The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CLI – Beyond Tarvail, Basalt And Crimson

The gods of Tarvail more-or-less hadn’t questioned things. You were a god, making planets habitable and moving them around was a part of your portfolio, you had one or more charms for doing so. That was the way it WORKED. Seemed young? Probably because you worked with very young worlds and it was a relatively new portfolio. Made artifacts too? Starting out with a space drive? Yes, making drives, life support systems, gate-manses, and all the stuff you might need for colonizing those new worlds would fit in too. Kid had been one lucky bastard to come into being with a portfolio that expansive though! Of course, if he didn’t watch his back better than he was doing now he might not be around for very long. It took lots of guts or a complete lack of sense to make thumbing your nose at an abyssal fleet your first major intervention!

The Tarvail Military had been patiently waiting their turn – but they wanted to talk to Charles very badly indeed. They’d seen him drop off a planet just a few systems over – and their sensors and analysts had reported nothing but… thaumaturgy. Vastly amplified and astoundingly skillful thaumaturgy – but still only thaumaturgy. Moreover, the reports from onworld observers had matched; the wards had been on an incredible scale, and of very complex shapes, and had warded against gravity and relativistic effects (which normal thaumaturgy didn’t do) – but it had only been wards. If there was a ritual out there for moving planets halfway across the universe, they wanted a copy! Even if it was only a panoply charm or some sort of divine prerogative that would still be important to know!

Charles, of course, was more than willing to explain.

(Charles) “Well, it’s Mach’s Principle; the gravitational force exerted on anything in space is extremely great, but it’s balanced from all directions – so all you have to do is bar some of it and you have a gargantuan net acceleration. Just adjust the metric frame then to avoid relativistic complications and you can move things around pretty easily! I had to add some travel effects though; it was a long way!

(General Barrash, a Bull-Man) “Huh… that’d make it easy to handle Abyssal invasions, if only that wasn’t a Celestial equivalent effect.”

(Charles) “Uhm… I could show some people how to do it, but they probably wouldn’t have the skill to work at that scale. They could call me if it was really urgent though!”

General Barrash and the rest of the command staff wanted to see a demonstration of the thaumaturgical procedures very much indeed. They even had their own array of Crystal Arenas for it (very useful for military simulations…)

And there was extensive analysis. It didn’t take long; it wasn’t like he was hiding anything. The effect was recorded and added to their (rather extensive) databases.

They waited until after the demonstration to inquire (Very gently! Aden Shining Dream was pretty blatantly benevolent, but there was no point in risking antagonizing someone who could throw planets around) about that “I could show some people how to do it” line.

Charles, meanwhile, was providing some orbital calculations for Kyeki’s new location…

(Charles) “The orbits should be nice and steady and there shouldn’t be any nasty asteroids or anything like that for at least ten thousand years… Beyond that the chaos of the system makes it hard to predict! But the odds of any major problem are very low!”

(General Kiirik, a Mantis-Man) “Now, about teaching people how to do this… who’s qualified for that? Do you need actual sorcerers for it? Will a thaumaturge do?”

(Charles) “Somebody who knows thaumaturgy will do! But I’d rather it was someone reasonable and helpful about things; it is enough power to make a mess!”

It would take some time to find suitable candidates in the military, as big as it was. They’d have to get back to him on that.

(General Barrash) “How DO you train people to do it?”

(Charles) “I use a vision-quest! That way it only takes a few minutes!”

(General Kiirik) “A few minutes? What, do you just plug them into a simulation or something?”

(Charles) “More or less I suppose… It usually seems like several hours to them!”

(General Barrash, with some incredulity) “And you can just teach them Celestial effects in that little time? No risk of mutation either?”

(Charles, with some surprise) “Why would there be a risk of mutation? That would be a silly thing to put in an upgrade!”

(General Barrash) “So not a Wyld quest then. That’s good… now what about the mortality and injury rates?”

(Charles) “Ew! Why would I make something that wasn’t safe? That wouldn’t be nice AT ALL.”

(General Barrash) “Just asking before we send the troops in… hey, you’re not Kryptonian by any chance, are you? You don’t LOOK Kryptonian…”

(Charles) “Oooh! They’re for real? Where are they? Do they match up with the movies?”

After some confusion, Charles received a bit of information about Krypton and Zod: albeit a slightly less detailed version. Zod occasionally harried Tarvialian shipping to fund some of his schemes.

(Charles) “Oh dear! I’ll have to look into it sometime!”

(General Kiirik) “Honestly, he’s a headache. Hmm… if you’re not from Krypton… Earth?”

(Charles) “Usually! Or Yu-Shan!”

(General Kiirik) “Ah, of course.”

(General Barrash) “He’s a minor god, of course he has some Heavenly contacts! Going to move more planets any time soon, by the way?”

(Charles) “Only if they’re in trouble!”

(General Barrash) “Heh. Let us know before you do it next time! You’ve caused a lot of confusion across the Empire, you know… we’ve already been getting messages from traders and fleets asking where Kyeki-II went! It’s going to take a while to work through all that and update the Wyld zone maps – and that’s just for us!”

(Charles) “Well, they should stay away from there! Deathlords are not at all nice!”

(General Kiirik) “That’s an understatement. Until everybody gets the news, though, we’ll need to set up a beacon.”

A beacon? Ah! Their form of FTL communication – sent information across a radius of (artifact rating+1) old-metric waypoints – many hubble volumes at Kyeki’s prior location… Deathlord attacks generally warranted deployment of a rating-three beacon – rating two if they were not sure that a Deathlord was actually involved.

(Charles) “Should I send some messages or set up a beacon right away?”

(General Kiirik) “A beacon would be best – Abyssal raids are no joke.”

(Charles) “OK!”

He made and sent out a rating-four beacon, just to be safe. It was pretty quick anyway!

There was a good deal of carefully-concealed amazement among the general staff. They’d been briefed on Charles’s tendency to make artifacts or manses for every situation – but actually seeing it in action that way was still astounding.

(Charles) “I should be back by in a bit! I’ve just got an errand to run outside creation – or at least on the border!”

(General Barrash) “Mind telling us about that?” (Half-jokingly) “If you’re making your own solar system, you’ll need to let Parliament know if you want to be part of the Empire.”

(Charles) “I’ve got to pick something up!”

Charles thought back…

Look for the massive ring that encircles Creation, and the towers on the Creation side. I think she will see you first, though. Basalt and crimson… it’s been such a long time. I hope she’s still there. No, she has to be. She swore to it.

-Gaia

Hey! Come to think of it that wasn’t all that much of a guide… even WITH “Thank you, Charles. And when you see her, could you tell her your grandfather is all right?”. Maybe most Primordials weren’t all that good at giving directions?

Hopefully “she” WOULD see him!

(General Barrash) “Nothing harmful to us?”

(Charles, shrugging off unaccustomed introspection) “Should be indirectly helpful!”

(General Barrash) “Hrm… well, good luck with that.”

They HAD to get some observers into Aden! If only to keep an eye on the boy and steer him away from potential disasters! The boy needed… Baby-Sitters!

Charles prepared to go. It might have been nice to visit one of the great centers of civilization in the cosmos – but he had to fix Yu-Shan! The Music of Creation was almost done, and that was most of his reason for taking his time in the first place… It was easier to work when you were a billions of billions of light years from the nearest disturbance!

Fortunately… the edge of the universe wasn’t all THAT large, and – by cosmic standards – it wasn’t all that far away. Less than two hundred thousand light years – making Tarvail a part of a mighty, hollow, spherical galaxy that encircled the cosmos.

And still wasn’t really all that big.

And the actual edge of the universe – where Creations dual metrics were once more one – was a good deal smaller. Chaos had swallowed up much of the threshold during the Reshaping, and – from that viewpoint – the universe was a good deal smaller than it had been during the third age. Charles, and the Tsunami, were fairly noticeable. There weren’t all that many other high-essence types wandering around out there.

Charles did his best to free himself of all expectations. He didn’t need his own imagination being mirrored in chaos and showing him a chaos-spawned version “what he was looking for”. It had worked for Harry Potter, sure, but HE didn’t actually exist!

As Tsunami hurtled toward the edge of the universe things started subtly changing… The first noticeable change was that the darkness of space started shifting from black to a rich indigo. The stars glowed with faint auras beyond their usual radiance, and those auras didn’t always match the star’s color. Visible planets become less spherical and more like floating bits of land in the void. The laws of creation most Earth-based astronomers knew had loosened considerably. It… was probably a good thing that he’d sent the astronomers back to earth! They’d be pestering him with all KINDS of questions right about now if they were still aboard! And he could feel the Wyld energies flowing through space… equivalent to either a strongly tainted land, or perhaps a weak Middlemarch. It was kind of hard to say over such distances!

Onwards!

He invited any of the Raksha from the Atlanta pocket who wanted to look at the edge of the cosmos to come along. Kaernock and several of the others were definitely in! As he had noted earlier, it had been quite some time since he’d been this far out.

And there was the WEIRDNESS of the cosmos closing in around him to a ringworld/barrier as the vast distances fell away behind him. The barrier was… strange. The edge of the universe was notoriously mercurial where Reshaped Creation and the Wyld met. At the moment… it was a dome of indigo. The stars and worlds hung from faintly visible strings that hummed vibrantly to Charles and Kaernock’s ears and to Tsunami’s sensors. Some worlds were loose, lacking strings and not revolving around suns – and those were slowly moving of their own volition. There were even less identifiable things, glimmering within the indigo… but some might well be impossible to make out by definition.

Tsunami started to travel along the edge of the dome, looking for towers! As it… fluttered?… along the edges of the dome, the dome vibrated and shimmered when her leaves rubbed against it; the sensation was ticklish and lonely… Nearby planets/waypoints – the distinction was not too strong out here – fluttered by. Some come closer on subsequent passes – but there were no towers yet, and they were on the fifth pass! Still… things kept changing. The edge of the dome was getting thicker with every orbit, though, and taking on a grayish-black hue. Tsunami’s sensors indicated that iron content was going up consistently with each pass, too.

Then one of the waypoints that had been hovering around started hailing Tsunami.

Ooh, another chance to open hailing frequencies! Or to at least say “Hello!”

It appeared to be a rabbit beastman in the middle of a rather deadly warzone! A loud explosion went off in the background, causing the fellow to duck.

(Raksha Rabbit) “Hello there! Didn’t think I’d see a Treeship out here – or Mothra Leo, for that matter! Are you two busy at the moment? And who’s your little friend?”

(Charles) “Not too busy!”

(Rabbit Raksha) “I could use your help! My brother’s having a temper tantrum, and nothing I’ve done so far is calming him down. He’s really tearing up the place. Uh oh, excuse me.”

The rabbitman hit the dirt. There was another explosion and bits of building fell on him – fairly substantial bits. He wormed his way out as a gaggle of more feral looking rabbit beastmen gathered around him.

(Rabbit Raksha) “Sorry about that! Normally the microtransaction missiles are enough to calm him down, but he’s taking this really hard!”

Charles was kind of wondering how he knew about Mothra Leo – but Raksha were awfully big on stories!

(Charles) “Well, how can I help?”

(Rabbit Raksha) “I need a new birthday present.” (One of the rabbit beastmen looked at him sadly.) “Hey, don’t look at me that way! You know the President takes his birthday VERY seriously!”

(Charles, making a leap) “Oh! Did you lose one into elsewhere?”

(Rabbit Raksha) “Damned Chancellor Mayariki managed to snatch it from me when we were debating the military allotments… I TOLD my brother it was a bad idea to have somebody with that technique in the freehold. Wait, what… you have it?”

(Charles, producing the box) “Is this it? I found it lying around in Elsewhere!”

(Rabbit Raksha) “Huh! Just like her to toss it away without a care in the world… what’d you do, fish it out?”

(Charles) “Yep! The Narrative Force must be very strong around here!”

(Rabbit Raksha) “Eh… going to need more than that to calm him down now! He’s been bribing everyone within two waypoints to come in for a fight.”

Hmm… that wasn’t a technique associated with the usual Graces, unless his brother had a lot of gossamer lying around.

(Charles) “What might?”

(Rabbit Raksha) “Gossamer, and lots of it… or money, or a new mansion. Anything connected to a Means Grace, really.”

(Charles) “I could make him a new mansion!”

(Rabbit Raksha) “We’ll need a new Presidential Palace, anyway; Noriishana blew up the Treasury when he started his little fit, and that’s the form it was taking. And a new… damn it, just one minute.” (He pulled a grenade out of his uniform pocket and threw it. There was the sound of it going off.) “Sorry, he’s made it so money talks around here – and it’s pretty persuasive. Grenades still work, though! Really, he gets so worked up! If you’re making a new Treasury, though, I can at least TALK to him.”

(Charles) “Sure!”

(Rabbit Raksha) “You… are giving me control over it at first, right? Otherwise it’ll be boom all over again.”

(Charles) “Why not? It’s good to have manses out here; they anchor the border and help keep your lands stable against incursions from either side!”

(Rabbit Raksha) “Right!” (To the soldiers) “All right, men! Aden here is going to create a new Presidential Palace! We’re going to occupy it so my brother doesn’t try any funny stuff, then… finally give him his actual birthday present, I guess. Move out!”

Charles… promptly constructed a near-indestructible manse with Wyld Revocation to hold a Freehold, and a Grace Stone for a Hearthstone, and some loyal Raksha-type minions (albeit not horribly dangerous ones). The Rabbit Raksha and his minions promptly occupied it, and started raining bullets on an army of what appears to be various currencies from across the universe. Just another day in Lupimanda, it seemed.

(Charles) “Does anyone know where there are some towers with an ancient presence in them?”

(Rabbit Raksha, A.K.A. General Koiiyana) “Yeah, I’d stay away from those if I were you! If you touch them, you’ll probably calcify. Sometimes really brave Anarchs get into Creation through them, but you’ve got to be quick and fast about not touching them. And the guardians are a pain too!”

Hm! He’d better make a quick artifact to protect any fey around him from that! That was a pain!

(General Koiiyana) “What are you seeking those out for, anyway? Nothing there but a lot of danger-though if the rumors are true, you’re Creation born in the first place.”

(Charles) “Well, I’m looking for somebody who’s been hanging out around here for… well, probably since Creation!”

(General Koiiyana) “Not a Primordial, is it? That’s one of the popular theories for that… thing around here.”

(Charles) “Might be! Or perhaps a Deva! Or something else!

(General Koiiyana) “I’m not sure if they’re a Primordial or not! Those things at least respond when you try to talk to them, even if it is setting you on fire or (and he shivers) making you stick to a shape you don’t want.”

(Charles) “Well… I’d better go find out! Thanks for the information and enjoy the new palace!”

(General Koiiyana) “Hopefully his next birthday party will go smoother than this…”

From the tone, SOME kind of disaster on the President’s birthday was a sure thing! It had probably become a tradition! Still… it was off to the pillars/towers after making sure that none of his friends could get calcified!

He reached them soon enough, as the edge of the dome took on the hue of basalt streaked with crimson material of unknown nature. There was an elegant pillar composed of the same material rising up from it, shaped vaguely like a person. It pulsated with some of the most stable and resolute Essence that Charles had ever felt. Here, on the edges of the Wyld, he could taste the defiance and steadfastness.

(Charles) “Er… Hello!”

There was no response.

As Tsunami flew closer, the edge of the ring of basalt and crimson began to shake – and what appeared to be a chain of stone lashed out at her!

Tsunami had to deploy her own defenses the first time – and for the first time – but then Charles put an indestructible wall in the way. Oddly enough… Charles felt a certain resonance within his own essence the chain of stone hit the wall and it looped back.

Charles tried telepathy – and encountered considerable resistance from the… main body. It felt like vaguely organic resonance trying to stop him, but he did get a response.

(Tower) “Ah, hello there… if you would step upon this sacred ground, dispense with the false soul and come yourself.”

It came from the “head” – and Charles was about to head over when Frumisara spoke up.

(Frumisera) “Oh, now this is suspicious… even if it is what you came for. Ask it why you need to do that.”

(Charles, while grabbing his usual pack) “What? Oh! OK; Will I need to bring anything? You haven’t said why”

And Gothumg breathed a sigh of relief; not only was he listening to the nanny, but he had the sense to take along some equipment!

Charles wasn’t much worried really. After all… inside or outside of Tsunami really didn’t make that big a difference in his defenses anyway.

(Tower) “Well… my mistress has been rather concerned for her security since her brother passed through and failed to return. The false soul will make her worry. Now, you should be reasonably safe here – as long as you play nicely with our other visitors.”

(Charles) “OK!”

Gothmug groaned, and resolved to keep VERY AWARE of what was going on around his Heartstone.! And Frumasara did much the same; she was about as suspicious of this as Gothmug was.

Charles briefly considered using magic to jump down – but around here it seemed MUCH wiser to use the stairs – which went down to the “head” of the tower, which pulsated with a very defensive type of Essence…

(Charles) “Hello there! I’m Charles!”

(Tower) “Well met, Charles. I’m Irmin Rashul. Your coming was foretold. Mind the Razorcarls when you enter; they can be rather enthusiastic.”

And a hole – more like a pore really – opened up, and Charles headed in. The sound of buzzing and grinding came from within. Inside he found odd grinding insects crawling along the walls the chamber, chitinous in composition, but maintaining the appearance of the ring outside. They were looking at him oddly with their single eye each; they seemed confused. Razor-like spikes protruded from their backs – and they were giving off enough stabilizing Essence to calcify any Raksha in mere minutes. It was a good thing that he hadn’t brought any with him!

He made an air-path over the presumed “Razorcarls”…

(Charles) “Hello Razorcarls!”

One of them looked at him oddly, crawled up the wall, and then leaped onto his shoulder. It felt like he was being pricked, just having it on him. If he hadn’t had a Behemoth Cloak active it would have been really painful! Even its legs were sharp.

It extended feelers and seemed to be sniffing him.

He let it sniff his hand – which it did for about a minute, then looked vaguely disappointed.

(Razorcarl) “No poles?”

(Charles) “Poles of what? Or do you mean elemental poles?”

(Razorcarl) “Something like that… my, do the people in there really not know? Good imitation otherwise. Fascinating, really.”

And it jumped back to the wall to join the others.

(Charles) “Hm… Oh! It needs a set of conceptual pairs to define it as a unique reality and deliminate it’s conceptual limits! I think those… would be a result of developing a First Excellency… and… that defines the Fietch Soul too doesn’t it? It represents the conceptual center and balance point of stability…”

(Razorcarl, from the wall) “I am only a humble carl; such is not for me to know.”

(Charles) “Well I’ll think about it! Thanks for the suggestion!”

Onwards!

Further down, there was, oddly enough, a bit of celestial architecture. It resembled a Heavenly toll booth, but it was in the Wyld, nowhere near the embassy gate leading to Yu-Shan. It was well warded against Raksha and raksha abilities, and was minded by a human in a full suit of cold iron armor. The vivid red eyes and Essence signature indicated a Battles Half-Caste.

(Charles) “Hello!”

(Guard) “Huh? Charles Dexter Ward? What are you doing here?”

(Charles) “I came out to visit and pick something up!”

Ah! He’d seen the woman in Yu-Shan before! Her name was Kalsi Garda Bird, the daughter of an elder Chosen of Battles often believed to be a part of the Silver Faction – though it was hard to say for most non-Bronze Sidereals. She was noted for being an experienced traveler of space and an advocate of expanding the Bureaucracy to the cosmos.

(Charles) “Anyway, how are you?”

(Kalsi) “I’m doing good… and the guy in the tower spoke to you, right? I need to ask you some questions for… things.”

(Charles) “OK!”

(Kalsi) “Just a security clearance; everyone passing through needs to answer these questions… Are you currently carrying any unshaped or shaped raksha with you right now?”

She had pulled out a device to check.

(Kalsi) “And are you an unshaped or shaped raksha yourself?”

(Charles) “Well, sort of! There are some shaped Raksha in Aden! I’m pretty sure I’m not though!”

(Kalsi) “Are any of these raksha interested in joining the Celestial Bureaucracy on a temporary or permanent basis?”

(Charles) “I’ll ask!”

He did so.

(Kaernock) “If I wanted to drown in paperwork, I would go to a freehold ruled by a Panjandrum.”

(Charles) “Well, it might be wise to step back to earth then! I don’t THINK that much would get through into Aden, but it’s hard to really be sure!”

He was pretty sure that the Mardi Gras Raksha – who were created by creations’s rules in their own weird way – wouldn’t be affected though, given that they didn’t calcify or anything anyway.

Kaernock did so, although he was disappointed; he was curious about what was deeper in the place!

(Kalsi) “Okay… I see some of the raksha you’re carrying have left… and the ones inside are reading as native. That’s no problem – I guess those are the Mardi Gras ones?”

(Charles) “That’s right!”

(Kalsi) “Well, they should be fine…” (She analyzed his Graces since she knew that he had them, and made sure that they were clean). “I’ll also need you to promise not to use any Wyld-based abilities past this point. It angers our… host.”

(Charles) “OK! I think that’s manageable!”

(Kalsi giving him a card made of cold iron.) “Okay, you’re clear. Since you’re not going to be a god, head to the left when you get past here, and have a nice day.”

And she raised the gate and waved him through. The path branched off immediately after, within view – and to the left it was! As he passed the fork… he could hear some noise coming from the right; it sounded like a lot of interviewing. Raksha to God clearance? And special artifacts to help with that?

Onwards though!

To the left there were stairs down, that finally ended in a large chamber with many windows and a transparent doorway. The edge of the ring was visible outside; it was ringed with catapults that looked more grown than constructed and reminded Charles of hair in structure. Their payloads looked like stones, but were far more solid than any stone he’d ever seen. On the other side of the ring he could hear a good deal of noise… Meanwhile, in the chamber itself, he could see several mosaics on the wall. They pulsated as if alive.

(Charles, audibly and telepathically) “Hello!”

(Irmin) “Ah, you’ve passed the meat creatures’ security, I see. They’ve been here for quite a while, doing odd things with the… I suppose they were Shapeless once, but not any more. Shaped and Unshaped, yes?”

One of the mosaics – the one with the red-and-black robed man blasting a horde of raksha with his hair – seemed to be looking at him.

(Charles) “Well, the Raksha in Creation have mostly settled down to defending the place with everyone else! The ones outside are supposed to have gotten worse and they don’t want to get eaten! Uhrm… I might have a message from Gaia for someone here, but she didn’t really say who!”

(Irmin) “Gaia? She came through a long while ago in her Gnosis-form. I thought she had left a piece of herself inside. What was the message?”

(Charles) “Well, she sent me to pick up some sort of “tool” that Autochthon made and that she left here in safe-keeping and she said to tell the person who had it that my Grandfather – Richof Haldane – was doing just fine!”

(Irmin) “Wait – well, no wonder you were foretold, then! And no wonder he said you weren’t to bring any subsidiary selves in… how badly is Yu-Shan doing, I wonder? The Emerald Mother must be genuinely desperate to ask for THAT.”

(Charles) “Well… not very well! But I think I can make her better…”

(Irmin) “And to think that Richof, of all the thanes, would be desperate enough to… never mind. You need to go to the thirteenth segment as soon as possible. I can get you over there, though the method would be… harrowing, to say the least.”

(Charles) “Well, I could open some gates; redirecting the manse-gates works pretty well!”

(Irmin) “That will require some adjustments. The last people to pass through used them, though they were… odd, to say the least.”

(Charles) “They’re set up for that already… The operators would just use the artifacts!”

Irmin made some quick adjustments on the local land, which Charles could feel geomantically. Normally, the basalt was quite well warded against any form of teleportation whatsoever, except maybe for through Oblivion – but then that tremendously risky method went pretty much anyplace and was almost unavailable these days! Only a few old Deathlords/Abyssals still contained an oblivion shard to use it with. The Memory of the Void was MUCH less risky anyhow!

There was an eye-opening view as Charles emerged and saw a good portion of the universe – the shaped universe – instead of the Wyld. A statue loomed here too.

(Charles) “Hello!”

A VERY familiar voice answered from the statue, which was much less worn than the one from before!

(Richof) “Hello, my boy!”

(Charles) “Oh, hey! I didn’t think that you’d be here… After all, last I heard you were in the inner regions of the universe!”

(Richof) “Well, technically… yes! But then you know that multipresence is not as difficult as some would think.”

(Charles) “But… if I was looking for you, why would Gaia say to tell you that you were all right?”

(Richof, sadly) “The Emerald Mother has no idea of my true capabilities. Orders from MY progenitor, I fear.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, everyone in Yu-Shan hs lots of secrets!”

(Richof) “Don’t they all… no wonder you’re taking this so well. I suppose you’ve come for the Spike of Polar Unbinding, then?”

(Charles) “I guess so! She didn’t exactly say what it was I was coming for!”

The ground beneath Charles’s feet rumbled a bit) “That’s… going to be rather dangerous for Gaia, but helpful to you. Your great-grandmother has it at the moment. Or should I say, her jouten does.”

(Charles) “Hrm… Well, how can I reach her?”

(Richof) “That’s… going to be tricky even for you, my boy. Her jouten is deep within this world-body, hidden from those who would do her harm. I can at least open the way, but . . . she had to watch several of her siblings die to your kind. She wasn’t pleased when I told her you Exalted. And once you get down there… the grinding, heat, and pressure are considerable.”

(Charles) “Well I didn’t MEAN to!”

(Richof) “I know, I know… but your great-grandmother has never set foot in Creation. There’s so much she doesn’t understand. Which is why I exist, I suppose! You’re absolutely sure you must do this? I already know the answer, but I will hate sending you into such danger!”

(Charles) “But if I don’t fix Yu-Shan, she’ll die, and the backlash will destroy the pole of Earth and then the universe will collapse!”

Charles showed his Grandfather the geomantic mess, since he’d never gotten briefed on it!

(Richof) “Shinma! You must show that to your great-grandmother! The only thing worse than Yu-Shan as she is now is likely to be what she will dissolve into!”

(Charles) “Well… Anything else that might help? I have most of my other tools and preparations ready…”

(Richof) “At least we don’t have to worry about hiding the Exaltation! But at any rate… be prepared for a good deal of digging and dealing with fortifications. Also, her name is Gauderis Athelstane, the Ring of Basalt and Crimson. It does help to know who you are dealing with – and the surprise of a Creation born knowing who she is might get you somewhere.”

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