Mr Montague… had been analyzing the “Privacy Manse” – since it was pretty obvious that simple privacy didn’t call for mirroring your entire mind!
Fortunately, he’d brought along a manse-analyzing artifact to go with his usual artifact-analyzing hammer. When you were dealing with Charles it was a pretty obvious thing to do!
The basic function was clear enough – although the HOW involved several artifacts that he couldn’t reach to analyze and some incredibly complex geomancy (far beyond his skills) that twisted itself right out of creation. It… mirrored the mind of anyone who attuned to it – providing them with… a secondary, parallel-processing mental substrate with numerous stabilizing and compensating factors. But if that mind was damaged… even if it was shattered entirely, with many pieces were missing – it would reflect it… once more whole. The privacy aspect was secondary, simply because… the minds within the system were perfectly shielded against interference, distortion, or being read by anything except the original consciousness. Having that secondary backup wouldn’t keep someone from taking over your mind with UMI or such in itself – but you would remember it all clearly, and you’d know that the decisions you were making were unnatural, and it would prevent any form of memory-erasure, including Loom of Fate based manipulations, since you had a secure backup.
It lent your thoughts… a certain echoing clarity! You couldn’t hide things from yourself, or fail to see the gaps in your thinking, or the irrational urges, if you made the slightest effort. If you wanted to really hide a secret… you could store it in the manse, and it wouldn’t exist in your, er… primary?… mind to be extracted and no amount of Unnatural Mental Influence or duress could force the manse to give it out again until you FREELY wanted it. That WAS handy – but what on earth was the place FOR? You didn’t need the power of a fifth-rank manse to restore sanity to someone! Most people made do with Medical Charms – but simply being in Aden… already simply healed virtually anything that could possibly go wrong with someone automatically! What was the POINT? Had it simply been an experiment?
Maybe there was something in the subsystems…
Hm… the geomancy that upgraded the privacy wards to perfection, a couple of basic defenses, the link system, a… conceptual translator? An added mental function that let you understand, empathize with, and communicate with beings on lower levels of sapience? What, was the boy THAT enthused about small fluffy things? They rarely had anything very interesting to say… Was it for dealing with the Fey and the Unshaped? He WAS known for dealing with fey sources – just look at that Mardi Gras place and those riders that dropped in on occasion!
The look he gave Ms Sorina was most eloquent – and she simply asked. After all… while the tradition of subtle investigations was worth respecting, she was a bit preoccupied with the litany of disaster Charles had laid out so bluntly. She’d filled in a few Solar disasters that the boy apparently hadn’t known about – he was young, and they were FAR before his time after all – but when you really looked at it… the general tendency was far too clear for… well, pretty much everyone! She was quite familiar with the ways in which the other Exalts had gone wrong of course – but she’d somehow never really considered that the Sidereals might be… every bit as fallible.
You saw that in humans all the time of course… Somehow… she’d never really considered that an Exaltation probably magnified mortal flaws just as much as it did mortal potentials. After all… Autochthon was as monomaniacal as any other Primordial, and he’d been making WEAPONS, not… organizers and maintenance crews! Why would he have even considered the flaws that might show up in them in other roles? He’d been… creating.
Charles… would probably be just as unrestrained in fixing things – except for the fortunate fact that he seemed to consider “misunderstandings” and “pain” – and even “upset” – as just more… things to be fixed.
Things to be fixed… oh, by the thousand unspeakable names! He COULDN’T possibly be planning to try and…
Indeed he was. The manse was a prototype system for restoring sanity to the Yozi’s and for giving them the ability to understand and empathize with… normal humans. The experiment had provided some valuable pointers (mostly that a proper mental substrate for a Primordial would require infusion with some of its own essence, rather than relying entirely on external sources, and so called for a major artifact rather than a manse) on the project – and had proven very useful in several other fields as well! Sadly, the manse could only support some 650 minds at any one time, but – if he ran out of space – he could always make another!
While Charles had set up the individual who’d told him about Project Stanewald with a remote link so that he could attune if he wanted, and it had helped him focus a bit more, the Manse was NOT a cure for the Cauldron-Born condition; the Cauldron-Born had fused into a new person, and no unnatural mental influence was involved…
They just had a new appreciation for Chaos and even more power than they used to have – all for the low, low, price of becoming a merger of divinely-endowed human and fey!
Not that Charles had even bothered to try to probe. He was taking the information with a grain of salt, but if they’d have wanted him to know who they were… they’d have said! Besides… considering the information, regardless of whether it was true or not, wanting to be anonymous was pretty understandable.
Ms. Chisaru was… simultaneously impressed by the level of compassion… and concerned for the breadth of his plans. He really DID intend to fix the whole universe. If his assumptions about what had broken it were correct, he might even be able to do it! She’d… have to do her own research on that issue, assisted by Mr. Montague.
Had the Primordial War been the beginning of the Exalted’s trouble as well as the victory that secured humanity’s independence – or was Charles just speculating wildly based on youthful idealism? And what would she do if that was – as Charles seemed to think – true? If the Primordials really were… embodied concepts and principles, was… the universe calling Charles into being to heal it? There was… a certain INEVITABILITY about him. The way he always seemed to find a way to make whatever the rest of the world threw up serve his purposes… It was like something fated by the Maidens – or perhaps the Tale of an an Ishvara… Was Fate just the power of a myriad narratives, woven together? If one could maintain a Raksha, what could a billion do?
GAH. And Charles had made a MANSE for this. Did he… think this way all the time? With every normally-unquestioned certainty and assumption… constantly twisting and turning to make new patterns? Goals mere guideposts through constant change? Did he look at Creation like the Raksha looked at the Wyld? Was he shaping worlds as they would shape a waypoint? He certainly seemed to see Creation as something to be rearranged to make it better!
Charles tended to feel that the Primordials had been a collection of sapient concepts and natural forces that bumbled around with little concern for the creatures and things they’d created – but it hadn’t been like they thought of their creations as being PEOPLE. PEOPLE had minds like THEIRS – minds that could not possibly be encompassed in one body. How could a genuine intelligence be contained in only one? They’d seen people and gods as livestock and pets and guard dogs to ensure that the world would keep running while they were playing the games. The Incarnae… came closet to their level, but they were still very limited – although Luna, with her many aspects, was almost something like them.
Meanwhile, Sorina Chisaru had gotten her mind back on the question of the onrushing doom of Yu-Shan…
(Sorina, who was a revolutionary cohort, a little over two hundred and fifty, and had connections) “Charles… have YOU consulted a geomancy god who always succeeds? I know that you’re very VERY good at geomancy – but for something on this scale… I think a second or third opinion is in order! They might see something that you’d missed; there’s bound to be something SOMEWHERE – and I do know one; would you mind if I called her in here?”
(Charles) “Well, I was going to look around for one after I had the plans finished up, but there’s no reason not to do it now – I just didn’t know any personally! That was one reason why I haven’t finalized any plans you – just moved up the priority! Go right ahead!”
It would be a good test! He was fairly sure that he had most of it right, but he could easily be falling prey to his own arrogance!
Sorina called in one of her personal friends – Rurani Nuahathia, Goddess of Celestial-to-Creation Dragon Line Monitoring and Patroness of Mestaba, who could indeed point out some geomantic items that Charles might want to consider! For starters… she was one of the few gods who was allowed to know about the Tenders. She was awfully leery of them personally, but… that much energy going through their bunkers might be a problem for them. When they were in their pods, well, they were as much a part of the geomancy as any Manse or demesne – although she could definitely help him handle the kinks in those.
Well, Charles had been planning to consult the Tenders and/or Overseers anyway… Come to think of it, they were probably the prototypes for the Lunar Manse-Emulating Charms!
She also suggested checking on other geomantic operations that might be underway when he DID go through with it. Talk of his skill had made it to her ears, but who knew what the Sidereals might be planning? Especially the bronze stars?
(Charles, awkwardly) “Er… Well, mostly THIS” (he pulled up the geomantic information – carefully pruned of any extraneous influences and such – for Stanewald) “That’s one reason this is so urgent!”
(Nuahathia) “Eep! This is HIGHLY dangerous! It could cause any number of explosions, feedbacks, and reactions-and throughout the whole city!? Have you reported this to the Bureau of Heaven?”
(Charles) “Well, no! The more people meddling, the harder this is going to get!”
(Nuahathia) “Sigh… as much as I want to report it, who knows what their reaction would be? They might be crazy enough to attempt it immediately!”
(Charles) “Now what I was planning to do was basically this…”
He laid it out, complete with the manse-regeneration and multi-aspecting changes – not hiding that, over the course of an hour or so, it would require several thousand motes, tying in a bunch of extra planetary dragon line networks for more power, the use of a series of ran five specialty artifacts, the participation of twenty-four essence-ten gods with massive thaumaturgic powers, a massive geomantic network to provide extra power, and help from Gaia to stabilize things.
Nuahathia found it mind boggling, even with her specialized abilities!
(Nuahathia) “I… would definitely consult with the Tenders first. I’ve never spoken to one in person, and I’m not sure I want to, but you at least seem to know where to find some. I… (with some embarrassment) honestly have no idea how much geomantic energy they can handle at once!”
(Charles) “Well, I can call some to consult remotely…”
He did so, making sure that it was untraceable.
He went with Overseers Six Ebb and Ten Peach!
(Ebb) “Ten Peach! It’s been a while!”
(Peach) “What the… you’re COHERENT!”
(Ebb) “And Aden! What do you need?”
(Charles) “I need a bit of geomantic evaluation! I’ve been working on a method of repairing Yu-Shan’s geomancy before it goes all wrong – and it’s far enough along now to ask for opinions!”
(Ebb) “Fix? As in purification? I think that’s something my junior colleague and I can agree on. Go ahead.”
Charles did the introductions – which did reveal the domains of Ebb and Peach: respectively the Overseer of Generative Primordial Demesnes and the Overseer of Celestial Foodstuffs.
(Nuahathia) “But there are no Generative Primordial Demenses in Yu-Shan anymore… I had heard you were driven quite mad by the construction!”
(Ebb, indicating Charles) “He helped. And mestabas are interesting constructs, or so I’ve been told…Now, what about these plans, Aden?”
Charles pulled up the displays for his plans again, and there was a long pause while they looked them over.
(Peach) “That’s… greater than Calibration levels of energy! Ouch!”
(Ebb) “And not enough of us true Tenders left to handle it, either… we’d lose most of the new recruits from the strain and shock.”
(Charles) “Hm! Well… where will I need to supplement them and shunt around?”
(Peach) “Hrm… if the Sorrowhands were still communicative, we could have them route some of that through the Jade Pleasure Dome and into the central reservoir. Otherwise, we’d have to get in communication with every Overseer and Operator in our districts and have them shunt more of the energy into local demesnes.”
(Nuahathia) “Central reservoir?”
(Charles) “Well, that’s why restructuring the manses is first… that will let them soak up and stabilize a great deal of power. Not enough though? Bother!”
(Ebb) “That’s where all our motes should be going. Something good is supposed to happen if we get that filled… but thanks to your Celestial Bureaucracy, we can’t. And, yeah… that’s a colossal amount of energy we’re dealing with there: about five to seven Mighty Ones’ mote pools. That’s why finding out if the First-Rank Overseers, the Sorrowhands, are still around would make this a bit easier and less obvious.”
(Charles) “Hm. Well… I can try and get a hold of them wherever they are… It will be spread over some time anyway though; it will take me… almost an hour to supply the necessary power. I was allowing a little more time than that, just to be safe!”
(Peach) “It’s still going to be taxing… but if it will allow us to leave our pods, I’m willing to risk it!”
Nuahathia was busy considering Charles’s apparent intention to supply five to seven thousand motes to the project within an hour or so… A lot of it could be supplied by relayed energies from manses, and aides could provide more – but his geomantic plans still called for a monstrous amount of power from him personally! Of course, with enough aides, you could accept up to three thousand transferred motes in an hour – and he doubtless had other tricks – but could this child REALLY control that kind of power?
(Charles) “Well, I don’t want to injure anyone… and, with any luck, I can use the sympathetic loom to project if it will cause any major problems!”
(Ebb) “We’ll let you know if that happens. If we’re going to get any results, though, we’ll need to mobilize our partners and the Operators as soon as possible.”
For gods, especially ones that might be older than Creation itself, were slow things.
(Charles) “Well… it’s become urgent because of other meddling (he pulled up the Stanewald plans) which will be a disaster if I don’t beat them to it!”
(Ebb, eyes narrowing) “I KNEW it! They mean to kill us all!”
(Peach) “That… that’s horrible. Do you see how it curves like that in the diagrams? Instantly fatal if you’re in a pod. We would have no choice BUT to interfere.”
(Ebb) “And that would be disastrous for the geomancy even in the best circumstances.”
(Charles) “I think… that they simply have no idea of what will happen. They’re very bad that way!”
(Peach) “Weavers… I never trusted them.”
(Ebb) “Yes, yes, I know, but the offer was too tempting to deny… at least they plan to do it the slow way. Now what would you do if they started their operations at the same time you did? It’s unlikely, but strange coincidences seem to surround them!”
(Charles) “If they do, I’m planning to incorporate their efforts like this!”
And there were more displays.
(Charles) “The control artifacts should sense disturbances and damp local ones, any departures from the plans that they can’t compensate for will call in the appropriate Guardian, and then myself.”
(Ebb) “I see… that would take care of most things.”
(Charles) “In theory… twenty-four control artifacts should be more than sufficient, along with twelve Guardians. I was planning to use 120 and twenty-four, for a safety margin.”
(Nuahathia) “It never hurts to have spare resources and assistants, in case something goes wrong. Especially when they’re that powerful.”
(Charles) “I think I can talk the Celestial Lions into helping monitor things and preventing any interference; they don’t want Yu-Shan blowing up either! Fortunately, everyone else in the bureaucracy takes a LOT longer than an hour to react to things… And I need them to give me a permit for creating a disturbance anyway!”
(Peach) “Could I see a schematic of one of those artifacts, just in case? I think we could all use a look, actually.”
Charles didn’t actually have it ready entirely… but that was what instant genius was for! He had it laid out and pulled up a few moments later – and all three of them had a look.
There were a few minor pointers – things like “this wiring pattern on the orichalcum and adamant circuitry is more likely to ground Solar Essence” and “more white jade on the bottom to help stabilize local flows” – but it was nothing too big. Charles really was very good at artifacts and geomancy.
He was glad to consider advice, even if he might not wind up using all of it. After all… it was possible that he was better than they were after all. Still, he WAS trying to include as many safety factors as possible in a project of this absurd scale.
The Tenders also suggested stabilizing the networked Manses with adamant needles, to be absolutely sure that the flows would harmonize best with Yu-Shan.
(Ebb) “It’s important, ESPECIALLY if we channel motes into the reservoir.”
(Peach) “And standard for our regional-grade projects, besides.”
(Charles) “Oh, how did you usually contact the “sorrowhands? And I can send out some people with needles easily enough… especially if I can get the Celestial Lions to help!”
(Ebb) “That’s part of the problem. We normally communicate through our hardhats, but those don’t penetrate into the Jade Pleasure Dome, and that’s the last place anyone saw them.”
(Peach) “They issued the emergency protocol shortly before entering… the one that’s been ongoing all this time. And we can’t send a runner like we used to for checking on them!”
Charles considered that for a moment…
(Charles) “Hrm… Well, easy enough! There’s a considerable flow of essence into the dome through the Dragon Lines into a power reservoir; to modulate that… you simply need to make geomantic adjustments fast enough to impose a signal on the flow. You can’t perfectly block out the outside and still get power in! So if you send in a few test pulses and measure the echoes to map the reservoir configuration, then if you modulate the flow quickly enough… you can use the reflection-interactions to generate a self-constructing system on the inside; the universe IS entirely made up of essence patterns anyway! For that… Hm. This little demesne HERE is almost ideally suited… Huh! That’s where Gaia was when I went looking for her! I wonder if she was meaning to show me that particular spot?”
(Peach) “Why would she do that? She sided with the Bureaucracy, didn’t she?”
(Ebb) “Unless she realized things couldn’t go on like they are…”
(Ebb) “Shall we help him out, Peach?”
(Peach) “He’d need our authorization codes to penetrate anyhow.”
Charles didn’t really – he doubted that anyone had put in defenses against someone doing geomantic engineering fast enough to send information though the dragon lines – but the codes would make it a LOT easier and faster to get in touch with the Sorrowhands once he had a relay system set up!
That wasn’t something that the Primordials would have thought of. The Tenders couldn’t possibly do it fast enough, the White Ram was watching them too closely for them to try even if they found a way – and they hadn’t NEEDED to; they could just send messengers!
On the illusory projections, Old Realm numbers flickered…
Nuahathia was pretty nervous about trying such a stunt… but she was curious as well! Could Charles POSSIBLY pull that off?
Charles, meanwhile, was busy inventing… he’d better not try this outside of the privacy defenses, so he’d need a major linking setup to work that remotely – so he made an appropriate remote-linking artifact and sent THAT over. It needed to be able to handle rather a lot of power and it needed to be highly secure – but it was also limited area, special purpose, and fixed-point. That made it a lot easier!
It took hundreds of assisting Djinn, using their geomantic artifacts and work-speeding charms, coordinated by the computer networks of Aden and supported by additional aides to transfer motes to them – and it was still slow and required some minutes to get started – but it did indeed prove to be possible.
With enough skill and resources, most things were.
(Charles) “Er… while the relay is constructing itself… exactly who am I going to be trying to call?”
(Ebb) “Who are you more interested in, the person in charge of initiating rounds of the games, or the one who tallies the score at the end of the round?”
(Charles) “Well… it apparently hasn’t ended in forty thousand years – maybe gods play slower than primordials? – so I guess the person in charge of initiating rounds! He or she shouldn’t be too busy!”
(Ebb) “Lady Arelis Sorrowhands. Rank 1-A Overseer and, I suppose, queen of all our kind. I would be… delicate.”
(Peach) “This really is going to happen, isn’t it? I don’t even know how she’ll feel, if she’s even alive.”
(Ebb) “We would have known if she died.”
The link – full sensory, with image and voice – went live. That got them a view of the interior of the Jade Pleasure Dome, the most prestigious arena in Yu-Shan. There were a multiude of gods there, all transfixed by whatever-it-was at the center of the room. Even with his enhanced senses and numerous defenses… Charles couldn’t grasp the form of what was in there. Six Ebb and Ten Peach had averted their eyes from glimpsing it; Nuahathia is transfixed like a moth to the candle.
Still, even the pull of the Games rebounded from Dudael’s primordial protections.
Charles blotted out the center of the view, and blurred the memory for those who needed it.
(Charles, cheerily) “OK, I’ve blocked out that bit… So which one is it that we want to talk to?”
The view shifted as if something were being removed, and a face appeared. The luminous admant skin and golden eyes said that this was definitely a female Tender. This one had hair – although it was, short enough to fit into a hardhat. All the Tenders Charles had seen before were generic; only minor features differentiated them. This one… was plainly unique, and was regal in features. She had ducked into what appeared to be an alcove.
(Arelis Sorrowhands, Overseer 1-A and Initiator of the Games of Divinity) “My hardhat is working… this should not be happening. Who is this?”
Huh! That was the voice he’d heard in the deep archives of Dudael!
(Charles) “Uhm… I’m Aden Shining Dream, and I was calling through geomantic modulation because… well, Yu-Shan is shortly going to undergo geomantic collapse without intervention, and you’ve been out of touch for thirty thousand years or so according to the other Overseers here!”
(Arelis) “Of course… you’d have no idea, but you’re a popular topic among the gods. I… wanted to keep in contact with my people, but the terms of the capitulation made that unfeasible… What’s this about geomantic collapse? From what I heard, my people were winning!”
Charles showed her!
As she absorbed that, she was clearly having to restrain herself. SOMETHING like anger was bubbling within the adamant of her body…
(Arelis) “The FOOLS! That will kill us, and Yu-Shan with us!”
(Charles) “Well, yes! Anyway… I was kind of intending to fix it THIS way, but I wanted to check with everyone reasonable enough to cooperate – or who had special information that might help – first!”
(Arelis) “Matters were bad enough with not being able to cycle players, but THIS?”
She scanned the summary of his plans to fix things…
(Arelis) “I see… so you’re going to introduce Wyld energy into the sacred geomancy. This would not please her were she awake. If my dear Aros and I were not stuck in here as cupbearers, we could coordinate our surviving kin more effectively and help them balance the energies more effectively. As it is now… we’ll have to rely on you. I suppose you could try to enter the Dome, but if that goes badly, we’d be down one… I’m not even sure what you are.”
(Peach) “I’m almost certain he’s a Nascent One.”
(Arelis) “You tasted?”
(Peach) “Of course. He graciously provided samples.”
(Arelis) “Hmm. That’s still not as accurate as feeding, you know. Still… Incredible. No wonder Gaia spoke with him personally. And even if he isn’t a Nascent One, I don’t really care! This is a disaster waiting to happen.”
(Charles) “I have to agree there! It’s very messy!”
(Arelis) “I don’t see anything on waking her up, which saddens me. It’s been too long. I figure we can do it in our version once you’re done, though.”
(Charles) “Uhm… I don’t know enough about the original setup really! Waking who up? I was kind of wondering if Yu-Shan was someones world-body of course, but there wasn’t much in the archives…”
Arelis adjusted her helmet so that Charles could see an adamant foot tapping the adamant ground of the alcove.
(Arelis, sadly) “Milady Yu-Shan has been unconscious for… has it really been that many millennia. She sacrificed so much to see Gaia’s dream become reality. Even as it is today, I want her to see it.”
(All the other gods-including the Tenders) “WHAT!?”
(Arelis) “Yes, my dear goddess of the Bureaucracy and my Overseers. You’ve been in a world-body this whole time.”
(Charles) “Well, that was always a strong possibility! After all… Yu-Shan is a lot bigger than a clubhouse needed to be, so there had to be another reason for the size!”
(Arelis) “She is no clubhouse. They needed something with a stable reality to ground these miraculous games… and she invested her Essence in one hundred “dollies,” as she called us. All of it. We are the channels to her awakening, or would be had matters not gone so poorly in Creation.”
(Charles) “Well, that’s another thing to fix! First we need to stop the disaster though…”
(Arelis) “Indeed. Now how were you intending to use Aros and me in this? I’m sure that’s why you called as well. Why else would you go through the trouble?”
(Charles) “Well, the other Overseers recommended consulting you about shunting some of the excess energy into the central reservoir!”
(Arelis considered that.) “That is likely to hasten her awakening. While I’m certainly not against that, it’s only fair to let you know.”
(Charles) “Well, she’s already been waiting a long time – and creating the overlay environment will give her and everyone else room…”
(Arelis) “Going to our version then… not even I’m sure where her jouten will emerge. If it’s in the Jade Pleasure Dome, the confusion should be enough to evacuate her. If not, I doubt the state of the Celestial Plain will amuse her. She was never much for clutter. In that case, you might have to evacuate her.”
(Charles) “Well… We should have a little time before that happens… I guess prevent the explosion first, and then deal with the aftereffects!”
(Arelis) “Very well then. It will require tinkering with the Games themselves. Fortunately, even after all these millennia, the Incarnae don’t understand them – and if Gaia is having you do what I think she is, it will all work out. I don’t fully understand them myself-but next to the Mighty Ones, Aros and I are the best qualified to handle it.”
(Charles) “OK! Is there a less cumbersome way to run a communications link in? The link system will be sustained by the geomancy of the Dome now – but actually using it is an awful lot of work!”
(Arelis) “Urgh… as part of the terms of our surrender, Aros and I really can’t interfere with the outside world. Even communicating with me this way is risky!”
(Charles) “Oh… Well, is there anything else we should know before I drop this?”
(Arelis) “I’m sure you know it will be noticeable throughout the world-body. She’ll likely stir in her sleep. Considering how many buildings THEY erected that shouldn’t be here, I’d expect attempts to remove them.”
(Charles) “Well… I can probably do something there…”
(Arelis) “Pure regions would be most at risk, but those should be mostly uninhabited anyway. Ebb, Peach, I’ll need you to warn your people to stay underground.”
(Ebb and Peach, bowing) “Yes, milady!”
(Arelis) “Get that to the other Overseers too.”
(Charles) “And I’d better get all the equipment made! it’s going to take at least a day…”
(Arelis) “Well, then may the Celestial Plain bless you when you are done. I see the Sun’s wine is running low… Luna will get suspicious if I don’t fill it right away.” (She sighed.)
(Charles) “Thank you for risking talking to us!”
(Arelis) “I was charged with her safety. I would give my existence if it ensured that she would wake up healthy and sound. I should be thanking you for doing something about the problem… and I suppose I just did.”
(Charles) “Oh you’re welcome! It needs fixing!”
(Ebb) “Milady, please be careful!”
(Arelis) “Not to worry. The Incarnae know not to harm us, the Sun is most generous with feeding us… and the other gods are too distracted by the Games to notice us.”
Charles… rather suspected that most of the Incarnae weren’t even going to look up, and probably no one except – just maybe – Luna would care if they did notice; it had been forty thousand years since the takeover of Yu-Shan, and tens of thousands since any of them did anything very much, and he really doubted that “the cup-bearers took a phone call!” would get them paying attention. The Sorrowhands might be semi-valued servants… but they weren’t Incarnae and both they and the Incarnae knew it!
Too bad in a way though! He’d kind of liked the “Gargantuan Reality Engine” theory – although there was no reason why it couldn’t be true as well; it might just be Yu-Shan’s theme – and if it was, it would explain why Reality Engines were such fussy things and perhaps why the Blessed Isle was just the same shape as Yu-Shan… Who could say? Primordials were weird things!
(Arelis) “It was good to speak with you, Aden… once this is over, we must converse on her geomancy!”
(Charles) “Oh yes! I like geomancy!”
Ms Chisaru and Mr Montague had mostly been observing (in some shock), but Arelis addressed them directly now…
(Arelis) “Weavers. You are welcome too, if you would like to get out from under the thumb of the Occupiers. There is so much I could teach you.”
Poor Chisaru and Montague looked at each other, not entirely sure what to say! Charles would obviously prefer to have EVERYONE free to do their own things and develop as best as they possibly could… but this was getting… WHAT WAS GOING ON HERE? This just kept getting more and more mysterious! In a world-body? The Incarnae consorting with deiphages? What had HAPPENED during the taking of Yu-Shan? Were the consequences still playing out even NOW?”
(Chisaru, taking a deep breath) “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m content where I am, developing my shadow fingers and operatives.”
She didn’t even try to hide her disorientation.
(Charles) “Thank you Miss Arelis! I should have enough information to make it all work out I think!”
He dropped the transmission link. Even for a crew of Djinn, changing the landscaping fast enough to modulate the dragon lines as a carrier wave was a LOT of work!
Mr Montague was considering… Charles had just cracked the security on the Jade Pleasure dome… as an improvisation. That was… one of the best-secured places in Yu-Shan! Certainly no one ELSE would have attempted to… perform geomancy fast enough to impose a signal on the dragon lines, or tried to build a communications artifact out of patterned essence-echoes THROUGH that manipulation – but did the boy have some charm that let him see a way to do anything he wanted to do or something? There had been many great powers – but had there ever been one who so readily evaded all restraint?
Er… It WAS quite impossible for Oramus to escape… but hadn’t he been defined by doing things that were impossible?
(Montague) “Er… Charles… You just… you’re fairly unique of course… but people have been trying to do what you just did for tens of thousands of years!”
(Charles) “You just have to look at things right!”
Mr Montague did not find that at ALL comforting!
(Montague) “Well, yeah… but you did it like it was nothing! Not that I’m surprised, but…”
And there was a silver vase in the room that was not there before! At least Charles was pretty sure that it hadn’t been there before…
(Charles) “Well, I wasn’t looking for a way to get in before! Of course, establishing a link to channel that much geomantic manipulation through does mean that an emanation could ride it back here… but that’s all right because here we can talk really privately! An inanimate object wouldn’t just appear that way, so it’s a disguise!”
He waved cheerily at the vase – which tipped over, and exploded in a shower of silvery, Lunar-aspected Essence. When that dissipated, the person before them glowed with silvery radiance and was not clearly identifiable as a man or a woman…
(Charles, cheerily) “Hello Miss Luna!”
Chisaru and Montague were maintaining their dignity, barely.
(Luna) “Looking in or pouring water would’ve also gotten me out! Anyway… do you know how long it’s been since a Solar has made a stir like you have?”
(Charles, with interest) “Am I still one? I haven’t really been sure for quite a while now!”
(Luna) “Technically! Anyway… it was a trick question. I don’t remember anyone bringing in Exaltations from outside Creation before! Mind telling me? I need a new story to keep Gaia occupied!”
Although she was hiding it behind nonchalance, she was very, VERY interested. WHATEVER the boy was turning himself into – and it WAS an incredibly convoluted mess! – he was blatantly meddling with some pretty fundamental things!
(Charles) “Uhm… It’s really pretty simple! I was making gates, and some went outside creation, so that seemed like something that would be fun to look into, and one went to a pocket realm – the last remnant of a destroyed creation – full of dragon kings, who are cool! So when Rachel got into trouble I sent her family and her to hide out there, and that attracted that universes supply of Exaltations, which followed them home, and so we got to keep them here! I really wasn’t expecting any to still be hanging around thirty thousand years after humans went extinct and everyone but the Dragon Kings got destroyed – but there were. I put that project on hold for the moment! I didn’t really think that we needed a third or fourth set right away!
(Luna) “Huh. Where was this gate?”
She’d thought that she’d shut all those off eons ago!
(Charles) “Oh, I figured out how to install multiple gates in manse of sufficient rank and set some of them to go to all kinds of places on a semi-random search for major areas that hadn’t been reached yet – and some went to alternate creations! Did that have something to do with the Nocturnals showing up? They got here not long after I made some transdimensional gates!”
(Luna) “I… (distant for a moment) I don’t know! I’d like to know myself!”
(Charles) “Hm… They do seem to have related abilities; I wouldn’t be surprised if they required a gate to come into existence in any given universe; the potential was certainly there or they wouldn’t have self-assembled! Anyway, since you were listening in… could you sign this work order? it will make it much easier to deal with the planning boards and the Celestial Lions!”
(Luna) “Well, let’s have a look first! If it pleases me, I might do it!”
Charles had hurriedly whipped up a set of orders for the emergency reconstruction of Yu-Shan to forestall a geomantic catastrophe which gave him pretty broad – well, almost total – authority to issue pretty much any orders he felt necessary to accomplish that goal. Luna… didn’t actually read it, but the paper, ink, and format were to her liking, so she signed it, which was very helpful!
Besides… she was pretty much stuck in the Jade Pleasure Dome much of the time! It wouldn’t do for Yu-Shan and it to be destroyed.
(Charles) “Thank you Miss Luna! That will make things a lot easier with the bureaucracy!”
Nuahathia was watching in some disbelief… HOW could Charles simply… take control of a conversation with LUNA that way?! Was it the monomania? Were even the Incarnae unable to face the idea of disappointing… the most naive and helpful power in the cosmos? Did simply ASKING actually work that way?
Mr Mongague… was reeling in shock again. Solar? A CHILD-Solar Exalt with a WORLD-BODY and near-Primordial level fixations? With THAT many primordial resonances? Had the child dreamed of… being a cosmic power that could fix EVERYTHING and had an Exaltation give him the power to make that dream real?
Ms Chisaru… was far more deeply shocked. The boy had admitted that he didn’t have a plan for dealing with the Bureaucracy and the Lions yet – and an INCARNAE had promptly dropped by and obligingly given him a writ to solve that little problem for him! Either the boy was the LUCKIEST child in Creation – as well as the most unflappable opportunist in history – or something with VERY deep access to the foundations of reality (perhaps Yu-Shan itself if the boy was right) was pushing to make this happen.
Worse… she was no geomantic specialist – but with so many of them pointing out the failure nodes… even she could see it – and Luna saw it too, and was willing to place the responsibility for fixing it on Charles. Luna was known for Sink-or-Swim tests of HER Exalts – but would she really gamble the survival of Yu-Shan and the Games that way? Charles was not even one of HERS.
There wasn’t much choice. And if there was one thing that the Solars has ALWAYS been good at, it was rising to save the day at the last moment – even if they DID tend to make a terrible hash out of actually RUNNING the realms they saved. That was why the Lunars – who could adjust to what was going on in a NON-crisis situation – had been the stewards…
(Charles) “Shall I tell Righteous Hala you came by?”
(Luna) “Heh. I’m not done yet! What were you doing, talking to old Sorrowhands anyway? Most people don’t know about the Tenders and there’s a reason for that!”
(Charles) “Getting more information to try and stop Yu-Shan from blowing up! The badly-judged attempts to fix it going on make a proper repair job kind of vital at this point!”
(Luna) “Why them, though? A lot of people would write them off without a question! You can’t really be THAT much of a boy scout, can you? That’s what a lot of the rumors say!”
(Charles, with considerably surprise) “But they all need help!”
(Luna, to the Sidereals) “Is he REALLY like this?”
(Chisaru) “Err… from what I’ve seen so far, yeah!”
(Charles, puzzledly) “Like what?”
(Luna) “So willing to overlook that they want to kick the other gods out and/or eat their Essence whole!”
(Charles) “Well, the other gods aren’t really helping and they ARE currently the only ones holding the cities geomancy stable…”
(Luna, consideringly) “I supppose most of them COULD go back down to Meru, but it would take a lot of explaining to the… Japanese, was it? That’d still leave us up here playing the Games.”
She gave a long, exasperated, sigh.
(Charles) “Oh that’s ok! I’m planning to fix it for everybody!”
(Luna) “Oh yeah, that’s another thing! What makes you think that you can fix everything? What’s going to keep you from taking over? Solars tend to do that, you know!”
Charles looked at her blankly – and rummaged out an equivalent of the old powers-of-ten film out to they wyld limit at 10 to the 100’th light years, and then switched to a fractal display of multiverses. Then he’ll reversed the zoom and updated the view to make the galaxies… green and vibrant with life.
(Charles) “There’s lots to do! How could anyone take over?”
(Luna) “Wow. I’d actually heard something about that.” (And a roguish smile.) “So… absolutely NO desire to rule? No desire to conquer, or even lead?”
(Charles still had a rather blank look) “How would that help?”
(Luna, chuckling) “It hasn’t so far. So you’re going to seed the universe with life, starting with energizing Yu-Shan. What happens when OTHERS try to exploit it… and you by extension?”
(Charles) “There’s room!”
(Luna) “Oh, physically, yeah. Probably politically too – travel’s an issue through that. But what happens if somebody subverts your gates? There are ways, and a lot of people will be in trouble if that happens.”
(Charles) “Maybe! But I think they’d prefer to get to exist and have possible trouble over certainly not being there!”
(Luna) “More life would be great! Doesn’t seem like you’re going to stifle it, or rule over it, or do stuff others would do! By all means, go wild! But sometimes existence can be pretty… miserable! What would you do if that was the case?”
(Charles) “Encourage niceness!”
Luna had to laugh. Maybe she should try to work with Lytek to arrange a few innocent Child-Exalts of her own! They were… delightfully refreshing!
(Charles) “If enough people are nice it tends to spread anyway!”
He cheerily referred her to “Tit for Tat“.
(Luna) “There’s a time for niceness and a time for firmness, kid. I’m not going to lie: I wish more Solars were nicer! It’d make things easier for my Chosen. But sometimes you have to be firm before you be nice. Not mean – firm!”
(Charles… looked profoundly sad) “Sometimes they’re so lost to being mean that it’s very hard to help before it destroys them! At least they got to try again though…”
(Luna, patting him on the shoulder.) “You did… good on that one. You released their souls. Sometimes… you just have to do what’s necessary to keep people from hurting others. THAT’S what I’m worried about though! Sure, you’re a nice kid! That’s great! I’m just wondering if you’re adaptable enough.”
(Charles) “Well, the Guardians help with that!”
(Luna) “You just don’t seem to have any backbone. You’ve got a lot of toys and power – and people around here won’t bother you because of that. They don’t want to lose out on that. But it’s different out there. Some people just want to see Creation burn. What happens if you meet someone who WON’T submit to bribes?”
(Charles) “Depends on what they’re doing!”
(Luna, with a bit of exasperation) “OK… eating a planet?”
(Charles) “Well… if there are people and things living there, make them stop! Otherwise… there are lots of barren rocks out there!”
(Luna) “Well, yeah. What if it’s, oh, I don’t know, a Kaiju Manse? You’ve got one tied to you right now… and I’m pretty sure you didn’t want it. See what I mean by being nice all the time? It’s commendable, yes, but it’s VERY risky!”
(Charles) “Don’t know! I’m not sure how to stop one of them yet… I haven’t figured out how to build one yet! I think there’s something obvious I’m missing!”
(Luna) “Maybe… there’s a lot somebody could miss out there, even an adult. And Exalt or not, you’re a kid. Granted, you’re a pretty tough kid with all your artifacts and world-body, but what happens if someone takes them from you. Worse still… what happens if somebody gets you into an anti-magic zone?”
(Charles, after a bit of thought) “Isn’t that basically a hole in the universe?”
(Luna) “Well, yeah. I’m just mentioning possibilities here. It’s always good to consider everything.”
(Charles) “Well… I don’t have all the answers yet – but I suspect that hardly anybody does!”
(Luna) “I’d hate to see what happened if anyone did. I’m still not sure about you being able to resist being manipulated by someone who thought they did. You supply to everybody who asks nicely, don’t you? What happens if somebody uses your gifts to do things you don’t like?”
(Charles) “Well, everybody so far! But most of the ones that can be really used to be mean on a large scale have built-in shut-downs!”
Well! The child DID have some sense! She hadn’t been sure that he had it in him! From the reports so far… he’d been almost insanely obliging!
Charles had briefly considered that kind of thing. Someone asking him “Oh, could you make it without a way to shut it down so that if I start using it to massacre and torture people it won’t cut out on me?” would DEFINITELY be sending a bad signal!
Luna read THAT thought with ease. That was good! He was still a bit TOO trusting for her tastes, but he had SOME slight trace of caution! She’d have to get on to Righteous Hala about monitoring him better! Still… he was probably making the Sun proud…
(Luna) “That’s good, at least. Could you try to put them in any artifacts you give to creatures of darkness or fey? We don’t want you supplying our enemies, if only by accident!”
(Charles) “Uhm… the only ones for the Fey so far are… toys and the collars that keep their servants healthy and happy and heal them if they’re drained.”
What, he was ALREADY supplying the Fey? Probably when he was disappearing into the Wyld Zones… That was a bit unnerving. Still, happier and healthier fey servants meant possible escapees from the fey – and that… no one HAD to die when the fey drained them.
(Luna) “You just give those out? What, so they won’t die?”
(Charles) “Well, yeah! That way… working for the fey will just be an interesting experience and it will be all right in the end!”
Oh dear. He really WAS thinking that way.
(Charles) “Besides… looking at their entertainments… humans are really kind of bored these days! They don’t know it… but they MISS the wyld magic more than a bit!”
Luna was… still leery of his ability to visit the end of the universe safely. Space was dangerous, the Wyld was dangerous, and… she wasn’t so sure about where he’d be heading. He was reckless. While she wasn’t innocent of that herself, at least she tried to look before she leaped! Still… the threat to Yu-Shan was real enough – and few others were even aware of it, much less in position to even TRY to fix it. The effort to fix Yu-Shan was… too important to allow it to get screwed up! She’d have to get Hala on him – and possibly have an avatar watch when she could!
Even if his dreams WERE on a larger scale than even the Cauldronists had ever considered. Was THAT why an exaltation would have picked him as a child? And for a twelve-year-old… he wasn’t doing all that badly, even with HER playing advocate-of-oblivion…
(Luna) “Things have gotten stagnant on Earth, haven’t they? I thought the return of Gaia’s chosen would liven things up, but they went circumspect. And then the Alchemicals came around… arrgh! I want to do more, but I’m stuck playing the Games!”
(Charles, with his usual total sincerity) “Needs fixing!”
(Luna) “Well, I STILL think you’re going to get more than you bargained for… but you’ve done a really good job so far, even with your occasional screwups.”
(Charles) “Thank you!”
From Luna, that WAS a very nice compliment!
(Luna) “I’m still going to get Hala to watch you better! With what you’ve told me… I don’t think focusing on politics matters. And you need SOMEBODY to tell you when you’re being too idealistic and forgiving. That’s what my Chosen are for; to moderate the Solars.”
Luna looked a little sad… A shame that the Lunars hadn’t been as good at moderating the Solars as she had hoped – although they’d rarely needed to moderate them THAT way…
(Charles) “Don’t be sad! There is a lot of damage to the universe on the conceptual level that really fouls things up!”
(Luna) “If I told you we… never mind. Not in front of the Sidereals. I’ll tell you later; maybe have Arelis call.”
(Luna, to Chisaru and Montague) “You heard all that, right? This boy needs supervision! I know you can’t do that personally – your job’s too big as it is! But you’ve got to know people who can keep him from causing a disaster by being well-meaning.”
They nodded. They weren’t about to question an Incarnae!
(Luna) “Oh yeah, and the Sun told me one of your little friends was getting you a babysitter too.”
Charles looked puzzled… “little friends”?
(Luna) “Ah, the Night Caste! Tanaka was it? I’ve GOT to let her mate know where to find her-she’s got problems too.”
Charles grumbled a bit… everyone thought that he needed looking after! Next it would be the Kickaha playing babysitters…
(Luna) “Anyway… don’t feel bad about the babysitters! Everybody’s got their quirks. That’s what makes life so fun! You just have to ride with it and take the punches. Good luck out there; I’ve got to do more legwork on the Nocturnal thing.”
(Charles) “Let me know if you need anything!”
Yep. There it was. Did he ask that basic question of EVERYONE he encountered? If she told him something… she’d be VERY specific about what she wanted! Sometimes a SMALLER artifact or manse would do!
(Luna) “Mmm… I’ll consider it. “I’ll let you know if I do! Gotta go for now, though!”
(Charles) “Have fun!”
Luna vanished in a shower of essence.
Mr. Montague looked at Chisaru.
(Montague) “Sifu, is being a Sidereal ALWAYS this crazy?”
Chisaru just slowly shook her head.
(Charles) “I just tend to get things stirred up!”
(Chisaru) “To say the least… But if anything would have gotten an Incarna’s attention, importing a new set of Exaltations was it!”
She was just glad that Charles was at least SOMEWHAT somewhat responsible – much less not hostile.
(Charles) “Well, how was I to know they’d still be lurking around? Still… we have enough room these days that we could have used some more Exaltations anyway!”
(Montague) “I’m not going to argue with that!”
(Chisaru) “Anyway… who are we to deny the Argent Madonna? She’s given us a mission, Sasa!”
(Montague looked Charles over.) “Eh, it’s not like he’s a bad kid. I think just about anybody with a cool head and some thaumaturgy will work.”
(Charles) “Oh, would you all please not mention the “solar” bits? I’m not quite done transcending yet!”
(Chisaru, smiling) “The secret’s safe with us, I think.”
Nuahathia just nodded. It had been a rough day for her.
- Exalted Index Part I – Campaign Logs (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXVII — A Fine And Private Place (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXV – The Voice Of A Brazen Vessel (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CIX – Arrangements for Arcosanti from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CXIII — Nanny Mcphee VERSUS Mary Poppins! (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CXIV – Interlude, With Voices (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXVI – Views of the Enlightenment (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXII – The Return Of Mechagodzilla (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CX – Visiting Brigadoon (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXI – The Sailor Brigadoon (ruscumag.wordpress.com)