Meanwhile, Gothmug was working on a REALLY gloomy poem (and reading thereof). He was very good at that anyway – and he’d gathered together a number of items to help himself out. He had the Quill of Angst, the Microphone of Tears, the Dark Lights of Gloom, Eyeshadow of Ennui (so bored that it couldn’t be bothered burning off), the Blackest Coffee – as black as the deepest void between the stars, where light goes to die, filled with the anguish of hope swirling forever down the throat of Isidoros – and sugar. Lots and LOTS of sugar. It gave him the energy to be even more depressing then Eeyore! And the inevitable crash from all the sugar inspired even MORE gloominess! Getting in some angsty (or at least willing to pretend) teenage Kickaha to perform as “Dingoes Ate My Baby” for backup music added some extra ominous menace too.
Fortunately, Gothmug was fundamentally nice enough; he used his powers of gloom to make people realize that things could be MUCH worse, rather than to depress them into suicide.
Over with the Sidereals, the “byblow of Autochthon” theory about Charles had picked up a big boost; the standoffish Pattern Spiders who NEVER talk to anyone but Sidereals had apparently sent Charles a direct order for a huge pile of artifacts (to help them with their work on the Loom of Fate yet!) and had asked that he be let in to deliver them.
Of course, considering the current size of the tapestry on the loom… many of the more perceptive Sidereals suspected that there were legions of pattern spider hierarchies that no one but the other spiders even knew existed hidden in the dimensional folds. Even with the greater isolation from the Wyld that distance provided, and the relatively limited number of inhabited worlds that required supervision (barren rocks rarely provoked causality violations, and it usually didn’t matter if something weird happened to some of them anyway), there was a LOT more work than there used to be.
Presumably Asna had made some secondary assembler-spiders capable of building more – if perhaps more slowly than she could. Even with less than fifty thousand inhabited worlds in Creation things were busy.
There were things you just didn’t discuss in Malfeas – and one of them was that the Mask of Winters had managed to backstab the Ebon Dragon. By complete ACCIDENT. Worse, while the Sun was entrapped in Nachdenken-Dammerung, the Reflection on Falling Shadows, the Raksha had been free of his gaze, Holy charms had ceased to work, and the Yozi’s had been partially free to act. Claiming the Scarlet Empress while the Ebon Dragon was (once again accidentally) unable to intervene to backstab THEM had been another “happy” (?) accident.
If you were not a third circle or another Yozi, and were foolish enough to mention that debacle, he would either hover over your neighborhood for about a day and let the various horrors that emerged when he did that handle you or he made sure that nothing you did turned out right for a very long time. Orabilis had taken to snatching people who knew about it just to keep the peace, such as it was in Malfeas.
Aikiko was considering… Skoll was outside his mission parameters, and so was pretty much letting her pilot – but it would be nice to make that official; Skoll was a pretty sweet ride!
Oh dear. She’d gone to Japan, signed up with Toho, and was now piloting a robot designed to fight entire HORDES of monsters. If had someone arranged this with astrology, they either had a weird sense of humor or were really desperate for a Solar to fight a big threat. And she was a teenaged Japanese girl, and so was more or less REQUIRED to pilot the giant robot which had snatched her. Skoll was even partially powered by her personal energies!Just like in the Movie or with so MANY Anime!
Oh well. He was certainly handy enough at the moment – and she had some more Behemoth-bits to find for the Jadeborn. Fortunately, after a little studying, it had become clear that she didn’t really need a shuttle; she could just pilot Skoll over!
The Reiskaer crew nodded wisely… prototype cosmic knight it was!
So next up they needed… a Quagma Tendril from the Neutron Ammonite and a bit of the spacemap in the mind of the Nebular Man-of-War. Fortunately getting the tendril didn’t actually require going into the ammonite; it stretched them out to grab things and use it’s powers… They WERE very strong though – and tended to break down when they separated from it. The Jadefolk had to build a containment… It was a pain to get near because it tended to do things like change the number of dimensions in space, or reduce Planks Constant, and otherwise play with the physics of space and time – and who knew what would happen if she tried to stabilize it by sticking it in her extradimensional pocket? It could get really weird – especially when she already had a cargo of Neverborn Souls aboard!
She waited for the crew to make something specialized. It shouldn’t be TOO hard and they’d been preparing for quite some time.
It didn’t take them long to produce a containment vessel – a complex thing of jade, moonsilver, and adamant that was apparently designed to produce complete stasis inside. That was pretty neat! Apparently… if she could break off a tentacle-segment it would first collapse into a near-point – and would start to break down moments later. It wass VERY important to contain it before it started to break down.
They were pretty hard to break off in the first place, even by Celestial Exalt standards. They were, after all, denser than neutronium. Fortunately, they were very thin – as in atomic-scale thin, like a sci-fi “monowhip”, but with a weight of tons per foot, wrapped in distorted reality, and at a temperture of a hundred thousand degrees. It was a good thing that Skoll was strong – and that they needed only a tiny bit and that the stasis container would also reduce it’s effective mass.
The simplest way to cut it was, of course, to chop away with a Daiklaive! Not, perhaps, the most SENSIBLE way of course…
The Reiskaer had weapons that could cut it of course – super-powerful lasers and such – but they lacked the ability to get near the things safely; they could cut bits free – but not collect them. Actually getting in close to get them called for perfect or nigh-perfect defenses, the ability to maintain your own system of natural laws, the ability to personally exert massive forces, and so on. It wasn’t easy for non-exalts to get all that stuff. The artifacts that could do it were pricey even for a Reiskaer…
Still, some of their weapons had range. Given some fast communication (also easy) they could do the cutting while she snagged the stuff!
They were entirely agreeable with that – and soon Aikiko was headed for the Neutron Ammonite with the containment vessel – and chuckling. That “Turbolaser Cannon” they planned to use had looked awfully familiar! Straight out of Star Wars, even if it WAS a standard design from before they’d gotten stuck in here that had been around for thousands of years!
It was a bit sobering to realize that – soon soon enough – stuff like this would be able to reach Earth. Still… since Skoll was giving her the full sensory feed… it felt like she was personally flying through space – albeit with some armor on. That was pretty cool all by itself!
Up ahead… the main body of the Neutron Ammonite was drifting through space, looking… aargh… just like the planet-killer from the original Star Trek series. From the radiant open end of the cone hundreds or thousands of whipping lines of light were chopping up a sizeable planetoid into nice easy-to-digest pieces, which were hurtling into the open end of the shell. Skoll’s extra senses… were reporting wildly shifting metrics in there, electromagnetic shifts, and bizarre reality distortions. The Wyld was strong with this thing… it ate geomancy along with the planets and planetoids it was a part of. As the bits spiraled in, they were compressed by tidal effects, flashed into plasma, fused, collapsed into neutronium, and finally fed into the creature as a stream of incandescent quagma/nearly-pure wyld energies. Evidently… it fed on the structure of creation.
It was probably for the best that it was stuck! That was going to be really problematic to approach, even before the heat! And the stuff she wanted… well, if it was as heavy as Everest, Skoll could probably pull himself to it, even if he couldn’t pull it to him. The ammonite might or might not fuss; the tendrils were pretty tiny to it. It DID outweigh the sun after all!
She went hurtling into the fringes of the waving tendrils – although she did try to stick to the edges, which was easier said than done.
A tendril whipping by at a few thousand miles per hour brushed against Skoll, and sent him hurtling… Fortunately, the pocket-realm “inside” was almost perfectly isolated from simple impacts, and her personal armor held down the force of the blow – but as she stopped spinning she saw several other tendrils reaching for her.
(An impressive check; 5d at D4, and it got six successes to notice her).
Aikiko dodged repeatedly – but the space around Skoll was filling with tendrils. For a moment things were two-dimensional (which was really odd), then the universe was made up of affection, irritation, bloody-mindedness and parchesi instead of mass, energy, space, and time (and it was her turn and she could not find the dice!), and then everything was made of color.
That was awkward – and the Ammonite was a surprisingly moody blue!
She signaled for her allies to start firing – and colossally powerful blasts were fired more-or-less at random into the cloud of tendrils! They were avoiding targeting Aikiko,, but the micro-thin tentacles were quite hard to hit…
Except the gunners got six successes on six dice.
More by luck than anything else the beam intersected a tendril – a shimmer of slightly different blue – just as strands of blue wrapped themselves around the steely color of Skoll! Botheration! Going insubstantial might help – but the wyld energies of the tendrils might be enough to disrupt almost anything.
She probed instead… how much essence did the thing have? A ward might deter it.
About Essence 6 Equivalent, with good power reserves. Mostly boosted Raksha-style powers – but backed by lots of physical energies.
And the Neutron Ammonite scored six successes on six dice again – and sent a tiny tendril of power back along Aikiko’s probe.
Hm… Skoll had a number of draining abilities. Draining wyld essence into himself will might make things a bit unpredictable for a bit though.
(Ammonite) “Small clever person! Found you! Found you! Yellow colored! With Extra Magentism!”
She had Skoll activate a draining aura as a deterrent!
(Ammonite) “Waah! Meanie!”
Not good! It seemed to be winding up to toss her into the Central Black Hole / Throat of Isidoros / Route to Malfeas.
(Aikiko) “Hey, don’t throw me in there! I just need a tiny bit of your body! I’ll turn off the painful aura if you let me take just a little bit…”
She turned it off anyway! Being tossed seemed to be imminent!
(Ammonite) “Bored! Bored!”
It seemed to be paying very little attention to the turbolaser shots… they had broken off a few tendril-chunks, although it mostly just scooped them up again and re-absorbed them without even really noticing. It just seemed to make more all the time anyway.
Aikiko started using telekinesis and a bit of travel thaumaturgy to telekinetically maneuver the containment vessel towards where tendrils were being cut. Mere physical restraint on her end wouldn’t interfere with THAT.
Oddly enough… she felt kind of sorry for the Ammonite. It had probably eaten everything of interest around – and it HADN’T gone after the Reiskaer. It… might outweigh the solar system, and control immense powers – but it seemed to have – at best – a fairly modest intelligence.
It wasn’t too hard to scoop some up.
(Ammonite) “Out! Want Out! Bored!”
(Aikiko) “You and me both!”
That… might not be a good idea of course. Unleash this thing on the universe? Well, on an admittedly mostly empty-universe? It was one living neutron star. It’s not like there weren’t quadrillions of empty galaxies.
(Aikiko, with some shock; What a child!) “Really?.” Well… she was stealing bits of it’s body, a few stories wouldn’t be much of a price to pay! “OK…”
Well, they WERE using a turbolaser outside; why not Star Wars?
The Reiskaer stopped shooting after she had a bit of tendril. The Neutron Ammonite had never really noticed; it was too small and it wasn’t at all like the feeling of it’s tendrils hitting indestructibility. It was just like tendrils passing through one another. That happened all the time.
It did enjoy the story though, even if it was the ODDEST appreciative audience she’d ever had!
(Ammonite) “More Stories!… Please?”
Wait-a-minute… it sounded… a little more alert somehow. If stories were giving it power… this wasn’t a behemoth at all was it? An Unshaped? A Raksha who liked really big forms? It certainly used a LOT of wyld energy and… it had… wrapped itself in neutronium armor to keep reality out. DEFINITELY an Unshaped!
(Aikiko) “Promise not to eat me or any of my friends?”
She got the impression of it… thinking through a list of the other behemoths around here.
(Ammonite) “Mostly no fun!”
It was probably the only Wyld behemoth-entity around the place. The Fusion Shark wasn’t at all intelligent and what the Reiskaer crew had on the Nebular Man-of-War suggested that it was far TOO intelligent, and most of the others seemed almost mindless.
And she still felt sorry for it. How long had it been trapped here?
(Aikiko) “Oh, all right…”
She gave it Godzilla this time! It would be interesting to hear the opinion of something that was arguably also a kaiju!
(Ammonite) “Strong Story! Much Better than Asteroids!… You’re… Very Small!”
(Aikiko) “I guess compared to an asteroid, yeah.”
(Ammonite) “You… also trapped?”
(Aikiko) “Me and my friends, yeah.”
(Ammonite) “Very dull here… almost all narratives here… end in falling into The Black Boar who Twists The Skies. The Sky Here… Twisted into trap”.
(Aikiko) “Is he trying to escape Malfeas?”
(Ammonite) “Him? No… Yes… Bring Cosmos to Him, Arcane Link… Cosmic Event Horizon”
(Coatl) “Uhm… we’ve sent all the Godzilla movies… should we go on with more movies?”
(Aikiko) “Show it some Gamera. After that… I think we need to go! The Jadeborn are probably worried about us!”
(Coatl) “Yes Lady Aikiko!”
(Ammonite, after great appreciation of the movies…) “Are you… going to leave?”
(Aikiko) “Yeah, eventually . . . I’ve got to get stuff from the other behemoths so we can.”
(Ammonite) “Can I come too?”
She sent a query to the crew of the Reiskaer; WAS there any feasible way to let it come? Even if they didn’t likely have reservations about letting a behemoth out!
(Reiskaer Crew Officer) “Wait, you’re communicating with it? It wants to leave? But it outweighs the city by trillions of trillions of times!”
(Aikiko) “I thought that’d be a problem . . .”
(Ammonite) “Several minds… Could one of the secondary ones sleep until you leave?”
Was it referring to the Neverborn souls? Well… there should be some way to do it, even if the memories of the dead souls didn’t really sleep. Ah! The Coatl! But… how would one of them taking a nap help?
(Aikiko to the Coatl) “Well… what harm can it do out in an empty galaxy? If you’re not going to object, I’m sure there’s some way you could sleep for a bit. The poor thing IS awfully lonely and bored out here!”
(Coatl) “Well… taking a nap is not a big trick! I don’t see the point – but should I hibernate for a while?”
(Aikiko) “Sure! I’ll wake you up when it’s out… or gone. I’m not sure what it’s going to do!”
The Coatl curled up for a nap and the Ammonite – with some really impressive special effects of it funneling down into a point in space – poured itself down into it’s dreams.
That was even more freaky than the way it had been warping the universe! She hoped that the little guy was OK! Charles would be cross with her if harm came to the Coatl – and besides… in some ways that meant that there was a neutron star inside the armor with her.
The Crew of the Reiskaer… had nothing at all to say due to complete shock.
The other Coatl blinked for a moment… and then hurridly put some high-end wards around the sleeping one to keep anything from waking her up!
(Crew, after a bit) “Er… what did you DO? That thing outmassed most planetary systems AND their stars!”
(Aikiko, thoughtfully) “I think it’s in my sleeping companion’s dreams! He and his friend are in the armor with me. His friend set up a ward to keep him asleep, so we should be good to go.”
(Crew) “Wait, what? It’s in his HEAD???”
(Aikiko) “I guess… though his head doesn’t look that much bigger.”
Skoll… wasn’t capable of being shocked, and readily recognized the action of a fairly standard Raksha charm – but did recognize that major astronomical features didn’t usually have them as far as anyone on Earth knew. The Raksha had once been described as “as numberless as the stars”… was that now literally true? There hadn’t been much space for such things in Old Creation, other than the stars, sun, and moon!
The Ammonite was delighted… even asleep, it’s host had a link to Aden’s entire media library.
Aikiko sighed – and decided to make things prompt and get the Ammonite OUT of the armor. It made her nervous!
She headed for the Nebular Man-of-War. It too had tendrils – but they were force-effects, and were light-weeks long and hundreds of thousands of miles across – and mostly seemed to be gently harvesting interstellar dust and gas… And she needed to get into this one’s brain, or whatever equivalent it used to keep it’s mind in.
Fortunately… she was too small and solid to even be affected. It was made of thin gas and was light-months across. Hopefully it wouldn’t even notice her!
Although finding a way to lay her hands on a piece of it’s thoughts was going to be tricky! Near the center of the gas perhaps? It was bigger than the solar system by a rather impressive margin!
She and Skoll hovered at the edges of its central nebula for days, avoiding the puffs of gas and watching for signs of flickers that indicated neural activity and separating them from stars and particularly shiny asteroids!
There… were a series of denser nodes – even a few bits of solid material – somewhat to one side of the center. More energy discharges there too, and more essence, although that was thinly spread as well. Also, where there was the most structure to the thing, it had a certain amount of geomancy to it. Strange though; the essence flows were weak, thin, and TERRIBLY fast. Something about them seemed familiar though… it looked like it was making up for thinness with size; it’s actual structure was detailed enough to produce weak goemantic flows – but on that scale there was plenty of total power available. It was a creature large enough to contain multiple demesnes.
But as she moved in for a closer look… things seemed to shift drastically.
Actually it was Palace of Unreality, Puzzle Manse, Sapient, Synergistic Overmind, Living Manse, Regeneration, Wyld Revocation (to let it’s structure both generate the demesne and count as a capping manse, again to let it’s demesne and manse structures overlap physically if on differing levels of the puzzle, manse guardians under it’s own control, etcetera.
Whatever was going on… it was using immense amounts of both Solar and Sidereal essence in huge quantities. Would starmap-thoughts be at one of the Sidereal demesnes? It wasn’t like she was after a conventional physical item…
And… there was a small planetary siege underway. Oddly, she couldn’t remember any planets being in the nebulae. It looked like the attackers were a small fleet, from motifs… probably led by an Abyssal Exalt.
And… the stars were back, rather than the singularity-shell of the trap. Had the Man-Of-War ejected her as a foreign element somehow?
The planet was being defended by Beastmen – primarly hawk-types – and the attacking fleet… belonged to The Wanderer In Mourning Black.
(Aikiko) “Hey, Skoll. Want to try to punch a starship?”
(Skoll) “Where did the starships come from? Moments ago there were no stars, no planet, no ships… Punching may yield further data.”
She readied her Solar Hero Form and flew over that way.