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?

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