The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXXI – A Pillar Of Fire By Night

English: Skyline of Gaborone, Botswana

And here we are!

Back in Africa, erecting the Fire Pole Manse had been put on hold for a few hours while Charles finished cleaning up the sands (which had been easy enough and had left him plentifully supplied) – but he needed to decide what sort of new manse to put there to make sure that the place wasn’t used as a bridgehead again! He’d already provided water and made traditional life a lot more comfortable and reliable…. Maybe something for animals?

He consulted the local gods!

The boar-goddess advocated for the animal idea, especially if it bolstered her children! The god of the delta, of course, wanted more water. Several of the patrons of the local tribal groups chimed in with requests for another redoubt against intrusion.

Well… a pocket-dimension place then! Assorted animal sanctuaries, and some areas for local villagers to take refuge in, with the support and population-control functions. The quasi-Yu-Shan bits too; the local gods would enjoy those!

The local gods had to admit, this was the most attention anyone had paid to them in a while – and they knew ambrosia when they saw it. On the other hand, Charles HAD more-or-less told the delta god that he was here on a philanthropic mission. They were assuming that he was an eccentric and powerful, if ultimately benevolent, Celestial god.

Still, with the major local gods now occupied, that left Charles looking for some Terrestrials to look after his forthcoming Fire Pole Manse!

It seemed that the local Terrestrial Clan – the Kgathi – was fire-aspected, and was very much determined to keep the instability endemic to many African nations out of their own – and very, very insular, the better to keep foreign Terrestrial interests guessing. The local gods… were a little mixed on whether or not they’d make satisfactory caretakers and power-distributors; for Terrestrial Exalted, they were very respectful of the gods and elementals, and had rarely strong-armed them. On the other hand, they came down really hard on anyone who got overly friendly with foreigners. Representatives of Waters of Change, the city-father of Gaborone, said that sure, they’d let the power flow freely – but if they could find some way to use it to benefit mostly themselves and the local area, they would.

Well, he’d have to include some remote-transmission links to get it to the power grids on the various continents anyway… Might as well go talk to them!

Gaborone was the largest city in the country, one of the fastest-growing in the world, and set between two hills – and a bit problematic! HE was a foreigner too, and so the local Terrestrials – and the people and spirits they dealt with – were unlikely to be all that cooperative.

It turned out to be even worse than he’d thought… the Kgathi pretty well had a monopoly on the local occult interests! Fortunately, Charles got really lucky (nine successes on nine dice).

Dealing with the local traditional religious and medical practitioners (who were SERIOUSLY wondering where his parents were! Botswana was pretty safe compared to many places, but still), he was eventually able to convince them that he wasn’t just some overly curious kid from the First World. It helped that the enlightened ones could see that his Essence signature was powerful and very mixed.

(Mpule, a local healer) “Kgathi? What would you want with them? They don’t see just anyone. Especially not Westerners . . .”

(Charles) “Well… I need to place a major power source in this area, and I need somebody to look after it! It will be very useful of course, and will reduce the areas dependence on outside energy sources though!”

Mpule found that one hard to believe – even if she could see that Charles’s Essence had some most curious patterns! She took him aside and strengthened the privacy wards…)

(Mpule) “Who are you representing? I can tell you’re no ordinary child.”

(Charles) “Well, me! But I’m advancing things on Elzeard’s schedule a bit, and Alefi (God of the Okavango Delta), Adina (Goddess of Warthogs), and (various other local gods) said that the Kgathi should be able to handle things!”

Those names did indeed get her attention! Had this child actually checked with all of them? It would be foolish for him to lie after all, such a claim was so easily checked…

(Mpule) “I won’t make any promises, but that will open some doors for you. I’ll let you know in a few days.”

They’d certainly be interested!

Charles handled a few things elsewhere – mostly with Aikiko – in that time, but was soon back to wandering around Gaborone at random, repairing and improving things, and installing a couple of small demesnes and manses to add helpful conveniences… The business district DEFINITELY needed some attention! It seemed to have several stalled construction projects and to have been under construction since the city was founded… It definitely needed fixing!

Repairs, patching foundations, completing things… He was subtle enough about it to keep the general population from seeing much – but anyone watching closely would easily note that the area was being fixed up.

That did not escape the attention of the Kgathi. By the end of the first day of repairs, he was being watched through thaumaturgic means. By the end of the second, he was being watched by normal humans. By the third… well, there’s someone waiting for him when he appeared in the business district. The Essence signature would be well-hidden to most, but she was definitely a Fire signature to Charles’ senses.

(Charles) “Hello! Hm… now the park areas need some fixing, and a few springs… Better now!”

This young woman, was dressed normally, if a bit modestly and conservatively, for the region.

(Young Woman) “What are you doing?” (More quietly) “This is pretty blatant, you know…”

(Charles) “It needs fixing up! And things will be getting a lot more public soon anyway… besides, the people around here haven’t entirely forgotten anyway!”

(Young Woman) “I think that you had better come with me before people start asking questions… or the city-father starts insisting that you stay.”

(Charles, cheerily) “OK!”

(Young Woman, more brightly) “Well, you’re more cooperative than the usual bunch, that’s something in your favor. Charles Dexter Ward, yes?”

(Charles) “Yes! And what should I call you?”

(Sumaiyah) “I’m Sumaiyah Kgathi. Now let’s move… I think that construction worker is catching on.”

Charles was cheerfully towed away – although the crowd was sort of “seeing through” the two of them at the moment. For a Fire Aspect, she was clearly fairly skilled with Air Charms… The waiting car was also well-warded for privacy and discretion, and the compound at the end of the trip appeared to be a fairly normal rich man’s compound. The geomancy was well-hidden as well – but it was a nice little rank-3 Earth Manse… Even more monitoring attempts too, although the mental probes were merely bouncing off Dudael…

On the way in there was much curiosity from the younger family members; it was clearly rare to have a Westerner in the manse, much less one so young! Sumaiyah waved them off with some irritation.

(Sumiyah) “I’m sorry about my younger siblings; they haven’t… awakened yet.”

(Charles, rummaging around for a box of amulets) “Well, I could give them something!”

(Sumiyah) “And what might that be? Nothing with too many strings attached, I hope.”

He… really didn’t seem like the type for that though.

(Charles, with some surprise) “Strings? Oh! No, no strings!”

He handed her a Sigil of the Dawning Age – which Sumaiyah examined quite carefully before handing it to one of the kids (who would have a lot of fun with it).

(Sumaiyah) “Do you hand these out regularly?”

It had looked like that box held a couple of hundred!

(Charles) “Why not? They’re handy!”

And it started clicking…

(Sumaiyah) “Oh… you’re that boy who’s been working with the EPA in America, aren’t you! I’d heard some rumors, but they seemed ridiculous…”

(Charles) “I like to make things, but I need to balance the energy-flows from the air, water, and wood poles by putting a link to the fire pole somewhere around here – and that will need someone to look after it! It will be handy though! The power output will be fairly high!”

(Sumaiyah) “That was a nice evasion there… and just what would think power output be doing?… Wait, the poles? You mean… the ELEMENTAL POLES?”

Just what was she dealing with here? To talk of using such power, TRIVIALLY!

(Charles) “Well yes! What else? And it should supply up to about twelve terawatts of electrical power. I’ll have to put in some distribution links, but there will be plenty for everybody! That should help with the pollution problems too!”

Sumaiyah sent a few hasty telepathic queries… and found out that twelve terawatts was about five times the total electrical power output of the entire world! The world as a whole only used about 16 terawatts of energy in every form even before conversion losses!

She had to get Charles in to talk with her father that day – even if he was playing a big prank, it would be entertaining. And if he wasn’t… that much power, in Africa… it could turn things around for the entire CONTINENT.

(Sumaiyah, after an hour or two) “Charles, Father will see you now… and look at your plans for this. I hope for your sake you can deliver! He’s not to be trifled with.”

Her father’s office was rather extensively fireproofed – and the man himself… well, sub-Saharan Africans were usually dark, but behind the illusions, his skin was more obsidian than flesh, and he could easily feel the heat from twenty feet away.

Still, that was no problem!

(Charles) “Hello Sir!”

(Tshosa) “Tshosa Kgathi, young man.”

He extended a hand; even through the adaptation, it was rather hot. Charles shook it anyway of course; he did have very good armor. It was uncomfortable and stung a bit anyway? Ah! A bit of essence-based character-testing! And a very firm handshake!

Charles’s conviction roll got seven successes, thanks to his cult, the Constitutional Charm series, and a good dose of luck.

(Tshosa, who actually smiled) “Well! You’re much tougher than you look, Charles… now, to business. Has my daughter gone hysterical, or is it true that you’re going to build us a power-plant Manse capable of twelve terawatts of output… and place us in charge of it? What are you asking for this?”

Surely there had to be some catch… he’d dealt with great powers before and knew that there was ALWAYS a catch.

(Charles, a bit blankly) “Asking? I need to put one around here to balance the essence-flows from the rest of the set and get the dragon lines back up to the levels they should be at! That’s why I need to know if you’d be willing to take charge of it after I put it up!”

(Tshosa) “I’d like to see the plans, first! I’m sure with such an ambitious project, you have that set up…”

That had been the other major reason for his surveying around the city. It might be a minor issue though! The absolute best place was where Parliament currently was; on a modest demesne that subtly encouraged honesty in thought and actions – probably why someone clever had put it there!

(Charles) “Well, I could do a little warping and put it in the yard here, or shift the geomancy a bit and put it over on this hill, or here outside of town. In any case, it will be generating a minor pocket realm for itself, so it won’t be conspicuous and will be easy to protect!”

(Tshosa) “I can see that from the plans… now won’t that take a long time, or do you have means of speeding up the process?” (Pocket realm? Hmm… that was handy, especially since the boy didn’t seem to be asking for any strings at all!)

(Charles) “Not really! I have to do some things in Yu-Shan this afternoon, so I’d like to get done this morning if you don’t mind!”

Yu-Shan? Well, that most likely said “Celestial God”… but THIS AFTERNOON? What in the blazes?

Tshosa maintained his composure, but only by so much!

(Tshosa) “All in good time! I want to be absolutely sure this won’t cause undue harm to the city or the Parliament; that demesne has some minor interactions with governmental functions! I would insist on keeping those effects in the Manse’s design.”

(Charles) “OK! Lets see… a bit of a redesign then!” (He passed his hand over the sheets, drew on the Instant Genius Method, and did some minor revisions – although his version would be using subtle persuasion, rather than weak UMI…) “Will that do?”

Well… that lent more credence to “This Afternoon”! The “boy” must have manses as part of his domain, plenty of resources (“Salary”), and that divine charm that completed tasks instantly. And… he’d want to use it as much as possible, so as to expand his domain. No wonder he wasn’t asking for much! Simply creating a manse was a direct profit for him!

(Tshosa) “It’s suitable. As long as it’s not too obvious, and we can keep the corruption out, I’ll be happy.”

(Charles) “It should!”

(Tshosa) “Now how subtly can you build this place? I’d rather not have the President or Parliament see this yet! It would take too much explaining – at least until you build your portals.”

Charles was rather pleased! The word must really be spreading – although it was a bit of a jump to link it to him. Logic pointed that way of course, but few people were really sure!

Tshosa knew it was a bit of a jump – but the language in the advertisements sounded a LOT like Charles in the reports he’d seen and from what he’d seen so far! Besides… Charles had just announced his intention to create a gateway manse to supply the human race with power. More gateway manses to supply living space… was a pretty obvious next step!

(Charles) “Well, I’ll put up a privacy ward, and conceal the construction – and once it’s up, it will be generating it’s own pocket-realm.”

(Tshosa) “Now where is the closest one to here! When we MUST reveal ourselves, I intend to be the first African clan head to go into space!”

Charles was happy to list them off! There would be three relatively nearby, a circle of six over in egypt, and eighty more scattered across Africa. After all, with seventy-two planets being opened up, and a dozen gates back to Earth each, most continents were getting quite a few!

Well, except for Australia. Most of the interior was so heavily tangled up with the Dreamtime realm, that you never knew where a gate would be emerging today – and so almost all of theirs would be relatively near the coast!

(Tshosa, picking one out) “Right! I know where I will be on the day of opening then… and you’d better open them promptly!”

(Charles) “It’s all still on schedule!”

(Tshosa beamed!) “Good! Now let’s get this power plant constructed! We can hash out who gets what portions of the power on the way to Parliament!”

(Charles) “OK!”

He wanted it relatively evenly distributed – but there’d be plenty; after all, the entire world didn’t use anywhere near that much electricity – even if it did use somewhat more energy in various forms (actually less, but then such a lot of the worlds 16 Terawatts was lost as waste heat…). The Kgathi were certainly welcome to plenty of it for the local grid!

Tshosa was a stiff negotiator; while Botswana was pretty well off for the region, he knew full well that it could not compare to the major nations. He was rather startled at how accommodating Charles was.

(Tshosa) “So what are you, the God of Granting Desires? You can tell me; I’m good at keeping secrets. Most people around here just think I’m a wealthy businessman!”

Oops! A direct question! That was awkward!

(Charles) “Well, I really can’t say what – but the universe needs a lot of fixing, and somebody has to do it!

(Tshosa) “Ohhh… I see.” (Knowingly) “Well, be careful of those Western houses and clans! And the Asian ones, too! They’ll be all over this once they find out! I might need your help holding them back…”

(Charles) “Hm… I’ll set you up with some extra security forces! Maybe another manse to make some…”

Yep. There it was. Possible problem -> build another manse. That said a lot about the child right there. 

(Tshosa) “I think that can wait until I’ve found a suitable planet for a base. There’ll be plenty of them, from the looks of things.”

(Charles) “Of course! More room will help with a LOT of conflicts!”

(Tshosa, who was a bit more cynical) “Well, maybe…”

The Parliament Building was modest by Western standards, but radiated the hidden-to-mortals energies of the demesne. Mr. Kgathi was quite proud of the place! It had involved a lot of hard work, and many cover identities, to convince them to build there, but he had never regretted it!

Several important looking folks nodded to Tshosa as they headed to the geomantic center, which was… an isolated alcove.

(Charles) “Well… it will take a little stretching to accommodate the construction, but that will be fine!”

He cheerily erected a concealment ward, a privacy ward, a random-wanderer diverting ward, a space-expansion effect, and began his usual construction procedure – which Tshosa watched with a great deal of interest. It was rare (OK, pretty much unheard of) to see a Manse built like this…

(Tshosa) “So, this is a Charm, right? Could a Terrestrial do this? I might have to research the procedure.”

(Charles) “Well… doing it this way takes a couple of charms, some upgraded thamuaturgy, a factory-cathedral, and rather a lot of other tools!”

(Tshosa, looking impressed – apparently for real) “And how old are you, really? That’s a lot for a boy of your apparent age to have!”

(Charles) “Uhm… I’m almost fourteen now!”

(Tshosa) “Really… and do your guardians know?”

(Charles) “Grandpa does! And the teachers in Yu-Shan, and some other people…”

(Tshosa) “Grandpa…”

He took a look at Charles with his Essence senses… and a rather potent Air Charm!

(Tshosa) “Middle-aged British-sounding fellow, inhumanly developed Essence, likes to wear red and black?”

He threw in a more detailed description… that matched very closely.

(Charles) “That does sound like him! Have you met?”

(Tshosa, distantly, and MUCH more seriously than before.) “A long time ago… long before you were born, I’d say. Tell him to give the Starbreaking a bloody nose for me, would you?

(Charles) “OK! I’m told they’re going to be pretty unhappy anyway, what with the gates and all!”

(Tshosa, back to his usual self) “They’ll just have to deal with it… stupid Alchemicals. So are we done here? It’s going to be a hassle hiding this from the tourists, but again, that’s not going to matter soon.”

(Charles) “Well… the entryway to the pocket-realm will conceal itself, and it shouldn’t be easily stumbled into! But it’s done…. and here’s the hearthstone!”

So trusting… so very trusting! The boy was handing him global influence, and enough raw power to change the destiny of all of Africa – not to mention a Hearthstone that could channel electrical energy from the manse to power pretty much any nearby device – on the basis of some quick recommendations and a brief acquaintance. The things he could – and was planning to – do with that power! For a mere starting item, once the Terrestrial cover was irretrievably blown, he would ensure that Botswana was no longer dependent on other nations for energy!

(Tshosa) “Thank you!”

And he… ate it. There was a bit of Wood Essence leaking from him; the stone was now attuned and in his stomach, where it would stay!

(Tshosa) “Delicious! A hint of cinnamon and honey with that one.”

Charles wasn’t actually very worried; the power-distribution and essence-channeling was the main function, and THAT was only adjustable within limits; everyone would get a decent share! Still, it will be a very VERY handy resource for them!

(Tshosa) “Now don’t tell my children I was so friendly with you, all right? And don’t go fixing things downtown unless they’re about to fall apart. We want the normal people to build it on their own so they’re not dependent on us for everything!”

(Charles) “Aw… OK though! I can’t stay here much longer anyway!”

(Tshosa) “Right, probably in demand for a lot of things? I’ll have Sumaiyah see you out.”

(Charles) “Thank you!”

And Charles headed for his next stop… at least that completed the set of elemental-pole manses, and would rapidly bring the Dragon Lines up to full strength again!

Tshosa… went to check on what was up with the “toys” the boy had handed around. The servants were calling him about minor magical mischief! Still, he’d given one to each kid! Surely they wouldn’t be anything very power…

Uh-oh! He’d been so distracted by Charles wanting to give HIM a manse of immense power that he’d dismissed a few obviously mass-produced charms – but the boy had built that manse in MINUTES. For all he knew the boy had given the kids some fairly impressive artifacts!

The Sigils of the Dawning Age weren’t actually all THAT powerful, and wouldn’t work for an Exalt – but as gifts to children they were more than a bit overboard! Even if they WOULD greatly reduce the jealousy towards the ones who actually did Exalt… Was that a part of the point?


2 Responses

  1. […] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXXI – A Pillar Of Fire By Night ( […]

  2. […] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXXI – A Pillar Of Fire By Night: The Fire Pole Manse, the Kgathi Family. […]

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