The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CLXX – The Guardian Of The Gate

In Yu-Shan, Charles was headed for the pavilion of the Calibration Gate and the twelve gates traditionally linked to the Blessed Isle – part of his tracking of Yu-Shan’s subselves. He had to check there anyway, since that was where some of his new gates – the ones leading to manses with Stargates – were going to open up between the others – or at least they would if he didn’t need to tweak them…

The pavilion and its plaza were, as always, fairly busy: these twelve gates led to some of the most ancient and important locations on Earth, and the Calibration Gate itself was, of course, one of the main methods of fast transport to Yu-Shan from anywhere in the universe. Nowadays it was mostly used for interstellar return trips by the Sidereals. While the summoning spell could only be used twenty-four times a day, there were only a hundred of them – and interstellar trips usually took them at least five days going out, plus time to resolve the issue. It was pretty rare for more than five or six a day to need to use the gate to get back. Of course, all of the gates looked the same on the Heavenly side; beautifully carved arches of adamant.

Charles rather expected the essence flows to focus on the Calibration Gate. It was tied into one of the major cycles of the cosmos… safety valve?

The flows… were indeed concentrated on the Calibration Gate, flowing through the other twelve. They felt far more powerful than the gates in the outlying areas, although even they were almost overwhelmed by the Calibration Gate’s Essence. Someone else was surveying too though! There was a team of unExalted thaumaturges working as well. Perhaps not surprisingly for Yu-Shan, their affiliation was unclear… It was probably sanctioned though: the lions weren’t doing anything to stop them.

In fact… the entire pavilion was a Manse. That wasn’t terribly unexpected of course… it did mostly seem to be working properly, even if it was at “can camp in” in terms of habitability. The geomantic center was (of course) the base of the Calibration Gate itself – but all other functions had been concealed behind… perfect concealment wards. Bother! Still, it was REALLY hard to totally hide what geomancy was doing without blocking essence senses in the entire area and screaming that something was going on. Even then… if you were good enough, you could deduce the effects from what you could see of the demesne and the physical structure of the manse. There just was no really good way to hide geomancy… well, unless you put it in a pocket dimension, and even then it was more a matter of “not here” then “hidden”.

It looked like… the energies would flow to the central gate, and through it, and then back again. It was undoubtedly linked to the twelve gates – and while they are definitely less powerful than it, they were still transmitting quite a bit of power. Would that include the control links to the Elemental Pole of Earth. The calibration gate… could shift around to supplement the energy flow, or “plug in directly” as a master control element. It looked like… there were some variances in the flow. The flow to the tenth gate – the one traditionally linked to Meru (now Mt. Fuji) was more unstable than the others. It felt out of balance, as if something was missing.

Instabilities were one of the things he needed to fix!

Hm… wasn’t that gate sealed by the empresses lost key? Was the energy not circulating properly? And… there was a similar variance from the first gate: another linked to the area around Meru…. It didn’t look like it would cause a problem – so he tossed in a few of his essence-bottle-beacons to see where they went. He did have that writ from Luna after all, and had recruited both the Celestial Lions and the Tenders to help!

He asked the most convenient Lions and sent a message to the tenders. Instabilities were always a concern!

(Wangzua, after insisting on an extensive privacy ward) “Yeah, that was a shame, really… but you’ve got the authorization. The first gate’s actually the second.”

(Charles) “Replaced an inactive one? Must have been tricky!”

(Wangzua) “Not quite…” (He jabbed a claw in direction of the Jade Pleasure Dome.) “You see, the Primordials had a gate to Meru in the dome. When the Sun won his first round of the Games and the attacks began, some of the Primordials left through that gate. And the bravest of the gods at that time? Well… they overloaded it. (He clapped his paws together, generating a small – and surprisingly quiet sonic boom). “I THINK that the blast site became some kind of memorial in Meru.”

(Charles) “Ah! That must have been VERY messy! The damage is probably still resonating isn’t it? The flows must still be out of balance… Why the Calibration Gate is so unstable?”

(Wangzua, shrugging) “It’s been like that as long as I’ve been up here. When we did the renovations, we were told to let it go where it would on the other side. It was pretty agitated, though! Couldn’t even touch the blasted thing, it was so hot…”

(Charles) “So… every time the balance fluctuates, it shifts to relieve the energy build up – and every time someone artificially drags it to themselves with one form of meddling or another, it disrupts things a little more – and so it never gets to stabilize.”

(Wangzua) “And yet it’s never shown any signs of blowing up. Uh . . . you’re not thinking of making it go one place, are you, kid? The Sidereals and Lunars would have your head for that!”

(Charles) “No no… but if I stabilize things, it’s shifting should be more of an occasional thing than constant!”

(Wangzua) “Whew… I was REALLY worried for a moment there! Not that you’re not taking a big chance on this project you’re planning anyhow. Why are you poking around the Gate, anyway?”

(Charles) “I’m looking for major energy nexi – particularly ones that control others and are linked to Creation!”

(Wangzua) “Gate’s an obvious choice there… and then what were you planning to do?”

(Charles) “For right now? Chart! And if any of them have their own consciousness check with it, since their choices of action might impact the course of repairs!”

(Wangzua) “Consciousness? I mean, it’s agitated, but a LOT of the geomancy is agitated. Gods weren’t meant to live here.”

(Charles) “Well… I think I’m supposed to ask you to promise to keep this a secret, is that OK?”

(Wangzua) “More secrets? Bother… there have been a lot of those secret directives lately.”

(Charles) “Well… this might tell you why!”

(Wangzua) “Okay, tell me then!”

Once concealed perfect privacy ward, and with an illusion under it of something innocuous…

(Charles) “Well… I have to treat Yu-Shan before she dies, the city collapses into the labyrinth of the underworld, most of it’s inhabitants are wiped out, and the survivors have a new Neverborn on their hands to complicate trying to deal with the geomantic collapse of Creation as its stabilizing influences die with her!”

(Wangzua) “Wait, she? Neverborn? It’s THAT serious?”

He looked towards the Gate, then the dome, then the Gate again…

(Charles) “Oh yes! It’s a pretty big mess! That’s why Luna gave me such a general writ!”

(Wangzua) “And those… things? (Apparently referring to the Tenders) Where are they in this?”

(Charles) “Oh, they were supposed to wake her up once Creation was complete and she could start tying it’s energies into closed loops so it would be stable on its own – but the Primordial War spoiled quite a lot of plans!”

(Wangzua) “Huh. I guess only the Incarnae know what’s up with that… Although I need to check with base on this! It’s a lot to swallow.”

Charles referred him to the Lions at the Jade Pleasure Dome. It was pretty nearby anyway!

(Wangzua, after checking with them…) “Wow… that explains a lot.” (Pointing to the gate again) “You don’t think it… has hard feelings, do you? I mean, if it’s alive.”

(Charles) “Well, she might – but I’d rather deal with a primordial with hurt feelings than the destruction of the universe! I’m not sure I could EVER get THAT fixed!”

Wangzua nodded – and then looked at him a bit quizzically. Meanwhile, one of the human thaumaturges who had been analyzing the gate was looking at Charles… He’s wasn’t being loud – loudness was bad even for Exalts in Yu-Shan – but he clearly would like Charles’s attention.

(Charles) “Well, Now you know… Time to take the wards down and find out what HE wants!”

The lion headed back to his post. Sure, it was just a theory, but if it was true… it would be pretty unnerving!

(Atrearch) “Ah, young Mr. Ward. If I may be bold, what brings you to the gate plaza today?”

(Charles) “Energy analysis! The flows here go to the Elemental Pole of Earth of course – which is about all that’s holding things stable…”

(Atrearch, nodding) “As our rituals have confirmed… surely one like yourself must have good reason to be doing so. This is one of the most central locations in the city, after all!”

(Charles) “Well… it is of more than academic interest at the moment! It’s pretty bad!”

Atrearch insisted on the erection of a privacy ward before going onward – so Charles put up another perfect one.

(Atrearch) “What were you told?”

(Charles) “Er… it’s fairly obvious that things need some fixing!”

(Atrearch) “Have you been warned about any plans to destroy the city?”

(Charles) “Well… who are you surveying for?”

(Atrearch) “I don’t know… but whoever it is has enough magical power to send messages in my coffee and send me enough Quintessence to eat on. I didn’t believe it until the first coins trickled through.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well the plan that they’re worrying about is a badly-conceived plan to fix things rather than a plan to destroy the city. There are some actual plans to destroy it underway too – there’s at least one Deathlord (and probably more) trying to do THAT. There was one group pushing towards a geomantic upheaval, but I’ve gotten them to put that on hold for now. It’s really very messy!”

(Atrearch) “That’s the level of seriousness my message indicated. I was told not to contact the Bureaucracy about any of this, and when I got the complete mission . . . it was so strange. Perhaps you’d like to see?”

(Charles) “Sure! It might give me more information too!”

It was a mission order,,. He was to track down energy signals similar to a specific pattern. What had him concerned was that the pattern was apparently found in… Third Circle Demons. The pattern was similar to some Charles had found in the sites he’d visited so far.

(Atrearch) “Is this real? Not that I mind the Quintessence, but it’s insulting to be the target of a prank.”

(Charles) “Oh, that’s real! Found any? Those are rather important nexi! And I’ll gladly triple your salary. Why not? You’re helping!”

(Atrearch) “Well… there was one marked HERE (about where the Heart of the Canals was reputed to be). That place is heavily guarded by the Bureau of Heaven, so I was forced to take whoever sent me this at their word. I’ve also found the pattern at the Calibration Gate. I’m always willing to accept Ambrosia, but what in the Brass City is going on here, and what else do you want from me, if anything, for it?”

(Charles) “Well, that’s what I was looking for! (He forwarded the extra payment to Atrearch and his team). Oh, the information-sharing is enough! I’d probably get it anyway once I got near hot chocolate again – but there IS a rush!”

(Atrearch) “But WHY? If this isn’t a prank, what does it mean? Because I do have a possibility in mind, and it’s rather unsettling.”

(Charles) “Er… what are you thinking?”

It was pretty obvious that – if there were deva/”demon” patterns inherent in Yu-Shan – the next conclusion was that Yu-Shan was a Yozi or Primordial…

(Atrearch) “That my assumptions about this sanctum are very wrong, and that it is a living being.” And, after some nervous laughter… “I hope they’re sleeping quite soundly.”

(Charles, redoubling the wards, and giving Atrearch a very long term one) “Since you already know… Yes, she is.”

Hm… the man was merely skilled. That needed fixing!

(Atrearch) “Oh gods. Oh… gods… is she angry at us?”

(Charles) “Probably not! She’s been comatose since the Creation – so she has no real idea that we exist! Oh, you might find these useful! (Charles gave him a box of Sigils of the Dawning Age).

(Atrearch, with a long sigh) “You’re certain about it? Not that history contradicts it, but… Ah, a thaumaturgical aid?”

(Charles) “Yep! There are better ones, but I don’t have any handy at the moment.”

(Atrearch) “Thank you. I might need it, the way things are going!”

(Charles) “You’re welcome!”

Atrearch checked for tracking devices – but there weren’t any. Wait… an entire BOX full of at least minor artifacts? Oh yes… Factory-Cathedral. But when had the kid found TIME between the official orders?

(Atrearch) “Sigh… I”ll continue checking things out, though whoever this is… why?” (He shook his head) “I’m skilled, but not THAT skilled!”

(Charles) “Short-handed?”

(Atrearch) “It’s possible.”

(Charles) “I’ve got to keep surveying myself… but do let me know if you find any more!”

(Atrearch, with a what-have-I-gotten-myself-into expression) “I’ll try…”

(Charles, going back to trying to precisely locate where the flows went to in Creation) “Thank you!”

Hm… the Pavilion-Manse was located just southwest of the Jade Pleasure Dome – and the Essence flows rushed southward. They connected with a location in the southern region of Yu-Shan, the Pangaean Bureaucratic District. After throughly circulating through there, they diverted to a spot in Creation – this one corresponding to the Elemental Plane of Fire – although that flow to Creation felt… secondary, like a tributary of a larger river. Huh! This was more tangled than expected… the flow from the Calibration Gate was even more tangled than THAT. Normally, it would simply flow to that same point in southern Yu-Shan. It was currently being spread out as far as it would go… after a few hours of patient observation (AFTER his speeding abilities!), he’d have to say that if felt like it was being dispersed through all the available gates – and that dispersion… felt throughly Primordial. .

Argh! With the primary down, was it running through backups? Was the only way to fix the primary is get into the Jade Pleasure Dome? The flows… definitely felt pained – although not enough for failure. What a mess! And the deva signature was very much Third Circle.

He tried to run a full-sensory (with background!) link in to say hello! The poor fellow might not be able to look around very often any more!
.
On his end… he saw an expanse of blank adamant, with a portly, adamant-armored, orichalcum-skinned being. There was a shimmering golden field on the figure’s belly – one that he was quite familiar with! It looked an awful lot like the one summoned by Summoning the Heavenly Portal…

(Charles) “Hello!”

(Entity, with two voices – one more distant than the other) “Hello… is it time to wake up yet?”

(Charles) “Almost! I’ve got to fix a lot of things and power them up… but when I start pouring power in it would be bad if you did something unexpected!”

(Entity) “And what do you mean by that… and what is wrong with your Essence? With that chaotic mixture of energies, you’ll never unite, you know.”

And… a celestial bell rang, and a hand poked through him; he cringed – although he was trying not to show that it hurt.

(Charles) “Oh, I need to get that sorted out too! But helping Yu-Shan is more urgent… and that’s someone calling the gate isn’t it? I’m sorry about that; with any luck I can make that unnecessary!”

(Entity) “Ouch… I know I failed my duties, but why so long? Even the Primordial King’s rage abates after ten thousand years. Or has it been that long? It’s all so hazy.”

(Charles) “Longer I fear! There was quite a mess, and things have gone very badly wrong… what was Theon angry about? That part doesn’t matter any longer, since he’s no longer really in charge.”

(Entity) “Oh, that’s just how long his fury normally lasts – but I did nothing against him. I fear the failure was against milady – and, I fear, the Lidless Eye that Sees. He must be angry about Damaskenos.”

(Charles) “Well… the Elder Ones lost the war. I’ve got a lot to fix since no one else actually knew how to maintain the universe!”

(Entity) “I… see. That would explain Wenja’s disappearance. I take it the attackers detonated her?”

(Charles) “Uhrm… I don’t know that name, sorry!”

(Entity) “We stationed her in the Dome before we fell asleep. Milady thought her siblings would appreciate a gateway to the… pets’ settlement. Just how miserably did we fail to keep them out?”

(Charles) “Er… they’ve occupied Yu-Shan ever since then.”

(Entity, lowering his head and placing one gauntleted palm on his forehead…) “Argh… at least tell me the Tenders survived. This is terrible! I can’t even get a response from Damaskenos . . . how am I supposed to explain this to the fetich, much less milady?”

(Charles) “Well, it’s not really your fault – but I’ve got a plan to fix things!”

He showed him.

(Entity) “What the – are you sure that’s such a good idea? You’re tinkering with one of the Mighty Ones, you know, and without her permission! And even if you had it… where would we keep all the fey?”

(Charles) “There’s no choice really; there will be an uninformed attempt to fix things in about two months; unless I pre-empt it, it will probably kill her. As for the Raksha, in their own level… I take it you have a bunch in storage? Been providing energy I suspect?”

(Entity) “Oh dear shinma, what are they going to do to her?”

(Charles) “Well… this is what they have in mind!”

(Entity) “Outright dissolution of all of us…”

(Charles) “They don’t understand that – and their own damage prevents them from doing so!”

(Entity) “And the raksha are not my domain. I am Dumenza, the Calibration Gate, who separates the Low-Hanging Star from what is not her and confirms that the latter is not the former. For them, you want to speak to Xiang, the Gallery of Captured Dreams.”

(Charles) “Hm… Well, is there any way to get in touch with your fellows? Or at least be sure of where they are? Time is getting short!”

(Dumenza) “We broke communications with each other to ensure our safety – which has apparently proven necessary. But Xiang and I are connected to the same pole-Mind. If you’ve traced my geomancy, you can probably find her as well.”

(Charles) “Well that’s true… It’s just that time is very short now! I didn’t have enough power to really get started until just a few months ago…”

Dumenza provided the last known locations of his peers; One thing was for certain: the fetich should be in the Loom Chamber.

Well, that might explain the “Must stay Hidden” bit! Or maybe not… Could he or she currently be taking the form of the spider-mother or some feature of the place?

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