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!

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5 Responses

  1. […] LVII – Aikiko’s Quest: In which Aikiko sets out to find the Solar Guardians. […]

  2. […] LVII – Aikiko’s Quest: In which Aikiko sets out to find the Solar Guardians. […]

  3. […] LVII – Aikiko’s Quest: In which Aikiko sets out to find the Solar Guardians. […]

  4. […] LVII – Aikiko’s Quest: In which Aikiko sets out to find the Solar Guardians. […]

  5. […] LVII – Aikiko’s Quest: In which Aikiko sets out to find the Solar Guardians. […]

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