The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXIV – Alchemical Factions

Martha Jones

Mercurial Bane Of Deception Pretending to be an Actress on Dr Who…

With everyone else quietly leaving Martha and Ethan alone to talk for a bit, Charles got towed along down the hall to the executive break room – where they waited. People started getting antsy (and nervous) pretty quickly, but no one was going to crack the door open and go back into the conference room – or try to get Charles into casual conversation. After all, if you said “yeah, I like good views” you might come home to find half your house hanging out over the grand canyon or something. That much raw power and willingness to oblige was… rather frightening.

Charles soon got bored – people seemed nervous and didn’t want to talk to him for some reason – so he produced a workbench and started drawing on the factory-cathedrals and manses again to make a few minor (two dot) peaceful helpful things in sets of three hundred at a time… Essence Gliders were always fun, so he made some of those, and then some redesigned Bracers of Shared Life (attunement cost of one mote and a limited link to a manse that would bestow some creation-normal “mutations” – Immortality, Exalted Healing, and Awakened Essence – after a few months, after which the bracer could be removed and passed on), and was just finishing up with some Rods of Cleansing The Body when Martha and Ethan Morgan came in.

Martha had wanted to talk to him next… While he’d been looking at HER, she’d been looking at HIM. Even in the great Metropolis’s where she was from, treating young boys like a big deal was something significant – and her findings had been most unusual even BEFORE the boy had casually created an artifact. Even in the finest workshops of the Great Metropolis’s of Autochthon she had never seen such artificing skill! That could not possibly be mere god-blooded power, no matter what guise it used to cloak itself! And that Thaumaturgy! That strange essence… It matched some of the essence coming from him! The stuff that kept… going off by itself to do things! What in Oblivion, the Underworld, and the Wyld was going on with the child!?!?”

Still… the boy was so good natured, and so absurdly helpful, that even considering that trap’s strength… he was still comforting to have around.

That trap was another matter though; no charms, no spellcasting, no apparent artifacts, just… raw geomancy, erupting out of Elsewhere to reshape reality to oblige him. Come to think about it… a lot like those chairs that popped up whenever he wanted to sit down, and the way that his cell phone worked with no battery, and a dozen other little things. The geomancy of Creation seemed to… go rushing around to keep him comfortable and do what he wanted.

Was it possible to just be so nice that even the universe would rush to oblige you?

OK, that was silly – but STILL.

She knew of Gaia – the Tome of the Maker was one of the oldest texts of Creation, and people who tried to change it often wound up mysteriously vanished or dead, presumably by the Maker’s will. But the Tome said nothing like this about the Maker’s siblings – except, of course, for Gaia.

No, wait, that would be silly. Gaia’s preferred form was described in the text. When she was feeling nice she tended to appear as the Emerald Mother… On the other hand, a child-jouten who bent the local geomancy to his gentle whims seemed plausible enough. What had she stumbled into here!? This had been supposed to be a simple scouting mission – and, while those were never as simple as planned, the potential complications were never like THIS!

At least the Terrestrials seemed oddly unwilling to gainsay her.

Charles – as usual – finished up his work before paying attention to anything else, despite his carefully-watching audience of Terrestrials, Awakened Aspected, and trusted mortals. There would be much examination of the Bracers of Shared Life later – since it would soon become apparent that they meant health and long life for entire extended families – but for now there was some quiet applause.

He let anyone have some who wanted some. After all, he could just make more.

(Peter) “Well, Howard, I have to give you credit. You stumble into the most interesting people.”

Then he saw that his father and the Alchemical had left the conference room.

(Charles) “Oh, all done? Er… I’ve made things crowded haven’t I? Sorry about that!”

(Martha) “Thank you for listening to me, Mr. Morgan. You will consider my words, yes?”

(Charles) “I got bored!”

(Ethan, stepping on one of the rods and looking down) “Someone please sort and bin these… and yes, we are done. And our guest would like to speak with you, next. (To Martha) And yes, madam, I will consider them.”

Normally he’d have asked one of the thaumaturges to put up a privacy ward at this point – but he was fairly sure that Charles could put up a much better one.

(Martha) “Mr. Morgan says this is the point where someone normally puts up a privacy ward for me.”

(Charles) “Oh! Ok!” (And did so).

Martha sat down again, and smiled – and Charles sat down in another obligingly-appearing chair.

(Charles) “What do you need?”

(Martha) “This has been a confusing day, if I must say so myself. He says I’m not supposed to reveal what I am in front of the mortals. What an arrogant way to refer to humans. And I was going to ask you a little more about your abilities.”

(Charles) “Well, pretty much everybody is mortal… That really does need fixing!”

(Martha needed a moment to take that in. Was he SERIOUS?) “I must admire your ambition. Excuse me for a moment…”

(Charles) “OK!”

Martha… underwent a metamorphosis. Flesh bubbled, things inside of her whirred, and what seemed to be implanted artifacts formed out of, or emerged from, her flesh. Charles observed the process with some interest… It only took a minute or two, but the woman who could pass on the streets before was now clearly something more than human. The implanted artifacts were made of moonsilver, appeared more grown than forged, and a beautifully faceted diamond had sprouted from her forehead. Her flesh was clearly clay, and no sign of breath came from her.

(Martha) “I’m fairly sure you’ve guessed by now, but I am no human.”

(Charles) “Hm! Soul-containment and… an artificial body. A bit like a Raksha in a shaped form! The minor artifacts are simply channels for the power that’s been bonded to you! Not a bad way to do it!

(Martha) “Then you realize that I am much like them. It’s not quite the same process, but the end results are quite similar.”

(Charles) “Why not? Bodies change all the time, and you certainly have a human soul there! The Kickaha are still quite human, and so are the totem-bonded, and a lot of the others…

(Martha smiled) “And how rude of me. My name isn’t Martha; my designation is Mercurial Bane of Deception. Most of my associates call me Bane.”

(Charles) “Nice to meet you! I have several names, but my usual one is Charles!”

(Bane) “Is that what’s crawling around in there? I had thought nanites…”

(Charles) “What? Oh! No, no… There’s plenty of room!”

(Bane) “Then that means only a few things, and if one of those is true…”

There had been no taint of Malfeas on Charles that she could see, so that eliminated one possibility…

(Bane) “Could you . . . show me?”

Charles… decided that, if he was coming out, he might as well do it in style – he’d keep all the attention focused on HIM and let his Guardians get on with things!

He went ahead and opened a gateway in the air.

(Charles) “This way! “

(Bane, blinking) “Not connected to your body, at least materially… fascinating.”

She did a bit of detection to be safe, but once she determined that it was clear, in she went!

(Charles) “It’s best to use this gate! I keep losing track of where the smaller ones have wandered off too. They keep scooping up people who are in trouble and bringing them in to visit anyway!… And here we are!”

They were overlooking the singing forest again. It WAS one of the prettier arrival destinations!

(Bane – with a bit of a blank look, but then a shrug) “By the Maker… how long has this been in existence? Trees and birds are not supposed to sing like that… unless I’ve missed a species.”

(Charles) “Since I dreamed it up! It went well with the crystal peaks! And the trees and birds were made for here! See, they do their own luminous patterns and such to go with the music!… They’re still not as good at composing as the great masters though!”

(Bane) “Incredible… and the sky is just like the sky in Creation. And yet you appear to be no older than a child… How many years has this been in existence, exactly?”

(Charles) “The forest? Uhm… fourteen months I think! Longer if you count from when I started thinking about it; that was several years ago I think.”

(Bane) “So you didn’t start your existence with this… why an inner world?” (Smiling) “Was that the most efficient way you could think of to assist others?”

(Charles) “Well, it works very nicely!”

Good! She was startled enough not to realize yet that “this area” might just be the forest – and that he’d neither confirmed nor denied starting off with OTHER areas in his inner world… She’d probably think of that later. Things would get even more confused once she met a Deva… Even the Alchemicals probably didn’t know how new primordials came into being; they just had more direct experience with one of them.

(Charles) “And people can come and visit while I make places for them!”

(Bane) “Well, it is a fascinating way of dealing with the issue. I’m curious about how you gathered the Essence to do it – if you wouldn’t mind telling me…”

(Charles) “Well, once you start manifesting your own geomancy, Essence really isn’t a problem; it arises from the stresses between the underlying chaos and the level of structure that geological structures impose on it. So when you have geology, it creates essence, which gathers into dragon lines and demesnes and can be focused through manses!”

That… sounded oddly similar to the process that colossi used to become metropoli and patropoli: find the most geomantically-auspicious area in the Maker’s body and set root. Yet the boy was moving around just fine it seemed, with his larger body subordinate. An odd blend of the Raksha she’s only recently encountered and the urban settlement process to be sure, but it seemed to have worked well for him. Was there much to the place beyond the forest?

Some of the Living Starships passed overhead – and the expression on her face was wistful – so Charles cheerily beckoned them down to visit and say hello!

They were actually quite curious. While there were automata in Aden, none gave off the kind of power aura she did.

She petted them much as a human would pet a horse or a sheep.

(Bane) “So friendly…”

(Charles) “Well… Mercurial Bane of Deception, these are… Enterprise 1701, the Millennium Falcon, and Excalibur!”

There was more blinking.

(Bane) “What, like the audio-visual transmissions?”

(Charles, to the ships) “I promise! I’ll start the colony-planting soon so you have more to do!” (to Bane) “Uhm… Why not? Everybody needs a name!”

(Bane) “Of course. And colony-planting?”

She continued to pet all the Living Starships – a lot.

(Charles) “I’ve been terraforming planets, and getting them ready for people. There are lots of barren rocks that no one is using and Gaia said I could!”

(Bane) “So… I see. This day gets stranger and stranger, but at least benignly so.”

(Charles) “Was that what you wanted to know?”

(Bane) “More or less… and I appreciate your patience. But where in Creation did you meet the Maker’s sister?”

(Charles) “Yu-Shan! I wanted to ask before I used too much of her stuff…”

He wanted to ask a Primordial for permission… and got it? He was obviously being a bit cagey about whether it was before or after – formal logic training would obviously come in handy in dealing with the child; he appeared to be reluctant to lie, but entirely willing to let people make false assumptions – but he ASKED. With his apparent power… She had to wonder how desperate things were… and what this “Yu-Shan” was.

(Bane) “I must confess, I’m not what they thought I was. All that deference was… confusing.”

(Charles) “What did they think you were?”

(Bane) “That… I would rather not say for certain until I’ve spoken to more of these ‘Starbreaking’ clans. But I suspect something has gone deeply awry… No, I KNOW something has gone awry.”

(Charles) “Oh yes! Starting long time ago! That’s why I have so much fixing to do! But Gaia said she’d help on some of the big projects, so that’s all right! “

(Bane) “Well… once I’ve done some more investigation and reported to my superiors, I’ll see about your assistance. (Sigh) I wish I could tell you more, but it’s a matter of security… And I don’t want to leave this place just yet – it appears to be quite large – but it’s peripheral at best to my mission, and I really should report back.”

(Charles) “Aw… But you haven’t even met anybody!”

(Bane smiled sadly) “As much as I would like to… I’m running behind schedule as it is. These starships were fascinating enough. Perhaps some other time?”

(Charles, with just a touch of disappointment) “OK!”

He opened the gate to go back while Bane bowed respectfully to the starships.

(Bane) “Thank you for showing me, though. Do you let people in, or can they just come in?”

(Charles) “There are some ways in – but since I’m basically suspended in Elsewhere, you have to either be let in or use a way of traveling that would reach alternate realms of existence!”

(Bane) “I see… well, thank you, Charles.”

She re-adopted her innocuous human form before going back out.

Hm… Charles estimated that it must have required untold amounts of the Magical Materials to make her body. These “Alchemicals” must be VERY expensive!… Oh yes! He’d better check with Gramps and Lytek! Should he ask her not to share his confidences for the moment?

Lytek – of course – was mostly interested in the Alchemical herself, and left it up to Charles. Gramps advised caution – although he was sadly well aware that Charles had very little of that particular quality.

Her estimates were a little different… Considering how quickly the child created artifacts, and how much could be installed in a pocket dimension… The potential was incredible. That desire to fix cosmic errors… might not be out of the boys reach. Perhaps it was no wonder that Gaia herself was taking an interest.

Charles did ask that she please try to keep things quiet. If she had to make a report so be it, but there was no reason it had to go very far. It might interfere with his work!

(Bane) “I assure you that my superiors are quite discreet.”

(Charles) “Oh good! Because as long as the Sidereals are debating, I can fix things without any red tape!”

Bane smiled… She was quite sure that none of her reports would be going THERE.

The Morgans gave Bane some gifts – which made her look mildly confused, although she accepted them since it was apparently customary…

(Bane) “I apologize for not bringing gifts of my own…”

(Charles) “I could get you some!”

The Morgan’s looked a bit awkward – although Mr. Morgan less so.

(Bane) “Oh, that’s all right, Charles. I think you have given them enough for both of us.”

Well, they were only rank two – but there were nine hundred of them altogether after all. That probably was quite enough – and Bane suspected that her fellow Exalted had had enough surprises for today.

Bane departed – not at all sure what Charles was, but reasonably sure that he was not a normal primordial – if there was any such thing.

After the manse guards had escorted her off the premises…

(Ethan, after Bane was gone) “That was educational. Peter, Howard, Raymond… and Charles. A word with you, please…”

They all headed back into the conference room.

(Howard) “What is it, Dad? You were in there a really long time.”

(Charles) “More privacy wards?”

(Ethan) “Yes, if you please…”

After they were up… it was surprising that someone who was already ruddy could blush.

(Ethan) “I’ve been duped.”

(Both sons, nearly simultaneously) “What do you mean?”

(Ethan) “She wasn’t Starbreaking… and I think my next meeting with them will not be pleasant.”

(Charles) “If you need to ask for help and the wards aren’t too strong I should hear you!”

(Ethan) “Charles, what’s the best armor you can craft?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Let me see… (he fished out of the Behemoth Cloaks) Would this do?”

(Ethan) “I would prefer something as concealable as possible – even more than what I’m wearing.” (That was a suit of the Terrestrial transformative armor.)

(Charles) “Well, the cloaks can look like anything of course.”

Raymond handled the detections.

(Raymond) “Um… I think that will do, sir.”

(Ethan) “Thank you, Charles. I should need it only for this meeting, if you have a limited supply.”

Unless the folding boat wasn’t a hardship for him, and it sure hadn’t looked like it.

(Charles) “Oh, I made a batch of them! Lots of people like armor!”

(Ethan) “Then… would it be all right if I kept it?”

(Charles) “Sure!”

So lavish a gift giver…

(Ethan) “Thank you Charles, and there is some business Howard has to discuss with you before you go. I must plan for my meeting with the Starbreakers… so everyone but Peter is dismissed.”

Charles, of course, tended to rate gifts according to “how much time does this cost me?” – and so a lot of things were “less important than  a lunch from McDonalds”. After all, he didn’t really have to worry about resources and facilities like they did.