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!