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.
(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 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.
- The gate might open in some most inconvenient location.
- Where it came out on a destination world was likely to shift by up to thirty miles between activations.
- 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.
- The dimensional disturbances might take some time to settle, making it impossible to open a gate to the same destination too often.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session VL – I’m Going To Flurry Manse Construction! There’s No “Rate” Limit On That, Right? (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session VLI – A Madness Divine (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XXXVIII – Out of the Umbra (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session VLIII – Testing Theories (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session VLII – Deiphagy for the Connoisseur (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XL – Small Gods and Sandwiches (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXIX — Deva Cutter and the Bronze (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXIV – Fiduciary Divine (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXVII – Investigating Charles Mansen (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XLIII – A Few Quiet Moments (ruscumag.wordpress.com)