The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXLIV – The Cosmic Knights

Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butt...

The Food of the Primordials!

The engineer almost gave Charles a really odd look – but recalled himself in time. Didn’t the child-deity realize just how big a privilege it was to have an engine made by a god? Much less to get to watch it’s creation? And the SPEED… It should have taken YEARS to upgrade the engine that way! Only a truly mighty god, even using the divine authority charms, could do such a thing!

(Charles, noting the thought, explained) “I think it’s more important to look after it like it was an engine!”

Meanwhile, the meeting with the United Heaven and Worlds party was underway – at least by comlink, since Charles had things to do… On the other end there was a being of pure light, with a man who appeared to be made of road map lines, and a comparatively normal-looking bear person. The meeting opened with prayer, which Charles probably should have expected. Did they like peanut butter?

(Charles) “Hello!”

(“Road Map Man”, A.K.A. Lanlon of Many Routes) “Hello, Aden Shining Dream! Welcome to Tarvial!”

(Charles) “Well, thank you! Would you like some peanut butter?”

He sent some their way, in a variety of forms – peanut butter cups, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and peanut butter cookies, all of truly exceptional craftsmanship. Why not?

(“Light Being”, A.K.A. Bright-Shaped Riselda) “Peanut butter? Well, Lanlon and I arranged this meeting when it became apparent you had entered Tarvialan space.”

(Charles) “So what do you need?”

They put the peanut butter aside for later.

(Lanlon) “Well, your cult recently reached enough members to receive a seat in the House of Gods.” (Motioning to the bear) “Hysalka here is a geologist, and one of your more devoted worshippers. She wants your personal blessing before she runs for the seat.”

They sent Charles a local Wyld zone map and a shiny construct of solid light to reciprocate (they were fairly incredible goodies).

(Charles, a bit blankly) “My personal blessing?”

He did a bit of divination about whether or not Hysalka was a nice person… It looked like she was nice enough, but mildly corrupt as politicians went. It looked like… a part of the reason why the gods of Tarvial were so active in the parliament was that like the Bureaucracy focused on earth and thus didn’t notice and there weren’t really enough unoccupied Sidereals to stop them. They could also run God-Bloods in these positions. Hysalka… believed in what Charles seemed to promote (manses, artifacts, and fixing things), although she was far from a saint – and she would very much like to get his personal blessing and be the one who spoke for him on Tarvail.

(Malinda, privately) “Are you sure that you want your interests represented by someone who knows all the lovely lobbying and parliamentary tricks that make sausage making an analogy for politics?”

(Charles, privately) “Well, that is sort of how politics works! But do I really HAVE a message? Other than “Be Nice” and “Fix Things?””

(Malinda, privately) “Well, she DOES have skill at Manse-building; it’s often considered a related field due to the elemental connections. Are you going to do the Autochthon meeting the first Jadeborn thing and tell her “I dunno, build Manses?”?”

Charles considered what to give her… Did she have an active essence pool? Not to the full extent of the awakening mutations – it was only partial – but it was certainly enough for some thaumaturgy.

Huh… A Sigil of the Dawning Age was USEFUL, but not really an ongoing blessing…

Oh wait! All he had to do was upgrade with a few special functions!

The basic Sigil Of The Dawning Age (Artifact **) could be upgraded to a Draupnir, the Sigil of Plenty fairly readily, just by adding…

Power 4:

  • The Runic Forge: The item may use Thaumatrugic Enchantment instead of Crafting for basic Artifact Creation rolls (Class-B).
  • Informed Knowledge: The Sigil is is programmed with it’s own design and that of it’s components, and so needs no skills to work on making full or partial (Sigil of the Dawning Age) copies of itself (Class-A).
  • Thaumaturgic Science Effect/Enchantment (15 Successes): Makes full or partial duplicates of itself (Class-B).
  • Thaumaturgic Science Effect/Alchemy (10 Successes): Makes the rare woods and powdered gemstones needed to duplicate itself in full or in part (Class-A).
  • Charm: The Laborer’s Word: The user may accomplish two hours worth of work at a cost of two motes (Class-A). This power is also available to the user.
  • Self-powering; The Sigil may employ the Laborer’s Word once every ten minutes without cost – but only to work on creating full or partial copies of itself (Class-A).

Normally the Draupnir version of the Sigil accomplishes a months worth of artificing in a day – meaning that it will take it nine days to make a basic Sigil of the Dawning Age (accumulating 30 successes at DC4) and eighteen days (accumulating 60 successes at DC 5) to make a duplicate of itself. If the user opts to allow it to draw on his or her essence recovery, this time may be cut down proportionately (for calculation purposes, the Sigil gets the equivalent of twelve motes an hour normally – so an individual with a base recovery of 4/hour can cut things down to six or twelve days and still have a few motes left to use themselves. Individuals with Hearthstones and other sources of motes may accelerate things a great deal more).

The basic design of a Sigil of the Dawning Age is still…

Power 5:

  • 2x Class-C Powers:
    • Self-Powered. The amulets have no attunement cost
    • +6 Occult.
  • 2x Class-B Powers:
    • Bestows Awakened Essence.
    • Reduces the cost of thaumaturgy; normal operations cost 2 motes, really minor stuff only costs one mote, and trivial stuff – such as levitating pencils, lighting cigarettes, and weaving handfuls of light – can be performed at no cost.
  • 4x Class-A Powers:
    • Can maintain any two thaumaturgical effects with durations. If dispelled, the effects can be restored reflexively by paying their costs again.
    • Can be attuned to produce the effects of any one Major Talisman (one of the ones with “triple effect”), or of one Lesser (one of the ones with “double effect) and one Minor (one of the ones with the basic effect) Talismans, or of three Minor Talismans. Changing the attunement requires three Enchantment successes, rolling once per hour. They default to “walkaway” effects unless otherwise attuned.
    • Store ten motes, which can only be used to power thaumaturgy.
    • The user may spend a mote to roll (Wit + Occ) as a reflex action. 1/3/5 successes adds +1/2/3 dice to any action which is not being enhanced by some other supernatural effect.

Artifact Design: Power 5, Usefulness 4, Plot Impact 1, Script Immunity 1, Components -1 (calls for assorted purchases of rare woods, powdered gemstones, etc), Troublesome -2 (only works for those without access to charm lists of their own – pretty much normal humans). Net Total = 8, 8/4 = Rating-**

The Draupnir version adds Power 4 again – since Power can be added twice – taking the total up to 12, 12/4 = Rating-***. Fortunately, the self-powering function still more than suffices.

While even the basic sigils are designed to be fairly easy to analyze, and bestow enough power to – given time, resources, and some personal skill – replicate themselves, the upgraded version can be expected to become a normal part of life, as new sigils accumulate on the chain…

(Charles) “A blessing? Well, OK!”

And created a set of Sigils of Plenty and sent her a couple…

Hysalkas eyes widened -but the rest of her reaction was polished and gracious.

(Hysalka) “Thank you and praise your name, Aden.”

(Charles) “Oh you’re welcome!”

Malinda sighed. Oh dear. Now the child had come up with a way to AUTOMATE turning societies upside down… An eighteen-day doubling time? There could be a million of the things inside of a year! A few years down the line… it was entirely possible that everyone in Tarvail would have at least one.

And now he was busily shipping off some of the extra ones he’d made to his scientist-friends on Earth… Well, at least that disruption might be lost in everything else which was coming up!

The gods said goodbye, as did Hyselka.

————————————————————————————–

Elsewhere in the cosmos, Aikiko had emerged from the Memory of Oblivion – perhaps not surprisingly, to a sort of graveyard. Around her, for uncounted millions of miles, were drifting ships, asteroids, and even occasional truly enormous creatures – things thousands of miles long in some cases. The skies beyond… were filled with accretion disks, a blaze of nebular energies.

Huh. Well, that wasn’t as surprising as it might be considering where she just came from! It didn’t seem to be a Shadowland though, even though there was a terrible blackness at the center – but it was very hard to make out. No accretion disk there however. Perhaps that was the Mouth of the Memory into living space?

(Skoll) “Scanning… Chaos Pocket. Multiple Isadorean Reflections. No External Access; Area Shielded. Scans blocked, communications blocked, access routes blocked. Location file not found.”

Huh… Aikiko was VERY tempted to have a closer look! After all, forbidden places often had some kind of secret or treasure inside!

(Skoll) “Detecting… active thaumaturgy, pattern charms, geomancy, quasi-primordial behemoths, essence drives, primordial charms of Isadoros and Oramus, other traces too faint to identify.”

The two most reality warping ones. Even Aikiko had more sense than to meddle with that… She tried to let Charles know – and found that, while information and power was coming IN quite well, sending any back, even being in two places at once, was perfectly blocked! Somebody who knew all about being in more than one place at a time without being in multiple pieces was involved – and THEY seemed to understand it a LOT better than Charles.

Isidoros and Oramus were probably the best Primordials for doing that… But who set this up? The Mountain Folk? Those WERE Pattern Charms after all… But what would they be doing out here, other than the Great Search she’d heard about on Coruscant?

Unsurprisingly, Skoll… didn’t know.

Well, she couldn’t exactly expect intuitive insights from him. She might as well explore!

Even with flight artifacts and Adenic Travel Thaumaturgy that took some time. The place was BIG. Light years across at least.

Skoll DID express an interest in that though; she’d now used Adenic Thaumaturgy a couple of times – and, while it did not seem to be directly boosted by charms, it was far more powerful than any normal thaumaturgy. Have there been advancements while he awaited enough energy to repair himself? How was it done?

Hoo boy. Well, she could delay him for some time – but probably not forever!

(Aikiko) “Yeah, I think so… I’m not entirely sure how it’s done; though I think Manses have something to do with it.”

(Skoll) “Noted.”

So… a goal was definitely in order! The blackness in the center? One of the thousand-mile long Behemoths? One of the wrecked ships? One of the asteroids? A particular kind of power signature?

Ah! The most notable pattern Charm signature. The Mountain Folk were nothing if not well organized, and could doubtless answer a few questions for her!

It was a pretty fair distance – but she had time, transport artifacts, and plenty of Adenic travel thaumaturgy. The source seemed to be… a truly colossal saucer-ship, under very minimal power in what is more or less a long-term parking orbit around the center of the system. A fair amount of salvage work on wrecked ships was going on near it; there were lights and many smaller ships moving around. Judging by the nearly-gutted nearest wrecks the operation had probably been going on for some time.

Aikiko wasn’t having Skoll do any cloaking – so there was some notice of her approach – a rather small ship approaching then – although they seemed rather startled to find that it was a suit of armor with that kind of power signature, and not a fairly major ship.

(Aikiko) “Hi! I’m kinda stuck in here!”

(They reply was in Old Realm – and showed an image of a fairly classic Earthborn or “Gray”) “A pretty standard complaint around here I fear… Are you by yourself?”

(Aikiko, also in Old Realm) “Yes! I was talking about the armor, but I guess you guys haven’t had much luck escaping this place?”

(The “Gray”) “Unfortunately not! So far as we are aware, no one has escaped – although some have been taken. Still, that may change; we are working on it!”

(Aikiko) “What do you mean, taken?”

(The “Gray”) The gate at the center takes the incautious occasionally!

(Aikiko) “And I guess you don’t know where it leads.”

(The “Gray”) “Well… I don’t. The command crew might!”

(Aikiko) “Hummm… if there’s any way I can help you out, think they’d help me get out of this armor? It’s pretty sweet, but I don’t want to be stuck in it all the time! And I’ve got a movie to shoot in a few weeks!”

(Skoll) “Then we share a goal! We must swiftly escape this place, find the Mask of Winters, and – if he so commands – capture the Sun to take your place!”

(Aikiko) “Sigh… that second and third part is more YOUR goal. But yeah, we definitely need to get out of here.”

(Skoll) “You wish to be released – and a replacement would be best! The most appropriate replacement is the Sun, as was always intended!”

Argh! The Celestial Lions probably wouldn’t be able to handle him! The near-total invulnerability and massive arsenal alone would make that awkward – and without a pilot, there was nothing to prevent Skoll from just… ignoring everyone and firing the implosion bows until everyone gave up and let him through! She couldn’t let him get to Yu-Shan, even if he WAS surprisingly reasonable for a Deathlords Incarnae-capturing Death Machine… Perhaps he could be convinced to forget the sun entirely and simply see if the Mask of Winters had any new directives? Of course, first they’d have to FIND him – and that would be risky for her! After all, Skoll would presumably obey him… Ejection and likely a hard sell toward Abyssal Exaltation? Still, Abyssals were a bit weaker these days! He might just try to recruit her! After all… blowing her up had very little point; it would just deprive her Exaltation of a few years of experience. Doing otherwise might at least leave her owing him a big favor!

With the Jadeborn ship… while someone was willing to come meet her; they appeared to be reluctant to simply let an unknown entity with such power aboard – which was pretty understandable.

(An older, and more experienced, “Gray”) “My greetings to you… Are you perhaps one of the Cosmic Knights of which I have heard? You seem to fit the description fairly well!”

Well, THAT was unexpected!

(Aikiko) “Cosmic… Knights? Never heard of them! I found this guy on Earth!”

(Older Gray) “Earth? Ah, “Dirt”. Not very helpful I’m afraid! At least half the inhabited planets in the universe seem to be named something that translates to “Earth”.”

(Aikiko) “THE Earth. The Elemental Pole.”

(Older Gray) “What, the ACTUAL central physical manifestation of the elemental pole? How unusual! I thought that the Cosmic Knights only appeared in the three Kaldarius Galaxies! – at least within the area of the Search.”

(Aikiko) “That’s right! I’ve never been to those places. Honestly… this is the first time I’ve been off planet!”

(Older Gray) “Huh! Were you even aware of what that armor would do when you touched it? Still, it is impressive! People who can manage to activate such a suit are very VERY rare!”

(Aikiko) “Unfortunately, no!”

She explained just how it had happened.

(Older Gray) “Strange! That does not sound like a normal suit! Perhaps a variant? Or one that was malfunctioning?”

(Aikiko) “I think a Deathlord made him! He says his mission was to capture the Sun!”

(Older Gray) “A Deathlord? (There was a moments pause while he looked quite abstracted) Those are… rare and terrible beings! Why would one of THEM create something so like the Knights?”

(Aikiko) “I don’t know! Tell me more about them! And if you can find some way to get me out of this thing, I’m more than happy to help you escape! I’ve got a movie to film not that far from now!”

(Older Gray) “Well… The Kaldarius Galaxies are a trio of close galaxies with an unusually large quantity of interstellar dust and gas – dense enough to cloak the entire region in a relatively dark nebula. As such, exploration there is rather slow – and it tends to be guided by instruments capable of detecting Essence, rather than more physical quantities! Scattered across each of those galaxies were several hundred ancient complexes – groups of indestructible manses, each centered on a manse with s sealed crypt. When those were opened, suits such as the one you inhabit were found – but for centuries no one could activate them or tell much about them. Then a master thaumaturgist by the name of Ormalis touched one in studying it – and was drawn within, becoming a being of fabulous power and the first Cosmic Knight. Since then it has been shown that only a being with an active essence pool, an essence of at least three, and of great virtue and nobility, can activate a suit – and each is attuned to either men or women. If and when a Cosmic Knight is slain… the empty suit soon reappears in its crypt, to await another claimant.”

(Aikiko) “And… I’m a Solar Exalt. I never thought I was THAT noble – if Skoll is related to the Cosmic Knights in any way at all.”

(Older Gray) “Well… we never HAVE found any indication of who created the Cosmic Knights! They seem to have been there since the planets were created during the Reshaping. Our speculation was that… Oh dear.”

(Aikiko) “What?”

(Older Gray) “Well… so much of the Reshaping was patterned upon bits of the original creation. Thus you find many one-environment worlds, and galaxies full of ruined planet-cities, and so on. Do you know what YOUR armor was made for? If it set the pattern for the Cosmic Knights… they may be very like it in many ways!”

(Aikiko) “Like I said, I think it was to capture the Sun and use him for… something. It was made around the time of the Balorian Crusade… I think. My friend, who’s much better at history, says he dates to that time.”

(Older Gray, with another abstract look – just like the one when she said that she was a “Solar Exalt”) “The SUN? The most powerful and virtuous of gods… And the Cosmic Knights take into themselves the most powerful and virtous of mortals. What was your armor made to do?”

(Aikiko) “Charles and I had a theory. He thought that the Deathlord might have wanted to capture the Sun and use their combined power to fight off Balor and his armies. But Charles is like that! He’s FULL of theories!”

She explained what they’d come up with as the Mask of Winter’s plan… Capture the sun. Keep him from interfering with the advance of the Wyld and the Raksha until it reached the Tombs of the Neverborn. Once the Neverborn had returned to the wyld and reshaped themselves, use the Suns power to drive back the Raksha and re-establish the security of a (likely somewhat shrunken) creation – thus getting the Neverborn off his back while repaying his debt to them, providing him with an ultimate weapon, getting back at the sun for turning his back on his Exalted, thumbing his nose at the other Incaranae, Yu-Shan, and Malfeas by capturing the Sun, and claiming dominion over as much of creation as he cared to have.

After all, the Mountain Folk were in a pretty good position to verify that stuff!

(Older Gray) “So – regardless of his creators motives – the basic point was to swallow up the greatest and most noble of gods and use his power to protect and sustain Creation. And the Cosmic Knights… absorb the greatest and most noble of mortals and help them use their power – as augmented by the armor and manses – to protect and defend galaxies. Your “Deathlord” may have meant no good – but I suspect that he or she has done a great deal of good entirely by accident.”

Celestial Exaltations pretty much never happened in those galaxies (not that – given the scale of creation – they were at all common anywhere except the Earth) because the most heroic locals had already sought out Cosmic Knighthood, and their “real selves” were in isolated pocket dimensions, and unavailable for Exaltation. There were at least a thousand of them. They couldn’t match a solar exalt at the upper levels of essence – but how many Solar Exalts hit the upper levels of essence anyway? They tended to be too eager to push the boundaries of what was safe – and Aikiko was no exception; just look at what she did in Coruscant.

Gaia had tried quite a few experiments during the reshaping. It wasn’t like she was short of places to put them.

Skoll had no idea of what to do or say about THAT; having a small army of quasi-replicants of himself and Haiti running about was not something that was EVER covered in his programming…

(Older Gray) “Now… my apologies… but you said that you were a Solar Exalt. There have been few reports of THOSE for millenia – although the Banes show some similarities – and they were prone to… indiscretions. Combining their legendary powers with the power of what is apparently the primal cosmic knight armor… What is it you intend to do here?”

(Aikiko) “I came here fleeing Coruscant after some mistakes. I want to escape, just like you guys.”

There was another blank look – but this time it didn’t pass as quickly.

(Older Gray) “Coruscant? I’m sorry, but I can’t find any references… A planet I presume?”

(Aikiko) “It’s some planet in the Underworld. I met one of you guys there… he said he’d died during an expedition. It’s not how I expected the Underworld to look, though – bright as the sun and with a big city, too!”

(Older Gray) “Ah. Unfortunate that… we have few dealings with the Underworld; most of our crews live a very long time indeed. Still, we can send no queries outwards! If we could… perhaps the Great Search could rescue us from this trap.”

(Aikiko) “Are there… sleeping… others of your kind here? He did tell me about that.”

(Older Gray) “No, no… We arrived here by unlikely accident – a quiescent aspect of Isidoros lay in our path, and when we transitioned it under drive… we somehow wound up here. It has been many centuries now – although I hope that our long entrapment will soon reach it’s end!”

(Aikiko, her investigative excellency kicking over) “Let me guess . . . you’re trying to build a big warp drive to get out of here?”

(Older Gray) “That… would not suffice; passing through one of Isidoros’s reflections traveling faster than light brought us here – and trying to escape that way simply brings you back here. Our theoreticians say that we need an Elsewhere Drive, since not even the Once-Primordials can block the infinite dimensions of Elsewhere.”

(Aikiko) “What do you need for that? I’m no artificier, but I know a little about that!”

There was still a fair ingredients list – but they’d made a lot of progress. Fortunately they had been able to substitute for some things. The most awkward remaining items were some odd bits that they were scrounging for and some behemoth bits; those were around, were really hard to extract.

Of course, for a Solar “wearing” Skoll… they might be much more manageable!

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One Response

  1. […] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXLIV – The Cosmic Knights: The Gods of Tarvail, Draupnir, the Sigil of Plenty, Aikiko and the Celestial Sargasso, the Mountain Folk and the Cosmic Knights. […]

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