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?
(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!
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