The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CLXXXII – Interviewing the Blitzkrieg

Out in Yu-Shan, the stories were coming to the boiling point. Most of Charles’s previous interventions had played to small and secretive audiences. Bringing the Primal Forge up to full power again had, however, been more or less “visible” for hundreds of miles even from ground level – and Yu-Shan had a LOT of aerial traffic. It was probably going to be a good thing that Charles had an entourage now!

Mr Montague was considering destinies, omens, and prophecies… Charles had said… “I’m not allowed to use the BIG forge yet!” – and had likely meant it as a part of his selection of smokescreens – but now, less than a year later… he had powered up the Primal Forge, walked into it, and come out again. WAS something very deep guiding him? He HAD to find the time to take a good look at the Loom. It might offer some clues even if Charles spent most of his time outside of fate! Perhaps he should just ask? But would the boy even KNOW? He was impossibly naive! Also… it would be very hard to deny that the boy was on the way to becoming a Primordial – so why hadn’t Solars of the First Age displayed that particular “talent”? After all, they’d been able to take on one Yozi’s Charms or even invert the Exaltation and take on certain Abyssal powers… Perhaps Lytek would be willing to talk to him since he already knew that Charles was supposed to be a Solar Exalt? It wouldn’t be easy to get in to see him – but he’d think of something.

On board Autochthon, expeditions from the eight nations and other cities were arriving at Xexas. Contact with a major power from outside the Maker was important. A gate to a habitable planet and source of supply was vital. A palliative for Gremlin Syndrome – and perhaps even a new approach towards finding a cure – was beyond price. And the boy had… left a crew of gods on the planet who were busily installing “manses”, cities, industries, and other facilities – and they could communicate with the boy easily and could even call for gates. Emissaries were en route!

And then the boy had dropped by to see Bright Oscillating Shield again to test “a potential individual cure” – some sort of medical spell or charm that he thought might induce a remission, even if it would remain possible to catch it again “until he could treat Autochthon” (Charles had been getting into the Solar medical powers) – and it had apparently worked.

In Malfeas, the Yozi’s and Infernals were becoming… interested. They were not without their sources of information – and the signs that someone was working on Yu-Shan were easy enough to see when you understood what was going on. And the reports from Africa had been interesting too. It was time to deploy a few additional minions. Besides… they still hadn’t found out where Cytherea had gotten to. She’d been involved in the merger between Gaia and Yu-Shan, but no one had seen her since they’d been stuffed into Malfeas. She might even still be linked to the god-generation system and – possibly – to the Well of Souls. She HAD had that “make a temporary diversionary copy of me” charm even if the Exalted HAD been sure that she was in Malfeas…

Fortunately, the speculation that she’d been very interested in those NEW sparks of supernal fire that were capable of empowering mere meat, and so had disguised herself as a god named “Lytek” with every prospect of getting a close look at them some thirty thousand years ago… was pretty unlikely!

Charles… was considering the early history of Creation. He was getting less and less impressed with it – and that wasn’t easy; it had seemed pretty idiotic to begin with! But right now… all indications seemed to be pointing towards a genuinely EPIC level of pettyness and meanness and truly astounding levels of self-sabotage and stupidity. Unless there had been forcing factors beyond anything he could conceive… the new geomancy was pretty obviously incompatible with features they wanted to keep, crippling Yu-Shan when it was governing the mental structure of Creation was not too bright, opening up creation to the Raksha was a blunder, the Solars battling amongst themselves was insane, creating the Neverborn had been unnecessary, getting Necromancy was the act of a lunatic, Autochthon not including self-defense against his weapons was overlooking the utterly obvious… It went on and on!

Oh well! He had more Deva’s to talk to, and to find out what they did for Creation and prepare manse-substitutes! He still had to talk to Ayuji (the fetich), Zanjaras, Bayanji, Gaofeng, Lianza, and Fayuandi!

And he needed more information from Dumenza, Quan Pen, and Yao Xin… Too bad he hadn’t known that he’d have to talk to EVERYONE earlier! He’d have to do a few repeat visits!

Well, Quan Pen should be readily available; quintessence fountains across the city were giving out more of the stuff – especially those in empty regions – and she was linked to them! Especially now that they’d been retuned to catch the interstellar prayers! He didn’t need any more gossip right now though – so he headed for one in an empty quarter and listened to see if this one was whispering too…

One was obviously more interesting than the others… Someone had left a very minor recording artifact beneath the basin, cloaked with a fairly potent thaumaturgic illusion. There was contented, tuneless singing coming from the fountain, which was what was being recorded.

Charles extended a communications-probe into the fountain.

(Charles) “Allo! Quan Pen? I need to talk to you!”

(Quan Pen) “Ah, I’m so busy… there’s so much more prayer coming in! But what do you need?”

(Charles) “Well, I was going to try to do the necessary repairs to re-awaken Yu-Shan and to get her disentangled from Creation! To do that I need to know what inputs you supply for creation and where they act, and I need to show you the plans and get your input!”

(Quan Pen) “That’s… one of the more important ones, really! I ensure that prayer to Yu-Shan functions correctly and makes Quintessence. Of course, these days it’s channeled through whoever Ahlat is before it reaches her.” (Wistfully) “It used to be so much more diverse, you know! But, yes, you could say I’m the receiver of incoming prayer!”

(Charles) “Ahlat… is a functionary-god (he showed her), but I take it that you don’t control much of anything on the Creation side?”

(Quan Pen) “No – but if I can’t receive the prayers, I suspect a lot of people up here will be unhappy.”

(Charles) “Hm… Are the links to creation basically a lesser version of manse-gates?”

(Quan Pen) “Pretty much; they are the easiest way to cross dimensions from fixed points.”

Charles took a quick look at them… They really ought to continue to work even if Yu-Shan detached otherwise; they were within her, and as long as the points in Creation where they emerged remained they’d be fine. For once something he wouldn’t need to meddle with overmuch!

He shared the plans with Quan Pen – behind perfect privacy wards of course. She didn’t have any changes to suggest though, although the warning was appreciated – as was the increased flow of prayers.

The parting pleasantries and the note that it shouldn’t be very long were welcome as well! That made her very happy!

Dumenza was easy to reach; his inputs were simultaneously simple enough and complex. He was involved most heavily in the initial setup of Essence flows into and out of Creation. Nowadays, though, what active functions he performed involved the mortal desire to imagine new places and protect the ones they valued – and his inputs were pretty minimal. They cycled in and out of the gates – albeit mostly the ones in the Solar System these days; even a Primordial deva could only affect so much of modern Creation – and even then only with the progenitor helping boost. It was mostly just balancing things now – and so it was not a big worry; a bit of energy imbalance was pretty trivial on the scale of things these days, even if it would produce a bit of space-lightning and such!

Fortunately, the Devas of Nascent Ones were closely related to manse-emanations, and so it was easy enough to build manse complexes to cover them!

Charles updated Dumenza – and headed off to see Cangha (who was REALLY easy to reach through the closest blue jade emergency pillar) about control inputs…

(Cangha) “Ah, it’s you again. How is the project coming along?”

(Charles) “Fairly well! But I realized that to break the links with Creation I’d have to substitute on the inputs from here – so I came to ask what yours were and where they came out!”

(Cangha) “Ah, those… I was the one who established the shimaic contacts and served as the focus for burning Creation’s existence upon them. I don’t think they’ve forgotten that one! But, by expressing the opposites of what they are, we were able to establish the related ideals in the minds of mortals. I believe there was a connection at each pole of Gaia. She’s very useful for anchoring things!”

(Charles) “Hm! That may be stable on it’s own now… but best not to risk it I think! Are you still doing anything active with those links?”

(Cangha) “Somewhat… I’ve never really dropped contact with the shinma, though the reception is exceptionally poor. Gaia’s meddling. I WILL understand them – and perhaps make their opposites manifest!”

(Charles, thoughtfully) “So… it goes from you through the poles to the Shinma – and reception is probably poor due to signal dispersion since the poles are so much bigger these days… If you’re still interested in them, perhaps it would be better to supply you with some independent links through manses there? A simultaneous gate to you and link to the Shinma could do it – and some Wyld Revocation and a Manse Intelligence could handle things when you’re busy!”

(Cangha) “Ooh… that’s tempting. Managing the networks here is no easy task with all the traffic. What is with you meat-dollies, anyhow? You seem to put EVERYTHING on the networks.”

(Charles) “Well, most of them have no other way to communicate at range!”

(Cangha) “What, no one makes communicators for them? How are you supposed to speak over long distances? Hmm… I might have to ask Xiang about that. She could come up with some useful mutation.”

(Charles) “Well there are devices these days – but mostly on the creation side, and they’re limited to one planet at best in most places!”

(Cangha, with some shock) “That’s horrible!”

(Charles) “Certainly a nuisance! I’m trying to improve matters a bit, but creation is really very large these days!”

(Cangha) “Xiang says Gaia did something that made it mind-bogglingly big. You had enough trouble communicating when the first Sidereals came up here!”

(Charles) “Yep! It’s like this these days!” (the updated powers-of-ten video came out again).

(Cangha) “That’s a major problem! How am I supposed to get enough pillars to affect THAT much space?”

(Charles) “Well, many people on Earth are using portable network devices these days… and it is pretty thinly populated. I’m sure something can be worked out!”

(Cangha) “We’ll talk about that after you’ve awakened the progenitor, I think… she should be able to help.”

(Charles) “Fair enough!”

Unfortunately, she didn’t know where her inputs went through into Creation; Charles had to get out the bottle-beacons again to locate the right spots! Direct geomancy wasn’t really her thing… Still, that was easy enough – and with the locations marked, the inputs catalogued, and the manses designed… it was on to the next one!

It was becoming quite a manse network though! They all needed to be networked, cooperative, have massive options for defense and self-repair, to be indestructible, and so on…

Aaagh! He was basically building Creation an autonomic nervous system to replace the Primordials that were trapped / dead / asleep / leaving Still, giving it at least a basic “mind of it’s own” would move it a long ways towards being an independent living being in it’s own right.

Huh, if it went full sapient, would it hunt the Hannya? Or would it just try to annex them? Urban planning on a universal scale…

On to Yao Xin – who was reachable along any canal now that things were working better again… (or over the geomantic links which were currently powering things!).

(Yao Xin) “Ahh… it feels sooo good now that I don’t have to beat so fast!.”

(Charles) “Ah good! I’ve found that I have another question though! I found that a lot of you were still maintaining control inputs into Creation, and that I’ll have to cover those when fixing things. Do you handle any of those any more?”

(Yao Xin) “I handled the mortal desire to move and travel once! Not so much this age. A good thing, too. That would have hastened my bursting!”

(Charles) “Hm… Do you know where that linked to if there’s any trace of that left?… And I’m glad it didn’t!”

(Yao Xin) “Why, through the pole!”

(Charles) “Which one?”

(Yao Xin) “The Pole of Reason, that I’m connected to.”

(Charles) “I meant on the Creation side…”

(Yao Xin) “Ah! That would be the Elemental Pole of Water.”

(Charles) “Mind if I try a tracer to determine where the link comes out?”

(Yao Xin) “It won’t stress my piping, will it?”

(Charles) “Nah, it’s very small! Like this! (Charles showed them).

(Yao Xin) “Oh… why don’t you smooth it out, just in case? I wouldn’t want it to get caught.”

Charles polished it up nicely and made the “bottle” deformable and slippery and as small as possible… Yao Xin was much relieved and accepted the bottle. There was no real problem with it – but it did stop at one point and… seemed mildly… confused? Bother! The flow must split there! It wanted to go in two directions, it seemed; one still in Yu-Shan, one toward where the Pole of Reason met Creation. He’d just have to trace both…

The direction in Yu-Shan terminated in the western empty quarters and was moving along a remote gold canal lane. The one heading toward the Pole of Reason slipped into Creation where it connects to the Pole of Water. There were some minor inputs active – mostly involving expanding Creation. Evidently interstellar travel was not a thing when the Primordials made existence – thus it was out of the Heart of the Canals’ sphere of influence. Well… that should be possible to handle fairly easily – but what was going on with that canal?

(Yao Xin) “That… oh! That must be my Weaver. It’d only make sense you’d be able to track them. You’re… not going to take them away, are you!?”

(Charles) “Why would I? It’s not like they’re still stuck in your pipes!”

(Yao Xin) “Aaah… what a relief. You have no idea how lonely it gets, with nothing but boring canal gods to listen to!”

(Charles) “Hrm… Would you like a remote? That way you can tour around and talk to people! It won’t be able to channel much of your power, but you wouldn’t need much for that!”

(Yao Xin) “Only if the others get remotes too! We’re all so bored, I’m sure.”

(Charles) “Well, i don’t see why you shouldn’t!”

The segment of canal pipes Charles was talking to somehow seemed contemplative for a moment – while Charles made an appropriate set of remotes (that could be stashed in Elsewhere when not needed) and had the others and an explanation delivered to the Deva’s he’d already talked with twice.

Those were much appreciated all around. An opportunity to move around after all these millennia, even in secret and in a remote, was appreciated! In fact, Yao Xin would quite like to head over to that canal with you.

Well, why not?

Yao Xin – taking the form of a sinuous snake of quicksilver and gold, with an androgynous head – was more than happy to come along, though she did bemoan the lack of ferry-devas! No doubt they were exterminated during the “reconstruction.”

(Charles) “Well… there are lots of boatmen… I take it they were some of your first circles?”

(Yao Xin) “Of course… no need for boatmen or even crew. Or these canal gods, for that matter. I’ll have to determine what to do with them.”

(Charles) “Well, they should be on their own side of things…”

The snake-deva looked thoughtful. Most on the streets were, thankfully, simply accepting the deva as a god; the remote was pretty well cloaked – if only because it was a remote, and wouldn’t channel anything more than essence-3 stuff or so – and so looked like a rather minor god simply by default.

(Yao Xin) “I want to go swimming too! Let’s hurry!”

Charles popped them over there – which turned out to be a good idea! Whoever it was was making some decent thaumaturgic attempts to throw them off the trail. Still, given the deep level of the link, that was REALLY unlikely to work… but it was making Yao Xin unhappy!

(Charles) “What’s wrong?”

(Yao Xin) “I told . . err . . whichever of you meat creatures grows hair on the face… there would be no hiding this forever. Someone you don’t want learning it inevitably does!”

(Charles) “I think there are lots of people with hair on their face!”

(Yao Xin) “Whoever doesn’t… oh, how did the Weaver put it… whoever doesn’t look funny if they leave it on there!”

Charles explained the difference between men and women.

(Yao Xin) “Ah, a man then. It’s funny men can be Weavers! You’d think the Fates would make them all women.”

(Charles) “ I don’t think they worry about the distinction much. For them I think that Gender is pretty much just a convention.”

(Yao Xin) “Just like us, then. I like both! Ooh! Over there! I saw bubbles in the gold!”

The snake-deva excitedly dived in! The canal god rose up to ask for authorization to use the gold canal, its robes dry as dust as they always were… but instead of the usual officious smirk, there was an instinctive-looking lowering of the head as it muttered something that sounded apologetic and paddled backward – and then looked somewhat confused.

(Charles) “Not to worry! Things are getting a little odd these days!”

(Canal God) “That’s the SECOND time today…”

Charles hired a boat for the moment – but simply made a bubble and drifted down in Yao Xin’s wake when that became necessary. The gold was pleasantly warm, almost like fresh milk… Charles looked around curiously as he descended! He’d never done this before!

There were people in boats staring. It was pretty gauche not to use a boat – but Charles was known for doing all manner of weird things at this point. There’d be more gossip, even though it was already hot at the moment.

Charles thought that it was just being practical. Most people didn’t want to go to the bottom of the Canal. Even if you could make it all the way to the bottom, it moved too fast! Hundreds of miles an hour! It was rather disorienting, although Charles found it easy enough to compensate and stay on course.

There were two others in the liquid gold with him… About a hundred feet ahead, Yao Xin was seemingly unaffected at all – only natural for a deva in its own domain! The deva was swimming intently toward the source of the bottle-diversion; it appeared humanoid, although the gold was a little murky at that distance. Charles just followed along!

(Charles) “Allo!”

Whoever-it-was looked back, saw him – and activated some travel thaumaturgy! Apparently they didn’t want to chat!

(Yao Xin) “That’s rude! And you said he could help, too! It’s not like you to be rude!”

(Charles) “Aw! What will chatting hurt?”

It looked like… Secrets, Essence 5. Some innate boosters on Astrology and Occult Charms.

(Charles) “Hello! What’s wrong? It’s only talk!”

(Yao Xin) “What! He says he might be killed or confined if he talks to you! But… ugh. Mortals are so confusing!”

(Charles) “I could make sure nobody knows and provide some extra defenses! Would that work?”

(Yao Xin) “He wants to know how you want to make sure nobody knows! They have people in Aden watching for this sort of thing.”

Charles set up perfect privacy and perfect secret-keeping for everyone!

(Yao Xin) “I’ve never felt him so exasperated… he says the secret-keeping won’t be necessary! He never says that!. But he wants to know if you can get him into Aden unnoticed.”

(Charles) “Well… that should certainly be possible.”

(Yao Xin) “Do you want me to bring him through? He’s shaking, and that’s never good!”

(Charles) “Well… If you want! I can set it up too… to hide my involvement… make a perfectly screened transport artifact! And leave someone with a perfect impersonation going in his place…”

(Yao Xin) “He feels guilty for some reason… but he’ll take it. I think he saw this coming for a while. And… he wants a beer and someplace to smoke on the other side.”

(Charles) “Well that’s really easy!”

(Yao Xin) “I want to see Aden too! It’s been too long since I’ve seen another world-jouten.”

(Charles) “Well, no reason why not!”

And off to Aden it was for a meeting at the privacy manse – catered by Hobbits of course! There… was another attuned individual in the Manse at the moment! Still… if they wanted to be private and the new fellow wanted to be private, they’d never get any information on each other even if they’re standing next to each other…

Ah! Yao Xin (who had gotten an attunement; not only was it convenient, but it was a test for subtle geomantic damage affecting her mind). The other one wanted to interact and turned out to be… Mr Gustav! Charles hadn’t seen him in a long time! He… did look awfully tired and shaky though – and he couldn’t recall him ever asking to attune – although certain things involving Project Stanewald and informers came to mind…

(Charles) “Allo!”

(Mr Gustav) “Hahh… hello, Charles. I had expected a meeting eventually, regardless of whether I wanted it or not. You’re just too powerful to hide from for long… But it is good to see you again.”

(Charles) “Well, it’s nice to see you too! How have you been doing?”

(Mr Gustav) “Holding together, barely. I hate factional politics… and meetings… and…” (Very shaky grip on the pipe!) “There’s no point in hiding it any longer, is there? After all, I told you myself, behind the best precautions I could manage. How long is it before you sing the Song of Creation?”

(Charles) “About seven weeks if I don’t have to rush and have everything done in time!”

(Mr Gustav) “Oh, thank Heaven… who might well be a living being. Is it?”

(Charles) “Well… I’d normally ask you to promise not to tell before I’d tell you, but if you already know enough to ask the question you pretty well know the answer anyway. Please don’t spread it around for a couple of months, but yes, Yu-Shan is a Primordial.”

(Mr Gustav, looking at Yao Xin.) “I’m sorry for not believing you… and a snake, really?”

(Yao Xin) “It’s good for swimming!”

(Mr Gustav) “So… not only was I asked to do something that would destroy Heaven, it would create a new Neverborn, too.”

(Charles) “Not a good idea then!”

(Mr Gustav, in easily the angriest tone that Charles had ever heard out of him and with much puffing on his pipe) “You’d think it would be obvious. Unfortunately, SOME people have to use Unhesitating Dedication on themselves!”

The anger might be for a very good reason! That Charm made the intimacy for a plan equivalent to a Motivation – and thus something you won’t give up without a good deal of trouble!

(Charles) “That is a bit excessive… And there are better ways to accomplish that anyway! But if someone tries to initiate Stanewald before the Song – or during it – I have some plans to compensate.”

(Mr Gustav) “It’s… inevitable. I will be monitored during the procedure – and I wouldn’t put it past the High Lord to come by and help out. And there’s only so much I can do with illusions.”

(Charles) “I rather thought someone would attempt it. Almost certainly, during the performance and at the exact moment that would be worst. I should have quite enough reserves to handle it though!”

Mr Gustav… wanted to know what he was intending to do.

(Mr Gustav) “I don’t want Kristoff harmed too badly. Other than his myopia about deiphages and Stanewald, he’s not a bad person-and he is my father-in-law.”

(Charles) “Oh it shouldn’t hurt anyone – although it might leave them mote-drained if they try to fight it – but I’m planning to redirect the energies this way…”

(Mr Gustav) “Hrmm… there’ s still more potential for local disturbances than I would like. And there was a favor I wanted to request.”

(Charles, looking sad) “Unfortunately… there will probably be some local disturbances no matter what – but I’ll try to keep them minor! And what was it you need?”

(Mr Gustav) “I want to speak to Yu-Shan when she awakens. You see… for many decades, I’ve thought a sanctum as big as Heaven would inevitably have an owner. That owner would be unhappy with the condition of the place, so I wanted to make certain he or she knew not everyone was fine with that – and perhaps… at long last, there would be some reform to the Bureaucracy… I’m sure you would agree.”

(Charles) “Well… I hope to get most of the gods back to work and sort things out a bit!”

(Mr Gustav, with visible relief) “Oh, thank Heaven. Not that I thought you’d disagree, but you’re so apolitical. That’s too much of a luxury these days.”

(Charles) “Well, most politics is about how to organize things to achieve goals that most of the people involved more or less agree on, but differ on how to achieve and what priorities to assign. If they don’t agree on goals, it tends to be either gridlock or war, not politics. Since I do my projects myself, I don’t need to much in the way of politics. It’s very convenient in many ways!”

(Mr Gustav) “I envy you. But enough about my problems. I’m far behind schedule – how good is that duplicate at warding?

(Charles) “He should be quite expert!”

(Mr Gustav) “Ah, good. Not everyone can ward against the deiphages as well as me, but maintenance should be easy enough. Shall we say deiphages attacked me on the way in, you found me and healed me, and then you left me near my mission pickup point with a note? They watch me quite carefully.”

(Charles) “That will work! Would you like some better armor or a thaumaturgy boost? If they know that you’ve interacted with me at all, that should be no surprise.”

(Mr Gustav) “I… the only reason I didn’t ask was that it would be a dead giveaway. But I’ve wanted an Adenic attunement for a long time.”

(Charles) “Well… I could add a perfect concealment effect. Would that help?”

(Mr Gustav) “Of course. I’ve been hiding my attunement to here with these (tapping his glasses), which make my Lesser Sign inobvious. They won’t believe that forever, of course – but perfect concealment would go a long way.”

(Charles, setting it up) “OK then!”

Mr Gustav looked much more relaxed now. Still as reserved as ever, of course – but his Temperance WAS maxed out.

(Yao Xin) “Hooray! See how much easier it is when you ask?”

(Mr Gustav) “Thank you, Charles. I hope I don’t have to use this, but the situation is likely to require it.”

(Charles) “Well, I hope not – and at least this way you can’t get killed!”

That caused him to raise an eyebrow.

(Mr Gustav) “Through any means?”

(Charles) “Well… If they destroy your body – which is harder – you’ll wind up here in Aden, re-embodied… I don’t know whether the Exaltation will remain bound to your soul (although indications are that it should) or whether you’d wind up as a material god like the Kickaha; it’s never happened for me to be sure. There’s one sequence that could kill you of course – nothing can be truly flawless – but it’s complicated, calls for some special powers, and is perfectly hidden. It’s as close to perfect as I can make it!”

(Mr Gustav) “Hmm… that’s probably for the best, then. Astrid would be angry if I died. Is it all right if I tell her?”

(Charles) “Sure! And you can talk to her more freely; she’s got an attunement here and things too…”

(Mr Gustav) “I had suspected some kind of Adenic attunement. She looks even more lovely than usual, lately. (He sighed) I REALLY don’t want to leave, but I have no choice. I’ll have to look around Aden more when this is done… Can your Balgrogs open a gate for me?”

He provided coordinates for someplace near one of the central gates.

(Charles) “Well, it’s mostly the Mardi Gras Raksha who do gates; will that do? Otherwise I can make a quick artifact or reroute a manse gate!”

Mr Gustav did want to get to his mission on time; that was actual Celestial business, and not factional stuff – although he was pleased that they’d been able to cover for him with the ward; that would have been AWKWARD.

Charles arranged it. Yao Xin stuck around, though!

(Yao Xin) “He hasn’t been that happy in a long time!”

(Charles) “Well, I hope that it will all work out well for him!”

(Yao Xin) “And me, too!”

After they covered Yao Xin’s creation inputs the Deva opted to keep the remote in Aden for the time being, to explore – with Charles’s permission of course!

Charles gave him one of the tourist guides, with the coupons for various thing! (Which got a WEIRD look and a call for an explanation…)

(Charles) “Well… lots of people wanted to wander around and look – a lot of the weavers were very curious – so I made guidebooks and gave out coupons for various services to make it more comfortable! And there’s the Hundred Acre Wood Manse, and the Jedi Temple Manse, and the Kickaha Manse, and the Ponyville Manse…”

(Yao Xin) “Ohh… like when I pump out ferry devas and Quan Pen spits out trade goods.”

The manses were odd, and alien, to a Primordial Deva – but that was to be expected when visiting a foreign world-body. (And rather silly, even if filled with rather high-powered creatures in swarms…)

(Yao Xin) “You don’t take yourself very seriously, do you?”

(Charles) “Uhm… Why? I’ve got lots of room, so no reason why most of those things shouldn’t have a place to exist here!”

(Yao Xin, moving from side to side) “Ah, a part of your mythos, then.”

(Charles) “I suppose! Things like to exist, and there’s lots of room, so why not let them?”

(Yao Xin) “As long as they don’t get boring!”

(Charles) “Well, they haven’t so far… If they do, I’ll have to handle it then!”

Charles suggested that she visit the Atlantis manse – and headed for the Cornucopia of All and Lianza! At least anyone who was trying to trace him at the moment ess probably grinding their teeth at the rate he was hopping around…The demesne looked much as it had before, oddly fertile for random territory in Heaven!

(Charles) “Hello? Lianza? I need to talk to you!:

The plants turned toward him when he established contact.

(Lianza) “You came by before, and left too soon. Did you know this entire region used to be blanketed with my bounty?”

(Charles) “I rather suspected – and I’m sorry about being in such a rush! Are you feeling a little better now at least?”

(Lianza) “Why don’t you sit down for a spell? A Primordial as young as you shouldn’t rush things. And – yes, yes I am.”

(Charles) “Oh good! And I’m still in a bit of a rush I’m afraid… I have to get Creation ready to be disconnected from Yu-Shan, and everything set up to treat Yu-Shan, in only about seven weeks now…”

(Lianza) “Cangha told me a little about that. Seven weeks is not much time at all – but surely you could spare an hour or two?”

(Charles) “I think so!”

After all, he could keep on doing things elsewhere anyway.

Lianza… was, sadly, used to people scavenging whatever crops they could from her demesne’s edges. That was a big part of why the place wasn’t capped; it helped feed the local mortals. Still, she mostly just wanted to talk about the other devas, and catch up with affairs outside.

Charles filled her in, provided a remote, briefed her on the proposed course of treatment, and inquired as to what inputs she fed to Creation – and was appreciative of her efforts to feed the local mortals!

It was pretty much what he’d been told; she made the food of Creation tastier. Of course, an awful lot of it was reflections of Celestial delicacies, which were even better… Charles traced those inputs – although they were likely to be local now; no wonder such a lot of deep space groups relied on generic “rations”.

(Lianza) “I miss the ages when celestial wine and peaches of immortality weren’t the only staples. Ooh, yes, those are very local. Taste doesn’t travel well over THAT distance. Cytherea had to supercharge me to get it that far in old Creation.”

(Charles) “Well… Maybe I can do something about that!”

(Lianza) “You’re real sweet for a a Mighty One. I’ll have to make you something special if you pull this off.”

(Charles) “Thank you!”

Hrm… It would take quite a lot of processing power if he wanted to increase taste throughout the whole universe. She would greatly appreciate that, though! That was awkward… perhaps he could get I AM to devote some of it’s unused processing power to the project? It was just going to waste as it was – and surely I AM was personable enough to see the benefits of a sudden culinary boost to the universe. It might just need the directive; that was just providing a bit of extra and harmless information to people, and It didn’t seem like THAT would require the Solar Deliberative. After all, there was little danger that could come from cooking – unless it was a Solar recipe that people would kill for, and even then you could just give everyone a copy.

Charles spent some more time with Lianza, fixed up the area to be more the way she’d like it (which mostly involved sending in a few people to do the weeding), and boosted things where it wouldn’t trigger Stanewald too soon – while making sure that the countermeasures were at least up to moderating it if, for some reason, someone started it early! He wouldn’t want to be caught unprepared!

On Lianza’s end… she really appreciated the remote! It wasn’t quite as good as really getting out, but it was a LOT better than being stuck! (In fact, the only one who hadn’t been really enthused about the remotes was Dumenza-who, of course, got transported at random to a different location in the Solar System every day, and had a most magnificent view of the universe from there. He only needed one to talk with the others – but he did need to do that! The universe was a lovely place, but sadly did not answer back!).

Meanwhile, in England, Aikiko had been just about to leave the Hedgeroms when she recalled something that she’d quite forgotten about! That entire middle school which had supposedly wandered across the boundaries on a field trip and was about to be sold at the fair… Argh! She really ought to buy them too! And… it was worth cheating on the travel to get back in time for THAT.

The sellers… were a moderately unpleasant bunch, who were assuring potential buyers that the entire school was demolished in a “gas explosion” and some fake remains were magicked up; the kids are all presumed dead, and no one will be looking for them! Fortunately, most potential buyers were waiting to confirm that before buying…

Urk! Buying 112 kids would be expensive, even if she did have the backing… And… gas explosion. Uh huh. Man, when did she start becoming a slaver with good intentions? At least they should be happier in Aden, or better still, with their parents. It looked like… the “explosion” had been arranged after they were collected as a cover – but the school was indeed pretty much a big crater now. Memorial services were being held, there was an investigation under way, and so on.

That was awkward. For the moment at least… to Aden with them. Perhaps she could arrange a reunion after the gates are open – and it wasn’t like Aden didn’t have rather a lot of ex-slaves and refugees aboard now.

There are a few approaches to the young woman who apparently controls fabulous wealth though – as well as (yet another) gratuitous gang of bandits on the way out; someone who claimed to be Robin Hood and his Merry Men! They wanted an archery competition – unless, of course, she’d rather just hand over her purse and be their guest for a forest feast!

It looked like… mostly half-fey. Banditry was a pretty dangerous job these days, and the few fey who did it tended towards the “dashing romantic highwayman” routine. Well… she could get another purse. Why not? Aikiko handed over a pouch full of golden coins and such (doubtless to be cashed in modern England) – and she was hailed as a good sport and their honored guest!

Oh dear. She’d better not mention this to Charles, or he’d be making a Sherwood Forest manse… Wait, did he already HAVF a Sherwood Forest Manse? (As it happened, yes he did – a cross between the Disney talking-animal version and the Errol Flynn version). The feast was quite entertaining though, even if whole roasted deer and such was new to her – and there were medieval bardic tales, singing, drinking, and a wide variety of entertainments – many involving small amounts of magic. Still a fairly high-priced night out for Earth, but pretty reasonably by Yu-Shan’s standards!

Quite a lot of the “Merry Men” were fairly obvious half-fey though; it was pretty obvious that they couldn’t get along in “modern” England. They did like news from the outside world though! They’d heard some REALLY odd rumors and travelers tales…

Well, they couldn’t get out without causing a fuss… she listened and confirmed the ones that were true.

There was some muttering over the confirmation of the middle school rumor! That school was close enough that a number of the more passable offspring of various feybloods – including two from here – got sent there when the paperwork could be covered. The news greatly upset one young and one middle-aged woman and a couple of the men.

(Aikiko) “Oh dear. Your kids?”

Yes of course. They were of the opinion that SOMETHING would have to be done – but what could they do?

It was easy enough to get their kids out of Aden and return them home – but the kids were full of glowing reports of a land where everything was wonderful!

(Aikiko) “That’s Aden! Um… would you like to move there? Trust me, you won’t be out of place at all.”

(“Robin”) “Er… Children are easy to fool! We’d have to see this place first – and hear about why it’s so welcoming!”

(Aikiko) “Why don’t I take you on a tour?”

There were few objections to that – so they got the tour. After all, if they wanted to keep up the Robin Hood thing, there was certainly room for a show rather than banditry. Admittedly, a lot of the fey “victims” went along with the narrative – but they had no objections at all.

Aikiko considered… those slavers didn’t exactly sit right with her. That was REALLY disruptive for that side of the hedges – and for the kids! Still… from what she got from the kids… the cross-over might have been entirely accidental, and the slavers had simply taken advantage of it and pulled a cover-up rather than just steering them back out. Nasty, but not as bad as setting it up in the first place. The barriers are awfully blurry around here. From the parents’ reactions…it was nasty by the local standards too; the usual response was just to steer them back into England proper. If you really had to have slaves, there were always street children and such (if not nearly as many as there used to be). It wasn’t really acceptable at all to take slaves that way – although it wasn’t banned, if only for lack of large-scale law enforcement. After all, it was in really poor taste, was courting trouble, and was likely to draw serious objections from some powerful people. The sellers were either stupidly greedy or needed a lot of cash fast for something.

That might require some investigating! That was an awful lot of slaves! Might they have quietly steered them across the boundary? Who would need to sell that many slaves at once? Sure, the locals were poor, but even by their standards, that was a big sale. Even at the fair… there’d be few potential buyers for that many, even if it would probably be easy enough to get rid of them in small batches.

Bother it! She might just have to poke around a bit more before leaving!

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