Eclipse Monster Characters – Level By Level

Ancient Armored Dune Dweller on Patrol

Ancient Armored Dune Dweller on Patrol (Photo credit: bob in swamp)

The question this time is how to use Eclipse to build a high-ECL creature starting at level one – something like the way that “Savage Species” did it.

That’s actually pretty easy; just look at what they get – and break it up into template levels. Taking a Template Level in lieu of a normal one gets you 32 CP instead of 24 – but it doesn’t provide a free d4 hit die or intelligence-based bonus skill points – and a +0 ECL race can have up to 31 CP worth of abilities. That also conveniently eliminates all of the “Savage Species” style guesswork while still letting you freely personalize things.

For an example, lets take the basic Minotaur. A Minotaur gets…

  • A +4 racial bonus to Search, Spot, and Listen. That’s 6 CP in Skill Points and Adept (6 CP).
  • A +5 Natural Armor Bonus. That’s 30 CP in Defender, selecting Natural Armor.
  • Attribute Shift: -2 Cha and +2 Dex. That’s 6 CP.
  • Double Damage, AKA “Powerful Charge”, 6 CP.
  • Growth, for 48 CP (given how many bonuses Growth provides, it’s pretty expensive).
  • Immunity to Mazes and getting lost. That’s Common, Minor, Major, for 6 CP.
  • Immunity to being caught flat-footed – also Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP.
  • Natural Weapons capable of doing 1d8 damage. That’s 9 CP
  • Occult Sense/Darkvision. That’s 6 CP.
  • Proficiency with the Greataxe and all simple weapons. That’s proficiency with All Simple Weapons and One Martial Weapon, 6 CP.
  • Tracking. That’s 3 CP.

Overall, that’s a total of 138 CP. Fortunately for the character-point budget, the entire template is Corrupted: Minotaurs are obvious monsters, have rather limited social skills, do not gain additional natural armor with levels, suffer a -4 Intelligence modifier, and need to have most equipment especially made. That brings their costs down to 92 CP – a +2 ECL species.

For a “young” +1 ECL minotaur, you only get 95 (63 after Corruption) CP worth of those abilities. That means dropping at least 43 (29 after Corruption) CP worth of abilities. A youthful minotaur might have only +1 Natural Armor (saving 24 CP), 1d4 Natural Weapons (Saving 6 CP), won’t yet have Powerful Charge (saving 6 CP), won’t have Immunity to being caught Flat-Footed (saving 6 CP again; I guess they get more paranoid and wary as they group up), and only gets +2 to Search, Spot, and Listen (Saving 3 CP). That’s a total of 45 (30 after Corruption) CP saved – bringing them down to 93 (62 after Corruption) CP – just under the 63 CP +1 ECL allowance. Next time they take a template level, all of that will go back in.

A very young +0 ECL Minotaur also drops the Growth, saveing 48 (32) CP – one template levels worth of points. That means a +0 ECL Minotaur Child only gets

  • A +2 racial bonus to Search, Spot, and Listen. That’s 3 CP in Skill Points and Adept (6 CP).
  • A +1 Natural Armor Bonus. That’s 6 CP in Defender, selecting Natural Armor.
  • Attribute Shift: -2 Cha and +2 Dex. That’s 6 CP.
  • Immunity to Mazes and getting lost. That’s Common, Minor, Major, for 6 CP.
  • Natural Weapons capable of doing 1d4 damage. That’s 3 CP
  • Occult Sense/Darkvision. That’s 6 CP.
  • Proficiency with the Greataxe and all simple weapons. That’s proficiency with All Simple Weapons and One Martial Weapon, 6 CP.
  • Tracking. That’s 3 CP.

That’s 45 CP – or 30 CP after the Corruption, just a point under the 31 CP limit for a +0 ECL race.

Thus, to play a Minotaur at first level, you can either take a +1 ECL adolescent Minotaur at level zero or a +0 ECL (precocious) child Minotaur at level one. To finish growing up you’ll want to add two template levels as you go along. Exactly when doesn’t matter – but I’d expect it to be within the first few years of adventuring.

Exalted – Body And Spirit Symphony Style (Terrestrial Martial Art)

English: Steven Ho executing a Jump Spin Hook ...

Yeah. This stuff again.

Breathe.

Breathe deep, draw the air to your center, and hold.

Reach beyond mere physical air. Feel the subtle breath of the spirit, the flow of vital energy, of the very essence, as it flows through the twelve channels. Focus on your abdomen, upon the reservoirs of spiritual power, and exhale the air alone. Feel that power – your Qi – build and strengthen. Feel the wings of the butterfly tremble within the chrysalis of your soul.

That delicate yet unfathomable strength is at the core of the higher arts.

Careful balance. Smooth and flowing kata, ever more irresistible. The subtle art of breath control. Balance and harmony. The regulation of inner energy. With these tools the martial artist may transform himself.

And in Exalted, where all things are forged of magical Essence, and even mortals may direct it through skill and ritual, this is just a trifle more literal.

In Exalted, Mutations can represent a lot of things. Sure, they can make you “too wyld to live in Creation” – but mutations bestowed by demesnes (and presumably by manses since they work the same way) and inheritance are specifically exempt (see Oadanel’s Codex under demesnes and the rules for created races). Evidently mutations acquired under the rules of Creation don’t count as “wyld” mutations – just as “mutations”.

Mutations can represent the results of thaumaturgy, or even of mere hard training. Yes, with work and determination you can drink those lousy protein shakes, train four hours every day, put a hundred pounds of muscle on that scrawny little body, and – eventually – develop the equivalent of the “Large” mutation.

Ergo, this particular art focuses on ritualistic, thaumaturgic, techniques for tapping into and channeling the energies of manses and demesnes. At least to start, it does not require an awakened essence pool.

For good or ill, Gods, Exalts and other natural essence users cannot be mutated by simple exposure to the energies of Creation – and so cannot use this style, leaving it the exclusive province of mortals. If someone who has it Exalts, they may replace this style – and the mutations it provides – with another martial art they are otherwise qualified for.

 

Harmonious Essence Balance: Cost: 3w; Mins: Martial Arts 2, Essence 1; Type: Simple, Keywords: Shaping, Duration: Special, Prerequisite Charms: None. Does not require awakened essence.

  • The user may rechannel and rebalance the essence flows of the body. Given a week in which to work he or she may remove up to three points worth of personal mutations or one point worth of someone else’s mutations – although this requires the “targets” active cooperation. If the mutations were purchased with XP or bonus points, those points are refunded.

Inward Dance Of The Dragons: Cost: —; Mins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 1; Type: Permanent, Keywords: None, Duration: Permanent, Prerequisite Charms: Harmonious Essence Balance, Does not require awakened essence.

  • The user may attune to manses and demesnes and their energies to mutate himself or herself. The experience points spent on this charm, and on any later charms on this style, may also be used to purchase mutations at the usual rate of 2 XP per point of mutation – provided that the user gains access to a demesne or manse rated at at least half the point cost of the desired mutation to tap into.
  • This is useful – but it actually isn’t that hard to get mutations if you want them. The most efficient way I can come up with is a little further down – and it’s far more efficient than this.

The Runic Path: Cost: —; Mins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 2; Type: Permanent, Keywords: None, Duration: Permanent, Prerequisite Charms: Inward Dance Of The Dragons, Does not require awakened essence.

  • The user may render up to (Willpower) points of his or her personal mutations nonphysical – and thus selectively remove any aspects of them that displease him or her. This charm may be purchased again at Essence 3 to cover an additional (Integrity) points of mutations.

Spirit Hardens Flesh: Cost 3M or 1W, Mins: Martial Arts 4, Essence 3; Type: Reflexive Keywords: None, Duration: Scene, Prerequisite Charms: The Runic Path, Does not require awakened essence.

  • The user may draw on the strength and durability of a Manse to which he or she is attuned, giving him or herself protection equivalent to a suit of attuned artifact armor (of an exact type selected when this charm is acquired) of a level equal to the (level of the manse – 1). If the manse is indestructible the rating is equal to the level of the manse. If it normally provides other protective benefits to it’s occupants, those apply to the user as long as the “armor” is sustained.
  • Now you just need to find an Exalt with a high-powered manse who will allow a mortal to fiddle around with the place… There are easier ways to get armor than that.

Withered Moon Heart: Cost: 1W OR 3M; Mins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 2; Type: Supplemental, Keywords: None, Duration: Permanent, Prerequisite Charms: Harmonious Essence Balance, Does not require awakened essence.

  • The user may augment an unarmed attack with a burst of mutagenic energy drawn from a manse or demesne to which he or she is currently attuned – inflicting up to (Highest Demesne or Manse Rank) points of negative mutations. If the user is attuned to at least three Demesnes or Manses add +1 point worth of negative mutations.
  • This can be really annoying – but it is sort of a long-term thing. Unfortunately, tricks like Order Affirming Blow will NOT remove such mutations; they have nothing to do with the Wyld and are not shaping effects, any more than a broken leg is.

Blood Of The Wyld: Cost: 2W OR 6M OR 1W 3M, Mins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 3; Type: Simple, Keywords: None, Duration: One Scene, Prerequisite Charms: Withered Moon Heart, Does not require awakened essence.

  • If the user can find a Freehold to draw upon, he or she may tap into it’s energies to manifest a Behemoth rated at (Freehold Rating -1) around himself or herself. He or she cannot be harmed until the Behemoth is disposed of. This charm can be purchased again at Martial Arts 5 to increase the Behemoth Rating to (Freehold Rating).
  • This is a very powerful effect for a mortal. Of course, it requires that said mortal find a Raksha freehold, reach it’s master, and then talk him or her into allowing a mortal to draw on the energies of his or her freehold. If a mortal can pull that off, or get some Exalt to arrange it for him, he or she has earned their flashy goody…

The Dragons Fire: Cost: 2W OR 6M OR 1W 3M, ins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 2; Type: Simple, Keywords: None, Duration: Scene, Prerequisite Charms: Inward Dance Of The Dragons, DOES require awakened essence.

  • The user may take on up to (rank of highest attuned manse or demesne +1) points of mutations for the scene. Unlike it’s prerequisites, this charm requires awakened essence; you simply cannot tap into such energies swiftly enough by thaumaturgic means.

Mortal characters in Exalted can, in fact, start off with access to any mutations they want.

  • Every year a non-essence user spends in a demesne – up to a number of years equal to the level of the demesne – inflicts one point worth of negative mutations and grants two points worth of positive mutations.
  • Some positive mutations have equal-and-opposite negative mutations, which cancel out.
  • Characters who pay for something get to pick it’s properties.
  • A demesne-2 costs one background or bonus point.

So: buy a selection of demesnes-2, make sure that their negative mutations are cancelled out by positive mutations, and you’ll wind up with a net balance of two positive mutation points per background point spent on them.

Now, to get really efficient…

  • The Mutagenic Manse Power states that “Carefully tailored Essence flows slowly warp flesh and brain and bone, inducing a specific set of mutations like those brought about by an uncapped demesne (Oadenol’s Codex, p. 50).”
  • So; buy a Rating-3 Manse with Hearthstone 0 (+3), Maintenance 4 (+4), Fragility 1 (+2), and Habitability 3 (+3). That provides 18 Creation Points. Spend them buying Zone of Influence (3), Password Controls (1), Bound Servant Force (to do the maintenance and provide some useful servants or services, 3), Magical Conveniences (1), and ten instances of Mutagenic (10).
  • Now, each incidence of Mutagenic in a Rank-3 Manse can bestow three points of negative mutations and six points of positive mutations. Trading those off leaves you with thirty points of positive mutations for every mortal in the manses zone of influence, gained at a rate of ten points per year.

That’s not bad for three background points. Even better, the place is pretty useless to anyone but mortals; the hearthstone is useless, you can’t get inside to boost your essence regeneration, and it’s mutagenic power (presumably) doesn’t affect essence-users. The only thing it’s good for is to provide mutation-boosts for mortals – which is exactly what any mortal owner wants. In fact, if you don’t want to bother tailoring the mutation-packages, you can skip the password controls and the magical conveniences and get thirty-six points of mutations out of your three background points.

That’s terrible cheese of course, but if you’re going to be a mortal in an Exalted game, you need all the cheese you can get. You are, after all, being a humble little mouse in the great house of the Primordials and Exalted.

More Eclipse Builds by Christopher West

ID: DMST8807422 Released to Public Service Dep...

Characters Of The Eclipse

Christopher West has continued to put up Eclipse character designs over on his RPG Blog. Given that every Eclipse character is unique, and that everyone using the system comes up with their own ideas on what to build and how to build it, here are some new links to his builds – and a link to the last list of links.

So, with no further ado, here we have…

The Squirely Squire –  Here we have a classic young squire – a student who specializes (at least for the moment) in working as a part of a combat team, rather than as a solo warrior.

The Summoner Controller – A summoner who can seize control of other people’s summoned monsters, rather than taking the usual course of augmenting his own.

The Specialist Sniper –  RPG’s tend to be designed to make life difficult for snipers: yes they’re cool – but they’re only at their best in specialized situations and the players tend to really hate it when a sniper blows away a few of the more vulnerable PC’s at the start of a battle. Fortunately, in Eclipse, the easiest way to build a “sniper” is to simply make a more effective ranged combatant – and that’s no worse than any other specialist.

Hunter of Magus  Basically a witch-hunter who gains power from resisting spells.

The Apprentice – A spellcaster with a wide range of tricks – and the ability to cast spells spontaneously from his or her spellbook.

Spell Touched Mind –  A spellcaster with random access to magic, rather than control.

A Perfect Thief – Here we have an actual fantasy thief – someone who specializes in getting in, stealing stuff, and getting away again and uses enough magic of their own to counter magical defenses and help with emergency escapes.

An Eclipse Review: A quick review of Eclipse here. OK, it’s not a character build – but there’s no reason to get out of order with the Eclipse topics on the blog.

Saboteur – Destructor –  Here we have a blaster / trapsetter who is very good at blowing things up – starting with inanimate objects. Of course, such things are often in the way.

Desert Dancer Elementalist –  A character who persuades the elemental forces of the world to produce effects using the Rune Magic system. A nice idea and an excellent bit of background here.

The Fallen Mage –  A once-powerful spellcaster who has lost much of his or her power.

Dead Sight – A sort of a medium, who gains strength when creatures die nearby. I haven’t read the story it’s based on, but the build works just fine.

Spy vs Spy –  A fairly straightforward deep-cover secret agent.

Infernal Seduction – A demonic seducer in service to his/her/its demonic masters.

Fearmonger – A specialist in raw, primal, terror.

Skyborne Archer – Another semi-sniper build, favoring shooting from somewhere well out of reach.

Mage – Assassin – A spellcaster who specializes in getting in, eliminating a target, and getting out.

The Dabbler – A youngster with partially-controlled spontaneous magic. I really like this one; the untrained wannabe with more power than is at all good for him (or her) makes such a wonderful plot hook…

The Sneak Thief – A character who can use his or her skills very swiftly indeed. An interesting idea, but perhaps a bit over-specialized.

The Draining Wilder – A psionic expert who goes berserk when out of power. An entertaining surprise for people who think that running the psion out of power points is the optimal strategy.

Kinetic Mage Apprentice – A specialist in telekinetic powers.

Dark Priest of Misty Dawn – A warrior-priest who drains the souls of those he kills.

Eclipse d20 – Occult Talent Builds

The Occult Review

Who says it’s a myth?

Today we have a query from Brett about the details – and possible expansions of – the Occult Talent ability from Eclipse. As so often happens, that answer got far too long for a comment – so here it is as a small article.

Are the spells that go with those (Occult Talent) slots dedicated or do they work like Cleric casting pulling from the whole list, or some studies version, if they are dedicated as the description suggests what would be an appropriate CP cost to give them some flexibility for selecting or changing those spells? What would a psionic version be like, slots or point based? Are there any obvious expansions for it that have been done, I am familiar with the limitation of requiring it to have props to simulate some gadgets but am curious to know if there are more.

-Brett.

At the six-point level the slots are dedicated and fixed. For an example, this character (scroll down to the Full Build section) has a short selection of “Blademaster’s Tricks”.

Occult Talent/”Blademaster’s Tricks”. 1/Day Each: Fast Draw (a sword on your person appears in your hand just when you want it; this is not even an action), Blade Call (your blade leaps into your hand from up to thirty feet away as a free action), The Wind Blade (spend a move action to make any item serve as a normal sword for one minute), Mend Blade (fixes a sword as per a mending spell as a free action), and Sudden Strike (make a single attack at your full BAB as a swift action) (Corrupted/Not while wearing armor or while carrying medium or heavy encumberance, 4* CP). Suggested Upgrades include adding Conceal Blade (L0), Adamant Strike (L1), and Personal Haste (L1).

Similarly, with one of the technologically-oriented builds…

The Intuitive Expert just has a feel for gadgets, and can often get things to work when there’s no reasonable way that he or she could do so. Occult Sense/intuitively understands the general principles and operation of any device (6 CP) and Occult Talent (4 L0 effects – Instant Start, Guess Password/Encryption Key (+6 Insight Bonus to check), Jury-Rig (works for a little while), Produce Tool (produces any one minor pocket tool for a few minutes) – and one L1 effect; Moment of Insight (provides a +20 bonus on any one skill check) – once per day each, 6 CP).

Those also demonstrate one of the major strengths of the Occult Talent and Inherent Spell abilities; the spells used don’t have to exist already, or be researched, as long as the game master agrees that they’re reasonable – making such abilities an easy way to represent unique talents or moves.

With the “Improved” upgrade your “known spells” list will include five level zero and three level one effects – and you have a similar number of slots to cast them with, rather than each only being usable once per day.

Converting to a psionic version is covered on page 12 of Eclipse – and could be slot or power based. When it comes to Power, a basic occult talent provides 4xL0 and 1xL1 effects, totaling 3 spell levels – which converts (multiply by 1.8) to 5 Power. If you’re using 3.0 psionic powers, it would grant access to four L0 powers and one L1 power. If you’re using 3.5 psionic powers, L0 powers do not exist – so trade them in the four of them for two more L1 powers, for a total of three. The “Improved” version provides 5.5 spell levels, and so would convert to ten power to use those abilities with.

It’s also perfectly possible to call your power “spell points” and take normal spells – gaining flexibility at the cost of a slight hit on the total number of spells you’ll be able to cast each day. You can directly expand the list of spells or powers available by buying Occult Talent again, or by buying particular spell formula (page 11, bottom right hand column).

Since Occult Talent is basically a very small, short, spell progression there’s nothing inherently wrong with trading out it’s implicit limitations for some of the other ones under “Magic Levels”. Thus, given the permission of the GM, you could trade the small list of inherent spells for a spellbook (an expensive indulgence when you’re never going to have all that many spells), or even trade out the “studies” limitation for “conduct” and get a complete divine spell list to prepare spells from.

That sort of trade is fairly common among priestly acolytes and similar characters – people who aren’t dedicated enough to buy a clerical spell progression, but who are capable of very minor priestly magic. Specialize it for double effect by requiring time and prayer and occasional services to get those spells back and label it “Lay Priest” (6 CP).

Occult Talent is also sometimes used to represent bits of magic that go with skills in a magical world. Take it Specialized in powers related to a particular skill and Corrupted to require a skill roll for a mere 2 CP, and you’ll have some smithing tricks, or climbing tricks, or rope magic tricks, or whatever.

An article on Elven Variants showed the breakdown for Specialization and Corruption of Occult Talents to produce very minor effects – usually single spells once per day. The actual results look like this:

  • Buy a single Cantrip or Orison usable Once Per Day (Caster Level = Hit Dice): 1 CP.
  • Buy a single First-Level Spell usable Once Per Day (Caster Level = Hit Dice, 1 Minimum): 2 CP.
  • Buy a single Second-Level Spell usable Once Per Day (Caster Level = Hit Dice, 3 Minimum): 4 CP.

An Occult Talent can also be used to get a few more spell formula to start off with, as the Mystic Adept build does;

Improved Occult Talent, Specialized/the spells gained must be powered from the user’s existing power reserves and are cast at his or her base caster level, rather than using his or her hit dice as a caster level (6 CP). That gets our Mystic Adept a selection of five Cantrips or Orisons and three first level spells to use since otherwise he or she would be starting with only one spell.

The HuSung Birthright Package from the Atheria Campaign uses Improved Occult Talent to provide spell slots for Theurgy – a simple method of giving a dabbler a few spell slots and a wide variety of small spells to cast without having to worry about caster levels.

Improved Occult Talent: 5x L0 and 3xL1 spell slots. Specialized: no inherent spells, only usable for theurgy, Corrupted, Elemental Magic only (4 CP)

Going beyond Improved Occult Talent is most easily done by buying Generic Spell Levels (under Mana), Rite of Chi, and other enhancements. While it is possible to Specialize and Corrupt Occult Talents in various ways for increased effect, or to buy several of them, you’re never going to get beyond third level effects (at the most) doing it that way. If a character really wants to put that much effort into magic, they’re probably better off with a full spell progression, or rune magic and lots of mana, or one of the other major magical options.

Of course, if a setting doesn’t allow more powerful options… Well, an Occult Talent Specialized and Corrupted to allow a third level effect may represent the legendary peak of magical power.

Hopefully that both answers your questions and gives you some additional ideas…

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XCIII – Dreams Of The Elders

English: Peanut butter cookie with a chocolate...

Sweet Dreams!

At Dudael Catherine was looking a bit concerned about something.

(Charles) “Is something wrong?”

(Catherine, whispering) “Uh… Does anything feel… fluid around here to you?”

Charles had to pause for a moment – but nothing felt any more liquid than usual…

(Charles) “Huh! Does it? That might be the Veilward working; a Nocturnal might well feel that!”

(Catherine) “Huh! I don’t think you told me about that; some kind of hiding measure?”

(Charles) “It scatters attempts to probe, assault, or otherwise penetrate Dudael against the will of the hearthstone bearer across dimensions – usually leading to one where it’s vacant and deserted!”

Catherine looked thoughtful for a bit… That might be something to experiment with if Charles would allow it. She couldn’t do anything with the actual geomancy of course, but a Charm…

(Catherine) “Maybe I could do something with that eventually. Nothing permanent, but if there was a possibility of experimentation…”

(Charles) “I suppose we could look into it! It might work for you!”

(Catherine) “I’d appreciate it! Anything to keep me busy during these off periods.”

(Charles) “Certainly! And there are lots of other projects if you’re REALLY bored!

(Catherine, happily taking a copy of the list) “I’ll have to look into that sometime!… Uhm… How does the Veilward work anyway? Outside of the basic effect, of course!”

Well, there was no one better around to explain the working of a geomantically powered artifact than Charles – and in a manse he was attuned to yet – but it was primordial workmanship and he pretty much went past what she understood of the discipline in the first few sentences.

(Catherine, sighing) “OK, you lost me at the geomancy, but it’s a REALLY powerful artifact mounted in this place? Checking the structure sometime will be worth a try!”

(Charles) “Oh certainly!”

The rest of the shift proceeded normally, with minor artifacts being made for the stockpiles. At the moment it was Worksuits (very light armor with lots of practical utility functions and some environmental support; Charles figured that he might need some for the colonies!), Light Plasguns (adjustable flame projectors, useful for everything from lighting cigarettes to heating forges, welding, metal-cutting, lighting, cooking, beacons – and even very short range combat), Universal Tools, and Personal Navigation Devices.

Catherine very much approved! All too often the gods forgot about utilitarian devices… it was nice having a boss who understood!

That actually left Charles with a little free time before bed… He was almost ready to start in with the usual planning until he dropped – but the Coatl and Inukami were pleasantly surprised when he thought about the overstressed Sidereals and actually went to bed at a reasonable hour for once…

The pastry ship sailed, kicking up a bow wave of chocolate liqueur that was ridden by the gingerbread dolphins while – off to the sides – the nougat volcanoes hurled hot lava cakes high into the sky and the tantalizing scent of more substantial lands of food wafted gently over the horizon… “Land Ho” shouted the cotton-candy teddy as Peanut Butter Mountain (with it’s occasional chocolate rocks) loomed up. Charles rode the ski-lift to the top (inventing some non-sticky peanut butter skis to come down with along the way) and watched the jelly whales swimming through the peanut butter, spouting their various flavors to form shimmering pools of jelly beneath the bread-and-cookie trees!

Huh! He didn’t usually get this kind of dream unless he went to bed really REALLY hungry! Still, it was quite fun dodging the trees, the topping-screes, and the gumdrop boulders!

Wait! He was pretty sure that HE wasn’t this hungry – so that meant that someone was sharing his dream and that “hunger” either figured pretty largely in their lives or… HAD figured largely!

Charles started looking around for Orchid.

After dodging a particularly violent spout of jelly from a whale, he spotted Orchid in a sugar rock alcove. She was waving – so he skied on over!

(Charles) “Allo!”

(Orchid) “Ah, Aden! (Gratefully) Thank you so much for all you’ve done for me. My boss has finally decided to talk to you. He’s farther in. Before that, though… (She looked mildly uncomfortable) Thing is, he wants a sample of your Essence.”

(Charles) “all the kinds or just my personal type?”

(Orchid) “Every bit. He wants to make sure you’re actually a Mighty One, and he’s been at this A LOT longer than me.”

Charles was interested in the results of that analysis as well; he wasn’t at all sure any longer.

(Orchid) “Here’s the other thing… our default method for this hurts. It can hurt a lot. So if you could come up with another way… I mean, you helped me a lot! I don’t want to hurt you and I don’t think the boss does either.”

Gothmug twitched in Aden! It wasn’t like he hadn’t set a few Balgrogs to monitoring Charle’s dreams – at least since he’d invited a deiphage to meet him there! Still, at least the boy was making up an Essence Sampler rather than inviting a Deiphage to feed on him! It was all from his personal geomancy, so there was no reason why he couldn’t just bottle some…

It was a lot of bottles – but Orchid had patience. Between how helpful Charles had been and his “diplomatic immunity” she REALLY didn’t want to hurt him…

(Orchid) “Okay, take those in. He said this was going to be between him and you.”

Charles cheerfully did so… further into the alcove the rock candy remained, but took on a pale, bluish radiance, awfully similar to the lower levels of Yu-Shan’s underground. There was still some sticky peanut butter though… Well there was nothing wrong with that!

The path ended in a room with nothing in it but an adamant sphere, hooked to the rock candy through adamant tubing. The Old Realm characters for “10” were engraved upon it. Inside the sphere was some sort of black fluid – and inside that floated a vague humanoid shape.

(Charles, as cheerily as always) “Allo!”

(Voice from the sphere.) “You must be Aden Shining Dream… odd, you don’t look drained. Did you two find another way?”

(Charles) “I bottled up essence from various points… There’s lots anyway!”

(Voice) “Could you slip it into the tube labeled ‘Analysis?'”

Charles did so – and continued dropping in bottles for some time, given that there were samples of Elemental, Autochtohonian (a full set), Underworld, Primal (in several types), Wyld, Shinamaic (a full set), Lunar, Solar, Sidereal, Abyssal, Divine, Raksha, Nocturnal, and rather a lot of Adenic essence in there!

The liquid inside the sphere glowed and bubbled wildly for several minutes – and it’s level decreased slightly. The occupant sat silently for a few moments – and then turned towards Charles.

(Voice) “Fascinating… you’re attuned to so many Manses and artifacts that not even I can analyze them all. I can say one thing for certain, however; you are not a Mighty One – Yet.”

(Charles) “Aw! I was kind of hoping that you would know!”

(Voice) “I said yet. I… I never thought I would encounter an embryonic one. You just lack the fetich and the forging of your spirit to a single guiding principle. There’s also a hidden area I can’t quite parse. What is that?”

(Charles) “Maybe the nocturnal segments? They like to hide!”

(Voice) “Nocturnal… I have never heard of it. Odd, I’ve eaten all sorts of things!”

(Charles) “They’re new too!”

(Voice) “Oh! How dreadfully rude of me! I am Ten Peach, junior Overseer of the Eastern Petal! I… I haven’t offended you, have I?”

(Charles) “No! Why would I be offended?”

(Ten Peach) “It’s just that Mighty Ones can be eccentric – and, while I saw none of the destructive eccentricities in you, I might have missed something. Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable? I wasn’t sure what you wanted, so I went with a default merger of our two dreamspaces.”

(Charles) “It’s fine! Dreams are kind of random anyway usually!”

That seemed to produce some mild confusion – but Ten Peach got over it.

(Ten Peach) “Please, tell me more about this procedure you’ve done for Orchid.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, that was simple! I set her up with a sort of limited multipresence, so that she’s present “in” several manses at the same time at all times. I have plenty of manses anyway!”

(Ten Peach) “Enough to supply all of us, if what she said was true… Perhaps even my colleagues and superiors.”

(Charles) “Well, if there aren’t enough already, there’s plenty of room for more manses!”

(Ten Peach) “I must feel this for myself. Would you care to give me a link?”

(Charles) “OK!” (And the shining blue-gold orb – the setup that would provide a link to three planetary manses primarily designed for city-support – came out again).

(Ten Peach) “Oh dear. One moment, please, Nascent One…”

The sphere started draining. Oddly enough though, it wasn’t draining through the pipes; it seemed to be draining into whoever was inside – much like a sponge absorbed water. After all the liquid drainsed Charles could see the occupant more clearly: a hairless humanoid made of faintly luminous adamant, with eyes of orichalcum and claws of obsidian. He was clearly male and wore white ambrosial clothing – trousers and a tunic with the number “10″ on it. Part of the sphere disappeared and he gingerly climbed out.

(Ten Peach) “I apologize. I’m so used to being hooked up that I forget I can leave in my dreams.”

(Charles) “Hm. Does the symbolism really matter when we’re in a shared dream? It must be pretty deeply habitual there…”

Ten Peach examined the sphere, but – unlike Orchid – he was noticeably sniffing and tasting… Then he went in; Gothmug is watching him right away – and reported an Essence level of around eight (and that Ten Peach was absolutely befuddled by the concept of outdoors). Nevertheless, he went through the attunement ritual. Then, of course, he was back in the rock candy cave…

(Charles) “How’s that?”

(Ten Peach, with some shock) “The Essence … this will speed up our timetable drastically.”

(Charles) “Oh! You might know… If I bump Yu-Shans power inputs back to or above Age-Of-Glory levels what will happen?”

It took a few minutes for Ten Peach to respond; he appeared to be savoring the taste of the incoming Essence. Nonetheless, he did answer eventually.

(Ten Peach) “Oh dear… that depends. Which portion of the circuits will you be enhancing? The pure, or the compromised? Ouch … my Destiny Sponsorship. But that was a question that had to be answered.”

(Charles) “Oh, I was going to link the place up to another 96 planets by adding a couple of additional gates next to the existing ones around the edge!”

(Ten Peach, puzzledly) “What’s a planet? I remember SOMETHING about that from long ago. I do apologize, it’s fuzzy.”

(Charles) “Ah, I should have expected that!” (He pulled up a map of old creation and ran it through an animated display of the reshaping, showed how old creation (mostly the blessed isle and the deep earth pole) became the earth, and then showed the expansion – and then a view of other planets, suns, and galaxies.

(Charles) “Creation is MUCH larger than it used to be! And a lot of the original gates are all messed up…”

(Ten Peach) “That explains many things – why the blasted lions closed some gates, among them. Would it be all right if I shared this information with my colleagues?”

(Charles) “Oh sure! I’ll package up a presentation!… Here! It’s a dream-artifact, so it will manifest in reality when you want it!”

(Ten Peach, bowing at the waist) “Thank you, Nascent One.”

He took the minor dream artifact, after – again – sniffing it.

(Ten Peach) “As for your additional gates, if you do it that way… it would deal with the reduced input somewhat. Depending on where you put them, the coverage of pure or compromised areas would increase by half a percentage point. With the power you are capable of, you might manage a full percentage point.”

(Charles) “Well, you were already set up for some expansion anyway!”

(Ten Peach) “Quite so. I hope to see the percentages at maximum in a few millennia.”

(Charles) “Reverting it back to how it was before the Incarnae moved in?”

(Ten Peach, with some mild displeasure when Charles mentioned the Incarnae) “Well, yes… as it was.”

(Charles) “I don’t suppose you’ll want to tell me what it did then? There are some things I wouldn’t want to start just yet!”

(Ten Peach) “No one has asked me since the Occupation! First of all, what have you been told about that period?” (And suddenly, modest ambrosial chairs appeared; Charles recognized the style from Ninety-Six Lotus’s bunker.

Charles gladly provided the five versions of what was going on then, and how the Incarane moved in that he’d heard already…

(Ten Peach) “I see. Well, Orchid did mention that you controlled Dudael… one of the few approved structures in here at the time… What you were told about our ultimate superior, the White Ram was true; a small army of Solars and Lunars (the resentment was palpable) killed him. The first we heard of it was when there was panic at the Jade Pleasure Dome. But that’s not what you were really asking about, was it? I believe you were asking which quarters we had an interest in.” (He looked haunted for a moment.) “And I would rather not discuss that time.”

(Charles) “Well no! I think that Yu-Shan had some definite purposes at the beginning; but I coudn’t stay long enough at the testing period to see what. Since powering up will mean restoring the manses so that their remains don’t blow up, I’d be restoring those and then upping the power levels – and I was wondering what it might start doing; it would be very awkward if it tried to restore the original design of creation or something! Or if it woke up and started flexing with no warning or some such!”

(Ten Peach) “I assume you were planning to reconstruct every Manse in Yu-Shan then? Nearly all of them are unapproved; they have no effect on Creation’s geomancy whatsoever. But there are a few you would want to avoid giving powers that affect Creation. (he smiled) Now, waking up… that is what we need to achieve 100% purity for.”

(Charles) “Well, I’d be restoring their original functions anyway…

(Ten Peach) “Most of those Manses were temporary works, bought into existence by me, my colleagues, and our Operators. They were needed to stabilize the structure. Once it was up and her Essence was flowing back and forth, we could take them down. I believe several Mighty Ones then constructed their prototype demesnes on those sites.”

Ten Peach was relaxing somewhat. It had been a long time since he’d spoken to ANYONE who wasn’t one of his subordinates.

(Charles) “So, some of the original manses were the channels that allowed Gaia to infuse herself into creation?”

(Ten Peach) “I saw her merge with Yu-Shan, her elemental power in full flow. Some of the Operators failed to listen to me and couldn’t survive the raw Essence. I had to lecture them and review proper conduct afterwards. But it was magnificent as her power flooded downward. What does it look like, living in a world in so much flux? Ah, I got poetic there. Yes, there were five of those temporary Manses. The Emerald Mother attuned to them, and she never regained those motes. As far as I know, they would still be in Creation.”

Hm! So the original Creation-shaping and Channeling manses had allowed Gaia to infuse herself into creation – and then had been taken down. The current manses – both damaged and functioning – were pretty much irrelevant.

Charles gladly shared some experiences of what Creation was like – and the fact that it needed renewing as well, and what was being done about that.

(Ten Peach) “That… would help with the imbalances up here, to be certain… I cannot believe that it has gotten so big! The blasted raksha must have had her in a corner for her to attempt the process alone.”

(Charles) “I think it went a bit out of control!”

(Ten Peach) “Yes, because she had none of her siblings to assist! They made existence together – and with them imprisoned in Lord Theion…”

(Charles) “Well, that needs fixing too!”

(Ten Peach) “Please, tell them we need help! We’re well on our way to recovery, but with the lions buzzing about above, we Tenders are vastly outnumbered. There’s only so much we can do with all that clutter, too!”

(Charles) “Oh, with your Destiny Sponsorship out of action would you like a Behemoth Cloak too? I can stash one somewhere for you to pick up if you’d like!”

(Ten Peach) “Thank you, Nascent One, but my Operator’s vestments will suffice. But if you would assist a disgraced Tender with a problem?”

(Charles) “What’s needed?”

(Ten Peach sighed) “Nine Grape, the senior Overseer of this Petal and my partner, has been uncommunicative for the past year. We were speaking monthly before that. I’ve sent members of my Operator team in to ask why, but her team has been turning them away. All signs indicate that she is alive. I want to know if she’s planning something stupid; she has been impatient with our progress for the past millennium or so. I believe you have met Ninety-Six Lotus? He is one of her Operators. I hate to ask such a small thing of you, but you are a Nascent One, and she might listen.”

(Charles) “Why not? She might be the one who wanted that artifact then…”

(Ten Peach) “Artifact? What artifact?”

Charles cheerily provided the specifications.

(Ten Peach) “Oh dear! What is she thinking? That will have the lions on her for certain! And she is supposed to notify me of such modifications, even if they would be beneficial!”

(Charles) “Well, I shall drop in to see her!”

(Ten Peach) “Please, Nascent One! If we lost an Overseer…” (He looked frightened.)

The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice – The Modern Gates, Part V

Rio Jaguarão

Why can’t they all be like this?

And now, finally, we have the modern Yu-Shan gates of the South…

49) Atop Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this gate has developed the possibly-unfortunate side effect of rendering any creature that passes through it solidly material for several days – which has led to a number of unfortunate incidents of incautious gods falling into the sea. Since somehow becoming immaterial is a necessary part of entering Yu-Shan, this means that anyone who enters Creation via this gate cannot be recalled for several days – an effect which has made vacationing in Rio a tremendously popular choice among the Sidereals, who know that if they opt to vacation, or hold a conference, in Rio, it will be days before they can be recalled and re-assigned – no matter how big someone thinks the emergency is. Thus Rio has become one of the central hubs for Sidereal activity on Earth.

50) Located in Mali, in the western fringes of the Sahara Desert, this gate lies locked behind a defense mechanism run amuck – an ever-shifting maze of dreams, who’s mysteries include both it’s indestructible physical structure and a bizarre mixture of tales and plotlines – both of which must be negotiated to pass through. While many ill-prepared individuals have lost their ways within the maze they may or may not survive as anything beyond maddened monstrosities.

As usual, the Gate is an indestructible manse – in this case with modifiers such as Puzzle Manse, Wyld Revocation (as usual for the Gates Independent of External Geomancy and giving illusions partial reality), and a somewhat crazed AI to control things). Remember “There is research to be done. On the people who are still alive.” (Portal).

51) Deep in a cavern beneath South Africa, this sapient soulsteel gate is embedded in a mighty mass of nigh-indestructible diamond – which constantly grows, and sheds shards. Even the small ones are stones of high quality, the larger ones are fabulous jewels in their own right – and many are thaumaturgic talismans, whether beneficial or accursed. They are also monitoring devices and bait. The gate scatters them about the great diamond fields of Africa – and waits for mortals to claim them. When a mortal dies in possession of such a stone, his or her soul is drawn within it, and transferred to the original mass – to become a perpetual source of power for the ancient entities imprisoned within the soulsteel of the gate. Perhaps not even they know what the end result will be, but with enough power and time there is very little that cannot be done.

52) In the wilds of Madagascar, in a tangled and near-impassible tangle of ravines, the top of a massive carving thrusts from the ground, – so damaged and obscured by vines and plants as to be almost undetectable among the surrounding mountains. Sadly, the gate on it’s forehead in has been sealed since long before the Reshaping – in fact, since before the Usurption, when certain Sidereals discovered – to their horror – that a clever and paranoid Twilight had quite intentionally placed his geomantic superweapon in position to funnel the geomantic energy of the entire south into an elemental attack that would pass through the gate to devastate the center of Yu-Shan, destroy other gates, disrupt the Loom, and cause geomantic upheavals that might tear apart Yu-Shan itself. He might even have arranged so as to be able to do so by remote control. Today, with it’s base now sitting deep within the planetary crust, that weapon remains as potent as ever – and likely to trigger incredible destruction if any attempt is made to destroy it – and so this particular gateway remains SHUT under a high-priority seal from the Maidens themselves.

53) Deep in the ocean east of Africa this gate emerges in an ancient solar manse, in what was once the palace of the Perfect of Paragon – and, just perhaps, still is. The gate was sealed from the Creation end shortly before the march of the Wyld reached the area – a capability that no one had been aware that the Perfect possessed – and later investigation simply revealed that the entire area had apparently been replaced with a bland sea-bottom and that there was no sign of the gate at all.

A few savant-gods have speculated that the Perfect had somehow obtained a stored “Pressed Beyond The Veil Of Time” spell and is now – somehow – trapped elsewhere by the presence of the ocean where his realm would be returning to. There really isn’t any evidence for this though. There also isn’t any evidence for the idea that the area was wiped out by wyld and restored on some distant world, or that the Solar Manse that contained the gate is still supporting the Perfect and some of his citizens and is simply concealing itself, or any of a dozen other speculations. It’s possible that – unless the gate reopens – no one will ever know.

54) In the Arabian Desert, often hidden by blowing sands, are a scattering of towers of glass – once known as Chiascuro, now best known as Iram of the Pillars or “The Nameless City”. Here, under the supervision of a maddened Grandmother Bright, various demons crawl from a Host-Binding Circle in Power Failure – some competing to become one of the 1001 residents that Grandmother Bright permits to remain within her sand-buried city and others crawling forth into the desert to spawn legends of terrible jinn. The gate is generally kept sealed; few of the Celestial Lions wish to risk attempting to negotiate with an insane goddess and her horde of demonic minions. Occasional mortals DO attempt such negotiation, seeking to use the power of the demon horde for their own purposes. This rarely ends well – at least for the mortal.

55) This gate lies in Jerusalem, beneath the Dome of the Rock. Once almost exclusively used by Ahlat, god of War and Cattle, to visit his priests and accept their offerings of goods and sweet incense and cattle, it now lies beneath one of the most fought-over holy cities of the world where conflicting followers of the unnamed LORD and Allah have – for centuries – fought over the site and have offered up incense and cattle and goods…

Well – like it or not – taking Exalted’s Creation as the prehistory of Modern Earth says that pretty much all current religions are fundamentally wrong. If, of course, this is what’s going on… Ahlat would currently be receiving the prayers of Christianity, Judaism, AND Islam – and have more worshipers than the Unconquered Sun ever did. Of course he’d also have an administrative nightmare, be pretending to have far more power and influence than he actually would (even with that inflated position), and be violating many celestial laws. On the other hand he’d be funding most of the Celestial Bureaucracy out of his own pocket – which would let him get away with quite a lot. It’s hard to say “No!” to the man who’s funding everything!

56) Beneath the antarctic ice, there is a desert sky… With creation collapsing around them and the Wyld pouring in, the creation-adapted lion-fey of the south had little choice save to join the defense. Sadly, their power was nowhere near sufficient; the best that they could do was to gather together scattered isles of order – modest areas protected by various gods, immutable manses, and occasional reality engines – and wrap their freeholds around them, a modest archipelago of order wrapped in a borderland lagoons. For the moment, at least, the Wyld waves swept past – and then broke upon the erupting order of the Reshaping.

The Reshaping… encapsulated roughly a thousand freehold waypoints and a random sampling of immutable bits of the threshold territories within a single mighty freehold – occupying a fold in space and a modest area beneath the newly-forming ice of antarctica. Here are an assortment of tiny city-states, wyld lands, and other bits of the Original Creation, rather like the largest sampler box of chocolates in the cosmos.

And there aren’t any labels.

Nevertheless, here, beneath a blazing desert sun shining beneath the ice of the south pole, the Raksha have maintained the old market around the Yu-Shan gate – making small quantities of a myriad otherwise lost goods and services available to the elite of Yu-Shan – for a hefty price. The Raksha take care to look human, or to bring some human fronts along – while the Gods take care to overlook the presence of the Raksha. It’s not like they could readily return to the Wyld now, even if distance was not an obstacle.

57) In Mexico City, within the depths of Glass Reach, in a chamber warded against detection and filled with gold, surrounded by ancient solar tombs and their ghostly occupants, a gate stands – awaiting once more the sacrifices of the Dragon Kings or their successors. Around Glass Reach stand seven more ancient manses – a geomantic engine of vast power (and possibly of Primordial design). Over it, humans – in their blindness – have built an enormous, thriving, city – and often delve into the depths of the earth. All too soon perhaps modern foundations will meet ancient stone – and who knows what will be unleashed?

58) Not even Gaia is perfect. This gate opens up somewhere in deep interstellar space, where reality is thin – and has been, like so many of the other gates, sealed by the Celestial Lions. Most of them don’t want to talk about it – although speculation centers on creatures of the Deep Earth who were reshaped to suit their new intergalactic homes during the Reshaping.

59) On Prince Patrick Island, in Northern Canada, Jakatam Shining-Hammer continues to ply his ancient trade – forging wonders in volcanic fires. His manse – The Citadel Of Generative Flames – provides him with privacy and captures the heat of the volcanic rift to warm the area nearby. Here, supported by that hidden island of warmth in the midst of the glacier, a lost colony of seafarers has gathered, providing Jakatam with a modest cult, assistants and – when criminals are available – sacrifices to use in his forging. Few of the occupants of Yu-Shan realize that Jakatam still survives, much less that he is busier than ever – and none save the most trusted have been allowed to see past the manses illusions.

60) Hidden in the core of an asteroid there lies a city of the first age – still supported by it’s imperishable manses and machines, and still well-populated. Unfortunately, the massive deposits of Firedust beneath the city have been infused with wyld energies and transmuted into radioactive ores, leaking their mutagenic radiation across the ages. The strangely-warped denizens of the city have had nowhere to go for millennia – and know all too well that the cities systems will support a limited number of people. Their accommodation to that fact has been… brutal. Those who exceed the permissible lifespan are slain – and the children are pitted against various beasts, shapings, hazards, and each other in a variety of competitions. The strongest survivors get to live, and to continue to await the days when The Shining Ones (as they refer to the Celestial Exalts) will return to lead them. The luckiest wind up being purchased by gods or other inhabitants of Yu-Shan. The rest… are disposed of variously.

Occasional groups from Yu-Shan hire (or purchase) guards and soldiers here. While that might be seen as unscrupulous, each such event means one more child that gets to live…

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XCII – Correspondence School

Three rubber ducks in foam bath

The Terrible Minions of Pure Frothing Delight, God of Bubble Baths!

Back in Yu-Shan, Charles was trying to talk his teachers into giving him several months worth of assignments in advance… They’d have been a bit reluctant anyway – that was a long gap! – but the rumors that were now floating around school were MOST disquieting. There were whispers that the boy was – amongst other things – an Exalt, a Primordial in disguise, the God of School Boards (going incognito) a raksha seeking godhood, and still stranger. Some of them had even noted his tendency to simply hand out artifacts after multiple incidents with armor…

Charles had made a note of some of the rumors! You never knew when someone would have a really good idea! Not the “God of School Boards” one though. That was just silly! Raksha becoming gods was mildly awkward, but possible – and it matched up with some of the rumors about fey artifact sources.

Still, he’d quit attempting to hide that he made artifacts very quickly indeed – and the instructors did know that he was running a factory-cathedral, and that using it off the clock was a perk of the job – but he was just too fast for that to account for!

Thus, some polite queries into how he did it so quickly were in order – along with the general discussion on why he needed his assignments so far ahead.

(Charles) “I learned some charms for making things faster and made lots of tools! And the factory-cathedral helps too!”

(Barzan, God of Bronze Amphoras, Metal Shop) “What kind of tools?”

(Charles) “Wonderworker’s Mantles, Runescribers, some Specialty Manses with Artificer Guardian Forces, and that sort of thing! I had some to start, and that made it easy to make more!”

He was making Manses on his own? Well, his grandfather did have an awful lot of resources – but that was still awfully precocious for a boy his age! And from the way he was talking, he saw manses as… just another tool.

(Sephara, Goddess of Teak Furniture Engraving) “How many Manses?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Lots! Does it matter?”

Evasion… either he really did build those Manses, and wanted to keep it quiet, or he was fibbing – and it would be hard for anyone to be more honest or blatantly poor at lying. They’d have to talk to Headmaster Jun about it! Charles had shown nothing but good intentions so far – and he might need some watching to ensure that he as not being exploited.

(Barzan) “Could you tell us about some of those manses?”

Charles could hardly resist talking about manses! He explained some designs for making manses that made workers and other things and how they help make more manses and manse seeds, and so on… Manses were fun!

The instructors were more than a little appalled… They could see some of the potential problems and negative implications of such activities much better than the child evidently could! Presumably his Grandfather knew – but Richof was noted for his absences! The boy could certainly do with some more supervision, as hard to harm as his combat instructors said he was!

(Barzan) “Er… What kind of security precautions are you taking? If someone was to seize control of some of the facilities you’re creating…”

(Charles) “Well, there are plenty of guardians, and the locations are pretty secure!”

(Sephara) “DOES your Grandfather know you’re doing all this?”

(Charles) “I showed him around, although (disappointedly) he didn’t have time to see everything…”

Oh dear! They were probably going to ask directly!

Come to think of it though… relatively shortly he was planning to hold a major ritual with Gaia and add gates all around Yu-Shan. Strict secrecy would soon be a moot point anyway – and it wasn’t like several major groups weren’t already poking around. Would it really matter?

(Sephara) “Charles, where on Earth are these Manses? Unused demesnes that you can build on without anyone noticing are hard to find!”

Yep! That was the direct question all right…

(Charles) “Uhrm… Well…”

He gave up and opened the door to the annex to frame the portal; the direct inquiries were just going to keep on coming…

(Charles) “I put them in here!”

(Barzan) “I’m pretty sure that door didn’t lead THERE last time. What is that, Charles?”

(Charles) “I made space to keep everything handy!”

Charles cheerily ushered them through.

Made space? Well… Charles didn’t have a vicious bone in his body; the combat instructors said as much – so they stepped through. The doorway, of course, led to the usual entry point – in the mountains overlooking the singing forest, and the orchestral birds, with the sea of chaos nearby, pastoral villages, crystal towers, and the various creatures.

(Sephara) “You… built all THIS?”

(Charles) “Why not? It was fun!”

The door-guards – a Balgrog with a policeman’s cap and the a Noldor (currently playing chess while watching the gate) watched curiously.

(Noldor) “More guests Charles? We have some brochures now!”

(Charles) “You need lots of internal geomancy to support your own manses! And more room for the people, and the Guardians and Sentinels and Citizens!”

(Barzan) “Er… and just how did you develop internal geomancy?”

(Charles) “It sort of comes by itself once you get your world-body organized!”

“World-body organized?” But that would mean the boy was aspiring to Primordialhood! Or had been one all along! That would explain the odd disinclination to attack him… not that they would.

(Barzan) “A… world-body. How long have you had a world-body?”

Both of them started looking at the brochures – which, of course, explained many of the attractions of Aden.

Charles wasn’t entirely sure that childhood dreams and imaginings weren’t the start of a world-body anyway… Raksha could go into dreams, so they were places of a sort, and there were ways to make them permanent, and they could be shared with others, and massed dreams were places of their own… He was fairly sure that – given more power – EVERY human could make a world-body – and some of his charm research tended to confirm that.

(Charles) “Hm… It sort of starts imaginary, and you can gradually develop the ability to make it real!”

(Sephara) “I see… but this seems more than just a boy’s fancy.”

If those brochures were accurate… the place was immense, well-organized, industrialized, and currently supporting several million inhabitants! With the potential for billions!

(Charles) “Well here’s the map! (He pulled up a projection) Would you like to talk to one of the Guardians?”

(Sephara, after a few moments consideration of the scale) “It’s really this big?”

(Barzan) “Yeah, I’d like to talk to a Guardian!”

(Charles) “Hmm.. (and a quick message) Chaffari? Got a minute?”

Chaffari, as the Far-Traveler, simply popped up…

(Chaffari) “Hello Charles! World #48 is tied into the network now… Ah, I see you have guests! Pleased to meet you both!”

(Barzan) “Err… hello there. I’m Barzan, God of Metalworking (actually it was just Forging Bronze Amphoras, but he was a bit touchy about their unpopularity) and this is Sephara, Goddess of Teak Furniture Engraving. It’s good to meet you too.”

(Sephara) “World #48?”

(Chaffri) “I’ve been working on the transportation network; each of the planets needs a set of gates back to earth, a few to other planets on the network, and one to Yu-Shan! Once the network is activated, it will make traveling about a great deal easier! And it’s well worth it! Some of them have some absolutely SPECTACULAR scenery!”

(Barzan) “Wait… you’re building gates to Yu-Shan?”

(Sephara) “He said an entire network. Charles, what is going on here!?”

(Chaffri) “Of course! Otherwise the new domains won’t be available, and we won’t be able to get everyone back to work!”

Barzan and Sephara looked at each other in astonishment.

(Chaffri) “You do realize that the deiphages now outnumber the rest of you by nearly three to one? That’s quite a potential problem!”

(Charles) “I think some of that was being kept quiet to avoid panic Chaffri!”

(Sephara) “But I live in a perfectly good neighborhood, miles from any abandoned district!”

Meanwhile, both Barzan and Sephara had taken a look at Chaffri with their essence-senses – and been more than a little appalled. Chaffri… was a major power! And apparently… worked for Charles. Either the boy was fabulously powerful – or was just as fabulously reckless – or both! Besides… either creating or summoning an entity with essence that high normally required the intervention of some pretty primal powers!

(Barzan) “I dunno. Mine’s not that great; we have to settle for thaumaturgy.”

(Sephara) “So… who else knows about this, Charles?”

(Charles, sighing) “All of “civilized” Yu-Shan… is less than 40% of the surface area of the city – and a lot less of the underlevels. And the abandoned districts are steadily growing. As for who knows about it… quite a lot of people are suppressing large parts of the information… Some of the Celestial Lions know, and… Oh! You mean about Aden here!… Well, the Sidereals have been poking around for a while now – and some Lunars – and a few of the Terrestrials got involved what with the reforestation and antipollution programs on Earth, and a few ghosts are staying, and rather a lot of human refugees, and some thaumaturgists, and an alchemical and some raksha visited, and there are still a dozen or so first circle demons in the video game arcades…

(Barzan) “Wait, you have DEMONS in here? That’s very dangerous for a boy of your age to be fooling with, you know!”

(Sephara) “Not as much as the structure of Yu-Shan, though I’m sure he’s been thinking about this for a while.”

(Charles) “Only about a dozen, and only first circles! They helped a bit with a project or two early on, and they like the video games! And Gaia said she’d help with the gate-installation and general repairs! That’s good because a LOT of things need fixing!”

(Sephara) “Gaia…”

(Barzan) “I see! You’ve gotten in contact with the one remaining Primordial somehow.”

His grandfather WAS high ranking. Some favor?

(Charles) “Well, I wanted to know if it would be all right to use some of her unused planets!”

(Sephara) “You… really planned this out, didn’t you?”

That… made some of the strangeness surrounding the boy a bit more understandable (at least in their eyes). Was Gaia – or perhaps the Incarnae or the Elder Sidereals – working on creating an entity to help fix Creation? Or was he really a Primordial who was undercover as a student? That made very little sense… but so much of what the Primordials had done and how they’d done it had never seemed to make sense to anyone else; it had just generally worked!

(Charles) “There are lots of things to fix!”

(Sephara) “Well, thank you for being honest, Charles. Now Barzan and I have lesson planning to do… so we need to go. All right?”

(Charles, cheerfully reopening the door) “OK!”

(Barzan) “I’m good for today. Why don’t you go on, and I’ll follow later?”

Sephara left – and went straight to Jun. If Charles was going to be enacting a project of that scope and consequence – even if it succeeded and went as planned – Jun needed to know so that they could move the school or otherwise deal with the heat!

(Jun) “You seem quite agitated! Is something wrong?”

(Sephara) “Err… Headmaster, Charles is planning a massive project.”

She filled him in.

(Jun) “Hrm! He is a most methodical child… Anything he does that has to do with artificing, or geomancy, or magic has always been essentially flawless – and I’ve never been entirely sure that the points where something looks odd aren’t simply were I just don’t understand some of the reasoning. If he IS a primordial – or quasi-primordial – I suppose that would explain why!

(Sephara) “What shall we do, sir? Primordials are not supposed to be in Yu-Shan – but he has done nothing to harm the city! I’m not sure he’s even capable of it unless someone manipulates him.”

(Jun) “Well, Gaia is still resident – and I doubt he’s a Yozi in disguise… (Jun checked with the history instructor) he doesn’t match with any of them anyway… I don’t think there are any official rules on brand new Primordials appearing (he checked with the law instructor). There isn’t even any precedent… From what you say the Sidereals know – which would explain why they were sneaking around the place a few months back, and transferred a bunch of students in – and what would we do? Send a note to the Incarnae about a student project? That may be a bit tongue in cheek – but he hasn’t done anything except be endlessly nice to everyone he encounters. And it’s been pretty obvious that he’s enhanced every other student here entirely for free!”

(Sephara) “Then.. . good. I was worried that there WAS some precedent-and it would be a shame to lose such a good student.”

(Jun) “I shall send a sealed inquiry to the Incarnae; by the time such a thing from a school for god-bloods gets through, he will doubtless have long since graduated! Also, if he wants his assignments in advance for a few months, I see no reason not to let him have them. At worst, he’ll be ahead a bit.”

(Sephara) “Thank you, sir.”

That was a weird sort of compromise – but it did get them off the hook!

(Jun) “You’re quite welcome!)

Meanwhile, in Aden…

(Barzan) “Hey, Charles, you’re pretty good at thaumaturgy. How are you at removing traces of Essence?”

(Charles) “I can do that pretty well; does something need cleansing or something?”

(Barzan) “See, here’s the thing… I’m curious about those demons at that arcade, but I want to cover my tracks just in case someone looks at my Essence. I’m not expecting to TOUCH the things, but just in case.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well that’s easy!”

After all, they were just minor first circles, and had been resident playing first-person shooters for quite some time now. Hm… He never had asked them to do anything but a little toe-smashing and leg-breaking during that mess with the Morgans, and that was only a diversion that he fixed up on the way out.

Erymanthoi had changed since the second age (Infernal meddling was suspected) – becoming more “mafia thugs” than “crazy demons” – although they were still quite happy to feed off of any handy conflict, or blood when they could get it.

Barzan cheerily accepted a series of wards to keep their Essence from getting on him, and approached with a wary, but curious, air…

The demons too were wary, but curious.

(Demon) “Hey! My game! Get your own machine! Unless you wanna play a duo; it’s free tokens!”

(Barzan) “Really now?” (He wasn’t expecting such politeness! He, after all, thought of Malfeas as a hellhole. It was of course – but it was a hellhole that DID have a society, and established etiquette. ) “Then I accept!”

After all, he was a big strong god and didn’t want the big strong demon to think that he was stronger than him!

There was much electronic beeping – but the demon had more practice with video games, and won in the end.

(Demon) “Good reflexes, but you need more practice!”

(Barzan) “Forgive me, I haven’t had much experience with these electronic devices. I take it Charles has bound you to his service?”

(Demon) “Oh, that wore off long ago! But the drinks are great, the games are great, the tokens are free, and nobody bothers us! No Silent Wind, no Shadow of The Void, no Clashing Layers, no Burning Green Sun, no Crystal Eyes spying on you… All he ever asked for was for us to stamp on a few feet as a distraction once! Kind of sad really! A bunch of high-powered types trying to kill him, and what does he do? Has us step on the toes of the guards and break legs on the ones that wouldn’t discourage while he wandered in to complain about it…”

Unbound? Yet they weren’t harming anybody! The boy really WAS trying to please everyone! Why would they rampage? They had everything they needed here, more or less!

(Demon, with some annoyance) “And then healed up everybody on the way out! How can you get any respect that way? It won’t even IMPRESS anyone! “Dozens getting shoes with arch supports and extra toe space because they have sore feet!” just doesn’t have the impact of “Thousands Slain!”

Well, all right, evidently they had harmed SOME people, but it was only because Charles had told them to, and even then it was only in the pettiest of ways!

(Barzan, who did know a little about erymanthoi’s standard methods) “No sucking of marrow?”

(Demon) “Bah! Not even SYMBOLICALLY unless you count embarrassment! Turns their own defenses back on them, casually strolls in, captures the enemy commanders, takes them on a small, pleasant, tour of Yu-Shan and out to lunch, returns them, fixes everything that got broken on the way out, and THEN sends them some better weapons as presents because they seem to like them! Bad as a mother teaching a first brood of demonlings!”

Meanwhile, the Hobbit in charge of the arcade was announcing that a Doom tournament was being set up on the big screen TVs downstairs. The Erymanthoi headed on down; they’d always liked that game; the depictions of demons were quite entertaining in their inaccuracy…

Barzan had to bow out – but he thanked the demon for talking to him. His curiosity about demons and Malfeas – an eccentricity resulting from some domain power loss – was slaked for the time being.

He also thanked Charles.

(Charles) “Oh you’re welcome! Is there anything else you need?”

(Barzan) “No – we should probably get back to work. I still have a period of metal shop to teach!”

They headed back. Charles had to get to music class!

After over a year, the instructor had discovered an appropriate instrument for everyone – even if it was a tambourine or hand drum for the worst cases, at least until they improved. Charles was far from the worst however – and she had settled on one of the more intricate sets of multiple pipes with stops and adjustments; most students would have had to learn to maintain those – but Charles, of course, simply made his own perfect set and added enough self-maintenance charms to class it as a (very) minor artifact.

The fact that that let his “Artifacts” speciality apply was lagniappe. He’d have been perfectly willing to make a more powerful set, but performance-boosting artifacts wouldn’t be fair; he was supposed to be using his own skills! Minor self-repair and perfect quality were, however, pretty much expected in Yu-Shan…

The day’s selection of practice music was simple enough to grasp, but complex enough to be a decent challenge… Charles selected Irish Ballads again – and did quite well, setting the instructor nodding approvingly; her suspicions that Charles needed a mechanical instrument had been proving quite correct. At this rate, he might not be a professional musician, but he’d manage – and would be ready in case his grandfather wanted prayers.

Otherwise music class progressed normally – and was the last class of the day before Charles had to head for Dudael – although even there work was a bit light, since Charles had completed his official load – or at least MUCH more of it than anyone had actually expected – in incredibly little time. Simply getting authorization to start placing additional orders would take many more months – and be even more difficult than usual, since it had become apparent that such orders – even for truly potent items! – were actually likely to be promptly filled, greatly increasing the competition for slots.

Charles saw that as a VERY good thing! He needed to make sure that everything would run smoothly in his absence.

Pure Frothing Delight, god of Bubble Baths was delighted with his new boat! The mass of bubbles and joy immediately took the boat to the Division of Heaven to get it registered. In a few more months, he might be able to sail it!