The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CLXXVII – Death and the Sleeping Duty

In Yu-Shan, Charles was still popping about via his transport amulet – which was the only reason he was remaining ahead of the ever-increasing delegation from the divine bureaucracy that wanted to talk to him; he was stirring things up with a lot more than Hipparions! A visit to the Hannya was still in order, his cult in Tarvail was attracting a good deal of attention, the governments of Earth were getting a “little” on edge what with all the changes, and at least some of the Yozi and elder Exalts were likely to be taking an interest…

Not to mention the Arbiter of Games End.

Which is why one particular probe of Aden drew his attention… Aden did have some fairly extensive security against probing – but with all the gates, and the links to the internet, and the underworld communications manse, and the cell phone links, and various other routes… it was only the important stuff that was actually hidden.

There had been a Wyld-based probe – not that surprising since he WAS linked to Mecha-Godzilla at the moment – but the death-touched one was considerably more disturbing. At least it didn’t have a familiar resonance to it… Charles put lots of interesting (but ultimately irrelevant) stuff in it’s way to keep it busy for awhile – and consulted, because he’d promised that he would! Frumisera, Chisaru, Gothmug, and (especially) Righteous Hala (because she’d be VERY cross if he left her out!) at the least!

The link had faint sensations of mist, roses, and (of course) death connected to it. There wasn’t not QUITE as much hostility as there was when he’d visited the Arbiter though – and he was doubtless even madder now. It was probably not the Arbiter! Of course, as arrogant as the Arbiter was… he probably just assumed that he knew enough and was amassing an army! It would be consistent with what he’d seen of him anyway. After all, if he didn’t assume that he knew enough, he wouldn’t have blasted his contact point – and he’d know better than to try to do what he was! It would simply dissolve the universe in the Wyld and let his new neverborn recreate herself – so no Oblivion anyway. So it was not only impossibly arrogant… but it screamed “madman!” as well.

Why did so many Exalts have to be raving maniacs?

(Charles, to his impromptu council) “Uhm… do you recommend that I speak to them? They don’t seem QUITE so hostile as the Arbiter. Also, mist and roses… sounds vaguely familiar somehow!”

(Frumisera) “Hmm… dealing with Deathlords is usually tricky business, even for one of your power. I would think one as insane as the Arbiter would have attacked by now. This is just a probe, yes? That’s still bad if they can get through your defenses!”

(Charles) “Sadly, with so many gates open… there are routes for probes, and if I hang a perfect privacy defense over all of Aden no one will be able to call in or out or relay instructions or anything!”

(Hala) “I would expect an attack too… though I’ve heard about some younger Deathlords more interested in running their own afterlives. They’re normally pretty secretive about that.”

(Charles) “Well, I’ve only ever actually met the one, and that only briefly!”

(Chisaru, rubbing her chin) “I’d heard the same thing. I don’t know about that – I’m no necromancer. If they’re not attacking, though, and you have defenses…erg. I don’t want to say you SHOULD, but…”

(Frumisera) “It would be risky, to say the least!”

(Charles) “Well… Talking usually doesn’t make it worse, and sometimes it makes it better. I do tend to lean towards “when in doubt, talk!”.

(Hala) “And if this is what I think it is… I’m curious.”

(Charles) “Well, if I filter the conversation like last time it shouldn’t reveal too much anyway.”

(Gothmug) “Are you REALLY sure you want to do this, Charles? Deathlords are so BORING! Oh well, if you filter it, I can stand by and prepare against attacks over the probe.”

(Charles) “Well… lets do it then!”

He sent his own filtered link down to meet the probe with his usual cheery “Hello!”. That led… to a black garden, ripe with faintly luminous fruits and coiled with shiny ivy. A pale figure in a set of black and silver robes, plainly dead, is on the other side.

(Ghost) “Ah, well met, Aden Shining Dream. I had thought the link had gone unnoticed.”

(Charles) “Nope! Was there something you needed?”

(Ghost) “I have been supervising this link on behalf of my mistress. I will patch you over to her.”

(Charles) “OK! And you have as good a time as possible!”

(Ghost) “The wonders of the mistress’s lands are the envy of all the dead.”

(Charles) “Well that’s a good way to run things!”

And another point in the garden there was a gazebo of black jade and a woman… her hair red as blood, her skin white as alabaster, and her armor as black as the void of space and studded with star-like diamonds and rose-like rubies. A winged helmet sat on the table next to her, a goblet filled with what was hopefully red wine next to it. Necrotic Essence was palpable around her, but the expression on her face was tranquil.

(Charles) “Hello!”

(Woman) “Hail and well met, Aden Shining Dream. I am the Marshal of Those Who Have Come Before, Who Are Here, and Who Are Yet To Arrive. You are… younger than I’d anticipated.”

(Charles) “Lots of people say that! But they’re all much older than I am, so it’s sort of a tautology!… Should I get some titles? A lot of other people seem to have them.”

(The Marshal) “Only… fourteen? My, just a baby for that level of power.”

(Hala) “What, you’re asking us? You have to EARN those. I think you’re fine as Aden for now.”

Charles checked for other probes – although that information could be picked up really easily – such as by looking at his school records. And there was no reason not to admit it anyway.

(Charles) “Well, yes!”

(The Marshal, with a knowing smile on her face) “I’m assuming some kind of world-body technique? It’s highly difficulty to get that many personal geomantic links otherwise.”

(Charles, finding that there WERE several other probes in the computer systems) “I like geomancy!”

(The Marshal) “Hmm. Evasive. But then many child-Exalts wind up that way.”

At least the basic network didn’t have much on him – even if it did have lots of entertainment and email – and his stuff was all behind perfect privacy defenses. If she really WANTED earth internet, there was no reason not to let her have it!

(The Marshal) “And you’re not spewing green fire or the energies of Oblivion everywhere…” (Leaning on her chair) “Intriguing… very intriguing.”

(Charles) “Well, the Arbiter was very cranky… And green fire is somebody else’s schtick while the energies of oblivion… well, I’m sorry, but they generally aren’t all that conducive to fun.”

(The Marshal, shrugging) “One of the survivors of the Reshaping, I fear… a tremendously disturbed man. And my interests are with the dead; I have no love or hatred for memories of the time before. But enough chatter. Is is true that you intend to end death?”

Back in person… Charles was looking pretty unhappy! He hadn’t really thought about the practicality of that goal since before he gave himself all the mental boosts – and the “expose flaws in your thinking” function of the privacy manse and the expanded logic of his synergistic overmind… were telling him some things he’d rather not have known. Putting an end to Death… was not practical and would not work.

At least Righteous Hala was there to give him a big hug and be hugged back!

(Charles) “Hmm… Delay it in a lot of cases I think – but there will always come a time when people have had enough of life – and there will always be conflicts and disruptions. On the plus side for Death, the more planets I set up for people to live on, the larger the population will grow – and all of them will die eventually. Given the scale of Creation now… the overall deathrate may decrease by roughly one part in trillions for a few centuries before it starts creeping up.”

(The Marshal) “I see. It is good that you are sensible – the creators DID intend for all things to die eventually, though dying themselves was not part of their designs. I would have been quite cross with you had you intended to make everyone immortal.”

(Charles) “I wanted to – but it won’t work!”

(The Marshal, nodding and staring evenly) “More sensible than I had expected, then… unlike some people, who we have both met and who are NOT sensible.”

(Charles) “The Arbiter? He is quite irrational… he basically tried to intimidate me by threatening to break the phone I’d sent him – which he’d requested…”

(The Marshal) “Indeed, and intending to destroy something important to the proper operation of life and death. Or should I say someone?”

Well, there was no point in denying that really – if she had listened to the Whispers, she knew anyway. And it wasn’t a big deduction anyway; He’d gotten it after one very brief encounter.

(Charles) “Someone – as (sighing) I’m fairly sure you know!”

(The Marshal) “Even if the Celestial Bureaucracy considers me a creature of death and darkness, I want to see existence dissolved as much as its functionaries. It’s hard to populate a realm without souls. And the Wyld is most certainly unhealthy for me, so…”

(Charles) “Well… nobody really wants to see Creation revert to the wyld but a few nihilists and some of the Unshaped who’ve noticed the place.”

(The Marshal) “And at least the Unshaped and hannya have the excuse of narrative. Hmm… I think we do have some common ground, then. Who would have thought?” (In a tone that indicated that this was not a surprise at all…)

(Charles) “Once you get large enough, you usually have some common ground with almost anyone!”

There was a slight groan at the pun… that hadn’t actually been the way he’d meant it, but that happened!

(The Marshal) “I’m sensing some sort of afterlife communication facility in there. Would you care to set up a link and tell me what’s happening in Heaven? Matters within… her?… have been going badly for millennia now.”

(Chisaru) “Uh, Charles, you might want to think twice on that one. Writ aside, I don’t think the Violet Bier of Sorrows would approve.”

(Hala) “Though the LINK is in Aden itself… yeah. If the Bureaucracy finds out, you’d be in trouble.”

(Charles, to Chisaru) “Hrm… General gossip she can certainly get if she can run multiple probes into Aden – and there are still humans who go outside and die occasionally – even if it’s just the occasional morbid person who WANTED to leave a ghost behind or some experimenting Sidereal necromancer dragging someone out. I suspect that she knows perfectly well – but wants to cross-check how reliable I am.

(Charles, to the Marshal) “Well, I’m being strongly reminded that there are quite a few things that I can’t talk about. A lot of stuff is pretty public though… I might need one anyway, would a documentary do? (After all, everything in one of them could be pumped out of any minor celestial god in short order).

(The Marshal) “It should be a breath of fresh air; it’s been a long while since I’ve seen living media.”

(Charles) “I’ll get one made and send a copy over! And some other movies if you’d like!”

Which would later plague the people of her world-body death realm as she peppered them with questions about the technology – but that was not really his concern!

Charles promptly set about generating (via computer graphics and such) a general introductory documentary on Yu-Shan, also suitable for showing Terrestrials who wanted to know what was going on there, and for new Sidereals to show them the layout and such. It included general cautions on deiphagy and other hazards…

He asked Chisaru if there was anything in it that would be objectionable to share, so she took a look. After all, not even new Sidereals were allowed to know too much about the city before they graduated from training. It wasn’t too extensive though – it wasn’t like unauthorized people didn’t drop in on occasion just because they heard of the place, and the lions generally just kick them out or drive them off… Perhaps the Luions wouldn’t do that if there were some kind of “Power of Ten” style film available?

Hm! Copies to the Sidereal schools, and to the various places that could use such a thing. Anywhere with kids for a start… He’d better do an age-graded set. And to lions at the gates to show more sensible visitors!

(Chisaru) “Yeah, emphasize the deiphages… the empty quarters are still pretty dangerous for most people.”

Charles added some more on them, and on the empty quarters (and why to stay out of them), and so on – and wound up with one complete film with age-graded versions! The kids version put a lot more stress on things to stay away from, how to use the canals to get home, and so on. The adult version provided basic information on where to go for permits and such.

(The Marshal) “Oh my… well, that’s interesting. The original geomancy is up to approximately seventy-one percent?”

Well, there was no point in denying that either! The ratio of “stay out” to “OK here” said it as soon as you looked at the map – although most people would have had a hard time calculating that precisely on the fly.

(Charles) “Good math! That’s pretty much it!”

(The Marshal) “What is left of the dead creators has some surprising connections… life for her (nodding to Chisaru) kind will become most interesting if you manage what you’re planning. Though not as interesting as hers must be right now…”

The Lady Chisaru managed to not to ask anything about WHAT she meant by that, since she, Charles, and the Deathlord all knew.

(Charles) “It’s best for life to be full of interest! Otherwise people get bored – and less desirous of a rest afterwards. “

(The Marshal) “I certainly hope you’re prepared to handle it. As for me, since you are not hostile to my interests, I will leave you be for the time being.”

(Charles) “Well, thank you! And let me know if you need anything; I might be able to help!”

The Marshal nodded and the link dissolved into mist and rose petals… the probes remained though.

(Hala) “Hmph. She could have at least disconnected the probes… I never thought I’d meet one of those, though!”

(Charles) “Well… they’re just in the public computer network. That’s already got more – in the “so you want to visit Yu-Shan” sections – then is really in the documentary. The documentary just includes a lot more pictures.”

(Hala) “As long as it doesn’t go any further!”

(Charles) “Well… all the personal stuff and classified projects are behind perfect defenses. There are mountains of stuff on the new planets of course – but that’s all going public to earth anyway.”

That mollified her – although she was sticking close to Charles for the time being. Charles – somber and unhappy – could use the company at the moment… he hadn’t WANTED to realize that abolishing death simply would not work. A childish but benevolent idea shattered!… Hala and Frumisera fussed at him and tried to cheer him up. He was REALLY busy lately, but even tas ired out as he was, now was NOT the time to be mopey! The other projects had to keep moving!

Darn Deathlords! Making him GROW UP! That was not a peril he had ever really anticipated! But when you were becoming the patron of never directly lying it became hard to lie to yourself once someone made you look.

Oh well… that other, Wyld-based, probe was still active – so he said “Hello!” to that one! It DID feel similar to the link with Mecha-Godzilla, if more subtle.

(A voice that sounded like Demien!) “Hello? Heh, it’s you… lucky.”

(Charles) “Uhm… why? And who else would it be?”

(“Demien”) “Well, okay, you and the place ARE one. Can I come in?”

Charles considered… well, he could wyld-gate in anyway, or use the Sidereal travel charms.

(Charles) “I suppose so. What do you need?”

(Demien) “We both know what you’re planning to do to Yu-Shan. I wanted to have some creative input.”

(Charles) “Things are kind of far along for too much of that! Er… is everyone all right? That mess with the Cauldron was REALLY SILLY. Anyway… input is almost always useful! It’s not like I’m incapable of missing good ideas!”

(Demien) “Silly? We’re better than ever… I’m not even sure if it’d help you at this point. I haven’t determined what you are yet, and it’d be shame to have it blow up on us.”

(Charles) “Anyway, what was it you wanted to put in?”

Demien DID feel pretty good, though, what with the Raksha in him and the weird powers he wouldn’t be able to buy otherwise.

(Demien) “How would you feel about some roaming Wyld zones in there? I was going to ask Yu-Shan about it anyway, but since you’re going to be the one doing the geomantic operations, I thought you should know.”

(Charles) “Uhm… I was including an entire wyld aspect to help power things up.”

(Demien) “Yeah, but that’s just, what, one part? If you have it in everywhere, the Wyld’s always right there when you need it!” (Thoughtfully rubbing his chin) “Maybe have it do an orbit around the gates… that way you can avoid it if you want to. I’m not sure WHY you’d want to do that.”

(Charles) “But you need the rigid structure in another aspect to make the geomancy work… I don’t really think wandering chaos zones would work!”

(Demien) “Aw, come on… just imagine the looks on those stuffy gods’ faces. I know you can make it work somehow-and besides, you’re still a LOT better at this stuff than Windhiam.”

(Charles) “That wouldn’t be fair at ALL. Gods can have trouble with that! Would you like it if I put in wandering zones of stability? Now maybe something on the human level; as long as it’s fairly minor humans tend to like a little chaos in things…”

(Demien) “Hmph! You never were any fun… I’ll have to do something about that! I GUESS you could make walking, talking mutation dispensers or something.”

(Charles) “Ooh! Mutation vending machines! That could be handy for the colonization projects; the people wanted some could get them!”

(Demien) “Okay, but I want control over what’s dispensed. It was my idea!”

(Charles) “Erm… We can work on the list together, and there can be “random” and “vendor’s choice” options, but a lot of people will want what they ordered!”

(Demien) “Fine…”

(Charles) “And if you want creative input into things it’s best to come early!”

(Demien) “Heh. I was too busy building kaiju Manses for everybody!”

(Charles) “They are fun!”

(Demien) “Oh yeah… did you find yours? It was only fair for the climatic duel.”

(Charles) “I think so! Why a climatic duel though?”

(Demien, hopping into the link and melt away in a burst of amethyst flame)”Oh, you’ll see…”

Charles waved! It was nice to hear that they were all right though! Even if they WERE effectively holding hands with him right now… Which was still kind of silly! Fortunately he had lots of multitracking to monitor that link while Demien was being distracting and impractical (and knowingly so). There was a little bit of energy leeching off that link now in fact…

Charles basically tied a note to it that said “if you need some, why not ask?”, and send some along… The drain was only about… five motes and hour. Quite negligible, even if he would have to put a halt to that once things begin, but for the moment, why not let them?

(Righteous Hala) “Charles… where is all that Essence going, and why are you feeding more in there without even SEEING WHERE IT’S GOING?”

(Charles) “Oh… Well, sending some to the Deiphages worked out quite well… but I suppose I ought to look!”

The Essence was going… someplace into Deep Chaos. The Essence at the other end was VERY familiar. It reminded him of that temple, and that final chamber… it was faint, but it was still all too like it – complete with the fountain, which his Essence was feeding into.

(Charles) “Hm… I think they’re testing compatibility! It’s not like deep chaos doesn’t have plenty of essence available!”

(Righteous Hala) “With what?”

(Charles) “Probably with the Cauldron and/or Kaiju…”

He tried running the probe out further – weaving it into the energy-stream with concealments – and ran into a perfect ward. Windhiam might not be as good at geomancy as Charles was, but he was definitely up to THAT.

(Charles) “That’s what I thought! It’s a perfect privacy ward; the only way to look would be to go in person.”

(Righteous Hala) “It might be bait.”

(Charles) “That’s always the “If” part! And (with a bit of disappointment) I don’t really have time right now for side-trips.”

(Hala) “Smart kid.”

(Charles) “Well… letting them have a few motes costs little or nothing, and carries few risks – motes flow out all the time anyway all over – and if they think that they got something past, they may get overconfident and let something slip! So it’s OK for now!”

Righteous Hala… would be monitoring that link nonetheless. Charles would be too – but he already was for any serious transfers in or out.

Wait! He had to get busy on those Artifacts for Guarderis Athelstane! And those would be… getting a bunch of high-end Raksha charms into major artifacts, primordial armor, and secondary protections for her various subsouls since that did seem to be the easiest way to ensure that nobody messed with her… Concealment, self-duplication, and erasing the worst threats from her personal reality would help a LOT!

Hm… He could forge them as Ideas; that way they could be kept very personally! For components… he’d need some Raksha graces and… a blessing from an Unshaped (and from a very high-essence shaped), a suit of rank-5 artifact armor, matter from an alternate creation, a mirror that held an image but had never known light, and an egg from beneath a bird that was nesting atop the highest tree on a distant island, surrounded by natural hazards. If possible, someone should have hidden a secret item inside. No doubt worthy of an epic quest that had to be completed in less than a month! A good thing that he had easy access to both gates and other Creations!

Well… the mirror was easy – modern manufacturing and computer-engraving techniques would handle THAT – as was the armor and the matter. The Egg would be mildly tricky (sorcerers were notorious for hiding their hearts that way, albeit with all kinds of guardians), and the Unshaped would be trickiest! So it was off to the Deep Wyld (where he might run into the cauldron-born anyway). Fortunately, he already have a manifestation there (and a lovely view of the universe from great grandmother Gauderis Athelstane). There were several waypoints close by at the moment: a Manse of rosy stone, interwoven with thorny yellow vines of Essence, floating on a piece of land: a planet formed entirely of flame, grumbling the secrets of an unknown species; a bird-shaped craft cawing menacingly and expelling shadows of fury; and a crystalline city humming a song of destruction.

Ooh! Drama! Still… to the Manse of course!

It was indeed a powerful fortress. Beneath the dense thicket of the thorny vines, a horde of Raksha warriors slept outside the walls! The Manse’s Essence based weaponry still hummed; the place was well-preserved, although the Essence of deep sleep hung over the place like a veil. Thankfully, Dudael protected him against that…

Uh-Oh! Enchanted castle, everyone sleeping, surrounded by roses…. Was there going to be a princess who’d pricked her finger on a spinning wheel inside? Well, he had to pass the waypoint to move on anyway, so he went on in!

The vines ground against him as he passed; the thorns were quite formidable – or would be if he wasn’t wearing such good armor. There were still more Raksha as he passed the gate. Their panoplies suggested that at least some of them were nobles – not all of them with a Warrior component, either. A freehold with a manse aspect? After all, pretty much anything could be gotten to work at the fringes of the Wyld… Oops! The essence-weaponry (it looked like heavy concussive stuff) was turning his way! It was obviously time to head for the central tower and waken the princess – unless it was all stylized surroundings for a freehold.

And there was the central tower! Charles hastily put up wards and shields over the “sleeping” Raksha (they could really get hurt in a crossfire!) and then over himself. As the weapons fired, the blasts hammered against the wards and shields – and the dust shook up the dust on the tilework in the courtyard. It was a lovely First Age mosaic, done in the old Southern style – an oasis depiction in what (today) would be considered a middle-eastern style. Very nice! He recorded it carefully!

The central tower was capped by a minaret; the first floor was a lobby area, with fine chairs, some bowls that look like they once held fruit, and a desk and a First Age communicator – presumably for the receptionist. There were stairs here, but they were blocked by a colossal, tree-like leg, covered with vines and leaves. He could hear snoring upstairs. Troublingly, the sleepy essence was becoming stronger; without his defenses he’d be asleep by now… The yellow vines were also present, coiling through cracks in the walls and down the stairs. There MIGHT be room to get past the leg if some vines and such were removed – but he’d probably have to shrink, and even then the creature was kicking a bit in its sleep. He might have to go up the outside or make a hole in the roof!

Well, it didn’t look like it would disrupt the geomancy… and his survey of the place showed that the geomantic center was up there too. It looked like the place used an integrated artifact suite to stabilize the local area – as well as serving as a major communications hub. A temporary hole in the roof it was!

There were some of the yellow vines coiled up around the roof supports too, but it was easy enough to find a gap. Given that the place was a fortress Manse, it took a while to make the hole – Charles had more than enough geomantic prowess to tweak something so minor. Once he’d sealed the hole removing a few vines revealed a Central Control room, built in First Age style. The vines were especially dense towards the center of the room – but there was someone snoring, about where the central control throne would be. The Essence of sleep was just cloying. No one could possibly stay awake this close to the center without a perfect mental defense or a colossal reserve of willpower! Even HE felt like yawning – probably the “natural” part of the influence!

The snorer proved to be a plump, elderly gentleman, dressed in fine ambrosial attire that would not be out of place in Yu-Shan. Deeply asleep, he was splayed lengthwise upon the control throne. He was definitely the source of the vines; they were sprouting from his brilliant yellow anima. They didn’t seem to hinder the usual shifting of a sleeper – and he was smiling in his sleep. The sleep seemed to be… a voluntary Sidereal Martial Arts effect. That was the source of the vines and the wide-range sleep effect. A pretty high-end effect! It looked like… an Essence-7 capstone equivalent effect. This fellow might have been missing for a long time! He checked back with Mr Montague to see if the fellow could be identified!

Mr Montague had to call in Sasa, but after a bit of communication and some research…

(Sasa) “Well, that’s neat… that’s Xsalorn, master of the Beige Boulder of Lethargy. Now THAT is an obscure style; most people don’t study more than the Form. He disappeared during the Balorian Crusade, when fey were invading this fortress Manse. I guess that’s what happened to him.”

(Charles) “I take it that the final sleeping effect prevents aging, hunger, and so on?”

(Sasa) “Well, the Form puts you to sleep. Now there are recorded instances of the final technique being used, but that’s forbidden. You’re seeing why right now!”

(Charles) “Well, it does take you out of circulation evidently!”

(Sasa) “Which is why I’ve been told to tell you to wake him up and get him back to work!”

They were FAR to understaffed to allow someone to sleep perpetually!

(Charles) “Is there a particular way of doing that?”

(Sasa, checking his notes) “Countering the Form Charm should do it. All the style’s techniques were an offshoot of the Form – Xsalorn believed… that laziness was enlightenment. Hoo boy.”

(Charles) “Well, I suppose it might be! I suspect that there are much more interesting ways though… how do you counter a form charm outside of a formbreaker charms? Would a high-end waking effect do?”

(Sasa) “That should do it; he can’t wake himself up, but you just need to overpower his own Essence.”

Charles put up some wards against Raksha attack (they only needed to last for a few minutes, got his own gate open first, then applied some of his medical talents to wake Xsalorn up!

The old man awakened… slowly… and then smiled benignly, and tried to go back to sleep.

Charles joggled him – and got a bit of grumbling, and the benevolent smile again. There was no hostility there, but he was very sleepy!

(Charles) “You’ve been asleep a very long time now – better than thirty thousand years – and it’s time to wake up now! If that isn’t long enough to sleep your way to enlightenment, I don’t think it’s going to work!”

(Xsalorn, scratching his belly) “Five more minutes?”

(Charles) “Sorry, but no! Everyone else has been having to handle your work for thirty millennia, and that’s not fair!

(Xsalorn) “Aw… it was worth a try. But see? I was working by protecting this place!”

(Charles) “But it doesn’t really need protecting now. It’s out in the Wyld anyway!”

(Xsalorn) “Aw… weeeell, back to the grind, I suppose. Thirty thousand years, you say?”

(Charles) “Somewhat over that!”

Xsalorn smiled proudly!

Charles sent him off to Aden (where UMI, even if directed at yourself, did not work) – and then home to deal with his eons of paperwork. Xsalorn was kind of fussy about that! Now to deal with the Raksha! He had to admit that, in the beginning at least, the old lazy Chosen of Journeys really had been protecting the place – but the region of the South it was once in had long dissolved, and the Manse was quite far from Creation… Well, it was something of an antique! Maybe he should add it to his collection? Of course, he had to deal with the Raksha first, but that would leave no one around to object to him taking it…

He waited for the Raksha to wake up – trying to wake up one or two a few minutes early if he could… They awoke along with their behemoth, which was now thrashing in the tower.

Charles put it outside, with a snack in case it was a real animal or person changed into a Behemoth!

(Eshu Raksha, elaborately dressed with a polearm, as the tree-cat behemoth sipped it’s milk) “Hah! Have at you, cowardly old-ah, have you changed form? No fair!”

(Charles) “Nah! He left! I’m Charles! And you’ve had a rather lengthy nap!”

(Eshu) “Well that’s unsporting. Who am I supposed to gloriously duel now?”

(Charles) “Well, I suppose I could send for someone… but dueling an old man who specializes in sleeping doesn’t sound all that glorious anyway.”

(Eshu, with some surprise) “Really. THAT’s what the Sidereal was studying?”

(Charles) “Yep. Contagious napping!”

(Eshu) “What a letdown. Fnaria gets the master of sickness, and I chase down that?”

(Charles) “I’m afraid so! And he – and you – napped for rather a long time!”

(Eshu, looking at the behemoth, and the region outside) “At least we technically succeeded – this fortress is now deep in the Wyld!”

(Charles) “Yes indeed!”

(Eshu and many more cheering Raksha) “Hurrah! Did we win the war?”

(Charles) “Half-and-half! You overran quite a lot of Creation, but there’s some left and it’s undergone internal inflation.”

(Eshu) “Sigh… bother. Can you at least point us toward the nearest freehold? I suppose I can get some comedy out of this.”

Charles probed around for one… it looked like there was… Lupimanda whose president he’d returned that birthday present to (It might be a little too modern for a bunch of Raksha Landsknecht though). There was a candy fortress a few waypoints over to the east, and that planet of fire he’d spotted earlier… The planet of fire should do nicely – at least after he gave them a few warnings the Hannya!

(Eshu) “Thank you… err, whatever you are.”

(Charles) “I’m not too sure myself most days! But you’re quite welcome!”

And the Raksha summoned a bunch of elaborately woven steeds and ride off while Charles checked the place over to make sure that there was nothing problematic in or about it and then – since it checked out OK – added it to his collection, leaving him on a simple, easily passable, Wyld waypoint.

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