Eclipse and the Anime SRD

Here we have another part of the answer to Alzrius’s last question – a review of the d20 Anime SRD in comparison to Eclipse

0066 Grand Canyon_ Mather Point Improvements

I see a certain gap between intent and outcome here…

Sadly, the Anime SRD suffers from a number of fairly basic problems.

The authors didn’t really think about how attributes operated in d20 – and on which effects were cumulative and which were not. They also attempted to make an end run around the restrictions of the d20 license by providing a point-buy system for attributes that said “generate attributes according to the player’s handbook, then add up their costs, compare the total to this stated point allowance and then modify freely to fit” – thus providing a system where you generated a set of numbers, and then ignored them to buy what you wanted in their system.

That system was “attributes cost 1/2 their value, rounded up” (this, of course, eliminated odd scores from the system, but that’s no big deal). As a normal base, you had 40 points to buy your attributes and racial abilities. You could buy any racial stuff you wanted later just as cheaply though – and attributes had no upper limit. You could also take 24 points worth of disadvantages, and thus get 64 points to start with. We’ll do that.

This has some VERY problematic consequences. Most blatantly, low scores are less of a hindrance than a high score is an advantage – which is why d20 characteristic point-buy systems normally use sliding scales.

So… I’ll take a bookish mage-type character. He’s socially inept (Cha 2), imperceptive due to his glasses and solitary lifestyle as well as easily persuaded by anyone willing to interact with him socially (Wis 2), he’s a clumsy couch potato who never gets out at ALL (Str 2, Dex 2), but he is healthy (Con 18), and he’s VERY bright (Int 60). That leaves us with 22 points left.

Now that’s not quite as good – or bad – as it sounds; the anime SRD alters what bonuses your attributes give you; Strength no longer provides bonuses to hit, or penalties either – and high stats no longer provide bonus spells, although they still seem to affect Save DC’s and do provide skill bases. Intelligence still does provide skill points though – and so we’ve just picked up a hundred of them.

Of course, we’ve also thrown out back-compatibility, or comparability with almost anything else that was ever published for d20 despite the later pretense at “breaking down the standard classes so you can just take one of them”.

I’ll get to those later. We’re still on those skill points.

The system also provides “Combat Skills” – skills with no attribute base that add directly to your AC or Attacks in certain situations. So… Gun Combat, Melee Attack, Melee Defense, Ranged Defense, and Special Ranged Attack (Magic). Sure, that’s 20 skill points up front and 5 more each level – but it’s also +4 to attack and +4 to AC at level one and +1 to attack and +1 to AC each level – neatly making up for Dexterity penalty on AC at level one and improving matters thereafter. Given that we have more skill points than we’ll EVER need, that’s quite a bargain!

Hm… there a lot of other different skills in the system (there goes back-compatibility again) – but we can max out twenty more skills, which is quite enough to compensate for those low attributes. Heck, with one point each in knowledge skills our young mage is starting off with a +26 at level one. That’s not bad.

Are there other ways to get skills? Certainly there are! Some come with our class (there’s no true classless option), but if you take a standard human…

Standard Human: Base movement (0), +1 Feat at 1st Level (2), +4 Skill Points at 1st Level (1), +1 Skill Point each Level (2), any favoured class (when multiclassing) (1): Total Cost (6), Base Racial Allowance (6) for a net cost of zero – then you’ll be… shafting yourself; for 3 points you could get +6 Intelligence (and +12 skill points at level one) instead of +5. Of course, as far as humans go… the system specifically does not include multi-class penalties, so the humans are paying one point for… nothing.

Forget humans. Half-orcs get five points back (four if you buy off their attribute modifiers) and thus make the best of all standard races for pretty much ANYTHING. If your game master will let you get away with it, don’t buy ANY racial abilities and just keep all six points!

We’ll go with half-orc with no attribute modifiers though. That gives us 26 points to spend.

Class? We’re taking “Adventurer”. Poor saves, d4 Hit Dice, poor BAB, 4 SP/Level (who cares?), and five PRECIOUS points per level to spend on anything we want. We shall drool now. No other class need be considered.

Of course, for comparison… we have the Anime SRD breakdown for standard class builds:

Class Ability Costs:

  • +1 to Fort, Ref, or Will Save (1): So +1 to Fortitude costs the same as +2 to Constitution. I see a problem (and a certain lack of thought) here.
  • +1 to Base Attack Bonus (3): Now THAT’S obviously VITAL compared to simply buying those combat skills. If you want it, you can buy it any time as “Attack Combat Mastery”.
  • (2 + Int modifier) Skills gained each Level (0.5 each Level)
  • (4 + Int modifier) Skills gained each Level (1 each Level)
  • (6 + Int modifier) Skills gained each Level (1.5 each Level)
  • (8 + Int modifier) Skills gained each Level (2 each Level): Yeah. Forget ALL of these. Buy Intelligence.
  • Wizard Class Skill bonus each Level (0.5 each Level): What?
  • d4 Hit Dice (1 each Level)
  • d6 Hit Dice (1.5 each Level)
  • d8 Hit Dice (2 each Level)
  • d10 Hit Dice (2.5 each Level)
  • d12 Hit Dice (3 each Level): So which is better? A d4 hit die and +4 Constitution each level or a d12 hit die each level? Those 40 points a Barbarian spends on going from d4’s to d12’s could be buying him +80 Constitution. I think I’ll take that. The “Armor” power is worth considering too; each point invested in it… reduces the damage from ANY attack by one point. A bit of that to start could be pretty helpful at low levels, although investing in constitution for +800 hit points is pretty nice later on. You could also buy “Damn Healthy!” at 2 points for an extra d8 hit die and Constitution Modifier – but +4 Con will rapidly outshine that. This is a useless power – one of many to come.
  • 0th Level spell slots (further modified by spell breadth) (0.25 each)
  • 1st-9th Level spell slots (modified by spell breadth) (0.5 times spell Level)
  • Cleric domain spell slots (One half times normal value)

Spell Breadth” was an interesting notion. To quote the Anime SRD…

“Assigning Character Points proved to be an interesting exercise. The capability of casting a spell costs a base of 0.5 Points times the spell Level (0.25 Points for 0 Level spells; one-half value for all Cleric domain spells), but this is only the base cost. Since some classes have a much wider range of spells from which to choose, all casting classes needed an “accessible spells multiplication factor” to provide appropriate balance (see Table 5-20: Accessible Spells Factor for Casting Classes). This factor is equal to the number of potential of spells available to the class divided by the number available to the Wizard class – resulting in a factor between 0 and 1. To determine the total number of Character Points assigned to spellcasting ability, the base Point cost total is multiplied by the spells factor for each class.

Although Sorcerers have the same potential spell access as Wizards, and thus could have the same multiplication factor of 1, Sorcerers have two aspects that set them apart from Wizards. Sorcerers do not need to prepare their spells in advance each day – a powerful advantage – and Sorcerers know far fewer spells than Wizards at each level – a severe disadvantage. Consequently, the Sorcerer’s multiplication factor of 0.85 is derived more from these two differences than the potential spell access that is considered for all other spellcasting classes.”

The writers apparently forgot about having to FIND spells versus the entire list being available, about researching new spells, about new sourcebooks, and about theme and versatility of spells meaning more than number.

For that matter, they also failed to realize that d20 Modern Classes include the bonus skill points for being human since ALL d20 modern characters are assumed human, but that’s a rather minor issue – although it does show that they didn’t bother to actually talk to anyone who played d20 modern while writing their system.

  • Special class talents and abilities (Variable): What a surprise!

Those cheap characteristics make a LOT of powers rather pointless. To give some examples…

  • Defense Combat Mastery provides +1 AC per 2 points – or you could buy more Dexterity, for +1 AC, +1 Reflex, +1 Initiative, and +1 to dex based skills per point. Guess which is better.
  • Heightened Awareness provides a +2 on Ability and Skill checks relevant to noticing otherwise hidden things, such as concealed objects, ambushes, or anything else related to sensory awareness per point. That’s actually competitive with wisdom, since it offers a +2 instead of a +1 each to Will and Perception Skills / Checks.
  • Highly Skilled provides four extra skill points per point invested in it. Investing that point in Intelligence… provides four extra skill points at level one and nineteen more over the course of your career, plus a bonus on all intelligence-based skills. Forget Highly Skilled.
  • Massive Damage adds +2 damage to a specific attack for 2 points or to all attacks for five points. That’s potentially marginally useful for some things – but for 2 points you can buy +4 Strength, which adds to all melee attacks and muscle powered weapons. Given how high your strength can go… skip Massive Damage.
  • Superstrength… costs 4 points for +8 Strength and has no other effects. Wait, isn’t this the base cost? Why yes, yes it is! It won’t hurt to buy “superstrength” as opposed to just buying strength – but it’s a useless entry that just takes up space in the book.

So we want to buy magic and other special abilities, and we have – as an adventurer – 31 points to spend.

So:

  • Dynamic Sorcery II (Calling on Spirits): As a “limited field” (well, not so “limited”; since Dynamic Sorcery lets us make up any spell we like that’s in the rough power range of a d20 spell one level lower, we can find a way to do almost anything) (8 points). OK, we’ve only got effects of levels zero and one to work with, but they can be ANYTHING. Even better, with a casting attribute of 60, pretty much nobody is going to be saving. As soon as this character goes up one level, and can get “Hold Person”, it’s going to be instant “I Win!” time.
  • Energy Bonus III (+60 Energy): This is important, since spells of effective level 0 cost 1, and spells of effective level 1 cost 4 – and without this bonus we won’t have much (9 points). Fortunately, a character gets back the highest of his mental attribute modifiers in Energy each hour, whether or not he rests. With that 60 Intelligence, that’s 25 points an hour. Pretty good.
  • Armor-I (reduces all damage by four points): Who wants to get hurt? (4).
  • Personal Force Field I (absorbs incoming damage, collapses for a round if hit by more than 10 in a shot, but still absorbs the 10) (3).
  • Reincarnation (stopped by blowing up his ritual area, takes several weeks (2).
  • Flight (OK, it’s only 10 MPH to start, but you can do it all you want) (4).
  • Sixth Sense (Senses Magic): Well, that’s sort of basic (1).

Oh wait! We can also get up to nine more points for establishing our characters background. Lets go for that…

  • Buy Dynamic Sorcery up to III (4).

We could buy Wealth – after all, it only takes 18 points to be a multi-billionaire (Don’t try to use this SRD with ANY setting where money provides power!) – but why bother? We’re headed down the path of “I can do ANYTHING!” at pretty high speed. Honestly… I’ve got five points left and I don’t know WHAT to buy.

  • His saves do suck of course. We could get some Divine Relationship (rerolls, costing 1 point per roll per session) – but lets get those crappy stats up to 4 (4 points) and one reroll (1 point).

For further advancement… Adventurer, 5 points per level. Buy up stats. Buy some more Energy. Buy up Dynamic Sorcery. You can be wielding ninth level spells by level ten easily, and have good stats, and +18 to hit (thanks to those combat skills), and +13 AC (due to those combat skills again), and…

Well, you can have lots of other stuff. You won’t need weapon proficiencies though; anime SRD characters are presumed to be proficient with all weapons and armor (which has generic skill penalties for everyone).

Ironically enough, one of the goals – at least according to the SRD – was to enhance the martial classes compared to spellcasters.

I don’t think it worked.

The Anime SRD does have it’s own “balance” of course, but it’s not one that’s going to work in any normal d20 setting. In it’s own way it was a valiant try; it’s just that it wasn’t a valiant try at making an anime-themed d20 SRD. It was a valiant try at funneling customers away from d20 towards BESM – and it ultimately wasn’t really delivering the sensible d20 game system that it was promising.

And for a stylistic complaint… A lot of things got given fractional point costs. That’s just sloppy – and a holdover (just like the list of abilities and a lot of the price structure) from Big Eyes Small Mouth which got hauled over into d20 where it really didn’t work. Go ahead; if you’ve got fractional point costs… multiply. It’s easy, it costs nothing, and it’s a lot easier for your customers to track.

BESM was fun sometimes, but the d20 version never really got much traction. It relied an awful lot on “talk with your GM” – and like most such games, never really understood that that gave massive advantages to players who knew their GM’s well and/or were persuasive talkers. Yes, some GM discussion and input will be needed in pretty much ANY point-buy system. Eclipse can be abused too – but at least it hasn’t got a bunch of utterly useless powers, and lets you use the vast majority of other d20 source material.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXVI – Infernal Considerations

Meanwhile, Chisaru had – on thinking more – concluded that Charles was probably being a bit naive about the notion that fixing the Yozi’s would fix the universe, but even just making them a bit saner would probably be useful… At least on the “there’s room!” front it was hard to argue with the child! Still, both she and Mr Montague were wondering if he intends to go to Malfeas and propose this to him … They couldn’t predict the results of that, of course. But they doubt that even the other Yozis could!

Charles, in fact, was aware that he might be wrong – but he’d hate to think that the universe was so messed up without a reason. He was planning to offer the option to one or two of the more traditionally reasonable or quiet Yozi’s – or just try a few third circles, and see if that had an effect! Cytherea might be a good one (if he could find her), or perhaps Isidoros; he didn’t seem too badly damaged, he’d pretty much just remained a boisterous black hole/boar. That would be pretty easy!

“Hey! Wanna try an artifact? You can eat it later if you don’t like it!”

Of course, considering Isidoros, he might eat it if he DID like it… he tended to live by his whims and not think too much of the future. Still, it would only be a test – and besides, Charles rather suspected that Isidoros had a charm for incorporating things he liked by eating them, and another for spitting things out later even if he did eat them. That way he could also have his best pal Szoreny the Silver Forest duplicate it using HIS Charms. Then both of them could have whatever the thing was! Szoreny’s copy would be perfect except for being made out of highly reflective silver of course…

Hm! He’d better make sure that he was REALLY well stocked up with Instant Genius Points before he started fiddling with Yu-Shan too! You might not be able to prepare for EVERYTHING, but you could make sure that you had lots of options to work with! That way you could compensate on the fly if and when things started going wrong…

Still, with any luck, he could keep most of the universe too confused to interfere for just a little while longer…

On a distant world, two Infernals were inspecting the changes that the boy – whatever he was – had worked upon their manse, and were… a bit baffled.

The (Original) Preceptor Of Ancient Ways, a Cecelyene Manse-3:

This fanciful, brightly-tiled desert palace of domes and minarets looks like something out of the Arabian Nights, a cathedral to Cecelyene rising above the lesser domes and structures – and the blowing silver sands – about it. It is Watoka Danaj’s temple and bridgehead for the eventual return of the Yozi’s to the earth…

Or at least it was.

Construction Points: 6 (Base) +3 (No Notable Hearthstone) +2 (Maintenance) = 11

Spent on: Extended Zone of Influence (favored, 3), Password Activation (1), Hidden Passages (ruled favored, 1), Geomantic Subtlety (2), Minor Tricks and Traps (1), Archive (the history of Creation (the architect was big on his people knowing that their ancestors came from creation and that they were “destined to rule it once again”), Yozi Lore, and Biology), Charm Transparency (those within it may project offensive charms through the walls as if they weren’t there, 1), and a double dose of Magical Conveniences (it IS a cult center after all):

  • Sweep the Sands: The manse can move the surrounding sands around to make dunes, bury or reveal nearby structures, or mildly annoy people. This is not fast enough to attack with however.
  • Refreshing Waters; The manse provides an endless supply of tea, coffee, and fruit-flavored drinks, hot or cold as desired.
  • Public Address Systems: The manse can project the users voice and image to a multitude, or send messages to the minions within its zone of influence.
  • Thaumaturgic Anchor: The manse can sustain up to (manse rank) thaumaturgic effects applied to itself (usually wards to protect it and an illusion to hide it) and will recreate those effects in six ticks if they’re broken.
  • One Way Mirrors: Those within the manse can see out easily and into public hallways (not the private rooms) within the manse.
  • Air Conditioning: Despite it being in a desert, the temperature is always cool and comfortable.

The place also has a demon locust spawning pit – but that really isn’t a part of the manse architecture.

Charles’s modifications have transformed the Preceptor Of Ancient Ways into the Preceptor Of Ascending Minds (Cecelyene Manse-5) – upgrading the demesne and manse to rating-5 without changing the hearthstone (+6 construction points) and adding two sets of Enhancement Artifacts (+6 additional construction points). Those have been used to purchase…

A set of Alternate Locations (5) – five habitable, fertile, animal-populated, and welcoming planets scattered around a cluster of galaxies in an otherwise uninhabited hubble volume some 10 to the 40’th power light years away from earth – far, FAR, beyond the cosmic event horizon as seen from Earth. (Actually we’re still considering whether or not Alternate Locations and Gates should be on Cecylyene’s favored list; they certainly seem to suit her. If they are, the extra point will go to adding a few more planets to the list).

A full Control Room – replacing the Password Controls (+1). This is mostly to allow the inhabitants to shift planets when they need to and to operate the various artifacts, below.

Two sets of Integrated Utility Artifacts (6):

  • A Forge Of Souls (Artifact-5): A lesser version of the Well of Souls, only capable of supplying new souls for a few dozen planets. Like the Well of Souls, the souls created by the Forge will automatically attach themselves to the Loom of Fate, and enter a human-style reincarnation cycle.
  • A Lathe Of Souls (Artifact-5): This adjutant to the Forge Of Souls can (permanently) adjust new souls created by the Forge to bond properly with a wide variety of Uplifted Animal Species – granting them full sapience and ensuring that they will continue to reincarnate within their own species.
  • A Metamorphoses Chamber (Artifact-5): This room mutates creatures within it via channeling the energies of the host manse; thus it has no effect on essence-users, but its effects on those who lack that talent are a normal expression of creation’s laws, with the usual genetic developmental drawbacks and the ability to breed true. The Chamber can grant up to 12 points worth of positive mutations without cost, and can counterbalance up to +6 additional points of positive mutations with negative ones – but such mutations must be physically plausible.
  • A Molecular Assembler (Artifact-5): This facility can – given stocks of raw fiber, ore, wood, stone, and edible material – provide basic pioneering supplies (heavy clothing, tools, instruction books, knives, a few weeks worth preserved food, etc) for a group of with a magnitude of up to (host manse rank -1) per month.

Additional Convenience Functions:

  • Babysitting: Provided the supplies are available, the manse can effectively look after up to (Manse Rank Magnitude) youngsters – ensuring that they get bathed, fed, and cared for.
  • Tutoring: Sapient beings resident in the manse will soon find themselves picking up a basic education suitable for grade (manse rank).
  • Test Kits: The manses facilities allow it’s residents to invest a little work to identify minerals, toxic and edible plants, and similar basic environmental data.
  • Automatic Archiving: The manse keeps records of your test results, research projects, and other records for you – and keeps them neatly organized as well.

Additional Archival Subjects:

  • Fundamentals of Civilization – a set of early industrial-era technical manuals, a good science encyclopedia, and basic thaumaturgical handbooks. All in all, a mere thirty or forty volumes – but quite invaluable for building a new colony.
  • Architecture and Engineering – how to build buildings, plan cities, and construct arches, trusses, bridges, and similar practical structures.

After they’d had a chance to look over their upgraded facility both Watoka Danaj and Odirle were simultaneously impressed and disturbed by the ease with Charles had added those functions to the manse – and installed ten powerful artifacts to boot! That should have required tearing down the entire place, re-engineering the demesne, and rebuilding (tearing it down and rewriting the catechism if you’d gone as deeply into Cecelyene charms as Danaj had) – not… modifying the manse on the fly to accommodate the geomantic shifts! Breaking Odirle’s wards was impressive as well; he’d spent quite a lot of time on those, and deployed a lot of powerful enhancements – and he certainly hadn’t been expecting some child to waltz right through them! And so obliging… And so willing to talk, and obviously opposed to hurting people, destroying things, or even… making people unhappy. So ODD in a being of his obvious power!

They petitioned the Unquestionable, to get his Essence signature analyzed; they would know if he was, as suspected, another primordial power…

The answer on that wouldn’t come back for quite some time. After all, Charles had blurred things quite a lot and his true essence signature was still perfectly concealed… But what did show wasn’t a true Primordial signature – far too un-unified and far, FAR too many essence types! – but the new (Adenic) essence type was interesting, and a personal essence type was typical of a well-developed world-body and Primordials. The creature accompanying him was obviously bound to his essence, and was equally obviously a manse-emanation – if one of quite incredible power for a manse-emanation. It… might or might not be being infused with the new essence type to truly become a part of it’s creator and BECOME a true Deva, but personal geomancy clearly indicated a world-body anyway!

Whatever this being was – or was becoming – he was definitely hiding SOMETHING.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXV – The Sands of Time and Space

Elephants in the Okavango Delta seen from a ma...

Elephants in the Okavango Delta

Charles considered… so the powers of the Silver Sands were blocking communications? Probably by diverting them into some dimensional pocket? Well… might as well just knock! He was at the sanctum entrance after all!

Huh! That felt like… sandstone, rather than riverbed sand, and had the same energy-signature as the Silver Sands, and his greetings weren’t getting any answer!

Probing… revealed that silver sandstone was walling off all the entrances to the sanctum. He could get through with a little work – and it seemed that the god was in a well-appointed cave, decorated in local fashion, pacing back and forth frantically. Communication was not currently possible – and, on the desk (for all sanctums were required to have writing implements regardless of the owner’s literacy or lack of hands), there was a huge stack of letters. Evidently the poor delta god was sealed off from Yu-Shan as well as Earth!

Charles started examining the barriers… very much magical, and rather durable, although not immune to Sapphire Countermagic or a really potent physical attack. There were several alarms on the work too; the finesse on them approached his own skill in thaumaturgy, although they were only equivalent to Terrestrial-tier spells. Someone was really very good!

He put up his own wards against alarms being sent – and started negating alarms and then cracking the spells. After all… blocking the message was likely to be a good deal easier than removing the spell without letting it send it…

That came to… 9d Int, 15d Skill (both at the boosted limit), 3d Specialty (at the limit), 8d Tool (using his staff grace as a superior thaumaturgic wand), 8d Artifact (at the limit), 5d Hearthstone (also at the limit), 3d (thaumaturgic Fortune boost, at the limit), +1d (stunt), with a Target Number of 3 (Spellstone and Artifact, at the Limit) for a total of 52d +14 (Adenic Manse Boost) successes. The only thing left that he could throw in would be his First Excellency – and he didn’t want to be that obvious.

It was still CLOSE though; either somebody really WAS close to his skill when it came to thaumaturgy or they’d been maintaining the effect regularly. They might be similarly focused of course, but they might just be OLD enough to have accumulated every possible toy in the field! That could be a problem… If they were THAT old… they’d probably have lots of power in areas where he didn’t have it! That really didn’t bode well…

Still, the alarms were disabled, it was time to take another check for traps and such – and then to crack the barriers!

He couldn’t find any traps – but he set up his own defenses anyway before starting in on the dismantling – and then a comfortable pavilion… after all, someone had gotten sealed in the sanctum once, it would be silly to go in and await a repeat performance!

(Charles) “Hello!”

(Alefi, God of the Okavango Delta) “Hello, young one! Thank goodness you’re here!”

(Charles) “What’s going on? Somebody seems to have locked you in!”

(Alefi) “Well, it started when one of the cattle gods lost a herd of his antelopes. Please, sit down and have some water…”

He summoned some purified water from the river using a basin…

(Alefi) “Then Resolute Bison started losing buffalo, Cerulean Runner lost some her wildebeest, and no one knew who was doing it! It kept them from harassing me, which I did appreciate, but it was worrying indeed! But Adina was the one who tracked them down, when they went after her warthogs!” (He leaned in, a bit of water sloughing off his robes.) “Strange creatures, hidden behind illusions, but covered in black carapaces! Since I had the most connections with the Terrestrial Bureaucracy, I was the one chosen to write the warning prayers to Heaven – and that was when the Silver Sands sealed my doors. I’ve been stuck in there ever since – for several weeks.”

(Charles) “Ah! Well, the warnings to Yu-Shan should be going off now that the seals are down… I guess I’ll have to go look into the creatures with carapaces! Where were they?”

(Alefi) “Adina tracked them further into the desert, a few hours to the northeast. She said there were many wards, and a… oh, what do my worshipers call those? Ah yes, a chain link fence! Whoever constructed them also put up that alarm ward, from the difficulty she had breaking them.”

(Charles) “They were very good!… Hm… You seemed to be expecting me to come by… Why?”

(Alefi) “A young western Sidereal visited me on unrelated business a couple of weeks before I was sealed up. He suggested that I speak with you. I could use assistance dealing with the cattle gods after this . . . they are VERY greedy and selfish sometimes!”

(Charles) “Hm… Let me guess; they all want more water than is available, and they aren’t supporting you in maintaining it? I can see you must be having a hard time with it!”

(Alefi) “Indeed! How can grass grow if the rivers and swamps are empty?”

Charles checked with Elzeard… Elzeard had been planning to add more water to the Kalahari, like the Sahara. Would it hurt to add more here, and where would be best if it wouldn’t?

Elzeard informed him that it wouldn’t hurt a bit. He’d have to make some adjustments on Lake Ngami to optimize things, but nothing too big.

(Charles) “Well then… First thing we need is to set you up with a reliable water source! That should make things much easier!”

He checked for domains in the area. It was a lot easier to start with something!

(Alefi, clapping his hands – whereupon a bit of water splashed out from the impact.) “Wonderful!”

Hm… the potential for a water demesne, simply because it was the most significant source of water in the area – but nothing active. Oh well! A little more work then!

(Charles) “Right then! Demesne over here… privacy wards… would you prefer many springs, regular rain, or just an upwelling river?”

(Alefi) “Long ago, this region was a lake. My predecessor told me this shortly before wandering off in despair. While I would enjoy seeing the lake once more… I know it would attract too much attention. Springs it is!”

(Charles) “Well, that’s simple! It will just become a lake a few years down the line… The entire area will be getting wetter soon anyway! I’ll put in a water-producing manse with some utility functions!”

After a short discussion Charles cheerily upgraded the Demesne and started planning.

Alefi was actually worshipped among the local Bantu and Bushman groups, so he asked Charles to put in some things for their benefit; he wanted them to be competitive with foreign peoples, so they could turn the tide against some of the recent troubles. Of course, he defined “recent” as “in the past couple of centuries”…

Charles added a second set of conveniences then, mostly to let the local tribesmen live comfortably and happily in their traditional manners.

Given that the Crimson Banner Executioner had asked him to leave communications open for the moment (so that she could see what he was up to and monitor what he might plan to do about the Silver Sands), she had some comments too…

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Better add some way to hide the place for now, too! Otherwise every warlord in Africa will be trying to take that place for their own! Even the ones who aren’t Terrestrials or God-Bloods can be a pain!”

That was a good idea! He threw in the pocket-dimension effect and some wards to keep hostile people away, and a super-extended zone of influence…

The Okavango Springs Manse featured many clean upwelling springs (part of two sets of Magical Conveniences – springs, fertility control for the area, rapid plant growth, enough lift so that the manse area would remain above water as the lake grew, disease-curing for the various unpleasant diseases of Africa to help keep the waters clean and usable, and a set for the local tribesmen – improved hunting and fishing, food preservation, educational access, some minor thaumaturgy bonuses, and assistance in their daily tasks, 1+ 1), a more secure Yu-Shan quality set of sanctums (Spiritual Stronghold and Ambrosial Font, 2 + 2), a boost for any local gods who cooperated in maintaining the manse and the area (the usual +1 effective essence and three extra charms, Dance of the Dragon Lords, 4), Integrated Utility Artifacts (ward anchors for some security boosts and a way to keep hostile people away from the area, the pocket-dimension generation effect, and improved communications, 3), a set of Archives (courtesy of Galileo, Elzeard, and some of the others) on Ecological and Agricultural Management, African Cultures and Traditional Lifestyles, Plants and Animals of Africa, Village Thaumaturgy, and Medicine (all hooked up to the teaching effects of course, 2), a five-miles-per-level Super-Extended Zone of Influence (5), a Control Room (2), and Indestructibility (5) at a net cost of 27 points – paid for by the base allotment (-10), it generating no Hearthstone worth mentioning (-5), a full set of Integrated Enhancement Artifacts (-9), and it being quite Uninhabitable (due to not really having an “inside” to inhabit, -3). Physically… it was mostly a collection of stone outcroppings, extending deeply into the earth.

(Charles) “There then! That should help a lot! I’ve kept the amount of water appearing in any one area relatively low – but the total across nearly two thousand square miles should be plenty to start the lake slowly refilling!”

(Alefi) “I had heard stories of how quickly Exalts could raise Manses – but not like this! You’ll always be welcome in these lands. I’ll make sure of it!”

(Charles) “Well I like manses! And thank you, it’s always nice to be welcome! Please let me know if anything else goes wrong though!”

(Alefi) “Of course… now that I can write letters again!”

The hearthstone was a mere glassy trinket of course – but it did make Alefi the controller of the Manse and first beneficiary of it’s powers…

Charles went to check on the other gods, particularly the one who found the carapace things. Alefit was more than happy to direct him to Adina’s sanctum. There are many warthogs there, shimmering under Essence sight. Touching them would be a bad idea right now, even if the males didn’t have impressive tusks…

(Charles) “Hello! Is Adina here?”

The sanctum itself was… connected to that bit of leather, hidden beneath a bush, and guarded by a particularly scarred and burly male warthog. It was… also sealed up, but not warded like the last one.

Charles was cautious anyway – which was just as well; it did have a bit of contact poison on the leather. Very deadly to a mortal, and certainly annoying to most Exalts! Not very pleasant for a god to touch, either – mote drain AND a magically-destructive toxin… Still, it was easy enough to transmute THAT away!

And the warthog was eying him with some intelligence.

(Charles) “Allo! I’m here to see Adina!”

(Kefri, actually speaking – and in much better Old Realm than Charles would normally expect from a Warthog) “I’m Kefri! I try to protect the herd why Mother is away (sadly) but I couldn’t protect her!”

(Charles) “What happened to her?”

(Kefri) “Bad men with shiny skin that chips tusks came and stole my brothers and sisters. Mother tried to come out and stop them, but she could only bless us before one of them snatched her house from my mouth! He was covered in darkness with silver sparks!”

(Charles) “Huh… And he put barriers on her sanctum? Did he lock her inside?”

(Kefri) “Yes! I tried to yank it from him, but one of the other men stuck a poison on it that made my insides and magic parts burn! I’m sorry!”

(Charles, applying healing magic to remove the lingering effects) “No need to be sorry! It’s not your fault they were more powerful than you!”

Time for privacy wards again, alarm containment wards, another very good look – and careful cracking of those barriers – which was easy enough given his power sources and a little time to work in. He nearly get trampled by an unusually large female warthog leaping out afterwards thought!

(Charles) “Hello!”

(Adina) “Where are they? SOMEBODY needs a goring!”

(Charles) “Uhm, not me please! I think they left some time ago…”

(Adina, glaring around) “Bother, they already left.”

(Charles) “I guess that I’m going to have to chase after them!”

(Adina) “Double bother! Kefri, how many did we lose this time?”

(Kefri) “Eight, mother! I’m sorry…”

(Adina) “Don’t worry… there was no way you could oppose that power.”

(Crimson Banner Executioner – who found it hard to believe that Charles was apparently quite seriously considering going after an Infernal on behalf of WARTHOGS) “Charles… if you’re going after an Infernal, even one, I’m going to have to insist on SOMEBODY accompanying you.”

(Charles) “Well, it does look like it doesn’t it? Who would you suggest? Because whoever it is is not being nice at ALL.”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “No… and if they’re abducting cattle, I have a BAD feeling about that. Here, let me take a look… huh, that’s weird. There’s already a document here for something like this. It says I’m to send… Righteous Hala? Well! I was going to come down myself – it’s been a while since I fought demons – but this is VERY official.”

(Charles) “Well, you can come if you want I suppose! I could make a gate!”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “And she is an experienced Full Moon, too. Righteous Hala it is then – but there’s nothing here saying I can’t join in! Let me get my swords…”

They were both down in about three hours. The Executioner had set her armor to look like an ordinary woman for the region – and Hala, of course, Charles could recognize despite her form at the moment!

(Hala) “The Executioner gave me a quick briefing. We’re going after a likely Infernal installation fifty miles to the north? And it sounds like a possible Malefactor, too… grrr…”

(Charles) “Well, they’re not being nice! They’re locking up the local gods and stealing the animals they look after!”

(Hala) “That’s horrible! They could be doing any number of things with those animals!”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “And the power readings on that Charm were worryingly high, as well… I’d say of the seventh rank. We should head off as quickly as possible.”

Adina provided some directions. She estimated that the fencing was about five miles in diameter – as were the wards it was behind.

(Charles) “Off we go! Would taking a ship be best? And that sounds like someone else is building manses!”

(Hala) “Let me guess, you’re going to pull one out of Aden? It would help!”

(Charles) “Well, they don’t get out much… so why not?”

He opened a gate to let a small starship through.

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “They?!?” (And then the ship popped out.) “OK, that should get us there pretty fast.”

Behind her mask, the Crimson Banner Executioner was boggling a bit at the Essence level… did the child make Devas for everything too? No wonder Mr. Jorgensen wanted tabs kept on him!”

(Charles) “Hello Tyrfing! This is Righteous Hala and this is Crimson Banner Executioner! And would you give us a lift? There’s somebody – probably an Infernal Exalt – who’s fairly powerful and is being quite mean over that way!”

(Tyrfing) “Of course Charles! Are you feeling up to that though? Infernals can be quite unpleasant!”

(Charles) “Uhm… I think so! Maybe I should ask Gothmug to come along? Do you think so Ms Hala?”

(Righteous Hala nodded) “We need all the help we can get on this one, I think! Infernals don’t grow like the rest of us do.”

(Charles) “OK!”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “I HOPE that this one doesn’t have that Shintai that makes them insubstantial. Charles can probably handle that, but it’s a pain!”

(Righteous Hala) “Right, Malefactor… probably a lot of cultists. We’ll have to deal with them too.”

She didn’t have to say “without killing or even hurting them too badly, because Charles is here and will not handle that well!”. The Crimson Banner Executioner could easily read that in her glance…

(Charles, boarding) “Well… off we go I guess! Oh, could anyone use any extra protections?”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “I could use some wards… normally I’d ask Meyers for some before leaving, but he’s been even more overworked than usual. Anti-detection, anti-demon, and… anti-bullet too, if you please! Oh yeah, and a telekinetic shield! Those are pretty handy!”

Charles set up those wards for everyone along the way.

(Charles) “Would you like some specialty protections?”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Hrm… if we’re going up against somebody with Cecelyne Charms, I wouldn’t mind some additional mental protections, just in case. Anti-sand stuff wouldn’t hurt either-they can sling it so hard it’ll flay humans to the bone.”

(Righteous Hala) “I’ll take the same; that sand is really hard to get out of your armor if it gets in there.”

(Charles) “Well, if you want you can attune yourself to one of the defense systems… It will cover mental influences, shaping, poisons, toxins, aging, disease, disabling effects, crippling effects, and bleeding and enhance your vitality… And here’s an anti-sand ward. If you want, these ward-sustaining amulets will let you put your wards back up automatically if they’re dispelled, but it would cost a few motes if you have to do it more than once or twice!”

It also covered extra mote gain and requiring special measures to kill you – but that was too much to bother explaining in an emergency.

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “No problem! I always try to keep a motestone on me just in case. And I’ll take that attunement, too . . . thank you very much!”

Righteous Hala took it too – although her Adenic Thaumaturgy already covered most of it, an extra layer of defenses never hurt.

(Charles) “You’re welcome!”

Gothmug was not very happy about Infernal intrusions at all; it was a clear violation of Earth’s security!

For the rest of the way, it was quite apparent that Hala and the Crimson Banner Executioner were watching each other as closely as they were watching Charles – although, considering that they were from separate factions, that was to be expected.

They soon approached a rather large area, warded against airplanes, birds, visual senses, and the other items that Charles would expect a secretive contemporary Manse to be warded against. The wards were quite potent! On a level with what he’d seen at Alefi’s sanctum. Still, nothing that would actually prevent them from going in… He checked for other wards and alarms and such too!

There was an alarm ward, as well, and a chain link fence. Beyond the chain link fence, the sand of the desert was silver.

(Charles) “Should we knock?”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Damn it… this is BAD! Knock? (She gave Charles an incredulous look) We need to do some recon first!”

(Charles) “Erm… Look with a telescope? I bet it’s abnormally far to the center…”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Well, that is one way to do it… and if this is what I think it is, there IS a cult around here somewhere.”

Tyrfing was an interstellar ship after all; there was PLENTY of magnification available.

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Okay… luckily for us, this area is still pretty much part of Creation. We need to make sure it doesn’t get any bigger. And to do that . . . Charles, we’re going to have to find the center and have you dispel it!”

(Charles) “Hmm… Oh yuck! It looks like the alarm ward goes off for people coming in who HAVEN’T eaten some sort of demon locust in the past few days… They come out of the ground, then die and they taste like a familiar beloved meal that you can’t quite identify. Attempting to bypass it with magic will also set it off – which will be hard to block if it alarms someone inside! By the time I could contain that, the alarm will already have been sent…

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “DEFINITELY somebody using Cecelyne Charms, then.”

(Charles) “I’m pretty sure I could break it, but it might sound the alarm anyway.”

(Righteous Hala) “We’ll just have to take that risk!”

Charles considered… An illusion of having eaten a demon locust probably wouldn’t fool a ward and you couldn’t really ward against wards; that was just another way of breaching it. About all he could do was to try and bypass it locally; that might be easier than trying to take down the whole thing… Dispelling it was!

He waved his wand in a sweeping circle like a glass-cutter while humming the theme music from Mission Impossible as little sparks of essence crackled down the length of the wand! He didn’t want to use the Solar Excellencies where people were watching, since they were obvious and fairly easy to spot as solar charms.

Once again, he actually had to push a bit to chop his way through the ward (even 63 successes was not enough to do it entirely cleanly…).

Righteous Hala and the Crimson Banner Executioner – in harmony for once – gave him such a LOOK… TV theme songs? Didn’t the child take ANYTHING seriously?

(Righteous Hala, shaking her head) “Part of the spell, I assume?”

(Charles) “Why not? Lots of mental energy behind those! And every little bit helps, even if it’s not on the scale of direct motonic manipulations!”

(Crimson Banner Executioner, sighing… after all, the was an explanation of sorts, but there were a lot of more sensible sources if you wanted a tiny bit of extra power in a spell. There was no need to be so… silly!) “Good enough for me… we should head through before someone catches us.”

Tyrfing did so.

Charles was almost unable to restrain the impulse to declaim “I am Oz the Great and Powerful! Who dares attempt to cross the Deadly Desert to reach my lands?!” – but if he did, the poor Crimson Banner Executioner’s head might explode…

Righteous Hala read THAT thought easily enough, and had to sigh; she was surprised only that Charles had REFRAINED, not that he’d been inclined to spout such a line…

It WAS rather arid in the area. It might not actually be Cecelyne, but they weren’t seeing any plants or animals in here! Deserts weren’t the most lush places in Creation, but you’d expect some!

There WAS a warning though… in Setswana, a contemporary language! It sounded like a native speaker too… It seemed to echo from the very land itself.

(Voice) “All right, who broke my wards? That doesn’t happen very often! Identify yourself at once.”

Charles had to call on Malinda’s linguistic talents to understand.

(Righteous Hala) “Arrgh…”

(Charles) “I did! We’re missing some piggies and things!”

(Voice) “Hmm… interesting. Well, you had best leave! As curious as I am about HOW you broke through – and without a blatant Essence signature at that! – I will be forced to oppose you if you go any further.”

(Charles, with considerable surprise) “Why? Is somebody making you?”

(Voice – also with some surprise) “No, but if I abandon it, there will be consequences I would rather not have to experience… and the area does hold some affection for me.”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Oh, damn it… you’re not an alien at all, are you?”

They were rapidly approaching a building in the distance, with walls and with minarets. Some other buildings were sinking into the silver sands, but not this one! Obviously enough, it was a rank-3 Cecelyne Manse – and there were people moving their way. They were hidden under illusions to look like normal Africans, but underneath they had shiny black carapaces and clawed hands. Fortunately, they didn’t fly…

The first sand-blasts started to target Tyrfing, but ran into some of Gothmug’s indestructible shields… so did the rockets that the defenders were firing. Still, fancier attacks could get around a simple barrier easily enough; Charles gave Tyrfing a Behemoth Cloak to help with those – but pretty much ignored the human defenders otherwise; they weren’t really doing anything effective.

There were many bursts of sand, frantic shots with rockets, and yelling in an alien language that Malinda didn’t bother translating; they weren’t saying anything very interesting. Still, the ones who’d realized that they were up against something utterly unexpected were hurrying back to the manse – not that Tyrfing wouldn’t get there well ahead of them; it was supersonic after all…

There was a suitable landing area in the courtyard, with its mosaics – but for the moment Charles and Tyrfing settled for hovering.

(Charles) “Uhm… what is it we need to do?”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Well, this place is right over the center of the area. I’d say if we can find the Hearthroom, we’re good to go.”

(Charles) “Oh; we need to wreck the manse? That’s not a good thing! Gothmug? Would you catch the people down there and send them to safe stasis for awhile?”

(Gothmug) “Certainly!”

Well, at least the child wasn’t suggesting taking them into Aden! Of course Charles didn’t want to kill them, but they’d need a lot of watching outside of stasis!

Charles, in fact, actually didn’t think that inviting them in would be a very good idea! The MechaGodzilla incident had taught him some caution about inviting in anyone who came along… Stasis in Elsewhere should be good though!

It wasn’t really any problem; Gothmug was more than capable of entrapping a bunch of humans, even if they were adapted to Malfeas.

(Righteous Hala) “This place… don’t be fooled by how pretty it is, Charles! I think that whoever-it-is will have it well-trapped and ready for an assault. Infernals who are tied to Cecelyne are pretty good planners!” (She grinned.) “Although I don’t think they’d count on somebody like you…”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Let’s not get cocky here. We don’t know what’s in there, For all we know, it could lead directly to Malfeas, and we’d be in big trouble.”

(Righteous Hala) “I do agree, although I doubt that most Infernals would be ready to deal with somebody with their own world body.”

(Charles) “But… will we have to damage it? It may have to go away to change the demesne…”

(Righteous Hala) “I’m sorry, Charles… it’s capping the place as well as any other Manse.”

(Charles) “Aw! I HATE breaking manses!

He took a good look at the geomancy and recorded it so that he could study it later, erected some wards against the upcoming blast, and swirled his wand – gathering threads of essence from the demesne. He didn’t really approve – but the Lions had shown him their memories of the Tenders doing it, and when you came right down to it, geomantic sabotage was a LOT easier than building up a demesne…

(Charles) “Hold on!” – as he sent bolts of disruptive essence snaking down into the geomancy of the area…

(Voice, after a shocked moment of evaluation) “Wait! If you do that, you will kill the pigs and other cattle! That IS what you came for, yes?”

(Charles) “Well, yes – but if you haven’t already done something nasty to them, they’re VERY unlikely to survive a fight over the place!”

(Voice) “Not all of them… and I DO NOT want to see this place destroyed! Will you leave it if we at least discuss things like civilized humans?”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Charles, look, it’s probably a trap.”

(Charles) “Well, that’s always possible… But she or he is ALREADY talking, it probably won’t get much worse on that front… (To the Infernal) So what are you proposing?”

(Voice) “I’ll give you the animals I stole, and… go to other worlds for what I need. I was just trying to stick closer to home. In return, I want you to leave this place alone.”

(Charles) “Hm… I’m NOT making a commitment here – but what is it you DO need? It might be possible to reach some sort of accommodation before resorting to explosions… And I take it that this place was home once?

The Crimson Banner Executioner was glad that the child wasn’t agreeing to that, since she and Hala couldn’t countenance Infernal incursions on Earth!

(Voice) “I was performing a project to uplift Earth’s animal species. They would make splendid colonists once given sapience and other adaptations – and my efforts so far have been fruitful.”

(Righteous Hala) “Waitaminute… that doesn’t sound like a Malefactor at all.”

(Charles, thoughtfully) “Well, there’s no reason why THAT wouldn’t work… you’d just need to design higher souls for them and set them up with a reincarnation cycle of their own!”

(Voice) “Exactly! My research has proven that if you perform certain thaumaturgical procedures, you can transmigrate human souls into animals. The original procedure was for dolphins, but I have adapted it to other species. And life in space would be much better than being stuck under this world’s contentious spirits, don’t you think?”

(Charles) “Well… that’s not fully inherited though! The souls just return to the human cycle, and the offspring are cleverer than normal – but not fully sapient. For that… they need souls of their own made for their own species!”

(Voice) “Indeed, and there lies the problem. But the worlds of the Empirical Galaxy are ill-suited to my research. The animals there, tainted by chaos as they are, are much harder to study and alter, and there is always the issue of Lunar and fae incursions! Fortunately, we had this installation here, set up for other reasons. I was able to adapt easily enough… and I already knew the lay of the land… Why don’t you come in? You seem much more rational than those buffoons in Yu-Shan.”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “HEY!”

Charles was considering… You could create souls with simple Wyld Shaping. The Well of Souls did it a LOT, but that was just scaling up… Wait, was IT having problems covering the expanded universe? He needed to check on that.. Anyway, anchoring souls into the Loom so that they could reincarnate was a little harder, but could be done with the right manse power or artifact or by the Sidereals… Souls COULD be designed to do it themselves on an individual scale (it was only exerting a minor power after all), but otherwise you’d need to either reprogram the Loom or build a secondary one… He wasn’t up to THAT yet. So; a soul-well capable of supplying souls with the self-attachment option for animal-folk on a planetary scale would probably be rating-5 and might need to be per species…

(Charles) “So why do you want to spread animal-colonists – instead of mutated humans – around?”

(Voice) “The universe has enough humans that have deviated from my masters’ intent. Animals, on the other hand, have not been raised to sapience in mass for several eras… and many do have characteristics useful for such efforts.”

(Charles, to the others) “Uhrm… is that a problem in itself?”

(Crimson Banner Executioner, with exasperation) “Oh, for crying out loud… it’s an INFERNAL MANSE, a beachhead of the Endless Desert, on Earth! It needs to be taken out!”

(Righteous Hala) “I was about to ask why we were still talking myself.”

(Voice) “So irrational… I have no idea what the boy is – I’ve been attempting to analyze him for a while now – but I know that he’s more reasonable than either of you!”

(Charles, consideringly, to his companions) “Well, that’s true enough! It is very awkward and will cause constant conflict as long as it’s HERE. So perhaps it should be somewhere else?”

(Righteous Hala, after a moments pause. Surely he didn’t mean to…) “What’s your idea?”

(Charles) “A set of upgrades – some temporary, some permanent – and a relocation I think! (To the Infernal) Would that work out? I promise, the permanent upgrades will be useful for your project!”

(Voice) “To be honest… this isn’t my Manse or cult territory. One of my friends owns this place. Would he still have access to Earth?”

(Charles) “Uhm… I think that’s the sticking point for my friends here… but if they insist I blow the place up, he won’t have access anyway!”

(Voice) “Excuse me for a moment, I need to interrupt his ceremony, and he won’t be amused.”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Ugggh… it’s going to spread.”

(Charles) “That’s awfully coincidental timing… Well, I need to plan for a minute…”

And then another voice popped up – speaking Old Realm, in the Malfean dialect.

(Watoka Danaj) “Who dares pull Watoka Danaj from his followers?”

The Emanseapation…

Charles had his plan almost ready… Upgrade the Demesne and Manse to Rank-5 and keep the hearthstone the same. Adding in a couple of sets of enhancement artifacts (-6) would give him a reasonable amount of power (12) to work with… Enough to add a set of Alternate Locations (a set of five habitable, but VERY distant planets – about ten to the fortieth power light years out, 5) along with a couple of sets of Integrated Utility Artifacts (adjustable soul-makers for some animal people with the self-attachment option, along with some helpful biosculpting systems, 6), and upgrade it’s existing Password Activations to a full-scale Control Room (+1).

Then he could use a temporary boost to add Alternate Locations again (here) and extend it’s existing Zone of Influence so that they could take their city AND almost all the sand along, jump the manse, city, and most of the sands out to their new set of locations, remove THIS location from the system, and re-orient and re-cap the demesne to make sure that it couldn’t ever come back! That should work just fine!

(Charles) “And I guess that’s me!”

(Watoka Danaj) “A fellow Earth human broke Odirle’s wards!? You were just talking to him! No wonder he looked sour! This is unexpected. Very well, what do you want? He said you had a Sidereal and Lunar – but were not here to destroy the place.”

Charles got the sensation that he was being examined in quite extensive detail!

(Charles) “See, now that Yu-Shan knows you’re here, this could get very messy! They’re very stubborn about not allowing this on earth – but there’s lots of room in the cosmos, so would it be all right if I upgraded and moved the place? That way everyone will be happy! Otherwise they’ll want me to blow it up, and that’s no fun!”

(Watoka Danaj) “My people will not be amused if you move us into one of Isidoros’ reflections. I believe you call them black holes?”

(Charles) “Those are no good for colonizing! You need habitable planets for that!”

(Watoka Danaj) “Well… I had hoped to keep the holy city on Earth, but if individuals like you are running around, that isn’t feasible any more. How far out are we talking here?”

(Charles) “How about… maybe 10 to the 40’th light years? That’s still within the inner… er… 1/10 to the 180’th power percent of the universe, but it should be plenty to keep everyone from arguing!

(Watoka, sighing) “Not optimal. Nonetheless, better than being killed or ejected entirely. I would see the locations of these worlds before I make my decisions, and don’t dare try to trick me.”

(Charles) “Well… how about these five? (He showed them). Those should work nicely!”

(Odirle) “The planetary surveys are accurate, Danaj… and certainly much better than Malfeas.”

Well of course they were nice planets! Even with earth-style animals! It wasn’t like there was any shortage!

(Watoka Danaj) “Hmph! I have no choice but to accept. Mark my words, though; this will not be the last time you see me on your planet – if you even know I’m there!”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Ha! We’ll be ready for you!”

(Charles) “Well, probably not! But it avoids trouble for the time being, and that might be long enough to solve things more permanently!”

(Watoka Danaj) “Very well then!”

(Charles) “OK then! Would you send out the remaining normal animals? There are lots more on the new planets anyway!”

And a telepathic message was coming in…

(Odirle, mentally) “Hmm… Charles, is it? Danaj agrees with me that you’re shockingly reasonable, and he said he wanted to discuss something with you some time. He was evasive about what it was, but he’s like that. Would you be interested in a meeting on one of these planets?”

(Charles, mentally) “Why not? I may have to send a remote though! I have lots to do!”

(Odirle, mentally) “As do we… and a remote would be fine. Preferable, even!”

(Charles) “OK then! I’ll send you off… you DID did you want to take the city along, right?”

(Odirle) “I think Danaj would insist.”

(Charles) “OK then!”

(Odirle) “Sigh… I will miss Botswana, but it was good to see the old country again.”

(Charles) “I’m sorry, but maybe later!”

Charles let Gothmug collect the animals they sent out – about half of the ones they’d taken, although that seemed like an honest accounting of the ones that hadn’t yet been tinkered with – and got to work on the manse! As usual, it only took a minute or two…

He sent the Manse off… while the Infernals made absolutely certain that they were getting the right readings while analyzing him. That was easy enough to detect, but then nobody else had been able to analyze him so far… It might waste some of their time!

The Crimson Banner Executioner sighed… No matter what, the boy tried to fix it with a manse…

Even Charles would have had to admit that – from the outside – he DID look pretty hopelessly obsessed! But manses were SO handy! Besides, he’d never even actually seen a geomantic explosion and he hated them already!

Righteous Hala, on the other hand, was looking rather proud! Charles had gotten two powerful Infernals far away from Earth without a geomantic explosion. Given that Charles hated killing people or destroying Manses… that was one of the best outcomes she could have hoped for!

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “That takes care of the Yozi taint… my superiors are not going to believe this!”

She took pictures, just so that she had some extra proof!

(Charles) “Well, I still have to clean up the remaining desert, put a manse on it, and return the remaining animals, but that will be simple enough!”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “No problem… I’m pretty sure you could handle that on your own. Are you going to stay with him, Hala?”

(Charles) “Anyway… I’m glad that worked out with no fighting! People would have gotten hurt!”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “I DO like a good fight, but that could have been nasty…”

(Righteous Hala, after thinking) “He should be safe enough here on Earth. But it’s been a while since I’ve spoken to him.”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Yeah… I’d better go file my report…”

(Charles) “I made a recording; would a copy help!

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Thanks! I’ll take that…”

She headed back towards the gate she’d entered through.

Charles headed back to return the various animals… Hm! Nobody had asked about the captured cultists!

He asked Righteous Hala what to do about them!

(Righteous Hala) “From the looks of them, they’re Gigeues! They’re descended from humans unlucky enough to get stuck in Malfeas. The carapaces are for resisting Ligier’s light without protective clothing. The claws… well, Malfeas is a pretty dangerous place. Other than that, and probably being nasty sorts to begin with, they’re as human as you or me!”

(Charles) “Well… should I change them back to normal humans – or just plant them on a planet somewhere?”

(Righteous Hala) “I’d go with transferring them to another planet – if that Danaj is a Malefactor, and they still want to hang around him, they’ll pray and he might answer! And THAT’S why I’m glad we didn’t have to fight an entire cult today! Thanks, Charles and Tyrfing!”

(Tyrfing) “You’re welcome! If you ever need a lift again, just call me! It’s fun to get out!”

(Charles) “You’re welcome! Thank you for coming along! That could have been very touchy!”

(Righteous Hala) “Even more so if you hadn’t defused it… Anyway, let’s get these animals back to their gods!”

It was… good to know somebody who could teleport Manses that far… and was a decent person! Even if it had been geomantic judo – making the manse use it’s OWN power to teleport itself and he probably couldn’t have done it directly (although he just might have been able to find a way somehow) it was still impressive both in the lateral thinking and in the power level… even if it always did seem to go back to “hit it with a manse!”.

The Infernals would probably find a way back to Earth eventually, but it probably wouldn’t be for awhile and they’d have to build a new power base – and they had something new to consider anyway. Suddenly there were individuals on Earth who were both not Yozi cultists and willing to be reasonable with them – and at least one of them was an absurdly powerful geomancer and had enough raw power to have devas accompanying him, and in him – and untainted devas, too! That was something that they couldn’t ignore…

And on top of that, he’d been… quite willing to help them get what they wanted, and to keep Siderals and Lunars from attacking them… and the Exalts had LISTENED to him too. They might have objected more to being moved, but the sheer shock had been keeping them off balance! That was not at all how they expected such a meeting to play out! Danaj had been expecting to marshal his fellow aliens against the invading forces while Odirle used his telekinetic powers to make barriers and cause trouble! They hadn’t been expecting the situation to be resolved peaceably, albeit far from where they wanted to be. Had – after thirty thousand years – Yu-Shan or the Incarnae come up with something new of their own? What WAS the boy? Could he really be a new Primordial? No one quite knew WHAT such a creature might look like after all and he did show most of the more blatant signs!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXIV – Cell Phones and Silver Sands

Español: Samsung Galaxy R (i9103)

Yes, Exalted has gods for EVERYTHING.

Next up was the Air manse… It had turned out that handing out universal skills would involve too much mental feedback – at least when it involved the Elemental Pole – so communications it would have to be!

The symmetry requirements called for a location in the pacific ocean; there were several that would do – but Guam was just about right! Hopefully there’d be someone suitable locally to give it to…

Hm! It did have a really good good communications system for its size, with high-speed internet access widely available! That was a very good sign; perhaps there was some natural affinity to work with – or someone was favoring it for their own interests…

Huh. It also counted as US domestic for the postal service?

Anyway… the manse would need to be atop a high, rocky, point – hidden in the usual pocket realm – and would consist mostly of fields of force and patterns of flowing air… It would improve communications (including allowing interstellar links – if with a bit of delay once you got out of the solar system – and for links to pass through gateways), and would make it easier for normal people to learn languages (almost to the point of universal communications, at least in English, since he could imprint at least one pattern on it), and to learn to read and write, worldwide – if only due to the increase in Air Essence levels!

A bit of inquiring showed that the god of a particular cell phone model had set up shop there. He wasn’t overly powerful, but he enjoyed the climate – and the comparatively high level of the communications networks didn’t hurt either.

Charles called him to ask for an interview; he didn’t give out his number, but prayer always worked; it just had to be directed to Eloquent Star, god of the Samsung Galaxy S3.

(Eloquent Star) “Hi! You’ve reached Eloquent Star, god of the Samsung Galaxy S3! Would you like to know about the features of this device?”

(Charles) “Oh, actually I’d like to offer you an upgrade!”

(Eloquent Star) “Darn! Nobody ever wants to know about the features! They’re really great too! It even responds when you tell it to answer a call! Anyway… I’ve heard of you! Go ahead! This should be interesting!”

(Charles) “Well… Since you’re the god of the Samsung Galaxy 53, it seems appropriate to link you – and through you, them – up with an enhancement plan allowing interplanetary calls and interstellar texting!”

(Eloquent Star) “Wait, seriously? Now I know you’ve done crazy things in the past, but that tops them all! What you’re telling me would mean I wouldn’t be obsolete for a very long time!”

(Charles) “Well, why not? I need SOMEBODY to look after the setup!”

(Eloquent Star) “Why don’t you come down here and explain that setup in more detail? The weather’s great today. Besides, the god of the Chamorro language is visiting and I’m tired of grabbing a local to translate for me.”

Huh? Oh, that was a quirk of the language gods: they didn’t speak Old Realm!

(Charles) “Certainly!”

He dropped by. Guam WAS very nice – as well as VERY isolated physically… Oh, there was a thought! He could set up a gate to one of the nicer, really isolated, uninhabited, pacific islands so that the various “pets” and such could at least visit earth when they wanted to!

Anyway… Eloquent Star rented a place on one of the beaches. None of the locals were aware that a god lived on their island, although the people who had talked to him thought that he worked for Samsung. He certainly talked about their phone all the time! He and Maisa, god of Chamorro, were sitting on the deck. He waved as he saw Charles approaching!

(Charles) “Hello!”

(Eloquent Star) “Hey, great! You actually came down from… wherever you were! That’s service!”

(Charles) “Why not?”

Eloquent Star had heard about how obliging Charles was! Oh, this should be entertaining to listen to… it did get boring sometimes. Guam wasn’t very big, and it was hard to meet fellow gods there if they didn’t know how to fit in. And judging from what his searches on the Yu-Shan internet had shown… whatever-it-was was more likely than not to work, too!

(Charles) “Anyway… I need to put up a manse here, linked to the old Elemental Pole of Air, to balance the planetary geomancy again! That will mean that I’ll need someone to keep an eye on the place and that a LOT of air essence will be flowing through here – and boosting communications! It might as well be properly channeled!”

(Eloquent Star) “I don’t know much about ancient history, but I do know when somebody’s asking me to do something. So how often am I going to have to visit the place? And can you translate that for him? (Indicating Maisa) He’s got better local connections than me-even if this sounds like it’s in my domain.”

(Charles, doing so) “Certainly! Now I was planning to put it on Guam – so it should be pretty handy for you anyway – and include some special conveniences for you, as if you were residing in Yu-Shan, as compensation for your time!”

(Maisa) “I will need to see the plans for this as well. It sounds like it will affect the people of the Mariana Islands greatly, even outside of Guam.”

Charles was happy enough to show them.

(Eloquent Star) “Have you done anything like this before? This is pretty big! Like, even I can tell big. I might have to text this to the other Samsung gods if this works.”

(Charles) “Fairly often! I kind of specialize in Geomancy and Manses!”

(Maisa) “Incredible… Though something like this would be hard to hide on the geomantic scale.”

(Charles, pointing) “Oh, that’s what this section is about… It would still tip the planetary energy balance, but the source will be near-impossible to pinpoint!”

(Maisa) “Wonderful. Even the Essence sensitives here will not be able to find it.”

(Charles) “Well… Shall I put it up? There’s a suitable small demsne fairly nearby!”

(Maisa, to Eloquent Star) “Shall we back this, young one? There will be a most significant influx of… your domain into the islands once this is known, but I do hate to see speakers of my language leaving.”

(Eloquent Star) “Hey, he had me on with not becoming obsolete! You older gods have no idea how fast that happens with us techies!”

Maisa just looked a bit confused. Technology gods…

(Charles, cheerfully) “That would be a “yes” on his part I think!”

(Maisa) “Oh! I see. Shall we head to Lamlam then? It is the highest point on the island.”

That was the only air demesne on the island actually – although there was a water demesne close to the oceanic trench. They were both only level one though. Still, it was off to the mountain, establish privacy, upgrade the demesne, and create the place!

Charles had an odd feeling that that including more Wyld energy in the place would be fun, and make things more vibrant! But… not this time; it needed to match the existing two for balance!

Elsewhere, there was a faint sense of disappointment. Still, it had been worth a shot! Even better… there’d been very little resistance to the idea other than “balance” – and the place seemed to be set to include wyld energy for wyld revocation and FTL communications anyway!

(Charles) “And there you are!”

There was applause from Star’s own Samsung Galaxy S3 phone. Maisa just looked contented that nothing bad had happened. An awful lot of his language’s remaining speakers were from here after all!

(Charles, catching that thought) “Hey, I try to make very sure that nothing bad happens when I fix things! That just makes more work!”

(Maisa) “Commendable.”

He told the story of when Guam was a bit bigger… before the local level four Manse had exploded. That demesne was now in the Mariana Trench.

(Charles, disapprovingly) “That was VERY sloppy of somebody!”

(Maisa) “Indeed. Which is why I will be watching this place closely.”

(Charles) “Well, if there’s trouble somehow (and the place WAS indestructible and reliant on the geomancy of the pole, not so much locally) call me and I’ll come fix it up!”

(Eloquent Star) “No problem! Hey, is that a transdimensional cell phone?”

(Charles) “Yep! It’s an easy function to add really!”

(Eloquent Star) “Does it let you transfer data back-to-back?”

(Charles) “If you want!”

(Eloquent Star) “Heh. Artifacts. No brand, but ALWAYS have all the features! I’ve GOT to get into that domain!”

He shook his head a bit sadly… The God of Artifact Cell Phones position was occupied, and would be for a long time! No obsolescence there!

(Charles) “It is a handy one I think!”

(Eloquent Star) “Anyway… I’m going to test this place out! Not sure who I’ll call, but dialing random numbers should get me something. Maisa, are you in?”

Maisa shrugged. He had no idea what the silly phone god was talking about, but it sounded like something he’d need to watch.

(Eloquent Star) “Unless Charles here knows any interstellar numbers?”

(Charles) “Hrm… Not offhand I think… Oh wait! There are some for the Sidereals… they tend to be busy though. But there are a couple for Lunars and things…”

Eloquent Star was up for just about anything! A younger Sidereal or Lunar would be great.

Charles referred him to one; he had a few numbers, and being able to call earth directly might be convenient for them too!

The young Half Moon Eloquent Star eventually called was quite surprised to be receiving a call from Earth… and not from an artifact phone either. They spent some time conversing about trivial things until the Lunar had to go for business.

(Charles) “Well that works nicely! Only one more to set up!”

(Maisa) “Well, good luck with that.”

(Charles) “Thank you!”

Charles headed for Africa – Botswana to be precise. A low-end but developing economy, with a fairly high potential for solar energy but no notable local development in that area… Of course, the power of the quasar galaxies was on an entirely other scale – but fortunately only a minuscule amount of that near-limitless energy was getting imported!

At least as of yet.

Hm… Ixiah had heard rumors that the god of the Okavango Delta was looking for a new position; cattle grazing was pressing that area hard, and some of the gods involved with that were in good with Ahlat. The desertification hitting the nation was not helping that. Still, a cartel was traditional for energy resources of course… Perhaps a group?

There was a Fire Aspect family in Gaborone – the capital. They kept a pretty low profile for that elemental affinity, even considering Terrestrial practices . . . but they’d supposedly kept the government among the most honest in Africa. Corruption was so often bad for economic development, after all. Well, a delta god was familiar with the flow of things, and electrical power is just a more abstract form of flow… and the fire aspects would be good at managing the place in particular!

Charles headed for the Okavango first. He needed to know if the local god was really looking for another position!

The delta didn’t actually flow into any body of water; when it was moist, it was also a swamp… long ago there had been a lake. Oh dear… the poor god was probably just barely hanging on! In fact, it looked like – if he were not working his rear off for a god – the area would be a barren desert. As it was… there was some greenery, and rather a lot of wild cattle.

Well, Elzeard WAS working on adding water to the Kalahari… things should be improving for him soon anyway – but Charles stopped by to see just how desperate he was – and to make sure that he knew that more water WAS coming.

Oddly enough, the actual location where the sanctum entrance was… was an oasis, and currently had rather a lot of antelope eating the green grass. The water was clean and appealing in the thick heat – but it was easy enough to see that there were more antelopes than the place would normally be able to handle. That… wasn’t at ALL natural! Someone was working hard… Cattle gods versus the Delta god? They ought to see that they’re mutually dependent!

Ixiah… knew that divine politics was a complex thing. He thought that one of them might want to have the position for reasons of his own. How better than to make Heaven think that the current position holder couldn’t do his job?

Charles tried to get in touch – a simple prayer was worth a try before getting weird – and found that it was… blocked.

That wasn’t nice at ALL! Tracing the source took several minutes – but it turned out to be not a god at all! The essence had the tinge of silver sands.

Uh-oh! Hiding in the Kalahari? Was this where the sand that the glassblower had had came from? There was only one type of Essence that Charles knew of that was affiliated with silver sands…

The source was fifty miles to the north. Who’d be in charge of… Ah! The Subsidiary Convention on Demons, a sub-convention of the Bureau of Destiny’s Convention on Essence Wielders.

Charles placed a call to them; they might be some of the ones looking into those weapons too!

That eventually got him through to someone who’s features he couldn’t really make out… He’d heard of that particular artifact! That was the Crimson Banner Executioner armor, readjusted for a Creation where even that armor’s innate abilities are not enough to keep discreet!

(Charles) “Hello!”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Ah, Mr Ward! It must be something important for you to be calling the Convention on Demons… I hope.”

(Charles) “Well… I was picking up this (he sent a scan) signature here in Africa, interfering with the local gods, and I thought that I ought to ask you about it! As last I’d heard… those signatures hadn’t been spotted on Earth for quite some time!”

(She – although had Blossom of Lost Dreams not previously told him that the current Crimson Banner Executioner was a woman, he wouldn’t have known it was a she – looked) “Agggh… I had hoped Antarctica was the last we’d see of those things. Right! It sounds like you’re dealing with a Malefactor, or somebody who’s cozied up to Cecelyne too much! I’ve got good news for you, though; you can probably countermagic that.”

(Charles) “Oh good!”

(Crimson Banner Executioner) “Thing is… you do that, and they’ll probably come calling for you. They do that weird ‘a god am I’ stuff. Peh! And get those cattle out of there, too!” (From the tone… she knew what was going on with THAT already.)

(Charles) “OK!”

Sadly, the session was called at that time due to fatigue…

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice, Session CXXIII – The Celestial Lions and the Hands of Sorrow

Tai Shan

Outside the Dome, the rear entrance is well camoflagued…

Charles was considering… he still had a couple of elemental manses to install, and some planning to finalize, and picking up whatever-it-was for Gaia, and he really needed to try to find something more reliable than Wyld Stunts to use to expand his powers across Yu-Shan, and it would be a good idea to get as much more information as possible, and to get everyone organized to assist…

Come to think of it, that last bit was probably going to take awhile for them to get used to! He’d better get on that next, before he would up having to try to evacuate Yu-Shan! Otherwise there might well be TOO much chaos – geomantic, social, and political alike – for him to manage… To start with, he was going to need the Tenders, Overseers, Celestial Lions, and some of the Geomancy Gods. Considering that the Tenders and Overseers protected and promoted geomantic structures that were pretty blatantly bad for most gods, that was going to be a rather contentious group to mediate.

Still… giving Yu-Shan’s world-body multiple aspects would keep them all separated until they could all learn to get along! According to all his calculations, and to the geomancy gods, Yu-Shan waking up shouldn’t be a direct problem, and enlarging the world-body SHOULD work – not that there was any way to be totally sure. Still, at worst… (not that it was easy to tell, Primordials were nothing if not individualistic) it looked like there might be an additional aspect or two. Charles HAD been hoping that “five” was one of the mystical stable numbers – but if it turned out to be seven… well, that should work too!

He hoped that “she” wouldn’t mind – but at this point it pretty much qualified as an emergency treatment for terminal coma. After all, the surviving Tenders were pretty much a life support system at the moment! And the universe did NOT need another Neverborn! OR a geomantic collapse linked to it’s center!

He was checking VERY carefully – now that he KNEW that Yu-Shan was a Primordial’s world-body – that his intervention would HELP her, rather than harm her. That meant studying all available information on her geomancy, talking to the Tenders and Overseers, consulting his own geomantic specialist (who, of course, always succeeded), checking deep in the primordial archives (now that he knew what to look for), having Malinda check, taking a look at the sympathetic loom, trying to determine where Yu-Shan’s Devas and lesser souls were (to check with them), trying diagnostic and treatment-oriented medicine charms on Yu-Shan, and even trying to probe her mind a bit. (A lot of it would probably be too complex for him to understand, but her being comatose might let him get something).

It looked like most of the plan should work just fine though – and that she probably couldn’t last many millennia longer without either the Tenders making a major push to clean up the world-body or geomantic collapse.

That probably wouldn’t make Gaia happy at ALL. They were “sisters” or a sort.

Malinda could do quite a bit with the sympathetic loom; it looked like Charles’s plans – if he could implement them – wold be largely beneficial, if hard for the Bureaucracy and many Sidereals to wrap their heads around – ESPECIALLY if a Jouten appeared in what everyone thought was a mere sanctum. Social and political shifts were. inevitable. The worst issues on the geomantic front would likely be frantic attempts to reverse it, despite the speed, and attempts to piggyback off the energy for other projects. Cauldron-Born and Infernal involvement was likely – but could go either way.

Still… the Bureaucracy and the Celestial Lions hadn’t had much luck fighting the Tenders and Overseers to date – and even without more backing he fully intended to use Luna’s Writ to draft most of the geomantic gods, and get the Lions to try to keep people from fiddling with the project. As for the Infernals… well, hopefully there weren’t many around Yu-Shan – but both they and the Cauldron-Born were pretty much (by definition) wild cards.

The diagnostic, treatment-defining, and treatment charms and artifacts would take some time (Yu-Shan WAS the size of Russia after all!) – as would searching for her subsouls or attempting to probe her consciousness a bit. The primordial archives… would have to wait until he personally had more time!

He needed to get in contact with the Lady Sorrowhands, so that he could learn more about that blank spot in his maps that was the Jade Pleasure Dome and the Games of Divinity! It was, after all, on Yu-Shan’s central nexus. Still, he didn’t want to make trouble for her!

Ah… the writ was enough to let him send some messages in! Not too many a day – she WAS technically an enemy of the Bureaucracy, much like that demon serving as the ambassador from Malfeas. Still, that would do for some inquiries. He didn’t care exactly what the power went into – or about the action of the games – but the geomancy was important!

That was… rather revealing. It was the central node of Yu-Shan’s geomancy, where according to the Sorrowhands, Yu-Shan had stored the Games of Divinity. The other Mighty Ones built the Jade Pleasure Dome as a further protection. The dome was built directly upon Yu-Shan’s main Essence reservoir – and if the geomancy was working properly, the Lady Sorrowhands’ fellow Overseers and the Operators beneath them would be feeding motes into the system as they stewed in their pods. As it was… it was only Overseers right now, and that only began seven thousand years ago Even that was… being diverted, and Yu-Shan was pretty much starved. The reservoir’s total motes could be measured in the single digits most of the time. Occasionally – presumably when some Overseer had mounted an offensive – it had hit low double digits. The highest level that the Sorrowhands could recall had been about fourteen motes, out of around a thousand. (The Sorrowhands weren’t quite sure; Yu-Shan had mote pool boosters.

It wasn’t so much that it drained into the games; it was that nothing was coming in. It didn’t help that there was a conversion process from Tender Essence to Yu-Shan Essence, and it compacted the motes greatly. The Sorrowhands had…. pretty much felt trace amounts of Yu-Shan Essence hit the geomancy of the Dome… and then nothing.

Hm… In the days of the Primordials, the Eastern Overseers would bring the fruits of their and their subordinates’ labor to a grand columned annex to the Jade Pleasure Dome where the Sorrowhands would supervise the final preparations for the Mighty Ones. That place was considerably more secured when the Incarnae took over the Dome. She was a bit bitter about that; it had a nice view – but nowadays, it was as secure as any other gate into the dome. They still brought the wine and peaches there though – and all Charles needed was to meet them in person for a couple of minutes…

It took a lot of pointing at Luna’s writ, but eventually the Celestial Lions agreed – even if they WOULD be watching.

Charles dropped by to give each of the Sorrowhands a few manse-links – six each, for 120 motes an hour. Even with compaction, that should help a good deal! Besides… that would also make them effectively present at six manses each, spread across the cosmos. That will make it MUCH easier to get into contact with them while maintaining their oaths; they wouldn’t be interfering with Yu-Shan or Earth in any fashion.

They were very appreciative of the thought… Most of the essence types in the package weren’t as delicious as the Sun’s, but they were a lot easier to digest! Actually, however, they craved Raksha Essence.., It had been quite some time since they’d hunted!

Huh. Well if they’d just said, a Wyld-oriented manse or two would have been pretty easy; he’d just have to adjust one to suit. For that matter… a wyld-aspected manse could be pretty useful in some ways! Something to look into later!

The Lions – who had some of those essence-sensing items – wanted to know what Charles was up to while he was setting up for that; whatever he was planning to do with the Sorrowhands it had some ODD essence-signatures!

Charles happily turned it into a conference with the Lions! He’d been planning to hold one with them shortly in any case! They were, unsurprisingly, adamant-chased celestial lions of better than average power, and Arelis and Aros Sorrowhands, of course, were the rulers of… Yu-Shan’s maintenance staff. At least to start, you could cut the tension with a knife… a couple of the lions were not removing their eyes from the Sorrowhands, and Charles was pretty sure that the rest were running all manner of detections. For their parts, the Sorrowhands were maintaining a quiet air of superiority despite being prisoners.

Charles waved cheerily at the lions, who were only allowing this because Luna had given him an absurdly open-ended writ – and because they were quite used to her eccentricities. Still, there were EXCELLENT refreshments not celestial wine and peaches of immortality, but as close as you could get below that.

(Hanzong, a Senior Lion) “OK, just what in the blazes is this about? Few people even know who they are-and fewer still would want to do THAT for them!”

(Charles) “Oh, it’s simple enough! At this point… there’s only about 2518 years, plus or minus about fifty – depending on the vagaries of the geomantic conflict – before the geomancy of Yu-Shan will collapse, most of the city will become an aspect of the Labyrinth, Yu-Shan herself becomes a new Neverborn, and most of the inhabitants of the city – the lucky ones – are sucked into Oblivion. Of course, current events are threatening to advance that timescale to less than a year. Therefore something really needs to be done!”

(Hanzong) “And why does this… wait, Yu-Shan is going to become a WHAT? But that would mean-“

(Charles, with some surprise) “Well, yes! Didn’t you know?”

(Arelis) “Charles, do you think they would believe us? They have a vested interest in maintaining Yu-Shan as they made it. As it is (nodding to the lion) you’ve made your own bed.”

(Aros) “Now if only we could get out of it – but that is why Charles came today.”

(Hanzong) “I only did what I could to make the city habitable for the gods of Meru!”

(Charles) “Well, that’s why it needs to be multi-aspected! That may broaden her charmset of course, but it should mostly be Raksha-style echo-variants with different orientations of the same basic effects!”

(Hanzong) “And you’re going to do this in the largest city in existence – something that might or might not be a Primordial, according to some Unwanted gods’ words? Have you even tested this? CAN you even test this?”

What kind of prank was Luna up to here!? This wasn’t funny!

(Charles) “Do you actually see a choice? It’s either that… or see Yu-Shan destroyed and pretty much everyone in it die.”

(Hanzong) “No . . . but I can’t believe it’s come to this – and what in the Malfeas am I going to say if somebody from the Bureaucracy snoops around?”

(Charles) “That’s why Luna gave me a writ!… Well, to be fair, she gave it to me because I asked, but that’s one of the reasons why I asked!”

(Aros) “Oh for the love of the Mighty Ones… you’re a Celestial Lion. Just snarl at them imposingly and tell them Luna ordered it-everyone knows how she is.”

(Charles) “Well, we can always let them argue with Gaia afterwards! She said she’d help…”

(Hanzong) “Aaargh… Gaia is in on this too.”

(Arelis) “Of course. They’re sisters – and I’m surprised you haven’t gotten Autochthon’s opinion on this. Where is he, anyhow?”

(Charles) “Hrm… I think he’s deep interstellar at the moment, and I haven’t really had time to go hunting. His responses to sendings are very vague though!”

(Hanzong) “Look, Charles – we’ve got orders not to let these… things… eat any Essence but the Sun’s. Otherwise, there could be side effects. Is this going to be integral to the stuff in that writ?”

(Aros) “We have names, you know…”

(Charles) “Yes; Yu-Shan must eventually wake up or die; perpetual coma is just not sustainable. Providing reality level accommodations for everyone here will require quite a LOT of changes!”

(Hanzong) “Well, can I at least know what you’re going to do? I’d heard rumors about you planning something big around the precinct stable last time I visited – I didn’t think it was THIS! It’d be good to have DETAILS, at least!”

(Charles, after putting up some additional privacy wards) “Oh sure! (He pulled up the displays again) I was going to need your help anyway! I was planning to hold a meeting on that fairly shortly after I got a few special tools!

(Arelis) “He has planned this quite extensively… though I’m not sure about some of his methods.”

(Aros) “My dear, is his Wyld Shaping really that different from what the Mighty Ones did to make Creation?”

(Arelis) “They channeled and directed it through one of their own, at least – not that that would be feasible here.”

The lions… were looking.

(Charles) “Well, I will be working with the Guardians, a network of geomantic control artifacts, and a couple of thousand geomantic assistants.”

(Arelis) “So, channeling it through yourself, at least partially. Not even Gaia and Cytherea took that risk.” (She takes a sip of the wine.) “So, what do you lions think of this?”

(Charles) “Well… I don’t have time for anything else! I can’t make enough artifacts that powerful fast enough!”

(Liuwei) “So… they get a Yu-Shan, we get a Yu-Shan, the humans get a Yu-Shan, the raksha get a Yu-Shan… does that mean the deiphages will be staying in their Yu-Shan where they don’t bother us?”

(Charles) “Well, there’s not much reason to fight when there’s no need to meet! And I’m mostly providing the power… really, most of the control inputs will be handled as the power pours into Yu-Shan’s geomancy!”

(Aros) “He’s already discussed this with our subordinates. And really, haven’t you wanted to be rid of us for thirty thousand years?”

(Liuwei) “Oh, like you don’t feel the same way . . .”

The Lord Sorrowhands smiled and nibbled at his meal.

(Charles) “Well, a good fix gives everybody what they need!”

(Hanzong) “I… don’t have the authority to oppose this. Just don’t blame me if these two make trouble with it!”

(Arelis) “On something like this? I seriously doubt we’d risk it; you’d tear us apart.”

Although the expression on her adamant face was a bit enigmatic.

(Charles) “Well… I think that everyone will need to cooperate on this! After all… if it doesn’t work… Yu-Shan will be destroyed and everyone will die. That’s REALLY not a good thing! But not trying will have the same result!”

EVERYONE else looked a little leery at that level of idealism. Was he serious? Still, they’d seen the plans – and it DID look pretty bad!

(Hanzong) “I’ll take this to my superiors… I don’t think they’ll be happy about it, but they’ll just have to accept it! We can’t have the city dying on us! And… well, they can do their own investigations if they’re skeptical.”

(Charles) “Well, I can give a presentation! And things are almost ready on Earth; the power levels there are starting to come back into balance nicely as the wood and water pole-tapping manses take effect, and the air and fire manses will be next – which will give us the elemental energy basis to mirror and stabilize the energy balances here!”

(Hanzong) “More of your work, no doubt… I’ll let you know when they’re ready to talk to you.”

(Charles) “OK!”

(Hanzong) “Well, let’s get this over with… now what is this bonding going to involve? I want details on that too.”

(Charles) “It’s setting them up with links to some manses! That way they’ll have some extra power to feed into Yu-Shans central reserve.”

The Lions insisted on Manses without means of outside communications or ways of linking to the other Tenders and Overseers, just in case they got up to something! Old habits died hard, writs or not – and, of course, means of escape were right out. Still, as long as only motes went through, and only for this project…

(Charles) “Well, they are on distant planets that currently have no communications with Yu-Shan. Is that good enough?”

(Hanzong) “Fine by me.”

(Charles) “OK then!”

And he set up the links – much to the delight of both Sorrowhands. With any luck… they could start slowly filling up the reserve a bit!

(Aros) “It feels… wonderful.”

(Arelis) “Yes… with this, we can preserve her while you’re finishing the final stages of your planning.”

(Charles) “Ah good! I’m sorry it got left so long, but I wasn’t around to try to help earlier!”

(Hanzong) “And we’ll be watching them to make sure nothing funny happens. Not until this goes off, at least…”

(Charles) “Well, after that… a lot of things should be working better!”

(Hanzong) “I hope so!”

(Arelis) “And we actually agree on something.”

(Charles) “It’s a start!”

There wasn’t any handshaking or smiling there… but they did seem to have an understanding, and Charles was glad to settle for that. Hopefully nobody would try to doublecross anybody. After all, the situation was dire, both sides were dedicated to their parts of Yu-Shan – and with any luck they could all get exactly what they wanted!

Even if the Lions DID all look like they had headaches.

The Sorrowhands waved as Charles departed. Perhaps, not all that long from now, the Lions would be willing to call them by their names…

Charles too, of course, cheerily waved back at everyone. He still had to get the Air and Fire manses set up to finish balancing things!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXII – Interlude with Lytek

Painting of Yushan by Nasu Masaki (那須雅城).

It’s just a small addition, really!

Charles had decided that Lytek might need some more defenses – and he knew just what to give him! A pocket dimension full of manses and protectors and aides! He could hide it behind the Cabinet… after all, hardly anyone but Lytek have the nerve to touch the thing, and it wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) set off any autochthonian booby traps as long as Lytek gave permission…

Lytek WAS interested in some form of protection beyond the lions and other guards. The memories of the Usurption died hard…

(Lytek) “So what were you planning to install my boy?”

(Charles, happily) “A pocket dimension – about 25,000 square miles – with thirty-six each rank five, three, and two manses! One of the big ones will eventually be for that trip into the corrupted Shard – or similar shards with a little retuning perhaps! – and another to provide you with a (normally inactive) private backdoor in and out of Yu-Shan – but that will still provide a about twenty thousand guards and aides and such, plus the hearthstones and things… That way you could have a lot of handy stuff! It will take almost two years to fully populate the manses, but that can be sped up some; if I increase the timerate inside, that will also increase the rate at which it will restore your essence pool outside as long as you’re multipresent in it! And a good linking artifact – a perfect binding would be best, so it can never be taken away – would let you travel there and back even if you couldn’t access the main portal!”

And with the remote links set up… Lytek would be properly protected against being killed, even if something happened to him and HIS manses!

(Lytek) “Oh my… That WOULD be very useful, but wouldn’t it be an awful lot of work? You tend to be far too busy now Charles.”

(Charles) “It wouldn’t take too long – and you might need the protection!”

(Lytek) “Well, if you’re sure, certainly!”

And that would provide Lytek with Hearthstones of freedom, of protection from mental manipulation, of protection from sidereal martial arts, and links to manses that provided healing, remote presence, a mental backup function, a remote exaltation viewing gallery (easy enough with the portal right next to the Cabinet), a backup archive for memory-fragments and technique memories and such, essence-boost manses to give him and any minions he wanted to favor extra essence and charms, and more… All safely with his secondary location, so no one could deprive him of them at all easily…

With that kind of safety margin, he might even be willing to start inviting Sidereals (and possibly even Bronze Faction Sidereals – although that would probably take even longer) in again – which would be another thing being given a chance to heal, even if it was sort of intangible.

It didn’t actually take very long; with the faster internal timerate a great deal could be accomplished in a Yu-Shan afternoon…

Lytek was a bit bemused… Yes, Charles operated on an immense scale – but his motives seemed to be a LOT like those of a normal, idealistic, child… Was this what being a “parent” was like? If so… he could understand the attraction of siring god-bloods a great deal more!

Eclipse Power Package – the Houngan Conjurer

Relics of  500 Arhats, Nagarjuna, Kasyapa Budd...

Components, components… A ritualist can NEVER have too many components!

Most spirits cluster around the Core Realms of the Multiverse – the realms of mind and matter, of more or less comprehensible space and time, of life and death, of sanity and order, and of a fairly reasonable number of dimensions. Others voyage outwards, to the outer rim of the great spiral of infinity, to realms incomprehensible to any normal mind, where alien powers hold sway.

Some few of those remember what they once were, and occasionally yearn to experience solid existence once more. When properly called with a summons cast through the unseen labyrinth of the dimensions, those few will answer – sharing the strange energies of the realms beyond with their hosts, while their hosts share their lives and material existences with them.

Few mortals learn such lore, for many fear and beings that may be summoned – whether they call them Apparitions, Daemons, Eidolons, Imprints, Loa, Remnants, Residues, Residuum, Shades, or Vestiges. In truth, however, as long as one resists the temptation to attempt to truly comprehend the mind-shattering nature of such spirits existence there is little danger in it. Still, mad men are all too often drawn to such studies – and whatever standards such spirits may hold, they bear no relationship to the morality of the Core Realms. Whatever they are called, they will lend their power to enterprises mad, petty, or malevolent as readily as to purposes sane, grand, or benevolent.

In game terms the Houngan Conjurer only needs two powers:

  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable to make one-point relics, only usable with points from Enthusiast, requires that the user come up with a neat ritual, and all relics carry a disadvantage – although this does help reduce their cost (2 CP). If you’re in a hurry add Adaption (using the same limitations to reduce the cost to an additional 1 CP) so you can change them around in a day or so if you need to.
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (a total of six “floating” character points)/points may only be used to create relics (known as “conjures”), relics have a maximum cost of one point and no one can use more than one at any one time (6 CP for the ability to create a similar number of one-point relics).

That allows our Houngan to maintain up to six “Conjures” at a time – presumably one for each member of the party. Of course, as Relics, to be really effective they’ll need to be tailored to each recipient. With a disadvantage on the relics to help, a Houngan Conjurer can squeeze up to twelve points worth of powers into each one – enough to provide the equivalent of two feats. If a Conjure gets broken, destroyed, or discarded, he can make another as soon as he can find a few hours (mostly spent laying out the diagrams) to perform another ritual.

Yes, this guy is going to be a POPULAR party member.

As examples, here we have some conjure-creating rituals created by Narthion, a quasi-demonic mystic who’s magically-charged blood burns when exposed to air, which gives him some fun special effects to play with…

The Amulet of the Lidless Eye:

For our resident Ur-Priestess.

The diagram on the floor is a triangle, with curious sigils at the points, and a swirling, distorted, seven-pointed star surrounding a stylized eye at the center – all of which start to glow as the summoner sets a mirror of gold and obsidian at in front of the diagram, places a rough amulet on a chain in it’s exact center, and traces each symbol with his wand. As he squeezes three drops of his burning blood onto the mirror, the smoke of it’s black and crimson flames entwines above the symbols in strange signs as the summoning chant begins.

  • “Hidathia, who Foresees Disaster, Unheeded Prophetess!
  • I Whisper your Name Upon the Hidden Paths, the Forgotten Ways.
  • It echoes within the Void, the Invisible Labyrinth!
  • Hear Us and Waken, Arise from the Void Between the Worlds.
  • We share with you Vitality, share with us your Power to Foresee, the Shield of the Infinite Night.
  • By the Sigil which Calls, the Sign which Anchors, Let the Binding be Forged!”

The triangle flares brilliantly before shifting to a black which sucks all light that comes near it into it’s endless depths. When the claimant applies a drop of her blood to the amulet to complete the binding, a portion of the power of Hidathia will be hers until the binding is broken.

Hidathia, the Unheeded Prophetess, foresees many paths, and can reveal them to those who call upon her – but foresees only darkness and disaster. To walk the paths she shows you is to rush into doom, and that anguish makes her power bittersweet. The Amulet of the Lidless Eye is a channel for her power, granting some tiny portion of it to those who dare to bear it – and often allowing them to take another path at the last second.

Disadvantage: Accursed. The bearer of the Amulet is occasionally compelled to warn complete strangers of the dire consequences of some cherished plan or scheme, speaking dark prophecies that few heed and many resent (-3 CP).

Granted Abilities:

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Block (Melee and Missile), Specialized/the user must spend a spell point and cry aloud a Word of Negation (in some terrible, tongue-twisting language) yo shunt an incoming attack into the void between the worlds.

The Sigil of the Elder Beast:

For the parties resident shapeshifting hyena-warrior.

For this ritual the sigils and diagrams are crude scratchings, marks as if made by claws ripping into trees to mark territory. The “name” is a strange rumbling, a heavy, predatory, scent, a dreadful fear, and an impression of fangs and claws. The summons is a series of defiant bellows, an offering of meat, and growling which mixes challenge – to once again hunt – with an invitation to once more experience life in the world directly. A few drops of blood from each participant are still required however – and as they strike the center of the ritual’s symbols the floor will seem to shimmer and heave, humping itself up and rippling as a vast, barely-detectable, presence climbs up out of it as it it was emerging from a pool of water to momentarily touch it’s nose to the recipients – and then swirl down, spinning into a scattering of drops of blood across the recipient’s flesh.

Before the blade and bow, before the rise of mind, were tooth and claw and red, red, rage. This remnant of that primordial world has a scent, an impression, an image, and  and an emotion of terror – but no name. The Sigil of the Beast lurks upon the user’s form like a thing alive, crawling across their skin like a living tattoo, all the stronger when merged into a bestial form. The force it channels – primal and terrible – is filled with feral rage, which constantly strains to escape when confronted with the incomprehensible oddities of “civilization”.

Disadvantage: Uncivilized. The user will find it quite impossible to deal with complex social situations and the chaos of crowds. If the user already suffers from this disadvantage he or she becomes Accursed – and the Uncivilized disadvantage becomes obvious to others at a glance (-3 CP).

Powers Granted:

  • Berserker (Standard Bonuses) with Enduring and +2 Bonus Uses (12 CP).

A Shard of the Shattered Mirror.

For the parties resident dual-minded psychic, who happens to be using Green Ronin’s Psychic Handbook (a skill-based psionics system).

A complex branching spiral pattern of glyphs and mathematical symbols lies within a circle of mirrors, reflecting that pattern and each other into a myriad branching lines of possibility which twist and change unsettlingly in their depths. They hang unsupported, and reflect nothing but the unsettling spirals, no matter if someone passes in front of them. As the summoner applies a drop of his blood to each mirror, the spirals it reflects will ignite with black and crimson fires – and the spiral on the floor will fade away as the blazing vortex of mind-tearing symbols becomes self-sustaining in non-existence. The whisper trembles on the edge of inaudibility, but seems to bypass the ears to well up directly from the depths of the mind.

  • “Tekili-Li, who is the Gate and Guide and Guardian of the Gate to the Realms Beyond.
  • I set your Sign upon the Mirrors of the Gate, the Myriad Paths.
  • You Dance within the Void, where the Mind recoils, the Invisible Labyrinth.
  • Rise from the Places that Are Not, the Depths Within.
  • We share with you the Places Left Behind, share with us the Thoughts we Cannot Hold.
  • By the Paths which Beckon, the Mind which Hosts, Let the Binding be Forged!”

With the summons the mirrors will flare blindingly – and one will almost explode, shattering into a thousand shards, one glowing with a single arcane sigil still burning within it’s depths. A drop of the recipients blood upon the glowing shard will complete the link.

In the early days of Creation, before the walls between the worlds were firm, Tekili-Li sought out the outermost limits of creation and the mind, passing at last beyond the limits of the imaginable, of life and death, and of existence. There, beyond space, time, and mind, the vortex of power and identity that is Tikili-Li delves forever into the incomprehensible. A fragment of shattered mirror linked to the equally incomprehensibly fragmented identity of Tekili-Li opens a channel for his terrible power to flow into the bearers mind, expanding it perilously beyond all normal limits.

Disadvantage: Incompetent. With his or her mind filled with the incomprehensible power of Tekili-Li, the user will find it near-impossible to relate to normal people – suffering a -3 modifier on all such attempts.

Granted Abilities: These vary with each invocation, but are always related to expanding the user’s mental powers. In this case it’s bestowing…

  • Activated Potentials: Occult Skill/Access to Psychokinesis Skills (3 CP) plus one skill point each in Apport, Telekinesis, and Telekinetic Shield (3 CP).
  • Dual Consciousness: Strengthened by the power of Tekili-Li, the two halves of the recipients dual mind mind can operate semi-independently. Sadly, they’re still sharing the same body, and so only one can act physically at a time. Companion (“Familiar) with +2 ECL Template, Specialized/has no physical existence, cannot move independently, only one can control their shared body during any one round. The Template powers are essentially just the base characters, and only amount to +1 ECL (6 CP total). The ability bestowed by the “Familiar” is Enhanced Fine Control (Augmented Bonus / Adds (Dex Mod) to Psychic Skills, 6 CP).

Psychic Familiar Template (30 CP):

  • Assistant and Aide, Specialized for Double Effect/Primary Consciousness Only, Mental Actions (including Perception) only (12 CP).
  • Grant of Aid with +4 Bonus Uses Specialized (for Double Effect)/only for healing hit point/strain damage (12 CP).
  • 2x Mystic Link, Corrupted for Increased Effect (User may simply spend 1 strain point to make mental contact as a free action), Specialized for Reduced Cost (Has no passive function) (2 CP).
  • Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for use with skills, only works with psychic skills (3 CP).
  • +1 Skill Point in Mind Reading (1 CP).

The Hearts Blood Blade

For the parties resident swordsman of course.

The diagram for this ritual is relatively simple; a triangle formed by three interlocking swords, surrounding a shield bearing the emblem of a mighty bear, salient, in plate armor, and bearing a sword. Around it wraps a swirling banner. A sprinkling of powdered magnetite and iron lends it shading, somehow falling perfectly. As the summoner drips three drops of his blood into a glass of brandy and scatters the now-flaming fluid across the diagram, the swords bleed – filling the banner and the shield with crimson hues. The recipient will need to set his or her sword in the center, aligned with the sword the bear carries as the summoner begins tapping gently on a small iron gong or cymbal with a wand – but the sound will be deep, and roll like the surf upon the shore as it calls the heart to dance to it’s rhythm.

  • “Vierdan Sanguine, thou Bloody General! We’re very thirsty, very dry!
  • The Cry of War Resounds, Drink Deep! Awake the Iron and the Storm!
  • The Battle-Thunders Call Through Darkness, Echoing in the Invisible Labyrinth!
  • Turn from the Stilled Wheel, be Sheathed Once More in Blood and Bone!
  • We share Breath and Flesh with you, Walk with Us the Paths of Destruction!
  • By Blade and Blood, by the Beat of Blades and Heart, Let the Binding be Forged!”

Most the blood and powdered iron will be drawn into the sword, tracing shimmering ruby veins within the steel. Completing the binding will require a drop of the recipients blood upon the steel – and when that drop of blood falls upon the sword, the remaining magnetite powder will swirl around him for a moment – and then pour into the skin of his sword-arm, tattooing the symbols of Vierdan Sanguine upon him for the duration.

The sword shimmers with crimson traceries, shining within the steel, as if blood has been absorbed within the metal, and pulses within the blade with the strength of a thousand stolen lives. When drawn, it fills the user’s mind with whispers, faint echoes of the battle-cries of ancient wars and feuds, for Vierdan Sanguine, the Bloody General, Lord of Iron, War, and Storm, has walked in spirit in them all – and his dread presence pulses within the steel, guiding it’s wielders hand. It is a good day for someone else to die.

Disadvantage: Insane: Gods too fall before the blade, and the Iron Lord has seen a myriad pass while he endures. Their priests and may wield a power they call “divine”, but they will fall before the blade as easily.

Bestowed Power:

  • +12 Skill Points in a martial art of the ritualist’s choice, Specialized for Double Effect (one technique per level for a total of 12)/only usable with the blade, not with any other weapons or with unarmed techniques.

The Cloak of Shadows:

In this case two slight variations on the same relic – for the parties resident dragoness and the resident mystic martial artist (who happens to be using Witchcraft to represent C’hi Powers).

The floor seems to ripple like the surface of a pond, and from it wisps of dark mist rise and coil, striking outwards like reaching serpents. Apparently deep within it, lines of blackness crawl; as the light dims and the area fades into shadow, the dark patterns half-seen beneath the mist remain visible by their own radiant darkness, deeper than the depths between the stars. Around it are placed seven short cylinders of green stone, each anointed with a drop of the ritualists fiery blood as he walks counterclockwise around the circle – and burning with the dark fire that drinks light and warmth. There is a terrible chill in the air, and a faint, sweet, scent of corruption as the ritualist carefully positions the skull of some strange beast in the center of it all.

And the shadows and mist will lend ethereal flesh to the skull, as it whispers in the deep voice of some great beast, long passed:

“In ages long past, in the beginning of days, Nidhogg the Formless, The Living Dark, First Wyrm, rose to burrow between the worlds. In it’s wake followed men, and it swallowed their forms and took them, walking among them beneath a thousand skies, secret and unknown, taking their deaths into itself and avoiding it’s own. But men, at last, could not follow where Nidhogg led, as it passed beyond the worlds of form, to become the shadow of all things, And in every shadow Nidhogg lurks, shapeless and unknown, watching and waiting to walk the worlds once more.”

And the ritualist replies…

  • “Blacker than the Deepest Night, Shining Dark like Gold within the depths of Hvergelmir!
  • Great Nidhogg who Crawls Between Life and Death, Shadow of All Things, hear my call!
  • You ARE and ARE NOT; You Shatter the Walls of the Invisible Labyrinth!
    Rise from the Endless Void, the Realms Beyond, Return to the Flesh you left so long ago!
  • We give you Shape, grant us the Twilight Paths, The Strengths of a Thousand Worlds!
  • By Fall of Night, by the Darkness and the Light and the Paths of Souls, Let the Binding be Forged!”

And the tendrils of mist weave around the recipient(s), becoming a subtle silken cloak. It must be marked with a drop of the recipients blood lest it drift away between the worlds once more – and when the recipient does so, his or her blood will sink into the silk, becoming a crimson personal sigil worked into the very fabric.

The cloak of Shadows clings like a wisp of finest silk, a subtle thing that drifts between the worlds, merging with the darkness – and the strengths of many worlds.

Disadvantage: Anyone who wears the Cloak of Shadows will find themselves attuned to the shadows; they will be easily mistaken for others (whether for good or ill) and will find themselves inclined to irrational secrecy.

Granted Abilities:

  • Shapeshift with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/Humanoid Form Only, does not actually change any game statistics beyond losing access to things like claws, wings, and fangs, and allowing the user to fit into smaller places if he or she is larger than medium sized (4 CP).
  • Hysteria, Specialized and Corrupted/only applies to one particular subset of abilities (in this case it was their Breath Weapon for the Dragon and their Witchcraft/”C’hi Powers” for the Martial Artist (2 CP).
  • 2d6 (10) Mana, Specialized and Corrupted/only to fuel Hysteria (2 CP).
  • Rite of Chi, Specialized and Corrupted/only to refill mana pool, requires ten minutes of meditation

The One Ring (no, not THAT one ring)

In this case it’s a booster for our Demon Mystic himself – although it’s an enhancement that he, once again, intends to share with his companions. This actually makes seven relics in this particular set – but our ritualist opted to invest another character point so that he could have a toy too…

The lines of the summoning diagram are laid out with geometric exactitude, strange symbols from a world unmade laying out a schematic of a device of unnerving simplicity and subtlety, a functional Hieronymus Machine – the Final Gate. Around it lay a dozen tokens, small products of craft and artifice. As three drops of the ritualist’s blood fall into the center, the diagram takes fire – and the void opens, a doorway into a nothingness that the eye cannot accept nor the mind comprehend.

  • “First and Last the Hammer Falls, Ringing like a Thousand Bells, Sounding Death and Renewal!
  • Somon, Mastercrafter, Smith of the Unmaking, hear my call among the Endless Paths of Time!
  • Ages like Drifting Leaves are gathered into the Vaults of Time, you Shape and Reshape the Invisible Labyrinth!
  • The Gate of the Mind is Opened, Let Artifice come forth to break once more Obdurate Fate!
  • We share Time and Destiny with you, share with us the Skill that Transcends the Final Night!
  • By Craft and Coil, by Shattered Chain and Worlds Departed, Let the Binding be Forged!”

And the recipient may reach into the eye-twisting nothingness – and withdraw his hand bearing a strange ring, tarnished as if ages-old, yet clear in every detail – and covered with strange sigils that, for the moment, blaze with the fires of a single drop of his blood, although the sigils swiftly fade to blackness, unseen beneath the tarnish of the ring.

A night had fallen that would never see another dawn. Times End, the Triumph of Entropy was nigh, the last embers of consciousness and purpose drifted in gossamer illusion, fading memories of a dying universe remembering it’s lost children. Somon the Artificer, Last Craftsman, wrought at last the Final Gate – and the Endless stepped from Worlds End to Times Dawn, where Death itself might not follow. In ages passing, Somon creates and destroys, stealing energy from realms that will never be, wrenching the course of time into a new path, and unmaking his own past. Times End will never come, for when it approaches, Somon emerges from nonexistence once more.

The One Ring is metaphor and truth, myriad yet singular, merely a token and yet the endless cycle of time. Because of it’s existence many futures will never be, and their power flows through the legions who bear it.

Disadvantage: Any bearer of the One Ring is driven to manipulate and change the course of events, exerting their skills to change situations – whether for the better or for the worse is irrelevant, as long as stability and the humdrum course of bland destiny is diverted.

Granted Abilities:

  • Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly tricky to make and take some time to attune for use (6 CP).
  • Shared Multiple Blessing, Specialized and Corrupted/Only to share the Shaping Package, secondary users get only three charms and one talisman instead of seven and three, all such Charms and Talismans are marked by the Sigil of Somon (6 CP).

Yes, this is pretty much the standard “you get to use Charms and Talismans” effect – but they are pretty handy, especially when the group is actually of fairly low level.

Relics are fairly powerful things – and because they’re amplifiers for their user’s own powers never really lose their usefulness. This particular set is designed to counter some of their bearers major weaknesses, but the special disadvantages they bring should add more than enough interest to things to make up for THAT.