Champions – The Children Of Voso

Six hundred years ago the Archdaemon Voso, “The Leopard President”, was little more than an image in a magician’s mind – a mental construct into which could be poured the darker energies of the human racemind to give them form. “He” proved useful to that mage – and so that mage taught his apprentices about Voso, drawing on their imaginations to strengthen and improve his personal daemon. The apprentices took notes – including the fact that Voso, like any phantasm, could be strengthened by offering him the attention and dreams of human Children

They encrypted and hid those notes of course. The use of daemons was less than popular where it wasn’t likely to get you killed. Inevitably, it wasn’t all that long before an ambitious young mage using those notes got it very, very wrong – and offered Voso a small, cheap, slave-child, as a blood sacrifice instead of simply teaching the kid about Voso.

Voso acquired a soul – and, not too surprisingly, inherited a certain resentment of the magician who had killed “him” horribly. As the mage made further “offerings”, and his power increased, Voso found a way to introduce that mage to a fate far worse than death. Still, Voso had now been established as a mighty power, an Archdaemon who could readily be paid off with captives and cheap slave-children.

For a time, he did indeed devour them – but having a soul, he was no longer entirely bound by how he was imagined. Keeping them… was far more profitable (and a great deal less gross). Making the occasional talented one a dark mage in his service or assigning them as familiars to those who called upon him… was enormously profitable, and kept him in the minds of many magi.

Today Voso is the Demon President Of Spamming; he attempts to get talented youngsters to call him and make pacts with him by sending them books of demonology, tempting Emails, and similar mass-marketing tactics (he is rumored to have introduced the “Nigerian Prince” Email scam). Those who do… he infuses with demonic energies and teaches dark magic to, drawing on the powers of the underworld. He then either uses them as agents, rents them out, or outright sells them as familiars and as magical beasts and aides.

As with most such pacts, a child with sufficient potential can break free of Voso’s control eventually, although they will retain their powers. What they do after that… is up to them.


Children of Voso


Value Characteristic Points
13/19 STR 3
18/23 DEX 24
10/13 CON 0
10/13 BODY 0
10/16 INT 0
11/14 EGO 2
10/16 PRE 0
8/20 COM -1
4/7 PD 0
2/5 ED 0
3 SPD 2
6/9 REC 0
20/32 END 0
25/31 STUN 0
Total 30


Points Powers END
4 Package Deal: Demonic Infusion Elemental Control (15-pt reserve); Always On: -½; Generic Limitation (User has problems with demon wards, finds touching holy objects painful and distracting , belongs to their demonic master, etc.): -1; Demon Magic Powers Only (-.5), Visible (Obvious to Occultists as Black Magic, -.25), Attracts local holy men and similar characters (-.25).
a-4 Armor (10 PD/10 ED)
b-4 Regeneration (1 BODY/Turn); Regenerate: From Death, +20
c-7 Shape Shift (Animal and Part-Aniimal Forms) (Limited Group); Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1. 0
d-6 Shrinking-2 (DCV +4, Height 0 cm/0″); Mass: 0 kg/0.00 lbs; Knockback Increase: 6; PER Bonus: -4; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Linked (Only with appropriate shapeshift): -½. 0
e-4 Growth-3 (×8 mass, ×2 height); Mass: 0 kg/0.00 lbs; Height: 0 cm/0″; Extra STR: 15; Knockback Reduction: -3; Extra BODY: 3; Extra STUN: 3; DCV Penalty: -2; PER Penalty: +2; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Linked (Only with appropriate shapeshift): -½. 0
f-9 2d6 Aid to Animal Powers suited to Current Form (Fade/min., Max. 16); Range: 0; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Active Points: 51; Generic Limitation (Points vanish instantly on assuming a new form): -½. 0
g-4 Power Defense (20 pts); Hardened: ×2, ½.
h-4 Life Support (total).
i-4 3d6 Aid (Study Spells to add Multipower Slots) (Fade/day, Max. 20); Range: 0; Active Points: 40; Extra Time: 5 min., -2; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Activation: 15-, -¼; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼. 4
21 Demonic Sorcery Multipower (62-pt reserve); Concentrate 1/2 DCV (-.25), Gestures and Incantations (-.5), Side Effects (Bonded to Master, Steadily more Corrupt, -.5), Side Effects cannot be avoided (-.5), Requires a Full Phase (-.5), Visible (Obvious Black Magic, -.25), Using more than 20 active points requires at least 3 other cultists active in the immediate area (-.5).
u-2 Dance Of Time; Generic Limitation (Cannot be used more than twice per turn.): -½; This is simple; the user is transported a few moments into the past and teleported a short distance – enough to interpose themselves between an attacker and his or her target (thus taking the attack) or to take some other action effectively instantly, as needed.
(11) Extra-Dimensional Movement; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: Single Date, +20; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Carrying Mass: None. 4
(6) 10″ Teleportation (Long Range 10″); Increased Range: ×1, +0; Long Range: 10″; Long Range (miles): 0.01; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Fixed Locations: 0; Floating Locations: 0. 2
u-2 3d6 Entangle (DEF 3); Range: 300; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Active Points: 60; Affects Desolidified: +½ 6
u-2 4d6 Energy Blast; Range: 300; Versus: ED; Area Effect (Radius): 4″ radius, +1; No Normal Defense (Holy Powers): +1 6
u-2 8d6 Aid Magic (Fade/turn, Max. 48); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Generic Limitation (Total may not exceed 60 active points): -½; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 2
u-2 5d6 Ego Attack; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 2
u-2 10d6 Energy Blast: Demon Flame; Range: 310; Versus: ED; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 2
u-2 Force Wall (8 PD/8 ED); Range: 300; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Width: 12″, +0; Hardened: ×1, ¼ 2
u-2 10d6 Mind Control; Communication: Verbal, +0; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 2
u-2 10″ Teleportation (Long Range 80″); Increased Range: ×8, +15; Long Range: 80″; Long Range (miles): 0.10; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Fixed Locations: 0; Floating Locations: 0; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Selective Target: +¼ 2
u-2 Change Environment (8″ rad.); Effect: Variable, +1; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
u-2 Telekinesis (STR 20); Range: 300; Manipulation: Fine, +10; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
6 +6 CP to All Attributes Blessing; Modifications to Primary Attributes do not affect secondary attributes. Aid to Defenses has half effect per standard rules.
(6) 1d6 Aid (All attributes) (Fade/turn, Max. 6); Range: 0; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Always On: -½; Personal Only: -1; Increases maximums only, does not speed healing: -1; Aid to Defenses is halved per the standard rules. Aid to primary attributes does not affect secondary ones. 0
6 1d6 30-Point Equipment Allowance Aid (Fade/month, Max. 30); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Extra Time: 1 hour, -2½; Only activates in armories, labs, or between outings: -1½; Personal Only: -1; Difficult to Dispel: ×4, +½; Increased END: ×10, -4; This allows a character to haul along 60 CP worth of customized gear. 20
105 Total Powers  


Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
5 +1 level w/with Multipower
5 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  


Cost Equipment
8 Demonbeast Leather Armor (4 PD/4 ED) ; Focus: Obvious Inaccessible, -½
4 +3 DEX, Monkey Belt ; Doesn’t Affect Figured: -½
2 Merchant’s Pin: Specific Language (Completely Fluent w/accent); Literacy: Standard, 0
1 Running: Belt of the Gazelle (+1″, 7″, NC: 14″) 1; Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 2
3 Theives Tools: Lockpicking 14-
4 Tome of Secrets
(1) Knowledge / Magic 14-; IAF: -1; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½
(1) Knowledge / Demonology 14-; IAF: -1; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½
(1) Knowledge / Alchemy and Brewing 14-; IAF: -1; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½
(1) Knowledge / True Names 14-; IAF: -1; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½
1 Navigation 11-; Focus (Sextant): Obvious Accessible, -1; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1
1 Supply Bag (Survival) 11-; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1
24 Total Equipment


50+ Disadvantages
15 Distinctive Features: Faintly red-glowing slit-pupiled eyes, feline features, pointed teeth, slight talons, slightly sulfurous scent.; Concealability: Concealable, 10; Reaction: Always noticed & major reaction, +5
15 Hunted: Exorcists, Witch Hunters, Et Al. (8-); Capabilities: As Powerful, 10; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
15 Hunted: Militant Angels and Similar Beings (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: None, +0; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
15 Mystically Linked to Voso and their Masters (Frequently, Greatly)
25 Always Obeys Orders of Superiors (Very Common, Total)
10 Reputation: Demonic Agents and Familiars. (8-, Extreme)
10 Prankster (Common, Moderate)
15 Demonically Mischievous (Common, Strong)
20 Normal Characteristic Maxima
15 Blatantly Underage (Frequently, Greatly)
10 Watched: The Authorities (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
15 Generally unfamiliar with the modern world. (Frequently, Greatly)
180 Total Disadvantages


COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
30 + 110 = 140 230 = 180 + 50


OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
8 8 / 12 5 0 21/14 19/14 4, 8, 12


Appearance: The “Children of Voso” appear as slightly demonic looking kids – usually pretty old-fashioned ones.


The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CLXXXVII – Parental Settlements

With the initial burst of explanations run down, and Aikiko’s parents at least somewhat aware of her status as a near-divine entity, they had settled down to hoping that Aikiko could get disentangled from all this insanity and go home quietly before she got killed!

Sadly, as Aikiko was well aware, the Solar Exaltation did not work that way; eventually, trouble would find her – and, by extension, THEM – and they were not nearly as well equipped to survive it as her! Of course, that could be improved somewhat if she could persuade them to go for it.

(Aikiko) “Look, if you want me home more often, and away from all this craziness, you’ll have to accept some of it as protection. Otherwise, stuff WILL hunt me down and try to kill me – and you! You have no chance of surviving the kind of stuff I’ve had to deal with without artifact armor and a bit of magic!”

(Yoshiro) “But WHY will things be hunting you? And what do you mean “Artifact Armor”? Magic, well, yes… I’ve seen that – but it’s pretty minor stuff!”

(Aikiko, manifesting Skoll again.) “This is a really high-powered suit of artifact armor. I can get you some less extravagant armor that looks like normal clothing. And magic is really powerful. As for the stuff after me… a lot of people aren’t happy Solars are back!”

(Yoshiro) “What do you mean “high end”? It looks like a fancy suit from a museum really!”

Hmm. They might have a point about getting her away from the craziness! But she could activate the flight systems easily enough – and used the artifact weaponry on target dummies. They were more than a bit startled by that… it was a suit of “Iron Man” armor? Impressive, but…

(Coatl) “Well, she DID take a fifteen minute swim on hundred-million degree fusion plasma with no real trouble in it! And want to see a magical terraforming?”

(Aikiko) “Those are pretty fun. How fast is Charles doing them now, Diego?”

(Diego) “At the moment every day or so… he wants to get well ahead of the demand!”

(Aikiko) “Okay, let’s watch the next one then.”

(Diego) “It’s scheduled for a little more than eight hours from now Ms Aikiko!”

(Parents) “What… fixing up after a forest fire or something like that? Is that what’s behind all the pollution-cleanup on Earth these days?”

(Aikiko) “Nah, that’s Elzeard, though Charles did make him. And you’ll see what I mean by terraforming. He makes entire planets habitable.”

Oops! That was too far over the top! They were back to wondering just how high she was right now! Oh well… some sightseeing until Terraforming time? Or call Charles and try to get them initiated?

And a cheetah-girl arrived with pizzas and cokes, just as ordered! Just minutes after she placed the order too!

(Aikiko) “I know that look! Would you like to talk to Elzeard? He’s probably giving a lecture right now. Or I can show you the Singing Forest and the Mardi Gras Manse while we eat!”

(Rei) “Well… if this “Elzeard” is running the pollution cleanup he’s probably busy! So how about this “singing forest”? And… did that… cat-girl… just break the SOUND BARRIER for a PIZZA DELIVERY?”

(Aikiko) “She’s not a cat-girl, she’s a cheetah-girl!”

(Rei) “And shouldn’t she be wearing more CLOTHES?!?”

(Aikiko, abruptly taking a second look! She’d gotten too used to Fey weirdness!) “Um… heh. I guess Charles hasn’t been watching that.”

Clothes make for more wind drag, and they REALLY chafed when you were running that fast, and they DID have fur all over, and were fairly young… Most of them were – quite practically – making do with caps and the Resplendent Butler’s Accouterments to make clothes if they were needed for something. After all, once you’d gone around a few times with the fey shapeshifting you… body shyness generally wasn’t an issue any more.

(Aikiko) “Anyway… let’s go see the singing forest! It’s really pretty.”

It was even prettier than before! The squirrels were getting into flower-arranging, the birds seemed to be gradually improving their compositions, and there were some monkeys joining in on percussion (on tree-trunks, chime-fruit, and resonating logs) these days. Still, they were in harmony with the birdsong. They just weren’t as practiced yet… Still no strings though! No doubt the spiders would be making string-nets soon enough – probably followed by gorillas on woodwinds or something.

The Tanaka’s found the forest… beautiful, but more than a little odd! Especially the fruit-juice waterfalls that became delightful wines as they plunged into forest pools! The delightful fruits, pleasant grottos, and general freedom from pests could be accomplished with landscaping, the musical birds… well, at a glance that wasn’t so different from what birds did anyway. Ongoing transmutation effects scattered across many square miles… was much harder to explain away. It required a LOT of magic! Still, the place was very relaxing – and insistently, if subtly and gently, said “reality is not what you thought”, “enormous resources”, and “vast power devoted to health, beauty, and hospitality”.

The glasses of wine weren’t hurting the mellow and accepting mood either.

Still, even after that, they had an hour or so let until the terraforming time came up late that evening – so Aikiko took her parents to a hobbit inn for dinner! There were – as usual – a variety of fantasy beings around. Perhaps it was fortunate that her parents were already a bit tipsy! It made it MUCH easier for them to accept the oddness – and being served by a character straight out of a movie… The meal, and ale, was – of course – delicious!

(Aikiko) “Hobbits are great at cooking and brewing, but then all First Circles are good in their specialties.”

(Yoshiro) “Wait… this “friend” of yours… he’s creating PEOPLE who are… more or less PERMANENTLY LOCKED INTO THEIR ROLES? He’s… building their chains INTO THEIR HEADS? That’s GROTESQUE! Does he go around calling himself “Doctor Moreau” and cackling madly as he runs his experiments?”

(Aikiko) “Actually… he’s imitating the creators of the universe – and unlike them, he would never, say, convert a hobbit into a refreshing drink.”

Actually, she wasn’t entirely sure that THAT had started until after everyone got crammed into Malfeas – and then explained THAT.

(Parents) “Gah!”

(Aikiko) : “The universe is a much weirder place than I thought it was.”

(Rei) “Er… how many directives are in OUR heads them? Is everything that’s “just the way people are”… something that was programmed in?”

(Aikiko) “It’s a little more complicated with us. They made us have greater aspirations and dreams… and made us weak. That way, we’d pray to them, and they’d feed off that. But the gods weren’t happy under the titans’ rule, and gave some humans power like I have to fight them. The titans didn’t see it coming until it was too late to do anything about it.”

(Yoshiro) “So you’ve… basically been turned into a living weapon even WITHOUT that armor?”

(Aikiko) “Pretty much, yeah. Now, that’s not the ONLY thing I can do with that power, but it’s what the greatest gods intended!”

(Rei) “Dear… Isn’t there ANY way you can get rid of it? It sounds like… you get a few neat trickes to distract you from basically… being a disposable artillery shell to be fired at an enemy!”

(Aikiko) “Sigh… the only way to do that is to kill me or destroy my soul… Er, souls. That’s another thing: the hun and po are real.”

Her parents didn’t find THAT too to believe… They’d both seen a few things, although Yoshiro had seen a lot more.

That was kind of odd really? Her father… did computer consulting and analytical work from home; when had he run into magic?

(Yoshiro) “Well… before I went independent… I used to work in intelligence! And enough reports came in that it was pretty obvious that some really weird stuff was out there!”

(Aikiko) “Huh, so you – wait, YOU were a SPY?”

(Yoshiro) “Well… intelligence analysis! I was one of the people who sat at a computer terminal and tried to put the pieces together – even if it was a briefing on a terrorist group that was using sorcery to get by the guards at important facilities… One day though… I was out for coffee and this weird guy wrapped in wind came through, and wiped out some records we’d been about to go to work on – and everyone who’d been there at the time just… quietly covered up and erased any evidence that he’d ever been through! Without even seeming to notice that they were doing it! And I started to wonder just how often I HADN’T been missed… So I took early retirement and started my own business!”

(Aikiko) “Ah, that sounds like an Air Aspect Terrestrial! They’re stealth specialists… like I am now… I might have to take you by the privacy manse, for your own safety. It lets you store your memories in it, and nothing other than you deciding to tell someone about them can make you reveal them.”

Manses took some explaining!

(Aikiko) “But… it’s almost time for the terraforming! Let’s get a good view!”

The terraforming was the usual semi-casual dramatic display – although her parents found it quite sobering once assured that it wasn’t just some special effects. If there were people around with THAT kind of power… why was the earth still in one piece?

(Aikiko) “Charles can do stuff I can’t. For whatever reason, he’s able to form a world out of his soul, which we’re in right now. And THAT is helpful for building up infrastructure! And once you have enough of that, like Manses, you can get pretty inventive…”

(Yoshiro, weakly) “I suppose it would be…”

(Aikiko) “Charles is very good about boosting his own powers with Manses and Artifacts!”

(Rei) “And… you recommend that we visit these “Privacy” and “Winding Way” manses at the very least? Well… you have had more experience with this stuff than we have apparently!

(Aikiko) “Yes indeed. They’ll keep you safe from mind control and give you some magic you can use to defend yourselves.”

(Rei) “Well… I suppose we might as well do it then! Although… perhaps in the morning? It’s getting awfully late and I’d like to sleep on this a bit!”

(Aikiko) “Sure thing!”

Aikik0 set up accommodations for them while they were sleeping. They’d be staying for a bit – the place was SO welcoming, and there was a lot to see – and Yoshiro would be able to use the virtual computer (better than almost anything on Earth) that came with Adenic Thaumaturgy to run his business just fine from Aden. All they’d need would be for Aikiko to lock up the house – which shouldn’t be a problem!

And a pair of short sessions…

Humanity and the Paths Of Power

And today we have another question;

So I’ve been re-reading my copies of Paths of Power and something’s bothering me, specifically the human racial magical path. It mostly seems concerned with blowing shit up. Don’t get me wrong, a healthy love of explosions is an essential part of humanity. However, in DnD at least, humanities main schtick is their adaptability. With that in mind, wouldn’t it make more sense to either A) Put together a list of spells that emphasize adaptability or B) Let humans simply elect one path to get for free in lieu of having a racial magical path to represent that humans specific tradition/culture/personal inclination?


A “path of adaptability” could make sense – but there just aren’t that many suitable spells. Looking through the system reference document we have:

  • Level One: Endure Elements (Abjuration, although a case might be made for Comprehend Languages. You might even be able to stretch it to a personal-only version of Enlarge or Reduce Person – but why?).
  • Level Two: Alter Self (Transmutation) or perhaps Resist Energy (Abjuration). Resist Energy is a bit of a stretch, but it’s not TOO bad.
  • Level Three: Water Breathing (Transmutation) or perhaps Tongues (Divination). Tongues is pushing it again – but a minor variant saying “I suddenly speak all languages!” might work.
  • Level Four: Polymorph (Self only variant, Transmutation). Really, this is about the last word in “adaption”. It pretty much defines the outer limits of the field.
  • Level Five: No suitable spell.
  • Level Six: Contingency (Evocation. The Transformation spell is not suitable due to the magic item material component requirement – which makes little sense for a racial ability. Of course Contingency is about planning, not adaptability – but it comes closer than the other available spells at this level).
  • Level Seven: Etheral Jaunt (Transmutation). Another serious stretch – jumping to another plane has very little to do with adaptability – but, once again, I’m short of candidate spells at this level.
  • Level Eight: Iron Body (Transmutation. This has material component problems – how did this become a racial attribute when the component would be impossible to obtain in many settings or pre-iron age? Still, it’s the only remotely suitable spell at this level, and I’ve got to pick SOMETHING.
  • Level Nine: Shapechange (Transmutation).

Those really don’t go together very well. Worse for a racial path… many of them are concerned with turning the user into something other than human, and that makes very little sense. “My races basic nature is… all about giving up being a member of my race”?

I can think of some additional “adaptability” spells – say one that gives you some temporary skill ranks, one that lets you see in the dark, one that lets you blend in to alien cultures, and spells like Water Breathing for more exotic environments – but temporary skill ranks tend to step on the role of skill-based characters. Blending into a culture is rarely all that useful unless everyone can do it – and even then it’s not useful in a lot of (combat-based) games. Getting along in an exotic environment means that humans would have a special adaption for places that humans do not normally go – and would either rarely-to-never come up or would limit many adventures to humans only unless the GM makes suitable magic available for everyone else (which spoils the point of a racial path). That’s why “Water Breathing” doesn’t see a lot of use in most games.

Thus I picked a path of “blowing things up!” because that path IS exceptionally well-adapted to the environment of most games – where the ability to kill and destroy is one of the most vital things about a character. In d20, “I can kill it/them!” is probably the most adaptable power there is – which is why I gave it to humans.

OK, considering human behavior compared to most other earthly creatures… I could make a very good argument for a path of sex magic that – at higher levels – would presumably let you produce weird crossbreeds, but it REALLY wouldn’t fit into most settings, would call for a LOT of special rules – and would be oriented towards producing non-humans, which makes very little sense for a human racial path. Still, in reality… the only “higher” species I can think of offhand that are as all-the-time sexually-oriented as humans are dolphins and bonobos.

Letting humans select a path would indeed be very adaptable – but adding special racial bonuses can be quite troublesome. Worse, the racial paths are supposed to be one of the defining elements of a species, remaining unchanged even when the individual is transformed – which puts giving humans a choice of paths pretty much on the same level as letting them choose whether they have carbon-based or silicon-based metabolisms. It’s not that you can’t do it – it’s simply that I don’t think that it really works.

Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it that way if you want – and if you come up with a good Path of Adaptability I will be more than happy to put it up here if you’d like – but that’s why I thought that a propensity for blowing things up suited humans very well indeed.

The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CLXXXVI – Parking Your Unicorn.

In Yu-Shan, Dumenza, the Calibration Gate, was busy waking up his second circles – the twelve central gates of Yu-Shan and a few of the others. The Celestial Lions… hadn’t even known that most of those were Manses; it would have been a MOST unpleasant surprise to discover that they could be affected by geomantic disruptions during an emergency evacuation. A good thing that they were getting ready!

Righteous Hala… was recovering from excessive laughter. Even a Lunar’s endurance had limits! And that set of six “My Little Pony; Friendship Is Magic” manses – each producing a tailored rank-5 Hearthstone designed to work together with the others – had been entirely too much! She pretty much knew what he’d say if she asked him too… “They seemed like a nice idea!” – and he wouldn’t get why she found it so funny.

Oh, just wait until she showed Lytek and got the expression on HIS face… For all she knew, Luna was visiting regularly!

More seriously though… “They were a neat idea, so now they’re real! What else is world-building for?” was definitely more Primordial than Exalt! And the boy was still far, FAR, too inclined to take “that would be neat!” as a reason for doing almost ANYTHING – at least as long as it didn’t hurt anybody.

Over in the Hedgerows, the Blatant Beast was updating! Hat-mounted cameras, hands-free microphones, notebooks, pens, and recording systems. If people were going to be presenting stories like that… It was going Paparazzi! You never knew when you might need multi-channel narration with the appropriate gods commentating!

“Telling it your way” had always been a pretty big power – and a very easily abused one. The temptation to present yourself as flawless, and all opponents as more corrupt than Satan, was pretty big. It was, after all, a classic human frailty. Combine that with forty or fifty Solars using super-linguistic charms to produce perfect versions of what THEY wanted to be the truth and it was surprising that the records made as much sense as they did – which wasn’t much. It would have been better if they could have at least agreed on one version – but we’re talking about Solars here, as well as Gods and Sidereals trying to edit things to produce specific effects later on…

The goods of history, commentary, and so on had been bemoaning the lack of decent records from the Primordial War for thirty millennia. It was NOT going to happen again if THEY had anything to say about it!

Meanwhile… Aikiko was calling home.

(Rei Tanaka) “Ah, hello Aikiko! It’s been a couple of months… (with a very slight parental edge) I take it that you’ve been busy?

(Aikiko) “Pretty busy, Mom… there’s a lot of stuff I’ve been checking into.”

(Rei) “Anything interesting?”

Oh dear! She was kind of torn between coming clean and making up something. After all, it would all be blatantly obvious in a couple of months, if that.

The pause lengthened, as Aikiko’s mother started spinning ever more disastrous scenarios in her head!)

(Aikiko, more or less giving in to the inevitable) “Hey, have you been hearing about these crazy ads in the papers? That’s what I’ve been investigating!”

(Rei) “What, the “new planets opening” things? It would have been kind of hard to miss them! Since they seem to be worldwide it would be a LOT of effort for a prank – and a lot of people in refugee camps have been vanishing too. So SOMETHING is definitely up!”

(Aikiko) “Yeah, that’s what I think too.”

(Rei) “What have you turned up?”

(Aikiko) “Well… this is going to sound crazy, but somebody’s come up with gate-based faster-than-light travel.”
Well, that was fairly obvious if you took the ads at face value – and they weren’t physics types.

(Rei) “Well… I take it that the ads are more or less honest then? THAT’S going to upset the status quo around the entire world!”

(Aikiko) “I know, right? People will be leaving all over the place, governments will be trying to control the new planets, aliens might or might not be involved… it’s going to be crazy!”

(Rei) “Time to lay in a few months worth of supplies I think! At least! Things will probably settle down somewhat in a few months – I hope!”

Aikiko was abruptly concerned. There might well be some pretty major disruptions! She might have to make arrangements to keep them safe. Well… she had a moderately large house with an onsite skateboard park amd a nice view of the singing forest over in Aden…

(Aikiko) “To be honest, I’ve talked to the guy responsible. He’s pretty obliging. I know he wouldn’t object if I moved you into my place in his world!” (Singing forest, actually!)

(Rei, with some shock) “THE guy responsible? HIS world? Er… (and the obvious thought; Oh-Oh! She may be on something stronger than usual!)

(Aikiko, sighing to herself) “I’m actually sober right now. Would you like to see? I can have him open up a gate. Seriously, you might need to stay with me for those few months!”

(Rei, after a very definite pause) “Uhm, yes… a gate would work…”

(Aikiko, calling up Charles) “Hey, Charles, can you open up a gate? I… need to convince my parents I’m not on something strong! Um… not in the front yard, though! Too many questions! Go for the garage.”

She asked Rei to shut the garage door first!

That was easy enough after opening a scrying link. Charles sent an… uhm… pony to meet her! A unicorn! If that didn’t convince her mother, nothing would! (Well, OK, if it didn’t he’d just thave to send something else.)

(Rei, blinking, after the Unicorn showed up) “But wait… aren’t you… a children’s cartoon?”

(Unicorn) “Well, I am based on one! Charles really likes it!”

(Rei, with some incredulity) “Erg… is the person behind all this basing his efforts on CARTOONS?”

(Unicorn) “Not all of them! Sometimes he bases them on novels, or movies!”

(Rei) “Oh good lord… No wonder he doesn’t seem to be thinking about the consequences! In real life things don’t usually go conveniently along with the plot!”

(Unicorn) “He does have advisors who’ve kept him from going completely off the rails, but he is a handful!”

(Rei) “So… a child who can… warp the world enough to bring cartoons to life, with little appreciation of consequences, and apparently the ability to affect the entire world – or more than one? Er… No offense to you that is.”

(Unicorn) “Very perceptive, ma’am! Charles is very young and very powerful! And he can only terraform one planet at a time!”

(Rei) “Oh dear… and my daughter is somehow entangled with this? I’m not sure that cocaine or heroin or some such wouldn’t have been easier to deal with!”

(Unicorn) “Oh my! I think you need to talk with her, then!”

(Rei) “Well, this… hole in the air… is supposed to lead to “her place”! So…”

And Rei worked up her nerve and stepped through – emerging right at the doorstep, with a commanding view of the singing forest – where she abruptly found that she needed to sit down for awhile…

And Yoshiro arrived home, hit the garage door opener, and found a unicorn and a hole in the air in his garage!

(Yoshiro) “WHAT the HELL?!?!?”

(Unicorn) “Ah, hello sir! Your wife is currently visiting your daughter at home. Would you like to join them? The singing forest is lovely this time of day!”

Yoshiro looked for a moment, shook his head – and experimentally closed and reopened the door.

(Unicorn) “Hello again sir!”

(Yoshiro) “Erg… And why is there a technicolored unicorn in my garage?”

(Unicorn) “Charles sent me to monitor the gate and explain things to your wife!”

(Yoshiro) “Oh boy… And what was it that was being explained to my wife?”

The Unicorn told him about the ads, and the visit with Aikiko.

(Yoshiro) “Well… it’s weirder than most things, but I’ve seen a more than a few other oddities in my time… I suppose I’d better join her then!”

And in he went! He had seen some magic and such in his life, and there was no use in arguing when it popped up again!

Aikiko… had a splendid house, in a lovely location – and with a couple of cheetah-kids acting as servants and runners. It was really quite impressive – although it was obvious that the skate ramp, and the skate loop, shouldn’t be possible to skate on all the way. (Actually it was downhill all the way around – regardless of which way you went)!

(Cheetah-Girl) “Hello! Can I get you something? Sandwiches? A drink? Pocket Computer? Phone? Book?”

(Mr. Tanaka) “Where’s my daughter?”

(Cheetah-Girl) “She’s in England! Doing some investigating in the Hedgerows and bringing in a hundred and thirty young slaves!”

(Parents) “WHAT?!?!?!”

(Cheetah-Girl) “According to the notice she sent in she picked them up at a faerie market! And from some gypsies!”

Fortunately, it wasn’t all that long before Aikiko made it in – picking up Samuel and popping over! In the meantime… she asked the Cheetah-Kids to Keep her parents calm and have a soda ready for her!

And… she elected to appear wearing Skoll, albeit with an illusion to make it look like she wasn’t wearing the helmot.

(Rei) “Er… AIKIKO?”

(Aikiko) “Hi Mom! Hi Dad!” (rubbing the back of her head) “I have a lot of explaining to do, so let’s get started!”

And there were explanations at great length. It was pretty hard to believe – but she could produce any amount of supporting evidence, including artifacts, fantasy creatures, gods and elementals, passing spacecraft, and so on – as well as Aden itself, eccentric devas, and any amount of wealth!

Given all that… and that Aikiko was willing to basically drop Aden on top of them… there really was’t be much argument – except for wanting a good explanation of why she was buying child-slaves! And “To rescue them” was pretty straightforward.

The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CLXXXV – Looming Issues, The Deva Is In The Details

It was too bad that Zanjaras didn’t want to be relieved of caring for Creation – but it might regard that as it’s purpose! It would seem like a sizeable burden though – and it would still have its role in Yu-Shan. Oh well! He’d just have to figure it out later!

Besides… soon he’d have to turn much of his attention to the Wyld; he still needed some favors from the Unshaped to use in making protective enchantments for Gauderis! Fortunately he wasn’t exactly questing against them; he was perfectly willing to trade, and had enough power to make that feasible! Still… he had been making artifacts that SHOULD be useful to them – but who’s operation was contingent on being nice, keeping Creation around, or both…

Behind Charles things were getting rather frantic! The essence flows that Charles and Yu-Shan’s Devas had been unleashing were quite noticeable – and the signatures were confusing enough to make all kinds of people wonder what was going on even if they hadn’t caught a more direct look.

Fortunately, the remotes weren’t too noticeable… their power-channeling ability was very limited and they could generally pass as minor gods unless someone checked the signature very closely indeed. Even then… their signatures blended into Yu-Shan tolerably well (perhaps too well!) and the city was full of all kinds of weird creatures anyway.

Fortunately, Charles was VERY hard to catch up with when he kept using his transport amulet to teleport around Yu-Shan – and he was on his way to the peak of the dome to see Gaofeng, which was even more restrictive.

That didn’t mean that nobody was going to show up though. Quite a number of things – like powering up the Primal Forge, Increasing fertility and organization around the Cornucopia of All, and the power surges from Heart of the Canals – had been quite obvious from up high enough.

The Aerial Legion wasn’t quite as logical as the Celestial Lions – but it really wasn’t all that complicated if you weren’t professionally paranoid and didn’t focus on his smokescreens of subtle “clues”. “He learns and acts like a kid, he has vast power, he’s mono-maniacally focused, he was friendly, and he was welcome in heaven. That let out Gods (who were normally born “adult”), Yozis, Demons, everything from the underworld, Raksha and Ishvara, Humans, God-Bloods, Dragon Kings, Jadeborn, and all the other minor creatures… Primordials don’t learn like kids, ergo Celestial Exalt. Definitely not Sidereal, and pretty odd for a Lunar. Ergo…

Besides… they’d worked closely with the Solar Exalted in the First Age, and some of those energy effects were… kind of familiar. And that was big. And now he seemed to be… mapping the geomancy of Heaven itself with the cooperation of the Celestial Lions and visits to the Jade Pleasure Dome thrown in. Their sources amongst the Celestial Lions weren’t being as forthcoming as usual (and they didn’t have nearly as much power as they did during the first age, although the command of martial weather WAS still prestigious) – but they knew that there was SOMETHING alive up at the tip of the dome – although they weren’t aware that it was a Deva.

Not to mention his supplying armor and nonlethal weaponry for the entire corps of celestial lions, curing deiphages, wandering around the worst areas of Yu-Shan with no concern at all, creating powerful manses in mere minutes – and having apparently managed to get the Incarnea to authorize him going anywhere he pleased; going into the Heart of the Canals and the Primal Forge demonstrated THAT.

When Charles got to the top of the dome again there was a god already there – a fairly high-end looking fellow too, with winged blue jade armor and a body of storm clouds. That wasn’t a BIG surprise, but it was still a bit of a surprise!

(Charles) “Oh, Hello! Most people don’t spend much time up this high… was there something you needed to do up here too?”

(Vanaroth) “Hail, Charles Dexter Ward! I am Vanaroth of the Aerial Legion. My superiors had sent me up here to ask what you were doing up here. Few come up this high anymore.”

(Charles) “Well… Examining the major geomantic focus-points of Yu-Shan! There’s lots of information to be collected!”

(Vanaroth) “And what do you intend to do with that information in Heaven, of all places? Your behavior is odd, if benevolent.”

(Charles) “Well… there are a lot of things that need to be repaired or upgraded! It’s been a very long time since any serious maintenance has been done, and a lot of things are near-critical! So it’s something of a crash program!”

(Vanaroth) “Hrm… I see, such as the canals. I had an excellent view of that one. But how in Creation did you get access to THAT place? It was supposed to be too dangerous even for the lesser canal gods.”

(Charles) “Luna gave me a writ!”

Charles showed him one of the six originals…

(Vanaroth, with an arched eyebrow) “The ways of Luna are mysterious even to the other Incarnae at times.”

(Charles) “Well, it’s been very useful! The Canals needed fixing very badly indeed!”

(Vanaroth) “What about here?” (He nodded up at the very tip of the dome)

(Charles) “Well, there is a major nexus up here – and they are all crosslinked of course! So there will be some factors from here to consider, even if the amount of work actually needed here is minimal!”

The Aerial Legion did know something about that; they consulted with the geomantic gods about defensive cloud patterns. On the other hand, it was quite obvious that Charles was intentionally keeping things to generalities, rather than specifics – even if it WAS rather hard to be specific about all of Yu-Shan at once.

(Vanaroth) “Just what are you intending to fix up here? Patch up the top of the dome, or go deeper and alter the geomancy? It seems to resist alterations… Violently.”

(Charles) “Well, geomancy has a sort of personality of it’s own – so I’ll see how it’s doing!”

That provoked some confusion…

(Charles) “Was there something you needed?”

(Vanaroth) “Are you planning to do anything intrusive to the Pinnacle of the Sky Dome, or just speak to it? If it weren’t for that writ, I would have to stop you.”

(Charles) “Well, talk first! If something needs fixing… fix it! If you’ll promise to keep the details quiet for another two months, I can get started now!”

(Vanaroth) “Is it really that bad?”

That DID match with why the Lions had been so closed-mouthed lately about the geomancy.

(Charles) “Well… yes. And more complicated than you’d think!”

(Vanaroth) “All right then…” (He swore the Oath) “Let’s hear it.”

(Charles) “Well… there are several projects underway in Yu-Shan, most unauthorized; one is an ill-judged repair attempt that will – at best – collapse the city into the Labyrinth of the Underworld, turn Yu-Shan into a new Neverborn, likely destroy the Incarnae, disrupt Creations elemental poles and laws, and trigger the final collapse of Creation back into the Wyld. Of course… that project is only being considered because the situation is pretty desperate and near the final collapse anyway. So I need to fix it!”

(Vanaroth, in a VERY weary tone) “That sounds like a Sidereal project.”

(Charles) “Well yes – but they do mean well… In any case, there are only a few left to talk too…” (He sent in a probe!) “Gaofeng, the Sky Pinnacle, fourth soul of Yu-Shan! I have spoken already to Cangha, Xiang, Fayuandi, Lianza, You Xin, Dumenza, and many of the others… Will you speak with me as well? It is almost time for the awakening, and it is very important!”

There was a crackle of lightning across the adamant.

(Gaofeng) “I had heard of your coming… what do you intend for the Low-Hanging Star?”
(Charles) “I intend to restore her to health – and full consciousness. It is time for her poles to be unbound from Creation. I ask that you review the plans with me, to ensure that I am not missing any major factors!”

(Gaofeng) “Is it finally time for that? Not that it makes that much difference to me anymore, but it would be a fine thing to be embodied again. Ah… who’s your little friend there? Is that your yomi? What a pretty set of armor! Does he do tricks?”

(Charles) “Ah, this is Vanaroth of the Aerial Legion; since he promised to keep things a secret, I wasn’t bothering to hide contacting you from him… You’ve probably seen them practicing maneuvers and war games and things!”

(Gaofeng): “Oh yes. Nobody is bonded to them? That seems unfair! How do they manage those maneuvers without someone guiding them, then?”

(Vanaroth) “We’re no one’s pets.”

(Charles) “Well, Vanaroth here doubtless knows it much better than I do – but it’s a “chain of command” thing.”

Which Vanaroth was quite happy to recite in its entirety.

(Charles) “Well, to be fair… Gaofeng is considerably older than Creation, saw it’s origins, and is mostly familiar with the gods as theoritical sub-creations entrusted with particular world-functions! He isn’t too familiar with how things have gotten organized since well before the first age! Except, of course, for what he can see looking down from here…”

(Vanaroth) “Sigh… will he and the others throw us out of Heaven? I can’t see that ending without much bloodshed.”

(Charles) “Oh, that’s what this section is about! Since Yu-Shan would like to be more flexible anyway, that dovetails nicely with providing her with multiple aspects – and everyone will have an appropriate place to live!”

(Vanaroth) “Ah! Right! A Yu-Shan for all of us? That seems hard to believe.”

(Gaofeng) “And I can watch it all…”

(Charles) “Well, Gaia said she’d help with the unbinding part! She wants to make REALLY sure that nothing goes unstable there of course!”

(Gaofeng) “Oh, that’s right! I was wanting to ask you: can I broadcast the Games of Divinity in every single variant when I wake up?”

(Charles) “Hm… Probably not a good idea! A lot of the less-powerful residents can’t handle a single view, much less multiple variants!”

(Gaofeng) “Really? You’d think the other Primordials didn’t want them to watch…”

(Charles) “Maybe on just the Tender-Original level? And I think they didn’t!”

(Gaofeng) “But that’s one of my biggest responsibilities! And why would they keep them away? How are they supposed to keep track of the standings?”

(Vanaroth) “What, you haven’t been displaying the lead for the past fifty thousand years?”

(Gaofeng) “I can do much more than that!”

(Charles) “Well yes – but as I said, a lot of them can’t handle it… I could ward them from seeing the display of course, but in that case you might as well restrict it to one level in the first place!”

(Gaofeng) “Sigh… I’ll have to consult with the progenitor when we awaken. There must be SOME alteration she can make. By the Primordial King, you’ve been missing so much!”

(Charles) “Fair enough… after hundreds of thousands of years though I don’t think a few extra weeks will really matter much!”

Somehow… the lightning shrugged.

(Charles) “Do you see anything in the plans that needs changing?”

(Gaofeng) “Hmm. I’m closely linked to Huajen, that ring beneath me. Any alterations performed on his manse-structure will also have to be performed on me.”

(Charles) “Hm… That’s a fairly small tweak on this scale! Is that part of the mismatch? He’s been having trouble with the modified Geomancy of the area…”

(Gaofeng) “I could understand if single minds had trouble with the arrangement. We’re very intimate, you see. I suspect… they simply thought he was a part of me, which is certainly NOT the case.”

(Huajen, piping in) “That’s right.”

(Charles) “Oh, hello! Well, that should be easy enough – provided that neither of you have any objections to the tweaks – which are pretty small in your cases…”

They didn’t – albeit mostly because they WERE very small.

(Huajen) “And we might have to make some arrangement with YOUR kind, god, but that will have to wait until after we awaken. We, at least, are willing to forgive.”

(Charles) “Well, it’s much better if everyone gets along!”

Hm… Next up… Bayanji… He’d sort of been shying away from that! Bayanji could be REALLY embarrassing to deal with – and (sigh…) someplace down in the back of his head… there was still the thought of “Cooties!” lurking.

Still… the temptations of the Palace would have little or no effect on his mental defenses and he HAD to talk to her. Aw shoot! Trapped by his own logic AGAIN. Oh well. Maybe she’d make some useful suggestions for his let-the-girls-move-in arrangement. He stopped by a game store; a good copy of “Jumangi” would probably really amuse the Kickaha!

Now that he was paying attention… the lavender walls DEFINITELY felt like a girl. At least it hadn’t been hard to find any of them so far now that he knew their locations and what to look for – and this place was a comparatively conventional Manse compared to the others… He sent in the usual probe

Hopefully without producing unwanted connotations that Charles was completely innocent of!

As the probe whispered through the manse there was that vaguely erotic sensation that he’d gotten the last time – and then there was a return signal. A most lovely androgynous being coalesced before him. Its only clothes were strategically-placed veils of an ambrosial lavender material that smelled wonderful. Its eyes are also lavender – and it has every feature that he would find appealing. Some of the gods, particularly one who looked quite ancient, turned to look. Charles heard one, in a hushed tone, say “Haram.”

Bayanji was slightly disconcerted to realize that – at least as filtered through Charles’s head – the “appealing features” included manse-resonances, hints at the presence of an archive full of magical secrets, the impression of small fuzzy friendly things nearby, and a hint of peanut butter in the drifting scent .She was vaguely familiar with the concept of “children” in THEORY, but actual examples were pretty much outside her experience! Oh well. At least the boy showed SOME of the more classical responses; they just didn’t dominate. The poor thing must be young enough to be confused!

Charles has actually encountered the word “Haram” in his research (and because a hostile dictionary had tried to use it to breach his defenses!). He considered it significant evidence that causality was a lot more complicated than most people thought… after all, “Haram” (literally “a forbidden place”) was the arabic root of the english “Harem” (a private location full of beautiful young sex-slaves) – and “Haram” had different roots of its own. Yet… here it was as the proper name for one of the (supposedly extinct for millennia) types of beings that had once inhabited the Algedonic Palace and had never gone beyond it – where they specialized in pleasure. As a coincidence… that was a bit much!

Still… that was definitely the kind of signature that he’d expect from a First Circle demon or Deva or a limited aspect thereof… He put up privacy wards to cover the geomantic details since he’d gotten an actual manifestation rather than just a communications connection.

(Charles) “Hello! I needed to check with you about the repair plans!”

(Haram) “The Madam acknowledges you, Charles Dexter Ward, and has awaited contact for what has felt like forever. Would that make you happy? It does seem like it would make you happy if she looked.”

(Charles, looking confused!) “Well… I needed to find out if there are any factors to be considered in this section of the plan – and to provide a warning of what the energy flows are going to be like!”

(Haram) “All right, then.” (She touched his hand. Charles got the feeling that its touch would normally cause considerable pleasure, but his Adenic defenses blocked that).

He sent the plans over, with references and annotations as usual…

Hm… It looked like this was a projection – but he could see her now, someplace in the Algedonic Palace. She looked much like the haram before him, but was far more luminous and comely… and very, VERY sleepy. But she became just a little more active in her sleep while she read the plans, occasionally moving her hand as she lay in the exquisite bed.

(Bayanji) “Can you really provide that much energy? Yu-Shan has not moved since… well, since I came into existence.”

(Charles) “It should be straightforward enough… I’ve built up enough reserves to more than cover it! And a lot of it can be supplied via geomantic relays.”

(Bayanji) “Then I’ll funnel it through that thing she ate before I existed.”

There seemed to be some jealousy there!

(Charles) “What’s that? Will it have any effect, or just drain off the excess?”

(Bayanji) “I believe that the other Primordials called it the Games of Divinity.”

(Charles) “Ah! That is sort of competition isn’t it? (He notified the Sorrowhands of that intent!) I don’t think it’s quite the same though…”

(Bayanji) “Nothing can destroy the Games of Divinity. I’ve tried my own hand at it, but its pleasure is…”

She trailed off, and simmered in jealousy for a bit.

(Arelis) “Hah! She’s right. Of course, Aros and I wouldn’t exist had Yu-Shan not eaten the Games… but she wouldn’t either. And she KNOWS what would happen if she did somehow destroy them. That would make Yu-Shan unhappy.”

(Charles, to Bayanji) “Oh, I meant on the process… the games really aren’t too important to that part. Still, they are a pleasant confirmation that the forces you embody – even if there are other embodiments as well – hold power over the other Primordials and all Creation even if they have no such pole in their own structure! Few things are more universal than a positive tropism!”

(Charles, to Arelis) “Well, it’s not too surprising that she feels a bit jealous; they ARE closely related after all!”

(Arelis) “I’d never say it to her face, but she should be proud. From listening in on Dumenza and Xiang, Yu-Shan was stumped on the final pole… Other than Ayuji, Bayanji is the most enduring part of milady.”

(Charles) “Hm… She consciously created at least some of hers too? That’s very neat! I was wondering if I was the only one who was doing it that way! I guess that sort of malleability goes with being a Nascent One?”

(Aros) “We never got the chance to ask Autochthon about that… though considering how often he changed his devas…”

(Charles) “He is sort of in to reworking things! I like to try to get them the way I want them in the first place – but the unexpected aspects that pop up are to be cherished! They’re usually the best part!”

(Aros) “You shouldn’t have to worry too much about Bayanji’s process, though. Knowing her, she simply intends to supercharge the Games and get Yu-Shan moving. None of the Third Circles were happy that she was stuck.”

(Charles) “Well, I can see why… she has been in near-stasis – except for the ongoing degeneration – for far too long! But that should soon be fixed!”

(Aros) “Ah, before even then – before we were created. I recall Adrian having to carry her around everywhere even then. But if you can fix even THAT…”

(Charles) “I don’t really know – but even if I can’t fix it YET, I can work on developing a way to do it later! You remember things from before you were created though? Now THAT must be a handy talent to have!”

(Aros) “A function of being created by Fayuandi and your friend Xa’el… Arelis and I needed to know everything about Yu-Shan. Not everything is easily accessible, but her basic functions are.”

(Arelis) “And were there not so much suppressive geomancy still functioning, we could do more!”

(Charles) “Well… not for much longer I hope! And I’m very glad I arranged to consult with you then!”

(Arelis) “For her, we would make all sorts of arrangements. Ah, excuse me, the Sun needs his cup refilled…”

(Charles) “Thank you! And Certainly!”

Hrm… The Sun seemed to have a drinking problem there! Too much Valor! Can he withstand another drink? Must prove that he can! Coming soon, the Ditzy Incarnae! Luna who keeps shapeshifting her own identity and so can’t keep her mind on anything, the Drunken Sun (a great martial arts style too), the Mistress of Endings who keeps cutting her own plans short, the Easily-distracted Venus, the Mercury-who-is-always-lost who never sticks around to get anything done…

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(Charles) “Oh… I’ve had some young women wanting to move in on me recently. Is there anything you’d suggest adding to the facilities for them?”

Now that was something that Bayanji was expert with! Although she didn’t really consider the implications of “wanting to move in on me” sufficiently.

(Bayanji) “Mere single minds? Will that really keep you interested for long?”

(Charles, with some puzzlement… what did he have to do with it?) “Well, there’s no reason not to accommodate them; it’s a fairly simple set of desires compared to some of the things people ask for…”

(Bayanji) “In that case, simply dedicate a jouten to each one if you haven’t already, and keep them on that razor edge between pleasure and satiety.”

That was, after all, the speciality of the Algedonic Palace; keeping the pleasure up as long as possible without having it tip over into jadedness – as opposed to the transcendent pleasure of the Games. More work too.

(Charles) “Er… well, I’ll see what I can do!”

He’d been thinking more along the lines of… a hair salon, an expert chef for room service, some riding trails, and that sort of thing – not going directly for “overload their brains”! Evidently Primordial Deva’s just didn’t think that way… Still, he kind of suspected that auxiliary facilities and pleasures were more deeply satisfying, and more readily sustained, than just hitting the pleasure button in the long run anyway. People continued to go out camping, and canoeing, and so on throughout their entire lives in many cases. Oh well! Not all (or even most) divine beings could get a human perspective! Still, he thanked her for the advice!

Hrm… he had Malinda look around and hire a few good cruise directors, vacation planners, and so on to recommend fun facilities to add and to make arrangements! That would probably be a LOT more suitable to Aden – and it wasn’ts like he had any possible shortage of space to put things in. If it was REALLY weird, the Mardi Gras manse could handle it!

Hm… an Escher golf course might be fun – but something was suggesting… a a Neverborn / Yozi rehabilitation park? Huh. He could make something like that a a place where the Devas in the human racemind could take physical forms. Still… that would call for a LOT of planning, might not be a good idea to put in Aden, and could certainly wait!

As far as control inputs… Hers were more important than Gaofeng’s. She represented the less tangible aspects of pleasure, as opposed to Quan Pen’s more physical ones. Gaofeng’s inputs were minor; both he and Fayuandi are linked mainly to Creation’s adamant. She gave it its toughness, he bestowed its piercing qualities. According to both of them, Autochthon studied them before making his own Pole of Adamant. That was one thing that he and Yu-Shan shared between them!

There was nothing major to replace with Gaofeng and Fayuandi; the qualities of Adamant and the other magical materials of Creation were pretty well fixed by now! They were both VERY important for making local gods in Yu-Shan herself of course (although that process also required Yu-Shan’s involvement) – but it wasn’t as if they’d be going anywhere.

Replacing Bayanji’s input on the “less tangible aspects of pleasure” side was mostly a matter of definition… The god-making would need a little work perhaps – but manses were good at making gods!

Ayuji… was probably going to be the big one. If she was supplying Casuality for all Creation, that would be a big problem! If she was mostly just detecting the errors for repair… spreading wyld zones would help with that; once a causality error propagates into one of those, it should be self-correcting and stop there!

Still… she was the last, and there was no time for stalling around. Off to the loom it was (and to explain to however many Sidereals were there at the moment)! Maybe she was just manifesting the parts that went beyond the Loom as Asna Firstborn and was behind perfect privacy protections?

Hm… Come to think of it, the last time he’d visited, he’d seen TWO types of Pattern Spiders – some were sleeker than the others, and made from different materials.

The Loom Chamber was much as he’d left it the last time; the non-Euclidean twisting and hum of the tapestry, the clicking of the spiders, and the sheer SIZE of the place. As always these days, actual Sidereals were rare – but the celestial lions did indeed have questions!

(Deng) “Come for a second look, have you?” (More quietly) “Is one of THOSE in there?”

(Charles) “Well… one certainly should be! She was pretty integral to the loom…”

He looked around carefully! There were probably several things going on here at once. And he had to look for… Deva Patterns, to see if there was something hiding in the patterns of the Loom (such as that voice from before), seeing what use was being made of the wyld zones across creation (how threads went in and out, and whether or not that “patched” threads that were getting frayed (at least by his theories it should, since all individuals could redefine themselves to at least SOME extent in a Wyld Zone – and when they re-emerged, they would essentially be new threads, thus eliminating any errors), and took a careful look at the various types of pattern spiders – if necessary, using Instant Genius Method, even if that DID amount to asking that the Pattern Spiders help explain the loom to him…

(Deng) “I think one of the Sidereals was looking, too. Studying the Loom even more intently than usual, anyway…”

Hmm… There was the voice, still repeating its insistence that it keep hidden. There was a Deva-presence, although it was unusually distant and took some time to make out. The Earth Wyld zones were easiest to spot; there was some interconnection and patching there, although the Loom couldn’t penetrate too far in those. The pattern spiders were terse as always, but were willing to answer questions about the Wyld / Creation interaction. The spiders themselves… well, they were all mechanical – but the older models were divine in origin. The sleek, newer models, on the other hand, had well-hidden deva signatures – and were NOT found in the celestial records.

(Charles, to the Deva-Presence) “Hello! I’m Charles! (List of the other Devas) have talked to me, how about you?”

He checked with some of the newer spiders too!

The Deva-Presence… TRIED to answer, but was stopped by that other voice – as if had cried out and abruptly been silenced. That wasn’t at all nice!

One of the newer-model spiders was talking to him though! He told it that he needed to talk to Ayuji, and inquired about that voice that wanted to remain hidden! Had the feitch spun off an aspect based on paranoia?

(The spider, transmitting and clicking rather than actually speaking) “Query: Thread-Chaos Interaction. Mortal beings are inherently malleable without protection, and have a 90% percent chance of alterations to mind and body. Proper channeling of Wyld Essence, whether through control of internal Essence, geomantic manipulations, or other means, ensures that these alterations are not harmful. The Loom can ease causality errors by converting Wyld energies to Primordial protocols, set when Yu-Shan was linked.”

(Charles) “Hm… Yu-Shan will shortly be delinking from Creation to a large extent; will additional compensating mechanisms be necessary on Creation’s end? The loom is strongly linked with both causality and reincarnation – but large areas of Creation seem to be operating almost independently now.”

(Spider, after a pause) “Query: Ayuji, the Weaver Who Is Her Own Thread.” (Straining) “The Fetich of Yu-Shan, Ayuji was the only source of causality outside of a Primordial’s mythos before the Great Creation. Ayuji and her direct subordinate Zanjaras were linked to the Elemental Pole of Spirit. When Yu-Shan fell asleep ERROR CANNOT INTERPRET MUST STAY HIDDEN.”

And the poor pattern spider started smoking! Charles shielded it immediately, and applied healing…

(Deng) “Um…”

He didn’t want to ask if Charles had broken it, because Charles breaking ANYTHING would be a rare event – but that didn’t look good!

The spider bolted down the thread it was standing on, knocking other pattern spiders off. Charles… had never seen such behavior before. Normally, the spiders moved in very coordinated patterns, as one might expect! He shot a VERY sharp thought directly to that “must stay hidden” voice!

(Charles) “Stop that! That’s not at ALL a nice thing to do – and it definitely isn’t “staying hidden” – which you’ve already failed at by the way!”

The voice just kept on babbling… it sounded very afraid.

(Charles) “Look, no one is going to hurt you! But it’s too late to simply hide! At this point the city is going to wake up shortly in any case!”

And – for the first time – he felt a struggle there…

(Male Voice) “Must stay hidden, must stay hidden…”

(Female Voice) “No!”

And that kept repeating, with a distinct mental impression of fear on both ends. Nox and Ayuji? He looked for patterns!

The male voice… was nearly as malleable as Luna was. It sounds like an overlay of a thousand thousand voices, mostly male, but some female and others unidentifiable. The female voice sounds like a young girl, no older than six.

Well, that fit! He warded them against each other slightly; if that helped he could upgrade it bit by bit!

Hm… it felt like Incarnae-level power on whatever had linked them. It was a nearly seamless merger between the two, but even then… it was taking a toll, more on her than him. Nox… was clntinuing to babel warnings – but from Ayuji’s end, over the constant steam of her stating things in Creation, there were actual words:

(Ayuji) “Help me! It hurts! He hurts!”

(Charles) “How can I help? Force a separation? Soothe him?”

(Ayuji) “I don’t know… he’s broken and… (wailing) I can’t fix him!”

And there was incoherent babbling from Nox, sounding very much in pain. That would never do! A good thing he’d been studying the Medical Excellencies – and the concealment effect! It was time to use them!

Charles currently possessed the First Medical Excellency, Clouded Medical Sun, Infinite Medicine Mastery, Occult Medicine Flow, and Unconquered Medicine Perfection I, II, III, and IV – as well as the ability to wyld stunt solar circle level effects if there was a problem that did not cover. Either way… the Solar Circle level effects seemed called for!

The diagnostic said that Nox’s mind existed in multiple dimensions at once – or else he was a multitude of minds and bodies, all linked across the dimensions. He was inherently unstable – and was definitely linked to the Nocturnal Exalted. They were being affected by that too; whatever was compelling Nox to stay hidden was concealing them from the Loom and causing a lot of glitches – although it was also giving them the potential for some Charms (although if any of them had actually mastered those at the moment they hadn’t told HIM). The connection to Ayuji was keeping him from completely unraveling. Unfortunately, it was also causing the fetich a lot of stress.

In fact… it was even slowly healing him… although he was still deeply weakened, existing as bits woven through the deva.

Hmm… Reduce the stress, amplify her power – both by applying his own boosters and by channeling in more manse relay points – and continue healing him! There was nothing wrong in multiple-dimension links, but he was probably linked with additional fractured versions of himself…

Once he had Nox’s attention… he promptly attuned him to the privacy manse – and, through him, some of the additional versions of him!

He had to build a few more privacy manses just to start – and unless he got some more help from other dimensions repairing their own versions… he might have to built a LOT of privacy manses! It looked like… a full half of Nox’s variants were like this, and there were a LOT of variants out there. It wasn’t infinite (fortunately!) but it was still a LOT. Still… even the first one should help a lot HERE.

And… both of them started to calm down. Nox had gone silent, and Ayuji, while sobbing, no longer seemed to be in a panic.

(Nox) “Guh.”

Unfortunately, the power surge in the Loom… was getting more and more obvious, as crackling arcs of essence surged through the threads and aspects of multiple realities rippled across the chamber!

(Ayuji) “Yu-Shan? No, not her. She never takes a humanoid jouten.”

The Loom wavered, like the waves of an ocean or fabric whipping in the wind. The pattern spiders were retreating, some turning their heads to click disapprovingly at Charles. The gods were evacuating, and Deng was attempting to get Charles’s attention, presumably to get him out before it blew! Time and space were warping a bit; Charles caught a glimpse of his older self – which was disconcerting to say the least! Hopefully the disturbances would lessen as Nox improved and Ayuji could spare more attention for other matters.

He apologized to the pattern Spiders – and there was still more clicking, and some gestures with mandibles and upper legs.

(Charles, to Ayuji) “Are things improving? And will the disruption here be settling down?”

(Ayuji) “I don’t know… will it stay this way?”

(Charles) “Well… I’m patching various versions of Nox to restore his sanity – but given the extent of the problem… Unless he can start helping HIMSELF to some extent, all I can do will be to slowly moderate the problem!”

(Ayuji) “I really don’t know… my body should stop shaking in about twenty minutes, though. When can I be free again? Creation is so big, and I can’t report everything happening in it any more. And all the new stars, and the planets…”

Well, that was one Deva that he would not have to show the powers-of-ten show to!

(Charles) “About two months on the freedom I think!”

On the physical end, Charles informed Deng that the disturbance was strictly temporary and should be abating in about twenty minutes.

(Deng) “Erg… the pattern spiders aren’t going to be happy about this – or the Bureau, writ or not. Um… what did you DO, anyway?”

(Charles, to Ayuji) “Hm… do you keep causality in creation organized by witnessing what goes on there?”

(Ayuji) “I say things, and they happen! “But there are too many things happening! Nox helps, but… it’s so overwhelming…”

(Charles, to Deng) “Well… There’s a badly damaged god entangled in the loom and with alternate-dimension versions of himself; one reason for causality errors is that there’s bleedover from alternate creations! And the organizing principle… is overwhelmed by the current size of Creation. Ergo… additional processing and input is needed… Hm… (Charles asked Malinda about likely problems, and made sure that it could be turned off as needed) I think it may be time to give Ayuji an interface wth I AM…”

(Deng) “Oh boy… wait, THAT I AM? I heard that the Dragon-Blooded shut it off!”

(Charles) “Well, a considerably expanded version… it has a LOT more processing capacity than even a Deva does.”

He checked with I AM to see what it thought! It was big enough now that it might, in it’s own way, be able to stand in for the Loom! Possibly even fairly easily; it had enough manse-effects to pretty well blanket creation in the new metric, much less the old one. It didn’t have innate links to Primordial devas, of course, but it did have quite an interest in their activities – and it hadn’t been aware that one existed in the Loom! It… evidently was willing to devote a bit of it’s processing capability to help the Loom of Fate operate correctly – and to use it’s reality shaping to help keep causality stable. After all, it was made to defend Creation and had an interest in studying Primordial phenomena. Why not interface with another network and speak to it for a bit? The opportunity to talk to a lonely intelligence of her scope didn’t come up often. And it would give I AM something to do! Organizing the Universe instead of just human societies!

And Charles rather thought that, with humans with a racemind full of Devas and I AM involved… Creation might well be able to establish and hold it’s OWN casuality, just like a normal Primordial – although Ayuji’s input would be helpful while it was starting. He only had the usual Solar access to I AM (unless Devon had set something up!) – but asking for reports across creation was within that level – and who he shared those reports with is irrelevant. As a member of the (currently nonexistent) Deliberative, keeping up with security was his responsibility – though it was weird to have the Loom of Fate… crying audibly. Happily, but audibly.

Fortunately, Ayuji – being more-or-less a sapient manse – could probably accept telepathically-linked-in reports, and could use the privacy manse effects herself for additional processing capabilities – although it would probably be a good idea to make a few more manses just for that! She was pretty obviously network-capable already. It sort of defined her.

And Malinda couldn’t foresee any likely disasters – so he started off on a small scale and began to gradually ramp things up! If problems started appearing he could always pull back a little!

Hm… there were none at the moment, although – as the Nox-healing privacy Manses accumulated – extra-dimensional incursions were likely… Well. that could be a lot worse!

(Charles to o the Spiders) “Sorry guys! But it should run a LOT more smoothly now!”

The Spiders were still crouched down, staring at him – and the older ones were shaking a bit. Plus, there were some people working their way out of the Loom’s strands. They must have gotten tangled up in the chaos!

(Charles, to the spiders, while helping the tangled people out – which took a bit) “Oh dear… You aren’t too upset are you?”

That produced an oddly familiar-looking young man, dressed in the fashions of Yu-Shan, Jose, and the Lady Sorina Chisaru. The unidentified man looked confused (and had a Nocturnal signature). Jose was just shaking his head, and Ms. Chisaru was looking at him rather knowingly.

The spiders were calming down somewhat – and the gods of the Bureau were also helping out with it all. That was quite a tremor! It didn’t shake the ENTIRE Lotus of Destiny, but it certainly rattled the entire Loom Chamber.

(Jose) “What was THAT? I was doing a friend a favor, and you did THAT, and HE (pointing to the Nocturnal) came out.”

(Charles) “Well… The loom was very badly strained and in a lot of pain – so I was helping out a bit! Things should go considerably more smoothly now. I’ve offloaded a lot of the processing requirements!”

(Jose) “Whaaa…”

(Charles) “It needed fixing!”

(Jose) “Lady Chisaru? Ma’am? Do you know anything about this?”

She was remaining mum, but was smiling.

(Young Nocturnal Man) “I’m pretty sure I’m not authorized to be in here. Am I going to be detained?”

(Charles) “I think there’s enough confusion right now to avoid that! And it’s hardly your fault that I was fiddling around…”

(Nocturnal) “Ahh… good. Mother would get angry if that happened.” (Looking around) “Bother. It’s happened again.”

(Charles) “What has? dimension-hopping?“

(Nocturnal) “Ah, you’re knowledgeable. Though I was aiming someplace other than the Loom Chamber! Only across the street!”

(Charles) “Well, it is something of a nexus at the moment! Easy enough to get pulled into!… What’s across the street?”

(Nocturnal) “Ah, across the street from where the other Nocturnals and I meet. Argentos will be mad that the transport’s failed again. (Beaming) “This won’t be a bad story to tell, though.”

(Charles) “Definitely an unusual trick!”

(Nocturnal) “And no need to worry about me for long! I will snap back in twenty-five hours. Say… you remind me of a experimental little girl I know…”

(Charles) “Well, that’s quite possible! Would you like to talk to some of our Nocturnals along the way? You could probably trade tips!

And he arranged to send presents, and more apologies, to the pattern spiders. They accepted them – but it might not be a good idea to bother them again for a while! Still, with any luck, they’d find their lives a good deal easier from now one! A lot less causality errors!

(Nocturnal) “It wouldn’t be the first time!”

(Ayuji) “I… can’t manifest right now. They have me stuck in a room.”

(Charles) “Do you need more help?”

(Ayuji) “No. I can stay in here until Yu-Shan wakes up! It’s only another two months, right?”

(Charles) “It should be! Here are the plans for it if there’s anything in your area that needs amending!”

(Ayuji) “Will I AM really be able to process some of the causality? I can talk to him some more and plan out who’s working where!”

(Charles) “I think it will work! It’s certainly worth trying, even if it isn’t perfect!”

(Ayuji) “And… I can talk to I AM as much as I want?”

(Charles) “I don’t see why not! Even baseline humans could do that!”

(Ayuji) “I wish I could hug you.”

(Charles) “Well, maybe later! Hugs are always good!”

And it felt warmer in the Loom Chamber.

As far as the plans went, Ayuji was networked to all of the other devas, and those old connections were now restored Adding in those connections and letting her coordinate things would help deal with any errors that popped ! That was very handy!

The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CLXXXIV – The Underworld And Wings Of Song

Meanwhile, Charles was continuing his whirlwind tour. Time was becoming VERY short! And the more delay, the more extranious factors seemed to enter play…

He headed off to see Zanjaras! Hopefully he wouldn’t be directly in the middle of the Violet Bier of Sorrows.

As it turned out, tracing him passed through that particular bureau and ended deep beneath the Charnel Yards. That could be awkward – but at least he didn’t have to poke around inside the Bureau itself. Still, a few extra wards against necromancy and such might be in order before he started any serious probing.

There was indeed an embassy from (to?) The Underworld there… one that none of the gods who were puttering about and maintaining the tombs of late mortals and animal companions could remember the construction of. It was a magnificent spire of obsidian, basalt, and starmetal, located at the geomantic center of the yards. Ribbons of some bandage-like material fluttered from its tip – and the trace led… straight down under it. Even the sound of his own footsteps was dulled… He’d heard that this silencing also existed within the walls of the Violet Bier of Sorrows.

He dropped a probe down and tried to say hello!

The probe dipped beneath that silence, feeling heavier than usual as it descend – and Charles did the occult equivalent of feeding it through a winch, just in case it got TOO heavy. There was a “thud” (or at least the sensation thereof), and a vibration that felt somehow similar to that of a funerary bell’s ring (not that Charles had ever heard such a thing). Then the probe hurtled back up – or, at least, a rather similar-looking essence-construct hurtled back up… If that was the probe, then something had probably changed it a good deal!

Charles made sure that everyone was shielded against necromancy, negative energies, death magics, etc, etc, etc – and the “probe” detonated in a blast of Lethe-energies that felt… oddly comforting. It would be bothersome to any ghosts who wanted to continue being ghosts of course – and, without the shielding, laced with an effect that erased the memory of the past few hours, and of this being anything but an embassy in particular. Fortunately, there weren’t any ghosts around… And it was… a fairly potent primordial shaping effect with a blast of… negative mental energy thrown in? Huh! THAT was weird! An… environmental effect that would cause a few moments of blankness and a loss of recent memories – and would bypass quite a few of the usual defenses – albeit not simple resistance. Still, the privacy manse covered mental backup, and he had plenty of other mental defenses and shaping defenses – and so did his (mostly for show) “bodyguards”.

(Charles, back along the probe-line) “I really do need to talk to you you know! It’s very important! And Cangha said that you weren’t answering remote calls right now…”

There was a slow descent yet again, a thud – and this time, a silent response: words in a cramped and ragged hand that formed in his head .

(Zanjaras) “Well. This hasn’t been the first time someone has resisted, though normally a bond follows. Who is this?”

Hm! That seemed… vaguely familiar! Charles had to wonder if he/she did hot chocolate?

(Charles) “I’m Charles! And I’m working on getting Yu-Shan healed up!”

(Zanjaras) “What a strange name… that doesn’t even scan into the Speech properly.”

And there was some mental working of Charles’s name into the form of Old Realm he was using.

(Zanjaras, formally) “I am Zanjaras, the Violet Bier of Sorrows and you are… not compatible. What a shame.”

(Charles) PM: Well, being independent is pretty much a requirement for effective treatment…”

(Zanjaras) “But you DO feel like a Nascent One, and a human at the same time. Hello in there!”

Aden got a ping, which naturally flowed into the underworld communication Manse. It… offered all the ghosts there a smooth transition into Lethe. Some went with it, and quietly faded away. The manse was a nice place, and it was almost like being alive – but after a time that “almost” could become quite bittersweet.

Back in the Charnel Yards… A light breeze flared up, and caught the bandage-banners on the embassy.

Charles cheerily “pinged” back.

(Charles) “And I’m going to be putting a great deal of essence into the system shortly to act as a carrier for healing effects, and I was trying to get everyone’s input first! And I suppose I’m both by now! So… THIS is what the energy flows in this area are going to – or at least SHOULD – look like! Will that be manageable, or are there factors that I’m not including yet?”

(Zanjaras) “Well now… she’s had an unhealthily LONG time to think of the possibility of being… mangled and trapped in THAT place. Even if your control is perfect, her dead self might well manifest as an alternate. I’d seal THAT gate off as quickly as possible. Dumenza should be able to help.”

(Charles) “That had been mentioned… That really wouldn’t be a good thing; it would bring oblivion back – albeit a far less traumatized version I’d think! Maybe if I send her some more cheery distractions while I get everything set up!”

(Zanjaras) “I haven’t felt its presence for a long time – nor that of the dead ones I was unable to process. Perhaps eventually the proper cycle will return.”

(Charles) “Also, most of your fellows still seem to be sending at least token control inputs into Creation; are you still doing that? If you are, I’ll need to replace them first… But much of the underworld is VERY distant these days, and it’s actually a much brighter place.”

Charles showed him Coruscant.

(Zanjaras) “Not token – although my attempt to process the first dead one did disable many of them. And that’s a relief! I was worried my ability to sense the Underworld had broken as well. Has the universe really become that much bigger?”

That called for the updated powers-of-ten video again.

(Zanjaras) “Incredible… there must be trillions of souls out of range.”

(Charles) “Well, there are only about 50,000 inhabited planets as far as I can tell – but that is still a lot!”

(Zanjaras) “Ah… of course. Even extending her stabilization that far, Gaia couldn’t give that many worlds life.”

(Charles) “Well, there just weren’t enough people to form a population base I think! But I’m fixing it so they can spread out more!”

(Zanjaras) “Making more gates, I see – which will extend my range.”

(Charles) “I’m afraid that it will take a long time to get all the planets linked up though!”

(Zanjaras) “Oh, I can wait. I already have.”

(Charles) “Well, I take it that you normally handle the processing of souls through lethe?”

(Zanjaras) “Well, yes. That is what I was supposed to do for the great Creation. Apparently I can’t process more than one fellow deva at a time – not that we expected it to be necessary.”

(Charles) “Hrm… Most of them have special circumstances I think! I may have to work on that!”

(Zanjaras) : “And someone has been helping, though I’m not sure who… Ah, would you? Primordials are supposed to regenerate when they die. Whatever happened so long ago that stalled that process irks me.”

(Charles) “I’ll be looking into it! I think someone took special measures to make them NOT regenerate though… Now, the problem is that – once Yu-Shan awakens – she may sever the link between you and Creation. I’ll have to set up some manses that can substitute for your input.”

(Zanjaras) “That’s only to be expected. All things must move on in the end, and she has been static for too long.”

Unfortunately, Zanjaras… was only willing to provide details on a network of manses that could funnel the souls to him – greatly increasing his efficiency and range, rather than replacing his role. His proposed network didn’t call for raw power so much as a lot of manses. A dedicated planetary network might be enough though…

Hm. Simply making distance and the loss of the original links irrelevant was not exactly what Charles had had in mind – but evidently Zanjaras didn’t WANT to be replaced… He really had tried hard to save Mardukth, even knowing he was likely to fail.

Well… it would do as a stopgap. It wouldn’t make Creation entirely independent (although he might be able to figure out how to do that later) – but Charles suspected that Zanjaras either didn’t want to or couldn’t reveal too many details about Lethe. It was probably highly classified!

He did admit that making sure that the souls didn’t wander off into the Wyld was one of the hardest things to do.

Charles thanked him – and moved on to Fayuandi! That… led deep down beneath the underground – close to where he’d encountered Xiang and her experiments with Unshaped.

(Charles) “Allo! Mr Fayuandi? I need to talk to you!”

The region was… a large cavern made of pure, almost flowing adamant, with a hundred human-shaped indentations in the ground. The air crackled with Essence – that of Yu-Shan and Autochthon’s devas. As he spoke… the ground at his feet suddenly stopped flowing.

(Fayuandi) “Yes? The others told of your coming, including Xiang… Xiang was exceptionally enthusiastic.”

He got the sense that Xiang had been… annoyingly so.

Hm… Making humans? I would have thought that they’d just shape them!

(Charles) “Well, Yu-Shan desperately needs some healing! And I’m planning to provide it – but I’m checking with everyone to see if they have anything else that needs to be worked into the plan, and to see what control inputs they’re supplying to creation that will have to be replaced…”

Once again, he started providing the details as requested.

(Fayuandi) “Ah! The creation of gods – which I fear has reduced considerably.”

(Charles) “I think most god-creation has gone independent!”

Powers-of-ten came out again.

(Fayuandi) “Oh dear. Who knows what sorts are being created out there?”

(Charles) “Although I have to admit that spontaneous essence-organization around themes and power nexi is a lot less controlled…”

(Fayuandi) “Well… I can shape that! I want to shape that. I have the feeling I need to replace some within here, for that matter. Have you seen Za’el Viskarma? I need him for those. He’s ten feet tall, has brass skin and wings, and wears an eyepatch and blacksmith’s apron.”

(Charles) “Sort of merged with Duadel I think!”

(Fayuandi) “Oh. So he finally went through with that.”

(Charles) “I think so! Hm… come to think of it, if I provide a variation on the manse-god-awakening effect I could probably set him up with an avatar…”

(Fayuandi) “Oh, would you? My progenitor wants to play with ALL the Tenders when she wakes up, and if some are missing, she won’t be happy. And I do miss him! I was always worried his progenitor would replace him.”

(Charles) “I can add it to the list! Time is a bit tight right now though… Still, if it’s another thing that needs to be done first, then so be it!”

(Fayuandi) “It would make her much happier just to stretch his legs!”

Charles… checked the details with the help of his own geomancy specialist… It looked like he could just link Dudael up with an avatar generation Manse, let Za’el know it was there… and Zael would be able to take control of Dudael more than he can now, since he’ll automatically be attuned. That was easy! All it would take is another manse!

Hm… God-generation inputs should be relatively easy to handle; manses were good at generating and altering god-equivalents. Hm… it looked like Fayuandi was also involved in attaching new domains, although he didn’t play a major role in it. He made sure that new domains made at least SOME sense.

Well… it looked like some manses tied into an appropriate poles influence should be able to handle it – at least as well as it’s working anyway. Even Charles had to admit that the Great Puffle was a little silly…

There was more Wyld influence on that than Fayuandi would like – Fayuandi blamed Xiang!

Charles checked with Xiang.

(Xiang) “I am NOT influencing divine domains! If I had a way of controlling the Wyld, I would be able to shape the raksha much more effectively. Fayuandi always blames me for these weird things. Besides… mortal dreams can be very weird, if the Wyld is permeating Creation like you say it is.”

(Charles, to Fayuandi) “I think that it’s just the current scale and the infusion of wyld energies into creation. There are quite a lot of wyld zones even on Earth. Near the fringes… it’s even worse! Wyld in everything!”

(Xiang) “Well you tell him that! Silly Pole of Adamant devas.”

Charles did.

(Fayuandi) “Sigh… sometimes things would be easier if the progenitor weren’t so open to the Wyld. Dumenza agrees.”

(Xiang) “Dumenza is BORING. He’d keep all the gates to the Wyld shut, and nothing fun would come in. You agree with me, right, Aden?”

(Charles) “Well… I think that having Yu-Shan awake again will be better!”

There wasn’t much room for compromise between “I want more chaos” and “I want less chaos”.

(Xiang) “I don’t think that’s agreeing. It would make things much easier!”

Charles got out of the middle of THAT and headed for Gaofeng – another big spot of adamant, this one at the very pinnacle of the Sky Dome.

Meanwhile, not all that far away in Yu-Shan… A colossal (if, at the moment, of mere airplane size) moth was heading for a visit. At least some of the Deva’s of Yu-Shan were interested in Wyld things and know about the Exalted. Perhaps Creation could FINALLY be made NOT harmful to Raksha if they could convince Yu-Shan’s Devas that the two could coexist in the same body – or at least convince Yu-Shan to let them in with no need for sneaking.

Xiang… found a vastly powerful mix of essences above him – something quite exotic, wyld, and Solar… and a powerful probe was being sent her way! Attempting to make contact!

(Xiang) “Oooh… that’s a new one! I’m pretty sure that’s not Aden, either – too much Solar.”

(Mothra) “Greetings Xiang!”

It was getting harder and harder for her to stay down, knowing that Aden was at work trying to fix things. She knew that Dumenza would complain if she answered – but he was the subordinate Deva of their pole.

(Xiang) “Helloooo… who is this? That’s an interesting mix of Essences you have there… And Wyld, too? How did you get in?”

(Mothra) “How else? Through Elsewhere! It’s not like there are really much of the old defenses left… But that sort of thing is what I wanted to talk about!”

(Xiang) “Heh. You’re lucky Dumenza didn’t catch you first. If what I’ve been shown is true, there are all kinds of hazards he could deposit you in. Anyway, shoot!”

(Mothra) “Well… there’s a new principle around for organizing things! Chaos Theory! All the absolute solidity of a mathematical concept, chaos within, and endless variances within defined limits! The Humans have gotten quite creative these days!”

(Xiang) “Huh! Aden didn’t tell me about that… are you going to show me a recording too?”

Xiang sent a viewing-probe to see just what she was talking to! And… it turned out to be a radiant moth, currently about sixteen feet across…

(Xiang) “Ooh, pretty! You’d practically have to go through Elsewhere to get that thing through!… Raksha, Unshaped, or something else entirely?”

(Mothra) “A recording? How about this one? It explains some of the basics!”

It was Jurassic Park time!

(Xiang) “Hey, I remember THOSE! Metagaos and Isidoros kind of insisted.”

(Mothra) “Another human fantasy there! They’ve gotten really good at them!”

(Xiang) “So why are you so interested in humans? I get the feeling you’re not one.”

(Mothra) “Here are some more detailed books on it though…”

(Xiang) “Ooh!”

She liked books, even if they weren’t very interesting on the outside! Hmm… Must make changeable books when she gets free… Perhaps one of the captured raksha will take it on in one of these Assumptions?

(Mothra) “Humans are both fabulously more numerous than they used to be and – for some reason – far more powerful! They now do much of the work of defining reality without even knowing it…”

(Xiang) “Really? I wonder how that got set up… the raksha seem to be mimicking them a lot! That’s funny, you know! Kind of what I was wanting all along; something to FORCE them into a definition.”

(Mothra) “The power of the wyld now reaches across Creation – and is drawn on by Raksha, Humans, and others for travel, for art, and for many other purposes… And virtually every human… now carries Raksha, divine, and ghostly blood.”

(Xiang) “I wish I could get out and see for myself! Do you have any idea how long it’s been?”

(Mothra) “Since Yu-Shan was last awake? Some hundreds of thousands of years altogether!”

(Xiang) “Ah, you’ve done your homework!”

That wasn’t too hard of course; they had the close contact with Charles, and their own research – and Charles had been rushing around checking elemental poles and devas… And once you established that a self-contained world had Devas… there wasn’t much more needed. And Yu-Shan was not awake when the war occurred… Ego…

(Xiang) “So, what do you want with me? I doubt you’ve come just to update me on the world outside.”

(Mothra) “Ah, you control the access of chaos to Yu-Shan! That… may be quite important; young Charles’s plans seem to include adding a good deal more of it to her internal structures – and even if that was not so, you could make it considerably easier for us to come and go.”

(Xiang) “Well, yeah. I was all over that. But the Calibration Gate ALSO has some control over chaos, too, you know. Now I can probably talk him into adjusting things a bit alongside him. I still need to know some things first!”

(Mothra) “Such as?”

(Xiang) “First of all… what’s your story here? I’m sensing Wyld Essence and no Primordial – and that’s pretty bad for persuading Dumenza!”

(Mothra) “Ah, I represent a merger of Exalted and Raksha – focused through the power of the human racemind – which is showing some very odd behavior itself. Since when have Humans generated a new essence-aspect?”

(Xiang) “Wow! You’re kidding! But that would mean… you’re a human merged with a Raksha!? Then what is that moth thing you’re piloting? Or is that some kind of shintai? It doesn’t feel like a shintai.”

(Mothra) “It’s a construct of the humans imagination – and a focus and a conduit for many other powers. Through it… the humans are drawing on the energies of the wyld, and through it my entire crew can express their powers.”

(Xiang) “And you bought that in HERE? How is that nasty suppressive geomancy not squishing it?”

Yu-Shan would be very interested in this, she knew!

(Mothra) “Why should it? The Choas… is limited and contained! And hardly shows from the outside unless we wish it…”

(Xiang) “You’ve GOT to show me how you’re doing that. Come into the Gallery of Captured Dreams, if you dare!”

Well, it would certainly be interesting to get to see such an ancient installation – and it wasn’t as if even a Deva would be likely to be able to able to entrap an indestructible Kaiju Manse with a Solar pilot with perfect defenses to apply to it – and a crew of Raksha to provide backup. Mothra headed on in!

Xiang let them in just as far as she did Charles, since this is quite fascinating and they had clearly bypassed Dumenza already.

(Xiang) “So how many of you are in there, anyway? Do you have a chancel in there?”

And… it was chaos given form, and a wandering freehold, and a manse, and a lot of other things, all at once! Mothra… could see the sleeping deva go a little slack there…

(Xiang) “Has humanity really progressed so far? And we were worried when they started killing devas for good!”

(Mothra) “I can’t say exactly how – but humans have grown enormously! Their weaponry rivals that of the Exalted, their projects span continents, they weave dreams such as the one you just watched – and their minds give form to demesnes capable of supporting Kaiju…”

Xiang… was impressed! As humans were now… they could conceivably storm Yu-Shan and take over. Like all Yu-Shan’s Devas, Xiang was no lover of the Incarnae and the Occupation – but such power… in the hands of HUMANS… who would have ever thought? And what all that extra power had been doing to the games of divinity was hard to say! The Calibration Gate was a formidable defender of Heaven to be sure, but he had always had too high an opinion of his own abilities. At least the defeat of the other Primordials had put a damper on it… Still, she might just have to impress on him that humanity as a whole had power these days – unless there was something she was missing. Raksha were tricky!

Although… in this case the truth served their purposes quite well. Of course, stopping calcification would probably require multiple Primordials working together… still, Yu-Shan would be a good start!

(Xiang) “Okay… so what is your intent for Creation? The kid IS linked to it, and while I think she’d be interested in you when she wakes up, you don’t want that interest to be eating you!”

(Mothra) “It’s simple enough… Creation is still somewhat hostile to the Raksha – but Humans and geomancy should be able to change that now with a little guidance!”

(Xiang) “So you want us to help them out… okay, the kid could be talked into it, considering you’re nearly all shaped now. I’m not sure about the other Primordials. How do most of you feed these days? I remember when the Unshaped would descend on entire waypoints and eat them.”

(Mothra) “Mostly there’s little need to… the wyld zones are quite common! But even a slight tap into human dreams suffices these days. And what the unshaped may get up to… matters very little. They are distant beyond all conception.”

(Xiang) “Wow. Really? That tame…”

(Mothra, a manse of dreams, stating the obvious) “Human dreams are quite powerful these days!”

(Xiang) “Okay… I’ll talk to Dumenza. Here’s the ground rules: don’t shape without asking me first. It’s rude. Don’t smash up anything that feels like it’s actually connected with the geomancy. Not that it’s going to stop you, but TRY to enter through the gate with the raksha embassy only. They’ve sealed it, but it should open for you when I’m through with the Calibration Gate. Dumenza will probably want to add more, but really, you’ve already bypassed him once. Once you’re in, we can’t do much as long as you’re polite. Oh yeah! Don’t try to play the Games either. They have… funny effects on Raksha.”

(Mothra, with a touch of laughter) “I think that we, at least, have enough funny effects running now…”

(Xiang) “Being turned into a molten mass of chaos, easily manipulated by anybody?”

(Mothra) “Interesting! But not particularly practical I think!”

(Xiang) “Heh. Not for you anyway.”

(Mothra) “And perhaps we can talk again later! Now that we’ve made contact… we can speak more at any time. Or you can watch some more movies; I suspect that you may be a bit bored!”

(Xiang) “Would you be up for some experiments when I wake up? And these movie things would be great!”

(Mothra) “Well maybe! It depends on what they are…”

(Xiang) “We’ll talk.”

And Mothra went off to cause trouble elsewhere… It was time to start stirring up the humans – and pointing all that chaos at Toho Studios might be amusing too… Perhaps a crazy intercontinental flight-Los Angeles to Tokyo?

The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CLXXXIII – Reporting From Anime High

Aikiko had dropped off the slave-children in Aden – where they’d been mostly shunted into school – and headed for Yu-Shan. She needed to report to Lytek – and, after that, she had another Guardian to go and visit. Amber thefts to investigate, and some Abyssals to trace back…

A… Night Caste Guardian. She’d known that Lytek had formed a perfect circle of course, but this should be interesting.

Lytek… had taken over another block of offices; with his now-expanding influence he needed some extra space for functionaries – although he was having to handle some objections from the current heirarchy. Of course, that had been inevitable; he hadn’t been a major power for millennia, after all – although he had returned to that level very fast indeed…

The return of the remaining Solar Exaltations, a sudden doubling of the Solar, Lunar, and Sidereal Exaltations, a jump of two points of Essence (one from Charles’s manses, one from doubling up on the Exaltations), several thousand new second-circle equivalent aides – and the backing of Charles, about whom rumors were flying – was causing considerable upset.

The Celestial Lions on security duty got out the elsewhere-blocking armband again – to more curious looks from the staff, although some of them were starting to think about what that might really mean – and ushered her in to talk to Lytek.

(Aikiko) “Lord Lytek, good to see you again!”

Lytek was currently engaged in attempting to analyze some very complex mystical diagrams – but stopped to recheck the privacy wards.

(Lytek) “Ah, and nice to see you again Aikiko… I take it that you have found something?”

(Aikiko) “Yeah, the lead singer of that English rock band turned out to be one of the Guardians!”

She explained – and snuck a peek at those diagrams while she was at it.

(Lytek) “Things seem to be becoming… very complicated very fast this month! I fear that half my staff is falling far behind in confusion. And another one using music and geomancy? I wonder if there is a key there somewhere? And, for that matter… another one associating with the Raksha and the energies of the Wyld.”

(Aikiko) “Yeah… all of them do seem to like geomancy.”

(Lytek) “Did you happen to find out what HER inner world was like if she had one?”

(Aikiko) “I didn’t get the chance to peek in there. From the act, though, I’d say a whole lot of transformative qualities. Probably fairly small; she seemed to be fairly focused on externals”

Aikiko continued her report.

Hm… the diagrams seemed to be a cross between geomantic diagrams and artifacts and manses… rather like a manse that had some ability to adapt to changes in it’s demesne, and so could operate in any of several modes. Somewhat speculative, but a network of such things seemed to be what was being mapped. Alternate forms? Did Lytek intend to build his own Manse-base? If so… he was thinking on a really grandiose level; the diagrams showed more detail if you zoomed in on one feature, but when you looked at them overall… there were thousands of manse-nodes in them. Some bits seemed… weirdly familiar though – although it wasn’t much like Aden. She’d… never seen anything like it before. It was too bad that it would be rude to record, but she had a good memory and could use her investigative excellency to recall most of it later on. She got as good a look as she could; Charles would definitely be interested!

Still… Lytek seemed… a bit nervous and exasperated? At a time when he was more powerful than he’d been in literal ages? Was he having trouble building this thing, perhaps? But why wouldn’t he just ask Charles? Unless it was just unfinished? There did seem to be a lot of vague areas in it – and others showing two alternate configurations, one of them rather unpleasant somehow. Was it just half-designed or half-mapped? Geomancy – or at least those parts unaffected by an Exaltation – would probably would be out of field for him. But, again, why wouldn’t he ask Charles? Perhaps he had? Even for Charles that would be a horrendously complicated and interwoven mess – and that was saying something.

Maybe there was a clue in the unpleasant configuration? At least she’d finally picked up that Occult Excellency, even if it WAS expensive to cloak it… (Was there a point to that? If there was ANYONE who’d spot it anyway it’d be Lytek). But it looked like… positive and negative modes, with the negative being the unpleasant mode; that configuration would generate some massively unpleasant and destructive effects.

Why in Creation would Lytek be interested in THAT? She could understand that if he held grudges, but most non-war gods weren’t THAT unsubtle. And it looked like… raising armies of corpses, ripping spirits free from bodies, necromancy, poisoning the energies of geomancy, creating horrific weapons of darkness… On the positive side… there was sorcery, bolts of celestial energy, creating things from wyld energies, healing, imbuing people with knowledge… Something primordial? But it didn’t match anyone’s mythos that SHE knew of – although… either the positive or Negative by itself seemed very familiar. It didn’t have anything to do with the current state of Heavenly geomancy did it?

And then her investigation excellency gave up on being subtle and kicked her in the head. After all, Lytek was the god of Exaltation, and gods rarely had much in the way of side-interests. Of course! This was associated with Solars and Abyssals… was he trying to make something to reverse the latter into the former? He’d been working on that for almost as long as he’d known about Abyssals, after all. A world-body design with the properties of both? There might even be more states than just two… If this was an attempt to create a Solar / Abyssal Exaltation-emulator through Manses… they must be fabulously complicated things. Of course they’d have to be if even the First Age Twilights could not analyze them to their satisfaction! Well, it wasn’t like Lytek was hostile! She could just ask!

(Lytek) “Aikiko? Is something wrong? You seem quite distracted!”

(Aikiko) “Uh… sorry if I’m prying, but what’s that for?”

Lytek sighed. He hadn’t talked about this with Aikiko much – but she was friends with Charles, and had shown that she could handle dealing with Abyssals. There was no real point in trying to hide the basics – especially from a Solar investigation specialist. Even if she’d only gotten a good look at a single node… she’d figure it out soon enough, and he had her searching for the Guardians – which made the fact that the Exaltations did have some relationship to World-Bodies all too obvious. The potential just had to be… unlocked somehow. At least that explained the Infernals… If only he could get a chance to study some of THEM as well! Besides… partial versions of the same sort of analysis were in the old records; they just were far less complete and were written up as “energy nodes” rather than as “manses”.

(Aikiko) “I’m just really curious about that diagram…”

(Lytek, sighing) “It’s one of the latest attempts at analyzing an Exaltation – simply treating the energy-nexi as manses rather than as “unknowns”.”

(Aikiko) “Solar and Abyssal, I guess?”

(Lytek) “There… isn’t actually a difference. There were first age solar charms – strange, dangerous, and corrupting as they were – which let Solars take on what would now be called Abyssal powers even before the Abyssals ever appeared. The current Abyssals simply seem to be permanently affected.”

(Aikiko) “That’s… pretty unnerving. Let me guess: you intend to fix that?”

(Lytek) “I’ve been working on the project for quite some time – but I’ve recently gotten a chance to directly inspect some Abyssal Exaltations, since young Charles – and, for some reason a Raksha (?!?!?!) – managed to send some here instead of them going to another host.”

(Aikiko) “Whaa… the Raksha’s name wasn’t Leon, was it?”

(Lytek) “I didn’t actually get the name – just an Abyssal Exaltation wrapped in Wyld energies equivalent to the highest circles of sorcery.”

(Aikiko) “Well, that does sound like Leon there…”

After all… the timing, the power level, knowing about Lytek, wanting to send it to him, having just defeated an abyssal… the odds on it being anyone else would call for I AM to calculate.

(Aikiko) “I think he’s an Ishvara – pretty benevolent narrative, though.”

(Lytek) “How would an Ishvara know to send it HERE though?”

(Aikiko) “Hoo boy… remember when Charles made the Baalgrogs when he was sleepy? Leon’s something like that…”

(Lytek) “Ergg… He’s shaping ISHVARA without paying attention now? How long before he starts shedding worlds like sweat droplets?”

(Aikiko) “I’d give it years, tops… and while Creation could use more livable worlds… that sure doesn’t make him easy for anyone to be around!”

Lyteks thought was pretty obvious… He’d awakened the tiger, all that he could do now was to try to hold on! Considerably more than the “fix” he’d been bargaining for!

Lytek turned back to his studies as Aikiko took her leave – and headed for a particular high school.

Dawai… hadn’t yet really noticed that all the “jocks” had disappeared (and the athletics programs for boys were mostly defunct); there’d been no fuss or comment – and he’d spent a good deal of time practicing ignoring them as much as possible anyway. Besides… he’d been feeling a bit more confident suddenly – and he’d approached one of the girls.

Her enthusiastic reaction had been… remarkably diverting. Wow. Did he know seduction all of a sudden? Then there wasn’t any more thinking for a bit. The eager get-naked-and-get-started reaction tended to have that effect on a teenage male.

Afterwards… he wavered between panic, enthusiasm, placing a frantic call to Leon, and the urge to experiment a little more.

Hormones won out. Was it just a fluke? He approached another girl – and the reaction was just about the same; she wanted to kiss and cuddle while she… got her clothing off and then worked on HIS clothing while eagerly offering herself to him. The third… did pretty much the same thing, albeit with minor variations according to her personality… Heh heh! It was working! It would be nice if they were less over the top about it, though… An actual date would be nice!

And the girls parents… made no objections to their daughters staying with him at night. That was some REALLY good stuff! It was affecting the parents too! And the girls… were more than willing to go on dates, and show off to all the other girls that he had claimed them! And there was much envy from the other boys around the school! Now to work on his social magic a bit so that he could be the most popular guy at school!

It didn’t take long for him to realize that it seemed like… no one would pay any attention if he was towing them around naked on leashes! Having them wear revealing outfits just… got him envious looks from other boys while THEY got envious looks from other girls! There were no complaints from anyone, even at school. Even the hardass vice principal simply… arranged for him to sit in the back of the classes, so that there was plenty of room for his girls to cluster around him.

What the HELL? That guy never lets ANYONE get away with anything! He just… recommended that he have the school nurse check them over for him! And the school nurse… Well, he wouldn’t want them getting anything bad of course, but just how overboard had Leon gone?

(Nurse) “Oh it’s no trouble young man! You deserve healthy young concubines who know how to best please you. If you wish to keep them naked we’ll have to turn up the heat a bit; we wouldn’t want them to catch a cold!”

Errkkkk…. This was WAY overboard! A LOT more than he’d bargained for! Maybe it was time to call Leon?

It was about then that Aikiko turned up. After all, it was easy enough for her to blend in as a student at her age – and it wasn’t like she hadn’t seen Leon and his harem…

(Aikiko) “Hey there! How’s it going?”

(Dawai) “All right, I guess. I haven’t seen you around.” (Hmm. A new girl. She must have transferred in; this was a pretty good school after all! Not bad looking either…)

Aikiko was considering the three revealingly-dressed pretty high school girls who were following this slightly nerdy kid around – and that no one was really paying any attention to it. That was pretty weird! If anything… the air in the classroom was quite approving; they evidently considered this… quite normal.

Heck, it looked like the instructor would excuse the boy if he wanted to take some time off – and the other girls would equally obviously join the group if he invited them. That was pretty weird in a school – and not a Guardian power at all! They didn’t do unnatural mental influence – but something had… redefined the social structure of the town with him as the privileged golden child).

Dawai – with some relief – noticed that Aikiko wasn’t showing any signs of attraction at all.

(Aikiko) “So… you seem pretty popular!”

(Dawai) “Yeah! Surprisingly so…” (as he looks at the other girls in the room)

(One if his current girls) “The master has honored me with his attentions and allowed me to please him!”

(Aikiko, boggling slightly) “What is this, Harem High?”

(Dawai) “Err…”

Aikiko looked at him with a curious expression.

(Dawai) “Well… I suppose… I wasn’t really expecting… Er…”

(Aikiko) “You seem to know I’m… different. Is there someplace we can talk privately?”

(Dawai) “Well… lets test.” (He looked at the rest of the class) “If it’s all right with you Mr Thompson… Why don’t all of you girls get naked and line up for me to pick one of you?”

The response was basically “Oh yes!” and a quick – naked – line up.

(Dawai) “Erg… I don’t think “Privacy” matters at the moment! I wasn’t really expecting this!”

(Aikiko, setting up a privacy warding anyway) “Okay, how did THIS happen? I’m pretty sure you got outside help.”

(Dawai) “Er… OK, Melissa? You can join the rest of the girls after checking in with the nurse. The rest of you… why not go on to your next class?” (and that quietly happened).

(Aikiko) “That’s GOT to be driving you nuts.”

(Dawai) “I think Leon did it! It’s… OK, I had a few fantasies – everybody does! – but I wasn’t actually expecting… I just asked him to deal with a few bullies!”

(Aikiko, with some shock) “You got in contact with Leon!?”

(Dawai) “Well, after I saw him just… wrapping the academy awards around himself with nobody else seeing anything wrong, I pulled up the number and called… I just wanted a couple of problems handled!”

(Aikiko) “That’s the trouble with raksha! You always get more than you bargained for.”

(Melissa, when she got back) “The nurse says that I am entirely healthy and ready to bear your children master! Thank you so much for the opportunity to do so!”

(Dawai, looking more than a bit panicky) “Erk! I think I’ve noticed!”

(Aikiko) “I wonder what he’ll want to stop this… I don’t think he’ll let you get out as easy as you got in.”

(Melissa) “You would not send me away after choosing me in front of everyone would you? I know that you would not be so cruel!”

(Aikiko) “Though a lot of other nerds would envy you right now, dude!”

(Dawai) “Well, yeah, it’s… OK, last night was all kinds of fun! But… this “we exist to serve you!” (the girls all nodded their agreement!) routine is kind of…”

(Aikiko) “Creepy?”

(Dawai) “YES! I’d want them to like me for who I AM, not just because they’re… pets!”

(Aikiko) “Guess you’ll have to talk to Leon, then.”

(Dawai) “Why would he do THIS? It’s WAY beyond what I asked for!”

(Aikiko) “I dunno. Why did you want girls hanging off you in the first place?”

(Dawai, quietly) “Er… well… because they WEREN’T. They all hung around those idiot jocks instead of… And they just… didn’t seem to even know that ANYONE else was around, much less me!”

(Concubine Chorus) “We know better NOW wonderful master! Please… you are a far more worthy mate than any of those jocks were! Let us warm your bed and pleasure you, it is only what you deserve!”

(Dawai) “Arrgh! Would any of you be saying ANYTHING like that if Leon hadn’t done whatever it was he did?”

(Melissa) “I would like to think so! Before… we did not see beyond the surface, but there is much of worth in you and there will be more as you grow into your strengths! Being yours is a small enough thing!”

(Aikiko) “Okay, am I right about you being really bitter toward the guys who did get girls? Come to think of it… where ARE all the jocks?”

(Melissa) “I am only glad that now I am bold enough to say so and to follow through on that!”

(Dawai) “Well yeah! That was INCREDIBLY frustrating! Where are the… Wait, I haven’t seen any of them for days now! Oh no, he DIDN’T… Er… Maybe we’d better check with the principal!”

(Aikiko) “Oh, right. He’s probably sold them all by now… Or made them attendants in his harem… yeah, the principal’s a good idea.”

(Dawai, with an appalled look) “Or turned them into more kitties!”

(Aikiko) “Both, I’d say…”

The Principal paid no attention to the several girls – including Melissa, who was still naked – who were following along, but did check the records…

(Principal) “Ah. A few of those boys are sick, several have transferred or gone to stay with relatives… dear me! It looks like the entire football team, track team, soccer team, and swim team are gone! That’s going to be hell on our standings this year…
I guess that I’d better withdraw from the leagues this year! It would be embarrassing to come in last in everything!”

(Aikiko) “Yeah… geez, Melissa, put some clothes on! Leon must have used the really BIG grace magic for you, kid!… Or something… I’m still learning about fey.”
(Principle) “Oh, do you need a coat Melissa? Ah, no, I see you’ve got most of your clothes… If you and your master can’t wait until tonight for that sort of thing, I suppose the nurse has some cots and there’s always the sports fields outside if you want the natural feeling!”

(Aikiko – who was starting to realize just how pliable mortals were) “Um… wow.

Duwai was now VERY red.

(Aikiko) “We’d better fix this. There are people in charge of fixing things like this, though they’re VERY busy in space – and I don’t think they’d be happy with the scale of this one.”

Well, to be fair… there was no casualty error here; there was a definite cause, and effect, and as for fate… some mortal high school students were affected, which was hardly too noticeable. It wouldn’t be a big deal compared to some other things – but the boy did need to know that some people who’d be annoyed might notice eventually… Not that he didn’t seem to want this to stop already!

Duwai was actually a bit torn. This was just TOO WEIRD – and it was obviously unfair – and realizing that sixty to eighty boys had been enslaved or worse just to give him his sex fantasy was pretty bad – and he saw that the girls were being pretty manipulated – but… at least with the girls, he REALLY wished that this WAS just showing them his finer qualities so that they wanted to be his! And the “no trouble with parents” part definitely had it’s attractions…

(Aikiko, noticing the conflict) “Look, do you really want this to be your life? It’s going to become dull eventually!”

Was he really that much younger? It was all too obvious that… his head was saying “No”, his emotions were saying “I wish it was real!”, and his Hormones were saying “YES YES YES!”.

(Duwai) “I’ve got to at least stop most of it!”

(Aikiko) “Maybe Leon will make you more attractive in exchange, or at least dial it down a bit.”

They called Leon.

(Leon) “Ah, Hello there! Not too many people have this number! How is your new and improved life going?”

(Duwai) “Um… I’m having second thoughts. I like the attention, and the girls, but… not like this!”

(Leon) “And here I thought that the Onieromancy would adequately fulfill your fantasies… Are they still wearing too many clothes? Or do you want them more “Alien”? I like cat-girls myself, and that would be easy to arrange!”

(Duwai) “Uh… but I don’t want them naked all the time! And everyone else is acting weird too! Even Vice Principal Kroke doesn’t have a problem with it!”

(Leon) “Well of course! Now, they’ll dress if you wish, but naturally enough it’s been fitted into the pattern; they all know and accept instinctively that the rules do not apply to you and those you have chosen for yourself… Otherwise it would be quite awkward!”

(Duwai) “But I kind of WANT them to apply now, even if it means (sigh) they might not want me.”

(Leon) “Do you need harem attendants after all? All you need do is select a few and take them to any convenient veterinarian…”

(Duwai) “No, no! No harem attendants! I just want my normal life back…okay, as normal as it’s been since I got a personal dimension!”

(Leon) “Ah; you wish to feel that you have EARNED them – and to not be taking advantage of them simply because they are merely mortal?”

(Duwai) “Yes, please! It’s weird not to work for them now!”

(Sounds on the phone) “Mew! Mew”

(Leon) “Hush Felix! I’m on the phone… Someone get Felix a saucer of milk… Well, I suppose that something can be done!”

At least Duwai knew better than to say he’d do anything now… who knew what Leon would ask for? And… he was developing some scruples. Felix there… had been turned into a cat, castrated, and made to serve as a pet.

(Duwai) “Um… how is ‘Felix’ doing? He seems happy.”

Or was it just that Leon’s magic was making him happy? And… he’d laughed at him and snickered about it. That… had been pretty uncalled for.

(Leon) “Ah, Felix is a good kitty! I have drained his will away, and so he has little independence… Since I felt that he would make a good pet, he is focused on being one – and is happy to be nothing more than a domestic animal who lives to amuse!”

(Duwai) “Sigh… what if someone wanted him to be a jock again?”

(Leon) “I suppose that could be arranged, and all this would seem little more than a dream! still… who would wish that? The world is full of self-centered, insecure, teenagers who attempt to prop up their own self-images by putting down others and thinking of them as less than human… who needs another?”

Duwai took a moment to absorb that.

(Duwai, after thinking for a minute) “You really know where to hit hard.”

(Leon) “The Raksha are mirrors of creation! It is up to those who deal with us to decide… will they view the true reflection, and grow, or become lost in the distortions, and diminish? It is, I think, better to grow – even if that is sometimes painful. I take it that you… wish to grow into your power and set your sights on higher goals than are to be found in your high school?”

(Duwai) “Well, yeah… I don’t want anybody to feel left out again! It… sucks.”

(Leon) “Indeed. To lack others to define yourself against is to lose all sense of scale. You have great power young man – and I think, with that decision, you leave a portion of your childhood and fantasies behind you. That is inevitable if you wish to grow – but it is always painful. Now then… Six of your “jocks” have committed truly grave offences against others; those shall remain in my keeping for the moment.”

(Duwai) “And the other guys?”

(Leon) “They will be easy to return to their lives; memories of a vague trip will suffice I think. As for the young women… are those four accompanying you all that you have claimed?”

(Duwai) “Yeah. I was afraid to get more when I saw what was happening.”

(Leon) “Their response was not as exaggerated as you fear; they are drawn to strength, to the ability to care for them and keep them and their children safe, to power, to kindness, to being valued, and to many other factors. I eliminated their inhibitions, opened their eyes to your potential – which is far more than human – and removed your previous competition – but I have not meddled with the basic structure of their minds. I will reduce their perceptions to normal – but if you wish to work for them, I suspect that you will be able to keep them provided that you will truly value and care for them. After all, once they have spread their legs to share pleasure with you and potentially bear your children… you have pretty well broken the ice.”

(Duwai) “Heh. I guess not everybody can do what I can, but it’s no reason for me to be a jerk.”

(Leon) “You are more than mortal, and there is nothing wrong with accepting that fact – but you are quite correct, there is no reason to abuse those weaker than you either, and far more honor in protecting them instead. The young women will remember electing to share your life; it is up to you to make them happy with that decision.”

(Duwai) “I’ll make sure they don’t regret it!”

(Leon) “Then I shall send a few presents for them and you! The trinkets of the wyld can be hard to come by in Creation these days, and should prove an amusing distraction!”

(Duwai) “Um… thanks! What are you sending me?”

(Leon) “Oh, a few boxes of gems and jewels and gold and such… to go with a few minor charms for yourself I think. It is a simple enough thing, but humans do like such trinkets!”

(Duwai, with much relief) “Oh, okay! Thanks a lot!”

(Leon) “Oh you are quite welcome! Perhaps one day we will work together on something; it is often useful to have more than one set of abilities to apply to a situation.”

(Duwai, thoughtfully) “I’d like that.”

(Leon) “I shall look forward to it myself, for you have many potentials yet to fulfill!”

Duwai… found himself really hoping that he could live up to that.

Leon didn’t bother mentioning the middle-eastern slave-girls he’d provided for the boys harem. The boy had taken them, they were his – and if he put them aside their culture said that they would be utterly dishonored. Leaving… would never occur to them anyway.

Aikiko… was thoughtful as well. That had gone… better than she expected. Perhaps Leon was just trying to teach him a lesson? Evidently… Leon did not approve of petty exalts – even if he is a bit cold-blooded about how humans tend to respond to demigodlings.

(Aikiko) “Well, that worked out okay…”

(Duwai) “Er… Not exactly the kind of price I was anticipating.”

(Aikiko) “I guess he just wanted you to be a better person. That’s more idealistic than I’d pegged him… Just like somebody else I know…”

(Duwai) “Er… I think I’d better get out of the principals office, and escort the girls home, and such before everything goes back to normal – especially since school is now out for the day.”

(Aikiko) “Yeah, I think I’ll join you.”

After all, she wasn’t on the list of students – or visitors for that matter. Of course, with easily-overlooked presence method that would hardly be a problem – but it would probably be best to give Duwai a little time and talk to him again later, after things were a bit more settled.

And, in the Hanging Gardens, Leon considered the six jocks who’d really hurt other people – and sent them to the stables, where they’d make useful horses and there was plenty of room for them! He left a little bit of glossing-over with the girls parents too – albeit only at the “we already had the discussion” level.