The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXLVI – Foundations

on a bronze french cannon, the relief of coat ...

Are you SURE that’s a bracer?

In Skoll, Aikiko was laughing too hard to stand. She’d finally thought to ask Skoll – and the lever that Larquen Quen, the Mask of Winters, had used to bring the Unconquered Sun out of Yu-Shan and into Skoll’s reach… had been a millennia-old promise to drop by a birthday party. And he’d managed to turn that minor promise into… freedom from the Neverborn for a birthday present! It was going to be hard to top that!

In Aden, Charles was considering… Perhaps it was “alas, poor Unconquered Sun! He just had to clear a few billion more levels! He couldn’t let that game beat him by not finishing it in one go, for he was the embodiment of perfection and excellence!” Was the way that people got stuck in the World of Warcraft a reflection of the Games of Divinity? Or was it Papers and Paychecks?

After all… the games were played by the Primordials, each of whom had their own specialties and didn’t even think about other things – which alone said that the interface adapted to suit the player, and that it the game targeted his or her weaknesses to remain challenging. So the Maidens kept getting peeks into “Samsara” (probably through the link to the loom), the Unconquered Sun felt that he couldn’t stop without letting it beat him, and Luna perhaps felt that it would show her even more of the possibilities of creation. Gods did tend to be a bit… focused… and if it played to their purposes… that might explain their effects on those with less multifunctional minds than the Incarnae as well. A direct interface with their full consciousness and complete fulfillment of their purposes would be an incredible ecstasy, and the mere draw of it would have a tremendous effect on them. On more-or-less normal people… Well, a quick look at the games hadn’t had any effect on HIM, but that might be Dudael – on the other hand… he’d had to block it out for Six Ebb, Ten Peach, and Nuahathia – but not for Sorina Chisaru and Mr Montague; they’d gotten better as soon as they’d gotten their eyes off the Games.

That… would kind of fit! Mortals simply had too many motivations and functional limitations for the full effect to hit them, mid-level gods were the most vulnerable – and recordings of their experiences with the games would be filled with THEIR sensations – the Incarnae could handle it to some degree… and the Primordials found it wonderful fun, but not all-consuming – as did their Higher Souls, since they were part of something greater, but the interface could only adapt to what was actually present. Some gods – the ones with drives that couldn’t be fulfilled by the games (such as “Fix the Universe”) might not even find them especially attractive.

The actual play of the game – at least as long as it was complicated and could go on for a very long time – might not even be relevant if the interface that was that important. It might not even be something that could be described within the universe; after all, the games predated shaped reality…

Not too important really! It would be nice to get the Incarnae unaddicted, but wasn’t like it was hurting them any as far as he could tell. They were the greatest gods, made by the direct efforts of multiple Primordials each – and the more powerful gods were better able to resist. It was hard to get into the Jade Pleasure Dome to fix things anyway and there were far more urgent projects addressing far more urgent needs than the Incarnae amusing themselves. Gaia had done a good job; the universe had been looking after itself tolerably well for some time! Enormous amounts of totally empty space made a pretty good defense – not to mention leaving the outside relatively small and arranging to put Lunars and friendly Raksha hordes all over it! And with the Lunars very well-acquainted with using Wyld pockets for interstellar travel… they could hop from the core of Creation to the Empirical Galaxy with ease as needed.

After all, there were an awful lot of permanently shaped Raksha these days. The Hannya and Shapeless might still make pests of themselves, but the space-distortion tended to ensure that there were swarms of defenders for every intruder. It wasn’t like Creation was especially unique; there were seven hundred extra exaltations around to prove that it wasn’t! Even if the other creations were alternate timelines, or existed in other dimensions… you could still get there by traveling the wyld. It was a churning sea of possibility and chaos after all.

He was still considering that when he was informed that the Masons wanted to open a branch office in Aden.

Well, that had been weeks ago – shortly before leaving for the edge of the universe. He’d dropped by to take the Mason’s some presents! A production run of Sigils Of The Dawning Age and a few Rods of Construction. After all… I wouldn’t be fair to give the government scientists magic and not give some to the people who had been earnestly studying it.

They’d recognized him – he had been pretty generous the first time – and they’d passed him on to the Grand Master fairly promptly.

(Charles) “Hello sir!”

(Grand Master) “Hello – Charles, was it? What brings you back here? And still without your guardian?”

(Charles) “Well, things have gone very well, and your tools were very helpful in getting things started, so I wanted to bring you some bonuses! You’re likely to be needing some of them soon what with all those advertisements!”

The Grand Master checked the privacy wards.

(Grand Master) “The divinations on the ads themselves indicated they were real – some sort of geomantic working, I’d say. But to do it all at once like that… would you know anything about that other than what’s in the advertisements? You seem well-connected for your age.”

(Charles) “Well, a fair amount… what did you need to know?”

(Grand Master) “We’re interested in some of the worlds on the other side. Some of us have heard that magical development on the other side is greater than on Earth. I’m not so sure about that myself, but if we’re going to send people across, I’d rather not be completely blind. I’d like to avoid reenacting Aliens or Predator, at least. So, if you’d heard the same rumors, I was wondering if you knew any particularly good worlds.”

(Charles) “Well, they’re basically uninhabited except for a few advance parties and some entities who’ll be acting as guides and pathfinders. Most of them do have facilities built around service-mansions though, so that they’ll be ready for people to arrive.”

(Grand Master) “What about the environment… and have you visited these worlds personally?”

(Charles) “The galaxies were selected so as to have no other sapient races, and – in most cases – no other advanced life forms. There shouldn’t be any major problems there! The environments are modeled on Earths before it got messed up, so there won’t be any problems there either. Overall, it should be pretty easy – roughly like opening up of the some of the uninhabited islands around the earth during the age of sail; some limitations on local transport, but overall straightforward enough!”

(Grand Master) “Well, whoever this is has planned things out… I’d almost say for centuries.”

OK… if the boy wasn’t an Exalt or major God, he certainly had some contacts – although he couldn’t make out ANYTHING about the aspect. He was almost too innocent to be an Exalt though…

(Charles) “Anyway, since magic will be getting a lot more important and common soon, it seemed only fair to bring you some more – and a lot of construction will be needed anyway! I thought that these (as Charles pulled out a box containing one production run of three hundred Sigils of the Dawning Age) and a few (as he pulled out four) of the rods from earlier might be useful!”

(Grand Master, after a brief analysis…) “These are… pretty good. Considerably more powerful than the usual enlightenment-devices! How’d you get so many in one place? The enlightened try to keep those under control!”

(Charles) “Well, it’s one batch really!”

(Grand Master) “Mind if I ask where you got them? We normally only see a dozen at a time at most – and even that’s pretty rare.”

He stuck with “cheery” at the moment! There was no point being too forceful when you’re getting free stuff!)

(Charles) “Well… I picked them up in Aden, and came down through Yu-Shan!”

(Grand Master) “I know a little about Yu-Shan – mostly that it’s Heaven, you can go to a party there once a year if you’re lucky or crazy, and it’s normally NOT a good idea to try to get in – but I don’t believe you’ve told me about Aden.”

(Charles) “Another pocket-dimension realm!”

(Grand Master) “Ah… not where you’re from, is it?”

The boy… did have a rather interesting Essence signature! Including a rather frustrating aspect that he couldn’t quite identify! The fact that he seemed to act like a cheerful good fairy didn’t truly rule out most things, but it certainly made them seem unlikely! Some questions about “Aden” were definitely in order!

(Charles) “Well sort of!”

Hm! Either a dodge or a “this is too complicated to explain”. The boy was so blatantly bad at lying that normally he would have suspected a front – but why would a manipulator drop by their lodge with massive gifts of magical power? The order was skilled, but the Masons were not one of the great powers of the universe!

(Grand Master) “Is Aden more open than Yu-Shan?”

(Charles) “Well, generally! Why? Did you want to visit?”

(Grand Master) “I was curious, yes – if only to check out the geomantic network. Earth’s pretty well-claimed, and I hear that Yu-Shan is too!”

That gave them both some information… It was a solid chunk of evidence for “too complicated to explain” for the Grand Master, and it told Charles that – while the Masons had apparently managed to retain more information than most Exalts had any more – they didn’t have much recent information on Yu-Shan.

(Charles) “ Well, if you want… do you have a few minutes?”

(Grand Master) “I have about fifteen until my next meeting.”

(Charles) “Mind if I use the closet door? It’s easiest to have a frame to work with!”

(Grand Master) “Nothing nasty’s going to chance coming through, is it?”

(Charles) “Definitely not!”

(Grand Master, erecting a few hurried wards just in case) “All right, then.”

Charles cheerily opened up his usual primary gate, ushering the Grand Master through to the usual a mountainside overlooking the singing forest, with the sea of chaos lapping at the docks of an elven treehouse town, and all the rest. Since there was a limited alert on… a couple of Baalgrogs were playing exceptionally gloomy chess, and a contingent of elves were having an illusion-casting competition, nearby.

(Grand Master) “This is pretty big for a pocket… I ran into one in the mountains once, but it was a lot smaller than this!” (Nodding to the Baalgrogs) “Locals?”

(Charles) “They do security!”

The Grand Master had a few essence-sensing effects available. Once he got over his shock at the seething geomantic energies he checked the Baalgrogs (it wasn’t too unusual for Raksha to take on pop culture characteristics, but generally not quite like that!) and the Elves – only to find them (at Essence 7) to be some of the most potent beings that he’d ever encountered! Raksha didn’t normally run that powerful! And certainly not in GROUPS! Hardly anything did!

And the boy… was still just as hard to read, but was at least as powerful, and his aura… faded seamlessly into the incredible geomantic background.

(Elf) “Hello Charles! Another guest? Will he be needing a place to stay, or is this just a visit?”

(Grand Master) “I’m just visiting; I’ve got a meeting with someone in about five minutes. You know this young man? What does he do around here?”

Charles rather abruptly realized that he hadn’t told ANYONE to conceal that information.

(Elf, with some startlement) “Well… sustains existence? He is this realm after all!”

(Grand Master) “WHAT?” (In a bit of denial) “But… he’s just a boy!”

(Charles) “Aw! Everybody fusses if you tell them that!”

(Grand Master) “What are you!?”

(Charles) “I don’t think we have a formal name yet! A lot of people think I’m a primordial though!”

(Grand Master) “Gah!”

Interesting! The Masons had access to a LOT of very old information! Had they really managed to maintain one of the second or third age thaumaturgical schools?

(Grand Master) “The Primordial of Generosity, I assume?”

(Charles) “I like to fix things! And people need more room, and there are a LOT of other things to fix too!”

(Grand Master) “So… am I right when I guess that gate project is your doing?”

(Charles) “Well, yes!… It’s not a problem is it?”

(Grand Master) “Err… it’s causing a stir with some Terrestrial factions. They’ve tried to remove the ads from the papers, but somebody keeps putting them back up!”

(Charles) “Well, they’d have a hard time anyway… it is a global campaign after all! And people might as well be ready!”

(Grand Master) “Well… we can’t stay on one world forever, even if the Sahara seems to be moistening and pollution is unaccountably decreasing.”

He looked at Charles meaningfully.

(Charles) “Needed fixing!”

(Grand Master) “How are you intending to handle the gates? Did you put any near Savannah?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Three relatively nearby, 162 across North America! 864 across Earth!”

(Grand Master, boggling at the raw power that implied…) “And you’re opening these all at once? How?”

(Charles) “Gate-manses, and access-restriction manses on the Earthly ends. Fortunately, with more power flowing into the dragon lines, there are plenty of suitable places to put them now!”

(Grand Master) “And you can build that many Manses all that once?”

(Charles) “I made Djinn to do that! I have enough to do with Yu-Shan and Earth!”

Djinn? Like the creatures of legend? The ones that… built instant magical palaces… How old was the boy?

(Grand Master) “Ah… I might have to talk to one or two of those. So what else are you doing with the geomancy… err, if you don’t mind telling? I’ll come back after my next meeting if it’s long.”

(Charles) “Uhm… That WOULD be kind of long… I could leave you an aide with library access though!”

(Grand Master) “All right… If it’s not obvious, sure.”

(Charles) “Hey Jasfari! Would you like to help out the Grand Master here for a bit? “

(Jasfari, a Coatl) “Certainly Charles! Hello there… Grand Master is a bit awkward; what do you like to go by?”

(Grand Master) “Albert Jameson!”

(Jasfari) “Then I’ll help you out for awhile Mr Jameson! Charles does lack a sense of proportion about some things.”

(Albert) “I’m seeing that…”

After all… even at a quick glance, this serpentine “assistant” seemed to be… well, not as powerful as the other spirits, but still more powerful (Essence 5) than any human! And was apparently linked to still greater sources of power!

He slipped Jafari into his jacket pocket.

(Charles) “Hmph! everyone thinks I need babysitters! (grumble-grumble-grumble…)

The Grand Master didn’t think that was such a bad idea! It was pretty obvious that the boy was… likely to give stuff to anyone who asked nicely!

While it wasn’t quite so obvious that the box full of amulets he’d been handed provided far more than just Enlightenment (as if that wasn’t enough) the things… pretty much explained themselves, and all the basics of Thaumaturgy, and started providing some minor protections, pretty much as soon as you touched them! And there were multiple layers of them, neatly packed – apparently about three hundred. That represented a tremendous amount of power right there… All in one batch? If he could persuade the child to use even a tiny fraction of those resources on the Freemason’s behalf… He’d have to review what he could get out of “library access” after his meeting… he still had to go, even if it was with a lot more reluctance than when he started with Charles today. Mason’s didn’t exactly recruit, but if the boy could be persuaded to ask to join… he’d do whatever it took to get him in! The boy would be a credit to virtually any organization.


One Response

  1. […] The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXLVI – Foundations: On the nature of the Games, Retrospective with the Masons. […]

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