too serve to clearly mark Raksha servants. As a bonus, while in Creation, they can often pass as cosplayers. They also gain +2 to Athletics checks, which is sometimes useful. This mutation does not count when determining if a creature is “Too wyld to live”.

And yes, this being Exalted, the +2d for Athletics includes bedroom athletics as well.

  • Wyld Tolerance: (1/2/4/6): Each level of Wyld Tolerance reduces the effective level of the Wyld to which the user is currently exposed by one as far as Mutation and Addiction checks are concerned. Thus a character with Wyld Tolerance 2 could tolerate living in the Middlemarches indefinitely. This mutation does not count when determining if a creature is too wyld to live.

Plenty of tribes and species are supposed to live within the fringes of the wyld – and yet that requires periodic checks for random mutations and possible wyld addiction. They fey are also noted as being able to protect their mortal pets from the ravages of the wyld – but have no apparent method of doing so. Ergo, here’s a quick mutation for them to bestow to allow that.

The older, and more powerful, Feybound often develop the following Wyld variation on one of the infernal mutations…

  • Wyld Essence (6): The user gains an Essence pool equal to (Essence x 5) + (Willpower x 2) + (sum of all Virtues). If tutored the user may can learn first circle sorcery, Terrestrial martial arts, and spirit charms. If given Graces, the character may learn Raksha Charms. Once a character has developed this mutation, his or her prayers are no longer effective for supplying Quintessence or Ambrosia, and no longer support the Games of Divinity. (The gods will not approve). If his or her Essence goes above three, he or she will transcend, becoming either a quasi-Raksha or a god as usual – the primordial chains upon his or her soul shattered utterly.

Wyld Essence may be taken again at Essence II – in which case a heroic mortal character can be rebuilt as a free-willed Heroic Commoner Raksha. Non-heroic mortals will need help with the transition to a normal Commoner Raksha – which will mean leaving their new Heart Grace in the possession of the “assisting” Noble Raksha.

Perhaps fortunately, most of those have MUCH easier ways to get commoner servants.

A few other mutation packages are popular. Pets/Bodyguards/Errand-Runners are often given Cheetah’s Pace (4), Claws (1), and Night Eyes (1). In the occasional wyld pocket located under the sea, or in a volcano, or some such, appropriate adaptive mutations – life support and special movement options – are (naturally enough) quite popular. There’s generally no point in turning servants into seriously animalistic creatures though; for those it’s easier to just start off with an animal in the first place.

In any case, by this time, quite a lot of the Raksha servants are entirely voluntary – for example, people who were dying of things like AIDS, youngsters with wyld dreams and/or wyld-addicts, children born to older feybound, and so on. Dragging kicking and screaming mortals into the refuges of the fey is quite out of style; it attracts dangerous attention far too often. It’s MUCH easier to have most of your pets stay with you voluntarily.

Of course, none of this applies to the worlds at the far end of Creation, in the Empirical Galaxy, at Creations true boundary with the Wyld. There, at least in limited areas, the Raksha so dominate that they have to carefully manage their human resources – and establishing reserves and protected areas. Creation remains a favored spot for deposed Raksha freeholders to flee and lick their wounds – at least if they have some of the way grace charms that allowed interstellar travel.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LX – The Random Scrounge

Portrait of Mrs. Charles Montague Cooke (Anna ...

So; what is it you wish to see?

Mr Montague’s look at the Elsewhere Net basically involved an introduction to Malinda the Diviner, Mistress of the Aether – and her growing museum of weird items.

Malinda was a pleasant, slightly-past middle age, gypsy woman complete with various bits of fortune-telling apparatus. She ran the Sympathetic Loom (which could link in Aden sufficiently to allow normal ensoulment throughout Aden and was useful for determining if some proposed experiment was likely to cause massive disruptions in fate) and the Prototype Elsewhere Net – but her most bothersome talent was Uncanny Acquaintanceship. She knew your relatives and had an endless font of gossip and messages from them. She tended to pinch your cheek, ask you about your relatives, tell you stories about what your elderly relatives had gotten up to when they were young, and otherwise be embarrassing as she offered to show you all those things in her mirrors, crystal ball, and scrying pool.

She was the very embodiment of TMI!

(Montague) “Wow… what a collection.”

He got mildly scolded for not calling his parents – and Micaela’s! They thought that the two of them had eloped! Why couldn’t he be like his brother, who dressed up as a duck to make his mother smile? You’d think the mask was still broken or something! After all, from his point of view, they might not be around very long!

(Montague) “Okay… okay… I’m sorry, ma’am! I’ll call them!”

(Malinda) “See that you do young man!”

Malinda, as mistress of divination, could tell them all about every interesting piece…

Meanwhile, Charles was looking at Mr Montague just in case he saw signs of illness. Lytek had asked after all – but there didn’t seem to be anything as of yet. Mr Montague HAD seemed slightly morose before he got to Aden, but Aden DID encourage happiness – and anyone spending much time in Aden generally could not get sick.

Charles was pleased with the museum though! Malinda had gotten the net in part to give her something to divine at… other than him and anyone else in the area anyway.

Malinda was happy to explain about any piece Mr. Montague had questions about, but he – much to her disappointment – didn’t ask about many. Still, she knew perfectly well that he only had a couple of hours to spend with the net before he had to deal with other business. He did tap it with the hammer that sensed the properties of artifacts however…

It wasn’t exactly perfected; it still needed a rank-five manse to anchor and power it, and it took some massive divinatory powers to guide it in any way – but it did work.

Of course it was still, fundamentally, a manse artifact that produced completely random stuff with a strong likelihood of silliness or disaster.

(Montague) “Huh. Not bad for a prototype, if it does what you say it does. So how’s it work other than the divination?”

(Charles, happily) “Basically, Elsewhere is an N-dimensional plenum, with coordinates existing only in potentia. You can, however, define spaces in it, and store things there! This produces a secondary disturbance in the interface where N-dimensional space breaks down into three dimensional space. Normally those spaces are anchored somewhere, and sustained by that link – but since Elsewhere is timeless, the pocket persists after the link is broken – making the pocket both existent and collapsed at the same time. So the net seeks out disturbances, migrating it’s strands towards lower dimensionalities – which gets it entangled with artifacts, which it can then draw back to its anchor!”

(Montague) “I knew about the storage parts, but heck if I knew how to steer toward them. That’s it, I’m taking some advanced thaumaturgy distance courses!” (Smiles) “It sounds like you tested it already. Let me guess, you pulled out a lot of fey junk?”

(Charles) “Yep! Several shaping weapons, a cranky behemoth-thing, a pouch of hopefulness, and a blizzard that I had to get some Raksha-analogs in to package up again!”

(Montague) “That’s a hassle.” (Wait, Raksha-analogs? What does the kid have in here?) “Raksha-analogs?”

(Charles) “Oh, they aren’t quite the same as regular Raksha – they don’t need to munch on people because the Mardi Gras manse gives them all the power they need and they’re more a part of creation – but Raksha have a lot of useful talents, like making dream-artifacts, so I needed some around!”

(Montague) “You actually found a way to stop them from doing that… might need to go over there some time. I’d be happy testing the net for now, though. I’ve got… ” (He checked his watch.) “One hour and forty minutes. Let’s see what we can find.”

Charles agreed happily and did his own divination for a bit… which Mr Montague found… almost frightening. There didn’t really seem to be any upper limit on how much power the child could pour into his thaumaturgy (there definitely was – but Charles was GOOD at implying very misleading things). Besides, he wanted to see how well it worked too!

A cycle usually took him about five minutes. For most thaumaturgists it would have been a rather extended task…

In short order he’d pulled out several more shaping weapons, a particularly fancy courtier’s caul, an idle fancy that Mr. Montague caught and bottled before it could get to anybody, and a small horde of confused manikins, the smallest lesser servants, wrapped in a large gift box. They brandished tiny spears at them!

Charles waved a sword grace back at them for a few moments – which cowed them; they were pretty ineffectual for anything requiring human size. They looked like a bunch of miniature bunny rabbits in silly military uniforms.

(Charles) “Who were you for?”

(Bunny-Soldier, saluting) “Sir! A gift for the President-for-Life Noriishana, sir!”

Well, that was a job for Malinda… who was/is that?

Well, he could try the Efficient Secretary Technique on the Sympathetic Loom if that individual was ever known to the loom… Still, if he/she/it was getting manikins for presents, he/she/it was probably a Raksha.

Mr. Montague had been looking at the Sympathetic Loom with a bit of interest.

(Charles) “Oh, it’s only a mirror really! Very limited functionality, but it is good for telling if some experiment is going to cause a problem! And you can run a few minor effects from it!”

(Montague) “I’d heard of these before. They don’t let apprentices use them too much . . .”

The bunny-soldiers were also heading over to have a look, marching in tight formation.

(Charles) “Well, they’re fairly straightforward to make!”

(Montague) “I might have to try that if I get any time.”

Malinda found the information soon enough… The President-for-Life Noriishana was the ruler of Lupimanda, a small world on the border of the Empirical Galaxy and the wilder regions of Rakshastan. He had been known to make forays deeper into Creation to attract admirers. As his title implied, he emulated Second and Third World dictatorships – mostly the ones with a veneer of democratic process.

(Charles) “Well, why not! You guys can come along! I’m headed out that way, and – who knows – you may get delivered!”

(Bunny-Soldier) “Sir! It would be an honor to travel with you, sir!”

(Charles) “OK!”

He offered to let them stay out – after all, they might be bored in the box – but they happily marched back into the box. They didn’t want to get mussed before they were presented!

Well, they weren’t really much more than puppets.

(Montague) “Uh… Charles, are you really going to visit somebody who calls himself President-for-Life? That doesn’t sound good!”

(Charles) “I doubt it! The cosmos is a big place! But, on the other hand, the power of narrative coincidence is truly great!”

(Montague) “So why are you heading to the Wyld, anyway?”

(Charles) “ Oh, I need to pick up something out there!”

(Mr Montague, in a concerned tone) “What? It sounds like you know where Wyld zones are. Why not just stay in the universe?”

(Charles) “Because that’s where it’s supposed to be!”

(Mr Montague) “And what is it?”

(Charles) “Uhm… I don’t think I’m supposed to say and I don’t entirely know anyway…”

(Mr Montague arched an eyebrow at that) “I know you’ve got a lot of protection against the mutations, but… that’s pretty dangerous!”

(Charles, doubtfully) “Well… I’m fairly sure I can manage – but I was going to ask a few people for advice before going anyway!”

Montague sensed his doubt.

(Montague) “Hey, you’d better! You’re great at this stuff, and I don’t want an unshaped eating you before you master it.”

(Charles) “I think I’m pretty indigestible for them!”

(Montague) “Let’s hope so. There’s only a few people who could save you if you’re wrong, and they’re not going to be close if you are.”

(Charles) “Well… I do have lots of backup here!”

Mr Montague sighed and looked at his watch…

(Montague) “Well… I’ve got a few minutes, but not enough to be hanging around here. Nice place, though!… I promise I’ll call my parents, ma’am!”

(Malinda) “You’d better or you’ll be hearing from me!”

Geez! It wasn’t like he could control the circumstances of his Exaltation. Stupid Raksha, trying to eat his fiancee. At least the Blossom of Lost Dreams was gracious enough to take them both up to Yu Shan. Micaela needed some trait restoration anyhow.

(Charles) “Oh, did you like the armor you were wearing last time around? I saw you were testing it a bit for the Celestial Lions!”

(Montague) “Yeah, it was good stuff. Maybe if I have some time, I’ll plan out a model with life support. Our void suits are nice… but they’re not exactly heavy-combat ready.”

(Charles) “Well, if you’d like a spare set there are some around!”

Mr Montague still had a REALLY hard time believing that Charles gave artifacts of such power… Most Primordials were not that generous – NOBODY but Charles was that generous – but the child did tend to want everyone protected… Huh. Come to think of it, even most of the weapons he’d made were pretty defensive.

(Montague) “Sure, I’ll take a set. I’ll try to show you if I get something working.”

(Charles, rummaging out a spare set) “OK!”

(Montague) “Thanks. And I’ve really got to go! Wish I could look around longer . . .”

(Charles) “Maybe later!”

(Montague) “Definitely.”

Charles got Mr Montague back to Yu-Shan and dropped him off at his next stop; the Cerulean Lute of Harmony, to report on his mission.

When Charles dropped him off there was a rarity in contemporary Yu-Shan: a full circle of Sidereals leaving on a mission with an extra Chosen of Secrets with them. It had to be important; they were moving at a fast, but still inoffensive, pace.

Charles tried to get a look as they passed by – but got distracted by Mr Montague… He wasn’t the best of physicians, but he was competent enough…

As the group passed by Mr. Montague winced. He’d… hidden his hands behind his back and was rubbing the fingers of one with the other.

(Charles) “What’s wrong?”

(Montague) “Uh… nothing. Little tired, but that’s normal these days!”

Mr Montague smiled disarmingly – and Charles promptly probed (although he did cover it with an illusion… He got sick sometimes – or he’d used to – but Sidereals really shouldn’t.

Hm… inflammation in the fingers and wrists, painful enough to cause real trouble. It looked a lot like… carpal tunnel syndrome, but it seemed to be fading. His divination… was not revealing the cause, or whether it is likely to come up again.

Huh. Cumulative strain? They were all linked through the loom… Were they exhausting even the endurance of an Exalt? Considering the Sidereal workload, that was vaguely plausible. Still… if they WERE linked, what was happening to Damion and the other Cauldron-Born? Or were they the cause? He distrusted coincidence, but it was really hard to tell!

(Montague) “Charles, I’ve really go to go. I’m fine, I’m telling you!”

Well, Charles really hadn’t been stopping him.

Mr Montague waved goodbye in a friendly – but rushed – manner.

Still, Charles had pretty much eliminated his travel time, which had helped a lot – and he was quite grateful for that!

The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice LIX – Explanations and Confusions

manual loom in Nepal

No, it doesn't actually look anything like this; but the reality would BLOW YOUR MIND!

Charles had been hoping that there would be a bit of a time delay on troubles from extra Sidereal Exaltations… After all, Sidereal Exaltations often incarnated in small children, and the Sidereals normally had to hunt for them anyway – and they wouldn’t be looking for extras. Conceivably, they might not notice until one or more of them started monkeying with Sidereal Astrology!

On the other hand, they might also disturb the loom at the moment of Exaltation as an extra sidereal tied into the network.

As it turned out… all one hundred of those terribly impatient Exaltations needed threads in this creation, and needed to tie into the loom. There was no shortage of candidates for Exaltation; Earth alone supported more humans than Creation had during the first age – and with the rest of the universe there were more by twenty orders of magnitude.

As Lytek did his quick – and rather complete (there was no point in keeping memories of an alternate creation of 25,000 years ago) scrub, the Sidereal Exaltations had vanished into creation in search of hosts – and chimed impatiently on the loom like a hundred clamoring bells…

He was very good at his job.

While the Sidereals rarely got to man the Loom for long these days, their divine associates were quite another matter. The gods sent rapid-fire messages to their superiors, who sent them to their superiors, and so on until the memos reached the division heads – and somewhere in that rise, at least one Chosen of the Maidens caught wind of it.

Those individuals simultaneously rejoiced and shuddered – and kicked off a mad scramble to investigate and to retrieve the extras.

The Maidens were almost a chorus… WHAT IN OBLIVION?!?!?

This ought to be impossible! Why hadn’t they seen it? Was the influence of the Nocturnals, and their cloaking of the Future, THAT extensive?

A peek in Samsara revealed only that this was supposed to happen at some point, and that the Exaltations have come from another Creation.

That alone was appalling. If there WERE other Creations, Samsara did not extend there – and the universe DEFINITELY did not work quite the way they thought it did!

They needed to know EVERYTHING about these new arrivals! Only then could their proper role in Samsara be understood.

Not that they weren’t grateful for the additional help – but those Exaltations could be tainted, damaged, or the like, all too easily. This had NEVER happened in the history of… ever!

Attempts to contact Lytek revealed only that he’d done the equivalent of leaving up a sign on the secretaries desk; “Gone Fishing. If you’re a Sidereal, I know why you’re here. Talk to Charles”.

Not that they wouldn’t have anyway. Only one entity had ever designed and created Exaltations – an Artificer-Primordial. And just when they had one around, a bunch of new Exaltations had appeared. The “Primordial” theory took an abrupt jump in popularity.

Charles had considered saying simply “They followed me home! You can keep them!” – but it would never work. He was going to have to explain a bit better than that.

Some of the screams and arguments in the Sidereal offices were almost loud enough to hear on Earth and in Aden – particularly from the Cerulean Lute. Stunting Perform/Scream at the 3d level was quite impressive (and would probably get them audited for creating a disturbance).

It really wasn’t all that long before Charles got a highly scrambled cell phone call.

(Charles) “Allo!”

It looked like there was some Celestial tier counterscrying on it too! Someone was worried!

It was kind of nice to have the people who wanted to investigate him handling most of his security needs by running interference on each other!

(Woman) “Ah, Charles! My name is Sri Varma. I’m with the Division of Secrets. Do you have a moment?”

Ah! One of the more senior members of the Bronze faction!

(Charles) “Sure! Do you need some?”

(Sri) “I would appreciate them, certainly!”

(Charles) “OK!”

He sent her a bunch of “Stopped Hourglasses” – minor Wyld Thamuaturgic Talismans, usable one to three times daily (his were usable three times of course) to get one minute to talk to your friends in, although no other actions were possible. They were related to the Conversation Pieces, but were far weaker.

For a moment Sri just gaped – blasted literal-minded cosmic child-beings! (Not that she’d ever expected to be coupling those two concepts…) That hadn’t been what she’d meant at all! Not that they wouldn’t be useful of course…

(Sri) “Why thank you! I do always desperately need more time in the day… Not quite what I meant though! I need to talk to YOU Charles?

(Charles) “Oh! Ok! What do you need to talk about?”

(Sri) “I was wondering if you would like to meet with me when we have the time. I understand you run a soup kitchen and school on your residence’s grounds?”

(Charles) “OK! Or I could just pop over there if it’s important…

So obliging! If he keeps this up, somebody will try to stamp him down, Primordial or not!

(Sri) “Well… I’m at the office right now, and to be honest, I need more time to prepare. Fate work has been occupying me too much lately.”

(Charles) “When would you like then?”

(Sri) “A week from now should do… and speaking of fate work, I must also ask you something about that, though I am not sure why; have you been anywhere outside of Fate lately, other than the Wyld?”

(Charles) “Well… In Aden of course, sometimes in other universes, sometimes in the Wyld, some people might be carrying an outside-of-fate area with them… I can do that too, but there usually isn’t any reason to…”

(Sri) “I ask because the strangest thing happened while I was working on the Loom last week. I can’t go into too much detail other than that when the event concluded, new Exaltations had appeared. My contacts told me to ask you about it. So… where did you find them?”

(Charles) “Oh those! In Relkithian – all that’s left of an alternate and mostly-destroyed creation! I really wasn’t expecting the Exaltations to still be around though!”

(Sri) “Wait… how in the myriad worlds did you get to an alternate Creation, and why were there free Exaltations ready to leave?”

(Charles) “Because the humans there died with Creation – and the Exalts, and the gods, and most other groups! The only survivors were in an elsewhere -realm that no one bothered to track down! The Exaltations all slipped through while I had the door open!”

(Sri) “Ah… I see. That still doesn’t explain how you got there… I can’t talk about why yet, but we’d like to send a team to investigate the local history.”

(Charles) “You might need to recruit a Solar Exalt for that! Or stick with godbloods and such!”

(Sri) “Hrm… I see.” (As evasive as he is obliging…) “Could you tell me what bought you to that Creation? If I’m hearing you correctly… it seems that you did this ACCIDENTALLY.”

(Charles) “Well, I was making dimensional portals to study them a bit, and they go all kinds of places. Relkithian – the Final Refuge of the Dragon Kings – is one of those! But when I went to visit, apparently the Shards sensed a creation where there were still humans to exalt, and so they came to do it!”

Oh! Dragon Kings… so THAT was why “Solars or God-Bloods”. If the histories were indeed mostly parallel… The Dragon Kings had been friendly with Solars, and accepting of God-bloods – and… and if the parallel had continued up to the post-usurpation period… then they wouldn’t even know who Sidereals were, and would recall the Lunars as folk who’d fled long before.

It still might be an evasion, but it very well might be just being helpful without bothering to explain.

Well, there was an easy way to check.

(Sri) “By the way… were you responsible for that sudden freshwater flooding and plant growth in the Sahara? It’s a rather impressive feat to alter the earth on such a scale while creating so little disturbance on the loom!”

(Charles) “Oh that was one of Elzeard’s projects! He decided that he wanted to get started on fixing a few things!”

Well… that certainly established the “being helpful without bothering to explain” aspect – as well as establishing that the boy’s Third Circles did indeed possess incredible power.

(Sri) “Well, that is a side-issue… What you’ve told me about the Exaltations is interesting information – and not entirely unprecedented; Exaltations travel – presumably through Elsewhere – to Yu-Shan all time time. Still, if this had happened before, we would have heard of it; it seems likely that whatever kind of “door” you opened was necessary for the process – which would also explain why our universe’s Exaltations have never wandered off. Thank you for your cooperation.”

It was obvious enough that the child had left out rather a lot of details. She’d have to ask later – and perhaps ask him to open his “door” to the “Relkithian” place. Presumably, now that the Exaltations had come through, nothing else would…

Presuming that the details were things that the child himself understood and that they would fit into her mind! She’d had severe doubts before – but the casual way that the boy toppled certainties that had stood since the Primordial War was eroding them…

Charles was having a doubt or two of his own… Hopefully he hadn’t imported some sort of Exalted Plague into Creation! Still, Lytek hadn’t mentioned such a thing, and he hadn’t exactly had a chance to check…

Oops! Somebody was on his call waiting! And it was scrambled too!

(Sri) “I thought I heard a beep. Were you expecting someone? I think I have all the information I need for now…”

Charles answered in person – via the secondary aspect in Aden.

(Charles) “Oh, that’s just my cell phone! I’ve got it elsewhere!”

Sri closed things up after a few more pleasantries – leaving Charles to a very similar conversation with Mr Montague… There was more of an emphasis on his sifu hearing of the information and wanting him to ask while she was busy – but that really wasn’t a very big difference.

Except for one point.

(Montague) “Hey, I managed to get a couple of hours of sabbatical tomorrow! Want to show me that Elsewhere net you were working on? I’m lucky I put in for that before this happened… I have a feeling it’s going to be my last for a long while.”

(Chalres) “OK! The prototype is up and running right now!”

(Montague) “Great! Uh… can you bring it to my place? I’m not going to have time to get to your place and back before it ends.”

(Charles) “Oh, it’s anchored in a manse… but where are you? I could give you a lift!”

(Montague) “Well, I was going to spend some time at the Manse with Vaal and the wife! I haven’t been by lately. Stuff on Earth’s been keeping me busy too… I’m down in Cairo right now.”

That was close to Gate #3: Memphis, Egypt.

(Charles) “OK! to Cairo it is!”

Mr Montague was staying in a low-end hotel, and seemed a bit worried.

(Charles) “Allo! What’s up?”

(Montague) “Oh, just finished some work here. I’m ready to head back upstairs after this one!”

He asked Charles if he could put up a privacy ward, preferably Terrestrial tier… and then, once that was up, used an artifact to put up a disguise and declared himself ready to go.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LVIII – Moonsilver Interlude


Charles... you do remember that the Death Star is FICTIONAL don't you? You think it's just the current name for the Imperial Manse?

Righteous Hala didn’t have the time to accompany Charles to the far end of the universe – but she certainly could spare a few hours with a Crystal Arena to see how well he could defend himself – and to offer some advice on possible attackers and tactics. The boy was obviously amazingly resourceful, but it was equally obvious that his combat experience was academic at best. Hers, on the other hand, was quite real – and over the centuries she’d seen quite a few variations to throw at him in the Arena.

That was… different. Charles’s personal defenses were actually pretty good – unless someone got inside him and started sabotaging all those manses in his world-body. Of course trying THAT amounted to undertaking a full-scale war. His offensive abilities were adequate, but nothing all that special – after you got past his tendency to simply send attackers home, or trap them, or otherwise avoid combat altogether!

His reserves though… every time she thought that he might be reaching his limits, he simply pulled more power out of Aden!

Wait. Spirits could lend you motes, will, health, and other abilities – usually by touch – and Aden was inhabited by a couple of hundred thousand powerful spirits! Even worse, his third-circle “Guardians” seemed to be able to act through him as needed!

By Creation! Had fighting the actual Primordials been like this? She was SO glad that Charles was a benevolent pacifist, and tried to avoid actually using his more destructive powers at all costs… It took a Ragnarok scenario – a combined galactic/demon army invasion with both groups warded against being sent home and his other tricks to get him to call on the Spear of Aden – yet another unexpected reserve.

What, so he had an option ready just in case he was in the area to intervene when the Death Star attacked Alderaan?

And into the hands of those who will not use it, great power was given… That was downright SUBVERSIVE!

Afterwards she went to go and shake down Lytek a bit… After all, if the Solars of the first age were normally like this… well, she REALLY doubted that the usurpation would have worked! If they’d felt unwelcome they’d just have wandered off to make their own universes…. Hey, where HAD they been for 25,000 years?

Fortunately, Lytek already wanted to talk to her, and she had an appointment already. .

(Lytek and Hala, roughly simultaneously) “All right, what they hell have I/You DONE?!?!”

Lytek looked somewhat uncomfortable – and explained that Charles was both like and unlike a Solar of the First Age. Like them, in that he had a good deal of infrastructure backing him and was playing politics, albeit in his own idiosyncratic way. Unlike them in that he had created his own private universe within his Exaltation and had no desire to rule directly. He was a force of… near-pure benevolence.

He didn’t tell her about the Curse, or the Guardians, just yet. He knew that she worked with Sidereals.

(Hala) “Oh yes – but HOW has he turned his Exaltation into a private universe? Do they all have that potential, or is it just an aspect of where their power comes from?!?!”

(Lytek) “It’s a highly complex issue, Lady Hala, and I’m still researching it. At the moment, I believe all of them might have that potential.”

(Hala, with some shock) “So why hasn’t anyone ever done it before? Surely there would be records somewhere unless they went somewhere outside Creation to do it!”

(Lytek) “Certainly, it would require access to a massive amount of Wyld energies . . . and they would be loathe to spread that knowledge. I have sent some of my aides to search for any information on this.”

He didn’t mention the thought that he might have inadvertently unlocked something that should never have been disturbed – but Righteous Hala could read THAT one without even trying.

Lytek did wish he could tell her more! For one thing, he wasn’t at all sure how the Lunar Bond would interact with what Charles was doing.

That was an appropriate worry… Just to start with, the bond created a link between them – and Charles’s Charms allowed his Adenic Thaumaturgy to jump over links to help people out whether or not Charles was actually paying attention at the time. Just as importantly, since she’s accepted the Adenic Thaumaturgic Initiation, she’s effectively in Aden – and in direct contact with Charles – at all times.

In this game a high-level Lunar Bond allows the Lunar to use a few of his or her partner’s charms. While this never includes Martial Arts or Thaumaturgy / Sorcery charms, and very rarely includes Excellencies (and never more than two), it can bypass some charm prerequisites – albeit not skill and essence prerequisites. Sadly, just what you get is up to the game master, the minimum essence requirement of the charms in question rarely exceeds the bond rating, and the choice requires the approval of the solar player (if any). If they’ve got a particular personal shtick they don’t want to share, that is their privilege.

Hala wasn’t entirely satisfied either – but she didn’t have any good way to squeeze more information out of Lytek.

Of course, she could always ask Charles to analyze HIMSELF a bit. He should, after all, be one of the greatest available experts on that particular topic!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LVII – Aikiko’s Quest

A blank map of the universe (Earth Location in...

Moving up slightly from street crime we have...

Aikiko had been busy in Yu-Shan – helping clean up Gri Fel’s neighborhood using a variety of disguises, exploring the underground, and visiting Burning Feather’s hookah parlors. There were a lot of things to do!

She really hadn’t been expecting an urgent summons from Lytek; he knew that she was working undercover. It had to be pretty important!

Lytek had quite a few worries… He had an unprecedented seven hundred and six celestial exaltations to check and cleanse (and, in the case of seven hundred of them, to examine for how they might differ from his universes designs) and he’d have urgent queries as they started to find hosts in Creation, and there was the matter of what sort of curses THEY might be laboring under (there was, after all, no reason to expect the Primordials to have had only one option), and inquiries to answer – and the list went on and on on top of all the worries he’d already had, such as the Nocturnals.

On the other hand… Charles was busily – and in utter innocence – turning the universe upside down. It seemed to be the nature of children to… question everything, to meddle fearlessly with things that no adult would ever even think of touching, and to find possibilities that adults simply assumed were impossible. Certainly no prior Solar Exalt had ever set out to reforge their own soul into a near-limitless font of benevolence… Most of them had assumed that their Exaltations had chosen them for what they were – not for what they might one day, if they acted with utter selflessness, become.

And he’d made similar adjustments on a full circle of Solar Exaltations. He hadn’t been able to do more than to tweak the curse and push them to choose the potential and vaulting dreams of childhood over confirmed active heroism – and some had rejected such adjustments entirely – but a few had been… “willing to experiment”, at least once. In an odd way they recognized him as a friend and adviser, even if he had little actual control.

With Charles he had been absurdly lucky; the Exaltation – perhaps influenced by Devon as well as by him – had chosen a child with a shining dream of making everything better and the confidence that came with natural magical talent to pursue it with – and that child had already been in touch with Heaven, and so he had been able to maintain contact and observe him.

The other four… had also taken his suggestion and chosen children with mighty dreams – but he knew little more than that! The veil he had cast around their Exaltations had concealed their identities from him as well, at least at long range.

If they were anything like Charles, they had to be located, and advised, and guided, before they too began to turn the universe upside down!

Unfortunately, the Solar Guardians were GOOD at remaining hidden! Before they could be contacted and guided, they had to be FOUND – and Aikiko was on the (short) list of those he dared to share some of his secrets with and was, despite her awkward habits, swiftly becoming an incredibly skilled investigator.

And – at the moment – he had no time to check on things himself!

(Lytek) “Look… You’re friends with Charles – and the boy is meddling with some of the highest powers in creation, in unprecedented ways – and he’s mostly… experimenting. He means well, but… he’s unleashing powers that haven’t been seen since the Primordial War!”

Aikiko looked a but dubious until Lytek sighed – and confidentially showed her the current contents of his cabinet. It wasn’t like it was going to be a secret for long anyway!

(Kiko) “DUDE!… I mean, Lord Lytek. I had no idea!”

She pointed at the Sidereal shards in particular… She was no mathematician, but unless there’d been an unprecedented bloodbath in the last hour or so, there had to be most of a hundred there – and that was about a hundred more than were supposed to exist!

(Lytek) “I knew he was experimenting with making Exaltations – and has created some things that aren’t far below that level! – but I don’t think that he actually made these, unless it was by indirectly creating a universe! These seem to be… refugees of a sort. Lost Exaltations from a cosmos fallen to the Wyld. Whether he found that, or whether he opened a gate to somewhere that wouldn’t have meaningfully existed until he called it into being is almost irrelevant – but can you imagine the consequences of this?”

(Kiko) “Uh… LOTS of trouble. Sidereals getting in a fuss… err… people trying to steal them?”

When she couldn’t even imagine the consequences of something, there was a problem!

(Lytek) “Lots of trouble indeed… So I need to ask you a favor; could you try to keep an eye on him? And perhaps try to persuade him NOT to pursue every wyld-touched notion that pops into his head?”

Lytek hesitated…

(Lytek) “And after that… somewhere, scattered around – although most likely on Earth – there are four more children who are in some ways like him. If you get the chance, or can think of any approach, could you try to locate them as well? It may or may not be possible – but surely they will have started creating disturbances of their own!”

Aikiko, shocked – FOUR MORE? – puzzled at that for an instant. By Oblivion! How could Lytek KNOW that there were four hidden children like Charles unless…

Unless they were somehow Exalted, and thus within his purview – and if even he couldn’t detect or find them, that meant that… the only way he could be SURE that there were four would be if he were involved in their creation and had been involved in making sure that their Exaltations could – somehow – conceal themselves within a soul, rather than simply attaching to it.

It was within his purview and authority, but WHY had Lord Lytek meddled with five Lunar – or, far more likely, Solar – Exaltations?

After a moments consideration of the world, she knew WHY. If the Exalted were all like Charles… Well, the world might be a good deal crazier, but it would also be vastly nicer – and the Exalts would no longer be at each other’s throats – and twenty millennia of THAT had to pain Lytek quite a lot. Surely he would prefer to see the current hostility and throat-slitting being replaced with a competition to see who could forgive, forget, and help out the universe the most.

Not much choice then! Even if the task was impossible, was that not what the Exalted did?

(Kiko) “Uh… I’ll try! I don’t want him to get into the wrong stuff?”

(Lytek) “Well, if some notion of his sounds insane to you, at least try to pass it on! Here… If you don’t have one, he’s left me a crate of these transdimensional cell phones with personal-essence-pattern motonic scramblers…”

And first one, then another, freshly-cleaned exaltation – A Solar and a Lunar, perhaps a pair – “pinged” slightly and vanished, slipping into Creation.

(Kiko) “Cool!” (She saw the Exaltations disappear.) “COOL! Uh… thanks for the phone. I’ll call you if he does anything weird.”

(Lytek) “PLEASE do!”

Wow! Lytek was really worried! For that matter, so was she! What HAD Charles been doing? He could get into all kinds of trouble meddling with the wrong thing! Like a repeat of the Cauldron-born incident! Maybe even something worse!

She headed off for a visit! It had been ages anyway!

She changed her disguise on the way, just in case the Bronze were looking for her… they knew that she was a friend of Rachel’s – and… headed for the academy. Charles should still be there this early, and visiting at Dudael would require purification rituals.

At the academy, Charles was currently in a perfectly normal class on cultural rituals, being bored silly by “Tea ceremonies through the ages”. Personally, Charles suspected that it was just an excuse for the minor god of tea who was teaching the class today to effectively take a day off! Wasn’t half an hour of sitting still and contemplating the essence of the tea enough?

Kiko had to agree with that! At this rate, the class might not actually DRINK the stuff for hours to come!

Charles spotted Kiko in a reflective surface and thought “Ok please PLEASE have an urgent message! – and was pleased and surprised when Kiko promptly waved him over. He bowed politely to the tea god and then slipped out via travel thaumaturgy, leaving a finely-crafted illusion to gently dissolve away in his place!

(Charles) “Hey Aikiko! What’s up! (Eagerly) Something important?”

(Kiko) “Uh… Charles, can you set up a really good privacy thingie?”

(Charles) “Oh, sure! Should we go someplace even more private? There’s never anyone in the artificing shops this time of day…”

(Kiko) “What, you mean Dudael? Don’t I need to put on a funny white robe and bathe for that?”

(Charles) “Oh, I was just thinking of down in the yards over there. They’re a good place to start looking for privacy… Is this personal privacy, or something bigger? Oh wait! Best not to say until we’re down there and more wards are up!”

Aikiko sighed. He had NO idea what she was going to ask him about did he?

(Kiko) “Uh, yeah, it’s big. Oops, you said not to say. Ha ha.”

(Charles) “Well, OK!”

He put up more wards – and then, since the Sidereals and several Lunars were wandering in and out all the time anyway, used the Amulet of Celestial Wings to pop them over to Dudael, and from there, behind it’s wards, ask if she could keep a secret…

(Charles) “Oh yeah! And how are Gri Fel and Terapishim doing! It’s almost be time for their test results to come out!”

(Kiko) “Well, yeah, I can keep a secret. Uh… actually, I was hoping you’d ask! Terapishim hasn’t been by for a while.”

(Charles) “I trust nothings happened to him! I’ll have to send someone to look!”

(Kiko) “Yeah, Gri Fel’s getting kinda worried.”

Had the competition gotten overly-rough? He’d thought that the Celestial Lions were keeping an eye on that sort of thing!

(Kiko) “I mean, he gets into my business sometimes, but he’s really fun at bars! So yeah, if you could check on him… now why’d you bring us here?”

(Charles) “Well, for more privacy! This is good, but not the best… The best is this way!”

He took them through a gate, and over to the Cone of Silence – where, not only were you sure of perfect privacy, but you could, if you wished, leave thoughts behind in the private archive, where no one else could get at them until you come back and put them back into your head again!

Besides, the place had a great view of Aden with a zoom function!

Kiko was wondering just where Charles was finding all these Manses…

(Kiko) “Okay!”

(Charles) “Anyway… what’s the really private part?”

(Kiko) “Uh… Lytek sent me a scroll. He got some new Exaltations in… and said you did it! So I guess what I want to know is… what the heck have you been doing lately, dude?” (looking out into Aden) “Is that a viking demon?”

She took a close look at her Roach Clip of Ineffable Toking.

(Charles) “Oh! Well I didn’t really! I just didn’t realize that they’d still be hanging around in Relkithian and waiting for a chance to find some humans again! I thought they’d have drifted off long ago!

(Kiko) “Relkithian? Where’s that?”

(Charles) “Oh, it’s… well, in another Creation the Dragon Kinds had warning of the Great Contagion, and spun off a pocket dimension to take refuge in! Without them to help slow the advance of the Balorean Crusade, that Creation was unmade – leaving only the Dragon King refuge! So I sent Rachel to hide there, and that apparently drew the Exaltations to hang around her, and they must have followed her home! Like lost puppies or something!”

(Kiko) “Whoa. No wonder that mage guy wasn’t able to send her a note. How’d you find another Creation?”

(Charles, cheerfully) “I made some manse-gates! They can go pretty much anywhere if you can figure out how to tune them!”

(Kiko) “Uh… how long did that take?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Well (the Arcosanti tests were public records after all)… most of a day!”

(Kiko) “Neat!”

It was also neat – and a bit frightening – that Charles could do that sort of thing so FAST.

(Charles) “Anyway… Maybe I should try to stay out of alternate creations for awhile! They come with all kinds of complications!”

(Kiko) “Yeah, it sounds like it! Have you been doing anything else? Fun or neat, I mean.”

(Charles) “Well…getting Aden here organized, and some terraforming, and the stargate projects, and some other things… And some accidents of course!”

Aden? Terraforming? What was Terraforming? Stargates? ACCIDENTS?)

(Kiko) “Accidents? And what’s an Aden and terraforming?”

(Charles) “Well… like the Kickaha – sort of material werewolf-elf-godling creatures! I wasn’t expecting them to turn into a species on me while I wasn’t looking!”

Actually it was worse than that… They could adopt new members through the manse, and had found or made a charm that let them – over the course of a few days of snuggling – share their own essence-patterns and regenerative abilities with a mortal to turn them into a Kickaha, and they could breed with each other to produce more Kickaha, and with humans to produce god-bloods if they didn’t opt to turn the human into another Kickaha first.

The teenagers – especially the males – were mostly taking the “snuggling” approach.

The later generations, lacking the direct support of Dun Shunkaha, weren’t quite as formidable as the the elite – but they were still pretty tough.

What? He was creating new forms of life!?

While Charles had continued to explain about the Kickaha, Kiko had realized what Charles meant when he said he was “organizing Aden.”

(Kiko) “Uh… uh oh. We’re not in Yu Shan anymore, are we?”

(Charles) “Hm? Oh, no! We’re in Aden! Much more private!”

(Kiko) “So, what is Aden?”

(Charles) “Well, it’s a world-body! That way I can have geomancy all my own! And it’s very handy to keep things in and for giving people a nice place to stay and for transport and for lots of other things!”

(Kiko) “Wait, WHAT!?”

Huh! That was the most sober he’d ever seen Kiko!

(Kiko) “So… (remembering discussions with Gri Fel) You’re a Primordial now?”

(Charles) “Maybe! But they’re supposed to be really old, so maybe not!”

(Kiko) “Uh… wow.”

(Charles) “I think you have to be older than the universe to be a primordial!”

(Kiko) “Yeah, to make it… D… do the Sidereals know?”

(Charles) “There’ve been a bunch wandering around her for awhile now! They seem to be arguing though… Of course, they’re Sidereals! They do that! And who knows? Maybe the new Exaltations will distract them! And the Terraforming is making barren planets earthlike, so the extinct species and things have somewhere to live!”

(Kiko) “Neat!… Wait, if you’re a Primordial, does that mean you have Circles?”

(Charles) “Well… Yes, those are around.”

(Kiko) “I want to meet one!”

(Charles) “Well, Elzeard is holding classes at the moment… We could pop over there!”

(Kiko) “Okay!”

No wonder Lytek was rattled! Whatever-it-was that he’d had in mind, it surely hadn’t been anything like THIS.

And there were four more potential quasi-primordials out there, up to who knew what, and all with the same childishness, willingness to try all sorts of insanity, and lack of appreciation for “consequences” or “long range planning” as Charles.

By the Infinite Wyld! Now she was rattled too!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session LVI – The Exultant Avalanche

The Scarlet Empress (Doctor Who)

I really think some of the basic assumptions of this crossover are incompatible!

There were quite a few Sidereals – roughly a third of them, mostly in the Silver faction – who didn’t accept the “Primordial” theory – or one of it’s even more bizarre alternates. It wasn’t so much that the child didn’t seem to possess vast power – he obviously had the world-body, enormous reserves of essence and/or a monstrous replenishment rate, a soul-hierarchy, and several of the other attributes – but his behavior just didn’t fit.

OK, there was nothing in THEORY stopping a Primordial from being ridiculously generous, and unfailingly kind, and humble, and polite, and endlessly helpful – and a young one might not have access to higher-end charms or have it’s essence all the way up to the top yet – and the weird obsession with artificing and manses COULD be part of a Primordial Theme – but Primordials were Idiot-Savants. They were either impossibly good at things or downright terrible.

Their Jouten just didn’t show slow improvements in weapon training and music classes. Young or not, that simply was not how a Primordial functioned! Even if there should somehow be a Primordial of Childhood who DID learn like a normal child, why would he be so good at geomancy and artificing?

Sure, there was no ruling out some unique entity out of the Wyld, or a Primordial with exotic charms or something – there came a point where ANYTHING was possible – but it seemed pretty unlikely.

The raw power ruled out almost everything in creation short of the Incarnae and the Celestial Exalted – and the boy certainly didn’t act much like a Sidereal. A Lunar MIGHT be able to add a world-body to his or her form – but they usually possessed much broader abilities. That monomaniacal focus on a particular field – and incredible skill within it – practically screamed “Solar”! – at least if you were willing to accept that the boy had discovered some path of transcendence that even the first age had missed, and that it made a SINGLE solar so incredibly powerful – and that every Solar presumably had the same potential.

And that, somehow, a small boy had Exalted as one of the Heroes of the Dawn, and had found that path, and had used that power to… go to school. Could it ALL have something to do with being a child?

It was almost easier to suspect a new Incarnae – and there were some who were going for THAT theory (as well as one or two who were coming down on the side of some sort of Authchthonian Construct).

The ones who suspected “Solar”, however, were increasingly wanting to grab poor Lytek and shake him and demand to know “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!?! WHAT IN THE COSMOS HAVE YOU UNLEASHED IN THAT CHILD!?!?”

The only reason that some of the Sidereals hadn’t done it already was the shadow of the Usurpation. Otherwise the line would already have formed, with Viziers taking shifts.

Some of the hardliner Gold Sidereals wished the boy at least… channeled, no matter WHAT he was! The blasted Bronze Faction idiots had been responsible for nearly destroying the world, and for the millennia of ensuing disasters (and overwork!). They should not be getting a helping hand from ANYONE!

Some of the Sidereals – and a few gods – had reached a much simpler conclusion; the more research they did, the more blatantly obvious it became that the boy (whatever he might be) was hopelessly benign – and that the simplest way to start exploiting him was to just ask for things that could be used for their own purposes, preferably while presenting a benign front of their own and while keeping their opponents from doing the same thing.

Some Sidereals were still debating… The boy had the run of Yu-Shan. If he was a Primordial, that might be hideously dangerous. On the other hand… Gaia had had the run of the Yu-Shan for untold ages, and nothing untoward had happened. Would it even be SANE to try and kick him out? He’d been living there quietly – and unobtrusively helping – for years. He hadn’t been a participant in the Primordial Wars, and didn’t seem to have any relationship to the Yozis – and for all they really knew, most Primordials could have been fairly benign! Even on Earth he’d just gone to movies, donated to charity, done emergency rescue work, and recreated extinct species of cute fuzzy things.

That was bringing currently-unpopular theories about the true motives behind the creation of the Exalted and the Primordial War out of mothballs. The “Super Crack” theory was raising it’s ugly head again – and this time with some evidence to support it beyond the fact that Creation had hung together many times as long under the Primordials as it had under the Exalted. If Gaia hadn’t intervened to save the universe’s collective butt, the Scarlet Empress would have ended the world millennia ago. Even the HUMANS were doing a better job of running things in a lot of ways – and even the official histories said as much. Sure, the Unconquered Sun would never associate with anything unethical – but if perfect virtues meant being right all the time, the universe would still be in perfect shape as one unified world, rather than broken into so many pieces that even the highest gods were still counting.

Still, no one discussed such theories anywhere public, or even unwarded – at least not in Yu-Shan.

Of course, as far as most of the Primordials went… From what little anyone knew one had formed a river around creation that kept the Raksha away. One provided order and structure. One had been a lot like Ligier was now, and had apparently ruled well enough to run things without any great problems for eons. One was the motherly patron of seagoing races – most of which were just people. OK, a few – like the Black Boar That Twists The Skies – had been a bit of a pain just by their nature, but they didn’t seem to cause endless trouble just by being there. One sat around as a big forest, another sat in an ocean… So what? There wasn’t much on any specific offenses beyond “sometimes they (like every other essence user) broke things” and “they annoyed Autochthon by breaking his stuff” – when, of course, Autochthon ALSO broke their stuff even before making Exaltations by doing things like dissecting a bunch of Lintha…

In an undisclosed location the Greater Deiphages – and the force that lay behind them – were beginning to move. Someone was challenging an order of things that had persisted for millennia – and that could not be tolerated – especially not when, after so many ages, their plans were nearing the tipping point.

In the underworld, the Deathlords were also putting plans into action. The ability to build and repair basic manses, and to forge artifacts, with such speed was extraordinarily useful. The ability to create truly high-end manses, and possibly even gates, with such speed was invaluable. With that ability military forces could be created, enhanced, and sent anywhere with incredible speed. On Earth the Terrestrial Councils were hearing reports of a young thaumaturge possessed of an incredible set of manse-related talents – even of reaching other realities. With that power once again available, their secret dominance of Earth could be expanded to a myriad other worlds – and much that had been long-lost might be recovered.

Even at the local Museum of Natural History, many of the scientists were badly wanting to know what Charles was getting up to now.

Other entities were beginning to take notice as well.

Sadly, Charles himself still didn’t really realize that there COULD be any objection to making things all better – save, perhaps, for a few gods with speciality domains, whom he didn’t think there were all that many of.

Of course, there were…

  • Gods of species that had replaced extinct species.
  • All the people who didn’t want to forgive and forget
  • Gods of famine, torture, and pain.
  • Upset vengeful ghosts
  • The Death Gods in general given that Charles did rather want to abolish – or at least seriously revise – death.

Meanwhile, in blissful ignorance, Charles was reading through some notes from Hala on the most notable borderland interstellar nations. The poor ferretyr’s experiences notwithstanding, she recommend going through Tarvial.

(Hala) “Not that it matters once you hit the Wyld, though… time and space get fuzzy in Rakshastan. Tarvial just has the best overall anti-Wyld forces.”

(Charles) “Well… I don’t have a ship I think – but I should have several gates to Raksastan. I’ll see which one is closest to Tarvial!”

(Hala) “One of these days you’re going to have to show those to me.”

(Charles) “Uhm… The gates? Well, those are easy!”

Charles gladly showed her Hoenheim, and a couple of similar manses with other gates, and some of the worlds that they offered access to (which led to explaining the Last Refuge and the whole Alternate-Creation thing again). While he was there he opened the gate to the Last Refuge to check on Rachel and her family and to tell them that he’d be away for a bit – but that the hunt for her was over and that things had mostly been straightened out if they wanted to come out.

(Hala) “What IS this Manse? I sensed the power when I came in, but interdimensional overlays are rare.”

(Charles) “Hoenheim is one of the first manses I upgraded! I put in a dimensional nexus aspect, with gates to a lot of realities. I don’t really know how many are really a part of our universe and how many are in other universes though!”

(Hala) “I don’t recall a Manse like that in the records. Is this one of your grandpa’s places?”

(Charles) “He let me have it when I was seven! It’s in a wyld pocket and takes a lot of extra geomancy to power up to manifest the gate-network though!”

When Charles opened the gate it rippled wildly, as if some mighty force had passed through it, but when he probed after it, whatever-it-was was long gone. Huh! That had been fast! Oh well! If it was a potential problem it would doubtless turn up soon enough!

The Cartiers had been about ready to ask for a trip back anyway, and so were glad to see him!

(Rachel) “Wow! Who’s the strong lady?”

(Charles) “How was your stay? I bet there was a lot of interesting stuff to learn there!” (To Hala) “Oh, details? Well, this creation fell to the Balorian Crusade – but the Dragon Kings had already withdrawn to a pocket realm – which is all that’s left of this Creation!”

(Hala) “You’re Rachel Cartier… I would stay away from Yu Shan for somewhat longer if I were you. And Dragon Kings?”

(Rachel) “Oh, the Dragon Kings taught me a lot about Solar history… and I went exploring in the edges of the Wyld and the last traces of Creation while I was there! Look what I found!”

Rachel concentrated for a moment and molten orichalcum poured out of her hands and transformed into tiger claws.

(Charles) “Neat!”

Rachel shifted the orichalcum into a wrackstaff. It looked like she’d found something similar to Demien’s serpent-sting staff – but it became style weapons instead of merely being usable with any style… Hm… That looked like an upper-end artifact! (About Artifact-5, able to shift to any non-unique artifact weapon rated at three dots or less)

Meanwhile, Rachell’s mother Nadine, was watching for fey. Her father Howard was carrying much of the baggage, and Mitchell was sitting in the garden, watching the caretaker work.

(Charles, with slight exasperation) “Oh, not to worry! In general, they fey can’t do anything to you that you don’t want to have happen within five miles of Hoenheim! And there are a thousand or so guardians around…”

(Nadine) “Ah, that’s good… wait, a thousand of them? Your grandfather must be a rich man to have that many!”

(Charles) “Oh, most of them come with the Manse!”

(Nadine) “What a powerful place… well, we need to get home. Raymond must be worried… as is your father, Howard!”

(Howard) “What did you expect me to do? The artifact was more dangerous than Raymond thought, and the Sidereals would have found Rachel some time.”

Charles sighed and teleported them again, both so as to both leave few traces and so as to avoid showing them how to get into the pocket realm.

(Charles) “Oh, they still aren’t happy – but they know that it wasn’t Rachel’s fault at all!”

(Rachel) “Really? Do they know Kiko was involved? Should have taken her too.”

(Mitchell) “I don’t think Mom and Dad would have been able to stand her, though.”

(Charles) “Well, Kiko was disguised at the time – and she’s GOOD at disguising – and all she did was drag you away so that you didn’t kill Astrid! There never really was any blame attached to her… The only reason why anyone was looking for her was to find out where you’d gone, and that’s all over with now!”

Hala hadn’t wanted to stay in Hoenheim – honestly, all those gates (interesting as they were), and that weird power surge when Charles had opened one, and the power rippling through the place, made her a bit uncomfortable. The place practically screamed “reckless meddling!”.

As, of course, did the fact that Charles had apparently never even OPENED most of the gates! Even if that might be advisable with the Malfean ones…

Of course, she was also mildly uncomfortable in a suburban Atlanta home. It was clear that she doesn’t come to Earth very often…

(Nadine) “Ah, manners again. Who are you, ma’am?”

Charles started to do introductions!

Hala realized – rather abruptly – that he would almost certainly introduce her as a Lunar Exalt unless she did something.

She promptly covered his mouth.

(Hala) “I’m Helen, Charles’s nanny. I watch him while his grandfather is off on business. He’s a handful!”

(Nadine) “I’m sure.”

(Howard) “Well, I’d better get on the phone with Dad… you know how temperamental he gets, dear.”

(Charles) “Murmpph-Murmph!”

(Mitchell) “I’ll get the scrambler.”

(Hala, through the gesture-speech Charm) “Sorry, but I’m pretty sure that woman is Fellowship of Moonsilver and Jade! I can tell from the stance.”

(Charles via Thaumaturgic Telepathy) “But aren’t those friends of yours?”

(Hala) “Yeah, but there’s no need to broadcast that I’m a Lunar… and besides, once she realized I wasn’t in that group, she’d get suspicious.”

(Charles) “Oh. Factions again.”

(Hala, still silently) “Can I uncover your mouth now? I don’t like doing that any more than you like being muffled.”

Meanwhile, Mitchell and Howard had gone upstairs, and Nadine and Rachel were unpacking.

(Charles, also still silently) “Oh sure! You already introduced yourself anyway.”

(Nadine, turning around) “Hmm. About to say something he would regret?”

(Hala, removing her hand) “As I said, he is a handful!”

(Rachel) “Hey, anything you need, Charles? With this orb, I feel like I could take on anything.”

(Nadine) “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, dear…”

(Charles) “Uhm… Not really I think! I’ve got a very long-range errand to run anyway; that’s why I stopped by to open the gate, my next chance would probably have been another month!”

(Rachel, seemingly a bit disappointed.) “Ah, that’s okay… tell Kiko I’m back, though! She owes me a race!”

As helpful as Rachel might be, her parents were worried enough without her heading off to the other end of the cosmos! No matter how much enthusiasm she had!

(Charles) “I’ll let her know!”

(Hala) “Well, Charles, now that we’ve retrieved your friends, we should head home… You have a lovely home, Mrs. Cartier.”

(Nadine) “Well, I would have preferred all white, but Howard insisted on some black. Have a good afternoon, and keep him out of trouble!”

And then an urgent message arrived…

(Lytek) “Charles, are you busy? You have to see this, it’s… I… I don’t know what to say.”

(Charles) “Oh dear! Now Lytek needs something… I’d better go see what! And since it’s urgent…”

Charles offered his arm to Righteous Hala, spun a record on the record player, stepped out on the carpet, drew on the energies of the wyld in a swirl of glittering motes that reduced the area to soft focus – and waltzed gently into the Cartier’s mirror and out the large mirror at the entryway of Lytek’s offices as the scene shifted old-fashioned-move style. The music continued to drift from the mirror for a few moments, but then faded – but for that interval the mirror reflected another pair entirely – a much older gentleman, dressed in the styles of the first age, and a delicate woman in the same fashions.

Rachel waved goodbye – and Nadine watched with some wonder… The boy… wasn’t using a charm, or sorcery there, or at least not directly. He was just… exerting a bit of basic thaumaturgy and augmenting it by tapping into the chaos that was the basic structure of reality. Everyone tapped into chaos a bit of course (it was, after all, the basis of stunting) – but only Raksha did it on anything like that scale! Had the child somehow learned Raksha techniques and used them to boost his thaumaturgy? Could he possibly just be… pretending that what he wanted to do was possible and using the power of chaos to get Creation itself to go along with gag and indulge him?

[It was simply an occult-based Wyld Stunt, boosted by Charles’s stunt pool to the Solar Circle Sorcery level to allow a quick trip to Yu-Shan. Charles was quite pleased to find that it worked properly though; he hadn’t tried many of those tricks yet!]

Hala blinked, especially when the older man showed up in the mirror…

(Hala) “Just as well. I need to speak with Lytek too.”

Lytek’s secretary blinked too – normally only the Maidens traveled by mirror! – and discreetly but hurriedly let Charles in. She’d only been informed that Lytek had sent to Earth for the boy a few minutes ago! Had the child just… waltzed his way straight from Earth to Yu-Shan? Who and WHAT was the boy?

Hala had to stay outside for the moment though.

(Charles) “Hello! What’s up?”

Lytek seemed quite startled – and simply opened up his cabinet to reveal a full set of Celestial Exaltations – albeit with no Nocturnal shards.

(Lytek) “I… Charles, do you have any idea about this?”

(Charles) “Hm! Extras!… now what… OH! They probably have memories of a horrible final war, and the destruction of the world attached don’t they?”

(Lytek) “Yes… you wouldn’t have anything to do with this, I hope?”

He reached into a sleeve and produced some extra shards. “I’m going to need another cabinet for all these, or refurbishing…”

(Charles) “Uhm… I think they’d be from a destroyed alternate creation! They must have been drawn to YOUR cabinet in place of the one they belonged in but which was long gone when I opened the gate for awhile… I hadn’t thought of that! I figured that – if they were still around – after thirty thousand years or more with no hosts and no creation they would have wandered off somewhere!… I’m sorry if that makes a problem. I think I could make some more room in the cabinet or arrange some better packing scheme though… Still, once they’re back in circulation, there shouldn’t be too many back at any one time!”

Lytek just stood there, staring into space. It took him a minute or two to recover.

(Lytek) “Charles, it’s all right, for now. You’re only a boy. But what am I going to tell the Sidereals when their numbers exceed a hundred . . . or for that matter, when one of the castes receives a twenty-first member? They’ll want to meet with me… and I don’t think a distance meeting will do for this! It’s not like the Lesser Exaltations…”

His aura of power diminished to nothingness, although he still appeared to be composed of light.

Oh dear! Poor Lytek must have been pretty traumatized by the Usurption!

Well… It would have been something like having one of your seven kids holding you prisoner while he/she murdered three of the others in front of you. That would have been pretty hard to get over!

Was there a god of psychotherapy? And how long was his or her waiting list?

(Charles) “Hrm… Well, it is my fault. I could try to explain! The Sidereal ones might be a little odd though… They’re linked to fate-strands, and those strands may not exist in this universe. For that matter, I don’t really know if the designs are quite the same on all of them either! The divergence might have gone back that far, and the final collapse just been the end consequence!”

(Lytek) “Th… thank you. It’s a good thing that most of them think you’re a Primordial. And I wouldn’t worry about the lack of strands. The Sidereal Exaltations were made strong enough to function without a Loom… though I will have to analyze these for eccentricities!”

He didn’t seem happy about that prospect. That was a little odd really; he was known for being one of the few gods who loved his work… Maybe he was just a little weirded out? After all, not only had were these exaltations from another Creation, but these carried memories of… another him, of the worst moments of his life, of the destruction of Yu-Shan – and might well hold visions of his own death as the tides of the Wyld poured through the gates, the Celestial Lions fell, and the gods and Incarnae were unmade. There would have been a brief rise of hope as the geomancy of the Jade Prison failed and – for brief, shining moments – the Solar Exalted rose once more in Yu-Shan as shards gathered to empower the mortals valiant enough to join the defense with the gods. Still, those final defenses would fail as newborn Solars and Lunars new and Old, and Sidereals fell one by one – and there were no more candidates among the small, and swiftly dwindling, mortal population to replace them. Perhaps the last of the Exalted and the surviving gods gathered had about Lytek himself, and the cabinet, and the last hope of renewal – only to be overwhelmed at last by the tides of chaos.

Then, with humanity extinct, eons of drifting, purposeless, seeking eternally for worthy humans to empower – and finding none.

That made it reasonable enough that – when several humans had reappeared after the long eons, the Shards had gathered about them – even if they were already Exalted, and ineligible. Where some humans had appeared, more might come.

And then a gate had once more opened – beckoning home, with Lytek to welcome them and to clear away the memory-detritus of failure and more humans – indeed, more potential worthy candidates across the cosmos – than had ever lived in their original world.

Small wonder that the magic of the gate had flickered at the passing of the Celestial Host!

(Charles) “I’d better be more cautious about alternate creations! (Seeing the unhappiness) I am sorry! I didn’t mean to complicate things!”

(Lytek) “Don’t worry, Charles. I’m thinking about other issues as well.”

(Charles) “Any I can help with?”

(Lytek) “Perhaps… if you do something for me, first. It will seem like an odd request, but you need the necessary information to understand the problem.”

(Charles) “OK!”

(Lytek) “I’d like you to monitor any Sidereals you frequently interact with for physical ailments the Exalted shouldn’t have: chronic pain, bouts of nausea, vertigo, and the like. Of course, by frequently, I mean at all. They’re in Yu Shan so little these days.”

(Charles) OK! And I might be able to help with that after a bit!

(Lytek, looking sad) “I hope so. If you could get one from each caste, that would be even better.”

(Charles) “Scans I presume?”

(Lytek) “If you could manage it. I would be happy with names.”

(Charles) “I’ll see what I can do!”

(Lytek) “Thank you, Charles. Was there anything you needed while you were here? I received a mysterious message telling me you were likely to be away for a while. Is that true?”

(Charles) “Just for a bit! I need to pick up some things at Creation’s Wyld Interface! But I can get back pretty quickly if I have too; the distance to Yu-Shan through Elsewhere is just the same regardless of where you are in Creation!”

(Lytek) “Ah, the Borderlands… well, do be careful.”

Lytek’s aura of power was gradually coming back – and he started touching Charles; the sudden arrival of new Exaltations had shocked him so much that he’d forgotten to do it earlier… Unfortunately for Charles, this meant that he was making up for lost time.

Charles, feeling quite apologetic for shocking him so, squirmed less than usual – although Lytek never seemed to notice anyway.

Lytek was satisfied with the state of Charles’s Exaltation – even if he could also feel the world-body in it. That was a weird sensation for him.

(Lytek) “You ought to let your grandfather know, as well. I believe he had journeyed there for something.”

(Charles) “OK! I suspect that – near the Wyld – some narrative or other will pull us together anyway!”

(Lytek) “Then I will get started on these Exaltations… oh yes, speaking of Exaltations, I spotted some new beings in yours! Could you tell me about them? The Essence pattern was rather unusual.”

Charles made VERY sure of the privacy protections.

(Charles) “Uhm… That’s probably the Kickaha. I’m not sure what’s up with them. They were part of the research that went into the upper-level types, but they started with material beings – some mortal volunteers actually, like the ones in Arcosanti – and turned out to be self-reproducing. I seem to have accidentally created a magical species there, a bit like the Lintha or the Jadefolk or the Dragon Kings.”

(Lytek) “That’s not unheard of-your predecessors in the First Age made several magical species as well. But yours seems equal in power to your Sentinels. Even the Lawgivers never dared to create such a powerful entity.”

(Charles) “It’s just a little less I think – but they’re very close! It was an accident though.”

Lytek’s aura fluttered again. Accident?! What have I done!?

(Charles) “They’re quite friendly though!”

(Lytek) “Well, yes… but most Exalts don’t create things that powerful by accident…”

(Charles) “Well, you never know what you’re going to get when you do research!”

(Lytek nodded knowingly.) “Of course. I’m sure as long as you monitor them and ensure they’re developing properly, they’ll be fine.”

That was an inadvertent word of comfort there! “Research = Unexpected Things Happen!”

Exalted – Jouten Formation

Cherry crashing into primordial Earth

World Bodies... and their Cosmic Snacks

Primordials are often assumed to be “nothing but their charms”. They – at least based on the Ebon Dragon’s writeup – have Essence 10, Willpower 10, 1000 Motes, a hundred or so health levels, and… Charms.

They also have Jouten – ranging from Gaia’s (rather approachable) Emerald Mother on through Malfeas’s colossal-to-infinite world-body which grows, twists, convulses, and pulverizes continent-sized areas.

Jouten too are often presumed to have “nothing but their charms”.

That’s a bit of a problem though. To use senses, you need some Perception. If you don’t have any… you have no senses. Sure, you could stunt some way to sense things – perhaps direct essence-sensing – but how will you know that you need to? No Intelligence? That means that you have no memory without a stunt – and no way to know that you might need to stunt or way to come up with any. A rating of “0″ is NOT the same as not having a rating at all. Babies and mice may have several attributes at zero – or possibly even at negative ratings. Parsley, flatworms, and oak trees, on the other hand, have many attributes with no ratings; they don’t get any rolls in those areas and don’t get stunts in those areas either.

Most smaller Jouten are presumed to be able to walk around, pick stuff up, carry on a conversation, and so on, without having to find a way to fit it into their First Excellency.

The world-bodies have a variety of physical properties – bizarre atmospheres, earthquakes, deadly toxins, and more. These may be built into some sort of charm – “Manifest World Body” or some such – but if so it’s a permanent thing, unique to each user. That’s fair enough; the world-bodies certainly are certainly each unique enough.

Of course, Primordials are still presumed to be Idiot-Savants, and to be quite incompetent in most areas outside their first excellency. Ergo, while they must have some sort of dice pools to function, they can’t be very big compared to the kind of pools that an Exalt – or possibly even a Mortal – can come up with.

Sadly, we don’t have any good examples of actual statistics or abilities for Jouten save for the writeup for the Ebon Dragon – which, by it’s very nature, is a hollow mockery who only steals or mimics other peoples abilities.

Thus the manifestation of a Jouten is presumably an effect of a high-essence charm – but there really aren’t any guidelines for them.

That’s a potential problem. If the characters talk to the Emerald Mother, it would be nice to have some idea as to whether or not her opinion on something outside her specialty is likely to be coherent.

Ergo, here are some charms…

Voice Of (Primordial): Jouten Of The First Circle

Cost: —; Mins: Essence 4; Type: Permanent

 Touch of (Primordial): Jouten Of The Second Circle

Cost: —; Mins: Essence 6; Type: Permanent

Dance of (Primordial): Jouten Of The Third Circle

Cost: —; Mins: Essence 8; Type: Permanent

  • Keywords: Stackable (A given Primordial/Yozi/Neverborn may have up to three first circle, two second circle, and one first circle Jouten at any given time).
  • Duration: Permanent
  • Prerequisites: Possession of a World-Body and a Soul Heirarchy. The First Circle Charm is a prerequisite for the Second Circle charm, and the Second Circle charm is a prerequisite for the Third Circle Charm.

These charms are rather straightforward: they create a more reasonably scaled Jouten for an entity that already possesses a World-Body. This requires one week/month/year for the Voice/Touch/Dance version and rather a lot of motes – although, given that much time, that doesn’t matter much.

Far more advantageously, each variant provides a base form. A Jouten possesses (or at least can draw on) the Primordial’s powers and motes – but can also use the powers of it’s base form where those are better or if it doesn’t need primordial-level power at the moment. Thus, if a Jouten possesses Strength 2 and Athletics 2, it can pick stuff up with a 4d pool without stunting or using any other special powers it may possess, or calling upon its First Excellency.

The basic Primordial Forms are normally built as Commoner (First Circle), Noble (Second Circle), and Unshaped (Third Circle) Raksha – although they, as primordial manifestations, have no trouble functioning normally in Creation; they’re immune to calcification, respire normally, and are perfectly impervious to having order forced upon them. They also gain a +2 on their base essence, reduce all damage from shaping combat by their (Essence/2), and have an extra sixteen health levels (four each -0, -1, -2, and -4). Such basic Jouten are little more than shells however – although, if they’re destroyed it will normally only require the appropriate period of time to rebuild them. Sadly, if they’re destroyed by another Primordial – a creature of equal reality – the charm must be repurchased to rebuild them; the original version is gone for good.

More powerful base forms are possible; there is a version of this charm-sequence which uses the abilities of one of the Primordials/Yozis First Circle/Second Circle/Third Circle demons as a base – but few Primordials or Yozi’s use this version. Unlike a direct creation, such entities have their own motivations and desires, they influence their creator since those motivations and desires become a direct part of the Primordials mind, they can call on the Primordials power even when the Primordial isn’t paying attention – and if one is destroyed (which can be accomplished as usual), it hurts one hell of a lot more. The destruction of such a powerful Jouten costs both the charm and a point of permanent will, which will need to be repurchased as usual. Worse, until that will IS repurchased, the Primordial will be down (33 per level of the slain Jouten) motes due to the imperfection in its being.

Gaia, Kimberry, and a few others have been known to use versions based on their favorite creatures – Humans, Lintha, Dragon Kings, and various behemoths – but these are essentially equivalent to the basic version. Such creations, based on creatures far too weak to bear the power of a Primordial for even an instant, are mere shells.

The Neverborn Variant – if it’s even possible for the Neverborn to focus past their eternal agony for long enough to use charms and deploy a Jouten – will probably be based on the various horrors of the underworld. Given the fragmented minds of the Netherborn, it’s also likely to be equivalent to the more powerful variant – and will give some structure, and the ability to seek relief, to the Neverborn. This will make them even more hideously dangerous.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session LV – Wraiths, Wyldjumps, and Wanderers

Having seen the situation at Dun Shunkaha, Charles took a quick survey of a few of the other people, situations, and odd manses that were laying about… Yes, he sensed things that happened in Aden, but he only had so much attention to pay to things.

That was a little weird come to think of it. Could he make most of that unconscious like the kinesthetic feedback in a normal human body? Or perhaps delegate some of it?

Still, most things seemed to be going well… It really hadn’t been that long to start with, and the gates were reasonably well-hidden from hostile people. With plenty of resources and room, and a small population, there were few reasons for arguments outside of general human fractiousness. The worst dispute so far had been a local argument over whether they should expand the villages, more into some of the empty cities, or just ask.

The Baalgrogs had pointed them to the extra cities. Aden could handle a billion or two, and was set up for it. There was LOTS of room and magic in place to prevent explosive population growth and overcrowding.

Strange Manses included a spire on the western shore that emanated green light and hummed, a tree that seemed to be growing horizontally instead of vertically, and a ziggurat that appeared every morning and seemed to be inherently insubstantial.

Oh dear! What HAD he been trying to do there? Lets see… he vaguely recalled thinking about new lighting systems as an idle notion… Something about letting the light shine through elsewhere to exactly where it was wanted? And something to do with plant growth? Or was that another time entirely?

The tree… Hadn’t that been something Elzeard had mentioned? Something about deserts? The living-tree aqueduct notion? Or was it the shady banyan that made comfortable corridors across the desert and anchored sand dunes? And why as a manse?

And the immaterial one… Oh dear! He’d been thinking about his afterlife there! He probably had done something VERY odd! He hadn’t been meaning to start experiments like THAT for a little while yet! A tower designed to interface with the private heavens of those using the Dream of Heaven charm, or was it the cell phone tower for ghostly communications?

Well, he asked! The Guardians might have some idea of what he’d been up to!

Hm… According to the Guardians, the light spire seemed to be providing green light through Elsewhere. An examination of the links had revealed that demons avoided such illumination, no matter how much it was like home. The tree manse did seem to be equal parts water and wood, and produced lots of moisture… Was that the self-extending water-providing system?

As for the ziggurat… it did seem to be receiving transmissions from someplace charged with deathly Essence.

Deathly essence? His Dream of Heaven charm prevented real deaths, it didn’t involve any deathly essence… Oh dear! Had he been setting up to let people call deceased relatives on their cell phones? He couldn’t quite remember! He’d been very sleepy indeed that time!

Well, maybe it was the cell phone setup. He’d just have to take a look!

It was indeed an insubstantial ziggurat, made of obsidian and basalt. It had four entryways, one per side, at the top of sets of stairs. Antennae and communications towers protruded from every layer… Humans from ancestor worshiping cultures were already gathering, and setting up small refreshment stands, merchant stalls, and the like.

Well, no one had popped out yelling “Nooooo!” anyway…

Might as well take a peak inside!

Inside, the Manse was a bit cooler and darker than the rest of Aden – darker than even the Baalgrogs’ fleet of longships, which carried around their own private pools of shadow to be gloomy in. The necromantic energy was palpable, but controlled. It seemed to concentrate mostly around the smoky gray crystals in the interior. People were gathering around them and touching them. Occasionally someone would produce a small paper object, such as a nice suit or a car, and touch it to a crystal. The object then vanished.

Ah! The underworld-supplying function… Lightening up life there a bit with boosted grave-good supplies and a relay system for requests! Did the place store the memories of people who pass on to Lethe for them? That had been another of his ideas…

Hm! It would indeed perform that function, as long as there was a link – such as an item important to the deceased or a spell or something – in the place when a soul entered lethe – or, for that matter, was lost to oblivion. Huh. Which was more important? The Hun, the Po, the Memories… What was identity anyway?

What’s this? There were a bunch of people standing around one crystal, looking confused. From the conversation, a dead individual was attempting to make contact, but no one understood a word of the message.

Well, it definitely wasn’t an earthly language… Charles tried telepathy thaumaturgy!

(Ghost) “Finally, a thaumaturge! I was getting worried.”

(Charles) “Allo! What’s up? I thought things were generally fairly stable on that end…”

(Ghost) “Where am I? I was bringing a cargo shipment to Reinya’s World, and the next thing I know, I wake up and my ship’s buried in several teliks of this white stuff. I’m not sure how I got out, but here I am on the surface of the stuff.”

(Charles) “Hrm. Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you that you’re almost certainly dead – unless your route took you through the realms of the dead to begin with. Lets see… This location should allow ghosts to interact normally; shall I try to summon you?”

(Ghost) “Dead… dammit. My boss will not be pleased. You’re… not going to make me soulsteel, are you?”

(Charles) “That’s a horrible thing to say! It’s very hard to let people out of soulsteel!”

Hmm… Telik… a measure used in certain parts of space the Sidereals suspect were part of old Creation’s southeast.

(Ghost) “Okay, okay… definitely not going to make me soulsteel then. Boss said it was wise to ask in case I died. Go ahead.”

Charles went ahead and summoned him.

(Charles) “Allo there! Here! have a charm for English!”

The ghost looked like a cross between a satyr and a ferret.

(Ghost) “Hey, thanks! English, huh… how the hell did I get that close to Earth? That’s light years away from where I was heading.”

(Charles) “Oh, the tower here was designed to communicate with the dead I think – and it’s powerful enough to have quite a range… I’ll have to look into it; I was kind of sleepy when I created it, and a lot of the details escape me at the moment!”

(Ghost) “Wait, what? But you’re just a little-never mind. Anyway, this isn’t good! The boss worked really hard on that ship…”

(Charles, with interest) “What was it supposed to do?”

(Ghost) “Well… he’s been working on it with some of his buddies. He thinks the little folks deserve some protection on Wyldjumps, so he put in some anti-Raksha baffles and stuff and sent me on a test haul. I got through the jump in one piece. How’d I die, though?”

The ghost placed a paw to his chin.

Huh. Wyldjumps… more or less the Lunar form of interstellar travel. That WAS quite a range! They didn’t really have many Raksha troubles at this end of the universe!

(Charles) “You live near the Wyld then?”

(Ghost) “On the Tarvial end. Not sure if you’ve heard of it.”

Hm! That would place him more or less on that empire’s frontier. Still really quite near the serious wyld! The opposite end of the universe! And this fellow had the looks of a migrant from further out about him.

(Charles) “Ah. Well, at the moment you’re in a pocket-realm in Elsewhere, but we’re currently mostly linked with the Core of Creation; range doesn’t mean much when elsewhere is involved!”

(Ghost) “Think this is the closest I’ve been to Earth, then… Got anything to jog the memory? I’ve got some serious gaps here.”

(Charles, cheerily) “Hm… I suppose I can try!”

His telepathic probe ran into a charm that was blocking off the ghosts memories of his death. It was full of necrotic Essence. The source wasn’t quite at the elder Essence level, but it was pretty close. Still, it wasn’t being actively supported – and he had far more than enough thaumaturgic power to counter it easily enough!

Conveniently enough, peeking was a part of opening up those memories anyway.

Hm… The satyr-ferret had been in a well-used cockpit, going through the rainbow-colored tunnel of Essence that defined the Lunar “Wyldjump” interstellar travel charm… He’d emerged on the outskirts of a well-settled star system, with more than enough starship activity to qualify it as a trading hub. He’d been hailed by the system defense stations – and then, suddenly, black tendrils had grabbed his ship and drawn it out into the cold darkness of space. He’d frantically tried to pull away – but he’d felt a touch on his neck – and died. His new and confused ghost hadn’t been able to do anything but watch helplessly as a figure in a black void suit searched his void suit and grabbed a key from it. That individual hadthen opened up the door in the cockpit’s rear, gone into the holds – and come out a few minutes later with a package. It then activated various ship’s systems and used some other interstellar travel charm, opening up a way through inky, howling blackness – a path which had emerged at Earth. The new ghost had vociferously protested the entire trip, albeit to no effect. The figure in black had then pointed the ship towards the Earth, apparently aiming towards antarctica or the south pole, and programmed in a crash landing before teleporting away.

Huh. A serious deathknight could probably silence the ghost more effectively. The South pole… Wasn’t one of the major chaos zones there?

(Charles) “Anyone in particular you should tell about this?”

(Ghost) “Well, the boss definitely needs to know! Calls himself Undying Steer, but I’m pretty sure that’s an alias.”

(Charles) “Oh, it usually is! Hm… I have Righteous Hala’s number…”

He called her. He had to talk to her anyway!

(Hala) “Ah, it’s you, Charles. Something you need?”

(Charles) “Well, a couple of things! I’m talking to a new ghost from Tarvial who was running an errand for someone calling himself “Undying Steer” and got killed by someone who jumped the ship to earth through somewhere really nasty and needs to report now that I’ve broken the memory-block on him! Secondarily, I was going to run an errand out to the Wyld Regions, and I was wondering if you had any advice about it?”

(Hala) “Okay… that’s not good. I’ll try to find somebody capable of interstellar messaging for him. And what kind of errand?”

(Charles) “Courier trip of some sort. Should I put him on?”

(Hala) “Yeah, let me talk to him.”

Charles handed over the phone and they talked for a bit. When he handed it back he looked relieved, but a bit worried.

(Hala) “Some of my friends aren’t going to be happy about that one. The Convention of the Poles might have sent somebody to grab the ship by now, but I wouldn’t count on it. I’ll send my people down to investigate. His body needs to go back home… and I’d rather not have mortal researchers find the ship.”

Charles produced a small pamphlet – “Things to do when you notice that you are dead” and handed it to the ghost, who looked at him oddly, but read it.

(Charles) “And you’re welcome to stay for awhile if you want! There’s plenty of room here; ghost apartments don’t take up much space…

(Ghost) “Since it looks like I’ll be here for a while, sure!”

(Charles, to Hala) “Well, he can stay here for awhile. I don’t know about ships – but I do have to head out that way for awhile anyway!”

(Hala) “Yeah, I was about to ask about your errand. If you just need exotic ingredients, I know a guy who can shape some for you.”

(Charles) “Oh, it’s to retrieve some stuff for Gaia!”

(Hala) “Gaia!?”

While meetings with Gaia when she’s manifesting an avatar were not unheard of – sometimes she just liked to get out and meet people, or fiddle around with some creatures, or give evolution a little push – she usually didn’t meet with kids!

(Hala) “What kind of stuff?”

(Charles, doubtfully) “Maybe I shouldn’t go into that on a cell phone?”

(Hala) “Yeah… wow… I think I’d better come to where you are.”

This could be rather important! While Gaia occasionally intervened, she didn’t usually NEED anything! Gaia’s last major intervention that she’d needed something for had been… the Reshaping!

(Charles) “The gates are mostly around the Orrery at the moment!”

Hal turned up shortly. She’d gotten a quiet and discreet teleport through a friend, and had it set a good distance from the gate, and taken multiple forms on the way in, aside.)

(Charles) “Allo! Oh, and welcome to the Wraith Ziggarut!”

(Hala) “I don’t think this was here last time… but never mind for now! I’m sure you’ve got somewhere private set up.”

(Charles) “Oh, lots of places! Unless Zool is up top… but there should be plenty of private places around.”

He reinforced the privacy wards, and had some of his aides – there always seemed to be a few of the Guardians subordinates and Inukami hanging about these days for some reason – scout around… It seemed to be all clear for the moment – so he took them to the privacy manse… It had a bunch of tweaks to provide a perfect privacy effect, but was a silent witness so that someone else always knew things to keep them out of the library of secrets…

Hala sighed. Was the boy trying to have a specialty manse for EVERYTHING?

(Hala) “OK, I’m still a little incredulous. Gaia wanted you to get something for her? I can understand you finding her-she sometimes likes to watch and interact with the life around her.”

(Charles, looking a bit embarrassed) “Well… it’s one of those mouse-rat-cat-dog-tiger things… (in a rush) I wanted to put some gods back to work, and for that I needed to restore their domains, and for that I needed some planets, and they needed fixing up, and then I’d need some manses to make permanent gates, and those needed security, and will also link the planetary dragon lines into Yu-Shan and restore the old power levels, but a lot of manses in Yu-Shan seem to be broken, and some are damaged but stable, and powering things up again might cause a lot of explosions and geomantic disasters, so I need to fix all of them up, and doing that in any reasonable time will require attuning to them all at once, and for that I’ll need to use an awful lot of Wyld energy, and to keep things from getting out of control I need to have some help stabilizing the dragon lines in Yu-Shan, so I asked Gaia, and she said that she needed to have a tool Autochthon left, and that one of her Deva’s near the edge of creation had it, but would see me coming, and gave me a message from or about Gramps for her…”

(Hala) “Okay… take a breath there… Now tell me how you were going to do the stuff that led you to Gaia.”

(Charles) “Oh. Well, there are lots of barren planets, and some of the Guardians can fix them up with a few spells, and recreating extinct species is pretty easy. So that part is easy. Geographic features can be shaped and named readily, and having a few mortals accept the maps and names will work for most location gods and such. Manses are easy too, so I designed some to function as indestructible Yu-Shan gates to provide the links and bind the dragon line networks together. Fixing the manses… Well, I can normally only make a few at a time regenerate themselves, but if I use wyld energies I can boost that temporarily!”

(Hala) “So I guess you haven’t bounced this off the Department of Celestial Concerns or the Planning Group yet.”

(Charles, a bit tentatively) “I thought it would be better as a surprise. It’s much better for fixing things to be a pleasant surprise than it is to try to get permission. That will take centuries!

(Hala) “Not that I would mind fewer unemployed gods or more fertile planets, but both those groups could make a lot of trouble for you . . . and I don’t think they’ll appreciate you going over their heads. Although – what with the shell game you’re running – you might have a chance arguing with them.”

(Charles) “Well, the planets are mostly done, and the manses, and some other things… and Gaia likes it. I suppose I could just point out that she said it was fine… And curing up most of the deiphages and getting all the gods back to work would probably make most of Yu-Shan happy!”

(Hala) “Hey, I agree with that. Maybe you could talk one of her representatives into giving you a writ after this. It’d go a long way.”

(Charles) “Well maybe! And just running the errand will get things set up without necessarily keeping me from getting permission if it seems necessary.”

(Hala, nodding) “So… you’re heading off to the border to do this. You’re pretty well-protected against shaping, but Raksha aren’t the only threats out there. Pirates, Autocthonians, Abyssals… and you have to get out there in the first place. So what were you thinking of doing about that?”

(Charles) “Well… I have a direct gate or two, and I could just make a manse with one. There are some tests on the Stargate projects running now; but I’m not sure if they’re stable yet – but I could always wait a few days. I hope I can avoid meeting Abyssals (quite sadly);, it didn’t work out at all well last time. Pirates… well, they might be fun really, and I think I can probably make them stop anything naughty. Autochthonians… Well, they’ve got to be spread pretty thin, and I can always teleport!”

(Hala) “Ah, the naivete-wait, ABYSSALS? You met Abyssals? Tell me about that RIGHT NOW.”

That was definitely a “Mom” voice there!

(Charles) “Uhm… I was fixing a manse in South America with another thaumaturge, and three of them showed up to try and break it and blow up Brasilia. But… well, I powered the manse up to try and stop and catch them, but I overdid it and I couldn’t keep them from dying before I could get them out… At least I got their exaltations contained until Lytek could have them picked up, but he hasn’t been able to fix them yet. (rather distressedly) It went ALL WRONG!

Hala looked at Charles, dumbfounded. He’d been worried about the ABYSSALS?

(Hala) “It’s okay, Charles… you survived. I think many Exalts wouldn’t have. And what do you mean fix?”

(Charles) “Oh! Abyssal Exaltations are Corrupted Solar Exaltations; it’s fairly obvious when you examine one… But the changeover seems to be really hard to work on an Exaltation that isn’t in a host; a soul-interaction may be required.”

(Hala) “That explains some things, then… Still, you shouldn’t have exposed yourself like that!”

(Charles) “Well, outrunning an exploding manse is kind of hard… But I’ve got a lot more backup to call on now!”

(Hala) “Yeah, your own herd of souls. Still, I’ll be keeping an eye on you!”

(Charles) “OK!”

Hala sighed. She would have liked to accompany the boy. He was grotesquely powerful, and might be able to withstand a pretty horrific assault – but she would bet that he could be kidnaped by anyone who asked him for help and led him off. If there was actually something to fix at the destination he might not ever notice that he’d been abducted! On the other hand… She had far FAR too much to do in Yu-Shan at the moment!

There was another way though.

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...

But every day is Christmas Day!

Abyssals, run, for Luna’s sake!”

She did not even want to THINK about what would happen if they somehow made her mate a Neverborn! He might not be a “true” Primordial – but whatever path of transcendence he was on, it might just be close enough! It was hard to say where the exact boundary was anyway! At least he was still MOSTLY solar; the bond affirmed that!

Still… he did seem to be more resourceful than she’d dreamed. Three Abyssals would stymie even an experienced Lunar. Sure, a Full Moon could probably take one or two out, but they tended to run out of Essence fast.

If Hala had known about Devil Tigers she would be a lot more worried about that. She might have seen some in the Wyld and mistaken them for Primordials – but they weren’t exactly familiar…

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LIV – A Constellation Of Effects

Simulation of a permanent wormhole. Français :...

Are you quite sure you can’t figure out where the nexus is here?

Hmmm… The Stargate Project was moving right along with testing. There DID seem to be some instability problems, but at least the basic idea seemed to work. He’d just have to see if it could be rendered safe for use after the basic tests were done!

Fortunately, since all you needed to put a charm effect into an artifact was to have help from someone with the right essence type for it – even if they didn’t have such a charm themselves – he hadn’t had to ask a Chosen of Journeys (since they were the ones who could) to petition the Maidens to add an upgrade to the Mirror Shattering Method to the Sidereal Charmset.

The Sidereals were funny. Nobody ELSE needed to petition an Incarnae to develop new or upgraded charms!

Come to think about it, that really made no sense; a charm was simply essence motes channeled through some supernatural aspect of the user – one of the fundamental qualities that let you interact with essence (the universe, given that it was made up of essence) – into an appropriate, well-practiced, configuration that affected the world around it… In a lot of ways, it was just like using your hands!

At the most basic that was what let “stunts” work; they channeled motes from the chaotic substrate of reality into simple, limited, manifestations… That was why they rewarded creativity, didn’t work so well when repeated, and could supply motes ANYWHERE. That was also why they interacted with the will (“buying a success”) – the drive towards personal narrative – and why Raksha could do such fancy things with them. Of course, that also meant that how difficult they were varied with how tightly ordered the universe was locally – and with the order that you, personally, were imposing on it.

Charms didn’t draw on the substrate for power; they channeled your personal energies into effects – and so were more powerful, but were normally limited by the attunement – the “themes” – of those energies. Mortals didn’t normally get Charms because most of what power they had was routed into prayer. Of course, that COULD be viewed as a very limited set of charms; the nature of mortals was to be fearful and to need help – so their “charms” were things like “call on god”, “offer worship and sacrifice”, and so on – all of which did work a lot better for the ones with conscious access to their essence pools. Most of their other possible channels had been intentionally blocked off. If those channels were blown open – such as by some of his manses or by raising their essence too high – mortals could use spirit charms.

Upper-level Thaumaturgy and Sorcery were different because they pulled energy from the substrate and used it to create a channel into which you then poured more power of your own. That meant that you only had to shape the channel – and that meant that you could do things that were far outside your “themes” and on a greater scale if you had the skill, the will, and the number of motes required. It wasn’t as fast or efficient as using a charm, but it was far, FAR, more versatile. Spells LOOKED a lot like Charms, but they weren’t really.

Martial arts was a lot like Sorcery, but it pulled on ambient energy instead of the substrate. That was quicker and easier to get to, and to pull power out of – which made upper level martial arts very powerful indeed – but ambient energy differed form place to place, and so did just what high-order martial arts were usable (thus explaining the numerous differences from game to game as to what martial arts are allowable). While that also meant that Martial Arts could be manipulated and disrupted in a variety of ways, it was pretty rare for anyone to take advantage of that. Martial Arts “Charms” were more highly-specific skills than charms…

Anyway… Everybody could use stunts, thaumaturgy, martial arts, and sorcery – at least within limits – because those were basically external.

Almost everybody could invent and use Charms. Every kind of essence user had their own charms, paths, or what-have-you. Of course, mortals didn’t get to invent and use charms because they’d been intentionally blocked off from using them.

Wait. Most of the Sidereal Charmset really didn’t look like a natural expression of ANYTHING – and they couldn’t develop new charms. Their charms were supposed to be… physical objects hanging on the constellations.

Shouldn’t Sidereal Charms be internal matters? Everyone else’s charms were!

Did that mean that the natural Sidereal charmset was… sealed off? It WAS kind of hard to imagine that that convoluted collection of charms – not a few of them quite dysfunctional – were the natural expression of ANYTHING.

Lets see now… “The Maidens hand-crafted the Charms of their Exalted and affixed them to the stars of the twenty-five constellations. They have only rarely added to this gleaming roll of aptitudes… They have never been known to remove a Charm from the reach of their Chosen. In all likelihood, it is not within their power to do so… But neither is it within the power of the Viziers to craft new Sidereal Charms for themselves.”

So… Constellations could be broken. They were physical or quasi-physical arrangements of the ancient stars – themselves lights upon the old vault of heaven. That vault – or what was left of it – now existed Elsewhere. Were the ancient constellations manses?

Oh! He could ALREADY bestow new Charms outside their existing charmset upon selected Sidereals! All he had to do was let them attune themselves to a manse designed to bestow access to the Charm on those who attuned to it! That was the same trick he’d been planning to use to fake (if that would be “fake” having “Akuma”… (Charles hadn’t considered including a few mind-controlling manses in the setup to strip his “Akuma” of their free will, if only because he would have found the very notion utterly repellent. That didn’t mean that it wasn’t possible…).

As for the artifacts on the constellations… The Sidereals could sense the Constellations – and probably major magical things there – and so all you needed was some self-powered linking artifacts that established unbreakable and undetectable links… Let the Sidereals use their awareness to link to the Artifacts (1), and let the Artifacts establish the links to the Manse you’d designed to bestow your new charm, and then the Sidereals would have a new charm to play with!

(1) That would probably require that the artifacts be at least partially assembled with “Craft Fate” – and might be what barred the Sidereals from doing it; trying to work on something so intimately tied to their own fates would probably cause all kinds of paradox-feedback.

Still, why would the Maidens have blocked off their agents natural charmset?

Oh yeah. Avatars-of-inevitable destiny that wasn’t so inevitable after all. The worst control freaks in the long and cranky history of control freaks, and that included the primordials… They didn’t WANT their agents coming up with new stuff; they wanted to be in complete control of fate.

Maybe he shouldn’t mention that idea at the moment. Since he was out-of-fate and had major mental shields, he should be able to keep it quiet for the moment, no matter how tempting it was to go and find the constellations and hang some more charms on them!

Still, reaching a constellation to hang something on it would be hard… That aspect of things had to be at least partially elsewhere or something since the earth no longer had a physical sky with structures on it. That had been shattered during the Reshaping – and all that was currently known was that the actual stars had shifted, and the constellations- including the ones for the modern abilities – were probably Elsewhere.

Hm. That might be a complication for his Elsewhere Net… Fortunately, its probably nowhere NEAR big enough to grab a constellation. Still, you never knew… they COULD just be a set of slides, mounted over the essence-blaze of the Loom and shining through the lines of fate to project themselves back out of Yu-Shan and into the old sky. That would be a clever way to keep them safe from tampering! Shielded at the center of the loom that way anyone investigating where they appeared to be would find nothing but mist and light.

Of course, if one was damaged it would throw all kinds of malfunctions into the loom, but only the Sidereals could do that – and they would NEVER be stupid enough to strike at their own source of power!

He’d probably have to get a good look at one of the existing constellations before he could find a possible way to make more of them though! Those procedures were probably deep within Jupiter’s personal library.

Oh dear! He’d promised to find the Welfs some work – but he hadn’t checked on how old most of them were! It was a little different if they were averaging age six than it would be if they averaged around twelve of so.

Yes, Charles was ignoring the double standard with being eight in some ways himself.

Ah. Mostly between fourteen and sixteen, with a few of the Alphas being near-adults. Omegas were mostly the younger kids, and didn’t seem to have the strong urges the others seemed to have quite yet…

Huh. It looked like the physical rebuild wasn’t quite as complete in the ones he hadn’t personally worked on.

Anyway, they seemed most eager to do work that would get them outdoors and/or moving.

Well… he could offer them some dragon line / lost manse surveys on Earth, exploring alien worlds once he got some of the prototype stargates going (which shouldn’t be long now; most of the reported problems now were well within the range of the secondary artificers), running their own patrols in Aden to cover the wilderness areas with a little undercover work in the more urban areas, and some household surveillance at the inns and things, where they could easily disguise themselves as a local puppy…

They were particularly enthusiastic about the “alien worlds” option.

Well… no pregnant girls, and none

of the really young children, for THAT. Pregnant girls and kids could run Aden patrols or household survellience though. Younger teenage males could do the earthly dragon line surveys and maybe work up to the interstellar stuff that wasn’t quite ready to go anyway. They should be quite safe enough there!

Perhaps sadly, it never occured to Charles that sending a bunch of teenaged male Kickaha to run around Earth would doubtless lead to more wolfling god-bloods running around – albeit not for ten months or so.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LIII – Dun Shunkaha

Back in Aden, Charles was surveying things a bit… Sure, he could sense at things in there, but – at least until he was entirely used to it – he preferred to look at things with his own eyes. There were quite a few manses that he’d made while he was very sleepy, and experiments he hadn’t checked on lately, and other bits. Perhaps, before he left for the other end of the universe, he should check on what he was going to be carrying along!

Dun Shunkaha (the Wolf Manse, or perhaps “Manses with Wolves”?) had been one of Charles’s experiments in the line of research which had led to the Bazaar of the Bizarre and – ultimately – to making his Guardians. Like so many of his other experiments, it had been at least partially inspired by popular movies, comics, and role-playing games.

In this case, it was by things like “Werewolf The Apocalypse”, “Monsters Monsters!”, by various Wolf and Werewolf movies, and by various other myths and books.

Of course, unlike most “werewolf” sources, Dun Shunkaha started off with normal human children and turned them into fluffy, friendly, helpful werewolf / wolf-spirit creatures – “Kickaha” – that were MUCH nicer than the ones in Charles’s source material…

It had been much easier to overlay an existing pattern onto the test subjects than it would have been to empower them entirely from scratch – but the experiment did show him both the benefits and the limitations of that particular method; the base creature got a MASSIVE dose of the habits and instincts of the template creature. In this case his subjects had gotten awfully canine and rather territorial, as well as being jumped straight from physical childhood into semi-adult bodies and granted substantial magical powers.

His four test-subject volunteers had been small, orphaned, children with no one to care for them – and with either emotional traumas that they wanted to escape (he had, after all, pulled them out of war zones) and/or congenital damage that was difficult to cure. They mostly didn’t have the life experience to avoid letting those wolfish mental patterns impact their personalities – or a lot of common sense… Well, he’d fix that next time! As for these four… well, small children tended to form “packs” anyway and now they could play all they wanted to; Aden had lots of room!

Dun Shunkaha empowers normal kids as a “guardian force” – using wyld-revocation based bilocation to keep them effectively “in” the manse at all times (which also makes them very hard to kill), mutagenic effects to provide relevant mutations, upgrading the life-sustaining function that they’re all constantly exposed to to let them expend a few motes to trigger (or to NOT trigger) it’s effects, and provides some artifact-benefits for all of them (a Behemoth Cloak

Possible representation of the Werewolf Españo...

Now understand, these are just some preliminary sketches...

and some utility items). Not surprisingly, the youngsters all undertook the Adenic Thaumaturgic Initiation as soon as they found out about it. The Guardians saw no reason not to let them…

Unlike Guardians, Kickaha don’t have massive geomantic powers, a geomantic network, or forty dots worth of artifacts and the combined powers of multiple manse guardians to draw on. They’re a lot more physically-oriented than the Material Gods of the Bazaar of the Bizarre too; they lean much more heavily towards toughness and attributes and tend to rely fairly heavily on their modest selection of spirit charms.

Charles had made sure that his volunteers generally meant well, and had checked out the basic patterns of the results – but then basically patted them on the head, told them to behave themselves and to have fun, and wandered off without actually giving them anything to do except to play with each other and compete for fun, dominance, and attention. There was a general urge to help out and serve him, but that wasn’t something that Charles had intentionally added; it came with bonding to a manse that was an outgrowth of his soul.

He didn’t approve of exerting unnatural mental influence over people, but that was acceptable as long as it was volunteers linking themselves to a power source… It helped protect them against non-magical exploitation anyway!

When he dropped back by, Charles found that things had – once again – run off in an unexpected direction. He’d expected the Kickaha to play with each other and sometimes explore Aden a bit – even if they would naturally tend to hang around Dun Shunkaha a lot.

He hadn’t counted on the fact that Dun Shunkaha could easily support up to six hundred and fifty of them… “Go and recruit more kids to play with” had NOT been among his intentions! Of course, the Kickaha were as impulsive as he was…

Despite what many people thought, anticipating consequences, and long-term planning, were not among his better talents. Besides… if youngsters wanted to become magical werewolf things, why shouldn’t they?

With that many of them using Dun Shunkaha as a central clubhouse, territoriality, dominance, games, and access to various special resources were becoming important factors. After all, while Charles was stalling, the Kickaha got catapulted straight to quasi-adulthood.

When Charles got around to checking on Dun Shunkaha he found a LOT of childlike but physically adolescent-adult werewolves hanging around.

(Charles) “Hey! I thought there were only like, four of you guys!”

(Lounging werewolf) “We found more!”

(Charles) “Er… Well, OK, as long as they wanted to be like you guys!… And how are you all getting along? And how many of you are there now?”

(Another young Kickaha) “There are almost six hundred and fifty of us! We have lots of fun together!”

(Charles) “Well that’s… good. (Wait, this was mostly youngsters…) Do you need some games or something?”

(Assorted werewolves) “Yay, games!” “I like soccer!”

There were calls for a wide variety of games – mostly outdoor sports of course – which was just a bit weird when apparent adults started chiming in… Well, they WERE all inherently young adults, even if they could shapeshift (maybe the more dominant ones liked to look older?).

Charles made sure that there were plenty of games….

Did they do much of anything else? Hang around Hobbit inns and guard them or something? He did some scanning and made some inquiries.

It looked like they… guarded Hobbit inns, gently teased the Baalgrogs, roved the wilderness near Dun Shunkaha, watched Sidereals from hiding, played games with the kids from rescued communities, made territories, occasionally held pack-hierarchy dominance duels, and indulged in various other physical activities. They seemed to be taking advantage of the available, and bountiful, resources.

They were still recruiting on occasion too… wait, had they come up with a charm that let them expand their numbers more?

Charles watched a duel; there was plenty of everything, so it couldn’t be too serious!

Blood did get drawn – but only a few scrapes (if sometimes enough to make them spend a few motes regenerating). Basically it was until somebody yielded… Nothing even lethal enough to drive someone back to the manse, although one kid had apparently gotten his arm broken last week and had had to wait HOURS for it to heal.

Well, there was nothing at all wrong with that!

Charles set up a few more entertaining dueling areas – with unusual environments and such for them to play and practice in – and talked to one of the winners…

(Charles) “So you’re in charge now? In charge of what?”

(Alpha) “Well, this pack right here!”

That was… around twenty individuals.

(Charles) “What do you do with them? Pick the games?”

(Alpha) “That – and I get first pick of the girls!”

(Charles, who’s biological skills were high enough so he did know how that worked – even if he still considered it sort of icky) “Well, if that’s how you want to do things…” (Huh. They can certainly produce offspring, but what would they be like? Doubly god-blooded?). “And I guess the “beta” there gets the next choice? Or are you the only one in the pack who breeds?”

(Alpha) “Oh, we all breed. I just get first pick every day, and we stop when the girls get bored or tired.”

Charles was rather embarrassed now… Oh dear! He wasn’t anticipating a daily orgy when he made them. Was it just because they have no work to do to occupy them with anything ELSE? That seemed likely! After all, why would they work? They had everything they needed.

(Charles) “Are any of the girls pregnant yet?”

What was he going to say if the answer was “Sure! All of them!”?!?! That would be even MORE awkward!

It was about a third. Elzeard – with more foresight than Charles – had made sure that Maiden Tea was available, and Aden tended to keep things somewhat under control anyway.

(Charles) “Have any delivered yet? It’s been what… five? maybe six? – months…”

That would be fast for pure mortals, but with material gods it was kind of hard to tell!

Not yet, but some were quite far along, with a pretty even distribution among the trimesters.

Charles got Elzeard to take a look and see what they were going to be like… He was not ABOUT to poke at pregnant girls stomachs! They could be producing move Kickaha, god-bloods, or something entirely odd…

Elzeard reported that – except for the manse-artifact boosts, which gave a modest advantage to the “first generation” (at least until the others got their own artifacts) they seemed to be… self-reproducing.

Oh dear! Hopefully they’d at least have reasonably long childhoods. If it was “grow to adulthood overnight and start breeding” something would have to be done!

(Charles) “And would you like something to do in addition to the (he winced a bit)… regular orgies?”

(Alpha) “Sure! We’d be happy to help out more than we are.”

(Charles) “Well, I’ll try to think of something! Although, obviously enough, most of the girls will need to spend time on child care soon.”

(Alpha) “Yeah… we’ll need something else to do… How about patrolling? The Baalgrogs do it too, but they’re so pretentious!”

(Charles) “Well, I bet you guys can be inconspicuous – both visually and magically – really well too!”

(Alpha) “OK!”

(Charles) “And I’ll see if there’s anything else more exciting to do!”

They liked that idea – especially the males. The females were going to have quite enough to do all too soon… At least most of them were having only one child to rear! That was MUCH better than litters in this case!

And Elzeard predicted a normal length of childhood. That was good too!

Well, they didn’t really seem to need much of anything right now – although he could think of some jobs; perhaps a bit of planetary exploration here and there…

And now he knew that manse-guardians based on upgraded mortal species with mutagenic manses could effectively become magical species. That should be fun to experiment with!

Elzeard sighed. This little quasi-exaltation experiment of Charles’s had yielded some unexpected results – and some rather randy youngsters. Perhaps the Kickaha represented Charles’s delayed adolescence?

Exalted – Quick Gods

Our current Exalted game involves rather a lot of gods, demons, and other spirits – as friends, allies, companions, creations, and devas. Unfortunately, the rules for generating them are kind of convoluted. Ergo, here’s a considerably quicker method of building them; just use the chart rather than messing about with all those formulas…

  • Demons and Essence: First Circle: 2-4, Second Circle: 5-7 (Occasionally 8), and Third Circle: 9-10 (Occasionally 8).
  • Gods and Essence: Least: 1, First Rank: 2, Second Rank: 3, Third Rank: 4-5, Fourth Rank: 6-7, Fifth Rank: 8-9, and Entities Beyond Rank (10).
Ess Virt Att (Max) Ability Charms Will Pool Soak Health: -0…
1 10 29 (5) 10 18 7 45  +3 5x-1,4x-2,-4
2 11 34 (6) 20 21 8 60  +4 6x-1,5x-2,-4
3 12 39 (7) 30 24 8 70  +5 6x-1,5x-2,-4
4 13 44 (8) 40 27 9 85  +6 7x-1,6x-2,-4
5 14 49 (9) 50 30 9 95  +7 7x-1,6x-2,-4
6 15 54 (10) 60 33 10 110  +8 7x-1,7x-2,-4
7 16 59 (11) 70 36 10 120  +9 7x-1,7x-2,-4
8 17 64 (12) 80 39 10 130  +10 7x-1,7x-2,-4
9 18 69 (13) 90 45 10 140  +11 7x-1,7x-2,-4
10 19 74 (14) 100 51 10 150  +12 7x-1,7x-2,-4

That leaves just a few choices:

  • You can move up one or two (the maximum) ranks in attributes, charms, or abilities by trading in a similar number of ranks from among the other columns in the group. Want to have high attributes? Take +2 ranks there for (say) -1 rank each on your charm and ability selections.
  • You may select one favored ability.
  • You may spend fifteen bonus points. +1 Essence costs 7, +1 to an Attribute or +1 Charm costs 4, +2 to an Ability, Virtue, or Willpower costs 2, and +1 to a Background or picking up two specialty dice costs 1. Merits and Flaws work as usual; many gods have some mutations to represent their inhuman forms. NPC Gods usually spend a few points on mutations to represent any inhuman features and a few more on Artifact to represent their panoplies – but may leave the rest unspent.
  • You may select your charms.
  • You may also expend up to (Essence) charm slots on each of the following bonuses: +10 Motes (Essence Plethora), +1 Will (Reserve of Will), and +2 Health Levels (One -1 and One -2, Ox-Body Technique).

With the original divine mechanics, any god who didn’t sink at least three bonus points into Cult was being stupid and shortchanging themselves. On the other hand, taking Cult 4+ was awkward. Ergo, this chart assumes a “Concept Reliant” Cult-3. A “cult” with this modifier costs two bonus points more than a normal cult and can only exceed Cult-3 with special permission from the game master, but relies on widespread general belief rather than a specific group. In other words, it’s not going away, and it’s not increasing. You can’t call on your followers, but neither do you have to look after them.

The compensating disadvantage is “no figured characteristics”. A spirit made this way CAN spend bonus points buying up virtues and such, but – since  we’re using a chart – those won’t affect later calculations, since we’re not making any. This -5 flaw pays for the assumed cult.

Given the gargantuan expansion of Creation in the modern setting, a considerable majority of the current gods are using this mechanic.

The Spirit Charm list is very long; ergo, here’s a very short version…

Essence 1

  • Amethyst Awareness: All-Encompassing Sorcerers Sight
  • Benefaction: Target gets +1d on some sort of roll.
  • Call: Sends a message to a group.
  • Divine Decree: Manipulate the environment towards stated ends.
  • Dreamscape: Send targets dreams.
  • Essence Bite: Gain a damaging aura.
  • First (Ability) Excellency: +1d/Mote up to (Essence) dice.
  • Landscape Hide: Inhabit the Landscape.
  • Malediction: Inflict a 1d penalty on some type of roles.
  • Measure the Wind: Sense essence scores
  • Natural Prognostication: Reveals the Destiny background.
  • Plague of Menaces: Makes subject a target for spirits.
  • Second (Ability) Excellency: +1 Success/2 Motes, up to (Ess/2) successes.
  • Signet of Authority: Lend someone your authority over subordinates.
  • Spice of Custodial Delectation: Gain motes when your domain is cared for.
  • Subtle Whisper: Make Natural Mental Influence inobvious.
  • Third (Ability) Excellency: Get to reroll for 4 Motes.

Essence 2

  • (Element) Dragons Embrace: Grant minor bonuses and penalties.
  • Affinity (Element) Control: Manipulate a particular element nearby.
  • Animating Management: Possess Objects.
  • Blessed (Element) Body: Absorb a type of elemental energy to gain motes.
  • Bread of Weak Spirit: Eat another spirit.
  • Calculated Order of Immediate Action: Accomplish Domain-Related tasks with great speed.
  • Domain Manipulation Scenario: Make whatever you’re in charge of do plausible things.
  • Harrow the Mind: Inflict a Belief
  • Host of Spirits: Create cheap copies of yourself.
  • Hurry Home: Teleports Home
  • Intrusion-Sensing Method: Monitors your domain for an event.
  • Landscape Travel: Boosts movement.
  • Loom Stride: Short range teleport.
  • Meat of Broken Flesh: Drain Motes with attacks.
  • Memory Mirror: Read memories and intentions
  • Paper Tiger Arrangement: Create a local illusion.
  • Paralyze: Turn damage into effects.
  • Possession: Posseses a target.
  • Sense Domain: Surveys the user’s domain.
  • Shapechange: Alter form, gain minor bonuses (usually about Ess+2 mutation points).
  • Sheathing the Material Form: Add Soak.
  • Spirit Cutting: Affect immaterial beings.
  • Stoke the Flame: Induces an Emotion
  • Taste of Mortality: Removes Exalt-level healing abilities.
  • Touch of Eternity: Grant Exalted health benefits.
  • Tracking: Sets up an arcane link to the thing touched.

Essence 3

  • Bane Weapon: Attacks do aggravated damage versus a target type.
  • Claws of the Angry Dragon: Temporarily drain powers.
  • Creation of Perfection: Become tangible to everything.
  • Divine Prerogative: Makes an Intimacy unbreakable.
  • Dreaded Embrace of Mundanity: Negate Excellencies – painfully.
  • Endowment: Grant dots and charms – mostly to mortals.
  • Eye of Inspiration: Let someone use one of your excellencies
  • Foretell The Future: Get some information about what is fated.
  • Fruit of Living Essence: Steals motes or Will.
  • Hoodwink: Brief Mental Stun
  • Impromptu Messenger: Talk through something near your target.
  • Infinite (Ability) Mastery: Reduces the costs of Excellencies.
  • Material Tribulation Divestment: Briefly Dematerialize as a defense and shed various effects.
  • Materialize/Dematerialize: Manifests an expensive body
  • Mimic of Tongues: Speak all languages.
  • Mind-Knife Sacrament: Inflict Mental Damage or Training Boosts.
  • Mirror of the Infinite Wardrobe: Illusory Disguise.
  • Portal: Open a gate to your nearby sanctum.
  • Principle of Motion: Store extra actions.
  • Ride: Merge with a host.
  • Scourge: Drains traits and charms.
  • Storm Shuttle Passport: Long-range travel via storms.
  • Touch of Saturn: Inflicts damage and various nasty effects.
  • Touch of Divinity: Bestow motes, will, or other spiritual boost.
  • Weather Control: Slowly changes local weather.
  • Words of Power: Turn words into attacks.
  • Worldly Illusion: Hold Instant Conference.

Essence 4

  • Banish: Sends individuals, groups, or items away from a domain.
  • Chrysalis of Preservation: Preserves Objects and Creatures.
  • Destiny Sponsorship: Protects the user from various minor troubles.
  • Emergency Prayer Relocation: Make temporary low-powered visitations in response to prayers.
  • Hollow Out The Soul: Drains a host to make it easier to control or weaken it.
  • Melodious Diagnostic Report: Finds the source of a domain project and may find how to fix it.
  • Regalia of Authority: Command others through UMI.
  • Shatter: Area Effect Attack.
  • Touch of Grace: Minor Healing.
  • Wine of Infinite Heartbreak: Enthrall and drain mortals.

Essence 5

  • Divine (Ability) Subordination: Auto-succeed on a roll.
  • Capture: Snatch targets into your sanctum.
  • Commander: Influence exorcism attempts.
  • Form Reduction Technique: Becomes a weaker creature.
  • Geas: Force a target to work on a task.
  • Hand of Destiny: Move inevitably towards a goal.
  • Shattered Adamant Attack: Attack while immaterial.
  • Symbol of Invincible Authority: Immunity to things related to your domain.

Essence 8

  • Legalisms of the Creators: Provides summoning resistance.

Gods are just as free as anyone else to come up with new charms – and it’s encouraged – but these are the standard selection.

Exalted – The Evolutionary Principle

  • Cost: ––; Mins: Conviction OR Survival 3, Essence 2; Type:  Permanent
  • Keywords: None
  • Duration: Permanent/Scene
  • Prerequisite Charms: None

A character with this charm may adapt on the fly to changing  circumstances, drawing new possibilities from deep within themselves.

Whenever the user gains motes from a Stunt, he or she also gains an equal  number of temporary XP – which may be spent without regard for training  times or (in the case of buying mutations) explanations. Sadly, both the XP  and it’s benefits go away at the end of the scene and the user may not profit from more than (Essence x 8) points of temporary experience at any one time –  although new awards can be spent on things to replace old  ones.

OK, this is weird in terms of the usual game rules – but it does mean that the characters will have combat abilities that they have to build up to – rather than starting off by using their most powerful abilities at the beginning of a fight.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LII – Lytek’s Inspection

Charles was pretty sure that the Exalted were all cursed or badly flawed or some such… It was kind of hard to miss really!

  • The Dragon-Blooded were meant to be a highly organized, disciplined, army. They split into hostile factions at the drop of a hat.
  • The Lunars were meant to be able to adapt to anything – but couldn’t manage to adapt to rational civilizations, or the borderlands, or the wyld too effectively.
  • The Sidereals were meant to advise and teach, but they were almost always wrong, created major disasters, and taught lessons that often destroyed their students.
  • The Solars were meant to be heroes and monster-slayers – but tended to become monsters themselves.

It wasn’t a very big jump to “You know, maybe something has gone wrong!”

Fortunately, Charles was not the only individual who had seen it. Lytek had been researching mitigation for millennia – and Charles had more than enough experience even at his age to suspect that whatever Lytek had done to HIM had probably not been the first attempt. Still, he also suspected that he’d gone a bit off-track and out-of-control.

Charles was heading to visit Lytek… He was pretty much done building Aden for the moment, and he wanted to drop by and show Lytek the finished project!

When he did so, Lytek’s aura of light dimmed to a mere flicker for a few seconds – and his jaw slowly dropped as he took in the scale of the world-body.

(Charles) “Well, you and Grandpa mentioned finding a way to carry manses with me! Isn’t it good? I thought it worked pretty well!”

(Lytek, quickly but not completely recomposing himself) “Err… you’ve certainly exceeded my expectations on that. Well done, Charles.”

(Charles) “I made some guardians and things too!”

(Lytek) “Also impressive… how many of them?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Seventy-two third-circle types in sets of three, about a hundred thousand each first and second circle types.”

The aura of light dimmed again.

(Lytek) “Circles… as in devas? Knowing you, they would be friendly. Please, could you introduce me to one?”

What is this!? I was only intending to fix the structural flaws! This is COMPLETELY unanticipated! Were those flaws… the only thing stopping THIS? Could the child actually be becoming a primordial?

A lot of humans told their children “You can grow up to be anything you want to be”. When you added an Exaltation to that… Was it true? Was that why Celestial Child-Exalts were almost unheard of?

Charles was personally willing to do some introductions… There were visits to three; Elzeard Treeherd, Mishinago the Philosophical Storm, and Chaffri the Far Traveler.

Lytek seemed mildly nervous at first – but Charles’s Guardians were friendly, charming, and reassuring: just like Aden itself. There were no more notable fluctuations in Lytek’s power aura – although he asked them about their relationship to Charles, their purposes, and the hierarchy of Aden.

He also concealed his presence from any Sidereal investigators present, or even within the same region… Fortunately, at more than a hundred thousand square miles, the few Sidereals in Aden were quite unlikely to be anywhere near – particularly when the third-circles took privacy precautions, had perfect effects, and they were meeting in a manse that provided perfect privacy in any case.

The Guardians readily diverted Charles during the bits about “we think he needs some supervision and looking-after” – but personally… Mishinago liked to be helpful, liked to terraform planets (which he was happy to show Lytek), and was a bit of a socialite/party person. Elzeard was kind of… intense, but also likes to build or rebuild planetary ecologies – and gladly talked about the Sahara Sea and his next desert-fixing project. Chaffri was a bit of a tourist / travel agent / tour guide sort, and was full of fun facts about many interesting places. He was currently helping out with the stargate project.

Lytek still wasn’t taking chances. He was startled at the scale of their efforts in Creation – and, as a high-tier divinity, knew that those efforts were barely registering on the Loom.

Since Mishinago, Elzeard, and Chaffri knew him already, they engaged him in conversation about his work – and (while Charles was carefully diverted) asked about what he’d done to Charles so that they could help look after him. They were, after all, basically gods – and so were born mature, while Charles definitely was not.

Lytek gave out some judicious details: albeit nothing that would get him in trouble with the Bureaucracy. Mishinago learned quite a bit about what Lytek did, although he didn’t quite know the Alchemical connnection yet…

Mishinago had gotten Charles to check out one of the nearby Baalgrog patrols. When he got back the deva and Lytek were having a pleasant conversation about office decoration.

Charles suspected nothing. He usually didn’t!

(Charles, to Lytek) “Anyway, the world-body seems to have the Sidereals confused for the time being, and it’s helping me get a lot done anyway!”

(Lytek) “I can see how. You seem to be planning to rejuvenate Creation under their noses.”

(Charles) “Well, it needs fixing!”

Lytek smiled approvingly, while privately wondering if he’d created a new-and-unique terror, the “helpful monster”!

(Lytek) “And with that, create more domains… and renovate Yu Shan.”

OK, he had to approve – but did Charles HAVE to be so blasted obliging? He knew what the boy had been doing for the Bronze, and he was more than a bit ambivalent about it. On the one hand, a safer Yu Shan was good for Exalted survival. On the other, the Bronze had REALLY slighted him. While Charles obviously thought that it was time to forgive and forget, he wasn’t quite sure if that meant much when the boy was fully prepared to do it instantly!

Charles wasn’t worried. If he rejuvenated Yu-Shan, the Bronze Faction’s purpose would fall apart – and possibly the faction with it. He wasn’t really worried about the faction, just the people in it.

(Lytek) “Thank you for hosting me, Lord Mishinago. We should meet again some time.”

(Mishinago) “Certainly! I am virtually always available in Aden, and often elsewhere – and if you should happen to require assistance at some point I am quite sure that Charles would like me to help you out!”

(Lytek) “And the same for you…”

Lytek bowed – and Mishinago, of course, bowed back.

Lytek was most impressed – and delighted by the general benevolence – but STILL. The Guardians were less powerful than the Incarnae – but the margin wasn’t THAT large compared to the gulf between them and normal entities!

(Lytek, away from Mishinago) “I assume your grandfather knows about this? He would be quite interested.”

(Charles) “Oh yes! He took a look earlier! Although the third circles weren’t yet done at that point… I should probably let him know about them too!”

(Lytek) “I haven’t seen him in a while . . . I hope he’s all right. His work keeps him busier than even that position should. It’s an impossible task. Anyhow, I think you are busy, even with a soul hierarchy’s help. Was there anything else you wanted?”

(Charles) “Oh, I just wanted to show you what was going on! You might really need to know at some points – and you might need to know that there was help available at some point too!”

(Lytek) “I appreciate it, Charles.” (He delicately stroked Charles on the head.) “I’ll certainly keep the Guardians in mind.”

HOW had the child made a world-body and his own devas? That was unprecedented! Even his beloved Lawgivers had never reached this height of personal motonic development! Who would have thought that you could carry geomancy so far? Certainly there was fabulous amounts of power lying around, but there was no way to channel it into anything short of a manse!

He would have to speak to both Righteous Hala and Lord Richof as soon as he possibly could. It was VERY good that Charles had found his Lunar Bondmate – or vice-versa – although it would have been nice if she weren’t so busy with Celestial politics and Lunar activities. It would be nice to have someone supervising the child!

Or at least keeping him from filling up his world-body with cartoon characters and “jedi” and other pop culture references! That sort of thing was far beneath the dignity of the Exalted! (The Baalgrogs did raise his hackles a bit. Mishinago said they were quite nice, if a bit depressing, but Lytek still found them hard to take seriously – although he certainly hadn’t told the Deva’s that).

Asking the Sidereals to do it brought up a LOT of political and personal issues, even beyond the Usurpation – but “I was shaping reality while half asleep” was also far less than ideal. At least the Guardians could supervise him in Aden now!

That “Elsewhere Net” thing was kind of worrisome (if fascinating) though… In theory it could retrieve artifacts belonging to Exalts’ prior incarnations – even if, considering the casualty figures for Raksha during the Balorian crusade, 99.9999% of the time you would simply get random Raksha junk. Still, he’d want to see a demonstration when Charles had worked out the kinks!

He’d noted that Charles had some graces (he thought that they were very good for tools!) – but Raksha were not generally a part of his domain… as long as Charles is careful in his dealings with them, and didn’t cart them into Yu-Shan, he wasn’t too concerned. After all, he knew the extent of the boy’s defenses!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LI – The House At The End Of Creation

It was a week or two before Charles discovered a major hangup in his plans to feed a flood of power into the manses and dragon lines of Yu-Shan.

There were close to 50,000 levels of manses in the city – but quite a lot of the manses of Yu-Shan were… broken. INTACT manses would have no problem with the dragon lines surging back up to full power. The places that had reverted to demesne status could be managed… Essence users were generally unaffected by demesnes and the mortals sensibly avoided them. Damaged manses however… bringing the dragon lines up to full power might set off geomantic explosions and disasters across Yu-Shan!

No wonder things were going wrong though! The manses stabilized the dragon lines, so damage to the manses reflected uncontrolled energies back into the dragon lines, which meant geomantic damage – and that meant all kinds of things in the infrastructure going wrong! Why had things been allowed to get into this condition? Why wasn’t anyone doing maintenance?

The answer there, of course, lay in the current state of Yu-Shan… Roughly 45% of the Celestial City was still held by the forces of sanity – and even there could be found many primordial mysteries, systems that no longer functioned, inexplicable geomancies, and things that had been sealed away from time out of mind… Even the canal flows and the communications networks – founded upon manses and geomancies that should have been nigh-eternal – were becoming erratic. Another 10% was made up of the reclaimed territories, the holdings of powerful – but often erratic – gods (the sensible ones moved further in when things went bad), and various outposts. Perhaps 5% consisted of marginal territories – the buffer zones / slums that lay between the “civilized” areas and the 35% or so of Abandoned Zones – the haunts of deiphages, criminals, strange entities that had slipped into Yu-Shan, and decay. Here, outright reversals – or strange whirlpools in the canals were common, outages of communication and strangeness were all too common.

The final 5% or so was made up of places where no one went at all – places that had been sealed since the Primordial War, or where strange and terrible essence-storms, or entrapping geomancy, or things that even the primordials had wondered about, lay bound.

In those zones were damaged or entirely ruined manses and wild demesnes – the legacy of the Great Contagion, the Balorian Crusade, and the other great disasters of Creation – who’s turmoil had been reflected into the Celestial City.

The Bronze Faction operations and certain Lunars had rebuilt a few – but, as always, red tape was a problem.

There were… at least according to Charles’s hurried surveys, hurriedly-collated celestial reports, having flying aides take a physical look, and deploying some mapping artifacts (A Geomantic Hive, a rank-5 artifact full of dragon-line essence drones that greatly expanded the range and scale of geomantic mapping and other operations).

As it turned out, there were – or at least SHOULD BE – 788 Rank-5, 2412 Rank-4, 4782 Rank-3, 6914 Rank-2, and 4011 Rank-1 manses out there – and likely some more deep down, or geomantically concealed, or otherwise overlooked.

Of those…. Roughly 60% were still functioning properly. A fair percentage – skewed towards the higher-powered and more unstable manses – were gone entirely – detonated, sealed away, shut down and destroyed, or so powered-down as to have gone inert.

That left… 73 Rank-5, 269 Rank-4, 384 Rank-3, 715 Rank-2, and 486 Rank-1 manses that were damaged but still channeling essence to some degree.

Even for Charles that was going to take a great deal of fixing! An impractically long time too! But he couldn’t risk all those explosions and things… With that much damage, it might disrupt the geomancy of all Yu-Shan – and Yu-Shan controlled rather a LOT of things in creation. The Loom of Fate was pretty important!

And – rather more importantly – it might hurt a lot of people who were already hurting…

The Cauldron-Born stirred… the time was coming. A wave of chaos would soon wash over the geomancy of heaven. The forces of order would attempt to contain the shining dream – but with their help, chaos would prevail – not to destroy, for creation was their refuge as well – but to bring the wonders of chaos to all, seeding pockets of wyld energies into the nature of the world, rather than leaving the encysted behind barriers. Even the humans yearned for such a world; their art, their movies, and their anime, all dreamed of a wider, more wonderful, world. With so many cinamystic dreams to back them, how could they fail?

Then they went back to trying to decide whether they wanted to watch Trigun, Hellsing, or Ah My Goddess again.

Charles was musing… the only thing that could possibly let him fix all of THAT in any reasonable time would be using Wyld Energies to temporarily extend his ability to make manses regenerate through the dragon lines of Yu-Shan – but THAT could have some awfully odd consequences even if the Cauldron-Born didn’t use it to spread chaos somehow. Especially if Yu-Shan WAS a napping Primordial. It would probably take some amplifier artifacts too, but that wasn’t all that hard. He could try opening up gates a few at a time to see what he would need to fix – but that would just be spreading the problem out over time and would be even less efficient than just starting a manse-fixing tour. It might come to that as a preliminary measure though.

Drat! He might have to consult people after all! Sidereals, his own souls, or – perhaps – try to get in touch with Gaia…

Well, his souls were easiest – but their actual occult skills weren’t really all that much better than his; they just had easier ways to pour geomancy into spellcasting. A quick check showed that indeed, they didn’t know much more than he did – although they definitely had enough knowledge to see how the damaged manses could be a major problem.

Perhaps he could make some Amalgams with his manse-repair charm… Ah, Manses! What weren’t they good for? He could build one capable of offering access to a similar charm, and use the temporary-charm grant to create a bunch of manse-repairmen! Besides, he had so many manses that it had been silly of him not to do that in the first place!

No, wait; it probably wasn’t possible to make a manse bestow a charm that allowed resonance with manses to enhance them. The feedback loops would be… complicated, and very likely self-cancelling. And such a charm would probably be far less efficient than his ability if it could be gotten to work for unexalted individuals at all. He could send out some Djinn repair crews – but those were bound to attract attention and, to work in Yu-Shan, they’d need permission or sponsors or passports or something, and there were a LOT of them to get those for!

Despite how tempting it was to just feed a massive blast of primal chaos into the dragon-lines of Yu-Shan, Charles had SOME trace of caution… Sadly, even the Sidereals didn’t have anything along the lines of an “is this a good idea” charm, so asking them wouldn’t be particularly useful. That was sort of weird actually; you’d think that a short-term charm of that sort wouldn’t be all that complicated and it would seem like something natural for them. Why wasn’t there a way for a Sidereal to offer useful advice on a Solar project?

Well, there was always thaumaturgy… the “I Have Common Sense Prognostication” was just a minor variation on Divination (Art of Astrology, 1, Int 2, 1 Hour) that could let you know if a given plan was going to lead to a complete disaster within the next few (permanent essence + 2) days. It only worked provided that nothing with great power was actively concealing that information and that the information was not outside of Fate – although, to be fair, that was what blew virtually every Sidereal prediction anyway. The obvious charm improvement would be to extend it to a few weeks and include a warning if you WERE running into something outside of fate.

It didn’t cover long term consequences, but things like “if you try to clear the way the arch will collapse” or “if you activate it the explosion will take out this entire block” could still be pretty handy!

Well… that left Gaia. If she was wandering about anywhere in Yu-Shan at the moment that wouldn’t be too hard – but if she was busy at the Jade Pleasure Dome she might not be available for months. In that case… he might just have to brave a visit to Gnosis.

Charles went looking… Fortunately, while Gaia was well-hidden, she still left detectable traces in the geomancy of Yu-Shan – even if it did take a fair amount of work and boosting his Geomancy to the Celestial Circle level to locate her. She was currently manifesting a secondary body in her namesake quarter of the city, the Pangaean Bureaucratic District, deep within its abandoned regions.

He put up some very heavy privacy wards and popped over there – although he made sure to arrive a few hundred feet away.

That placed him in what was once an office complex. And there was somebody resembling the traditional Emerald Mother depiction of Gaia in an abandoned courtyard. It looked to be a red-haired woman in green robes, checking the plants.

Hm… It looked like a wood essence demesne! The plants didn’t seem to need anything, but the manse that had once capped it was long gone… And was that her or was she currently manifested as a plant and this was her masseur?

No, it wasn’t her masseur; it was just a well-crafted illusion… the point where Charles had managed to cut through Gaia’s “hide in nature” effect was about a hundred feet over. It seemed to be focused on a humble patch of grass, about waist high.

Charles looked about the courtyard, bowed politely to the grass, and promptly got distracted in (rather obviously) considering the possibilities of building a wood manse… Then he got his mind back on track with the question about possibly blowing up Yu-Shan with extra essence from linking in newly-fertile worlds – which he’d rather not do of course.

The grass rustled, and Charles heard words in it.

(Gaia) “Blowing up Yu-Shan-well, first, thank you for increasing Creation’s fertility. But why would you want to import Essence here?”

(Charles, all in a rush) “Well, I wanted to get all the gods back to work, and bring back all the extinct species, and that takes places to put them and gateways to provide the links here, and that will hook in more dragon lines to Yu-Shan which will presumably add more power and I don’t want the damaged manses to blow up, and it will take a very long time to fix them all unless I try to link to them all at once, but that might or might not work and might get very weird! And I thought that you might know whether or not that was a good idea to try!

Well, there was a massively-obvious burst of child-impatience; Charles wanted it all fixed right now!

(Gaia) “Please, dear, it’s all right… the Celestial City hasn’t been destroyed yet. So much like your grandfather… anyhow, those Manses feel itchy when I look at them. Could you tell me how you were planning to link to them?”

Charles explained – but basically it amounted to “tap into a massive burst of wyld energies and use that as a temporary amplifier” (using the massed support of his cult to empower wyld stunt effect using the Constitutional Religion tree – his version of “big ritual magic” really).

(Gaia) “You can do THAT? It should be safe enough… unless there are Raksha about. They could try to Wyld stunt back. They could even gain control over what’s left of the renovations, and that would be a disaster. Do you have any defense against that?”

(Charles) “Uhm… I’m protected… But I don’t know how I could protect the effect itself against interference. And Raksha could hide almost anywhere, and there are the ones who can gate right in… Darn! That probably won’t work then!”

(Gaia) “That’s a shame… wait! I think I can tear my attention from the Games enough for it, but you would need to do something for me before I could do it.”

(Charles) “What do you need?”

Well, it was only fair to ask! People were always wanting things from Gaia, but hardly anyone ever did her any favors!

(Gaia) “Are you sure? This will carry you farther from Creation than you’ve ever been.”

Of course, Charles – with his usual approach – hadn’t actually said he’d do it yet… Still, if it was even remotely practical… This WAS important, and Gaia wanted it done too, and he doubted that she’d ask for something if she didn’t think he could do it. What would be the point? It would be a waste of a good chance to ask for something useful! And he really thought that she approvied of having more planets and species and things fixed up!

(Charles) “I can at least see what I can do for you!”

(Gaia) “All right then… you must journey to the borderlands and retrieve something of mine I left with a friend. I think you’re one of the few people in Creation who could do it.”

From the tone of the rustling-voice it sounded like raw supernatural ability wouldn’t matter that much here in this case.

(Charles) “What is it?”

Gaia saw the most obvious worry – would he be able to move it? – going through his head and almost laughed out loud. That would be an awfully silly way to waste time…

The follow-up worry – that it was something purely philosophical and would thus be very very awkward to carry – was SLIGHTLY more sensible, but still rather silly! Hadn’t the child just been thinking that there would be no point in sending him after something he couldn’t get?

(Gaia) “It’s an artifact Autochthon made alongside existence. I need it to shift certain portions of Yu Shan’s ley lines and protect you. I left it with my friend for safekeeping – she’s good at that.”

Well, Charles saw no reason not to trust her – and a look at one of Autochthon’s artifacts was a lure anyway.

(Charles) “OK! I will need to have some idea where and what to look for though!

(Gaia) “Look for the massive ring that encircles Creation, and the towers on the Creation side. I think she will see you first, though. Basalt and crimson . . . it’s been such a long time. I hope she’s still there. No, she has to be. She swore to it.”

(Charles) “She’ll probably be relieved to see somebody!”

(Gaia) “Thank you, Charles. And when you see her, could you tell her your grandfather is all right?”

(Charles) “OK! Is he a friend of hers too?”

(Gaia, after a moment’s pause) “… After a fashion. Now, I apologize, but Luna is trying to pull the wool over my eyes, and I can’t be having that!”

It seemed like the grass giggled a bit.

Moves in the games most likely Charles supposed.

(Charles) “Well thank you!”

Hm. Should he take anyone along? Besides his usual Coatl of course… Well, why not?

Exploring Kyoto at Night

I'm fairly sure that there's supposed to be an actual building around here somewhere...

(Gaia) “Be careful!”

The Primordial Essence dissipated from the grass and the illusion vanished, leaving Charles alone… Oh! He knew who to talk to! Righteous Hala worked at the ends of creation sometimes! He’d ask her for some advice on the trip!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice L – Sidereal Stargate Generation One

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

OK, so what's out the side door?

The return to Yu-Shan was actually fairly quiet… The Celestial Lions hadn’t spotted the minor gods who’d left with Charles as anything but Small Gods in animal form on the way out. (Oddly enough, they weren’t too strong on the essence senses).

The various watchers were busy reporting in – so it would be a few hours yet before the information could possibly trickle through channels.

It wasn’t long, however, before one of the Inukami at the Orrery – where Charles was tinkering with geomantic probes for mapping dragon lines while he checked in on the (terribly slow) progress in the process of determining Arcosanti’s gods – announced that an Exalted visitor was asking to see him at his combination kitchen / school at the foot of the mountain.

(Charles) “Oh? Did they say who? Oh, I’ll go find out! Hold this please!”

He handed a half-forged probe-thing made of crystallized essence to the aide – who, as always, took it.

The Couatl who’d come up took Charles down to his combination soup kitchen/school, where a small group of mortals surrounded a woman… It was Astrid Jorgensen; they’d met during Mrs Rosa’s survey of the Nocturnal Exaltations a few months back! She was observing the activities, and seemed approving.

(Charles) “Allo!”

(Astrid, turning to him) “Oh, hello!” (She looked at Charles quizzically, then seemed to recognize him.) “You were on Rosa’s boat THAT night.”

The memory still seemed to bother her, but then she had faced down a Solar and survived.

(Charles) “Uhm… Yes! They came to Dudael first, since the Exaltation there was handy and well reported and well-witnessed and so on! And I went along!”

(Astrid) “Well, it is good to see you again. Gus sent me… he wanted to ask you something, but had an unexpected mission. Is there someplace private we can sit?”

Charles ushered her to the lift up to the Orrery…

(Charles) “Well, certainly! It is my place, and the wards are pretty good… Should I put up some more or arrange even more privacy?”

(Astrid) “I would like quite a bit of privacy, if it isn’t too much trouble . . .”

Well, she did know about the existence of Aden already… So they could go there! It would be hard to get much more private than that!

He took her to a pavilion overlooking Elzeard’s parks and environmental areas, where he was getting extinct species ready for release onto new planets. It was a lovely area anyway, and the various creatures – mostly smaller species at the moment, including a nursery-area filled with plant species being checked for flaws before the seeds were broadcast.

Astrid was no botanist or biologist, but the kid was obviously building some sort of nature preserve. A refuge for endangered species perhaps? “Ecology” was a big thing with kids on earth now… Had he found this pocket-dimension or somehow built it? That sort of thing was mostly the business of Gods of course, but he could certainly have hired a few unemployed gods to work on it for him.

(Astrid) “What a tremendous effort… Anyhow, Gus was observing you a few days ago, when he should have been sleeping. He saw you encounter some deiphages. If what happened next is true, you… peacefully departed Yu Shan with them.” (She seemed to be in disbelief.)

(Charles) “Well, yes. They needed curing! And that’s another problem… I have to figure out what it is that’s doing it to them… It’s really sneaky!”

(Astrid) “How on earth did you manage to calm them? And what theories do you have on the cause?”

(Charles) “I warded away whatever-it-was that was doing it, and got them settled down, and had some tea…”

(Astrid abruptly showed some focused interest) “So a ward is possible… what did you use?”

(Charles) “Oh, the basic ward pattern looks like this (he showed her) – but it takes a substantial upgrade on basic thaumaturgy to make it work; whatever it is it seems to draw on the base geomancy of Yu-Shan which gives it lots of extra power. Fortunately I made an upgrade for Thaumaturgy some time ago!”

(Astrid) “I’m afraid I’m not an occult specialist, so I’ll take your word for it on the ward. That does look like a intricate one! But as for the cause… you’ve stumbled upon something my father’s predecessors did millennia ago. Were you able to tell anything about it other than its reliance on geomancy?”

It wasn’t any surprise that the boy had a thaumaturgic upgrade charm available of course – but Rosa was right! He really must be an expert on thaumaturgy, regardless of what else he might or might not be.

Sadly, while Charles could describe a lot of impressions (immense age, being a built-in part of Yu-Shan’s geomancy, the subtlety, the power level, the ability to affect massive areas, and so on), and some general characteristics – about as much information as anyone else had really (which was rather surprising) – but not much more than that save for the ward he was using…

OK, it would have been nice to get more – but getting even that much had taken her father’s predecessors decades of research! The boy was… frighteningly good.

(Charles) “It seemed to be a long ways down too! Buried deep in the foundations and old structures of Yu-Shan! I think it might be an Ishvara… There are some things about it which seem to match! But that’s just a theory right now!”

(Astrid) “So you’ve picked up on its ancient nature as well. I’m not sure about your theory, but then there’s so much about the city that’s still hidden. Would you be open to a meeting about it? This affects all of us who live in the empty quarters.”

(Charles) “Why not? It needs fixing!”

(Astrid) “It will take some arranging, but I think if Gus and I work together, we can do something. And… thank you for that mask. It makes defending the territory so much easier.”

(Charles) “Oh good! I could get a few more if you need them, but they take longer than most things… Making dream-artifacts can be quite roundabout!”

(Astrid) “We could always use a spare or two. Jorst would definitely appreciate them, as would I.”

(Charles) “I’ll get some made!”

(Astrid) “And I will see about getting you something in return! I’ve heard you’re generous, and you certainly live up to it… but Gus will insist on repaying the favor.”

(Charles) “Hm… Does he know Mirror-Shattering Method? I need somebody to help for a few hours with that!”

(Astrid) “Gus is… specialized.” (The way she said it, it sounded… almost myopically so.) “I could see if Vendrik is available, though. He’s been quite interested in your masks.”

(Charles) “OK!”

Charles had a number of notions for how to make a stargate work – but his best current one was fairly straightforward; manse gates could bridge realities, and therefore operated through elsewhere, which lay between them. The Mirror-Shattering Method could allow travel between realities, and therefore could also open – or perhaps locate – a route through elsewhere. Ergo, it might be possible to build a (possibly upgraded) version of Mirror-Shattering Method and some upgraded Travel Thaumaturgy into an artifact that you could link to a manse gate. That way the Mirror-Shattering Method could open the route – and all you had to do was nudge the gate to shift into a new channel! There would be some spatial turbulence around the gate for the first few seconds, which might dimensionally scatter anything that was too close, so it would be best to stand well back until it settled – but then the gate would be open.

Of course, things could go wrong.

  1. The gate might open in some most inconvenient location.
  2. Where it came out on a destination world was likely to shift by up to thirty miles between activations.
  3. The gate would revert to its normal destination as soon as the Mirror-Shattering Method lapsed in five days – and might snap back somewhat sooner as the charm faded.
  4. The dimensional disturbances might take some time to settle, making it impossible to open a gate to the same destination too often.
  5. The passage might not fully stabilize for some hours – either making it impassible for the time or risking having a travelers scattered over considerable reaches.
  6. If two gates were opened to the same location weird things would happen – although, unless there was a gate-anchoring feature at the destination that was fabulously unlikely.
  7. The instabilities might be dangerous to the travelers, making passage difficult or even damaging. Fortunately, that sort of thing should be obvious enough before you stepped in.
  8. Passage through a rerouted gate might have bizarre effects on travelers, due to passing by or through differing realities on the elsewhere trip – although such effects should fade when the gate went back to it’s original route and contact was lost or when a return trip was made.
  9. While manse-gates were normally instantaneous, the relativistic shifts that Gaia had introduced with the reshaping might have some effect. That could mean a transit delay of some hours (whether or not the traveler was aware of that). It was possible that it might be subjective only, or it might interact with the lightspeed barrier a bit like the journey to Malfeas so that you made up the time on the way back – but there just wasn’t enough data to tell which.
  10. It was even possible that something could get picked up during the transition – a creature or item from space, elsewhere, or even some alien realm.

Still, this was only going to be a prototype; there should be plenty of design space available to add protections, compensations for common problems, and some protective – or at least warning – functions later on!

Astrid had reached for her cell phone and dialed before remembering that she was in a pocket dimension – but was pleasantly surprised to find that the call went through. The boy had installed a local network with transdimensional links so that people didn’t have to step outside to call? He WAS obliging!

A few hours later the Coatl reported the a four-armed, four-eyed gentleman disembarking from a small craft just outside the Manse. It wasn’t the Unconquered Sun, though; there wasn’t anywhere NEAR enough sunlight for that!

Charles and Astrid went out to meet him; it was only polite!

The yellow eyes and speckled irises marked this particular humanoid alien (to be technical, a variant human – but then most “aliens” were) as a Chosen of Journeys. Vendrik was ending a cell phone call with one hand, holding celestial coffee with another, adjusting his tie with the third, and extending the fourth to Charles.

(Vendrik) “I’m Vendrik, if Astrid hasn’t already introduced me. Nice to meet you!”

He definitely seemed a bit harried, but had a friendly enough demeanor.

Charles cheerily shook hands.

(Charles) “And nice to meet you too!”

(Vendrik) “Now, what did you need? Astrid said something about getting more of those masks.”

(Charles) “Oh, I put an order in for some of those! I was hoping I could get a little help on the charm-structure for the Mirror-Shattering Method so that I could try to improve travel times a bit!”

(Vendrik) “Huh? Really? Wow… that would be great! I hear you’re good at this stuff, too. So what did you have in mind?”

(Charles) “Oh, I was considering using a variation on the effect to retarget a manse gate, and some travel thaumaturgy, and an artifact, and a few other tweaks, to try and make a network of interstellar gates!”

(Vendrik , whistling.) “If you think you can pull it off… it’d save me a lot of time, that’s for sure! I’ve got to see this.”

(Astrid) “As do I. Jorst won’t be happy about me being away for so long, but this could be major.”

It did take several hours for Charles to really study the charm and prepare a prototype. Vendrik had to leave after showing Charles how it worked – and extracting a written promise not to spread that knowledge without permission. One of his supply routes had come under attack. Astrid, however, stuck around – circulating among the gods visiting the soup kitchen on occasion. Some of them seemed to recognize her, and it was mostly with goodwill.

(Charles) “Right! Now the prototype here needs to be attuned, but integrating it into a proper manse will be easier… We need the Mirror Shattering Method for the targeting – but the charm basically operates through Elsewhere, just like the gates, so once it establishes the routing link, the travel thaumaturgy will allow the manse gate to be pushed into the new route. It won’t hold for more than five days though! After that you’d need to come home normally, send a message to open it again, or build one at the other end!

Astrid was a bit flabbergasted… What? The thing was READY? In a couple of hours? No, most of that had gone to studying the charm… in MINUTES. She really wasn’t an occultist – but shouldn’t forging an artifact of that complexity take months? Making something like that – even merely DESIGNING something like that – was certainly no simple task for any normal entity!

(Astrid) “And how long would trips take using this?”

(Charles, absently and somewhat doubtfully) “It should – in theory – be like any manse gate; effectively instantaneous. In practice I suspect there will be secondary effects and it may take up to twelve hours.”

(Astrid, disbelieving) “That’s… both ways, right?”

(Charles) “I think so! Some of the physicists on Earth would say you get the twelve hours back on the way back, so you’d experience a day in travel that the rest of the universe would say didn’t actually exist – a bit like some of the Calibration effects – but I don’t know about that one!

Astrid seemed to want to say something when Charles mentioned Calibration effects, but held back.

(Astrid) “Charles, if you produce this artifact, every Sidereal in Yu Shan will want to use it, and there will be squabbling over it. I think you mentioned multiples… but there will still be arguing. Do you think you can handle that?”

(Charles) “Easiest to just make some more! Besides, I have to see if it works first! But I’ve got lots of manse-gates, so I can just borrow one of them for the moment!”

(Astrid) “So I’ve heard… it has been good speaking with you, but I MUST get back to the territory. I like what you’re doing here, though. Is there anything we can get you?”

She really wasn’t sure that there was anything that they could get someone with his own private dimension full of assistants, but it never hurt to ask.

(Charles) “I think I’ve got most of the things I need right now!”

(Astrid) “Well, tell me if you need anything.” (To the guards) “Rana, could you call the rickshaw for the canal? And Lensk, if you could have the dragon boat waiting when we arrive…”

Charles said goodbye somewhat abstractedly, and promptly dived back into his project just as always – although he did think to hang some good wards about them for their trip!

Astrid appreciated that. The boy really was quite thoughtful! She was starting to see what her husband saw in the boy… Powerful, helpful, honest – and perfectly willing to help people he had to know damn well were on the bad end of Sidereal politics. On the other hand… perhaps it would be best to keep him in Yu-Shan, where most of the major enemies of the universe couldn’t pop up to ask him for things! She had spoken with Catherine – but she hadn’t taken her notions quite as seriously as – perhaps – she should have…

Meanwhile, Charles was still musing… To put the Stargates where he really wanted them (the central plaza with the twelve gates already there) he’d have to set up some manses with two gates – one there and the other linked to the steering artifact – but that wasn’t too difficult really and it would have the happy side effect of making the gates a lot more secure!

Exalted – Resplendent Butlers Accouterment (Artifact **)

Two servants

Yes, it's for people like these

While these come in a variety of styles – stiffly starched detachable shirt-collars, quasi-clerical models, necklaces and chokers, spiked leather, and classical slave-collars – they all work exactly the same way. They provide a variety of highly advanced thaumaturgical functions designed to make their wearers better servants and companions.

That’s because they’re actually Raksha Slave Collars.

Not that Raksha normally make them. If they were making magical slave collars, they’d want to put in methods of restraining and doing weird things to their slaves – not boosts that make them better servants and allow them to swiftly recover from being drained or mistreated. That’s very convenient of course, but the big benefits are for the slaves, not their masters. Still, there are enough benefits for the master to make almost any Raksha who can get the things put them on their servants and keep them there.

If they do that, those servants are pretty well guaranteed to come through their experiences with the Raksha just fine – and sooner or later the Raksha will get bored with ANY mortal, and let them go.

And that, of course, is why Charles makes the things.

Since then, however, they’ve also become popular with various other Gods, Exalts, and others; everyone needs good servants.

Artifact Design: Power 5 (4 Class-B, 6 Class-A, and 4 Class-0 functions), Usefulness 3, Plot Impact 1, Script Immunity 1, Troublesome (Only works for Mortals, -2). Net Artifact Rating = 8/4 = 2.

Class-0 Functions:

  • Hasten to Obey: The collars reduce travel time by 90% when the wearer is either reporting to his or her master, or running an errand for him or her (Ten success Art of Travel).
  • Listening at the Keyhole: The collars maintain a link to the wearer’s master; the wearer will always have a good idea of what their master wants at the moment (Ten success Art of Linking).
  • Long Enduring: The wearer will never find anything more than moderately painful unless they’re being punished by their master – in which case the pain can be fairly serious, although never overwhelming (Ten success Art of Lifeweaving).
  • Proper Raiment: The collars can cover themselves up, and provide illusory clothing, as needed – although this is a mere illusion, with no reality beyond deceiving the senses of sight and touch (Ten success Art of Illusion).

Class-A Functions:

  • Eager to Please: The wearer gains +3d on any action that is not enhanced by any other charm or artifact, and is intended to directly please or serve their master (Fifteen success Art of Fortune, mostly devoted to breadth of effect).
  • Greater Warding. The collars can subtract three levels, to a minimum of zero, from the final damage the user takes from any effect up to three times per scene – albeit only once per effect. This will not, however, stack with similar defenses (Fifteen success Art of Fortune, nondispellable).
  • The Speakeasy Effect: The wearer gains two extra languages. Which languages are provided can be varied over the course of a few weeks. After all, few things are more deeply irritating than servants who don’t understand what you’re talking about (Ten success Science of Telepathy).
  • Unbreakable: The collars cannot be destroyed save by truly grotesque abuse or major directed magical acts. This doesn’t mean they’re indestructible – just that, like a hearthstone, destroying them is something to do in downtime. It isn’t a combat tactic .(Ten success Science of Enchantment).
  • Well-Fastened: The collars are difficult to remove – although countermagic, breaking them, or an order from the wearer’s master, will allow it readily (Ten success Science of Enchantment).
  • XXXalted Prowess: This power provides a big boost to things we’re not going to explain because – while it ALWAYS comes up in Exalted sooner or later – we don’t need to encourage it (Ten success Art of Lifeweaving).

Class-B Functions:

  • The Wellsprings of the Soul: Self-Powered. These collars – intended for unawakened mortals to wear – have no attunement cost, although it still requires several minutes for them to power up and take effect.
  • The Infinite Leash: The collars maintain an unbreakable link to a specific Manse. Charles usually links the ones he makes (or has made) to Brigadoon – a level five manse that provides

An upgraded version of Life-Sustaining that grants immunity to poison and disease instead of bonus successes and allows those affected to recover from crippling effects as if they were levels of aggravated damage – along with the usual immunity to aging and rapid healing.

Wyld Revocation/Bilocation. This allows anyone attuned to the manse to invest a wound level in it and effectively be there at all times – gaining its benefits and allowing them to reform there if “slain”, much like a god with a sanctum.

Wyld Revocation/Biological Needs. This grants those “within” the manse double their usual base health levels and removes their need to eat, drink, and breathe – so that they need minimal care

Immutability. This makes the wearers immune to shaping by anyone except their masters.

Comfort Zone. This protects wearers from environmental hazards). That’s a thaumaturgical link (Class-0) with a +2 power level upgrade to make it unbreakable.

  • Donning the Uniform: This ability allows the user to assume temporary mutations. If the user’s master wants all his or her servants to be silky persian-cat beastmen or some such, this is the function to use. That’s Thaumaturgic Lifeweaving with a six tick casting time (+2D), a Duration of up (2x Essence) Years or until dismissed (+6D), a Single Target (+0D), Induces Temporary Mutations up to the four-point level (+4D), and Personal-Only (-2D). As a Class-B effect, this gets 20 automatic successes, providing ten Mutation Points at a cost of one Will. As with all thaumaturgy, it does not stack with similar effects.
  • Warded Flesh: The collars wearer gain +6A/+6L/+6B magical soak that will prevent ping damage up to that limit. That’s Telekinesis (Force Field effect), with a six tick casting time (+5D), a Duration of Days (+3D),

The collars, of course, are exploiting a loophole; they’re taking a very high power level and compensating for it with low ratings elsewhere to come out cheap. Of course, since they only work for Mortals, who cares?

Biomancy and Monster Mashing

AD&D Player Character Record Sheets

Hm. I still have these things down in the basement

Today we have a question/request from Derek.

I have a request. Could you please write a book on magical biotechnology and monster creation (as in spellcasters who make monsters, not GM monster design)?

Looking at most of the existing examples in d20 land I find most of them lacking. There are plenty of good ideas but there isn’t a single source that I can say “that is the best of the best”. I know you guys know your stuff and obviously can write at the lengths the subject needs. What I am hoping for is a fantasy version of GURPS Biotech for d20.

Might you consider this?


Well… maybe.

I’m just not sure there’s really that much material to cover from an in-character prospective without adding a lot of assumptions – which would greatly limit what d20 worlds it would work in.

The basic trouble is that d20 has very little in the way of ground-rule physics or biology – and what little there is often varies from setting to setting. Some settings are grounded in real-world physics and biology (although how firmly varies a lot). Others use classical western or eastern “elements” and planar traits. Others use variant natural laws. Some use narrative structure and the “rule of cool” rather than any serious physics of any kind.

Quite a few more settings never really bother to actually tell you anything about their physics.

In basic d20 “biology” you can have living rocks, dreams, masses of hot gas, nexi or psionic energies, spells, ethical concepts, memes, vortexes of rippling interdimensional overlays, computer programs, suits of empty armor, concepts ripped from raw chaos by their own wills that sustain themselves by believing that they exist, and even odder things. Sadly, the standard d20 rules never really define what makes some of those things “alive” and others not – and when settings do it varies from one to the next.

d20 doesn’t define what makes a species either, and – by default – lets pretty much everything interbreed. When a character’s grandparents can include a ghost, a fire, a dwarf, and a dragon, you know that whatever “rules”there are are pretty loose anyway. Alchemy, occult hybridization, fertility spells, psionic gene-splicing, transformations, bombardment with mutagenic rays, genetic engineering, enchantment-based monster-building… in d20 terms all of those amount to “I carry out a complex ritual or use a high-powered effect – and out pops a new species or special power in an existing creature”. While the exact requirements are dependent on what a given setting allows in the way of special powers and how inheritance works in it, that’s setting stuff – not base rules.

I’ve even seen settings where you can use hypnosis, or biofeedback, or dreams, or supertech so advanced that “logic” does not apply, or donning costumes, or quick-and-easy rituals, or pocket gizmos to change people’s forms – and transformation is an everyday thing.

In d20 a gravely wounded dragon might fall into a pit of slime where – rather than perishing – it’s supernatural life force might infuse the slime, even as the slime slowly consumed it’s flesh. From the pit might rise a mass of slime wrapped around the dragon’s original bones – still alive, and still the dragon, but with the game masters new “slime beast” template applied to make it a new and even more terrible type of creature.

Other GM’s will just say “It’s dead. Where are you looking for loot?”.

Thus Eclipse and The Practical Enchanter offer quite a few ways to create new species and other ways to shapeshift or to add powers to your character – but don’t even try to define what a species actually is. If they did, they’d be incompatible with a lot of settings. Similarly, either will lets you build all kinds of “bioware”/“cyberware”/ “charmware”/“mutations” (or whatever you want to call things) – but those are just special effects and modifiers stacked on top of the same base mechanics.

After all, if you want to swim faster, you could apply telekinetic thrust, call on friendly water spirits, secrete friction-reducing oil from your skin, wear a swimsuit with the same purpose, unfold membranes to provide better propulsion, learn to swim more effectively, user cyberware turbines in your feet, use a boosting spell, or a hundred other things – but they’re all special effects for “faster movement, limited to swimming, and possibly with an additional limitation to represent some restrictive facet of the special effects”.

And the special effects available are, once again, purely setting-dependent. The actual mechanics amount to asking the local game master “How can I transform creatures into new species in this setting? Hm… looks like I can qualify for this method pretty easily … Would you accept this creature? No? What needs tweaking?” – or a similar question for installing special powers.

We could try to define d20 “life” too – probably as “an entity powered by positive energy with some way of expending a portion or it acting and some way of collecting more” – but that’s fairly circular, since the properties of “positive energy” aren’t entirely clear either except save for having something to do with life.

Besides, substitute “negative energy” and you have a definition of the undead. Substitute “magical” or “psionic” for “positive” and you’re talking about constructs – or at least the ones that aren’t being inhabited by more normal spirits.

I suppose we could do something resembling the “Monster Blood” articles, and look at what kinds of things you can do with general creature types – but in d20 that usually just takes you to “Aberration” and “anything goes!”. At least as far as building new powers and creatures goes, Eclipse will let you do that nicely – which at least would make that part easy.

Given all of that, I’m not quite sure of what you really want. Ergo, it’s time for a look at GURPS: Biotech, where we have…

  • Basic Principles of Biotech: Unfortunately, as we’ve noted, in d20, biology doesn’t have any basic principles. Masses of Rock can produce offspring with Humans. Stuff lives becaus

    e it’s full of positive energy – maybe. Some d20 worlds have genes and inheritance. Some have morphogenic fields. Some have gods who decree species. Some have spiritual patterns. Some have other things. Others (most really) never say.

  • Human Genetic Engineering. Once again, solidly based on (inapplicable) real-world biology – and what if your player-characters are all dragons? Or ghosts? Or alien insectoids? Or made of living metal?
  • Biomods and Metamorphosis. In d20 – and ESPECIALLY in Eclipse – you can just buy that stuff. You want an innate “biological” ability to breath underwater, or spit acid, or walk between dimensions? Sure. Develop a psychic power or spend the points. You’ve got it.
  • Mans Best Friends – genetically modifying other species. Covering industrial processes, useful microbes, germ warfare, weapon-creatures, upgraded animals, and living structures. Most of that is fairly meaningless to d20 adventurers – or already covered by common effects like animal companions, the Awaken spell, and similar magics. Biowarfare might take out masses of peasants – but Adventurers will just cure themselves and go to avenge all those dying peasants.
  • Immortality Incorporated – ways to extend your life and avoid death. Trouble is, a determined d20 character can already rise from the dead and outlive their home universe.
  • To wind up we have Characters and Corporations and a few appendixes – covering some extremely setting-specific information such as black-marked organ prices, biotech jobs and characters, and special modifiers for simulating Biotech in GURPS. The setting-specific stuff is just that, while the modifiers are things that you can already do in Eclipse.

The trouble with emulating that book is fundamentally that – at it’s heart – GURPS tries to simulate a setting that’s firmly grounded in reality – not one where a living rock with no internal structure at all can just happen to mate with a ghost and produce a half-ghost earth-beast. Most of GURPS: Biotech is about limits on what you can do – and how to exploit the rules of biology to push them a bit in some fairly limited ways.

d20 in general really doesn’t have those limits, even if some of them apply in specific settings. It says that pretty much ANYTHING is possible. This is, after all, a game where the corpses of stillborn gods rise as undead horrors capable of destroying cities. The only real generally applicable rule there is “Whatever the game master is willing to put up with”.

I’ll continue thinking about it of course – but I suspect that the bulk of such a book would be general discussion, and I’m better at crunch.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session IL – The Sahara Sea

Satellite image of Africa, showing the ecologi...

No, no... That just won't do at all!

Charles was pretty sure that the Sidereal attempt to analyze Aden was going to fail… Not even the savants of the first age had been able to analyze an Exaltation – and his was complicated by the Veil, by hundreds of manses, by tens of thousands of square miles of geomancy, by having hundreds of secondary fragments which had been expanded into full-blown spirits and souls, by his being in more than one place at the same time, and by having numerous artifacts and other powers tangled up in it all. Not to mention the soul-core of chaos, the graces, and the visitors…

Still, it was keeping them busy! If the confusion kept up for a little while longer, surely he could find a way to pile more confusion on top!

That’s a surprisingly viable strategy sometimes. If you’re working on several projects at the same time and are sufficiently quick to recognize and seize whatever opportunities pop up, you can often make not having a plan at all, and just riding with any convenient event while letting the rest of the chaos wash on by, look like you have incredible manipulative abilities and a prepared contingency for everything under the sun… It’s even easier when there were multiple factions around!

All you really have to do is keep a straight face and accept the credit.

The Bronze, however, felt that they knew most of what they felt that they needed to know… Even if the boy wasn’t really a primordial, he had the resources of one – and enough power to counterbalance at least a part of the Solars and resources the Gold Faction controlled. He’d freely given them help and equipment to protect the reclaimed territories with. Judging by the way he’d rescued those villages and the way he was continuing to rescue people across the globe, he might even be able to evacuate the mortal population of Yu-Shan – and would probably be inclined to do it if they were in any real danger. They were helping people, he was helping people… hopefully that would be enough to build on!

At the moment though they REALLY wanted to talk to him about deiphagy… If the (difficult to believe) report they’d gotten was accurate he’d… had tea with three deiphages and left with them peacefully. An impressive feat, even for a Primordial!

Meanwhile, Elzeard had manifested himself in Northern Africa, deep in the Sahara Desert… In the first age, this land had been fertile plains and savannahs, with patches of forest – a dry climate, but one with water enough.

It would be so again. Sometimes humans had very good ideas, even if they were frequently far beyond their means. Some regions of the Sahara were hundreds of feet below sea level – and in 1874 a french proposal had been made to drive a canal to the Mediterranean – creating a small inland sea. Water would evaporate, fall as rain, and water the surrounding area. Plants and trees would grow, conserving that water – and the forests would spread, even as streams running in began to convert the inland sea to a freshwater lake. Much of the Sahara – and the middle east beyond – would soon, once again, teem with life, providing green and comfortable lands for millions…

Those proposals – made over and over again in the decades since – had always foundered upon cost. Driving a canal large enough, so far, through rugged rocks and mountains, would cost more than any group that dreamed of a better world could afford.

Elzeard did not need a budget. He had his own powers, the services of the Aden’s Djinn and engineers, and the support of the other Guardians of Aden. He could readily open a suitable tunnel along the many faultlines of the area – something that might have happened “naturally” at any time, unlikely as that was.

The waters WOULD come forth in the desert.

Thanks to the efforts of the Djinn in cultivating an appropriate demesne and manse to purify the water, the inland sea started off fresh, the influx of water was controlled, and there were ecological monitoring systems in place.

Thanks to Elzeard’s efforts, the area filled with plants and animals at an utterly impossible speed – providing a firm foundation for the greening of the middle east, fixing carbon, and helping to reign in climate change. It took a couple of weeks – but, fortunately, people rarely came within a hundred miles of the worst areas of the desert, which were exactly where Elzeard was working.

By the time a geosurvey satellite made it’s monthly pass over the area, there were glinting lakes, bordered with swiftly-growing trees and fields, with grasslands quickly spreading over the downwind ranges where moisture was carried by the wind. Within a year water would start to run in ancient streambeds that had been dry since the neolithic era.

Impossible as it was, it might have passed as an accident when the scientists arrived – albeit with endless arguments over how so many trees had been seeded and grown so fast – but the structure that stood over where the freshwater waterfall cascaded from the rocks to feed those new lakes was just a bit obvious. It was on what would eventually be the shoreline, had electricity and utilities despite having no traceable source of power, equipment that – somehow – monitored the ecology of the entire area, and a set of highly detailed and sophisticated technical volumes on how to best manage that ecology.

Along with a print copy of “The Man Who Planted Trees” sitting out in the entryway.

Either this sudden influx of water had been anticipated in detail, or it had been planned by someone – someone who controlled mysterious technologies and engineering resources on a massive scale and who preferred to work in secret.

Either way the implications were disturbing.

It took a little time to find out that the systems would accept ecological questions addressed to “Elzeard” – and that someone answered them, no matter how complex the question might be, even if the blasted link seemed to be untraceable – just like half the other functions of the damned building.

Elzeard wanted that kind of information passed on, regardless of nonsense about “secrecy”. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have left his calling card! Besides, his earthly avatar had already moved on to the Talamakan-Gobi desert, where somewhat different measures would be required. Australia would require still other methods – and a bit of work on adjusting those blasted rabbits…

In Aden, Elzeard had been dealing with some of the Sidereal Surveyors in his own way – via education. Given his incredible skills in ecology, ecology biology, performance, and education, he was quite capable of providing utterly fascinating lectures on such topics for days or weeks on end. While those were highly educational even for elder Sidereals, listening to Elzeard’s lecture classes wasn’t exactly their job…

Of course, they were also going to be annoyed when they realized that – even while he’d been lecturing – Elzeard had been busily patching global ecosystems, somehow without causing major disturbances in the loom.

Halfway across the galaxy, Elzeard and some of the other Guardians were still exerting their full power – although no one else was around to witness it. Transforming the upper layers of a barren planet into air, water, and soil was a job for planetary-scale transmutation – Mishinago’s business – but filling the world with plants and animals was Elzeards. Others followed to raise towns and manses to support them, to damp the climactic disturbances, and to prepare the Starlight Paths that would soon link those worlds into Yu-Shan.

The Shining Dream was moving towards reality.