The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice – The Modern Gates, Part III


Yes, there is a shortcut – but you may not like it…

To continue with the locations of the Modern Yu-Shan Gates…

25) Mount Shishaldin, located in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, is among the most active volcanoes on Earth, with an oddly symmetrical cone. Few mortal geologists would suspect its actual origins. The Reshaping buried what was the Glacier Gate beneath thousands of feet of rock, not far above a massive magma chamber. In their desperation, the carver-gods ordered to maintain access to the gate used their charms to force open and hold open a shaft to the surface – triggering a volcanic upheaval that they still haven’t managed to stop. Currently, the access-route is most easily reached through a cave at about 1600 meters above sea level – although the final drop down some two thousand meters of shaft, partially held open through outgassing molten magma, is not for the faint of heart – or the poorly-insulated. Still, the gate-chamber remains a glittering structure of ice and adamant, it’s coolness a welcome relief after it’s entryway.

26) Located in Northern Canada’s Nahanni National Park Reserve, this comparatively nondescript gate sits in a rock formation at Moose Ponds – also known as the Rock Gardens. It absorbed great amounts of Essence during the Reshaping. Still charged with Earth and Water energies to this day, the gate contributes to the Nahanni River’s powerful flows. It also occasionally defocuses, spawning secondary gates between the nearby Canal in Yu-Shan and the wild rapids of the Rock Gardens – allowing the occasional clever water god (or random victim) to pass through. The Celestial Lions are aware of the phenomena, but have yet to find a way to stop it, despite the annoyance of catching the occasional confused rafter or kayaker and dealing with them (usually by ladling on the forgetfulness and sending them back; the Celestial Lions were once mere mortals too).

27) In the wilderness of eastern Greenland, where grass meets ice, there is an oddly warm patch of earth. Only a few feet beneath that spot is a stone pillar containing a gate to Yu-Shan. It’s actually one of the more popular gates for attempts to enter the Celestial City; it’s easily found with only a little magic and easily reached with ten minutes work with a shovel. The Celestial Lions minding it are well-versed in dealing with, and booting out, curious Terrestrials, and even rare mortal and God-Blooded sorcerers – although grabbing them, hauling them into Yu-Shan for an interrogation on the current state of the world, scaring them half-to-death, and then tossing them back out, is an occasional amusement. Policy is still out on the occasional Lunar; they’re almost all definitely suspicious though!

28) A lonely S-Type rock in the outer edges of the Solar System’s Asteroid Belt hosts an ancient manse, once believed to date back to the First Age when it was created by an ancient Solar Akuma to house his demon-brides and demon-blooded offspring. Long centuries of their work – and the breaking of ancient seals by the reshaping – has revealed that the Ogdoad-Amat Manse is far, far older than the first age; it is an indestructible Rank N/A (treated as 10 for the purposes of calculation) Primordial Workshop-Manse on the order of The Primal Forge – but it is devoted to Lifeshaping and Sorcery, with at least a dozen sets of Guardian Forces (each 20,000 strong, and recovering at 100 per day, for a total of 1200) that it is capable of modifying. Here are recorded hundreds of terrible spells, here spawn planetoid-behemoths, here nest terrible things which fly between the stars, angular beasts that haunt the intersections of space and time, and writhing fungal polyps wielding their terrible sorceries. Here too are the birthing-pools for spawning new Dragon King bodies and souls or for weaving behemoth-manses. For unknown reasons rare humans will dream of Ogdoad-Amat, and awaken screaming, either to communicate some portion of those visions to others and spread their power into the world at large or to be slowly transformed by it.

Unsurprisingly, the Ogdoad-Amat gate is kept shut, barred, warded, and VERY heavily guarded. With no fewer than 240,000 creatures equivalent to second circle demons associated with it, even the Primordials didn’t want to let it into Yu-Shan. At least Autochthon understood just how dangerous some of his creations were. Whoever made this place… not so much.

Where the Hearthstone is – and if it remains in the possession of a Yozi or Demon – remains unknown, as does the reason why such a resource was never deployed during the Primordial War.

29) Phobos, the larger and closer of Mars’ moons, is highly porous. While many of its caverns are filled with ice, the one containing the Yu-Shan gate is not completely frozen over – although the destruction of the manse that once housed the gate during the Reshaping has spawned several minor demesnes in the immediate area and a sizeable wyld pocket around the gate. The raksha living there are ferocious but honorable warriors, bound in feuds with their neighbors on Deimos and the canal-building fey on Mars’s surface, flying to their virtually injury-free battles in their space-traversing ornithopters. (Yes, ornithopters, and no that doesn’t make any sense. What would you expect? They’re Raksha and it looks cool. For them, that’s reason enough). Naturally enough, every demesne on Phobos is a freehold, the domain of another Raksha noble.

30) This terribly damaged gate no longer spans the “distance” between Yu-Shan and Creation in a few steps. Overloaded by refugees during the Reshaping, it’s simple corridor-reality melded with at least eight “nearby” divine sanctums – primarily linked together by one which had been given the shape of a mighty tree. You can still get to Yu-Shan this way – but attempting to use ANY form of fast-travel or transport magic within the fractured realm is a sure way to miss a step amongst the dimensional twists and fall out of Elsewhere into the Ginnungagap of Pure Chaos that seethes below the “branches”. The option that leaves is to walk and climb normally – about three thousand miles, confronting colossal bugs, miles-long squirrel behemoths, and similar annoyances along the way. The pocket worlds themselves are inhabited by a variety of deities who like to remain near their small earthly cults while enjoying most of the advantages of Yu-Shan and the one-time sanctum entrances (through the rainbow mists of a waterfall, through a mighty hollow tree, etc) now serve as secondary gates scattered around the primary gate in Norway. A human carried or drawn through such a secondary gate is pulled free from his or her body and transformed instantly into a (very) minor god; faithful followers of the gods inhabiting the pocket worlds are occasionally rewarded this way when they’re old or dying.

31) Near the northern tip of Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic, this gate opens in a series of water-filled tunnels and caverns, the long-forgotten remains of Gethamane. Here the great whales (and those lonely dolphins who still bear the spiritual imprint of transmigrated human souls) who grow old go to die, swimming gently under the influence of the energies of the Yu-Shan gate from life into the depths of dream. Here too the darknesses of life that they abandon accumulate, and grow, preparing to breach the walls of the underworld and answer the slaughter of centuries. Leviathan seeks to rise, and a third of the seas shall become blood, and a third of the stars and sun shall be blotted out by the darkness.

32) Deep within the wilderness of northern Russia a hundred miles from Vorkuta, in a region normally populated by no one but reindeer herders, this gate is one of the few that continues to offer unfettered access to Earth, opening for no apparent reason – and apparently uncontrollably – during the dark of the moon. For millennia it has helped support the notion that – in the absence of the Exalted – the earth has been reduced to wilderness and a scattering of barbarians. It’s still popular with gods who want to gather a small cult, or possess a leader-type and stir things up a bit, or who want to provide a few heroes with mystical weapons. With things so isolated, it can be many centuries before reports of such petty mischief gets back to Yu-Shan.

33) Near Igarka, another severely damaged gate allows a steady flow of canal water through – which emerges as a hideously toxic crimson fluid charged with immense amounts of alchemical energy. While it is rapidly diluted by normal water, the flow still suffices to seed the area nearby with great mineral wealth – including radioactives, rare elements and compounds, and twisted life forms. Occasionally someone foolish or desperate attempts to use the gate – and emerges as some twisted horror to either be cut down by the Celestial Lions or to haunt the area around the earthly side of the gate. Still, the area is sought for it’s mineral wealth and – by occultists – for a few pure drops of the crimson waters for use in their own experiments or as an alchemical catalyst. Occasionally someone will be thrown out of Yu-Shan through this gate – an especially frightful fate that often leaves yet another mad monster roaming about for the locals to battle or seize.

34) This gate lies only a few dozen feet above the magma of Earth’s mantle, in a relatively modest, quite uncomfortably warm, and unusually stable (for the area) chamber that serves as a crossroads for the deep caverns. There a series of manses maintain a network of open and barely-livable passages, a slowly-shifting geomantic maze that offers access to various resources of the deep earth. A world unto themselves, the deep caverns host the Children of Earth, rogue gods, and many stranger creatures still. They trade regularly at this gate. Conspicuously absent are the Jadeborn. If some remain on Earth, they must be highly insular.

35) This gate is located in Antarctica, deep beneath the very thickest ice. In the absence of Autochthon the loosely-directed “prayers” of the mechanical age – “work blast it!” “Start you @#$%” and similar heartfelt exclamations – are poorly-processed within Yu-Shan; machine gods are appointed of course, but few mortals realize their existence to properly direct their requests. By some quirk of Yu-Shan’s geomancy (or perhaps intent; the will of the Maker is to some extent embodied in the Pattern Spiders), much of that unfocused technically-oriented prayer pours out through the thirty-seventh gate – where it combines with the ancient ice crushed beneath the immense pressure of the antarctic ice cap, and there, with the alchemy of ages, transmutes it into mighty halls and tunnels of purest adamant, glittering like a buried star within a heavenly abyss. While harvesting it is extremely dangerous – you never know when prying loose one crystal will release a spray of shards under immense pressure or cause the mass to shift – its attunement to technological energies makes it ideal for the construction of living computers and similar magitech wonders. No one quite knows what will happen if Autochthon is ever linked to the place to receive the accumulated prayers – but, perhaps fortunately, the topic has yet to come up.

36) While it’s now hidden amongst the mountains of Antarctica, this gate was already deep in the Wyld – in fact, in pure chaos, and under siege by a dozen mighty Unshaped – when Gaia began to pull the gates back into the core of creation in preparation for the reshaping. As the last of the defending gods fell, swallowed up by the Unshaped, cold order washed over the gate once more – and the gods proved indigestible yet lifesaving; they provided a core of form which gave the raw power of the Unshaped a framework to hang itself upon in Creation. From that merger rose a dozen great barely-shaped gods, newborn, chaotic, and with no role in creation beyond the ones they took from the dreams of men. For a time they bestrode the world as great powers, looking down from their icy towers of dream and fantasy upon a world almost bereft of Exalts and of spirits beyond the Little Gods of hills, and fields, and streams. They warred with the remaining ghosts, and foolish Raksha who would not see that the field had turned against them, and with other menaces to their followers – and then contact was re-established as the energies of Yu-Shan’s gates stabilized, and they were reined back. Still, in places men remember the powers that aided them in the youth of the new world – and those powers still wait, walking the streets of an unseen fastness above the clouds.