Aikiko was scouting out the lay of the land – and finding it a soggy affair. Springs and cisterns on the upper slopes – below the modest forests which crowned each rise and above the glinting lakes occupying each depression – fed slowly-trickling streams which kept each careful terrace wet and growing with a burgeoning green that spoke – even to a city girl like her – of century upon century of carefully-tended prosperity.
It was only very gradually that she became aware that the area was subtly warded – layer upon deep layer of spells. There was something strange about it too… It reminded her subtly of the Crater Lake Freehold, although there was no obvious trace of chaos.
Several hours of careful checking later she knew that the surface layers were all fairly normal; there were wards against storms, and crop pests, and blights, and similar hazards – all old, potent, and regularly renewed. Underneath that though… there was something much more subtle going on. Too subtle for her; she wasn’t bad at thaumaturgy, but she wasn’t even up to mortal mastery, much less the kinds of things that dedicated essence-users could pull off. About all she could say was that a part of it… twisted out of normal reality entirely; it was at least partially isolating the entire area from something beyond.
No way to tell where it was going, or what it was blocking – not with her skills – but that just meant that (sigh) it was time to call in some help… Charles had offered to lend her an aide, and his creations were pretty much ALL incredibly skilled with thaumaturgy. Even Solar charms were of no use if you hadn’t learned them!
The Coatl that arrived a few hours later spent awhile on the job… underneath the seasonal, and adjustable, stuff… the ward was OLD, and powerful, and sustained by geomancy as if it was a manse power of some sort – and it warded off Raksha and Chaos and… blocked communications with Yu-Shan. Very subtly. Divine reports from this area were all… gibberish. The usual illiterate-little-god stuff. A few legible words with atrocious spelling and a bunch of random scrawls. The legible words were scattered through the reports… Water! Damp! Less! More! Wet! Rice! Dirt! and so on.
Here Aikiko went off on a bit of a tangent; She was thinking that the ward prevented messages from Yu Shan from getting through while the gibberish was just the usual troubles with illiterate little gods and possibly some obstructionism – not that the ward was scrambling outgoing communications.
You had to love Celestial Bureaucracy regulations! MOST of the required reports were like that! At least the little gods knew the words most important to their jobs. Still, those gods were… venerated locally, and had shrines, and were old… Still, no doubt they wanted to keep the authorities off their backs. Hence, the ward; it would keep queries and probes from getting through – and the ones who could write could always just make short, uninformative, reports!
Huh… Well, the easiest way to reach the local senior overseer-god was – obviously enough – to try praying! Given that the tournament was being held here it was only polite anyway!
The local overseer-god was Wenjioth, Master of the Terraced Flow, in charge of ensuring that water slowly flowed through the system of terraces from the high reservoirs as it should. He was a most dignified (if still terrestrial) god, dressed in a swirling robe of stormcloud.
Aikiko had backed the prayer with power enough to draw his attention – but you never knew! Elderly gods were SO STUFFY unless fun was a part of their domain! Still, he might know some stuff about the tournament.
Wenjioth soon swirled into existence…
(Wenjioth) “You seek my attention young woman? Your power is most noticeable, cloaked as it is in the heart of antiquity.”
Well, it WAS Southeast Asia.
(Aikiko, bowing) “Greetings, most honored Master of the Terraced Flow. I was participating in the tournament held on this island, and wanted to give my respects.”
(Wenjioth, who also bowed quite respectfully) “And you have my respect as well! Those who come to compete are most skilled and worthy indeed – and may become much more so! So it has been for for many centuries!” The ancient power that surrounds you… It may not be permitted however! As great and subtle as it is, it’s power is not truly yours – and would not help your soul withstand the rigors of claiming a portion of the prize!”
Aikiko – who was still conclusion-jumping – felt that that was obvious! Wenjioth saw the Exaltation! That sort of thing – and her essence level – was hard to miss unless you hid it!
(Aikiko) “I see. That would be a shame; I was hoping to see where I stood in the martial arts word, power or not.”
(Wenjioth, looking slightly surprised) “Well, you can easily remove it for the tournament. If you wish, I can safeguard it for you. Such ancient relics are very rare, and are to be cherished!”
Uh… that seemed… shifty, to say the least. Was it even POSSIBLE in ANY way to remove an Exaltation without killing the bearer? Much less put it back?… Oh! She was being silly! He meant the Behemoth Cloak! It was pretty obvious, and it surrounded her with all kinds of layers of defenses… And THIS fellow was illiterate? Probably not! But it would probably be rude to ask… Still, that was easy.
(Aikiko) “Master, as you can probably tell, my mastery of Old Realm is nowhere near yours. I am only mortal. But, if it’s not too much trouble, could you check my calligraphy?”
(Wenjioth) “Why certainly! Few mortals are even aware of Old Realm any longer!”
Aikiko produced a sample of the stuff that Gri Fel made her copy to practice her calligraphy and translation – which swiftly proved that Wenjioth was certainly literate, and highly skilled at calligraphy. What was he hiding? Was he just concealing his cult?
Oh wait! That anti-communication ward! It wasn’t blocking incoming messages… It was turning all the reports form the area INTO gibberish, no matter what they started out as! Wenjioth might not even be aware of the issue!
On the other hand… even if SHE had more direct lines to Yu-Shan, he was old enough to be fluent in Old Realm. He could have been quietly in charge here for more than thirty thousand years. That would make him an ancient god indeed – and made her wonder about how aware of the modern world he was?
A little gentle probing revealed that Wenjioth thought of the outside world mostly as a land of barbaric lunatics who kept assaulting his people in the name of “Allah” – who did not even seem to exist – and denying the evidence of their own eyes when he occasionally manifested. They kept labeling him a “Jinn”.
(Aikiko) “A kind of demon, I believe. But you are clearly no demon! What are they doing to your followers?”
(Wenjioth) “For a time they brought strange weapons! But I changed the flow of the waters slightly, and put an end to THAT. Then they were foolish enough to attack some of the competitors AND some of the current champions and judges. Few survived, and there was relative peace for months. A few are starting to return however! They are foolish fanatics, following a cause that does not exist! More deluded men I have never seen!”
(Aikiko) “People believe in a lot of weird things outside. Can you tell me more about those weapons? And where are these men?”
(Wenjioth) “They were things of fire and detonations like the lightning, like the firedust weapons of old! Sometimes even more potent, flying like dragons! But I set the forces of the waters against such things, and their flames will no longer burn. Before then one of the Masters of Shadow prevented several attacks, causing the destruction they would have wrought not to be… Even I have difficulty remembering THAT however.”
(Aikiko) “I see.”
Hm. Mercenaries? maybe with helicopters or planes? That would be awfully high-budget though…
(Aikiko) “What did the ‘dragons’ look like? Did they have wings, or were they crowned by something rotating? Or were they something else altogether?”
Wenjioth shaped a few visions in a bellow of his cloak of mist… turbans, robes, submachine guns, grenades, missile launchers, various sorts of bombs. Mostly targeting the ancient temple where the tournament was held, the local shrines, and any resistance. Most of the missiles simply… blew themselves into pieces, but then no further explosion occurred – although it looked almost like one started to. Other than the weapons failures and horrible things happening to some of the terrorists at the hands of mystic martial artists… straightforward terror strikes. The routine seemed to match up reasonably well with the local anti-government forces.
(Aikiko) “A serious threat without divine protection! These valleys are lucky to have you watching over them.”
(Wenjioth) “Only this local area, sadly enough. I pity the many humans who live beyond my borders without guardians!”
Hrm. She was going to have to keep an eye out for him… It still didn’t explain the ward though. Maybe somebody up in Heaven was trying to muck things up for him? But why? He wasn’t a part of that bureaucracy. Perhaps it was just some protection left over from prior Ages?
(Aikiko) “Well, hopefully things will change for you… It has been a pleasure. Is it all right if I leave the cloak later? I think it will be pretty safe with you, but I still need it for the time being.”
(Wenjioth) “Certainly! It has been a pleasure to meet you young magus”
Wenjioth bowed again, waited a moment for Aikiko to bow back (she did) – and vanished.
Heh. Magus. Ah well . . . most people with her level of Essence these days were thaumaturges, supernatural martial artists, or both – as, in fact, she was.
She went to check out some records… which took some digging, and asking for and calling in a few small favors, and using her new Coatl aides communication talents – but she found some material eventually.
Wenjioth had once controlled water flows across a considerably larger area, but refused to do much of anything but stabilize and defend the area during the Primordial War. There was some suspicion of his being a Primordial Loyalist, and so he was given reduced responsibilities, and not promoted into the Celestial Bureaucracy afterwards. He protested at the time, but thereafter focused on Wards and on making sure that no other major entity ever had any reason to actually visit his valleys; they paid taxes on time and in good measure, and never troubled anyone… He was notable for developing a set of charms to redirect dragon lines through water-currents flowing in runic patterns – thus fueling some very impressive wards and geomantic effects, often approaching manse-level operations.
Huh. Now that was kind of neat! She’d have to introduce him and Charles to each other.
Wenjioth’s small domain had been mostly ignored for many centuries – but had been one of the few areas to survive Wyldhand, apparently by rechanneling the local dragon lines into immutability… There had been a brief spurt of interest, but other things had come up.
Aikiko… was impressed. Those must’ve been powerful wards to withstand Wyldhand! Presumably manse-level effects was right… Definitely a god worth helping out – and one that could be useful for her plans too.
Not to mention a talk with some of those “Shadow Masters”. A charm that could reflexively snuff out explosions was quite impressive – especially in a mortal martial art!
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice Session XCIV – E.Z. Phone Home (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXIV – On The Oregon Trail (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXVIII – Pursuit Cantata, The First Movement (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XCI – The Pursuit Cantata, Crescendo (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 LXXXI (Part I) – Too Many Cooks from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXV – Fraternal Affairs (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XCII – Correspondence School (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice Session LXXXIX – Lost Horizons (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXXVII – The Azure Depths (ruscumag.wordpress.com)