Charles sighed and headed back to Yu-Shan… For every step forward, a half a step back! Now he had a bunch of child-“pets” to do something with in all his free time… Many of them had been on the streets, desperately ill, or running away from horrible situations, which pretty much let out the “blur a few days worth of memories and send them home” approach.
He couldn’t let them leak the secrets of the Raksha either! Their refuges were limited enough without attracting masons, terrestrials, and other enemies! Heck, these days even normal humans could be quite a problem for them. Humans had a LOT of iron these days, and some fairly nasty weapons.
The Raksha couldn’t even retreat really; Raksha gatemasters were rare. If they weren’t, most of them would probably would have departed the refuges for the Wyld or the borders by now.
That wasn’t quite true actually… The wyld pockets did have one thing going for them; near-absolute security. If you only preyed on stray humans and kids purchased from people who pick up runaways and such, no one would ever bother you. No unshaped, no primordials wandering in, cranky lunars almost unheard of… having to put up with a few restrictions was a small price for safety.
Besides… the Terrestrials liked keeping magic quiet. A few kids reporting encounters with the fey would probably mysteriously “overdose themselves” or something. It wouldn’t be at all fair to set them up for that.
Well… He could check on what kinds of policies were in place already. The trouble was, most of the strong opinions so far – from Righteous Hala, Mr Montague, and the Cartiers) were pretty much all “We can’t stand Fey! Smite Them!”. The Lunars weren’t too keen on the fey as a whole – and the ones in the Fellowship of Moonsilver and Jade had passed it on to their terrestrial allies (including Nadine). As for Mr. Montague… well, he had grudges to say the least. He could use a more objective view than that! And some advice on what to do with mortals who were demonstrably unable to take care of themselves and who had nowhere to go…
There did seem to be some policies in place. The Forbidding Manse of Ivy was a bit more dispassionate about the fey than the Cerulean Lute of Harmony. Saturn’s Mercy Hospital had some information and policies dating back to the Reshaping – not every mortal who fled with the Sidereals had made it in unscathed. Outside of Yu Shan, independent Terrestrials and Aspected often had their own quiet dealings with Raksha – and Gramps had likely dealt with the issue as well. In 20,000 years he’d probably dealt with pretty much EVERYTHING.
Right! He’d pop around and take a look at their policies! That would only take a few minutes. While he had plenty of more important things to worry about than a few pets – it wasn’t like it would matter in the slightest if they stayed pets for a century or two – he could spare them a few minutes…
The Bureau of Destiny had a public information statement on what to do with children, the elderly, and other infirm individuals rescued from the fey with nowhere to go.
- If they had no damage to their Virtues or Willpower, calm them and rationalize it as a hallucination if they are ordinary mortals.
- If they come from families involved in the occult, most of them have means of tracking their relatives down. Afterwards, take them to a safe zone, which could be a mortal hospital.
- If they have been nibbled on to the extent of trait loss, secure them and let Yu Shan know. A crew from Saturn’s Mercy would be down shortly to take them up, and would make sure that they did not reveal Yu Shan’s existence. If they then wanted to stay in Yu Shan, they’d need Sidereal or divine sponsorship.
- If access to Yu Shan or a safe zone was not available, such as in some areas of the borderlands, ward them against the Wyld as best you could and try to get them out yourself.
- Saturn’s Mercy had contact numbers and explanations of what to expect – mostly panic to varying degrees.
Hrm… Charles suspected that “a patron in Yu-Shan” often meant “owner” as far as mortals were concerned, but it was something. At least gods didn’t USUALLY munch on their mortal servants… The Forbidding Manse, the Cerulean Lute, and Saturn’s Mercy all concurred.
Gramps sent him a note, along with some exotic but healthy nuts from some distant planet. It outlined the common methods fey used to lure children in and control them. Mostly it was tapping into whatever dreams they held about what they wanted to be, and using those to subtly keep them in a freehold. He suggested slowly guiding them back into reality before taking them to a safe zone. Otherwise, they might attempt to go back!
He also noted that Raksha sometimes traded children to other Raksha, the better to appeal to them. If a little boy wanted to be a movie action hero, it was better to stick him with the Xia than with the Ornamentals. He recommended putting up VERY good anti-wyld wards on the kids -and on Charles himself. He also wanted to know why Charles needed to know… Was something wrong at Hoenheim?
Charles suspected that – considering the powers of mutation and transformation the fey had – most of them got their dreams; they just got will-drained along with them. The fey did give you what you wanted – but the price was high.
His Raksha contacts agreed there! Children had delicious dreams, but they could be so stubborn if not drained of some of their Willpower.
Still, in practical terms… It was easy enough to see that most victims were simply ignored. Actually rescuing them didn’t accomplish much, they weren’t too useful, and they were a security risk. It was one of those things that most people agreed SHOULD be done, but which almost nobody actually did because there was nothing in it for the people who actually did the work. Thus… “You really should help them, but if it’s too much of a pain, or will give away too much, or you can’t conveniently do it, or they’re really happy with it… well, any you pull out will just be replaced by new victims soon anyway”. The usual public idealism and private pragmatism. Just like most of the OTHER functions of the Bureau of Destiny.
Oh geez! He had to look for Terapishim too!
So… Where was Terapishm?
He was indeed either shielded from, or beyond, the usual thaumaturgical means of detection, and Terrestrial Circle magic was not working. Charles tried asking the Celestial Lions (who said they’d get back to him) – and then jumped to using Celestial-level effects.
That led to a massive clash of energies. Fortunately, whoever was opposing him had power – but either lacked skill in using it or wasn’t really trying… Charles punched through easily.
Terapishim was in an unfinished room about five hundred feet beneath the Lunargent Ecological Protectorate’s streets; the ward seemed to be set up in the immediate area surrounding it. Its main function was to prevent divine Essence from leaving, or being used within, its borders. It also had an alarm setup in case any Essence-wielding being tried to enter or penetrate it. That was currently chiming softly… He was quite well set-up in there, but he was bored and complaining about the poor quality of the beer and about those damned noisy chimes!
Well, neither he nor his artifacts used divine essence! Charles will let his Guardians know where he was going though, popped on down there – mere instants ahead of all the responses of “what makes you think this isn’t a trap!” and variants thereof.
Well… it might be the same people who’d snatched the Nocturnal Lady they could be waiting just for him – or for the moonsilver death machine disguise he wore that time.
Well, there was only one way to find out… He was already activating the Amulet of Celestial Wings as his aides started shouting at him mentally not to do anything reckless!
Terapishim looked quite surprised as Charles appeared in the room…
Charles was intending to pull the same quick snatch – pop in, make contact, pop out – that he’d used for his last rescue.
The player was pretty sure that this was not going to work – but Charles was young, and far, FAR, too impulsive for his own good.
“Terapishim” waved a hand, and the ward dropped.
Hm! Maybe it wasn’t really him!
(“Terapishim”) “Wow… I didn’t think it would be this easy.” (He motioned toward the door to the room, which completely retracted into the wall. Charles could feel the Essence in the room subtly changing – and was cautious enough to try to depart again.
Even he wasn’t totally surprised when that failed to work. Something was blocking his amulet – and it looked like it would take a Solar-tier effect to break through it. He could come up with a number of different things of course – but finding out why was also important!
Meanwhile, his various allies/subordinates were swearing and starting various operations and notifications…
(Charles, as curiosity won out for the moment) “So what do you want?”
Whoever it was who’d been impersonating Terapishim was now dropping the disguise… He, she, or it appeared to be a lesser deiphage in squid form… but the robes were far too nice, and the posture was too good, for it to be a run-of-the-mill deiphage. Instead of being blank, its eyes glowed darkly.
The elder deiphage perhaps? Well, probably not… Still, Charles put up a celestial-level version of the deiphagy-creating-effect-warding around the area (if only because that was about where Adenic thaumaturgy operated anyway) – quite forgetting to put up something around himself.
(Deiphage) “You’re SERIOUS about this. Okay, you just shot yourself in the foot there. I wanted a quiet shift and maybe some hunting afterwards. What I got was a little kid who somehow has access to Sapphire sorcery.”
(Charles) “Oh, I tinkered with it! So why did you want me to visit?”
(Deiphage, crossing some tentacles) “Funny way of putting it, kid.” (The deiphage twitched uncomfortably) “What business do you have with unemployed gods anyway?”
(Charles) “Employment assistance in this case! And I like the beard! It’s a very good one!”
(Deiphage) “I’ll give you that one. Anyway… we found him locked up by some other unemployed gods. We took care of them and took him into our custody. You look pretty smart, so I think you can guess what I was doing here.”
(Charles) “Waiting in case someone was looking?”
(Deiphage) “Good guess! I would have given you three.” (It extended a tentacle over to Charles and tried to place it on his shoulder. Tentacles should not stretch that far…
Fortunately, several of Charles’s guardians had hurriedly placed protective wards on him through their hearthstones… The foolish child seemed to have no sense at all sometimes! Of course, what the Deiphage had seen was that the boy was… erecting a wardspell, just as a ward had gone up around him. That was a pretty easy deduction, even if it was entirely wrong!
(Deiphage) “Ow…” (as the tentacle was repulsed) “And you looked tasty, too! Anyway… I’ve got to go. I will say my boss has plans for your friend – Terapishim, was it?”
(Charles, curiously) “Who’s your boss?”
The tentacles suddenly started flapping around, as if the deiphage had lost control… It forced them into submission after a minute or so – but while it was distracted, Charles launched a probe into it – backing it with rather a lot of power.
Hm… Whoever he was talking to, this was not their actual body. He was getting an Essence reading of 3 for the body – but the possessor’s actual body was someplace outside of Fate, and getting a reading on its Essence was difficult. Still… it looked like 5-7. Unfortunately, whatever was on the other side of the link he was reaching along shielded it’s mind with another bothersome perfect effect.
(Deiphage) “Sorry, that’s classified. And whatever you did is sucking me dry! DON’T DO THAT AGAIN!”
It went limp for a moment – and then opened it’s eyes, appearing to be a normal god.
(Squid God) “Where am I? What is a MORTAL doing here?”
(Charles, somewhat absently) “Oh, you were being possessed by a greater deiphage! Or by whatever is behind them… Definitely a problem! Still, at least now I know that whatever-it-is is active, sapient, and essence-weilder, capable of trickery and coherent communications, is fairly knowledgable, and exists outside of fate! That limits the possibilities a great deal!”
(Squid God, looking around) “Well, we should concentrate on our current problems for now! This room has no exit, and I do believe (sensing) an anti-teleportation effect is active.”
(Charles) “And we’re about five hundred feet beneath the Lunargent Ecological Protectorate!”
(Squid God) “Bothersome!”
Charles started analyzing the wards… It looked like the walls were warded against Divine Essence, Solar Essence, Lunar Essence, Sidereal Essence, Nocturnal Essence, Terrestrial Essence, all forms of elemental energy, being pierced, and being crushed, along with teleportation. It was a Solar-tier effect too! That limited who could have set it up even more!
It didn’t cover Thaumaturgy though… Of course, it was actually hard to block thaumaturgy without disenchanting the area… In any case, while it was difficult to work with the enchanted base materials of Yu-Shan, it wasn’t impossible to use alchemy to transmute out a passage and stairs…
He used willpower to fuel it instead of Essence.
It took some time, but by coaxing the Essence flows the Primordials had integrated into Yu Shan, Charles eventually managed to shape a portion of the wall into a passage and stairs… It wasn’t going to last too long – Yu-Shan kept wanting to revert to it’s original form and he had to concentrate to keep it from doing so – but it would last for long enough to leave. All they needed to do was to get beyond the warding zone and it should be a lot easier.
Eventually they emerged in a damp and darkened tunnel – and Charles made some light… It appeared to be a maintenance tunnel. Most of Yu Shan was gold, silver, and the colors of other precious materials, but the tunnel’s walls were plain adamant. They were dull from long-term dust accumulation. Every ten feet, there were notches in the walls, just big enough for a torch or flashlight.
(Charles) “Well now! This looks more promising than a blank room! I wonder how long it’s been since people were down here? Oh, sorry, we haven’t been introduced! I’m Charles Dexter Ward!”
(Squid God) “Ah, a Western human. I’m Ixcatli, god of the Nezhutl salt water squid. At least I was…”
Hm! That world was a part of Tarvial. Did he mean that he WAS the god of that area before the reshaping, or did he hold an extraterrestrial domain? That was very rare – and evidently didn’t really act like a domain in the absence of a gate.
He asked! The lunars had arranged a few after all!
(Squid God) “Ah, you seem surprised that I know the proper context for “Western!” Some friends of mine bought me here about… oh, it wasn’t too long ago. Does “Austria-Hungary” mean anything to you?”
(Charles) “Uhm…. History class! I was just wondering if you were linked to where those squids are currently located!”
(Ixcatli) “Oh! I’m not sure… when they bought me up here, my link was severed for some reason. They were discussing it with the authorities while I waited in a safehouse.”
(Charles) “Who brought you here?”
(Ixcatli) “I’m not sure if you would know. You appear to be less mortal than I thought, but you’re unlikely to have met people of that power. And I wasn’t supposed to tell…”
(Charles) “Uhm… You were being possessed by a deiphage, and possibly for many years! From a supposed safehouse! I think “not supposed to” has gone out the window long ago.”
(Ixcatli) “Sigh… I suppose so. I never should have sneaked out for that walk, and it was so hard distracting the guards too! Anyhow… I believe it was a Sugar on the Trunk. Sugar or Trunk for short. He was the one in charge, with Silken Silence accompanying him – but gender is so subjective with Lunars… And form… it’s so confusing.” (He shrugged his tentacles.)
Well, it was time to ask Hala again! She might know those!
(Hala, after ensuring that the privacy wards were up) “Ugh… I remember that incident. Trunk left that god in Silence’s care while he dealt with a fey invasion, thinking she would be responsible with him.”
(Charles) “How long ago was that?”
(Hala) “Around the beginning of Earth’s First World War. You might want to let Trunk know you found him; we took him and Silence off Heaven duty after that one. Where’d you find him, anyway?”
(Charles) “Oh, he was being possessed by some power outside of fate that’s involved with deiphagy! But working through the ward I put up drained it so much it had to let go…”
(Hala) “That explains that, then. No wonder my Sidereal friends had such a hard time divining for him. You didn’t find him by doing something… reckless, did you?”
(Charles) “Oh, I was looking for Terapishim, but all I found was a warded area with a greater deiphage creature impersonating him… It didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. It was cranky though!”
(Hala) “What in the hell would deiphages want with unemployed gods who aren’t deiphages?”
(Charles) “Recruiting? Or lunch? I’d bet on recruiting though… If the deiphages in Yu-Shan can be possessed and manipulated that way, someone has been building up an army here for quite some time! And someone put Deva Cutter – and possibly other, similar, weapons – into circulation. At the moment, the damaged areas of Yu-Shan may be larger than the intact ones. An army reaching a critical stage perhaps?”
(Hala) “I’ll have to watch those areas more, then. I’m pretty sure you DID do something reckless to get Ixcatli back, but thanks anyway. And be more careful!”
(Charles, doubtfully) “I’ll try!”
(Hala, also doubtfully) “Okay…”
(Charles) “And time to look for a way up I think!”
That wasn’t actually that hard to find.
It wasn’t until considerably later that Charles recalled that – after getting outside the Ward – he could have just teleported again!
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice LXII – Moving In Faerie Circles (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session LVI – The Exultant Avalanche (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LX – The Random Scrounge from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LI – The House At The End Of Creation (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- 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 LXI – Dreams and Iron Bars (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session LV – Wraiths, Wyldjumps, and Wanderers (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session VLI – A Madness Divine (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LII – Lytek’s Inspection (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session VLII – Deiphagy for the Connoisseur (ruscumag.wordpress.com)