In an undisclosed location Orchid’s report was being received with… some incredulity. A… NEW Primordial? Wandering around Yu-Shan randomly fixing things? Complete with a crew of Devas, a World-Body, an (Internal?) Cult, and displaying thaumaturgic powers at a level equal to fairly high-level charms?
Still, if it was indeed true – and there was at least some collaborating evidence as far as the arcane powers went – it was an opportunity not to be missed. A friendly, helpful, Primordial? A YOUNG one who might possibly be molded or directed? Who knew what that might lead to?
By divine standards Charles would be be getting messages in his dreams quite soon.
Charles was briefly considering how awkward it would be to introduce everybody… He could beat the Mad Hatter’s tea party all hollow! And the Deiphages will sit over HERE, and the secret society Masons over HERE, and the Terrestrials over HERE, and the Rival Terrestrials over HERE, HERE, and HERE, and Gods over HERE, and the Factional Sidereals HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE, and the Scientists over HERE, and the Lunars over HERE, and the Raksha over HERE, and the Ghosts over HERE, and the Deva’s over HERE, and the Demons over HERE, and the Primordials…
And if things continued this way he’d need a table for the Yozis (did they like tea? They’d need some awfully big cups), and some sort of concept of a gathering to sell the Unshaped on experiencing (although the concept of “tea” might start changing if he invited them), and the Abyssals could probably find some way to get the surviving original Deathlords substantial enough for tea.
He hadn’t met any of them yet… But he probably would soon enough!
Of course, most people in those stretches of space knew that if you saw black spacecraft with screaming faces, or anybody wearing anything with screaming faces, you really needed to run. Someone who would cheerily wander over to say hello would be a novel experience for the forces of the Underworld – presuming that Deathlords didn’t spontaneously combust explosively and blow up the underworld in niceness-overload when they encountered someone who wanted to make the entire cosmos happy. That might depend on how many leftover fragments of the Neverborn they’d inherited.
(Charles) “Hello Mr Deathlord! Isn’t that outfit REALLY uncomfortable? There! All fixed! now let me see… what else needs fixing?”
And then, standing amidst the wreckage, Charles would find himself wondering why the Deathlord had decided to blow up his own castle. Maybe he’d thought it needed so much fixing that it would be easier to just start over?
Meanwhile, back in non-speculative reality… Dr. Valenti had finished his water, and was wanting to know what Charles was working on now.
(Charles) “Uh… Well, some ecological work, and nonspace portal structures!”
(Valenti, sharply) “Would you happen to be working with an ‘Elzeard’ in the Sahara?”
Oops! He didn’t know that they’d been paying attention to that!
(Charles) “Well, yes on some things. I was rather hoping that it wouldn’t disturb anyone!”
(Valenti) “One of our ecological specialists heard about his work through one of her colleagues.” (He nodded towards outside; the third scientist who was with them apparently hadn’t wanted to chance the machine exploding.)
(Charles) “It’s OK! I try to avoid making anything explosive! Too messy!”
She came back in… and leaned her head as she looked over the collection of highly-detailed plastic replicas of various small plants and creatures.
(Ecologist) “Hmm, very realistic… Ah, hello. You must be Charles! I’m Dr. Roberts. I study ecosystems and their development.” (She shook hands.)
(Charles) “And I’m Charles, and… well, I suppose I make things!”
(Ecologist) “Helpful things, apparently… I think Dr. Valenti told you a little about the situation in the Sahara.”
(Charles) Reforestation and all that?
(Roberts) “And apparently the work of someone calling himself Elzeard, who referred us to you. I believe I read a story about him once…”
Oh dear! Elzeard was referring people to him? But that meant that he’d soon have all kinds of people bothering him! Elzeard hadn’t needed to do that! Still, Elzeard was… a lot smarter than he was… presumably there was a good reason!
It was also probably far too late to do anything about it anyway without giving up his name, his activities in Atlanta, some friends, and several projects. Did Elzeard think he needed to get out of the laboratory and the factory-cathedral and get his hands dirty and experience the world? It was probably more complicated than THAT, but that was probably part of it… Oh well, might as well go with it! No doubt there were already twenty special agents and fifty experts scattered around the building!
(Charles) “Uhrm. well, he liked the name I guess!”
(Roberts) “Do you think Elzeard would be willing to speak with a team of scientists? Since you were already working with our museum, the people who found the installation asked me to ask you.”
(Charles) “Uhm… Well, he’d probably be willing – but he… he’s not… well, his methods are a bit odd compared to most people’s!”
(Roberts) “We would appreciate the opportunity. Some of the methods used seem to match those my anthropological colleague (she indicates Dr. Aguerro) would study.”
The electricity, utilities, monitoring systems there were proof of that! The place hummed with power, and detailed real-time ecological information could be pulled up on it’s systems – but there was no apparent source for the power OR the information!
Dr. Valenti looked completely mystified. Dr. Aguerro appeared curious, but wasn’t going to ask about that in front of Dr. Valenti…
(Charles) “I’m sorry Dr Valenti – but you are well aware that there’s a sizeable class of phenomena that do not have satisfactory theoretical explanations as of yet?”
(Valenti) “Of course.”
(Charles) “Well, I presume you’ve guessed that the operation of the reconstruction device involves some of those principles?”
(Valenti) “There would be no other explanation for it. Nothing I’ve studied explains what happened.”
(Charles, sighing) “Well, there are a number of methodologies that can be applied – the combination of conventional technology and symbology that you see here, the mental manipulations you find being used by those psychics who possess actual abilities, certain operations that are sometimes referred to as “magic”, and geomantic manipulations – among other techniques. Many of those require talents that are not strongly present in most people, although everyone has some potential.”
(Valenti, considering Dr. Aguerro a bit more carefully now.) “Oh… But Charles, why can’t that be tested? Or have we just been using the wrong means?”
(Charles) “I really hate to say it – but it’s mostly because those techniques can be quite advantageous. Thus they have traditionally been the preserve of small groups of the very talented. Like many other groups possessing a monopoly, they take measures to preserve it – and some of their measures can be very strange by conventional standards. Hence the stepwise approach.”
(Valenti) “Ceiliana… do you have anything to add to this?”
(Aguerro) “Charles’s summary is more logical than most I’ve heard. As he stated, there are VERY good reasons why mages don’t talk about it. If we’re going to continue much farther than that, he might want to take precautions.”
(Charles) “Very well then…”
Charles fished his wand out of Elsewhere – and spun a series of wards about the building, starting with an illusion-ward to conceal the others, a privacy ward, a ward against hostile magic, one against mundane attacks, and fire, and toxins, and disease…
He gave them a duration of a century or so, and didn’t bother to conceal either the power level or the glittering sparks of manipulated essence from Drs Valenti, Aguerro, and Roberts.
(Valenti) “What the…”
(Aguerro) “My thoughts exactly. Probably not for your reasons though…”
Good god! The POWER there! It would take a circle of masters and a major working – hours and a load of exotic components – to erect just ONE ward of that potency! An elemental master perhaps? He didn’t ACT like one of the Reborn!
(Charles) “Just some privacy protections! And a few against various sorts of attacks!”
(Aguerro) “Yes, but few kids – few masters! – can make wards that strong at all, much less in seconds and with no components!”
(Charles) “Better safe than sorry!”
(Aguerro) “Indeed. So, now that we’ve introduced Drs. Valenti and Roberts to the world of real magic, we’ve got to decide what more to tell them… What do you think, Charles?”
(Charles) “Well, They’ll need bodyguards! I’ll assign some of the Coatl!”
A couple of the six Coatl that Charles had along – they rarely had anything to do, but it was a habit – popped out of his pocket, buzzing their butterfly-like wings like hummingbirds.
Aguerro stared – while Valenti and Roberts let out audible gasps.
(Charles) “Cortez and Ramirez is it? These are Drs Valenti and Roberts, and you’ll be working for them for a bit!”
(Aguerro) “That’s a coatl all right!”
(Cortez) “Pleased to meet you, Dr. Valenti.”
He touched Cortez, who was definitely quite real. Of course, like nearly everything Charles had created, Cortez and Ramirez were quite friendly – and were trying to put everyone at their ease.
(Roberts) “What is THAT?”
(Aguerro) “That’s a Coatl.”
(Charles) “It’s always nice to have help around!”
Roberts stared for a moment – and then accepted the situation for the moment, at least for the sake of discussion.
Besides… Hummingbird-snakes simply did not exist in any natural ecology she’d ever heard of. Once you accepted one impossibility…
(Aguerro) “So… what are they, if you don’t mind my curiosity?”
(Charles) “Uhm… Well, originally? Garter snakes. With features from some other creatures of course, and a modest amount of power… Most of them like pizza-flavored pretzels with cheese filling. Those “Combos” things.”
(Aguerro) “Intriguing. That must have been a fairly sophisticated ritual… or possibly one of the greater rites.”
(Charles) “Oh… Well, I automated it. There are lots of things to look after!”
(Aguerro) “Automation? I’d heard rumors about that…”
She studied Charles’s features – and his tendency to fidget – closely… The boy did seem to get a reasonable amount of sun (or at least Aden’s version thereof, not that she knew that).
(Aguerro) “And what do you mean by lots of things to look after? You seem to have at least two biological science projects going.”
(Charles) “Well… people need more room! And there’s plenty available, they just need ways to get there. And once there’s plenty of room, they’ll be spaces for the extinct species too! But it’s a lot of work, so I made assistants! And a lot of those worlds need fixing up to really suit people, so Elzeard is practicing on the spots where the Earth needs some mending…”
(Aguerro, arching an eyebrow) “That’s incredibly ambitious… and unusual. Are any of your cousins and siblings supporting this?”
(Charles) “Just me! I don’t really know if I have any cousins or siblings!”
Aguerro looked simultaneously amazed and disappointed.
(Aguerro) “Well… need any help? I’m an anthropologist, but if you’re planning on colonies…”
(Charles) “Well… If you would! I’m not too sure about organizing people; or what kind of setup would really suit them best.”
(Aguerro) “I know some other social scientists with… abilities.”
Meanwhile, Cortez, Ramirez, and Drs. Valenti and Roberts were getting to know each other. Charles wasn’t sure if they were listening in… or was assiduously trying not to. Still, they did seem to be getting along!
The Coatl could explain at leisure and provide small demonstrations as needed; they did have Adenic Thaumaturgy and a reasonable selection of other charms and powers…
Both Valenti and Roberts were asking for at least some of that.
(Aguerro) “Anyway… I’m pretty sure other mages are taking notice of this. I’m not sure whether or not Drs. Valenti and Roberts will talk about this just yet. I can’t say that I’d blame them if they choose to keep quiet. At the rate Dr. Roberts says it’s happening, though, the BIG occult powers will notice. I think you know who I’m talking about.”
(Charles) “Well… Do you want your own abilities upgraded some?”
(Roberts, abruptly looking up) “Wait… the focusing crystals, and the interest in occult practices…” (Looking at Ceiliana) “It’s not just academic, is it?”
(Aguerro) “Don’t spread it around.”
(Charles) “Well, if any of you want a power boost, it’s easy enough and it includes a variety of protective effects.”
(Aguerro) “Sure, why not? If you’re willing to teach, I’m willing to learn. And they’ll probably need it.”
(Charles) “Dr Valenti? Dr Roberts? The protective effects will work for you too, although you’d need training to use the other aspects.”
(Valenti) “Protective effects… I can see how I would be in danger.”
(Charles) “Well then…” (He held out his hand and produced a swirling orb of blue-green light that was rather beautiful). Now this is a variant on what they used to call a dream-quest – and like the classical version it’s to connect to a greater source of power. Being a controlled and rather more sophisticated version, it provides a certain amount of subconscious training with the link. All you really need to do is look into the sphere, and envision traveling the path you’ll see there. You won’t be physically traveling, although it may seem that way. You can withdraw at any time of course, but in real time it will only take a few minutes to complete. It will seem like several hours though. The path isn’t dangerous, but it may be rather strange by your standards Dr Valenti. I do think you’ll find it a learning experience.”
It was, of course, his standard vision-trip through the Adenic Winding Way manse.
Dr. Aguerro was the first, followed by Dr. Roberts, and then – after a mere moment’s pause -Dr. Valenti. Charles monitored of course, but – fortunately – none of them were phobic of heights. Dr. Valenti actually seems to enjoy the view, although he got an extra shock as his essence enlightened.
When they returned to normal consciousness a few moments later Aguerro and Roberts were even more shocked. Aguerro was skilled enough to realize just how MUCH power Charles was handing out as a gift – and Roberts had had a little subconscious ability already, but was feeling the power unfold through her…
(Charles) “There we go!”
(Valenti) “I can sense so much…”
(Aguerro) “You get used to it.”
(Charles) “The package includes some protection from other magic – mental controls, transformations, and so on – upgraded talents of your own, rapid healing, vastly reduced aging, and a selection of other benefits including remote virtual terminal access. There’s a briefing video available there if you need it!”
(Roberts, a bit weakly) “Please. Wait, reduced aging? By how much?”
(Charles) “I’m not entirely sure yet; a factor of fifty or so at least – although you can age if you want to! I only designed the upgrade a few months back…”
(Aguerro) “Incredible… This should help me even the odds… so I’ll come right out and ask. Do you teach the greater rites I’ve heard about?”
(Charles) “You mean the higher sorceries? I have access to some, and a lot of the minor ones can be replaced with the effects available through the upgrade.”
(Aguerro) “I’m talking about what the Illuminati know. And before you say anything (looking at Dr. Valenti), yes, they exist, and they keep a tight control over this stuff. If you can teach me what they know, I’ll be glad to help you with your projects.”
(Charles) “Well, I’m not sure exactly what they know… Could you describe a few of the greater rites that you’ve heard of? Even just names would be good!”
What Dr Aguerro described was Terrestrial Circle Sorcery – the Private Plaza of Downcast Eyes, the countermagic that effortlessly turned thaumaturgy to dust, and the Peacock Shadow Eyes. She’d been seeking that knowledge for over a decade.
In fact, her Motivation seemed to be “Learn Terrestrial Circle Sorcery without compromising my independence.”
(Charles) “Oh those! Well, there are files available for most of those! You’ll find that the upgrade gives you a very good chance for your magic to withstand those rites, and you some chance to break them even without those effects though!”
(Aguerro) “Amazing… how would it stand up against the Illuminati?”
Hm. Those were mostly mortal thaumaturgists, some with terrestrial circle magic and a bare sprinkling of Exalts – but they’re unlikely to send an Exalt against some renegade thaumaturge.
(Charles) “It should be roughly even-on – and you’ll find that the “greater rites” are very VERY exhausting for the Illuminati, while the upgrade effects are free a dozen or so times a day and only mildly tiring after that. If you choose to construct your foci you should have a considerable edge on the vast majority of them.”
(Aguerro) “Right… I’ve managed to evade them so far, but it’s best to plan for the future. Thanks so much.”
(Valenti) “My goodness, in all this, I forgot about the dig taxes… They don’t seem quite so important anymore, but you should probably have a look.”
(Charles, while checking those) “You’re quite welcome! While things can be kept quiet that’s the best protection, but once people start asking a lot of questions I have to give them more active measures to use!”
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXVI – Science and Sorcery (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session IL — The Sahara Sea (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LII – Lytek’s Inspection (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXV – Tea with Darkness (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LVII – Aikiko’s Quest (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Exalted – Elzeard Lifeshaper, Aden’s Fourteenth Soul (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session LVI – The Exultant Avalanche (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LIII – Dun Shunkaha (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session LV – Wraiths, Wyldjumps, and Wanderers (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XL – Small Gods and Sandwiches (ruscumag.wordpress.com)