Hm… The Calibration Gate, the Gallery of Captured Dreams, the Cornucopia of All, the Heart of the Canals… Yu-Shan seemed to be a founding member of the functionalist school, both in architecture and naming her manse-devas. That was rather refreshing really! The flowery titles so often made it REALLY hard to figure out what things were supposed to be… He’d have to check with all of them and review the plans with each of them who would answer!
Well, the Heart of the Canals wasn’t all that far away!
It turned out to be a good thing that he had that writ… The Heart of the Canals was one of the more secure locations in Heaven outside of the Jade Pleasure Dome and the other major Celestial landmarks. Its building looked humble at the surface: a simple domed white jade basilica, its doorway flanked by four senior celestial lions. The only sign of the fabulous – and sadly disrepaired – mechanism deep beneath was the pair of tubes rising from the sides of the building: one orichalcum, one moonsilver. You’d normally have to be a senior canal god (popularly said to be officious jerks!) or a high Celestial official to get in
Charles now had a small escort – but it was still basically “Hello!”
(Lion) Ah, it’s you.” (An extensive examination of Charles’s Essence, and what he was carrying with him – and the same for his escort – followed.) “Come to fix the mechanism?”
(Charles) “That’s probably part of it! I also need to talk with it!”
(Lion) “Well, I’m surprised you hadn’t come here sooner – wait, what?” (And a bit of talking over the radio.) “I see… the situation’s that serious. Who have you told about… that?”
(Charles) “Well… some of the others!”
(Lion) “Hrm. That would explain a lot… you’ll see when we take you down. Is that a Behemoth Cloak you’re wearing, by the way?”
(Charles) “Yes! I think they’re quite handy!”
(Lion) “Good to see you’re keeping armored up. Now what about them?” (Nodding to the escorting bodyguards)
(Charles) “Well… I kept getting advised to get some bodyguards! So I did!”
(Lion) “Good advice…”
The bodyguards… were outfitted with similar armor, protective spells, manse-protections, and more… after all, the easiest way to “Attack Charles”… would probably be to threaten to hurt his bodyguards.
Once the Lion was satisfied that their defenses were sufficient, he let them in! He wasn’t going to admit just how bad things in there had gotten in public – but he wasn’t going to let people in who couldn’t take it…
Inside, the building was a large waiting room, lavishly appointed in standard Celestial style. A beautifully brushed map of the canal system, complete with passenger dhow docks and dragon boat rental kiosks, hung above the orichalcum elevator doors. Only three things would distinguish this place from most Heavenly offices: the lack of windows, the lack of gods, and the sweltering heat. It was like a sauna – and it seemed to be coming from the elevator.
The lion Charles had been talking to – Mengzuo – was escorting the group.
(Mengzuo) “Stand back, there’s a lot more steam where this came from.”
(Charles) “Is it supposed to be leaking like that?”
(Mengzuo) “What? Of course not! We… well, you’ll just have to see for yourself. The patching defies belief.”
Mengzuo called the elevator up, there was a ding – and the doors opened with a massive burst of steam that would cook most mortals without protection dead!
(Charles) “Dear me!”
(Mengzuo) “Kid, you haven’t seen the worst of it.”
(Charles) “I’d better then!”
It was a muggy, and increasingly hot, descent. Even at rapid Celestial elevator speeds, it was uncomfortable, even with their various protections. When the elevator doors opened… well, the elevator stopped about an inch above the floor, and there was a good reason for that. There was a thin layer of molten orichalcum and quicksilver all over the white jade flooring. Up ahead, several figures in heavy armor were frantically trying to patch something spurting the same materials.
(Mengzuo) “Incarnae, not again… that’s the second time this month!”
The air rippled with heat as he stepped gingerly out of the elevator.
Charles was busy… first, cool things, second set up a walking surface above the floor, and three… try to analyze a bit and see what needed fixing!
That was quite a lot! As mechanical as the place looked, that network of orichalcum and moonsilver tubing running along the walls was just as much organic. It seemed to have some self-healing capabilities, and the ability to contract and expand as needed. Unfortunately, those abilities were dependent on the old geomancy. Under the new one… well, the place was indeed a Manse, and its Maintenance had gone through the roof (perhaps the ground? It WAS underground). And there was damage to it, too. What was going on right now was some serious Essence venting in the form of quicksilver and orichalcum. Not… the Essence venting you got when you built a Manse on a demesne stronger than it, either. This felt… directed.
(Charles) “You’ve got a geomantic mismatch here! It must have built up VERY slowly; a manse normally fixes the local geomancy, but over millennia I guess that that effect is not enough… I think it’s trying to redirect the geomancy!”
(Mengzuo, shouting over the hissing of the tubes and heat) “I know! We did the best we could, back in the old days, but it’s been slowly failing ever since the First Age! The senior canal gods can take care of the maintenance, and even patch things up! But that’s not a permanent solution… and no one in the Bureaucracy really listens! I’m sure you noticed that the canals have been erratic the past few millennia! Blasted place has a mind of its own! And there’s a lot of strain on it too!
(Charles) “Huh… this is pretty urgent! “
(Mengzuo) “You’re about to do something to it, aren’t you?”
Well… the most obvious plan was to attune, boost the manse to add faster self-repair, independence of external geomancy, and a network node, and then channel enough network support in to sustain it properly. A good thing that he had that writ! After all, it looked like… most gods didn’t know that this was a manse, much less have a chance to attune! Of course… he was in a big enough rush these days that he wasn’t hiding nearly as much any more… It wouldn’t be long before things were out in the open anyway!
(Mengzuo) “Are you sure this will work, kid? You’re dealing with the central node of the canals here! Not even we know what we happen if this place blows!”
Well… It might not work, but he couldn’t see any real chance of disaster with boosting and improving things. If he’d been working on most Manse-builders timescales there would be more problems – especially with getting the attunements set up properly. But considering his speed and that he had his manses to supply power ready in his own body it should be simple enough! At the very worst… it would be better than letting the place continue to decay!
(Charles) “It should!”
(Mengzuo used his own geomantic charms – and grimaced. Letting Charles work on the place did seem like it would fix things – even if he could scarcely believe the power that would require!
(Charles) “And If I don’t… the place is approaching critical failure all too quickly! If there was even a modest load increase it could tip it right over!”
(Mengzuo) “Okay, I’m going to let the gods in here know you’re going to do this. They’re pretty proud and arrogant, so…”
He did so – very, very politely.
(Charles) “Is that OK with everybody?”
(Rumal, Head of the Maintenance Corps) “Just what are you intending to do here, young man? Writ or not, this is unprecedented! The last time a human was in here… I don’t even want to speak of it!”
(Mengzuo) “Eh, most… whatever-he-ises… don’t have the power he does. And you’ve GOT to be tired of this happening every month.” (Shrugging) “Still, you’re in charge around here.”
(Charles) “I intend to briefly isolate the essence-system, upgrade the manse-systems, equip it to absorb transferred energy, and redirect some in! It should improve matters – at the least, reset the decay back to the beginning!”
(Rumal) “You can do that? How? The best we can do is stem the tide!”
(Charles) “Uhm… I’m very good at geomancy!”
(Rumal) “I’d like to see your plans for this, young man! The safety of hundreds of my staff, and of this place, is dependent on it-and besides, we might be able to replicate the procedure.”
(Charles) “Oh! Well, OK! I just made them up, but here we go!
Charles showed him the proposed changes – although nothing much about how they’d be implemented. That was frustrating to Rumal – but it WAS apparently permanent and likely to improve his domain… and if he didn’t take the chance… Within a very short time (by divine standards) the place was going to collapse anyway.
He sighed and relented. After all, this way, he still had a domain.
Charles went ahead. The watching gods were, however, experts at dealing with manse-energies – and they saw… the child suddenly generate an essence-vortex which bent the essence-flows of the manse through himself, extend his own energies along those lines to add entirely new functions to the manse’s essence-structures – and then render the place independent of the local geomancy by… pouring in enough geomantic power from inside himself to sustain it independently. Even if the boy was simply a wandering network node, that would be unprecedented in itself! And if that geomantic power actually came from inside him…
If Charles had been paying attention he would have seen that the stares were somewhere in between shock and wonder – but he had things to fix, and so there was no time for people-watching!
As Charles attuned to the place and poured in massive Adenic energies, something DID seem to be reaching out to him from the depths of the manse. There were strong similarities to the energies he’d felt at the Cornucopia and the Calibration Gate’s plaza – but there was also a strong sensation of Sidereal Essence, and not the kind you got from geomancy, either. It felt like a whole bunch of motes. More than could be comfortably sustained in even most elder Viziers’ bodies! And… whatever consciousness existed in this place was strongest at the geomantic center behind those double doors – which wasn’t all that surprising really. The Sidereal essence was… Had somebody been caught in the manse-geomancy after trying to use the Calibration Gate or something? That “Chejop Kejak” person never had come back…
The leaks sealed themselves and the air stopped rippling from the heat. The senior canal gods minding the place just stared in shock – while Mengzuo smiled somewhat knowingly.
(Charles) “Better! I’ll need to check on the geomantic center though!”
(Rumal, covering his shock) “Bother… but… you didn’t do a bad job! Now, tell me, have you eaten today?”
(Charles) “I had peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast!”
(Rumal, looking relieved) “And you’re not lacking for motes… good! You’re a very lucky young man, you know. Few people get to see the actual Heart!”
(Charles, thoughtfully) “I should have plenty!”
With Mengzuo at his side, and an escort of the heavily-armored gods hanging back, the canal gods opened the double doors. They led to a massive pool of quicksilver and orichalcum, which was boiling slowly. Rumal pointed to the pool; tubing emerged from its center, and split into more tubing. The complex arrangement took up most of the room. The pool itself… was a gate, or door. The Sidereal Essence, and the consciousness, were both in there.
Charles gestured at the bodyguards to stay behind – it seemed appropriate – and dived through the gateway of boiling quicksilver and orichalcum, ducking past the piping. Without the behemoth cloak, doing that would have been insane – but with it it felt like warm milk. There was a distinct sensation of being watched now, and mingled worry and gratitude. The piping extended to a massive construct at the bottom of the orichalcum. The quicksilver served as a sort of wall around it.
The construct, itself made of orichalcum and moonsilver and sprouting pipes and tubes everywhere, did indeed resemble a human heart – right down to the beating. The beat was still a bit erratic, but it was slowly stabilizing.
(Charles) “Hello? Ms Yao Xin?”
(Yao Xin – who, oddly enough, seemed mildly disappointed, along with worried and grateful) “Did you fix that nasty geomancy?”
(Charles) “Well… I’ve compensated for it! An actual fix is going to take another month or two! It’s going to go something like this!” (He showed her his plans).
(Yao Xin) “Fascinating… the Raksha portion should amuse Xiang very much, though I’m not sure how Dumenza feels about that one! And of course, the young mistress will probably do some editing of her own once she’s awake.”
(Charles) “Well… at this point I can’t see a lot of alternatives! Its going to take a massive infusion of Wyld energies to make all the repairs!”
(Yao Xin) “I see… and you’d massage the geomancy in such a way as to give everyone someplace to live. Considering the lesser spirits are now within the young mistress, I take it something happened to their city?”
(Charles) “It was quite a mess…”
He showed her the damages to creation, and then the reshaping!
(Yao Xin) “What the… no wonder we’ve slept for so long, and I’ve had so much trouble. I’ve . . . been trying to channel the Essence over a much bigger area, not that I could help that.”
(Charles) “It’s been a very big mess, but I’m fixing things as fast as I can!”
(Yao Xin) “I feel much more relaxed now… like I can breathe again. Sigh… though a humanoid form is still out of the question at the moment, isn’t it?” (With some resentment) “They probably expect me to keep the canals flowing in THAT pattern.”
(Charles) “Well… probably not for another couple of months! The staff is already going to be confused enough! They haven’t got a very good idea of what’s going on yet!”
(Yao Xin) “And they will be more confused then, I think. They’re… (hurt) totally ignorant of me, aren’t they? How can I hope to help her blossom when no one even knows I exist?”
(Charles) “Some of them know that you’re here – but none of them know what you are. That knowledge – and the knowledge that Yu-Shan is one of the Elder Ones – has been hidden for millennia. And you can help by knowing what is happening and by being prepared to help guide and stabilize the energies of the repairs.”
(Yao Xin) “I see… what interesting times they are about to have. Luckily for you, I can simply run those energies through the canals! The Essence-display will be most magnificent.”
(Charles) “That will definitely help balance the energy flows, and so will leave even more margin for unexpected interference! And – sadly enough – I’m fairly sure that there will be some.”
(Yao Xin) “I would expect it. Oh, by the way; do you want some Sidereal-aspected motes?”
(Charles) “I don’t really need any right now… have they been sending you a lot or something?”
(Yao Xin) “I can spare ten for you, since things have become less urgent for me… aww… You… could say that.”
(Charles) “But I don’t really need any extra motes! I’ve got plenty!… Do you need some?”
Hm… Looking up close… there were about 229 motes of Sidereal Essence in her body! It wasn’t a part of her pool either…
(Yao Xin) “What, are you offering? You certainly seem to have enough geomantic links.”
(Charles) “Well, if you want! There’s no shortage… but you’ve already got a lot of Sidereal motes hanging around… Is something weird going on?”
(Yao Xin, seeming mildly embarrassed) “Err . . . well, it’s Fate-aspected Essence, yes. You could say I had a visit a short while ago – though why she decided to jump into one of my pipes, I’ll never know. And I wasn’t expecting THAT to happen.”
(Charles) “That would be a bit odd!”
(Yao Xin) “Not that I haven’t been grateful – the Essence flow has been consistent enough. But why she decided to take that form, as well… And why didn’t she try to help me?”
(Charles) “What, they got stuck? Weird!”
(Yao Xin) “Well… yes! Normally the emerald Fate is much more graceful than that – I’d expect such out of her yellow sister. So I tried to help her out… and… well, I determined some strange things. Such as that she’d managed to transform herself into meat, and channel something of the young mistress’s even younger brother’s power somehow. It felt like a remote link. Has Autochthon been up to any of his experiments since we fell asleep? He’s not supposed to be experimenting with the Fates! They’ll get sick!”
(Charles) “Well, we’ve got a new set of adamant exaltations linked to them!”
(Yao Xin) “No, it definitely felt like the emerald Fate. And then its Essence linked to mine… and I guess whatever that was -I’m fairly sure it wasn’t HER – has been linked ever since.” (Embarrassed) “That’s why I’ve been under stress lately! If I could refine its motes and get them to her… but the geomancy! It’s blocking the way to the central reservoir!”
(Charles) “According to Doc Smith some of Authchthon’s creations have been meddling with linking their energies to some of the Sidereal Exalts!”
(Yao Xin) “Who’s Doc Smith? And what’s this about the little inventor’s creations?”
(Charles) “Hm… I could tie the link into the remote links to the Sorrowhands! Would that work? It would be a fairly modest boost on what I’m funneling to them already, but it would have a different aspect!”
(Yao Xin) “Ah, thank goodness the Tenders are still around, if as stifled as I’ve been. Why don’t you try that? They can help me with the refinement. And then once we’re all awake… I can take them on a ride!”
Charles checked with the Sorrowhands.
(Arelis Sorrowhands) “Wonderful! Do you have any idea how hard it’s been for our people to approach Yao Xin, much less perform the diagnostics? She’s always been the most fiddly of milady’s devas.”
(Charles) “She needed some help! And she’s got some excess Sidereal Essence from a Sidereal who… well… is caught in the pipes! Can you use it?”
Arelis accepted the link quite enthusiastically – and with a brief chuckle.
(Arelis) “Oh, Aden, we know full well about that one. Rest assured that Exalt is long out. But more Essence is never bad.”
(Charles) “Oh good!”
He set it up.
(Arelis) “”But… do try to track that person down. They might be in more danger, and be more of a threat, than they know.”
(Charles) “Hm… Doc Smith says that she’s… gone to Scotland? Why Scotland? Oh well! I’ll see if I can’t find her!”
(Arelis) “Her? Hmm… I had heard it was a he. Still, they are a tricky bunch!”
(Charles) “Huh! I was thinking a mix of Autochthonian and Sidereal Essences… and Doc Smith was just examining a Sidereal who’d been linked to Autochthon, so I was guessing it might be her! I guess not though!”
(Arelis) “Interesting… blending Exaltations? I wonder what would happen if you ran her through Yao Xin… Probably not what I’d expect, what with her already being linked to one Primordial.”
(Charles) “I’ve no idea really! Hopefully l I won’t have to deal with that until after this fix!
(Arelis) “Hm. We’ll have to talk to her if you succeed in saving Yu-Shan.”
(Charles) “Well… I’m trying to make sure of that!”
(Arelis) “And we’re quite appreciative. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to change out this plate of peaches of immortality…”
Charles accepted a couple of Sidereal motes for later analysis – and left Yao Xin with a few helpful artifacts (boats, extra mote sources, items that helped her think faster, and movement aids). Running the canals was very stressful!