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!
(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!
(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.”
(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?”
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?”
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 CXXII – Family Visitations (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXI – Howling at the Moon (ruscumag.wordpress.com)