The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CLXIV – Catharsis Of Shadows

Aikiko continued to contemplate the list for a bit – but at least the rules of the Fair were nowhere near as complicated as the rules for living in Yu-Shan! But… just WHO were these “Fairwards”? She’d been thinking of literal wards, but they were obviously something more than that! And just how powerful were they?

Asking Samelin and Amelia… the Fairwards were HALF a rotating committee of sorts – but you had to be pretty powerful to get on the list! Mostly only very old half-fey, a couple of gods, and senior fey qualified – and most of them were thousands of years oldy. The long-term members were hard to tell apart, but they supposedly once supervised trade with some very ODD places and were (and are) very powerful and very fair!

And they put up a bunch of wards too.

The kids weren’t sure what the prohibition on Plaids was all about though except that it had something to do with “Marack”.

Weird… had somebody who got on someone’s bad side?

The kids didn’t know – but if that was it, it must have been REALLY bad!

She could see that – but it must be awfully hard on Scottish fey, though. Would they have to change into plain kilts. Still, apparently just bringing them in wasn’t all THAT bad. Trying to sell them though… It made things awkward for a few cloth and clothing merchants. If they wanted to deal in Plaids, they have to set up outside the fair!

Come to think of it… the fair seemed to surround the town entirely, and seemsedto be a fairly precise circle. There were wards up against entering by any other way than the usual roads. Now THAT was security… why surround the whole place, though? Perhaps it was some aspect of the local narrative? Or was it just for more room?

She took a closer look – and determined that the edge of the fair-grounds was also the edge of a geomantic zone of Influence – and a powerful one. There were traces of serious wyld energies, malfean energies, underworld energies, Yu-Shan’s energies, and something that was just WEIRD there. Most were apparently latent though. A Manse? Or just a freehold that’s using some kind of minor Grace?

The Coatl guessed a manse. If the fair was located on a really an OLD trading center – and Malfean energies argued for that, since there hadn’t been many people on earth for millennia who were even capable of reaching Malfeas – it might take a manse to last so long. Freeholds… tended to come and go over the millennia, even if they were stable enough for a few centuries. Perhaps there was some kind of dimensional nexus around here? That would certainly explain a trading center! And if the energies were latent… Charles’ plans for Yu-Shan might reopen shut gates there – and the welling up of energies on the dragon-lines might well be having an effect.

All over the planet for that matter. A LOT of old things might be coming back online, and long after how to handle them or maintain them had been forgotten. That could be disastrous for many things other than Manses.

But… there was little choice but to rush!

With that information in the back of her head, Aikiko headed on in – while continuing to check out that geomancy! It was… old and strong – and definitely NOT a freehold; the area was still basically just tainted, like most of the route here. Perhaps there’s some kind of stabilizing effect or artifact built into this place… to think she got here from London! She might be out in the Wyld somewhere now.

But… her GPS still said Great Britian – at… a shopping center in northern England. Near a sleepy little town and a retirement village. How strange… there had to be some wide-scale glamour on the place to make it look normal – or perhaps an overlay of some sort. There was certainly enough old magic about for it. Especially if it dated back to the Reshaping! That had been a REALLY weird time!

(Elderly gentleman passing by) “Warried `bout tings? T’ fair be saf nough be ye a wee mite o caution!”

(Aikiko) “It never hurts!”

(Elder) “Ye be righten tere, byt respict te rules, an tink twicet on ye bargains an ye be sailin tru!

Huh. Good advice in any situation, really… still, moreso around here.

(Elder) “Be ye by yurselfin? Mit naut byt a couple a slav-bairns when ye be naut muc mor’n a bairn yeself? Tat be nau way to trapise abrod!”

Rather parental there!

(Aikiko) “Hey, I’m more savvy than I look!”

(Elder) “If’n ye ninsist! Yut may the Good Lugh be watchin oer ye chile!”

(Aikiko) “Thanks, I’ll be careful!”

It took her a bit to remember who Lugh was, and she had to get the details out of Aden’s archives…

(Elder) “Ye do tat!”

The elderly gentleman and his wife looked after Aikiko with a bit of concern – but if she had been traveling with no problems, she was unlikely to get into any major disasters at the fair!

And a bored half-fey guard wanted to know if she was carrying any contraband – with a special mention of plaids!

Well, she didn’t have any contraband that she knew of – although the very question confused Skoll a bit. Plaids? A superficial color combination was forbidden?

(Aikiko to Skoll) “Organic beings forbid things for weird reasons sometimes.”

(Skoll) “Recommendation; exercise extreme caution with “plaids”. Entities designate “Fairwards” are apparently very experienced and may have good – if perhaps exotic – reasons for their rules”.

(Aikiko, to Skoll) “Of course.”

Just in case she changed her clothing to single shades of color where it wasn’t already – and told the guard “No”.

(Guard) “Very well then! Were you intending to sell either of these two? If’n you are, don’t forget the guild tax!”

(Aikiko) “Nah, I’m keeping them.”

(Guard) “Well, you’ve had adequate warnings I think (as he nodded at the elderly couple behind her)! I hope that you’ll enjoy the fair and find whatever you’re looking for if you’re shopping!”

(Aikiko) “Thanks!”

(Guard, waving her on through) “It’s no trouble, but you’re welcome!”

Hm… Accent and patios a LOT smoother than most of the local “peasantry” – looked like another feyblooded – but one with a lot more modern influences, like a wristwatch and a hands-free cell phone headset. Must get out of the fey regions regularly – or, if he had enough power to cover himself, a public-school education?

The fairgrounds were colorful, bustling, and busy with strolling entertainers, musicians in small groups, theater groups, merchants with a wide variety of wares, suspicious foodstuffs (very traditional that – although the deep fried twinkies with sugar and cream and chocolate syrup were a bit less traditional. Those… induced rather nauseous feelings in Aikiko, but definitely seemsed to be attracting the two kids), and many another offering. The very highest quality stuff was quite obviously reserved for private deals. There were some very strange booths though, including one where you could – apparently – sell various aspects of yourself… Probably not a good idea to fool with that one; she didn’t have any qualities that she felt like parting with.

She settled on checking out musical performances and listening to gossip – and on some morbid curiosity about the twinkies.

The people at the “aspects of yourself” booth cheerfully made an offer on her shadow as she went by. That was almost tempting, considering that it could give stealth away, but wasn’t the shadow associated with the soul in many traditions? And apparently… all sales were permanent, even if they did pay well.

They assured her that they weren’t including that with the shadow! Just an image of it!

Still, there was obviously something wrong with you if you didn’t have a shadow. She passed.

Apparently they didn’t do a brisk business, but there were always a few takers at every fair… It had to be an interesting trade.

As for today’s performers… minor performers were unscheduled. Major performers included Metalstorm, Zombies At My Brain, The Wandering Songbirds, the Harpist of Sorrow (today) and (for tomorrow) The Devil Drummers, Ode to Joy, Helical Storm, Lorien’s Bells, and Continental Drift. Modern ideas about naming bands had DEFINITELY leaked over! Still… Helical Storm at last! She’d have to attend – and check out their security setup. (That must be REALLY confusing for the local peasants.)

For today she focused on finding out more about the current performers.

It looked like Metalstorm played rock music and did some light metal style stuff, very modern. Zombies At My Brain did experiential music – apparently including memories of trips to some very weird places. The Wandering Songbirds were traditionalists. The Harpist of Sorrow was rumored to be a ghost, but specialized in TERRIBLY sad songs – to the point that people coming out needed an hour or so to recover, but generally felt that their lives were WONDERFUL after that.

Unfortunately, the tickets for Helical Storm were among the half of the shows which were already sold out! Bother! Well, she WAS a Night Caste. Man… It had been a while since she’d sneaked into a concert – although the rules might count it as “not paying”. Still, she could always drop money into the till on the way in to cover that. She’d be being rude, and might get a small fine for that, but as long as she paid nothing more than that.

Tickets were about fifty bucks or the equivalent. Official tickets did seem to come with some odd paperwork though; waiver for the use of Charms? It’d match that news story…

It turned out to be for… long-term modifications of unspecified nature. It seemed to cover the “expression of subconscious desires”.

That was a little risky… Still, she couldn’t let Lytek down!

Still, that would be for tomorrow… At the moment, there were people trying to sell her things, several really excellent singers performing some sort of love story, one pair setting up for a performance of Tolkien’s musical duel with Sauron, and a strings performance of some of Mozart’s music. On the theater side… there was a Shakespear troop, a more modern comedy, and something called “Kirk and Khan”, which was apparently a one-man show (?).

Well, she wasn’t into Star Trek nearly as much as Charles was… she’d attend and record that one for him, if possible! Or just buy a recording, if available.

Ah, it looked like they DID sell DVD’s of performance… She got Charles one of those! He’d enjoy that!

And the guy was actually very good. He used half-face makeup and a two-sided costume so that he changed characters by turning around to face where he was a moment ago – which was amusing in itself. The arguments and “encounters” ran from “teenagers” on to “old age home” – until Khan, overstressing from his temper, had his final fatal heart attack, and Kirk – of course – yelled “KHHHAAANNNNN!!!!”)

Heh! It WAS an interesting rivalry and opposition… and an interesting take on the whole thing! The guy did his own effects with illusion magic too! Kirk/Khan got two thumbs up from her! And he not only had DVD’s, he had forms to order essence-powered TV’s and Players for those without electricity – and Essence-Generators if you’d rather go that way. Very handy!

The stuff that was publicly for sale around the fair was mostly ordinary (and gossamer) goods of course – but there were magical services, odd creatures and slaves, talismans, exotic experiences, magical supplies, tailoring, lessons, musical services, alcohol, drugs, and medicines, and odd weapons. The backroom stuff is harder to identify though! Still, Aikiko’s investigative skills were pretty formidable… At least one place was selling small bottles of Vitriol and demonic essence, there was a place that alloyed underworld materials with normal ones for making weapons that struck true against ghosts and paint that they couldn’t go through and that sort of thing. There were a few exchanges of very minor artifacts too – although apparently nothing above rank two, if that.

It was pretty strong confirmation of the extradimensional energies around the place though! Even getting some of those materials implied some method of reaching Malfeas and the Underworld around here. The apparent shadowland nearby might be a source for at least some of it though – and there weren’t supposed to be many of those left on earth, a majority of them only dating to the Second World War, and almost all of them on the continent. Not, of course, that there might not be links to the continent around.

Hmm… the Harpist of Sorrows next. She was bound to get some catharsis from that one – and might be able to determine if she was a Ghost, ghost-blooded, or Raksha using a death-based Assumption.

It looked like… Raksha with an underworld-themed assumption and a couple of ghost-blooded backup performers. And it WAS an interesting performance… She opted not to resist the mental influence given the fair restrictions. After all, catharsis wouldn’t do her much good if she blocked it!

The Harpist played sorrow for the lost, for blighted potentials, for the failure of youth’s bright promise, for the horrors of war, for pain, and for the pervasive failings of small hopes – not so much inflicting it as acknowledging that the world was broken, and full of pain, but that the pain was, at least, shared. Her skill was great – and the power of the wyld suffused her music.

Aikiko was shocked at the answering surge; she had become so used to the whispers and the pain in the back of her mind that she’d briefly forgotten the Memories of the Neverborn – and the music was touching them as well. As was the nature of the Raksha… the pain was shared, and made a part of their tale – and transformed as the power of the wyld flowed. The deeper the pain, the greater the relief as it was acknowledged, shared, and transmuted into experience and new hope. There was a certain pressure building up there now; with that realignment… outside human-and-nature flavored power was flowing into them from somewhere. They were discarding the elements that held them to Death, and doing a bit of reshaping. Quite impressive for a musical performance – but they did always respond pretty strongly to music.

She’d… gotten awfully used to that backdrop to her consciousness, even if the water park fantasy had been soothing. Hopefully that will help with the healing! And… at least it was the memories of the component devas in there, and not the full Primordials! Skoll probably couldn’t hold that many Primordials. He’d certainly never been designed for it!

Oh dear. She – and her passengers – owed the Harpist of Sorrows some pretty major favors didn’t they? And… the Harpist didn’t know about it. Well, letting her know would be a start on discharging the debt. After all, she HAD brought them in without paying. They probably didn’t technically count (it was really unlikely that the rules covered the situation), but morally they did as far as she was concerned.

(Harpist) “Er… you’ve got WHAT riding in your head?”

(Aikiko) “It’s a LOOOONG story…” (She explained behind privacy warding.) “If I’m lying, I’m dying!”

(Harpist) “Normally I provide catharses for mortals and near-mortals! What possessed you… no, you’ve said what possessed you… at least it didn’t turn into a disaster! That pain could have drawn in everyone nearby if it had gone wrong though! Just as the Whispers once did!”

(Aikiko) “Oh… I didn’t realize. I’m very sorry about that.”

Yeah, should have thought that one through a bit better… Still, her power was impressive to channel grief like that – and it had worked out, if only through fool luck!

(Harpist) “We are most fortunate that it worked out! You for your sanity, and I – at the least – for avoiding a disaster that would have kept me out of the fair from now on!”

Oh dear. Was she becoming like Charles? Experimenting with no heed for the consequences? Or should she count it as an accident and worry about accidentally unleashing some vast destruction? For that matter… would it be at all wise for the Harpist to ever call in one of those favors? It was hard to say what calling them in might get you! Perhaps better to go out into the wyld and see what kind of trinkets they could be forged into!

Back in Yu-Shan, Charles’s latest beacon-in-a-bottle was riding the essence flows in a very interesting path – from the Fulgent Administrative District (where Charles spent most of his time in Yu-Shan) it flowed along the dragon lines, through the Central Metropolitan Zone, and all the way to the far eastern quarters of the Lunargent Ecological Protectorate. It then sank deep, deep into the adamant until there was something that – in human terms – felt like a full stomach and a comfortable down blanket. It was different from the feelings he’d gotten from the Pole of Pleasure: purer, not so… hormonal.

It was deep in the eastern empty quarters too! A good thing that he’d already spoken to the Overseers of that direction; the only deiphages who even approached him were the wild ones – who got treated and sent to the sanctum-manse. As befitted that direction of Yu-Shan, the region was formerly tamed Celestial “wilderness” – now deeply overgrown, but still beautiful, parks, forested hunting preserves encroaching upon blocks of abandoned apartments, and the occasional fenced-in area where someone was growing some of the more obscure Celestial crops.

Still… he had not left a a major dragon line since beginning the trace. That was doubtless a good sign even if it was a little weird.

The path terminated in the middle of a field, about as deep as you could get into the eastern empty quarters. It felt… different, even by Celestial standards. While many Creation-born animals had made their way into Yu-Shan since the Reshaping, the birds that flew in the city avoided this place – as did stray animals for that matter. The ambient environment of the area crackled with Essence – despite some fairly traditional demesne-capping: one focus-pillar of each of the five magical materials on the geomantic nexi, each well-warded against deiphages and tampering.

The pole of all-devouring snacking? The Loom and the Jade Pleasure Dome might be the center of the city itself, but he could feel the certainty from this place. It might not be in the middle per se, but an awful lot of the dragon lines ran from here. And the surrounding land was quite impossibly fertile – even more than one of his geomantic fertility blessings would account for. Even a cursory examination revealed the seeds of a myriad Celestial plants around the area – pretty much any kind he could think of, not just peaches!

Hm. He’d been meaning to look into those anyway; a peach-growing manse might be fun! And other celestial stuff!

The center of the demesne felt almost alive, even more so than most demesnes. Close to the center, the ground felt even more solid and real than the Celestial adamant normally did.

Charles threw in another beacon-spell and consulted his references… it looked like this would be the upper levels of the Elemental Pole of Matter, which composed everything physical in Yu-Shan that was not covered by the Pole of Adamant. Here, everything else become solid and touchable – and the matter of Yu-Shan became of truly transcendent quality. The bottle-beacon emerged about where the Elemental Pole of Wood would be. Life arising from matter? Perhaps why it was natural for all the actual creatures of Creation to have physical bodies…

It seemed so hungry though. Probably not getting anywhere NEAR enough energy! The place did seem to be very important to the dragon lines themselves. After all, only about seventy-one percent of Yu-Shan’s geomancy was functioning as intended at the moment – and the Bronze Faction would be starting Stanewald at 76%…

Charles tossed in some extra essence to see if that would help with the hunger a bit – and to see if it bumped the “pure” fraction. He wasn’t putting in enough power for any real progress there, but on the scale of Yu-Shan even a tiny fraction of a percent would register.

For a fleeting moment he felt a bit of gratitude and just a slight pang of hunger. Some of the plants turned to face him – and the “demesne” felt slightly less hungry. Perhaps the basic geomancy just wasn’t enough any more, even without the pure/impure battle – or perhaps Yu-Shan was trying to evolve in her sleep a bit. She might be long overdue!

Oh BOTHERATION! He didn’t want to speed things up any – there was already enough time pressure – but he didn’t want to leave her THIS hungry in the meantime… He consulted Li Kao the Geomancer since he always succeeded. Was there any way to help some with the starvation without all of any extra power he puts in being diverted into the war/old geomancy expansion/new geomancy city services? Could he, well… limit the essence-bleeding in the damaged areas?

Li Kao knew the place quite well, actually. It was consistently referred to as the Cornucopia of All in the celestial geomancy gods’ records. It was possible, although there would always be a bit of bleed-through – about .1% per week, maybe .2% if the place was feeling especially hungry. Still, that meant that 99.8% or more of the energy would got to Yu-Shan’s core functions, rather than being diverted into trying to battle the “infection” directly. Well worthwhile. It looked like… he’d need to find all the poles first; they’d all need similar measures and a set of manse links; six each should do it. The bleedthrough would be much smaller if he matched the poles’ aspects – for which all he needed was some exotic manses…If he was right about the associated Deva’s it might require some communication with them too. That might be a bit difficult if they were sleeping.

Hm… he could assign some aides to step up the tracing efforts now that he’d established a working procedure. He had to find at least some of the Devas – but outside of checking the major structures he hadn’t a lot to go on with them yet.

Hm… the Violet Bier of Sorrows, the Forge of Autochthon. The Pavilion of the Calibration Gate and the thirteen “central” gates does too, and the Loom were on his list. The rest of his “likely locations” were all either out in the celestial wilds, not actually structures, or deep in the underground.

The rumored location of the Heart of the Canals was on the list as well; it was one of the subterranean ones.

The Pavilion got traffic all the time, so it would be easiest to check there first!

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