As Aikiko frantically accelerated towards the rugged, forested, mountains – Yu-Shan grant that it took that monstrosity a few moments to get up to speed! – she picked up an initial lead – and found her thoughts tumbling almost as madly.
That THING was real – and solid enough to completely shrug off her strike. A Raksha form? Surely not! It had defeated two Celestial Exalts in combat! A Behemoth? But what Behemoth was… friendly, independently intelligent, and (again) capable of defeating multiple exalts? A god? It had been aware that she’d been watching movies about it, but what god could take such a form? A Warstrider? But it was better than ten times the size – and a couple of thousand times the mass – of any Warstrider even the first age had ever constructed! Who could possibly afford THAT?!? And the ESSENCE flowing through it! The only place she’d seen essence depths like that was…
As the scaffolding fell away, and Mechagodzilla took it’s first, thunderous, steps in pursuit – quite carefully avoiding stepping on any people or buildings – realization burst like a star blazing into life. By Oblivion… She was being pursued by a Warstrider-MANSE. Someone had SOMEHOW created a structure to focus the energies of what was more or less a cult! No wonder it wasn’t falling through the ground! It was probably half built of dreams!
Who was – or had been – going around creating these weird Manses?! Somebody with Raksha powers – to use dream-domains as if they were solid – and the ability to build exotic manses. Charles had displayed some of those abilities, but he wasn’t the type to kidnap people!
Could it be somebody seeking extortion or ransom? One target had had ties to Yu-Shan somehow… or was it just the usual “something convoluted is going on”?
Then there was no energy to spare to focus on anything but escape… Mechagodzilla had taken a bit of time to get out of the scaffolding, and was still being careful to avoid stepping on people, but even moving carefully it was… fearsomely fast. Just the length of those strides…
Aikiko swooped into an… Amerindian settlement. Given that Mechagodzilla was apparently trying to avoid injuring the locals, it would have a hell of a time finding her in a maze of trees and homes! That would buy her a few minutes to think in!
Raksha were known for their stories… ugh, was somebody capturing young Exalts for THAT? Now… the amerindian types seemed to be living in longhouses, and following the classical lifestyle – hunting, gathering, and light agriculture. Humans, although it was fairly obvious that a high percentage had awakened essence and not a few showed traces of fey ancestry. Obviously enough some lost group – perhaps intentionally so.
Nez Perce actually, although Aikiko didn’t know enough history to recognize that.
Wait; she’d almost forgotten… she was under Crater Lake! None of this landscape could be entirely real! That meant she was in a Freehold! And with only her Behemoth Cloak for a shaping defense… Hopefully she could get out before she wound up mutating… Who ran into the Wyld these days? And had someone successfully taken over from the Raksha, or had Mechagodzilla simply been instructed to say so? It was hard to be sure of anything at all in a freehold!
Still… who might have successfully taken over? Considering Mechagodzilla mentioned “his old bosses”, and that the evidence pointed to Salin being an Abyssal, perhaps a Deathlord? Didn’t shadowlands and Wyld zones sometimes intersect in old Creation? But then why would it be so cheery in this Freehold? And why would there be a bunch of Amerindians in it?
Wait. She’d been thinking Abyssal, but the evidence for that was… the records that didn’t match up (in state fine, out of state no matches and a SSN for a kid who died fifteen years earlier), his apparent relatives appeared brainwashed and didn’t remember details about him… OH HELL. This was HIS freehold! Glamour could also do that! Raksha had charms that just… fit them into a small community – but the illusion wouldn’t fool someone who had a high essence and decent investigation skills and who was really poking about – just like her. THAT was why he’d been doing this in a small college town, and not some major city! Well, perhaps that and the geographic proximity…
Why snatch a Lunar? And if there was something to this “new boss” business, who was it – or they? Mentorship, companionship, a desire for his own pet chimera, an urge to test the Lunar’s prowess, somebody had snagged his Heart Grace? That just made MORE possibilities!
Gah! This was far worse than she’d imagined, even without a giant mecha-manse! She could probably fly out, but the people here were in danger of being soul-eaten, or worse! And the rest of the world was in danger of being attacked by Raksha piloting a giant, nigh-indestructible robot with powerful weapons!
Why was it being so careful of the locals though?
Still, much as she hated to admit it, even she he might have to retreat from this one. She hadn’t exactly spent massively on hitting it with everything she had – but she would still have pulverized a human and done some real damage to a tank – and she’d only scuffed the paint. Manses were pretty durable anyway, and this one was probably worse, and she’d never seen one that walked around before! Most of the (very rare!) Mobile manses were limited to a small radius.
Of course this one… was built to embody a mental demesne. She’d never known that those existed before! Of course… perhaps they DIDN’T before modern telecommunications… Hey, that would also explain the comparatively sudden appearance of Illusion as a Manse Aspect!
Still, as galling as it was, and despite her attempts to avoid thinking about it… she still needed to escape or at least to find a way to evade it! And it was going to be pretty hard to evade a crew of Raksha in a freehold. She could doubtless kill some – but killing helpless slaves of whoever actually ran the place was pretty much out of the question as far as SHE was concerned!
And the damned thing was carefully scanning through the village. Still, she had perhaps another minute or two… The place was at least ninety miles across, which was a lot to hide in a cave in a mountain! Very mountainous, very natural, lots of trees, valleys, waterfalls, natural beauty, and productive forests.
She made a break for the ravines of the forested mountains. Mechagodzilla wouldn’t fit in there, and she’d be hell to find or pull out! Lightning speed and Graceful Crane Stance (and other charms), along with her behemoth cloak and some movement-enhancing mutations – such as the wings she was still sporting – should give her SOME chance at keeping ahead in this terrain…
The local humans were no threat of course. They couldn’t possibly slow her down!
Until, of course, while glancing briefly back over her shoulder to see what Mechagodzilla was up to she botched her Per+Awa check and ran straight into a young woman – knocking the poor woman head over heels and giving her a very messily broken arm.
(Aikiko) “Oops! Didn’t see you there!”
Well Damn! It was just a little further to the forest – but Mechagodzilla was very carefully stepping over longhouses and was charging that ice-beam-thing to fire! She didn’t have time to treat the woman or work a healing spell and still escape – so she took the poor mortal along!
Scooping the woman up and carrying her along was easy enough – but it slowed her up and produced a steady stream of complaints.
Aikiko hit the Second Athletics Excellency as hard as she could. Expensive – and it almost took her to the anima-flare level – just as her current speed took her under the edge of the forest canopy. With any luck her suddenly-further-enhanced speed would throw off any targeting predictions it was making!
She couldn’t keep that up – that was the entirety of her Personal pool and a small bit of Peripheral – but with any luck she wouldn’t have too!
As the Cold-Ray cannon fired a wave of icy stillness washed over the forest. A few trees – unable to take the strain – virtually exploded. Aikiko avoided the direct hit however. Still, for a moment, a chill washed over her – an attempt to enshroud her in a chrysalis of ice and throw her into suspended animation – but she shook it off. The woman she was carrying, however, was frozen solid, and would need some thawing!
Still, that did stop any bleeding or further damage.
Aikiko busily lost herself in a tangle of wooded ravines and boulders as Mechagodzilla took a careful look at it’s collection of frozen woodlands to see if she was in there…
The Graceful Crane Stance helped with the worst of that.
Huh… The place boasted… a wide variety of berries, fruit trees, nut trees, herbs, and other plants, deep shady woods, small caverns, hidden trails… It looks like the designer really liked “burgeoning nature”. It looked tasty indeed!
Of course it WAS a freehold; Kiko refrained from sampling things, no matter how tempting they looked.
It was easy enough to find a place to hide for a few hours – and a small fire hidden in the back of a small cave to thaw the woman out was also easy enough. The woman awoke as her broken arm was being bandaged, and gave Aikiko what would probably be a pretty serious piece of her mind if she had spoken the language.
(Aikiko) “Um, sorry. I don’t understand.”
(Woman, who had at least some English…) “Ow! Rude! What for run into me? HOURS to heal up it will be!”
(Aikiko) “Sorry! I was trying to get away from Mechagodzilla!”
(Woman, backing away a bit) “Why? You enemy?”
Wait a moment… HOURS to heal a broken arm? That sounded more than a bit odd!
(Aikiko) “Uh . . . I don’t think I’m an enemy. I came in here looking for some missing people from outside!”
(Woman) “Not many outsider here! Only few!”
(Aikiko) “Do you know where they are? There are people looking for them, and they’ll never think to look here.”
Hmm… The arm DID look better already… Fast healing like in Aden, maybe?
(Woman) “Playing in Village probably!”
(Aikiko) “Uhm… your arm really will be better before the day is out? How does that work?”
(Woman) “Gift of the Nuviskia! Granted everyone, long ago! When army men come!”
(Aikiko) “I see…”
Wait, ths woman had been around when the Army was entering the tribal lands? That HAD to be at least a hundred years ago!
(Aikiko) “What else can you tell me about the Nuviskia?”
What with the limited vocabulary that took awhile… It seemed that they were powerful magicians and could grant powers to people, they changed reality at whim, close contact with them often left a person dazed and confused for a day or so, but they were a lot of fun so most of the tribes-people didn’t mind, they liked to party a lot and were parents or grandparents of a lot of the younger tribe members. You could tell that they were magic, they showed all kinds of strange signs. Things had changed a bit some time back though; a more powerful one came, and easily defeated the current Nuviskia lord of the holding, and he and some other strange ones built the great Guardian-Totem!
(Aikiko) “Do you know anything about that one?”
(Woman) “Recently he brought friend!… He strange lore has, MUCH more powerful than the other Nuviskia, brings things from outside, and created the Great Totem in mere days. It seemed transparent at first, but soon firmed up!”
(Aikiko) “Incredible… and what about his friend?”
(Woman) “His friend? He arrived even more recently! He is quite passionate… Powerful, but much more physical than our current lord. He stays in the villages a lot, with the girls he came with and the ones he recruited here.”
Well, that certainly sounded like Raksha, but that was a foregone conclusion by this point. She wasn’t so sure about the friend…
(Aikiko) “Well, sorry to bump into you! Can you make it home on your own?”
(Woman, with some surprise) “Oh sure! Know all the paths”.
And – over the course of a few hours of conversation – her broken arm had indeed healed completely.
Aikiko let her go. There was no reason to keep her. Of course, once she was gone, she went looking for another hiding place – while trying to remember the woman’s exact skin tone and look. “Native American” was one thing, but there probably were differences. Of course, even at that she probably couldn’t hide for long in a freehold – but she could at least try to confuse the matter with a quick change of clothes (shifting the Behemoth Cloak to more-or-less local wear) and a bit of illusion.
Hm… It was a bit risky – but the best place to look for more information was probably back at the village…
Most of the place was near-pure native american – but there was some modern clothing hanging by a longhouse along with some native stuff. Nascar and frat shirts, blue jeans, and so on. Some of it matched up with the descriptions of missing people from the college – so she discreetly tried to take a look inside…
The place was incredibly comfortable for a longhouse, with a lot of “modern” conveniences – and was occupied by one quite recognizable football-player type and several young women, none of whom were wearing much.
Ah, her suspected Lunar! And quite… content and occupied. Not as sophisticated about it as the occupants of Yu-Shan perhaps, but obviously having fun. Still… he seemed… a bit… off-key compared to the few Lunars she’d encountered. Most of them were kind of grim survivors – very determined, and sort of willful. This guy… had apparently done nothing much for the last several months but indulge himself. That was kind of weird! Exalts… ALWAYS used their powers, and not just to have private parties! Should she ask? She’d be willing to bet that – if she acted like a possible concubine – he wouldn’t think twice about talking to her…
He seemed to be using minor reality-tweaking tricks of some sort. Most Lunar charms were bigger thngs than just tweaking the room, producing more beer, or getting young women into position… Either he was a very strange Lunar, or not one at all!
Essence sight showed… Lunar and Wyld Essence. He COULD have just have gotten some graces though – and he looked kind of normal for a Cauldron-Born, although that might just be shapeshifting or illusion. Besides! She KNEW all of those already! She’d been there!
By the Wyld… were they making more somehow? Snatching young Exalts to do it? But… in that case, where was the Eye of Balor? Did they need it any more, was it moveable, or had they just taken him to see it?
Well, actually, now that she was thinking about it… that wouldn’t actually have been hard – and that would explain the first takeover. And Mechagodzilla seemed like something Windhiam – as a techno-shaman – would shape… He had the mechanical and magical knowledge for it.
There was still something wrong though; a college football player was NOT the usual sort of host for a Lunar Exaltation! Could something have possibly gotten control of it and given it to him? HOW would that happen, though? Exaltations were supposed to be uncontrollable by anything short of a Primordial – and even then it was incomplete at best.
If that was happening… Exaltations in the control of people who are at best college age? That would lead to gargantuan trouble! Like… gargantuan Kaiju running about…
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXVII – The Azure Depths (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXVI — Toho’s Tokyo Towers (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXV – Fraternal Affairs (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXIV – On The Oregon Trail (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXIII — The Dark Tournament (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice LXXXI (Part I) – Too Many Cooks from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXI (Part II) – Aftermath and Multiplication from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXVII – Aikiko’s Search (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice – The Modern Gates, Part III (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXIX – Memories of Dream (ruscumag.wordpress.com)