Upon careful consideration, Raymond wanted to actually see a heavenly “slum” – the thought of heaven having slums was still a bit much to swallow – and he wanted to bring Howard along too; evidently he hadn’t gotten to go last time – and it would be better to have some backup, even if it was just for spotting things.
Charles had no objection; that just meant reopening the gate for a few minutes – and he’d have needed to do that anyway to explain that Raymond would be a bit longer.
Howard was more than willing. Curiosity was eating him up too.
(Howard after coming in) “So, what’s going on? Wow!” (As he saw the environment.) “How big is this place?”
(Charles) “Uhm… Map Please!”
The network promptly projected a map for them, showing Aden’s current (unclassified) one hundred and seventy-five thousand square miles… A whole world full of obliging geomancy? That was… absurdly handy. And given how supportive the place seemed to be… Was Charles prepared to evacuate the earth if that should ever be necessary?
(Raymond) “I… think that dwarfs most freeholds, doesn’t it Howard?”
(Howard) “Yeah, it does… nice place.”
They spent a few moments zooming in on interesting features while walking…
(Raymond) “Charles was about to take me to Yu-Shan.”
(Howard) “And let me guess, you wanted to take me since they left me out last time.”
(Howard) “You don’t mind, do you Charles? I’m more curious than anything.”
(Charles) “Why not? I really must warn you not to be rude to any gods though!”
(Howard) “I guess that goes without saying… what do they do if you are?”
(Charles) “Uhm… Well, humans, near-humans, and Terrestrials don’t have many legal protections there. So they could do all kinds of things, although – since you will be in company – the most common thing would be to have you ejected.”
(Howard) “What, like a yappy dog that won’t stop?”
(Charles) “Somewhat! The trouble is, that most of the gates are a bit… dangerous now.”
(Raymond) “Hmm… if the universe started in a different shape than we thought, in space?”
(Charles) “Some of them! And a couple in antarctica, and a few at sea, and so on.”
(Howard) “Nothing we couldn’t handle with some magitech for the Earth ones. I know they’re guarded, though… lions and dogs, right?”
(Raymond) “Or other ways. We might have to see one of those from the Heaven end.”
(Charles) “Well… the Celestial Lions are about 30,000 year-old gods. The Lion Dogs are mostly older.”
That gave them both some pause, as they knew that older gods were often powerful. Finally…
(Howard) “Let’s try not to get on their bad sides. I’m ready when you are.”
Charles called Gorim Naku (who’d been most pleased to find that Aden incorporated several forms of public transportation, but nothing much individual past bicycles). Putting Raymond and Howard aboard a tour bus seemed like the simplest way of making sure that they didn’t have any direct contact with unfriendly gods – and Gorim surely knew all the routes and neighborhoods!
Gorim Naku was happy to show them around Yu-Shan; he took them to a gate, to a slum (which was still nicer than many urban neighborhoods on Earth, even if it was subject to deiphage attacks), and even went by a reclaimed territory. The Opalescent Gardens were always popular for a scenic drive-by; the amusement park was quite lovely, even if it was behind fortress walls – and Charles did have a couple of under-16 tickets – as well as the effective salary to pay directly anyway (what with Cult-4 and a Prayerstone-5). He paid for admission for everyone.
Howard and Raymond spent the rest of the day there, mostly just watching the crowds (although they did have a few drinks and place a few small bets; both were married though, and took their vows far too seriously to go in for anything more risque than that…
Charles sighed – it did look like fun, but he had some other urgent things to do! He had to go down into the tunnels beneath the the Lunargent Ecological Protectorate and get Terapishim back! He had to figure out the geomantic map of Yu-Shan too… A good thing he had plenty of ways of speeding that up!
He made sure that his guests had several gods to look after them and make sure they get home and set up monitoring for an emergency gate pickup if necessary. Still, Howard and Raymond should be quite safe in the Opalescent Gardens Reclaimed Territory; it was a major source of income for the Bronze Faction, and it was very well protected. Even beyond that… the Cresses had turned up, and were actually with them.
Probably one of those Sidereal destiny manipulations or something. Rosa was catching up on work as best she could, while Alvan was talking thaumaturgy, and both were displaying the gracious hosting expected of those touched by Venus.
Naturally enough, they were passing around some information and speculation about Charles…
It was the first time that a reclaimed territory had hosted Terrestrials. Their visit would not be inconspicuous… although it would be quite safe.
Charles left them to it, and examined his map for the location Eighty-Six Orchid had referred to – which turned out to be fairly easy. It didn’t seem to correspond to a manse, a hole in the cosmos, or anything particularly important geomantically… (Nor was there a point labeled “Route to World of Darkness; Under Renovation”). The highest geomantic concentrations were in five spots; one was the Jade Pleasure of Dome (of course) but the others were spread out, one per non-central district, but always in the most distant locations from the center. The concentration of demesnes followed the standard laws of geomancy, but it was very organic except for a few spots where there had been bureaucracy-approved geomantic efforts.
None of that had much to do with where Terapishim was though. There was nothing there save a link about two thousand feet down… it did go outside of fate, and seemed to be connected to Yu-Shan, but not of it. There was no sign of infernal or deathly energies or wyld energies though.
Should he mention it to anyone? The Sidereals would be interested, but that might upset the Deiphages… Oh well!
Since no one appropriate really occurred to him, he started off that way…
(Gothmug, with some exasperation) “Oh, Charles! Remember last time? Shouldn’t you get some backup for this? That is VERY deep underground, and who knows what will be there?”
(Charles) “Well… Maybe Kiko? But she was going somewhere I thought!”
(Gothmug) “Oh yes, to Peru, wasn’t it? At least take some of the Coatl and the Inukami with you! We can handle the warding, but last time was close for my tastes, and I would hate to damage those gloriously gloomy catacombs.”
(Charles, doubtfully) “Well, I’ve got six Coatl with me… Maybe some of the Kickaha would like to come? They were looking for something to do!”
(Gothmug) “Excellent idea! I know a few who are spoiling for a good fight…”
He sent a dozen through.
(Charles) “Hi guys!”
(Kickaha) “Hi Charles! Gothmug said you were going someplace that’s probably full of cannibal horrors and would need our assistance. What’s up?”
(Charles) “I was going to rescue Terapishim, and he was supposed to be about two thousand feet down under Yu-Shan and held by deiphages! So Gothmug suggested that I take an escort!”
(Kickaha) “Okay! My pack’s the best sniffers in the Shire. We’ll let you know if anybody’s sneaking up on you.”
(Charles) “Thank you! And what’s your name?”
(Kickaha) “Oh yeah, I was so excited I forgot. I’m Marcel! Nice to meet you in person at last!”
Marcel extended a hand – which Charles cheerily shook.
(Charles) “And nice to get to know you Marcel!”
He shook hands with, and got introduced to, everybody – including Marcel’s mate Angelica, and the most prominent betas – Lily, Francois, Herman, and Josephine.
(Marcel) “So when do we go?”
(Charles) “Right away!”
He started doing some advance scrying; he didn’t want to interrupt a procession or something!
There was a brief howling session – apparently for morale-building purposes. That called for a quick sound-suppressing ward though; no need to disturb people!
The nearest access way had seen some use, but not all that much. It was dark, and there was some magic around – but only Celestial level. Several lesser deiphages were milling aboutl they had collars around their necks with what appeared to be some sort of talismans on them. They appeared content and well-fed – and, ironically enough, it really did seem to be a procession of sorts.
The access way dead-ended in an adamant wall. Behind that wall was the region that Charles had sensed. The magic seemed to be coming from the floor itself…
Charles waited a bit for the Deiphages to pass by. Most of them shambled further down the corridor – but a couple stuck by the dead end, though. Oh well! Time to teleport everyone down and have a look!
As Charles teleported himself and Marcel’s pack two thousand feet deep into Yu-Shan’s subterranean passages essence erupted from the floor and lashed out at the group’s legs, taking the form of grasping tendrils, pulsing and writhing with violet light.
It looked like… a Celestial variant of Sprouting Shackles of Doom that also sucked essence from the targets.
Charles promptly set up a ward… Although that gave the drooling deiphages at the far end enough time to start shambling towards the group. It looked like… a flowery god and a mechanical one.
They were deep enough in the geomancy that the anti-deiphagy ward probably wouldn’t work… but a simple barrier worked well enough with the snarling and fang-baring Kickaha backing it up. They knew that Charles made good barriers, but it was the thought that counted!
Knocking politely at the adamant wall didn’t get an answer, so Charles inspected it in magical detail, looking for the way in – as well as for traps, consciousness, interesting patterns and geomancy, barriers against fate – and a door-knocker.
The wall… felt like there was a separate dimension behind it, warded against – amongst other things – fate, teleportation, and scrying. Of course, Yu-Shan was a big sanctum on its own, but this felt like a tunnel leading to another, smaller, sanctum. A close look did, however, reveal the number “96” in Old Realm base-20 characters. Even that was well-hidden from Terrestrial level detections and ordinary thaumaturgy.
Hm… There were slightly more greater deiphages than that apparently, hidden deep in very old geomancy, invisible to the Sidereals and thus outside of fate… had the earlier ones been the original operator-gods? It was just possible that they’d only been pulled into the system when they had a bad day and had run short of motes to feed in after the Geomancy was meddled with… If their minds were still in the input-buffers, it just might be possible to rescue them!
If Yu-Shan WAS a world-creation and editing engine and HAD been used to inflict modifications on the Yozi’s… would those modifications fail if Yu-Shan failed? That would explain the primordial surrender very neatly! They’d have known that, for them, just as for everyone else, nothing short of a final death was unhealable – and that, in the face of infinite time to come, eventually there WOULD be a failure.
That would also be why the Incarnae had never shared any of this information; there had been – and might still be – primordial loyalists, who would have tried to either use the systems to reverse the process or to cause breakdowns in Yu-Shan to eventually achieve the same end.
That would also explain why the Unconquered Sun had turned away from the faithful Dragon Kings; their eons of service, and ever-reborn memories… would have been a grave threat to any such elder secret. You could never know when some of them might remember something!
That was still only a speculative theory of course – but it was certainly doing well enough to be worth pursuing a bit later on if the geomancy seemed to fit.
He tried extending a communications-probe…
There WAS consciousness on the other end… at least one sapient, and familiar one. He also got the sensation of panic.
(Charles) “Would somebody open the door please?”
(Greater Deiphage – presumably Ninety-Six Lotus) “YOU again… damned Eighty-Six Orchid! Bad enough that you took my favorite vessel and she broke my exterior wards – no, I am not letting you in! Find your own damn way!”
Meanwhile, the deiphages outside were clawing at the barrier.
Charles made a whimsical attempt to guess – “Primordial Override; Access Geomantic Command 96” – while looking for ways to key the barrier – but it didn’t work. Lotus had it closed on his end, and further reinforced with a Divine Decree: “This gate is barred to those who are not tied to the geomancy of beloved Yu-Shan.” It was at the maximum power that an Essence Seven god could generate.
Plus, of course, on his end the adamant was blocking it.
Well, he was intimately tied to Dudael, which was a manifestation of Yu-Shan’s geomancy – and he could easily reshape the adamant or fiddle around getting the passkey… It looked like he’d need a Celestial Lotus, dipped into Celestial Wine.
Reshaping the Adamant was a lot easier than THAT.
A vortex of whirling energy emerged in the wall… The pair of deiphages’ clawing was frantic now, and the Kickaha smelled a lot of saliva that wasn’t theirs or Charles’s.
(Charles) “I think I ought to send all of you back through my personal gate, and head on in now that the wall is open!”
(Marcel) “Charles, are you sure? You don’t know what’s beyond there!”
(Charles) “Well… you probably can’t go through, but if you’re right on the other side of my personal gate you can come right back out once I’ve gone through… If you can come through, you’re welcome though!
(Marcel) “We’re going to try!”
Well, they were tied to HIS geomancy… It could work!
Charles… went through. Most of the Kickaha did not make it through; the penalties from the Divine Decree overwhelmed their efforts to push through with sheer will. Marcel, Angelina, and Herman did make it though. The sensation was weird, but that was definitely a dimensional transition. It felt like he was being shuttled between places. Still, in a mere instant, he was once again standing in a tunnel of adamant… but this one was much fancier. On par with a Third Rank god’s residence.
Charles made sure that the Kickaha who couldn’t make it got recalled to Aden. The Kickaha were very glad that Charles could do that; they were unable to move!
No one answered, so Charles and the Kickaha went to look around. He was pretty sure that one of the minds he’d sensed had been Terapishim.
There were more of those organic carvings on the walls, running down the corridor in simple patterns. There were four doors along the corridor, two per wall, and one at the end. Atop the ceiling, an eye-shaped sensor was turned directly toward Charles. Off in the distance, he can hear loud scratching and scraping. The doors were reinforced and locked – but scrying revealed more corridors, and more doors – although the reinforcement was lighter on those doors. This place was big, as divine residences often were. Fortunately, it wasn’t as big as might be… Extending the area showed that the residence was more or less… a bunker. It had around twenty rooms and, other than the engravings, was remarkably spartan in decor and furnishing. Six of those rooms were protected by internal anti-scrying. One of those was in the center, with three more nearby. The other two were on the far ends.
Well, it wasn’t too likely that the anti-scrying covered smells! He had the Kickaha try to sniff things out…
There were quite a few lesser deiphages wandering the halls. Again, they had collars and talismans and seemed unconcerned about eating. A few wore black garments much like Lotus’s robes.
The Kickaha could smell beer coming from one of the central rooms.
Charles promptly headed off to check that one – despite the fact that it was close to one of the biggest concentrations of deiphages… He might get an answer or two!
The six rooms of the central area had only two ways in. Charles opted for the East. The East was associated with tea, and at the moment that was as good a reason as any!
Shortly, Charles and his Kickaha were confronted by a menagerie of collared and all-too-alert deiphages bearing weapons: spears, mostly. There was one in the back in black robes.
(Lotus) “Heh… maybe Orchid was right about you. I still can’t let you in! I have my orders!”
The corridor was too narrow – as befitted a bunker – to simply run some extra walls down the middle, and the lesser deiphages were ready to block their path up front – although they were reluctant to actually attack. There were some in the corridor itself, more tightly packed; and Lotus himself in the rear. The Kickaha were waiting for Charles’s orders.
(Charles) “Hm. Who can you let in?”
(Lotus) “Orders have always been to allow only members of my own cell, and superiors from other cells, in here. As it is… I can’t let you go any further, Mighty One or not.”
(Charles) “Well, I’m only here to pick up Terapishim!”
(Lotus, arching it’s current bodies eyebrow) “What for?”
(Charles, cheerfully) “He’s got a job application in, and I don’t want him to be late for the final interviews!”
(Lotus, with some astonishment) “Come to think about it, I recall you mentioning that . . . bother! I’m going to need another god of his Essence if that’s the case.”
(Charles) “What for? Would a specialty artifact do instead?”
(Lotus) “The boss… she wasn’t specific. The way she was talking, though… I haven’t heard her that happy in millennia. How big of an artifact? Does it channel Essence across entire neighborhoods? Because… he’s not bad for a foreigner, even if he does complain about the beer.”
(Charles) “Well, how big would you need?”
(Lotus) “If it had been a few millennia ago, we’d need a dedicated station for it. As it is… it’d still have to be a top-rank for what she wants! MAYBE just below that if we wanted to risk detection.”
(Charles) “Well, what are the actual specifications?”
The body went blank, then recited specs with all-too robotic precision. It… was a geomantic manipulation device designed to expand the empty quarters rapidly by divine standards – about a percentage point a month. It didn’t need to be permanently powered; they just needed enough for a rapid five-percent increase… Unusual though! Even a god should not be able to recite artifact specs verbatim with that accuracy, unless it was a part of their domain…
(Charles) “Huh! Well… I take it something is coming to a head?”
Perhaps sadly, while it was probably very short-sighted of Charles, making it for them DID avoid violence – and, as far as he was concerned, giving stuff away had never actually turned out to be disastrous so far…
(Lotus) “I… don’t know much more than that. But she sounded so hopeful, and I’ll be damned if I disappoint her!”
(Charles) “Well… OK!”
He was in a rush, and it was a temporary item, so a little eccentricity should be fine… He opened up a puddle of chaos hanging in the air, fished around in it for a minute or two – and pull out what they wanted (basically wyld questing, with a gate to his personal supply of chaos).
(Lotus) “Hey, WHAT? Mighty One, you can’t introduce THAT in here. Couldn’t. Still, thank you.”
Lotus took the artifact and ran some extensive Essence based checks.
(Charles, curiously) “Why not? I left it on the other side of the portal.”
(Lotus) “Sigh… it’s protocol, not that that matters anymore.”
Charles had made the artifact to last a little over five months, since they HAD asked for 5% – and so Lotus fairly rapidly concluded that it should work for their needs… The lesser deiphages had been watching with some astonishment. Many of them seemed frightened that a Primordial/Wyld shaper was in Yu-Shan…
Meanwhile, the Kickaha were appraising Lotus’s body. This still might come to a fight!
(Lotus) “Well… I better fulfill my end of the deal. Please, Mighty One, give me a few minutes.”
After all, if he didn’t… He really doubted that his deiphages could overcome the child’s bodyguards – much less the boys own defenses – quickly enough to keep him from pulling out some ludicrous implement of destruction if he was so inclined!
(Charles) “Oh sure!”
Lotus went further down the corridor, accompanied by all but a token force of the lesser deiphages. A particularly heavy set of doors opened and shut – and then Lotus came back out, carrying an unconscious Terapishim. Charles would know that beard anywhere! The Kickaha were quite impressed by its thickness and texture.
A quick scan showed that he was quite all right; he was just knocked out for awhile.
(Lotus) “Sorry about him being knocked out. Again, protocol. He should be up again in a little while… only a few hours.”
(Charles) “Not a worry!”
(Lotus) “And when you see Eighty-Six Orchid again… tell her she owes me some damn wards.”
(Charles) “Should I put some up?”
(Lotus) “Promise me they won’t be against the geomancy or kill us, and it’s a deal.”
(Charles, rather puzzledly) “Why would I want to do that? You asked for them. What do you want wards against?”
(Lotus) “I didn’t survive this long by sticking my head out… much. Anti-teleportation, anti-scrying… oh yeah, and anti-geomantic interference.”
Charles promptly erected a set as per his usual standards.
(Lotus) “If only I knew where the boss got the REALLY good ward from-that one I used on you.”
(Charles) “Well, it had loopholes! And these are almost as good!”
(Lotus) “Good… last thing I need is unnecessary loopholes. And you’d better get out of here, in case someone else is scrying this spot.”
(Charles) “Well, I didn’t break your existing wards! They didn’t apply to me anyway!”
(Lotus) “Yeah… thanks, Mighty One.”
(Charles) “You’re welcome!”
Lotus… almost seemed like he wants to touch Charles to see if he was real. Gothmug and some of the others tensed a bit when he reached out – but he wasn’t trying to feed, and putting up a ward against a simple touch seemed a bit absurd.
Lotus placed a paw on Charles’s hand… and then withdrew.
(Lotus) “I’d better go back in before some jerk spots me… be careful.”
(Charles) “OK! You be careful too!”
Lotus waved, and passed through the adamant wall. Charles waved back – and then teleported back to the surface. Terapishim was already showing signs of waking up! He was a tough old god!
(Terapishim) “CHARLES!” (And gave Charles a big bear hug.)
(Charles) “Hello Terapishim! You were missing for a bit there! Are you feeling OK?”
(Terapishim) “Some of my rivals in that city-god test grabbed me using powerful magic-I think Solar – and then deiphages came and ate them and then the deiphages grabbed me and took me to some place where the beer was AWFUL!”
(Charles) “Well, I have better beer!”
(Terapishim) “And then… it gets fuzzy. But that’s not important. We need to find Gri Fel and GET OUR JOB. But a beer wouldn’t hurt…”
Charles promptly placed the call to Gri Fel!
(Gri Fel) “Ah, hello Charles!”
(Charles) “Hello there! I found Terapishim!”
(Gri Fel) “I… don’t recall telling you he was lost. But that is truly good news!”
(Charles) “Oh good! When’s your appointment? I think the final judgement was due out very shortly!”
(Gri Fel) “Very soon-only three days from today. I was getting worried. PUT HIM ON THE PHONE.”
Charles did so – and there was a several-hour session of them catching up and and Terapishim getting fashion tips…
Charles left early. He had other things to do! He was almost ready to depart for the other end of creation now! He just needed to get Gri Fel and Terapishim in their office and the manse set up!
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXIII – Primordial Jouten On A Bicycle! (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXIV – The Dungeon Stroll from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXII – Manses and Morgans (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXV – Tea with Darkness (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LI – The House At The End Of Creation (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXVI – Science and Sorcery (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXV – Visitations (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXIV – Alchemical Factions from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice LXIII – Traps and Recklessness (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXX – The Djinn of the Lamp (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session LVI – The Exultant Avalanche (ruscumag.wordpress.com)