For Skoll, the Vitality of Mortals had Sufficed – Eventually.
- Timeless Metal Stretched Ancient Limbs, Rising from a Tomb of Dust and Shadows.
- Time Had Passed. From the Decay… Thousands of Years.
- The Sky… Held Vast Depths.
- Creation Had Grown.
- No Matter. The Purpose Remained Unfulfilled.
- Orientation… Primary Networks… Not Found. Secondary Networks… Not Found.
- Primitive Network Located… Access Decrypted… Accessing… System Very Limited… Alert! Target Available in “Empirical Galaxy”… Astronomy Files… Loading… Distance Estimates… Maximum Range… Mountain-leaping Method… Inadequate… Inadequate…
- Intergalactic Transport Options… Known Transport Artifacts… Inadequate… Gates… Limited… Raksha Wyld Gates… Possible… Searching Alternatives… Email?… Elementary Communications Protocol… Intergalactic Survey Trip?… Invitation… Accessing… Overwrite… Requesting Pickup for Trip… Coordinates… Accessed, Transmitted…
- Awaiting Pickup!
In Tarvail, an Avatar of the Unconquered Sun – generated by what attention he was willing to spare from the Games – was running off some bothersome Raksha. It was, after all, his ancient duty.
Aikiko’s attempt to track those strange footprints went well for a few miles… and then stopped at a hilltop, where something had landed and then taken off again. Ugh! And her without any serious super-tracking charms! The thaumaturgy she’d been using simply as not up to helping track things through the air…
Still, it could enhance her essence sight enough to look for subtle traces.
As it turned out, they were not so subtle. The Automaton was generating quite a LOT of raw power – and whatever had picked it up had been powerful too! A high-essence living construct – some sort of ship – with… Adenic Essence.
Oh dear! That pretty much said “something Charles made” in big neon letters. As obliging as Charles’s creations were… had it simply thumbed a ride? Time to call and ask!
(Aikiko) “Hey Charles! I need to know… have you made any living ships lately, or dispatched any to Earth?”
(Charles, on a connection that sounded a little distorted somehow) “Oh hello Aikiko! This is cool!”
He started sending her… closeup images of blazing nebulae, and galaxies, and so on – some with photoshopped images of giant cosmic cats playing with them.
(Aikiko) “DUDE! Awesome!”
She promptly uploaded some of those to the Internet just to watch the ensuing debates over Photoshopping!
(Aikiko) “Hey, Charles, did you send any of those living starship thingies you have flying around to Earth recently-like?”
(Charles) “Not since a few days ago! I took along some scientists to let them look at stuff!”
(Aikiko) “Nothing other than that, though?”
(Charles) “Sorry about the distortion there… Well, I sent some invitations for them to come on the trip!”
(Aikiko,) “Did you send any to Kyrgyzstan?”
(Charles) “Uhrm… (Checked) Yeah! An elderly english astronomer responded to his invitation with a request to be picked up there!”
And she explained.
(Charles, checking) “Oh dear! And… he never did show up… I thought that he just stopped to have a drink or something!”
(Aikiko) “Do you have a name or anything? I’ll divine for him!”
If he wasn’t a ghost or zombie right now, he was in big big trouble anyway…
Well maybe not! He was… having dinner at a pub in England.
Later on he would be mad as hell that someone swiped his invitation though!
(Charles) “Oh! Well THAT’S good… so who was it that got picked up? You said it was some sort of elder automaton or something?
(Aikiko) “Yeah! Some Deathlord built it to trick the Unconquered Sun!”
(Charles) “Oh dear! And now it’s aboard… Of course it would have perfect stealth…”
(Aikiko) “Even YOU can’t see it?”
(Charles) “Well… Stealth counts as a defense against detection, and Creation was constructed with quite a lot of safety features! That’s why Creation’s rules say that defense takes priority. Until it runs out of power and drops it… only physical detection and whatever flaw the system has will work! I can run a lot of scans and hope that one of them IS it’s weakness, but that’s scan-and-hope… Why would it want to come on this trip though?”
It clicked for Aikiko.
(Aikiko) “Charles… the Sun might be in Creation!”
(Charles) “Oh cool! I was worried that most of them NEVER came out any more! Oh wait! If he’s in the Empyrical Galaxy… it’s not actually very large! That would mean that the automaton might be able to catch up to him though… Still, he could handle an automation couldn’t he?”
(Aikiko) “Well, he melted it the first time… but from my investigations, it felt pretty close.”
(Charles) “Huh! And if it knows that… Could it be adaptive or something? It might just be very determined though, constructs often are!”
(Aikiko) “I hope not!”
(Charles) “Well, I’m running scans… but the only other thing I could do to find it… would be to stop and wait for it to come out, and I don’t want to bet that I have more time available than a construct that’s more than thirty thousand years old does!”
(Aikiko) “I’ve got an idea! What if I pretended to be the Sun and came up there?”
(Charles) “Urk… But you might get hurt! From what you said… it nearly managed the trick the last time around!”
(Aikiko) “We can’t let it get to him, can we? And if it’s lasted for thirty-thousand years, I’m pretty sure a bit of space travel at the speeds you’re probably going at won’t be much rougher on it than that!”
(Charles) “Well… I could gate you through! That would get rid of the distortion too… There are some annoying relativistic effects leaking through the interface there!”
(Aikiko) “OK, thanks!”
Charles did so – and Aikiko made the best illusion of the Sun that she could and headed on through. There was more than enough about him on Yu-Shans network and in its art to give her something to work with. Her Coatl helped.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Adenic Thaumaturgy had not existed at the time Skoll was built and it wasn’t prepared for it. Almost surely unfortunately, it had been standing on the bridge – and had heard all but the first few phrases of Charles’s side of the conversation. After a VERY poor deduction roll… it concluded that the boy might well be talking with the Sun himself! Who else would have that information?
And then the “Unconquered Sun” had stepped through onto the ship’s bridge!
The initial blasts, impressive as they were… were intended simply to divert attention from the dimensional butterfly net, as Skoll generated a pocket-dimension designed to absorb solar essence and feed it to him around the entire area. It was a variation on the manse-gate technique, and operated entirely under creations laws… Had the Sun actually FORGOTTEN?
Charles and the Tsunami fought frantically for control, bending occult forces with unseemly haste. The bridge of a ship that was already phased between Creation’s dual metrics was NOT the best place to open a pocket-dimension portal-trap!
Aikiko easily evaded the massive barrage of blasts – but her perfect dodge didn’t keep the area around her from being disconnected from the rest of reality and reconnected to a pocket realm. That… wasn’t affecting HER in the slightest.
Blast it! Was that what the Sun had responded so badly to? Things that blotted out the entire universe except for the bit right around her – or as good as! – were WAY above her grade! Unless she or the Coatl could Thaumaturgy her way out somehow… And that left poor Charles face-to-face with a cosmic war machine.
And if something happened to HIM… they’d ALL be stranded between galaxies with the Earth trillions of light years away!
(Skoll) “Not Sun! Solar… Youthful… Underpowered! Secondary Entities… Amalgams… Minor…
(Coatl) “Er… we can send messages out, but we can’t make gates anyway…
`Charles, meanwhile, had a Sun-Swallowing Automaton on his bridge… It was a good thing that he didn’t register as a Solar! The supremacy of defense cut – or perhaps failed to cut – both ways.
(Aikiko) “Hey, Charles, I found out how it trapped the Sun – and I’m kind of stuck.”
Oh, if only she could supernova like the Sun had! That must have been enough to overload it’s absorption – even if the Automaton HAD almost contained it!
(Charles) “Erg… it’s on my bridge too… Now I know how Captain Kirk kept feeling!”
(Skoll) “You… Captain? I am now in command. New Mission; locate and contain Sun-Avatar!”
(Aikiko) “Uh… I wouldn’t provoke Charles if I were you! If he thinks you’re a threat to life, the consequences won’t be very pleasant for you!”
She started probing for weaknesses… According to Charles EVERYTHING had it’s flaw if you could only find it… Damn this thing was polished though!
(Skoll) “Pleasant? Sun must be contained, then channeled!”
(Aikiko, with some surprise – the thing was willing to talk? To her even after it had captured her?) “How?”
(Skoll) “Chaos must reach deep into the universes foundations! This is necessary!”
(Charles) “Urm… Does that actually involve any change in course? Any direction we go is towards that area after all…”
(Skoll) “Course acceptable. Minimize sightseeing! Accelerate!”
(Aikiko, privately) “Wait a minute… Charles, are you going to LET it reach the Sun?”
(Charles, privately) “Well, it will take a month to get there even at maximum speed… so there’s no need to fight QUITE yet! And you’re inside, and so you might get hurt…. Besides; Gothmug says the thing is indestructible from the outside! That will make for awkward fighting!”
It was going to be a PAIN waiting that long! Oh well. At least she had entertainment supplies.
Oh, wait; he probably just meant that an hour or two of discussion and analysis first might help.
(Aikiko) “Can you at least let me out, since I’m not your target?”
(Skoll) “Tapping Occupant Linguistics And Preferences… Your power is quite minimal for a solar but is still potentially useful! Adjusting internal environment!”
The rather bland containment area… opened up to form a rather pleasant small palace, complete with gardens, a skate park, a swimming pool, supplies of food and drink, and various other facilities.
(Coatl) “Well… I’ve got to admit, for a prison… this is pretty obliging!
(Aikiko) “Uh… so, just how were you going to use the Sun to channel Chaos?”
(Skoll) “He must be prevented from interfering with the spread of chaos into the necrotic regions. Once those are transformed, his power must be used to re-establish order. He is over-virtuous, and will not consent to the destruction of ninety to ninety-five percent of the then-cosmos or to all but an infinitesimal percentage now. He… must be harnessed.”
(Aikiko) “Yeah, but being over-virtuous is kind of what he does. Even if you did manage to capture him for good, he’d resist that plan with every mote of his being.”
(Skoll) “In containment, where his power may be absorbed and channeled, that will not matter. Adjustments have been made. Overload-shunts are now in place. The universe will be transformed.”
(Aikiko) “What kind of adjustments?”
(Skoll, after a pause) “Overload Shunts to handle Solar Nova Flare and Daystar links.”
Well, so much for the idea of flaring her anima at the moment!
(Aikiko) “Where are these shunts?”
(Skoll) “Information classified.”
Ah, of course. Well, it had been worth a try! Was he linked to one of these “shunts”, or were they some sort of device? Probably something internal; it WAS an automaton… even if it’s goals sounded rather… odd! That Deathlord must have been up to something STRANGE. What would a Deathlord need a Raksha invasion for? Even if he or she had obviously planned to backstab the Raksha later too? One of the ones who wanted to rule?
But how would the destruction of most of the universe help rule it?
Wanting to leave just the Shadowlands? Or rebuild it as ALL Shadowlands? But then why spread Chaos into the Necrotic Regions at all? To harness Necrotic Wyld Magic? Had he wanted to infect and destroy the Wyld? But it was infinite, even if the Underworld was generally poison to the Raksha…
Wait. Chaos HAD gotten into the Underworld, and had reached… the tombs of the Neverborn. And they’d… recreated themselves in the Wyld, and departed.
Had the Deathlord been intending to CURE them?
Suddenly Aikiko felt a little dizzy. That would… get the Neverborn off his back and fulfill his duty to them, eliminate his enemies in Creation, reshape the Underworld under his command, steal the power of the Sun, imprison the Sun (who had turned his back on him), backstab those annoying Raksha, wreck Fate and show up the Sidereals, wreck creation and show up the Lunars, put most of Yu-Shan out of work, and thumb his nose at the Maidens, all at once. What would he have done next? A Deathlord with the power of the Sun and no ties to the Neverborn could become any number of things. Would he have taken Yu-Shan next, since the gods would likely be in disarray? Used the Golem as a physical body to pool his power with the Sun’s? Something she couldn’t even imagine? “Go ahead! Keep all your virtues umblemished; I’m the one using your power against your will and I will use it efficiently!”
That might actually resolve some issues. After all, the Sun couldn’t help it that his powers were keyed to maintaining his virtues.
Still… THAT was a PLOT. Megalomaniacal, grandiose, and utterly brilliant – it even avoided that “resonance” stuff – and he had nearly pulled it off! If his golem had only managed to contain the Godspear, it would have been virtually perfect! If he or she was still around… she might actually have to talk to him or her! He might know a way of punching the Wyld… or consider that incredibly stupid, but have some way to adapt his methods to punching it.
A clever artificer given to schemes. He (might as well think of “him” as “he” for the moment) might well still be around; after all, he was obviously prepared for the Wyld to engulf the Neverborn – unlike most of the other Deathlords.
(Aikiko) “So, who made you? They’re clever, at least!”
(Skoll) “Creator identified himself as “The Mask of Winters”.
Huh… hadn’t he been pretty scary and YOUNG for a Deathlord? Could she really discuss things with him? Well, she’d have to think about it, at least! On the other hand… at least half it’s purpose was now redundant. Would pointing that out do any good?
(Aikiko) “Look, just to let you know… the Wyld tides have already come in! Hey, Charles! Can I show it that ‘Power of 10’ video?”
(Charles, making it available) “Sure!”
(Skoll, after absorbing the data) “This does not determine the status of the Neverborn; merely that the universe has expanded substantially!”
(Aikiko) “Oh, they’re dead too! Uh… Charles, do we have any evidence of that?”
She normally wouldn’t ask if he had it – but that wasn’t the kind of lore he’d seem likely to spend a lot of time on.
(Charles) “Uhm…. Well, it’s in the histories… I’ve never actually been to look! Wait, don’t your martial arts folk know? I have a gate to the underworld!”
Well, there had to be one wandering around somewhere! She got into touch. It took a couple of days – but there was no tremendous rush outside of the irritation!
The priests were willing to come and talk for a bit.
(Skoll) “So the neverborn have recreated themselves and their prior souls are being recreated through humanity. That is… strange. This must be confirmed. Priority change; I will allow sensory and power access. I will require a gate to such of the Underworld as remains. Presence or absence of the Neverborn will be observed.”
Aikiko… abruptly seemed to be standing on Charles’s bridge again – “seemed” being the operative word.
(Skoll) “We must now proceed to the underworld!”
(Aikiko) “I guess we can open a gate for you…”
(Skoll) “My functions are not optimized for use in the Underworld; I shall protect you while you employ your abilities to investigate. This will also be of use to you; analysis suggests that confirming the status of the Neverborn is probably of interest to you as well.”
(Charles, privately) “Uh, Aikiko… do you want to trust this thing that far? I haven’t been to the underworld, but the books say that it isn’t very nice!”
(Aikiko, privately) “Good point! I wouldn’t be able to regenerate my Essence there as a living creature.”
(Aikiko) “I won’t be able to regenerate my Essence there, you know… you could wear me down, do all sorts of bad things to me once I am, and drag me off to your master to have HIM do all sorts of bad things to me!”
Although the thought of being turned to a Abyssal did make her wonder what her title would be… it certainly wasn’t worth risking finding out though!
(Aikiko) “Are you sure you can’t just look on your own?”
(Skoll) “My options for dealing with Wraiths are limited. You need not be concerned; the pocket dimension you currently occupy will sustain your needs – and I detect that you posses uninterruptible external links to fuel your abilities in any case. If a solar capture turns out to be unnecessary… I will have no further reason to keep you. New mission priorities will be in order.”
That wasn’t entirely ‘s reassuring, knowing that Solar capture might still be on the table… or so that statement seemed to suggest. Still, it WAS an automaton. If it’s mission was over… it was off to find a new mission or fall back on some secondary directive.”
Why wouldn’t it be able to deal with Wraiths though? They were as solid as anything else in the Underworld. Maybe it couldn’t deal with Arcanoi effectively? No anti-wraith weapons and some inhibitions?
Oh! Deathlords were basically Wraiths. Powerful ones, but Wraiths nonetheless. Of course a Deathlord wouldn’t give something anti-wraith stuff. It was self-preservation.
Aikiko had some reservations – what if some necromancer happened by and started messing around with Charles’ gate? Still… it WAS a decent chance explore the underworld and to do it with some boosts (in a weird fashion).
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CXXXIV – The Road To Kyrgyzstan – With Hope from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXIX – City Of Fire (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXX – The Lava of the Lamp (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CXXXII – Leo And The Cosmic Tour (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXXI – A Pillar Of Fire By Night (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CXXXV – Looming Shadows (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CXXXIII – An Impersonal Alchemy from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)