Back at the Water Tower, there was a discussion going on…
(Ethan, Elder Terrestrial Fire-Aspect and Family Head) “He casually created a Rank-5 manse for you, in minutes, starting with a demesne-3 that hadn’t even FORMED yet – and he’s coming to see us on a BICYCLE?!?!”
(Raymond, Awakened Wood Aspect) “And he didn’t even use that spell the Insidious are supposed to have either… it was THAUMATURGY.”
(Ethan) “You’re kidding, right?”
(Raymond) “I REALLY wish I was.”
(Ethan) “You cannot POSSIBLY do that with thaumaturgy! It would take near-limitless power!”
(Raymond) “Well, it felt like thaumaturgy. My Essence senses aren’t nearly as good as yours, so I could be wrong – but I’m not sure how we could arrange a safe demonstration, though…”
With it put that way, Raymond did indeed hope that he was wrong. He wasn’t READY to have an cosmic entity with near-limitless power cruising around Atlanta on a bicycle…
(Ethan) “Bah! The way you’ve reported him acting… we could probably just ask! After all, he’s created a Manse for you – and one of legendary power – simply because one of your mortal students said that you’d like one!”
(Raymond) “He is ridiculously open.”
Huh. Maybe the child WAS a cosmic power! It was hard to see how any entity so naive and obliging could have survived up to this point without being under somebodies control already otherwise!
(Peter, Terrestrial Fire Aspect, sighing) “He DID come by and fix our manse for us… without asking for anything in return. For that matter… whatever he did, the hearthstone is still enhanced, and the place is still radiating some sort of geomantic prosperity blessing effect that covers most of Atlanta – and it’s boosting both our finances and those of everyone else in the city! And we can’t even tell how he did THAT!”
(Ethan) “Well… there are a few charms which will let one of us add some elemental boosts to a manse that matches our elemental aspect – but blessing the entire city in the process is far beyond any geomancy I’ve ever heard of! At the least, we know that he’s SOMETHING bloody powerful!
(Raymond) “Definitely, sirs.”
(Ezmerelda, a militant aunt, Terrestrial Air Aspect) “Well… he’s either naive enough to stroll right into our stronghold in front of all of us on the strength of a request to talk – or he’s not worried about all of us put together!”
(Raymond) “It has to be the first. Nonetheless, I’m happy to help prepare for the second if you want… though his behavior so far shows little interest in fighting.”
Ethan and Ezmerelda were not so sure about the naivete… There had been reports of an Insidious presence at a local school, and they’d send some people in – and it had somehow turned into a HORRIBLE embarrassment. First they’d no success at all, then they’d somehow wound up with piles of drugs in their agents cars and a drug laboratory appearing in the basement of one of their safehouses just as the police arrived to search. Charles and a couple of friends had casually strolled into their fortress, used their own defenses against them, converted every attack against them into annoying mischief, and captured the entire family council. They’d been given a polite request that they stop harassing the school and a brief tour of heaven before the trio had wandered off, politely healing up all the incidental injuries on the way out – all without actually using anything but a bit of…
OK, maybe that wasn’t quite as embarrassing as it had seemed at the time.
Raymond hadn’t been at the tower for the assault, although he’d read the reports – but the people writing those had tended to downplay just how big of a mess and embarrassment the entire episode had been.
(Raymond) “My current ideas are a powerful spirit, a raksha feeding subtly, or something I don’t have clearance to know about.”
(Ethan) “ Hmm… I’ve never heard of a Raksha building manses, but I suppose it’s possible… I’ve never heard of a spirit or raksha with so much power either.”
(Raymond) “Could be a new Incarnae, but I know that’s ridiculous. How would they get out of Heaven without the Insidious noticing and doing something?”
Although, according to the boy, the Insidious didn’t actually hold Heaven hostage; the celestial gods just didn’t get summoned much… Could that really be true? Had there been thousands of years of near-silence from the celestial gods just because they were, well… using an outdated phone book and their calls were not getting through? He hadn’t brought that up before – after all, the Morgans were a Starbreaking clan – but maybe it was time…
(Raymond) “Well, the boy DID say that the Insidious weren’t holding heaven hostage – it was just that the Celestial Gods were rarely properly invoked any longer.”
(Ethan, sighing) “This was highly classified – but when the boy and his two friends strolled in through our defenses… They called a god who specialized in transport and… took us on a quick tour of heaven.”
(Raymond) “What!? Well… how was it?”
(Peter) “Impossibly splendid – and filled with legendary beings. and swarms of gods. It was as self-absorbed as Mardi Gras and had poor quarters reminescent of the back streets of New Orleans in comparison with the rest of the place. It was still utterly fantastic compared to Earth – but it was obvious that something was wrong. From what the god we were traveling with said… a lot of the old links with Earth were broken during something called the “reshaping”, and now it was much harder to visit earth without a proper summoning to serve as a link. Anyway… the Insidious – or Sidereals – seemed to be… simply overworked functionaries in one department. It was… part of the tour.”
(Raymond) “Well, I’d better fess up then… that’s what the kid told me about Yu-Shan, and the Sidereals. He said… that the number was constant; when one was killed, the power that created them simply… transferred itself to someone else, although the new Sidereal then needed some training. That’s… pretty consistent with Starbreaking findings, to be sure…”
(Peter) “What, they just… reincarnate if killed? So all this work was just… harassment?”
(Raymond) “Well, I never killed one, and Howard sure wasn’t in long enough to… but I feel pretty guilty about my involvement.”
Howard’s encounter with that Chosen of Journeys was still a source of light ribbing in the family.
(Ethan) “Things happen. And it’s not like the Starbreaking ever had much success… There hardly ever seems to be more than a few of the Insidious on Earth at any one time.”
(Raymond) “With all due respect Sir, I never thought I’d hear you say that.”
Had the initial show of force frightened the Sidereals away from Earth? Or had they just stopped sending anyone who hadn’t yet mastered that weird ability to simply vanish that had been reported on so many of the later Starbreaking missions that weren’t simply false leads?
Wait. “A hundred”. And an entire universe to look after, even if Earth was presumably an important bit. That… sort of sucked! Poor guys! Exaltation should be a privilege, not a drudgery!
(Ethan) “So when is the… “child”… due to arrive?”
(Raymond) “From what Howard told me, in half an hour. Said he was (he took a deep breath, even if it wasn’t news) bicycling in.”
(Peter) “Bicycling? You were serious earlier then? He has power on the scale we’ve seen and he’s traveling by BICYCLE?”
(Raymond) “That was what Howard said when he called me…”
(Peter) “If he really is a child… what’s he going to be like when he grows up?”
(Raymond) “As much as I hate to say it, that might be “if.” Somebody like that can probably control his aging without a gem of immortality.”
(Esmerelda) “Peter Pan, the Cosmic Entity. Oh by Oblivion…”
(Raymond) “Hey, I just know what I’ve seen him do.”
There wasn’t much more to say – and it wasn’t long before Charles turned up. He was pleased to see that the Beech Street Manse was functioning just fine post-upgrade! And Howard was coming out to meet him now that the manse guards had confirmed that it was him!
(Howard) “Good evening! Uh… did you really bicycle in?”
It was a silly question of course – the boy was still folding it up to put away – but it was just so WEIRD!
(Charles) “Why not? I like bicycles!”
(Howard) “Okay… anyway, l don’t want to leave Dad waiting much longer. Let’s head upstairs.”
Charles did – although he did keep the dodge charm ready to go, just in case.
They headed on through the lobby, and up the stairs; the meeting was going to be several floors up, near the top of the tower – and well above the general business and clan offices below. The ascent proceeded normally – until Howard pivoted to his right and attempted to grab the air next to him. The Manse guards with them went on alert; they had their guns out anyway, but were not yet firing.
Charles turned on his essence sight… That had been silly of him! He should have had that on anyway!
Hm… It was pretty hard to make out – but there was a faint shimmering moving at more-than-human speeds about ten feet to the right, heading away from the group.
Gothmug promptly threw up a box – but whatever-it-was moved with deadly speed, slipping past the encasement. It looked like it was capable of “perfect” defenses . . .
Gothmug simply sealed off the corridor at the far ends and created a confined place; even with a perfect evasion you wound up in one area or the other when an enclosed place was subdivided, and eventually you’d have no room to evade in…
That got whatever-it-was into a solitary box eventually. Howard ordered the Manse guards to surround it at a safe distance.
There were sawing noises – but Gothmug simply made the walls indestructible, which put an end to THAT.
(Charles) “Hello! Want a sandwich? Or tea?”
(Female voice, after a bit – and in English, but with a VERY weird accent) “Tea. No, a sandwich… no – which makes less of a mess?”
(Charles, feeling that that was a little odd) “Well, sandwiches are solid, tea is liquid…”
(Female voice) “Uh… tea!”
(Charles) “Tea then!”
(Howard) “Tea’s nice… but what in the blazes are you doing here… invisible?”
(Female voice) “May I please be let out first?”
(Charles) “That’s up to the people who own this place! You were kind of sneaking!”
(Howard) “Well, let her out… (to box) but we’re keeping an eye on you!”
Gothmug grumbled a bit – but he let the interior subdivisions disappear while leaving the outer-level containment, revealing a slender, apparently unarmed, young woman in dark but practical clothing.
(Charles) “Were you coming to the conference too?”
(Woman) “Err… thank you! I wasn’t expecting you to spot me…”
(Charles, slightly mystified) “You’re welcome!”
(Howard, looking somewhat confused by the accent) “Well, she’s coming to the conference now. We can’t let her run around unsupervised in here.”
(Woman) “Oh yes! I am here for the conference!”
(Charles) “Oh, I’m Charles! What’s your name?”
(Howard) “Well… Martha… if you’re here for the conference, what was with the cloaking?”
He motioned for the guards to keep walking… and she went along, but got deadly serious, and said something in a language similar to Old Realm – but not Old Realm.
Howard looked somewhat afraid – while it took Charles (who had a good deal of practice with Old Realm) a bit to make it out… The linguistic distance was similar to that between the High Realm and Low Realm tongues – although this was obviously a living language, rather than being nearly dead. Given the far greater time interval… that pointed to a culture with sophisticated ways of passing on information, probably including recording systems. That limited things a lot! There hadn’t been many high-tech cultures that had persisted since the end of the first age or before!
Oh yes, it had been; “I wish to talk to your father about his recent investigations.”
The conference room was on the seventh floor, and Raymond was waiting.
(Raymond) “Is everything all right? Who’s that?” (Indicating Martha).
Howard whispered something into his ear, and he forced a smile.
(Raymond) “Well, come in. You too, ma’am.”
He took extra care not to touch Martha as they headed into the conference room.
Charles had been considering Marth’s essence-aura; it wasn’t too much stronger than that of an experienced mortal thaumaturge’s – rating three – but he’d never seen one quite like that before! It was… strangely orderly, and mechanical! That was rather neat! Could she be one of the “Alchemicals” he’d heard about? They were… well, he really didn’t know much – but they were supposed to be really good with magitech!
The conference room was lavish, with mahogany, plush carpet, and fine paintings on the walls. It would appear perfectly normal except for the numerous wards against Terrestrial anima flux. There were quite a few people waiting; most of them apparently the entourage for the two men standing on the far side of the table. One of them (Peter) looked normal, with only his red hair to distinguish him. The other, older gentleman (Ethan) breathed out a puff of smoke. Waves of heat radiated from him – and even Charles couldn’t help but notice that neither of these men looked a lot like Howard.
(Charles, cheerily) “Hello!”
(Peter) “Hello, Charles.”
(Ethan) “Yes . . . It’s good to meet you.”
(Charles) “Nice to meet you too! What was it you needed?
(Ethan) “I’m Ethan Morgan, and this is my son Peter. Hmm, getting to business already! I like that… I was going to ask you about the Manse you constructed for Howard’s aide, Raymond. Could you tell me more about how you did it so fast? (To Martha) And madam, won’t you please sit down?”
(Charles) “For most things – like the survey – it’s just harder to do it fast, so you just have to be clever. For the engineering and construction… I just mass-manufactured the necessary components, and assembled them. Once the manse-potential was in place and the components were channeling it, you just let the matter build itself along the essence flows!”
(Martha) “Shouldn’t we all sit down?”
(Ethan, raising an eyebrow, but doing so) “Mass-manufactured… but every Manse I know has to be built for the demesne… which was only forming in the first place, and only third-rank!”
Charles cheerily sat down in an obligingly-appearing chair – supplied by some obliging geomancy.
(Charles) “Oh, the design has to be individualized, but components – things like shaped blocks, and essence-conductive structural members, and that sort of thing can easily be mass-produced!”
Everyone sat – and everyone but Charles seemed to agree with the house head from their looks: this was not normal.
(Ethan) “How long did it take you to draft the design?”
(Charles) “Well, the potential designs are implicit in the geomantic survey; you simply need to select a possibility to realize from among the potential patterns.”
(Peter) “All good and well, but just planning a Manse of that rank normally takes years – and I believe Father asked you a direct question there.”
(Charles) “It’s not really a separate step doing it that way; the possible designs are apparent; you just need to select one. Long enough to choose I guess. A minute maybe?”
(Howard) “He… he actually said that, right?”
(Charles, with some puzzlement) “Uhm… yes?”
(There was a rather imperious look from Ethan…) “YOU were the one who reported how quickly he repaired this Manse. I would think you would be the one LEAST surprised by his capabilities.”
(Howard) “But… that’s just… how do you do that? That would take ridiculous amounts of Essence for the demesne alone!”
Meanwhile, Martha was just listening… and taking everything in, from the looks of her.
(Charles) “It’s not all that much!”
(Howard) “I bet you did the same thing, or similar, for this place. And you still haven’t told us HOW you do that! You can do a lot with the right facilities these days, but that doesn’t take care of the geomantic shaping. Not with any magic available to us!”
(Peter) “Which is why we’re curious. Frankly, we’re willing to pay good jade for the process. We can outbid most clans and houses in the Southeast.”
(Ethan) “Or a smaller amount of artifacts. (Quickly) But only if Madam approves!”
(Charles) “Well… I don’t know if you could use it. I suppose I could make something else while you watched. Would that help?”
(Charles) “What do you need?”
Wait… Had the boy REALLY just been asking what they NEEDED when he arrived? Not just what they WANTED to know? Was he seriously prepared to… create things on request?
(Peter) “Oh, why don’t we let Howard decide?”
(Ethan, dubiously) “All right. Ask the boy for an artifact, son.”
(Howard) “My own artifact folding boat!”
Well, those were… a massive challenge, without being impossible! At least to any artificer that they’d ever heard of…
(Charles) “Any particular styling or other features?”
(Howard) “Umm… I don’t care as long as it’s okay for river travel.”
(Ethan) “Raymond, if you would run Essence detection while he does this. And Madam, if it’s not too much trouble, could you as well?”
Charles was briefly considering… He had the design ready, so that was easy…
He tucked his tongue in the corner of his mouth and pulled on his various factory-cathedrals and their material stockpiles and requirement-bypassing systems. He stuck with adenic thaumaturgic acceleration instead of his native acceleration charm so they could get a better view – but flurried it massively to make up for it only being about 20% as efficient.
It took a couple of minutes – and, of course, turned out a set of five. He HAD been tapping into Dudael after all.
(Charles) “Here you go!”
(Howard) “Um… wow, thanks…”
Ethan raised an eyebrow at Raymond – and understood the slight gesture… Raymond agreed; they had prepared every form of analysis they could for this – and that had been…immensely skilled and powerful thaumaturgy backed and amplified by the networked geomancy of many manses, and the powers of several artifacts and hearthstones, and… raksha grace magic? – but while that implied vast resources, nothing there was inherently beyond their power save, possibly, for the Greater Thaumaturgy – and the boy seemed willing to simply… give that away!
Beyond that however… there had been traces of at least two new types of Essence. There had been the helpful, obliging, stuff that the boy bestowed on people when he… upgraded their thaumaturgic powers – and there had been just a hint of boundless space, endless time, and the darkness between the stars clinging to a shimmering trace of essence that was almost impossible to see or pick out of the rest.
And all of it seemed to come from… inside of him. Where there was indeed… personal geomancy, held together with more-than-Terrestrial power – but that power was… passive. It linked and guided the other powers, but was not manifesting itself directly. Was it the boys, or merely something bestowed? The boy… was still not reading as much of anything! Not even as a god or an Exalt! Just as a god-blood! He wasn’t even expending much of any personal power!
Martha was not so well-prepared for analysis – she hadn’t perceived the traces of Nocturnal essence or the more-than-mortal internal powers – but she, at least, recognized the action of… an internal factory-cathedral when she saw one. But only a full-scale metropolis could mount THAT charm! How was the child hauling around so much equipment? Was he a manifested city-spirit or some such?
Ethan’s heat aura had reduced in radiance.
(Ethan) “I… see that we probably won’t be able to copy the geomancy or the thaumaturgic skill. That’s a shame… perhaps we could do something with the artifacts though. Would you care to share the plans with us?”
Most people would have heard the tone and recognized that it might be most unwise to refuse that request.
Charles, of course, recognized no such thing – but was perfectly happy to share some plans for artifacts. The major ones he was using at the moment were the Orb of the Archmage and the Wonderworker’s Mantle…
(Ethan) “Interesting… this item can store sorcery beyond what we are capable of without spiritual assistance! And… this one requires material from Heaven.” (Martha looked over at that comment, and he lowered his eyes.) “I would assume you use the higher-powered thaumaturgy most of the time, as it seems to be equal to Celestial level. With that level of proficiency, you must have studied the greater sorceries sometime.”
(Charles) “A little! I generally don’t bother with them much; Thaumaturgy will usually do the things I need, and it’s much more flexible!”
(Ethan) “And at that level… How much do you want for the artifact schematics? I would rather not keep Madam waiting longer than necessary…”
(Charles, rather blankly) “Want? I mostly just make what I need… And here they are!”
(Ethan, blinking – and then smiling) “Excellent. Thank you for your generosity. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must discuss things with Madam. I might have more questions for you afterwards.”
There was just a hint of nervousness there – although Charles was, of course, oblivious.
He could spare a little more time… At least here the people with questions can’t bother him… except on his phone, bother it!
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXII – Manses and Morgans (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXIX – Where Have All The Flowers Gone? (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session LVI – The Exultant Avalanche (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXX – The Djinn of the Lamp (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)
- Exalted – Jouten Formation (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXVII – Science and Sorcery (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice LXIII – Traps and Recklessness (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)