Meanwhile, young Harold had called… he hadn’t been able to stay on long, but he wanted Charles to come over one night for a party. Papa had said that it was OK! Maybe after Evasion Club?
Charles was very pleased! He hardly ever got any invitations from other kids! He called back to say yes and after Evasion club would be just fine!
Saturnsday – and the club meeting – came along soon enough… The Half-Castes had mostly integrated into school – and most of them (helped along by Harold) were even unafraid of Charles now. Charles had extra time for socializing at school at the moment; having gotten his assignments in advance in preparation for leaving, he’d already completed most of them anyway… which left plenty of time to prepare for Evasion Club, which was held in one of the training rooms. This week’s training was for urban situations; as always, the person went unnoticed the longest won a prize. Those were never anything big – usually some trinket – but it was generally worth the trouble.
Charles had a minor god wheel in a rack full of Yu-Shan camouflage cloaks (covering sight, scent, and sound) with minor anti-detection charms on them and a sign on them labeling them as special prizes – while he sat quietly underneath the rack reading a book and let the massed array of anti-detection charms confuse things. The instructor groaned, but since only Sidereal Charms were explicitly forbidden, she let it slide.
Besides, Charles left taste open – and as the other kids grabbed the cloaks, it would weaken, even if everyone who grabbed a cloak would have been spotted already…
Charles had included enough cloaks for everyone in the club, plus about a dozen. You never knew! There might be some showing up who were so good at it that no one but the instructor knew that they were members!
That actually WAS considered the masterstroke of joining the Evasion Club! Only the instructor actually knew the full list of members… Members normally only learned who was who through spotting or being spotted – but Charles felt that it was better practice to evade people who were actually looking for you in particular.
In the end it was Charles, Harold the Lesser Exalt, and Hauvrick, son of a minor wolf species god as the final contenders… Hauvrick was known to have all sorts of sensory Charms – he was sort of a prodigy in that area.
Charles simply waited to see if someone actually looked under the cloaks – or whether the old purloined letter trick would work!
Several of the other kids DID see him – but only after they themselves had been spotted and they’d come to get their cloaks… They kept quiet – although he couldn’t tell if it was out of respect, if they were just embarrassed, or if they were thinking of how they could pull off the same trick…
In the end, it was Hauvrick who found him first. Harold was apparently really concentrating on not being spotted. Ah well! It had been worth a shot!
Hauvrick grinned at him; that was a fun trick! Nonetheless, he tapped Charles out – and Charles cheerily tossed him a cloak, which he accepted with glee before going off to find Harold. That actually took several hours… Hauvrick had to resort to shaking up the place by rooting around behind stuff (giving away his own position in the process) to find Harold, and finally caught him between hiding spots.
That made Harold the winner – but they both got cheerful applause from Charles anyway. They were both reasonably happy too; Hauvrick got a challenge, and Harold won! Hauvrick was going to get Harold good next time though!
Besides, everyone got a nice new cloak that would help them evade more!
(Harold, approaching Charles). “Hi, Charles! I’m sorry I took so long.”
The divine servant who had placed him in his seat that first day of class turned up, ready to take them to Harold’s home…
(Charles, to the servant) “Hello again!” (to Harold) and it wasn’t long!
The servant waved with a tendril and escorted the two of them to an aerial rickshaw – with considerably heavier armor than usual. It seemed warily respectful of Charles, but opened the door for both of them – and they were off, heading further west, their trip accelerated with a little travel magic. Once they were well into the abandoned regions, the servant put up a ward against deiphagy, using a thaumaturgical device. Harold… seemed to consider that perfectly normal.
Of course Harold had half a dozen of those on him now, still… safety was important!
(Yeva, the spirit) “I’m surprised that his father allowed you to visit. Our deiphage alert is at red at the moment.” (after a moment) “At least it’s not violet.”
Red? Oh; a standard reclaimed territory grading system for deiphage risk: Blue/Low, Green/Moderate, Yellow/Elevated, Red/Risky, and Violet/Imminent.
(Charles) “Oh dear! Well, I will have to see about that…”
(Harold) “Charles will be okay! And I can help him with Shenji.”
(Yeva) “Sigh… your father still says you are to stay out of direct battle, Master Harold. Though if we must, I suppose you can remain behind your siblings in the garrison.”
(Charles) “Yeah! That sort of thing is never really safe; you never know WHAT kind of odd stuff might happen!”
He didn’t look too happy, but did seem to understand.
Charles was considering… The vast majority of “Celestial” gods were originally Terrestrial, and were invited in after the Primordial War. There was no real Celestial Bureaucracy then, and the Tenders/greater deiphages didn’t really seem to have all that much organization other than “obey the Mighty Ones.” – or at least they hadn’t mentioned it if they did. Still, they seemed to have been basically maintenance. That didn’t require all that a long chain of command. Were they all operating independently these days?
Meanwhile, the rickshaw was approaching the reclaimed territory – and the air was acquiring a chill compared to even the abandoned districts surrounding it. Violet was a dominant theme: violet walls topped with a few pieces of nonlethal essence-discharge weaponry, violet buildings with no windows or doors on the first floor, accessed by ladders or bridges, and violet streets… There was a towering (violet) Sidereal Manse at the center; where its Zone of Influence reached the streets glowed with a faint (violet) light… The territory was a big place.
The largest concentrations of people were around the outmost Quintessence fountains. They seemed to be fortifying the wards.
Oh dear! It looked like the Deiphages might be being pushy…
Harold was quite relieved to be back behind the wards safely, and pointed to the Manse.
(Harold) “We should be safe there… unless they dig again!”
Charles was probing for essence-traces… They weren’t actually under siege at the moment – but there was a large concentration of deiphagic energy coming from the east.
He focused on that, looking for an Overseer… The Essence 6 trace was easy enough to find, currently occupying an Essence 3 body.
(Male Voice, somewhat sad) “Uh…”
(Voice, now surprised as well) “Who are you? This… this doesn’t happen often… Oh, Mighty Ones? You’re finally going to do it, aren’t you!?”
(Charles) “Don’t know! I’m new! I’m Charles! Or Aden Shining Dream, they’re sort of equivalent really.”
There was a moment of stunned silence.
(Voice) “I… I’m not sure if that’s better or worse. You’re… not from Zen Mu, are you?”
(Charles) “Nope! I haven’t been there yet!”
(Voice) “That is somewhat of a relief. I might survive this after all.”
(Charles) “I think everybody should survive! It’s no fun not too!… So what do you need?”
(Voice) “I am the Overseer Six Ebb – what do I need? Everything back! They took everything from me? Do you know what this place is? The place that you are currently in?”
(Charles) “Not really… But if you let me know I’ll see what I can do!
(Six Ebb) “Then… can you reshape it to a Cytherea demesne for me? You might be able to do it slowly enough to let those poor people escape before the detonation. Meat-creatures shouldn’t be up here anyway.”
(Charles) “You need one of those? Does it matter much where?”
(Six Ebb, desperately) “In here. I would prefer it in this petal-they call it the Fulgent Administrative District these days – but any place would do! I just want my secondary domain back!”
(Charles) “OK! Do you need anything else installed in it?”
(Six Ebb) “You’ll do it?” (Oh dear! He seemed to be crying!.) “Thank you so much! Just cloak it from detection as best you can…”
Meanwhile, the aerial rickshaw had landed – and Harold was looking at him oddly. People were maneuvering outside to retrieve them both – and there was a notable family resemblance with some of them: they had the same sharp face, the same red hair, and the same violet eyes…
(Charles) “Hello everyone!” (And on the link; “You’re welcome! It will be a couple of minutes though! I don’t think it should take an hour though…”
(Relative) “Hi! You must be Charles. What a night to have a guest… but Father was very insistent that you visit Harold! Let’s get you two into the Manse!”
(Six Ebb, on the link) “Just tell me where… I won’t disappoint the Mighty Ones this time!”
(Charles) “Uhm… Could I take a couple of minutes first? There’s something I have to take care of. I’ll be right back though!”
(Relative) “Oh, by the Maidens… what is it?”
Meanwhile, another relative was hustling Harold into the manse.
(Charles) “Somebody who’s really rather desperate… That needs fixing!”
(Relative) “Well, Father DID say you could handle yourself if there was an attack. Okay, but if you’re not back in two minutes, we’re sending out a rescue party!”
(Charles) “Well… OK! But I might have to go back for a few minutes if I’m not done yet!”
He swirled into a cloud of little starships which vanished to go see Mr Six Ebb – who obviously desperately needed a small dimensional pocket with at least one domain and a manse in it…
He appeared in the middle of a large mob of lesser deiphages, one of whom was wearing the standard black robes… and weeping with joy.
(Charles) “Hello! Mr Six Ebb? Where would you like to put the entrance? It’s hard to move after it’s set up!”
(Six Ebb) “You really are going to do it, then? Place a Mighty One demesne here?”
The lesser deiphages were not attacking… they were sapient at the moment, and looking on in a combination of awe and disbelief.
(Charles) “I was going to put it in a side-dimension; it makes for much less disruption and will be much easier for you to keep private. Will that work?”
(Six Ebb) “I… it would keep it safe. Why not there?”
He pointed to a nearby alleyway.
He set up a quick rank-2 pocket, and used the time-cheat that it made possible UNTIL it was shaped to get it shaped, and erect a suitable manse – throwing in the multipresence function so Mr Six Ebb wouldn’t have to feed any longer!
Six Ebb headed in immediately. He… wouldn’t be leaving for a while. It… looked like his secondary domain was the demesnes of the generative Primordials in general – those whose powers concentrated on life and stability. Those were potentially still pretty damaging to Creation… but even THIS restored that domain. It wasn’t much, but he would get better over time – and would likely ask for more.
Of course, there was no reason he couldn’t have another six major and fourteen minor relevant demesnes even in the pocket. One manse for each generative Primordial? That seemed like a fairly reasonable idea, both to restore the relevant domains and to test them – but it would take hours and he had to get back. Perhaps tomorrow? As long as Mr Six Ebb was happy…
The invasion force was starting to look more and more dead-eyed – so they got cured and Charles designated a couple of the Kickaha to escort them to Earth for now…
(Minor Deity) “Wow! That was neat, kid! And now I’m no longer a deiphage. Not sure how his partner’s going to react, though!”
(Charles) “Well, that might need fixing too!”
(Minor Deity) “Not my problem anymore! Thanks!”
(Charles, absently) “There are such a lot of things to do! You’re welcome though!”
Oops! He was a couple of minutes over! He’d better get back to the reclaimed territory!
He appeared in the midst of a rescue party, fully armored and equipped with stun guns, godsbane clubs, and warding talismans.
(Relative) “Whew! We were worried sick! But if you can teleport like that… this wasn’t necessary.”
(Charles) “I made an artifact for it; the only trouble with those is that they only work within a confined pocket dimension. But that problem is fixed now!… Well, not the artifact problem, but the person who needed help.”
(Relative) “I’ll have to ask you about it when we get in.”
Charles got hustled into the Manse, along with a bunch of other children. The glowing streets were quite cold to the touch on the way in – and Essence analysis revealed that it would be a bad idea for a deiphage to touch them. Still nonlethal – but so painful that even a deiphage would not be able to think of feeding.
They really were rather cranky! The Manse in general… the theme was being a bane to deiphages. It wasn’t exactly a Fortress, but it’s lovely towering architecture was very much optimized to keeping them out.
Inside the atrium, the scene was controlled chaos. The adults were suiting up for a conflict that Charles knew was not coming (although no one was really listening to him at the moment) and the children were either dismayed (the youngest) or stolidly waiting. The territory’s resident gods were helping out as best they could – and that continued until updated scouting reports came in and there was much confusion – and relief.
(Relative) “Okay… I’m not so sure what’s going on here, but Father said you might do something like this.” (She extended her hand.) “I’m Celestina, by the way. Sorry for not introducing myself earlier, but not being eaten came first.”
(Charles, taking her hand) “And I’m Charles and it’s no fun being eaten!”
(Celestina) “Welcome to the Pinnacle of Celestial Domination Reclaimed Territory then, Charles! And the Pinnacle of Celestial Domination, which is this Manse. What did you do, anyway?”
(Charles) “Uhm… Well they were desperate and hungry and sad, and people shouldn’t be that way and it needed fixing…”
(Celestina) “Who? It had to be important if you were willing to risk the deiphages!”
(Charles) “Well, it was the deiphages! That really needs fixing!”
Celestina – and everyone in the immediate area, including Harold – went suddenly silent and simply stared for a moment.
(Celestina) “Well… let’s get you set up. You’re a guest, and of Harold’s besides… And we can talk about it further in a more intimate setting.”
She took them upstairs, with Harold following. The interior decoration was nice, if a bit spartan. There were pictures of people on the walls: perfect likenesses made with Essence and long-lasting thaumaturgic illusions – every single one a High Lord of the Bronze Faction. Evidently this was the main Jorgensen household. No wonder Harold was so discreet about his father’s identity!
(Harold, who was quite excited) “Charles, did you really make the bad gods better!?”
(Charles) “That’s the best way to fix things!”
They wound up at a small set of chambers clearly set up for a child. It was definitely Harold’s quarters: the small horde of ambrosial lion dogs gave it away.
(Celestina) “Now I understand why Father was so adamant. You’re that wonderworker he was talking about, aren’t you?”
(Charles, consideringly ) “Er… that’s really hard for me to know!”
(Celestina) “He said you could cure deiphagy. That’s wonderworking to me. The only other person I know who can do that is my sister Astrid’s husband. He said you two had met.”
(Charles) “Ah. Well yes, it’s basically a geomantic effect.”
(Celestina) “Yeah… but you can do it instantly, without a ritual. Just like him. Hrm. Father was right. This might change things considerably… But in the meantime, while Father is off doing his work . . . did you have any idea how hard it normally is to cure deiphagy?”
(Charles) “Not really! I was just in a rush the first time!”
(Celestina) “Here, let me explain…”
It seemed that, normally, the abandoned districts lashed out against attempts to cure deiphagy, or even to ward against it, with an Essence 10 effect with doubled Might. That was well beyond the power of most thaumaturges, even Exalted ones, to counteract without a ritual. For whatever reason, Charles was not affected by that doubling. Neither were certain Sidereals.
(Celestina) “Always the Chosen of Venus or Jupiter for some reason…”
(Charles) “Hm. That would be hard to deal with!”
(Celestina) “And the worst part of it is, these Sidereals only started showing the talent seven thousand years ago. It’s not a big recruitment pool. The only thing we have in our favor is that the talent crosses incarnations.”
(Charles) “Hm. Have to work on a larger scale then!”
(Celestina) “Yes… and unlike our… protectors, you’re not constrained by the Bureau. Father wanted to discuss what he wanted to do with you. He got called off on a mission, though.”
(Charles) “I’m sorry about that!”
(Celestina) “It happens – although this was a case of bad timing. Thanks for helping us out, though. Overseer sieges are never easy to end.”
(Charles) “You’re welcome!”
(Celestina) “Anyhow… Father said you were free to have fun with Harold and his brothers until he came back. I guess you could try to find him – you might even survive whatever they’re putting him up against! – but he’s always been mum on where he’s going.”
(Charles) “I probably shouldn’t try; that kind of thing is almost always private business!”
(Celestina) “Smart boy. Well, I’ll leave you two to play, then.”
She did, although Charles was almost certain that he was being monitored. Not that that was anything at all unusual by now…
There were fun and relaxing games at the slumber party!
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