The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXIII – The Dark Tournament

A young boy practising, Gatka, SIkh martial art.

Now You Face My Ultimate Technique! Quit Laughing! Quite It! Blasted Exalts!

The conversation with Romero was relatively short…

(Romero) “I would like to discuss something with you after you conclude business with Madame Barbosa, if you have the time…”

Charles did – so Romero put up a quiet privacy ward and Charles made sure that it was a good one!

(Romero) “After that incident in Brasilia – and thank you again for handling that mess – my business proceeded normally for a few months. Then I woke up one night to a knife on my neck. I’m fairly sure it was another one of those… people. I’m sure you know who I’m talking about.”

(Charles) “I’m glad you got away! They can be quite nasty!”

(Romero) “I wouldn’t have had the voice not spoken to me. After that… well, I lost that house in the escape, but I don’t think he was looking for me.”

(Charles) “The voice?”

(Romero) “He said he had chosen me to restore what magic and artifice had been lost. And then the room burst into light.”

Huh! Hadn’t Romero been a Solar Exalt before? Of course, a second message might just mean that old Sunny was taking an interest for a few moments and decided to give him just a bit of encouragement! Probably Romero was just being cagey about whether this was the first or the second time.

(Charles) “Huh! Lucky for you then! And I thought you had some pretty good security set up there!”

(Romero) “So did I! Yet he somehow managed to penetrate my wards – without triggering the alarm one! – deactivate my amalgams, and move tracelessly into my bedroom. I suspect assistance or someone working with him there! And that’s why I thought I should warn you. After all, we both have an interest in Manse reconstruction.”

(Charles) “Oh yes! There are such a LOT of things that need fixing!”

(Romero) “Including those ruined Manses in the Amazon . . . we should visit some of those when we both have the time.”

(Charles) “Watch out around there! I went there on a school trip and there were demons all around one of them!”

(Romero) “Oh yes… didn’t you encounter some of my scouts at the acid rain one? That was the place, wasn’t it?”

(Charles) “Yes I did… (he looked at Romero with a slight trace of disapproval) They hadn’t the faintest idea what they were getting into there!”

It wasn’t nice to not tell people when they might be getting entangled in ancient magic!

(Romero, sighing slightly) “It’s hard breaking into the occult community when you have no experience… I was desperate and didn’t have the connections I do now.” (He nodded towards Madame Barbosa, who was looking over her new mares) “And I ensured they had the best protective equipment I could buy.”

(Charles, reverting to cheerful) “Well it worked out all right anyway!”

(Romero) “Oh yes… Sakoda, was it? Between the demons and that box I’ve scried there, I’d like to revisit it… with trained personnel. I don’t suppose you’d be interested?”

(Charles) “Why not? All those demons didn’t let me get to fixing it!”

(Romero) “I’ll let you know when everything is organized, then. I won’t have demons wandering around the Amazon.”

(Charles) “Well, some aren’t so bad, but a lot of the types these days are pretty nasty!”

(Romero, with a trace of dismay) “I would prefer to encounter none… still, we are both busy people – and I have an errand to run for Madame Barbosa here. It was good to speak with you again!”

(Charles) “And it was nice to see you again! Do let me know if you need anything!”

(Romero) “Of course!”

Meanwhile, Aikiko was on a bus headed southwest – and, thanks to remote access, doing a little research on the Besi Hantuperajin… OK, most of the translations she could find were only approximations – but the name alone was pretty ominous! It just screamed of Underworld or Malfean involvement!

Or even both. The two realms reportedly did cooperate – albeit uneasily – at times, and who knew what either might want with a bunch of very highly skilled martial artists who were willing to compete in a secret mystical tournament! Domination of more pleasant environments? Fodder for Exaltations? Really good dim sum? On top of (of course) trying to take over the world like they did EVERY night!

Of course, it might be a lot of fun to compete… She was pretty good, but she’d never really had a chance to find out HOW good – or how the “Solar Hero Form” matched up against some of the other arts.

Come to think of it, she was REALLY tempted to show off! Even if the Solar Hero Form was more than a BIT obvious and there probably WOULD be some media there… At least it did seem to be nonlethal, at least to start! It looked like they did their best to exclude the media too – but she’d swear that some of those entry requirements were set up to try and keep the Dragon-Blooded out too!

Valor triumphed over good sense yet again; she sent in a preliminary entry for when they started evaluating applicants! Even if it would be a bit of a bother to get a ticket to Malaysia!

Oh wait! Internet! If only she could figure out where she’d be departing from, it would be no trouble at all! It wasn’t like she didn’t have plenty of traveling money; Lytek certainly hadn’t stinted there!

OK! She could focus on figuring out what she could about the competition she’d just tried to enter… If they were trying to keep the media out, the complications were likely to be supernatural and factional entanglements – and maybe a new enemy or two… And (Oh dear!) it looked to her like the “prizes” were not entirely legendary!

Most of the rumors talked about secret techniques and legendary power. A few claimed induction into some sort of secret council – if you were willing and survived the initiation.

Ugh, politics! Well, it happened to all Solars eventually, or so the gold stars were saying when she was listening in on Rachel’s training… Well, maybe the council knew some weird stuff that she hadn’t heard yet!

So to be more specific… they supposedly taught shadow walking, the death touch -for creatures, structures, magic, and certain events (?!?!), c’hi regeneration, probability control, the power to conceal themselves from magic, and many MANY other powers.

Well… some of that might be useful – but as Martial Art Techniques? Martial Art Techniques that were usable by MORTALS? And wasn’t probability control a Sidereal schtick? It might be useful to counter them of course, but she really didn’t want to fight them at all unless it was totally unavoidable. And a “Death Touch” for EVENTS sounded… well, MAYBE Sidereal. Or even something much darker!

She took a break to toke up and have some chips.

Now who to ask? Martial Arts Techniques didn’t seem like something that Charles would know that much about – although he had demonstrated a wide range of occult knowledge. The Sidereals? That could really bite her in the ass if this WAS one of their plots. Maybe Rachel would know? Both she and Mitchell had studied martial arts for a while, and had probably picked up some supernatural stuff from their Terrestrial families even before their Exaltation. Other than that… she was sadly lacking in martial arts contacts. When it came right down to it, Solar Hero Style had more in common with comic book brawling than kata.

Huh. Maybe there WAS such a thing as a “Racial Memory”?! A lot of stuff in anime and comic books looked a LOT like poorly-remembered and simplified supernatural techniques and charms… Huh. Now she had to wonder what would happen if you grabbed a few of the books with more details in them and actually tried some of those techniques…

In the meantime she could poke around a bit more on the conspiracy forums, looking for similar techniques. Then probably Charles! She didn’t want to bother Rachel unless she had to; she DID owe her a foot race.

The Conspiracy Forums… were rife with all sorts of insanity – but there were some rumors about the prizes though. The biggest rumor about the prizes was that they went to groups, not individuals – and that each tournament offered only one prize, in which the entire group of winners would share. Beyond that the details varied endlessly but commonly include inhumanly enhanced attributes, long life, and various destructive powers. A few of the descriptions sounded like sorcery, but others sounded more like charms and spirit powers. A tournament was supposedly called whenever a previously winning group had suffered too many casualties or was ready to pass on their prize. A tournament was normally called every five to ten years – but there were supposed to be at least a hundred possible prizes.

That was creepy… and obviously more intended for humans than Exalts, although it did tend to confirm the “long life” part! If they were replacing as they went along, that would mean that a new group was required for a particular prize every 500 to 1500 years or so – a pretty big life extension for a human.

Well, she had to find out what was up with “Godzilla” first – but if it wasn’t malevolent, they might be able to provide her with martial arts contacts. If it was… well, she would deal with THAT. Besides… she wasn’t much for covert ops, but such an organization would be good cover for a Night Caste’s lifespan…

After more rummaging she eventually DID check with Charles.

(Charles) “Allo! What’s up?”

(Aikiko) “Uh… dude, do you know anything about occult martial arts techniques?”

(Charles) “Er… A lot of them are legendary these days I think… Something to do with the reshaping; I think most of them these days at least have some vague connection to actual martial arts moves and hitting things – rather than “I punch the air, transform it into a quantum weather butterfly, and thus cause a tornado to suck you up”.

Although, come to think of it, that did sound like a fun martial art! Perhaps you could imitate a Quantum Weather Butterfly! Even if they WERE fictional.

(Aikiko) “I don’t get why that’s a martial art. It sounds more like Charms or Thaumaturgy or Sorcery to me! Anyway, here’s what I’m looking at here…”

She described her research results.

(Charles) “Lytek made me flash-review a bunch of stuff a little while back with that mess in Brazil, and that sounds a bit like… some of the lesser Abyssal Powers! Did someone in the underworld do something like the Lesser Exaltations?”

(Aikiko) “I guess you wouldn’t be the first person to come up with it. And (as she mulled over what she knew about Abyssals) they’d be a weapon, so a Daybreak might not get bitten for coming up with them.”

(Charles) “Still… It’s hard to believe that the Abyssals could have a small horde of agents out there without wrecking a lot more stuff!”

(Aikiko) “Maybe not all of them want to do that?”

(Charles) “But why martial artists competing, rather than just anyone then? Martial arts was always the one non-sorcery bunch of magics that normal humans could get… Maybe this calls for a human with skill in channeling power?”

(Aikiko) “Hmm… I dunno. Could be some kind of experiment, could be a way of sticking it to their Deathlord, or could be for a subtler form of spreading Oblivion. Ninjas are martial artists too, and they’re spies as much as fighters! And maybe they do want channelers.”

(Charles) “I suppose it could be some way of tapping into a power source; people are awfull sneaky about finding ways to do that!”

(Aikiko) “I’m not sure why they’d make their lives longer, though. Maybe using the human fear of death as a hook?”

(Charles) “Well, maybe! But that would argue against skilled fighters wouldn’t it?”

(Aikiko) “Unless there’s also faster healing and toughness that comes with it… it’s been real easy to forget, but humans take a long time to heal broken limbs and stuff.”

(Charles) “Oh, I just meant that skilled fighters are usually less scared of death – or they wouldn’t fight in the first place.”

(Aikiko) “Hmm. Probably the more cutthroat or ruthless ones, then. Either way, I’m going to investigate. If it’s something bad, we really need to know!”

(Charles) “I don’t think it can be too horribly bad… hasn’t this been supposed to be going on for a long time?”

(Aikiko) “Well, yeah. I guess you’re right, but I’m still pretty curious.”

(Charles) “You’ve made me pretty curious too! Want a helper?”

(Aikiko) “What were you thinking of sending?”

With Charles that could get pretty weird!

(Charles) “Well, a couple of Coatl would be easiest, but there are lots of others around!”

(Aikiko) “Coatl… Those can go in a pocket, right? Sure! I’ll get you some really good info in return.”

(Charles) “OK! And they hide quite well in pockets!… Maybe some armor or something too?”

(Aikiko) “I already have the commando stuff…”

(Charles) “Well that’s pretty good! I could get you a Behemoth Cloak though. They do some things better, but are weaker in some other ways of course.

Technically, of course, it was quite possible to wear both; they wouldn’t stack, but the secondary functions would work together.

Aikiko mused… On the one hand, it was “only” human martial artists. On the other hand, these human martial artists were going to be the best of the best – and who knew what weird effects they might use? Those cloaks provided protection against the esoteric stuff… She took one. Charles wanted to outright give it to her, but she insisted on the trade.

Having armor on that was actually worth wearing felt pretty good! Charles made much better stuff than the classical versions!

6 Responses

  1. While some of that stuff MAY sound like Abyssal powers, most Abyssal things have a Solar Mirror. And there is nothing from keeping a Solar from dressing in black and being gloomy. If it really seems to have that much of a correlation with Death, then it might actually be a set up. Put something apparently Deathly out where it can be tracked down and lure an investigating Abyssal in, then WHAMMO. Or it could just be someone who likes being dark and mysterious.

    If it IS the Dawn Guardian thought, I would expect something along the lines of “Martial Initiation of X”, instead of a Sorcerous Initiation. Perhaps it’s to gather a great deal of magical Martial Artists in one place to discover things that would not be known to the wider world. That would be one way to get lost/higher level MA without getting involved with the Sidereals.

    • Those are options I hadn’t considered as Kiko’s player. They’re certainly feasible, considering the oddities I’ve allowed during the campaign.

      • Oh well. All our games tend to wind up with all kinds of oddities running about. None of us can resist taking misfit bits of canon, turning them upside down, and looking for a place where they can be fit in somehow.

  2. […] LXXXIII – The Dark Tournament: Manse Repairs, Martial Arts Strangeness, Legendary Techniques. […]

  3. […] LXXXIII – The Dark Tournament: Manse Repairs, Martial Arts Strangeness, Legendary Techniques. […]

  4. […] LXXXIII – The Dark Tournament: Manse Repairs, Martial Arts Strangeness, Legendary Techniques. […]

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