The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CXXXIV – The Road To Kyrgyzstan – With Hope

Late fifteenth century armor with bellows helm

“That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die”

With Charles off fiddling with Alchemicals and the Fey and deep space, a distinct lack of more Kaiju sightings, at least a month (and maybe two or three) before she’d be due on the Toho movie set, Shpaiki trying to persuade people to join a volcano-god cult, the priests still keeping their recreated Deva’s more-or-less well-channeled, and no major disasters visible at the moment, Aikiko was chasing another one of her clues – all the way to Kyrgyzstan!

It was another rattling broken-down bus trip to Koktash, the nearest “city” (well, small town) to her destination – but at least the driver seemed relatively sane, even if the mountains were pretty impressive! Aikiko kept an eye out though; more than half the “marriages” in the country were apparently handled via bride-abduction, and traveling by herself certainly made her LOOK kind of vulnerable.

Not that a Solar Exalt would have any problems handling a few human would-be abductors, but it would be SO embarrassing… The people were considerably more stand-offish than the ones in South America though – and seemed much more unsettled to see a woman traveling alone. Still, outside of a few rude comments, she hadn’t much been bothered so far.

Koktash DID have a couple of small stores – and it looked like she’d be headed into some of the worst terrain in the country. She went to pick up some supplies – and to ask a few questions about the area. It was going to be a very long walk, even given the stamina of an Exalt! More importantly, walking looked like about her only option unless she started REALLY flinging money around; she was rather reluctant to involve a normal human in her search given the description of the place!

(Rustam, the shopkeeper) “You wish to hike WHERE!? By yourself?!?! Madame! Please! Reconsider! It is a three day journey, the hills are hot and without water, and the landmarks are few! To travel by yourself with but a map and this “GPS” thing (his voice shows blatant doubts) is to invite disaster! Even if you meet with no natural problems, there are said to be bandits in the hills!”

(Aikiko) “Well… what would you suggest, then? My backer won’t be happy if I don’t investigate this!”

(Rustam) “At least talk to the Genardarme’s! A bit of sweetening and they should be glad to escort you! Even, perhaps, in one of their flying machines!”

Well, dang it… The man was probably right – and she didn’t want to tangle with bandits any more than she had to. She went to talk to the cops, even if it would be a good challenge to see how easily she could manage it on her own!

As it turned out, the local cops were pretty corrupt – but it was fairly pleasantly corrupt; they’d overlook foolishness for a small fee and cover up minor indiscretions. Nothing that would really cause a stir if they were to be investigated, but enough to make life easier all around. An informal variant on “pay a fine and go home”.

Well, it was a pretty small town by western standards. No doubt everyone knew everyone and “policeman” was just a post to hand out to whoever the local big man in town owed a favor to or was exercising a little nepotism for.

(Beloit, the fellow manning the police station) “Are you in need of assistance Madame?”

(Aikiko) “Hello sir! I’ve been sent to investigate that archaeological site about three days from here, and I needed help getting up there. I was told the police could help me out with that.”

(Beloit) “Well, the site is still sealed! The… (very carefully) demiol…ogists from the capital said that it might still be quite dangerous if there were any “pockets” left!”

(Aikiko) “My backer sent me here to check the place out. He’s very interested in ancient things, and any bit of information I can get will help. Is there any way I could at least get access to the site? Even just getting a look would help!”

Beloit pretty clearly had some doubts about the “demiol…ogists”

(Beliot) “I suppose arrangements might be made for at least a look! It will be hard though, and may take quite some time! Fuel for the flying machine is so expensive, and other things must be put on hold…”

Aikiko nodded sagely – or at least as sagely as a teenaged girl could manage.

(Aikiko) “Of course, sir. (Quietly) Would there be any way for me to help make that faster?”

(Beliot, looking insincerely embarrased) “Ah, but the money from the capital is always behind and our budget is so small… It would be much easier to oblige you in this way if you could cover the fuel and such! I believe you call it… “Expense Account”?

(Aikiko) “Of course, sir.”

Well… that was perhaps not the best use of Heavenly funds, but Aikiko suspected that the Sidereals ran into this all the time.

(Beliot) “I am SO sorry to have to ask so! I would not, but there just is no allowance in the budget for such side-trips!”

Beliot cheerfully soaked his young visitor with the expense account for as much as he thought he could possibly get away with – about 400 American dollars. Aikiko thought that that was actually pretty cheap for a helicopter and pilot for the afternoon! She took it!

(Aikiko) “Hey, it’s no problem!”

The helicopter was old, battered, and very dusty – but it seemed functional enough. Beliot cheerily hung up a note to the next officer about closing the office for a bit and headed around the back to take the helicopter out… It was obviously supposed to be for rescues and ambulance work and such, but equally obviously was more often used for joyriding and rental flights. Still, it wasn’t like the corruption was NEARLY as bad as it was in Yu-Shan – and the man was friendly and entertaining enough. Not at all a bad ride!

She asked him a bit more about those bandits on the way. You never knew; some Exalt might be trying to stir up trouble in the area.

Like so many places, the local “bandits” were a cross between Criminals and Political Dissidents; they mostly come out of the hills to steal supplies. There was rarely too much violence, although over the years some people (on both sides) had been shot. There’d been a tacit truce for several years now – which was normal enough really.

Beliot did admit – among his the dismissive narratives about the heroic efforts of the police, how the bandits no longer dared to even approach the town, and how they were no menace at all to anyone now that he had (apparently personally, rather like some action movie star. Oh dear; he was trying to impress her) secured the borders – that he hadn’t heard from any of them in months.

THAT didn’t actually sound good to HER. There might be a more mundane cause of course, but she kind of suspected that they’d run afoul of something up there…

(Aikiko) “Do you think they’re planning something?”

(Beliot) “As if they would dare! If they were to try any foolishness we would stop them, Toot Sweet!”

Huh. Somewhat less confidence there… Well, no point in prying. Presumably, like most such groups, they specialized in ambushes and other guerrilla tactics – but if they WERE planning something Koktash’s six-man police force was obviously going to have trouble!

The site was about forty miles out – a quick trick by helicopter, a three to four day slog through the hills and mountains – and into just about the WORST bit of landscape to be found in the entire country. The hills were looming and dusty and – despite the more plentiful rainfall a bit further south – the area was a near-desert. Here was desolation – a few scattered bits of scrub, thistles, and weeds growing across soil that had, in prior ages, once supported prosperous farms. The dry streambeds seemed to flow with dust, as if life had been replaced by desiccation, and the land was but a hollow mask, like the flesh of a freshly-unwrapped mummy – ready to crumble at the merest touch.

And perhaps ready to do so as life sought to return once more to withered flesh.

The area was an archeological dig, probing into the ruins of the distant past – apparently a megalithic tomb, a structure dating back to the old stone age or before. Travel to the area was normally by chartered helicopter or camel caravan, but few wished to go that way at the moment; the mysterious deaths of the scientists and their crew had spooked most of the local caravan men and the police were still – supposedly – investigating. The wind moaned around the rocks, dry and hot, parching the skin, with a sound like dry reeds rustling in a lake of dust.

Huh. It was giving HER the creeps!

The actual site was even sadder in some ways, the police had put up some markers to warn people away – but they were basically a circle around an old hill with some signs of buried structure to it. According to legend, the place had been a castle belonging to a god of death, who once lured the sun itself into the depths and there entrapped him for three days while a horde of demons almost overran the world in the sheltering darkness.

There were traces of old and partially-buried walls in several places. The archeologists working assumption had apparently been that the place was once a neolithic hill fort; they had been quite excited to find an passage that went down – and had concluded that it had to be a massive tomb. The passage was a little ways to the left, carefully blocked off with some sort of spray-on plastic foam with biohazard signs stuck on it – according to the policeman, warning symbols left by the “demiol…ogists”.

International biohazard warning signs? Oh! Epidemiologists! By the gods… it was pretty much a given that it wouldn’t hurt HER, but could she be a carrier of something? That could get really REALLY bad!

Beliot was reluctant to get close. Even before the mass death, the place had a bad reputation!

(Aikiko) “So what happened here before the archaeologists died?”

There was the old story of course, and a later one that someone slept on the hill once and was driven homicidally mad by evil spirits, and a series of tales about the archaeologists and a high incidence of falls, rocks mashing feet, and many more bits of trouble – although those particular stories weren’t very credible as much beyond normal climbing-around-on-a-hill dangers.

Time to run some essence detections!

And seven successes to get them up discreetly.

There was definitely SOMETHING supernatural going on at the site. There were essence leaks all over the place. They… seemed to be mostly affecting something below the surface though. The place looked like a partially capped demesne. Necrotic essence. There was something… partway alive under the dust – but on a closer look, the plants weren’t just dry and weedy; they were all dead.

THAT wasn’t good! Charles would probably just poke around a bit and then create a life-sustaining Manse on the site. Unfortunately, she couldn’t just plop down Manses that way!

Beliot was REALLY against actually getting too close; those “demiol…ogists” had apparently said some really nasty things about the place.

(Aikiko) “Like what?”

(Beliot) “Lots about “micro-floxins”, and fungi, and “inhalation almost instantly deadly” (that one had REALLY gotten his attention), and “sealed air supply” and “containment”.

(Aikiko) “Well, that doesn’t sound very good!”

Huh… It certainly sounded like normal humans shouldn’t be anywhere NEAR the place… Maybe she could use Charles’s expanded thaumaturgy to give him life support, or knock him out, or just compel him? It wouldn’t be very nice, but letting him get killed would be worse! A compel with more money might work… Oh well! She could probably persuade him to land a little ways out and let her walk; after all, if she died, he could say that he’d never heard of her…

(Aikiko, fishing out another 400$) “Why don’t you land over there and I’ll have a closer look? You won’t have to go in with me, and I’ll even pay for it!”

(Beliot) “Ur… Are you quite sure? They were quite empathetic! I would not wish to see a young woman like yourself walk to her death! There were no survivors of the expedition!”

(Aikiko) “I’ve walked in more danger than this!”

Of course, if she told him about Mechagodzilla, that would probably be a dealbreaker; young and mad? He’d never agree! The man was actually fairly concerned!

Beliot was torn… it would be MOST bad for his karma to bring this young woman out here to die! And for his feelings! And for the fact that he’d feel obliged to try and rescue her and would feel REALLY guilty if he did not…

And that was fairly obvious on his face.

(Aikiko) “Look… I’m going to level with you. That place might be even more dangerous than what you think, and honestly, with what might be in there, *I* might be the one saving your rear. Are you absolutely sure you’d insist on going after me?”

(Beliot) “Of course!”

Well… obviously enough he’d LIKE to think he would anyway. Whether he’d actually have the nerve… Who knew? It might be a major moment of heroism for him! Of course, for a mortal, that usually meant “dead”…

(Aikiko) “Well, dammit… first, we’re going to have to give you some protection! The ‘demiologists’ are probably right about the air, and I have some ways of protecting myself against that. You on the other hand…”

On a closer look… the necrotic essence sustained and enhanced the growth of fungi – and turned them virulently poisonous. Fortunately, the effect faded once the stuff was removed; rather than being a permanent mutation. That probably puzzled the scientists no end.

Well giving him her Behemoth Cloak would be a big risk – and he couldn’t attune it anyway. Could she give a mortal life support against the dangers here with thaumaturgy? Or the Coatl that Charles had assigned her? They were so quiet that she almost forgot that they were along at times! And she did have a spare set of Charles’s Commando Armor; that would help a lot!

Aikiko attempted a Lifeweave for protection against spores, toxins, and the like with her own Adenic Thaumaturgy in the meantime – concealing it as a touch and using her anima to hide the usual display.

What with the First Excellency, channeling Compassion and the basic Adenic boost that wound up with 15 successes. With the aid of the Coatl with the secondary effects, that was far more than enough.

(Aikiko) “Okay, put this sash on.” (She gave Beliot the commando armor) “Trust me, it’ll give you all the protection you need for this!”

She discreetly helped him attune it. The Coatl had apparently convinced him that she must be a most powerful witch anyway. She had to sigh about that – that was going to have some implications for later. Still, at least she could warn Charles about the partial capping now. Come to think of it, she had the Coatl do that while she and Beliot headed in.

(Charles, on being notified) “Another damaged manse? Botheration! I have a long list of them to fix on earth after I get Yu-Shan fixed up!”

Walking across the ground – and peeling away the plastic – sent up great clouds of toxic dust and spores, which dissipated – hopefully harmlessly – on the wind. The plastic foam was obviously there for improvised containment, and the passage beyond was surprisingly broad and wide. There were the remains of a fairly fancy set of doors too – which looked to Aikiko a bit advanced for the old stone age! The stone of the walls, ceiling, and floor bore traces of tremendous heat; at some point it was – very briefly – melted, just on the surface, by (according to her investigation excellency) something INCREDIBLY hot, but which was only around for fractions of a second. That would be hard for anyone without enhanced senses to tell though, the walls were covered with mold and spores.

The remains of the doors were easy enough to step over – but doing so brought a breath of chill and definite feelings of apprehension; no wonder the scientists had blocked it off! Even if they had no idea of WHAT they were feeling or why…

Hard to say what pre-Earth period the architecture was; passages were fairly generic… Still, a bit of divination (which she was no longer bothering to hide from Beliot) said… late Shogunate? There were traces of Solar essence around though. They were very old – almost as old as the place was – but they were VERY powerful. Of course, most older Solar stuff was very powerful…

Wait, late Shogunate? Hadn’t virtually all the Solar’s been out of action then? Maybe some vengeance project done in secret by a “lucky” Shogunate Solar? But in that case, how did they get the necessary equipment and tools? Sorcery?

Well, at leas there didn’t seem to be any nasty traps!

The archaeologists obviously hadn’t gotten this far – they’d apparently died pretty much as soon as the doors had collapsed – but there were still footprints. One set. Heavy, headed out. The mold hadn’t entirely filled them… A few months perhaps. Probably from about the time that the passage had been opened.

(Aikiko to Beliot) “Hey, did you have any reports of big creatures in the area about the time those archaeologists died?”

(Beliot) “Er… well, there were some reports of a trail leading away, but there were footprints everywhere – they’d been working for more than a week! – and there didn’t seem to be anyone missing. What could be down here? It’s been sealed away for at least a thousand years!”

(Aikiko, thoughtfully) “At least until they opened the place…”

Well at least it hadn’t been Mechagodzilla’s footprints. She wouldn’t have thought that likely anyway – but she hadn’t ruled out the possibility in advance.

(Beliot) “Well, no one could live down here that long!”

(Aikiko) “Unless they were under some form of life support or suspension… the ancients were surprisingly knowledgeable. I bet if we penetrated further, we’d find an artifact for that purpose.”

Urk! Had the Shogunate used some artifact or something to make a Solar into an Abyssal for some reason? Or maybe the Solar just knew that Charm that let a Solar look like an Abyssal, and knew necromancy? Or someone thought that an Abyssal Manse would just be a good place to stick a Solar for imprisonment?

There were other chambers – partially collapsed, their once-contents scorched and burned. The melted surfaces continued.

And Beliot was looking at her very oddly indeed.

Roughly centrally under the hill there was a grand hall. At one end of a mighty stone table (or the scorched remains of one). there was a neat chunk melted out of the rock and the remains of a throne, melted into a stub. At the other end… there was a black throne, undamaged. The footprints came from one side of the melted throne. On the other side of that throne there was a mostly-melted suit of armor, partially full of crystals and bits of junk. Some of the bits were glowing faintly. It was mostly made of Adamant, with some Orichalcum and more Moonsilver – and possibly some Soulsteel, deep inside to judge from the faint moaning.

As she approached the glow brightened, and sparkling golden motes swirled into the damaged armor… She could feel the drain! Subtle but present. Motes and vitality, with most of the motes coming from her (of course) and more of the vitality coming from Beliot… The radius was large, but the effect was too slow and inefficient to really notice if you weren’t very close indeed.

(Aikiko) “Arggh! This is exactly why I wanted you to stay behind…”

She and the Coatl put up more wards! She’d feel awfully bad if he died!

That slowed it enormously – but didn’t stop it totally. It would almost certainly be a really bad idea to touch that armor! Even though the glow was brightening and pulsing…

(Beliot) “What the HELL is HAPPENING?”

(Aikiko) “The armor’s trying to suck the life out of us! I wouldn’t recommend touching it!”

Fortunately, it didn’t seem to be particularly efficient about absorbing either solar or mortal vitality and essence.

(Aikiko) “Thankfully, it’s not being very efficient – and my friends can stall it.”

It looked like the drain was mostly attuned to Lunar essence – but then one of the bent Orichalcum bits… straightened itself out into a support strut and “healed”.

Weird! Solar traces in the Manse, likely Abyssal Aspect for the Manse itself, and Lunar here? Some kind of honey trap for a vengeful Lunar’s newly reincarnated mate?

And a bit of crystal was currently… uncracking.

(Aikiko) “Okay, that isn’t good! I’d bet that if we stay here long enough, that armor’s going to form into a guardian and attack us! We should leave VERY soon.”

Crafty Observation Method turned her attention to the blast shadows burned into the walls, like the pictures from Heiroshima. It looked like courtiers and servants and such – but the styles looked like they were even OLDER than the Shogunate though. The black undamaged throne was of obsidian and soulsteel. The area had OLD wards – Shogunate era again (and not all that long past the usurpation if she was any judge) – built into the structure and supported by it’s geomancy, against information… coming in from outside? The damage was caused by Solar essence, although some areas had been shielded by immensely powerful necrotic essence… no, not JUST Necrotic – by something even deader. By Oblivion.

Had some Solar been doing experiments with Oblivion in here? But why shield against information coming in instead of information going out?

The oblivion traces were mostly by the end with the dark throne. Whoever it was didn’t bother protecting the rest of the court from the wave of solar energy though.

Terrestrial experiments with using Oblivion to build Manses?

According to the Coatl, somebody VERY powerful on the melted throne got REALLY angry. There was a lot less damage on the side of the armor that had apparently walked away; something there had absorbed a LOT of solar power. They weren’t sure that the source of that power had been an Exalt though; it seemed awfully… pure. NOTHING else. No humanity. Could have been a very OLD solar.

Did whoever this had been foul up badly enough to get a visit from the Sun himself?

The armor… had obviously never had an occupant, it was some sort of automation. Given a power source it seemed to be capable of self-repair somehow.

So a powerful wielder of Solar Essence, possibly an Essence-10 elder or perhaps the Sun in person, came to this Manse during the Shogunate. They had sat on the melted throne, and then did something violently destructive, incinerating most of the room and sending the manse into power failure (thus explaining the partial capping). The occupant of the other throne (apparently also very high-essence or even also Essence-10) had shielded himself/herself/itself from the blast with Oblivion, whereupon the being from the melted throne had departed without further conflict (from the state of the entrance passage, very quickly and while radiating enormous heat) – and the Manse, and the Automation were still functioning (at least to some extent) after being massively damaged at least thirty-five thousand yearss ago.

But where had the Oblivion come from? Abyssals hadn’t existed at that point as far as she knew!

Unless, perhaps, another Solar had fallen to the Void. But that would be truly monstrous, even if they did it with the intent of avenging the Usurpation.

Unfortunately, Aikiko botched her Lore check, and couldn’t think of any oblivion wielders – especially at Essence-10! – who’d been around at that point. After all, even wraiths normally weren’t STUPID enough to play with Oblivion; they were still around because they couldn’t let go!

The player, of course, thought of Deathlords and Nephwracks – but not the Character.

(Beliot, muttering…) “According to legend, a Castle of a God of Death, who once lured the Sun itself into the depths and there entrapped him for three days while a horde of demons almost overran the world in the sheltering darkness.”

Perhaps she shouldn’t have mostly disregarded that old legend…

(Aikiko) “A god of death… what was your god of death like?”

There might be a LOT more truth to that legend than she’d thought!

(Beliot, coming out of his reverie) “Oh, they were supposed to look like the long dead, but commanded terrible powers, and – being dead already – could not be slain. All the forces of the underworld were at their command! But all of that is nonsense!… Isn’t it?”

Oh dear. No… no it WASN’T.

(Aikiko) “We need to leave before he or she finds us! Not even I can handle tangling with one of those.”

“Now” WAS a good time to leave! The Deathlord might not be home, but she didn’t want to chance it… Especially not with a mortal present!

And one who was already starting to stagger a bit. Even with the wards, and the support of the Coatl, the place was getting to him.

She helped Beliot out. The man might take small bribes to give joyrides in the police helicopter, but he certainly wasn’t corrupt enough to deserve to have his life sucked out of him by some ancient Deathlord Automaton! Even at this point… it might take him a couple of days to recover.

Huh… Climactic fight? But there hadn’t been any signs of anything beyond one blast and one defense. Solar Elder? But were any of those LEFT at the time? Negotiations that ended poorly? That might fit…

Terrible army of demons overrunning the world, darkness, a confrontation here during the late shogunate between two essence-ten creatures who apparently met on friendly – or at least non-violent – terms for at least a little while first. area carefully barred against information coming in from the outside – and what seemed likely to have been an immensely powerful automation designed to absorb solar energies that was durable enough to survive a near-nuclear level blast of heat and to repair or reactivate itself when disturbed after more than thirty thousand years.

Wait! Towards the end of the Shogunate… A Solar, negotiating with a Deathlord to keep the fey hordes from consuming everything? Or perhaps to stop the Great Contagion? But there were hardly any Solars left at that time! Why block information coming IN from the outside? Most people wanted privacy, not to be on display while they couldn’t see out or receive messages!

Could it really have been the Sun himself? Essence-10 was pretty blasted rare! Incarnae and the occasional Elder Celestial Exalt was about it. Perhaps the Games of Divinity didn’t have as much of a hold over the Sun as most people believed? He WAS created to be one of Creation’s guardians after all… He REALLY must not have liked the Deathlord’s terms! Tricked perhaps? After all, the Sun was powerful, but he was neither omniscient nor infallible.

And evidently neither was she! When they got out… it was late night, and they hadn’t been in there more than twenty or thirty minutes. Were they in the Underworld? Ah! The helicopter was there! So they were still on Earth (and the bandits hadn’t commandeered it!)

(Aikiko) “Time is distorted here, it seems. Are you good to fly us out? I’ve got a little skill in that area.”

(Beliot) “I… should be able to manage! I need some coffee…”

Checking the time with the Adenic Network… it looked like the time ratio was about twenty-five to one. Two or three hours in there would make it two or three days outside, although they’d just blown the afternoon and evening. Freaky… but then time in the Underworld and Creation were not the same thing!

So… a Deathlord had gotten the Sun down there on some pretext and delayed him for a few hours that turned out to be roughly three days outside – and the Sun did not react well when that information finally got through. He’d gone Supernova – but whatever was going on outside was so urgent that he had simply left as quickly as possible. The Deathlord had allowed the attendants and such to get vaporized, but had handily shielded himself/herself/itself with Oblivion. The automaton on one side of the Sun’s throne had absorbed the buik of the blast on that side, but had failed to stop the Unconquered Sun.

Something seemed a little off there, but even an Investigation Excellency needed some facts to work with.

How had the Sun been lured into such a meeting? Had the Deathlord used the Sun’s insanely high Virtues against him to make it so there’d be a conflict if he didn’t negotiate? Or just called in some old favor or promise? Had the automaton been there to block the Sun’s retribution? That didn’t make a lot of sense what with Deathlords having perfect defenses.

As for the army of “Demons” that had been given time to “almost destroy creation”… Considering the period, that would probably the Raksha and Unshaped, not literal demons. The Sun erupting from a necrotic tomb had been an event important enough that it was still being passed down after nearly forty thousand years. The Sun’s wrath when he came out of the place had probably been bright and furious enough to be imprinted on the locals and all their descendants somehow. She wouldn’t put it past her patron, even if she’d never met him! Still… it was a reassuring thought that the Sun WOULD have done something about the Balorean Crusade – if he hadn’t been tricked and stalled!

And that meant that… there was a Deathlord automation on the loose that had been designed to restrain the Sun (or perhaps an Essence-10 Solar, although that didn’t seem at all likely), had managed it for at least a few moments, had been out long enough to be a hassle to track down, and was working with directives that were presumably forty thousand years out of date. That might mean that it would be easier to track, but it might also be out terrorizing the countryside based on that old programming!

Now that she was outside the wards… she got in touch with Charles about it; he could spread that warning more effectively than she could.

(Charles) “Well, that IS interesting! The Sun might have made quite a lot of difference in that mess even if he could only pull himself away from the games for a few hours!”

(Aikiko) “It seems that way, yeah!”

(Charles, with much curiosity) “Hm… A golem designed to battle or restrain the sun… That must have been QUITE an automation! I wish I could examine it!”

(Aikiko – with some brief doubts, although it WAS just a wish) “It’d have to be, to hold him. I… think it got out, too! Hopefully it didn’t get too far.”

(Charles) “Hrm… How long?”

(Aikiko) “Since the place opened! It’s been a couple of months – which, come to think of it, probably lets out random rampages.”

(Charles) “Oh dear!”

(Aikiko) “Yeah, I know. Any ideas for tracking it down?”

(Charles) “Er… I don’t know how it would think… Maybe it’s looking for a Yu-Shan gate? That would be about the only way it could get near the sun again. Unless it has secondary directives perhaps”

(Aikiko, sighing) “I have no clue of what those might be, if they even exist…”

Pulling up the gate locations… It looked like Turpan and India were closest!

Beliot was too busy trying to catch his breath properly to pay much attention to Aikiko’s distraction – but it would be best to get the poor man back to his home as quickly as she could.

(Aikiko, to Beliot, as she slipped him another thousand) “Well… you’d probably be better off not talking about this – but at least I can cover your expenses! Here’s a contact number and address for me; if you see or hear of anything or anyone else going in or out of there, or hear anything weird from that area, let me know!”

Beliot could easily see when something was beyond him; he readily promised to let her know. He also thanked her – although he was worried now! If the old gods of death were real, what else was? He didn’t pester – it wasn’t like he could do anything about it – but Aikiko threw in some advice anyway.

(Aikiko) “Sprinkling salt around your doorway and house helps with their servants. If one of them actually shows up, though… yeah, that won’t help. That’s why I want you to let me know if you see anything! Especially if you see people glowing black!”

(Beliot) “Er… Certainly! This is enough to make me wish those ads were real…”

(Aikiko) “Ads? Oh! Yes, the are! And if you’ve got places like THAT in your backyard, I’d say they’d be happy to let you go through.”

(Beliot) “Seriously? In a couple of months… entire new worlds will be opening up?”

(Aikiko) “Yeah! Just think about it! Fine lands, open for the taking!”

Beliot had no idea what to say – but there would certainly be places for the youngsters to find new opportunities.

(Aikiko) “Well, thanks for your help! I’ll need the sash back, but you helped me come to some conclusions I wouldn’t have otherwise!”

(Beliot) “Well, you’re welcome Madame!”

Aikiko said her farewells – and Beliot was, in many ways, relieved to see her leaving.

She couldn’t blame him for that!

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  1. […] The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CXXXIV – The Road To Kyrgyzstan – With Hope: Aikiko and Beloit, the Place of Plagues, Enter Skoll, the Swallower of Suns, the Sun Rises from the Tomb. […]

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