Meanwhile, Charles had decided what was most urgent… slowing up the spread of the “Pure” areas would delay the initiation of Project Stanewald, and that would buy him more time to prepare – and that meant that talking to Overseer Nine Grape about that geomantic accelerator that he’d traded to get Terapishim back without a fuss. A good thing that he already knew where to go!
Fortunately, it wasn’t one of the WORST slums – such as where the Daiklaive-wielding god-gangers with domains like Racial Discord hung out, drawing on KKK types, Skinheads, and Militant Black Gangers alike… You didn’t want to mess with them OR with their half-castes… they were sort of anti-paladins, only with less necromancy. They fathered a lot of them by rape, just to stir up more discord on Earth – and often with people of the race they hated, just to really mess with things. The self-hatred and resentment could be deadly!
Ten Peach – Nine Grape’s partner – offered to send a body along. He’d like to know why Nine Grape had been uncommunicative for so long! Tenders got really worried when that happened. Well, he was quite welcome!
As it happened, the location was “rural” – surrounded by fields with the occasional dusty palace – and in SEVERE disrepair. The fields were barren, and the area directly above Overseer Nine Grape’s geomantic monitoring palace was a simple ruined, circular plaza. Bits of glass and metal, suggestive of one of the domes for Celestial Peach orchards, littered the pavement.
That was dreadful! Charles undertook cleanup and renovations while looking for the way down. Even if Celestial Peaches took FOREVER to grow, restoring the building was easy and he could mix in Celestial Apples which didn’t really take all that long; they were just really tasty and cosmetically rejuvenating!
(Ten Peach) “If you want to be truly accurate… potatoes, wheat… actually, make that every crop humanity and gods have used for alcohol.”
He was more than happy to consult on the renovations as he helped Charles look.
(Charles) “Oh! I thought it was for growing peaches… but OK: those go in the fields outside?”
(Ten Peach) “An understandable misunderstanding… peaches are the only things grown in domes these days.”
He happily showed Charles where everything went – and very shortly it was all fixed up, planted, and set up with some minor servant-constructs to monitor and care for it and to greet any small gods who felt their domains being restored and showed up. Ten Peach left a note on a nearby blue jade pillar for the Operators; this place was not to be disturbed!
(Charles, with some surprise) “Well of course not! It’s part of the original setup I think, isn’t it?”
(Ten Peach) “Yes… but I have a long-standing policy of trying to claim any new orchards the Bureaucracy attempts to construct, and this setup looks like them.”
(Charles) “Oh! Well, that should work out! This area is… pretty well abandoned anyway! So now that we’re cleaned up and reconstructed…. where’s the way down?”
Charles looked around… after all, part of the point of fixing the place up was that someone might well turn up that they could ask!
There was indeed someone watching them, in the black robes typical of greater deiphages who don’t have access to Operator’s vestments or were just too paranoid to stick them on a controlled body like some of them. The god appeared to be made of hardened bread, and was standing in the celestial wheat field.
(Operator Ninety-One Orange) “Ah, I see Aden has finally come over here. And… Overseer Ten Peach!? Oh, oh boy…”
That body looked awfully nervous!
(Charles) “What’s up? And why so nervous?”
(Ten Peach) “Is there something the matter with the senior Overseer, Operator? She hasn’t been to a meeting for… many months now! You can tell me!”
The Operator… turned and fled into one of the nearby buildings, using Essence-based speed!
(Ten Peach) “Hey! You come back here!”
(Charles) “Huh! That’s not so good!”
Ten Peach WAS one of the Overseers of this portion of Yu-Shan’s world-body, and could get a good bead on the fellow!
(Ten Peach) “Just… sank into the floor in the back.”
(Charles) “Is that the way down?”
(Ten Peach) “One way to find out; there must be a tunnel they’ve hidden somewhere.”
Ten Peach headed in; he was wearing his Operator’s vestments on this body, so he was pretty well-protected. Charles headed on in too… the building was once some minor merchant god’s palace, judging from the storefront and long-decayed Quintessence goods. There was a spot of bare adamant in one of the rooms – and essence sight revealed a very recent deiphagic presence there. It looked like… if you were deiphagic, you could just pass through the pavement and into the tunnels below. Otherwise it was pretty solidly warded! Oddly though, the Sidereal and Deiphagic warding conditions did not deny entry if they were present in the same person; it had been specifically set up that way.
(Charles) “Hrm! That says some potentially quite unpleasant things! I’m not at ALL sure how that might interact! And it looks like the wards block teleporting and scrying up to the Celestial Level too! I may have to break them!”
(Ten Peach) “Shall I stand back then?”
(Charles, musingly…) “Unless… it’s a common thing… are they focused on the door, or do they cover the area around it? Aw! It’s an area setup, for security! Still… it’s surprising how many people ward the doors and forget about the walls… Oh well! Unweaving it is!”
He took a couple of minutes on it; there was no need to expend extra power on speeding things up that much… Besides, he wanted to unravel it gently, rather than blasting things!
There was… resistance; the adamant became fluid beneath his feet as he concentrated on his magic and glowed with a harsh light. Still… it had no hope of stopping him.
(Ten Peach, with a bit less worry in his voice) “She’s still able to act, at least… though I’d rather not imagine why she’s being so stubborn.”
(Charles) “Hello! What’s the big fuss about?”
As the ward broke… the sound of someone running echoed from far below – and the area turned into an illusion-covered hatch, opening to a ladder leading down.
For a moment he was tempted to simply jump and rely on defenses – but that would make it awfully easy to miss something! Better to levitate.
Ten Peach already was, using a function of the Operator’s vestments.
It was many hundreds of feet down… Charles kept an eye out for cross-connections; it would be simple but effective to put in a side-route, camouflage it, and continue the shaft down to some bothersome maze of substructure tunnels – and there were plenty of clearly-visible cross-connections and several other simple thaumaturgic wards – not as powerful as the first one, but the setup remained the same.
(Charles) “Bother! Mr Ten Peach? To you know the route?”
(Ten Peach) “Seventh connection down, but mind the effigies once we get out of the crawlspaces.”
(Charles) “On we go then! Effigies?”
(Ten Peach) “Ah yes… we might have to worry about those once we get near! They’re standard with Overseer tier security; made of adamant, resistant to raksha powers, and hard-hitting.”
(Charles) “Oh! I can probably manage that… and I don’t use Raksha powers all that often, even if they ARE handy for gates and things!”
(Ten Peach) “A distraction, I suspect… hmm, to the left.”
The crawlspaces were all but totally dark, stiflingly dry, and cramped even for Charles. Ten Peach would have had to really squeeze through some of the passages if Charles hadn’t used a bit of Travel Thaumaturgy to make the spaces effectively taller and wider… and to speed up the trip; this much effort on stalling implied a reason for it!
Ten Peach did appreciate it; perhaps too optimistically, he HAD hoped that his actual presence would get Nine Grape to open the main doors! Otherwise he would have used a smaller body for these passages as he usually did!
The descent ended in a faintly glowing chamber. The ceiling was high, and sculpted with the curved organic designs he’d noticed around ancient Yu-Shan geomantic sites before. A pit split the chamber, spanned by a “natural” adamant bridge. A pair of statues stood at each end, facing each other. They were about fourteen feet tall, made of adamant, in the shapes of Tenders, and bore studded clubs. At the opposite end of the bridge there was a door marked “9” in Old Realm. The statues weren’t moving… from Ten Peach’s previous statements, yet.
(Charles, cheerily) “Hello!”
Ten Peach frowned – but there still wasn’t any answer.
(Charles) “Well… If the bridge is real, I suppose it’s just trot over and look at the doors!”
The statues made one-handed grabs for him as he approached – but Charles just erected some indestructible walls, turning the bridge into a sort of tunnel…
(Charles) “Hey! Stop that!”
(Ten Peach, flying behind Charles) “Why are you doing this? He’s trying to HELP!”
The statues attempted to get around the walls to block their path ahead and pursue behind – but a bit of space-warping – the old “Traveling Manse” effect – to create an obstacle-free path dealt with THAT. A few big, tough, animated statues… were not really a menace!
Growling became audible from the darkness in the pit – and Ten Peach was looking more and more dismayed; it was all too clear to him that something was BADLY amiss, even if simply bludgeoning statues were of little threat… Not that he hadn’t thought that something was wrong before, but this level of interference…
Charles cheerily strolled up to the doors and knocked while Ten Peach invoked his Divine Authority over the Lesser Deiphages to hold them back…
(Charles) “Hello! Nine Grape? Can we talk? It’s about the geomancy!”
There was no response from Nine Grape – but the setup was pretty much like Ninety-Six Lotus’s though; an extradimensional space, well-warded against scrying and teleportation.
Charles sighed and – as the effigies tried to approach – forced the wards. The portal opened up to an antechamber with a mosaic on the left wall depicting the production of Celestial beverages, from sparkling water to celestial wine, culminating in presenting the products to what is clearly Arelis Sorrowhands at the Jade Pleasure Dome’s entryway. Nine Grape featured prominently, in both supervisory and manufacturing capacities. Other than that… it was as plain as the previous palace.
There was no response – so he went looking around for people. Nine Grape would probably be in the chamber where he wasn’t supposed to go last time – most likely the pod room. The place was big though… there were several chambers full of lesser deiphages (who promptly got cured), preserved through the Chrysalis of Perfection and stored lovingly in warded chambers. There were guestrooms too – but the decor remained rather spartan.
With his horde of confused and frightened former deiphages behind him, and a rather bemused Ten Peach providing some explanations, Charles finally came upon Ninety-One Orange, blocking a heavily sealed and warded room.
(Ninety-One Orange) “Sir, please stop! You don’t want to go in there!”
(Charles, with some puzzlement) “Why not?”
(Ten Peach) “Why, Operator? Surely the senior Overseer has nothing she wants to hide from me or Aden. Who, I might remind you, restored her beloved fields a little while ago? I would have thought that that alone would get her attention!”
(Ninety-One Orange) “Sigh… you all look awfully familiar.”
(Charles) “So what’s the problem?”
(Ten Peach) “You had better speak up, Operator. I’m sure Aden is capable of unmaking you on the spot.”
Ten Peach gave Charles a quick look: he didn’t actually think that Charles would do that, but if it got them in… Charles did look very nonplused and upset at that thought – but the funny look was apparently enough to pass for anger in the eyes of a VERY nervous Ninety-One Orange…
(Ninety-One Orange, frightened) “Well, we had visitors a while back… Exalted, even! The Overseer was so excited when she saw one of them was a Sidereal.”
(Charles) “Oh dear!”
(Ninety-One Orange) “She met with them for several days, keeping the rest of us out, and when they departed, she told us to get her a geomantic spread enhancer through whatever means we could. Ninety-Six Lotus found one, though he STILL won’t tell me how.”
(Charles) “I made it for him! Hmm… (thoughtfully) Perhaps I should have thought about that more or asked why he wanted it – but it was such a simple thing!”
(Ninety-One Orange) “That was you? Thank you! The Overseer was so happy… But that’s really all I know… you’ll have to ask her, and she told me not to let anyone in. E-even you sir.”
Ten Peach was NOT looking happy.
(Ten Peach) “Why would she not tell me she contacted a Sidereal? She’s wanted to do that for some time!”
(Ninety-One Orange) “I don’t know!”
(Charles) “Well… Here’s… a chair, and a table, and a cooler with drinks, and some sandwich makings, and a couple of good books, and a player and a movie library… That should be enough for a couple of hours I think! This way you won’t get into trouble with your boss because you couldn’t have stopped us anyway!”
And he caught Ninety-One Orange in one of Gothmugs elsewhere-boxes for a bit and started checking the wards on the door…
That was the breaking point for Nine Grape… poor Operator, scared because he was having to defy one boss and obey the other…
(Nine Grape, from the other room) “Okay, okay! Let him out! You’re obviously not going to let up!”
She opened the door. Inside there was a chamber with many tubes leading to the pod and down into the ground. Both the Overseer herself and a controlled body, wearing the vestments, were there. She was as withered within the pod as Peach was.
(Nine Grape, in the body) “Sit, you two. Peach, Aden, I’m sorry for delaying you… and what I’m about to tell you.”
She motioned towards a table with chairs. Gothmug took a quick look to see if there was some sort of trap there – but they were just very comfortable ambrosial chairs with no other magic…
(Ten Peach) “What is the meaning of all this? The orders of the Rank 1-Overseers were clear-we’re supposed to stay in regular communication.”
(Nine Grape) “It’s been over forty thousand years of (pointing to herself in the pod) THAT. I… got impatient.”
(Charles) “Ah! Trying to rush a bit? It should be less than six months now I think!”
(Nine Grape) “Five months, fourteen days, seven hours, eighteen minutes, and forty-nine seconds before I see if this has the intended result… or hoped to see.”
(Ten Peach) “But why not TELL me? This affects the entirety of Yu-Shan! We’re supposed to consult with each other on this!”
(Charles) “Oh not that! I have a large geomantic fix underway!”
Ten Peach filled her in… and told her that the Rank 1-Overseers were confirmed alive and that she was in a Primordial – and Charles happily called forth his incredibly complex geomantic planning holograms…
(Charles) “Now this will take some cooperation though! Because the Sidereals are planning to put THIS plan into operation when the Pure Zones hit 75%”
(Nine Grape) “That poor Weaver made to do that…” (She looked very sad) Have they really stepped so far off the proper path that they would do THAT to Yu-Shan?”
(Charles) “Oh, they think it will work! Surely you’ve seen it… the more of them get together to plan something, the surer they become that they’re doing the only possible thing to avoid a disaster, and the worse the outcome – which they will firmly believe is better than if they hadn’t done whatever-it-was!”
(Nine Grape) “Peach, have you told him about the way they were?”
(Ten Peach) “No… I didn’t want to worry him.” (He sighs.) “You would be better anyhow. You were so determined that they would be GOOD for her.”
Ooh, another (doubtless contradictory!) viewpoint! Charles listened eagerly!
(Nine Grape) “Yes, I have noticed the … change. I have no idea what caused it, but when they returned here after the war, they were so contentious! Bad enough that whatever those lions did to the geomancy erased their ability to help us, but that… I was so certain something broke in them. I… I wanted to fix it.”
And they suddenly had Charles’s FULL attention!
(Nine Grape) “Aden, how much contact have you had with the Bronze Faction? I assume some.”
(Charles) “Superficial really! They’re the ones with the unworkable plan to “fix” the geomancy though!”
(Nine Grape) “Mighty Ones preserve us… did they mention anything about people who could sever deiphages’ ties with Yu-Shan?”
(Charles) “They said there were a few!”
Ten Peach was also listening closely.
(Charles) “Not much about them… I do that, but mostly to ship them back to Earth where they really belong!”
(Nine Grape) “Then somewhere in Yu-Shan, there is at least one Weaver defending a Manse against us… removing the connections that are her price for occupying her, and…” (She took a deep breath.) “That person, or those people, will commit a murder-suicide – and I was pushing them toward that!”
The guilt on her face was palpable.
(Nine Grape) “I… I didn’t know!”
(Charles) “Now that’s not good! Why a murder-suicide?”
(Nine Grape) “They still tell the Weavers in academy that the Maidens had them up here as assistants, right?”
(Nine Grape) “They helped us, too. Even with the most important duty of all… supplying her with Essence. We were divided on letting them in… it was ultimately up to the Ram, but he was indulgent enough to ask for our opinion. And since they were originally human… well, how many deiphagic humans have you seen up there, Aden?”
(Charles) “None I think! There might be a similar thing going on with some, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not the same!”
(Nine Grape) “So, we stipulated that the bearers of those Exaltations share our bond with Yu-Shan’s geomancy. I think the Maker complained about it, but the Ram’s master had words with him. And thanks to that… I think that might have factored in what happened after the occupation.”
(Charles) “What did happen?”
(Nine Grape)”We waited for the Sidereal Essence to flow in. It never happened. Until seven thousand years ago… but I’ve never been successful at catching one when she took her price. That was when we reached about 60% purity.”
She shook her head.
(Nine Grape) “I was only trying to get them back. They don’t need to be afraid! I could teach them! And to know that these Bronze want them to do – gah!”
(Charles) “Well, they really have no idea you know! Their foresight… always leads them down a path of disaster when it’s used for something big enough!”
(Nine Grape) “I just feel sorry for the Weavers-the ones who DO have the connection. I don’t even know what they’ve been told about it. The Bronze have to know SOMETHING is up with that.”
(Charles) “They think it’s some sort of special gift that’s tied to the exaltations I think!”
(Nine Grape) “I hope you’re right. I had feared reprisals.”
(Ten Peach) “I think I know what you were trying for, though… But why would that require you to hide?”
Nine Grape got very solemn.
(Nine Grape) “If I tell you, will you promise to ask for leniency from the Sorrowhands and Yu-Shan?”
Ten Peach agreed – and so did Charles.
(Charles) “I got a link through to them anyway!”
(Nine Grape took a deep breath) “Ninety-One Orange told you about those Exalted. I… agreed to let them do some Wyld-based tinkering.”
(Ten Peach) “WHAT? Oh… Grape, no . .”
(Nine Grape) “I was desperate and impatient! And they said they would make sure the Wyld influx on Earth was controlled. You KNOW it needs more of those energies.”
(Charles) “Well yes, it does! But Sidereals… normally have almost no way to do THAT. Not normal ones anyway!”
(Nine Grape) “This young man was different. He and his friends were full of Wyld energies. He said he wanted to see more of that in Creation… and to see what would happen if we DID purify Yu-Shan. He thought she was alive too, and if she was sapient… well, he wanted to parley if she did wake up.”
(Charles) “Huh! Is THAT all they’re up to? Stirring things up a bit? Of course that IS pretty grandiose on the current scale of the universe, but still….”
(Nine Grape) “You know them?”
(Charles) “Some of them I think! They sort of got melded with some Raksha!”
(Ten Peach) “That’s not good… we’re not supposed to let Wyld creatures into Yu-Shan.”
(Charles) “Well, they aren’t exactly wyld creatures… They’re Exalted Human Raksha Hybrids!”
(Nine Grape) “I didn’t even realize it until they agreed to provide a taste of their Essence. But they were so friendly, and we shared similar goals.”
(Charles) “Well… I’ll just have to get things set up! Fortunately I can bring the Lions and Geomancer-Gods in on if I need them!”
(Nine Grape, sighing) “Aden, I can’t allow harm to come to Yu-Shan, but I would like to meet a genuine Weaver. If you find one for me, and allow me to speak with that person, I’ll turn off the spreader. Deal?”
(Nine Grape) “That easily? Does he realize I’m asking him to bring a functionary of the Occupiers deep into enemy territory?”
(Ten Peach) “He is ridiculously obliging.”
Nine Grape smiled.
(Charles) “I presume you’d like ot meet up at ground level?
(Nine Grape) “I would like to take them into the tunnels for at least a bit. They’re quite important for the geomantic layout.”
(Charles) “I’ll see if I can arrange it then!”
(Nine Grape) “Thank you. They need to know. At the rate purification is proceeding, they’ll have to unless they want to stay in an alternate Yu-Shan.”
(Charles) “Well, my plan did include setting up five aspects!”
(Nine Grape) “Which I did see… how strange to contemplate a raksha oriented Yu-Shan.”
(Ten Peach) “A madhouse, but if they stay out of our Yu-Shan, I’m fine with it. The Lady Sorrowhands was… Shall we go, Aden? I think I can be quiet about my partner’s indiscretion.”
(Charles) “OK! When and where would you like the meeting?”
(Nine Grape) “Well, since you restored my personal farm plots, why not there? The occupiers will try to investigate some time anyhow.”
Nine Grape made a mental note to ensure that her remaining lesser deiphages were posted nearby in case something went amiss – a sad reality of how bad Tender-Weaver relations had become.
- Exalted Index Part I – Campaign Logs (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXV – The Voice Of A Brazen Vessel (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CVIII – The Tomes Of Doom (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXVII — A Fine And Private Place (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 CIX – Arrangements for Arcosanti from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- [Emergence Campaign] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXIX — Technical Opinions (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXVI – Views of the Enlightenment (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXI – The Sailor Brigadoon (ruscumag.wordpress.com)