The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXII – The Deluxe Ranchero

English: Manse Field. Two horses in the field ...

They do like lot of space…

Charles sighed… Yet another thing to check before he could head for the Wyld! It was his own fault of course – if he hadn’t been running so many projects at once there wouldn’t be so many needing to be checked on – but he’d better see whether or not any of the other Kickaha had been up to anything that needed fixing – or was just seriously naughty. He’d given them power, so what they got up to with it was – at least in part – his responsibility.

As luck would have it, one had…

Oramure had been assigned to monitor the dragon lines of the Brazilian prairies and had decided to do some recreational hunting in the wilderness. What he’d thought were wild horses were, in fact, actually owned by somebody.

Unfortunately for him, that somebody was apparently magically powerful enough to capture the kid – and to give the watcher in Aden a little trouble with the tracing. Not too much, though; they had managed to get his location – behind some wards in a remote part of the grasslands.

Oops! That was DEFINITELY a “sorry, can we make it up to you” thing… How could the kid have mistaken horses that were presumably decently cared for for wild ones? Perhaps he had just been overexcited and hadn’t looked closely enough?

Charles headed that way with an apologetic Kickaha in wolf-form in tow. The pack Alpha sent Cedric – the pack Beta – in his stead as a subtle snub directed at Oramure. Evidently the Alpha thought he’d been rather dumb. Still, Oramure was just a boy, and an attempt to get him off the hook was definitely in order – unless whoever it was just had him working as a herd dog. That would… well, it would really be fair enough.

The location was a wood-aspected manse-ranch hidden deep behind thaumaturgical wards in a remote part of the grasslands. To mortal eyes, it would appear to be little more than a small ranch with the usual features: lots of fencing, standard facilities, and a modest house. That was a cover; it was easy enough to see that the Manse itself was in one of the fenced in areas – and the horses and cattle were fine indeed. There were hands, herders, and other workers who wanted to talk with him as he approached the compound though. Those assigned to that particular part of the ranch seemed to be highly alert.

(Charles, speaking to someone who appeared to be a supervisor) “Hello! I came to talk to the boss!”

(Supervisor) “Hello there! What is a boy your age doing out on the pampas alone, and why do you need to talk to the boss?”

He didn’t actually add “And how did you get here in the first place?” – but the thought was pretty obvious even to Charles.

(Charles) “I’m not alone! I’ve got Cedric here with me! And I need to talk to your boss about an apology and paying for some things…”

Cedric wagged his tail appealingly.

(Supervisor, with more interest) “Oh? And what would that apology be for?”

(Charles, sighing) “Well… Another one of Cedric’s packmates was out doing a job and got distracted by what he probably thought was random wildlife. I sent them out, so that’s really my responsibility.”

(Supervisor) “Hmm… I see. He’s in big trouble! The boss didn’t talk about it, but from her mood… he ate something REALLY valuable. I’m not sure what she’s doing with him, but I can see if she will talk.”

Ah! The supervisor, at least, knew some things… He wasn’t going “whaaa?” to the notion of a dog being sent out to do something.

(Supervisor, leaning in closer to Charles and whispering) “You must know good people for your age, if you were able to trace him!”

(Charles, whispering back) “I do know quite a few!… So can I see the boss?”

(Supervisor) “I’ll see about freeing your… friend? Familiar? Construct? Whatever he is…” (More loudly, to one of the hands) “Go to the house and tell Madame Barbosa she has a visitor.”

That hand rode off toward the small house. A few minutes later, there was a thaumaturgical message sent to the Manse – and another to the supervisor.

(The supervisor, whispering) “All right, we’re clear for a visit… she IS currently studying him, though.”

(Charles) “I suppose that was to be expected!”

They headed off… The entrance was through a hidden tunnel in the smaller house, and it emerged into the Manse proper, made entirely from toughened grass. It swayed gently in the wind. As a Manse, though, it was – of course – as hard to break as stone.

It also seemed to be geared toward animal breeding – and Charles thought it was extremely neat! He hadn’t seen any other manses built with basket weaving!

The entry floor was devoted to housing the supernatural animals. Madame Barbosa had to have a deal with at least one god; some of the horses were clearly more than mundane animals. The stables and pens are of utmost quality and do not stink in the slightest.

At least one horse was Sapient, but he was very comfortable and content in his personal stabling – although he was looking at Charles with some interest.

(Charles) “Oh hello! What’s your name?”

(Horse, in fluent Portuguese) “Ah, hello. I’m Sirocco. It’s nice to have a visitor… there usually aren’t many other than the usual hands. When can I go running again, Donato?”

(Supervisor) “I’m sorry, Sirocco, but Madame Flores still doesn’t want you leaving the Manse for the time being… you know what happened to Searunner!”

(Sirocco, looking quite unnerved) “Sigh… you’re right.”

(Charles, who was really hoping that that didn’t mean what he thought it did) “Hm… Oh dear! Well… (Charles busily rummaged in his pack)… Here you are!”

It was a small rank-1 Chancel, set up to provide a beautiful nature-preserve area.

The supervisor checked it; he knew some thaumaturgy, although he was nowhere near an expert. He gave it to Sirocco when he determined that it was safe.

(Supervisor) “There should be plenty of running room in there… anyway, shall we head upstairs? Madame Flores is still studying your friend with a specialist from Brasilia.”

(Charles) “Bye Sirocco! There should be some nice fields of oats and things in there when you get tired of running!”

(Sirocco) “Thank you so much!”

(Charles) “You’re welcome!”

The “stairs” were more of a basket-escalator. There were fine medical facilities, kitchens for the horses, and even places to store their excellent gear… and those were just the areas the supervisor was letting Charles see.

The living quarters and meeting area were on the top floor. It wasn’t a very tall Manse.

Once he was up there, Charles could feel… a fairly strong Wood Aspect signature coming from the back, along with a comparatively low-powered Solar one and a standard Kickaha. The Wood and Solar signatures were… coming his way, while the Kickaha one remained where it was.

Fairly soon, as Charles and the supervisor emerged in a lobby area decorated in teak and silk, Charles encountered a familiar face – Mr Romero! Charles hadn’t seen him since that mess with the manse and those three Abyssals in South America! He… was tracking something with an occult device. Behind him, with a small entourage, was a tanned woman with graying auburn hair: the source of the Wood signature, and presumably Madame Barbosa.

(Charles) “Hello!”

(Romero) “Strange… the link is getting CLOSER! Oh, hello… Charles was it?”

(Charles) “Yes, it is Charles Mr Romero! How have you been?”

(Romero) “Exciting would be the best description. Could you do me a favor? I want to confirm something… Could you move to my left a few meters?”

(Charles) “Well OK!”

Evidently Mr Romero was tracking the manse links! It must have been frustrating while he was still in Yu-Shan or Aden; they would have been linked through Elsewhere at that point, and would have had no direction that could be defined in a mere three dimensions…

(Romero, looking down at the device) “Incredible… the link is to young Charles here?”

(Charles) “Well, yes, I suppose it would be!… Is that bad?”

(Barbosa) “That’s really strange! According to Joao here, it’s a Manse connection.” (Smile) “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to share? I’m willing to return your… werewolf… for some considerations.”

(Charles) “To share what?”

(Barbosa) “Considering the one accompanying you, they can’t all be that badly behaved… Ah, where is my head? I was wondering how you transformed him that way! Joao’s analysis indicated that he was originally a normal human boy. Is it purely a Manse link?”

(Charles, somewhat embarrassedly) “Well, they were supposed to be out tracing the dragon lines to find what needed repairing, but many of them are rather young and got distracted… It’s mostly a link to a manse especially-designed to empower them, with some genetic adjustments, and a bit of other augmentations! They were a preliminary experiment, and I only made a few – but they started recruiting on their own while I wasn’t looking, so I thought I’d better find them some work to do…”

(Barbosa, blinking – and wondering about Charles’s responsibility level!) “They recruit? I can see the need for keeping them occupied – but he attacked and killed one of my finest horses. Are you certain there aren’t others as hungry as him on the plains?”

Meanwhile, Romero had perked up at the mentioning of designing Manses.

(Charles) “Well… let me see!”

He produced a globe-projection with their various current locations marked to see what they were up to at the moment – although, after a very recent lecture, they were probably on the job.

(Charles) “Hmmm… Out of the hundred or so currently operating on Earth there are currently twenty-two operating in South America, the closest… about eighty miles away and headed away following a dragon line there.”

Earth had mostly been teenage boys. Monitoring and security in Aden had gone to the smaller kids and pregnant girls, while a few of the older males were on extrasolar surveys on the new planets he’d been setting up (for a ground-level view to compliment the geosurvey satellites) – although there had been some requests to do true exploration work and there were a few who didn’t have jobs yet.

(Barbosa) “Well, good! I would hate to lose any more horses – and the hands and riders had enough trouble catching HIM.”

(Charles) “I AM very sorry about that! Should I get you something to help make sure that your horses and other livestock are all easily identifiable so that they know to stay away? They’ve just had a lecture on it, but it’s best to be sure!”

(Barbosa) “I would appreciate it! And a replacement for Searunner, or SOMETHING equivalent to her in power or value.”

Charles came up with some minor-artifact collars – roughly equivalent to the Resplendent Butler’s Accouterments as collars – and quietly inquired as to what Searunner had been like… He really was sorry about that! A pet would have been bad enough, but if she’d been a companion for Sirocco, she’d presumably been another fully-sapient type.

Searunner had been a Familiar-5 God-Blooded horse. Her divine parent was Seven Grasses Silent, the god of Brazilian horse breeding. She couldn’t exactly run on water, but she wasn’t impeded by running through it, and could breathe in it.

Oh dear! That meant sending apologies to Seven Grasses Silent too – even if he had to be very used to losing god-blooded offspring.

Seven Grasses Silent appreciated that, as used to losing offspring as he was. As a long-term way to bring the Brazilian horse-breeders to the top it had it’s price – but it HAD steadily (if fairly slowly) been expanding his domain. The god-blooded powers faded in a few generations as a rule – but the top-quality genes and little tweaks he added to them did not.

Charles… wasn’t quite willing to make fully intelligent horses to give away. Still… A quick request to Elzeard, and a little shaping, and using the Mardi Gras Fey to get some enhancements and mutations set up on them, made it easy enough to come up with a dozen roughly-equivalent mares and use a wyld gate to bring them in.

Barbosa was quite willing to accept that. With the Manse’s facilities, she could speed up the gestation on their foals – and it would help her finish her breeding project before she died. For a Terrestrial, graying hair meant that the end was fairly near – usually within a decade.

Charles caught that thought… Oh, that was true! He’d almost missed that! He hadn’t really dealt with many Terrestrials very much!

(Charles) “Uhm… Mrs Barbosa? Would you like some more time to finish up?”

(Barbosa) “Finish up? You mean… life extension? Well, if you control a Manse and have that many supernatural workers” (not to mention employing Raksha who could open wyld gates!), “you’re no ordinary boy. And I would love to see my horses in every stable. What were you thinking of?”

(Charles) “Well, a manse-link is simplest – but the thaumaturgical upgrade is better. And you take very good care of all your creatures, so why not?

(Barbosa) “Hmm… if that upgrade would enhance lifeweaving and the like, I’ll consider it. How much longer would it give me? And thank you! I would give these animals nothing but the best.”

Charles took a detailed look with lifeweaving to see how much longer she had now. It looked like… five or six years. She was a little under three centuries old.

(Charles) “About two and a half centuries at a minimum. Possibly longer; I haven’t got the exact rate figured out yet!”

(Barbosa) “That’s-” (she wasn’t saying it out loud, but that was about as long as the Starbreaker anti-anagathics would have given her, had she joined with them.) a fair amount… What would I need to do to get it?”

(Charles) “Well (and he cheerily produced the swirling green-blue orb again) you’d need to do a short dream-quest and imagine you were leaving a couple of drops of blood to set the link. It will seem like a few hours, and you can turn back at any time if you decide to. On this end… about five minutes. If you want to, you’d just look into this and envision yourself walking the path. Oh, it you’d like to try Mr Rameras you’re welcome to! I’m still collecting feedback on the upgrade design!”

Barbosa tested the link just to be on the safe side – then accepted.

(Romero) “Well, after Madame Barbosa… she’s been helpful with certain matters, and I was repaying the favor.”

While Romero was vision-questing, Madame Barbosa was considering the “upgrade”. The power was considerable. Life-extension, healing, assorted convenience powers, computer access, and more? All wrapped up in Celestial-level Thaumaturgy and a new essence type that was… impossibly benign?

Hardly impossible to misuse though. That was enough to topple any number of power-balances, draw the attention and cupidity of some EXTREMELY ruthless people, and – however innocently – cause enormous amounts of trouble! And the child was simply handing it out to people he’d barely even met! How could someone so naive have so much power? Hopefully he was controlling access a lot better than he seemed to be!

On the other hand… according to her supervisor, he’d just given a pocket dimension to her horse because it was complaining that it couldn’t go out and run. OK, Sirocco was fully sapient and was her best stallion, but STILL.

(Barbosa) “Now, Charles, have you shared this with anyone else? This is veru powerful, even if it is technically only thaumaturgy!”

(Charles) “Uhm… Lets see… some of my schoolmates, and a few scientists, and most of my creatures of course, and a dozen or so friends… that’s about if for the moment! It’s still in beta-testing really!”

(Barbosa, arching an eyebrow) “How many of these knew about the supernatural before you did this? I suspect the scientists didn’t; were they asking questions?”

(Charles) “Well, they were taking care of the Hipparions I made!”

(Barbosa) “That was you? They’ve been keeping quiet about how they did that! I had suspected magic, though.”

He should have expected her to have heard about it! She was a horse-breeding specialist after all!

(Charles) “Hipparions are cute!”

For a moment Barbosa felt like smacking him! He obviously felt that “cute” was a sufficient reason to do almost ANYTHING.

(Barbosa) “Now, you’re not just giving this out to anyone who asks, are you? And just how ARE you explaining the renewal of an extinct species to the masses?”

(Charles) “I designed a machine that makes temporal-resonance reconstructions for them! The “original model” was apparently subject to uncontrolled power surges!”

(Barbosa) “And what about the current one?”

(Charles) “It makes plastic models,. detailed down to the basic structure. Not to the subcellular levels though!”

(Barbosa) “Ah, I see! And the first experiment could be explained as a fluke if you just don’t look deeply enough…”

(Charles) “For the moment anyway!”

(Barbosa) “Yes… it wouldn’t stand up to greater scrutiny. Now, about that . . . did you brief the people you gave this upgrade to on secrecy?”

(Charles) “Oh yes! And I left them with some aides! Although I think that secrecy may soon be a moot point!”

(Barbosa) “Human aides, or something else? And what are you planning? You must be tremendously powerful… and you’re all too willing to give it out!”

(Charles) “Uhm… Well, I left them with some Coatl! And the geomancy needs fixing, and the planet is getting too crowded, so I’m planning on making more room! And that will work just fine for you, because the new planets aren’t industrialized yet, and they’ll need lots of horses!”

Barbosa considered that for a moment; planets? Was he serious? He seemed serious enough… “AREN’T industrialized yet”?! Did he mean that they were READY otherwise? That was… Well, if he could pull it off, it would certainly defuse a lot of tensions and vastly expand the available resources.

Oh of COURSE he meant it; he’d just given a pocket world to Sirocco because he’d been wanting more room to run in!

Well… new planets with no roads or industries certainly would call for tremendous numbers of horses! If he couldn’t do it, it wouldn’t be a worry – and if he could, it would be a pretty good thing.

So what about those “Aides”?

(Barbosa) “Coatl, as in the legendary creatures?”

(Charles) “Well, like these!” (And he had some of his current companions pop out).

(Barbosa) “Oh, hello there… can you turn back into a normal snake, or even take human form?”

(Coatl) “I could probably manage a transformation with Lifeweaving Mam, but in general I am the way I am!”

(Barbosa) “Did he make you with any way of hiding your Essence signature?”

(Coatl) “Only with Thaumaturgy – although his upgrade to that does make it a lot easier. We were, a rather early experiment!”

(Barbosa) “I see, and you do have it. That would be enough to hide you in a pocket . . . though some supernatural entities can still see through that. They’re rare, though.”

She gently petted the creature – which promptly purred.

(Charles) “The Kickaha – like the boy you caught – were somewhat later!”

(Barbosa) “I see. That would explain the refined link and physical capabilities. And I would vet people you want to give the thaumaturgy to carefully, if you haven’t been already. Think about it and make sure you can trust them. Otherwise, your hard work could experience some setbacks. There are many things that would covet such a level of power, and do horrible things to obtain it.”

(Charles, somewhat downcast) “I really hate to think there are people like that… but I suppose there are and I should check more… I did make sure I could lock people out if they misused it though!”

(Barbosa) “Ah, good… well, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to ensure you can trust people you give this to! It’s only practical!”

She was going to have to keep an eye on the Child! Who knew what he might get up to with no supervision!

Meanwhile, Mr. Romero had finished his initiation.

(Romero) “This should be helpful… very helpful. Thank you, Charles.

(Charles) “You’re welcome! Do let me know how it works for you! There’s a report form on the linked files, and I want to know about anything I left out!”

Oramure – and to some extent the rest of the Kickaha – were in for a VERY strong lecture on predation and on making SURE that your prey was NOT SAPIENT when Charles got him back to Aden! Draining people a bit like the Raksha did was one thing, but actually killing them instead of just draining them a bit was just ICKY and mean!

Oramure tried to listen and remember everything. That had been pretty embarrassing!

Besides… the thought that he’d eaten an intelligent being was… rather nauseating.


3 Responses

  1. […] LXXXII – The Deluxe Ranchero: Dragon-Line Surveys, Madame Barbosa and her Horses, Thaumaturgic Upgrades. […]

  2. […] LXXXII – The Deluxe Ranchero: Dragon-Line Surveys, Madame Barbosa and her Horses, Thaumaturgic Upgrades. […]

  3. […] LXXXII – The Deluxe Ranchero: Dragon-Line Surveys, Madame Barbosa and her Horses, Thaumaturgic Upgrades. […]

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