The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXIV – On The Oregon Trail

Charles really didn’t know much about esoteric mystic martial arts, and was happy to turn his attention back to geomancy… He had Orchid’s partial map of Yu-Shan, and his own agents, and Dudael’s to work with – along with some library texts that had some information on the topic – and he was STILL trying to decipher what the geomancy of Yu-Shan was actually FOR.

It looked like the Dudael map was pretty much complete – but it was mostly concerned with Dragon Lines. It did give the locations of various manses – but also showed one-hundred-and-one little blank spots – the Jade Pleasure Dome and what were probably the control rooms since there were twenty each for each of the five directions. Did that mean that they were geomantically null, or perhaps isolated? Or was some sort of security code required there? Perhaps just being attuned to Dudael hadn’t really been enough for EVERYTHING.

Oh it showed the walls too of course.

Still… the original design of Yu-Shan’s Dragon Lines… bore only a casual resemblance to that contemporary Yu-Shan. The dragon line patterns were much the same – but originally they had been allowed to flow freely, with plenty of reserve capacity in self-generating loops. There had been three major circuits, all roughly equal – a Creation circuit, which drew motes in through the Gates and out through the Games, one that channeled motes through the city itself – presumably to maintain it’s manses and artifacts and functions – and one that collected motes and funneled them into a massive Essence Pool, centered on the Jade Pleasure Dome.

Either the Games of Divinity had demanded unbelievable amounts of raw power – available in massive surges – back then, or something else in there had required it. If it had been the Games, what had happened to change that situation? In contemporary Yu-Shan, the lines that should be contributing to the Essence Pool were, instead, tied to collection functions. In fact, in modern Yu-Shan… almost EVERYTHING was devoted to collection, and those lines seemed to go to two things: a majority to Creation, the rest to the city itself.

The gates served as regulators as well as entrances. Even when closed to entry, they continued to regulate the essence flows – albeit at reduced power.

Sadly, all that didn’t really say what the manses had been FOR, or if and how they’d been networked. At most he had… how the essence had been circulated, not what it was actually used for. Likely for that he’d have to either go through the manse designs one at a time – those that still existed either on paper or intact – or he’d have to talk to someone who’d actually been there. Bother it! Was he going to have to visit Maltheas to understand Yu-Shan? Gaia… tended to encourage (or require) a lot of independence that way; she probably wouldn’t help with this sort of thing.

Still, there had to be SOME sort of active purpose! After all, the Primordials would have had all the goemancy and essence that they’d ever need already – and the place seemed a bit large for a clubhouse… they were all living clubhouses anyway!

Did he dare turn it back on before finding out what that purpose was?

Well, at least studying the geomancy had shown where all the original Primordial demesnes were – and had shown that two of the little blank spots were very near the locations of the two control rooms he knew, but apparently didn’t quite match… although that might just be the scale. One did seem to match his one known deiphages personal pocket bunker, right near the wall, where it was before. That one… glimmered brightly, as did all the others near the walls. There were forty-nine of those in total, and a fiftieth near the Jade Pleasure Dome itself. The duller ones were in the donut-shaped area around the Jade Pleasure Dome…

Well, that matched the numbering that the Greater Deiphages appeared to be using. The brighter ones roughly matched the abandoned territories, showing the higher energy levels where most of the geomancy had reverted it’s to pre-divine-occupation status.

That HAD to be the slowest eviction notice in history! Worse, it looked like the still-sapient gods were now… pretty heavily outnumbered.

Well, Yu-Shan apparently predated creation – at least by some accounts – so the to-and-from creation circuit was probably secondary. Running the Games was strongly implied to require prayer, but there’s was always the Loom (which did show up). Frustratingly, however, the Jade Pleasure Dome was quite blank other than the links to Creation. It WAS tied to the Essence pool, but that link was strictly between the two.

Hey, there was a date buried in the fine print! This was the one-century centennial map! From just one hundred years after Yu-Shan had been completed!

***************************************************************************

Meanwhile, Aikiko had arrived in Oregon… It was pretty impressive country! Enormous stretches were still wilderness since they were incredibly rough. The country was made up of ancient lava flows – and buried deep underneath some of them were the remains of several first-age kingdoms, although they were been effectively “aged” a very long time indeed during the reshaping. There were still supposed – at least according to the records in Yu-Shan – to be some pockets of accelerated time in hidden locations. The towns are mostly located along the (very few) major roads and mostly where they crossed navigable waterways leading to the coast. Most of the inland plateau was a rugged forest. The population was… pretty low.

Roseburg wasn’t very big either – and neither was it’s college, and chapter houses; the town had about 14,000 people – counting the outlying areas. It was certainly picturesque though… Aikiko took pictures, walked around the campus (although she didn’t really make enough for the college yet), and finally went to see if there was any evidence left at the chapter house (other than giant footprints).

The police had roped off the big footprints, and didn’t much want to talk about them – mostly because some of them near the river were pressed nearly six feet deep at the deepest point. One had become a new small pond, but most of the rest were reasonably dry. The official explanation was still “Pranksters” – although how “pranksters” had done it was kind of unexplained… Whatever had made them was obviously both big and heavy – and unless someone had exalted as a prankster, it doesn’t look like a college prank to HER. On the other hand, a few footprints – the ones that were nearest to the fraternity house – were only really imprinted on the grass, and were pretty obvious fakes – and they were in the same line with the others. The trail came from the local river (and was deepest there) and seemed to be one-way to the fraternity house.

That was really weird!. Teleporting Godzilla?

Well, she could take on an essence sight mutation temporarily! The most obvious place to look was the trail itself; the fraternity house – and especially it’s damaged areas – could come next.

As far as the trail went, the most obvious traces were wood and earth essence – it certainly looked like dragon-blooded thaumaturgy – focused on soil movement and plant growth. Underneath that, and older, there were traces of wyld energies.

That was weird too! Terrestrial college students playing pranks? You’d think their parents would have taught them better! But what about the Wyld energies?

Oh NO. Not THEM. It was too soon to know for sure, but she certainly hoped that there weren’t new Cauldron-Born running around!

The Fraternity House was still closed – but it was easy enough to poke around a bit… A local cop did come along and inquire as to what her interest was; given that the youngsters who had disappeared still hadn’t come back it was still officially a crime scene.

Pesky Cops. Ugh! Well, it wasn’t like she’d done anything too illegal yet…

(Aikiko) “I wanted to see if there really were big footprints here.”

And what about those kids? Of course, clues about them were probably inside.

(Cop) “Oh for the love of… ANOTHER one. Yes, yes – right over there, one phony footprint, looks like it was cut with a weed whacker doesn’t it? A couple more weeks and it will be gone entirely! No big mystery there! Just some ridiculously sensationalistic reporting!”

(Aikiko) “Yeah, I guess so.”

Geez… how many crimes go unsolved thanks to cops not having Essence senses? It was probably an awful lot! The poor guys… would generally have no idea of what was going on at all!

Aikiko managed to get 7 successes on a five-die investigation check.

Weird! If it was a gag… why were the deepest ones the most distant instead of where more people will see them? Why older wyld magic underlying the newer thaumaturgy? What exactly is that thaumaturgy doing? Why was the cop apparently oblivious to the trail? Why hadn’t they found the missing people yet? That was going pretty far for a prank! Did someone WANT to be found by other mages or something? Because thaumaturgists and supernatural creatures were the only ones who’d notice this…

Well, those weren’t questions that a cop could be expected to know much about. She left the man believing that she was quietly wandering off – and started looking into what she could find out about the missing people. It looked like she had…

  1. Malinda Edress, Age 20, a Forestry Major, and commonly believed to be a bit eccentric for her dabbling in crystals and such. That could easily be more than new-age-woo of course…
  2. Seri Yosang, Age 18, an Engineering Student who didn’t usually attend parties much. She’d apparently been pretty drunk – albeit not legally.
  3. Tirella Vinwell, Age 23, a soon-to-graduate Art Major (painting and sculpture).
  4. Darius Sevantes, Age 22, a Library Science and Computers Major, also a star athlete who got some recent attention for managing to kill an attacking bear with a broken tree branch – which was kind of weird! Usually that sort of thing only happened in movies.
  5. Salin Bard, Age 23, A music and literature major, noted for being a terrible womanizer and for being the captain of the local fencing team.

Both Malinda and Yosang had been accompanying Salin, while Tirella was at the party with Darius.

Well… she was of college freshman age now. It was time to hang out on the quad or in the library and see what rumors she can get about the goings-on at that party. There must have been at least some witnesses!

That took some time of course – but putting together the bits…

They’d all been out in the yard. Salin had been regaling the young women with fantastic tales; most of the witnesses were more clear on the hangovers than the stories, but they did agree they had been pretty good. Malinda had been trying Darius on a crystal, which some witnesses said had been glowing a faint white. Darious had been mostly paying attention to Tirella, who was proposing to sculpt him posed as Michelangelo’s David. Most of the witnesses claimed that a weird glow had suddenly appeared, then something huge blotted out the stars, and then the screaming and yelling started and there was a brilliant white flash and it got VERY cold. There had been more weird flashes of light, some dramatic posing, a garden table had gotten smashed – and all five of them were scooped up by something gigantic and carried away.

The investigators had written off all of that as a bunch of high/drunk kids hallucinating of course – at least after the special investigators from the capital had a look at things.

She had to admit that it really did sound like Godzilla – or something a lot like him – really HAD crashed the party, then! But where did he go? Into the river? A good thing that she had borrowed the behemoth cloak then!

She just HAD to see the site first hand! No way was she letting the cops get in the way of curiosity! They couldn’t even bite her head off like the Celestial Lions could!

Still, there was no point in being stupid; she checked out the security first; it probably would be little more than crime scene tape and an officer or two checking in occasionally.

There was yellow crime scene tape, the cop went by regularly, Campus Security had posted a guard out front – and there were several alarm-wards.

Wards?!? THAT wasn’t normal for cops! Were they working with a “paranormal investigator” who was REAL? That might be a problem! It looked like… there was one at the property-line that she’d already breached, one on the house and yard, and one on an area in the yard.

Huh! Time to track down an actual partygoer first! That had to be a wild party, at least before the people disappeared.

It was easy enough to find the fraternity – and, sad to say, pretty young women could always find someone who would talk to them.

They were complaining about STILL being locked out.

(Aikiko) “Dude, that sucks. How are you supposed to have fun with your bros if your house is shut down?”

The frat boys had no idea how Salin got all that stuff. It was wild, but it seemed like the booze and music NEVER ran out while he was there!

(Aikiko) “It does suck! It’s so nice to find someone who understands!… So tell me more about Salin. He sounds like a pretty cool dude.”

That… got almost frighteningly enthusiastic. Salin was a young rock-star-to-be, frightening well read, suave, the life of any party, and seemed to have almost limitless supplies both of booze and of designer stuff that wasn’ t even illegal. He played a dozen different instruments well, sang beautifully, and always had at least one girl on his arm.

(Aikiko) “Whoa… sweet! Sounds like he was a credit to the social scene.”

(Frat Boys) “Oh yeah! It’s hard to remember how we managed to have any fun before he came along!”

(Aikiko) “So… you gotta tell me, man. What REALLY happened at that party? I’ve heard some rumors, and it sounds like he bought the GOOD stuff.”

She leaned on her charms hard for that one! It looked like someone had been leaning on them not to talk too much – but she got enough to put a pretty good account together. It sounds like…

  1. Salin had vanished into one of the quieter areas of the yard with Seri (most of the partygoers are sure of what they were up to, but that wasn’t uncommon at drunken fraternity parties; clothing often got sort of optional).
  2. Something huge, loomed up over the party. Darius – who had been holding a crystal glowing with an intense silvery light and looking puzzled – suddenly shoved the young women behind him as this giant hand reached down for him. He put on about two feet of height and broke free, then hurled a concrete garden chair at it’s “face”.
  3. The thing then fired some sort of “cold beam” at him, which froze him and the girls solid. It then scooped him and the girls up – and then rocketed away.
  4. In the light of the “Cold Beam” it seemed to be quasi-metallic – but the description did resemble Godzilla in a lot of ways. Some of the partygoers said that they had seen it before though, although they couldn’t place where.
  5. Nobody had seen Salin since either, so it was assumed that he had been taken too.

(Aikiko) “Oh dude! You’ve got to get me whatever you guys were smoking!”

Metallic? An Alchemical? A Raksha using a metallic body? Sidereals playing a prank? (They had to reduce their stress levels somehow!)

(Frat boy) “Hey, I never said that it made sense! I’d swear it was more than a prank though! If only because they haven’t come back!”

(Aikiko) “Yeah, that is pretty fishy… Which direction did Godzilla go? Or do you remember? That WAS a wild party!”

She got some vague directions – but it had flown away! Which was crazy!

Huh… That whole description sounded vaguely familiar to Aikiko too – but she couldn’t place it.

(Aikiko) “Uh… got me. Well, thanks for the info!”

(Frat Boys) “Not staying for the closed house party? It won’t be much fun without Salin of course…”

(Aikiko) “Well, I wasn’t going to ask. No way I’m cool enough to hang with his friends! But where is it?”

If it was close to the frat house, she might attend. Weird things tended to happen at night (and the Behemoth Cloak did have that Valor-boosting side effect…).

The frat boys were planning to annoy the police; it was going to be next door to their frat house, with lots and lots of loud music and disorderly conduct!

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3 Responses

  1. […] LXXXIV – On The Oregon Trail: The Dragon Lines of Yu-Shan, Godzilla and Fraternity Parties. […]

  2. […] LXXXIV – On The Oregon Trail: The Dragon Lines of Yu-Shan, Godzilla and Fraternity Parties. […]

  3. […] LXXXIV – On The Oregon Trail: The Dragon Lines of Yu-Shan, Godzilla and Fraternity Parties. […]

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