The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice CLXXXVIII – Curious Visitations

And hopefully I can get things restarted here this time around…

Meanwhile, at Dudael, Charles had an aspect keeping up with his normal tasks. Once he’d gotten the trick figured out there was no reason not to use it – and there were the employees to look after, not to mention all those people bringing important orders to the door.

For good or ill, however, it had gotten around (at least in some circles) that you didn’t need to be purified before entering to avoid mucking things up. The occasional Sidereal dropping by with an order was proof enough of that; they didn’t have TIME for purification rituals!

At the moment, Charles and Catherine Wingates (the factory-cathedral’s Nocturnal) were working on a massive order of Celestial Coffee Carafes for the God of Caffeine!

Well, mostly Charles. Catherine was very, VERY, handy with metalworking stuff – but not nearly as good as Charles was. They weren’t really a very complex piece of magitech (Rating-**) and were well within Catherine’s abilities – but she simply wasn’t anywhere near as fast. The essence scriber flared with rainbows of both natural and indescribable colors as its energies arched across the metal and engraved essence-channeling runes into the structure of the bases, to bypass the need for a special component – as Charles used the facilities to produce a full batch!

Catherine happily inspected the runes and gave him pointers on how the engraving could possibly go wrong – one of her Charms. Very handy for quality control. She even found a couple of places where things could be better; Charles WAS very distracted at the moment.

Which was one of the reasons why she was the first to notice that they had a visitor.

(Catherine, talking to a goddess, who had magma spurting in great gouts from her headdress) “Hey, who are you? How did you get in?”

(Charles, after a brief pause) “Er… Can I help you? One moment while I shut this down…”

(Goddess) “You there! What have you done to my daughter!?”

Charles was busy checking… Ah! It was Red-Eyed Mahanja, goddess of tectonic activity in the southwestern United States. A fairly powerful deity in the part of the Bureau of Nature that dealt with North American geology! And right now… a bit eruptive! As for her Daughter… Urrm… not a schoolmate, so no lesser exaltation… of course he WAS being blamed for pretty much every little geomantic disruption in Yu-Shan these days, but that presumably wouldn’t include whatever was up with her daughter.

Oh dear! She wasn’t one of the ones who’d moved in on him was she?

Urp! She WAS… Still, at least she hadn’t been in his bed and wasn’t pregnant by anyone else either… It was a good thing that some of the Guardians had been keeping THAT peaceful…

Well, thank goodness she hadn’t opted for that! That would have made this even messier – because Red-Eyed Mahanja was advancing on him at the moment…

(Charles) “Hm… Nothing that I know of! Is something wrong?”

(Red-Eyed Mahanja) “My Aya is demanding to move into Aden with you! I arranged a perfectly good marriage for her, with NORMAL people, and THIS is what she does to me?”

The gouts of magma were increasing in radius.

(Charles, quietly containing the magma) “Hm… I think she’s requesting refuge. I’d suspect that means that she doesn’t want that marriage… Did you get her input on it?”

(Red-Eyed Mahanja) “She knows what her purpose is, and what she has been trained for. I admit she wasn’t cheery about it, but I explained that this was for her benefit as well! It is hard to marry a mortal to a magma god and have her live!”

Hrm… about equivalent to fifteen. Perfectly legal under Celestial law, sadly; God-Bloods were their parents, to use as intended.

(Charles) “I suspect that part of the trouble is that mortals tend to become extremely rebellious at about her age! This is a mechanism that gets them out of the household, finding their own mate, and establishing their own family. Coupled with the urge towards exogamy, as side benefits there’s genetic mixing and spread of genetic lines over much wider areas. Unfortunately, the intensity of that rebellion is distributed over the usual bell curve – but trying to ignore it is going to make problems, like ignoring any other part of an operating protocol… Why did you want her to marry a magma god anyway?”

(Red-Eyed Mahanja):”Why, a political arrangement, of course… the groom has some contacts I would find very useful and dearly wants some God-Bloods of his own! And he is wealthy and quite handsome, too.”

(Charles) “Well… let me check on what her objections are!”

(Aya, over Charles’s link) “I don’t want to be married to a god! They have no idea what humans are like. But YOU… you actually understand. When are you coming back to Aden? I miss you!”

Oh dear. She WOULD be in his bed shortly if he didn’t do something about it. Not that that was an unpleasant prospect – but it would probably upset her mother. Oh well! He HAD offered a refuge to anyone who wanted it… He directed her to one of his manifestations in Aden – which made her quite happy.

(Charles, in Dudael) “Hm… her basic objection seems to be divine incomprehension of mortals. Given that her rebellion seems to have been unexpected, she may have a point. This IS awkward… As long as you get the connections and your daughter is happy, do the details matter?”

(Red-Eyed Mahanja): “But… wait, is she in Aden THIS VERY MOMENT?”

(Charles) “She does seem to be… There are a number of gates available of course.”

(Red-Eyed Mahanja) “I want her out of there! She doesn’t need to be running around in someone else’s pocket dimension!”

(Charles) “Well, there are only about sixteen million people there at the moment… But it is important… do the details matter much?”

(Red-Eyed Mahanja) “I MUST have those connections!”

(Charles) “Ah. The girl is more or less a means to that end then?”

(Red-Eyed Mahanja) “Well, yes – and it ensures she has some use, too!”

(Charles) “Well, then… Would you step this way? This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes!”

He took her to the shores of the Sea of Chaos – and produced an identical-twin level duplicate with similar memories, abilities, and essence-readings, but who was willing and eager to marry the gentlegod in question!

(Red-Eyed Mahanja, after a moment of shock): “Does that go all the way down to Essence-sense?”

(Charles) “Naturally!”

That calmed her down – somewhat.

(Red-Eyed Mahanja) “I still don’t approve of my daughter dating a… whatever you are, you know!”

(Charles) “Well, she isn’t! She just came over to dodge the wedding… which probably would not have gone well if her objections are that strong!”

(Red-Eyed Mahanja) “Oh, come now… I think we both know how this will go once she’s there!”

(Charles) “I don’t know! Teenage girls can be quite hysterical and irrational at times!”

(Red-Eyed Mahanja) “So frustrating! But I have what I need now!”

(Charles) “Well, I’m glad I could help out all three of you!”

(Red-Eyed Mahanja, to her new daughter): “Come along, dear…”

And just a few hours later… Charles started receiving similar offers / requests – perhaps best summarized as “take my god-blooded teenager and provide a more compliant version”. Alas! Many gods produced God-Blooded offspring, not realizing just what it took to raise a mortal child.

Well… it was a bit WEIRD, but the originals could be free, the new ones would not have gotten to exist otherwise, and they were created so as to be happy with the situations they were in… He’d have to try to keep that one quiet though!

Which would work until somebody and their duplicate were seen in the same place. Still… there was an entire universe for them to be out of the way in – and he could help out the rebellious originals! New clothing styles, tattoos, body sculpting (with magic) and so on, all free! And… it was pretty much inevitable that most of them would go for the LEAST Yu-Shan look that they could manage – which pretty much meant avoiding Asian themes. That should patch most of that for the time being!

He had to admit that Red-Eyed Mahanja had been quite right about what would shortly happen once her daughter moved into Aden – but that wasn’t really a big deal. He had plenty of room and several aspects there and she’d traded away her interests in the girl readily enough.

OK, maybe that was throwing huge gobs of power at minor personal problems – but at the moment he had a LOT more power than time!

Getting back to work, Charles finished up with the Celestial Coffee Carafes – Catherine had been called away while he was working with the Red-Eyed one – just as she came back from the lobby with some LEGITIMATE visitors!

(Catherine) “Hey, Boss! While you were doing… whatever it was you did in there… um, I forget how the one looked, but the other looked like she just finished a really good run. I think it might be urgent.”

(Charles) “Is something up?”

(Catherine) “They kind of invited themselves in. The credentials were good, though.”

And she pointed him towards the “waiting room” – the first floor entry chambers, the last spot for unpurified visitors. Beyond that point were the purification chambers, the main facility, and a few rooms for quick naps during long projects.

There were only two visitors at the moment – two women. One was wearing a lovely short yellow dress and boots and looked like she’d been on a long run. The other… even Dudael was straining to get through THAT level of cloaking, but it was a veiled, violet-eyed woman with a sad look on her face. Somehow she had managed to get a blade through security, although it was currently sheathed and peace-bonded.

And radiating enormous power. Mercury and Saturn. Journeys and Endings…

Well no wonder the person manning the desk was in shock; one Maiden alone was considered a mind-boggling visitor to have in Heaven. Of course… Charles HAD just meddled big-time with their purview!

(Charles, bowing slightly) “My ladies of Journeys and Endings… I am honored to have you visit! Would you like some peanut butter chocolates?

He still had some boxes about, including a few of ambrosial ones.

(Mercury) “Haha! I hear you make good ones. That’d be nice before we get to business – maybe a tour of the place too. We could see how Za’el is doing… What do you say, sister?”

Saturn nodded.

(Charles) “Certainly!”

The chocolates arrived courtesy of Dudael’s telekinetic “assistance”.

(Mercury) “Seriously, though, kid, you’re… meddling in things that predate shaped existence.”

And her table manners were impeccable – but it seemed that the Maiden of Journeys ate like a bird.

(Charles, thoughtfully) “Well… there doesn’t seem to be a lot of choice. SOMEBODY has to do it – and no one else seems to be prepared to. So… I guess it’s me.”

(Saturn) “But do you fully understand the interaction between the Loom and Nox?”

Even with Dudael’s defenses, it was a struggle to remember her words.

(Charles) “Probably not! The loom seems to set reality exclusion parameters – and I’d guess that Nox acts to help it avoid overlap with other probability-trees, thus avoiding universe-intersections. Secondarily, it acts to integrate the limited selection of probability lines it allows to exist within its purview into a single – far more “real” and stable – universe. I can’t really guarantee that though! I haven’t had enough time to talk to it and Nox!”

(Mercury, fidgeting) “Hey, show us around while we talk! We know you’ve made some alterations to the place, and it’d be fun to see those!”

Charles stepped up the pace – and showed them that all of the facilities – and the boosts – were in full operation now!

(Mercury) “Anyway… yeah, that’s pretty much what Ayuji does for Heaven and Creation. Now NOX, on the other hand – hoo… Yeah, he kind of does that… and binds those probability lines together, and makes universes interact when they need to. I think. Nox was… weird.”

(Saturn) “And THAT’S why we want to make sure you know what you’re meddling with! You’re not working on just one universe when you’re working on Nox.”

(Charles) “I did know that! There are LOTS of him all tangled together there…”

(Mercury) “Quick question for you, kid: how many of those were bound into the Loom?”

(Charles) “Hm… I’m not sure that the answer is meaningful in what may be an infinite number… Given that it’s a binary decision in an infinite plenum, it should be half – and will remain so, no matter how many are loosed or bound UNLESS that can be done in a sequence that sums to an infinite total within a finite time. What I could see… tended to confirm that.”

(Mercury handing Saturn a fairly large quantity of Ambrosial Chocolates) “Aw… I thought that we’d been more successful than that. Maybe we could have you check.”

(Saturn) “Those unbound Noxes can feel what you are doing – and we can’t guarantee all of them will agree with it.”

(Mercury) “Yeah, he and Luna… both pretty mercurial, which I bet you knew already!”

(Charles) “Well, yes – but it’s a probability thing; if 10% of the Nox’s that are not bound disapprove of others being unbound, and half of them move to interfere… on the average, they may each wind up being opposed by a fraction of a Charles-Nox combo, by one, or by many. It’s hard to say without actual observations to try and get a basis from!”

(Mercury) “So you see our problem… unlike him, we can’t see into any universe but our own without GOING there. While that would be a fun vacation, we had a hard enough time doing well enough in the Games to get time for you!”

(Saturn) “Though if your plans DO work, we might not have to worry about that so much. Our stars are ascending at the moment.”

(Charles) “Well… as I said… at this point I don’t think there’s a lot of choice!”

(Mercury, chuckling) “Not really, no. The cycle is changing. I’m not sure how much of that is you and how much of that is Yu-Shan herself. But you’ve made things more interesting!”

(Charles) “That’s a good thing I think… otherwise the eons would get boring!”

(Saturn) “Even if you are messing with things even the Solar Deliberative stayed well away from. I am NOT looking forward to the weaving from this. Oh, yeah! You do realize if you free Nox, HER (indicating Catherine, and allowing her to remember) powers are going to be affected by that?”

(Catherine) “What!?”

(Mercury) “Don’t look so astonished! You hear him talking to you.”

(Charles) “That did seem likely… although the usual voice was female that’s not a big deal for a god on your level.”

(Mercury) “Nah, that was Ayuji talking to her… And that fellow who came out was a Nocturnal alternate of somebody here. Hey, Saturn, wasn’t the signature linked to one of Nox’s equivalents to yours?”

(Saturn, nodding) “He’s… meddling with YOUR powers too, dear.”

(Catherine, bowing) “Boss, who’s Ayuji? Why are INCARNAE taking an interest in me?”

(Charles, to Catherine) “Uhrm… well, I will need you to promise not to pass the information around for six weeks!”

(Catherine) “Oooh boy… um. Lady Mercury, if I can be so bold… just how dangerous is this information?’

(Mercury) “Pretty! You’d better swear that oath.”

(Catherine, doing so – even if the way that the meaning of words that she’d never heard before forced their way into consciousness was more than a bit unnerving… What kind of language FORCED you to understand it when spoken?) “Okay, done!”

(Charles) “Well… Much of Gaia’s energies are tied into Creation to maintain it’s physical reality. She had help however… Yu-Shan is Gaia’s “sister” – and she is unconscious because HER energies are tied into creation to maintain it’s mental and destiny structures. Ayuji, the Weaver Who Is Her Own Thread is Yu-Shan’s Feitch soul – and is better known as the Loom of Fate. The basic problem is that Yu-Shan is dying; attempting to alter her geomancy was probably not really a good idea – and there are several other factors and overstrain. Thus… I am constructing a stabilization system for Creation to relieve the strain on Yu-Shan and allow her to detach without destroying the universe and working on healing her. If she is not healed… all too soon she will die, and become a new Neverborn. The city will be sucked into the Labyrinth, the gods will be thrown into oblivion or – at best – become monsters of the underworld and Creation – deprived of half it’s support and tied to a Neverborn at it’s core – will be in a race between collapsing into the Labyrinth and dissolving into the Wyld. (He paused briefly) There are a lot of things to fix!”

(Catherine, trying to process all the implications) “Wait, WHAT?”

(Charles) “ know that’s quite a chunk of exposition… but you did ask!”

(Saturn) “Altering her geomancy… was the best option out of an assortment of bad ones.”

(Mercury) “Let’s see… there was the supercharger array, the dispersal Manse network, the “just feed him to a shinma” plan… By the way, that one would have made him very cross in the other shards!”

(Saturn) “It would have put him out of his misery, you must admit.”

(Charles) “Ah well! I haven’t seen what the other options were, so…”

(Mercury) “But yeah… I get the feeling you want to fix Nox, right? (her gaze went unfocused for a few moments)… Scratch that, you already have. A good start, anyway.”

(Charles) “Well, amongst other things; I’ve restored sanity to OUR version and a few hundred others, but that’s going to be a long-term thing – depending on how many other versions of me get involved of course.”

(Mercury) “Well, YOU’RE the one who’s going to deal with them! I’m pretty sure not all versions of you are all sweetness and light.”

(Saturn) “And we have enough headaches dealing with ONE of you.”

(Charles) “I’m sorry about that!”

(Mercury) “Yeah… if you start messing with us directly, that’s going to be a problem! For one thing… you weren’t on the list.”

Saturn gave Mercury SUCH a LOOK.

(Charles) “Well… elsewhere various other combinations of Incarnae are probably in charge… What list?”

(Mercury) “Nothing too important. Hey, do you know the spot where Za’el merged with the Manse? Because I do!”

(Charles) “Nope! Where is it?”

(Mercury) “Let me have some more of those sweets, and I’ll show you!”

Charles passed her another box!

(Mercury) “Tasty! And… it’s the center of the factory floor. See, from this rumor I heard back when we lived in Meru, he got fed up with how much Autochthon was changing his soul structure…”

That was quite an involved story – although it could be summarized as “Za’el got worried that Autochthon was going to replace him and merged with the Manse.”

Charles – thanks to having incorporated a Synergistic Overmind operating outside of fate into his own mind and to the Privacy Manse – was still, despite the distraction attempt, wondering about “the list”. Hm… it looked like even his deductive powers didn’t extend to pre-creation material that had been concealed by Jupiter or the other Maidens…

Well, that wasn’t that much of a surprise!

There were always ways around though! Grandfather Richof probably wouldn’t do – but he DID have a link and a gate to Great-Grandmother (?) Gauderis! He could ask her!

(Gauderis) “Aden? Have you completed those artifacts yet?”

(Charles) “Not quite! I’ve got the manses I’ll need ready though, and the artifacts, and plans, and most other things… For yours I need to get some ingredients from the Hannya!”

(Gauderis, with a vague rumbling and grinding of internal components) “Well! That was… insanely fast.”

(Charles) “Not that fast! I’m not done yet… But I was referred to you for a question about a list!” (and he explained).

(Gauderis) “Grr… Fates. How frustrating! They appeared when we started interacting with each other, and none of us could remember who actually made them! Surely at least two of us were involved, so we compared subselves, and mythoses, and geomancies – but none of us could determine who made them, or what combinations! What a breach in our vigilance! And… they were INCOMPLETE. At least with Nox, Rametheus knew who was responsible! And Oramus, Isidoros, and the Dragon’s Shadow FINISHED the job! For the Fates, all we had was… a list of speculations.”

(Charles) “Ah, the list of possible origins then! Did you finish them up?”

(Gauderis) “Hrm… we rediscovered Yu-Shan before that happened, and then we got distracted by what she had eaten.”

Ah, that would be the Games of Divinity!

(Gauderis) “I was never a high possibility, anyway… But what do you need the list FOR?”

Charles had to think about that for a moment… After all, he’d described how it had come up – but what DID he need it for?

Well, it would be a VERY interesting ingredient in a loom-supplement artifact, and he might well need one of those!

He explained.

(Charles) “Had Yu-Shan wandered off or something?”

(Gauderis) “Why yes! She had no interest in the games of kings and swords and left to find her own things to do. Then Adrian found her floating in the far darkness, told us, and we packed up to retrieve our wayward baby sister. We were bored anyway.”

(Charles) “Hm… so no one knows who made the fates, they arrived incomplete… sort of… tenuous? I’ve seen that with an item I’ll be making in about four and a half years now, but which showed up in someone’s possession already.”

(Gauderis) “Exactly. Now I’m told they became more distinct from one another when Creation was finished-and their agents in me seem to show that – but I’ll always know them as those five stony sisters who confused us so much!”

(Charles, once again leaping to conclusions) “So… they most likely arrived from a possible future – and their nature is to guide the course of history towards a particular goal; almost certainly the one that creates and sends them back since other futures will not be unique. Their arrival – first (whatever that means) would automatically cut off other possible futures from doing the same thing by decreasing their probability until they’re too tenuous to have an effect. Thus they will know that some events are NECESSARY (and will force them), but others may be irrelevant. Nox… would be a counterpart, existing to unify the remaining possibility lines. Before Nox was created… a sheaf of possible universes would have branched off. The ones we’re in contact with are those which also produced a version of Nox. I wonder it it’s a transfinite set or not? And… they’ve become more complete as they near the time of their creation and their existence becomes more certain. Once that time is passed, and they’ve been created and sent back… they should be complete.”

(Gauderis) “When my devas have spoken to their agents, they say time doesn’t flow the same for us as it does gods and mortals. Is this true?”

(Charles) “Yes… Each world-body has it’s own timestream. I would guess that yours is relatively slow since stability is one of your aspects. Since Devas and Primordials are naturally outside of fate… time need not be quite so linear for them; thus the Broken-Winged Crane and the fates themselves.”

(Gauderis) “The King tried to put controls on that when we made Creation. He was successful… mostly. Less so these days, it seems – but that is what happens when you expel the creators!”

(Charles) “Well, it does make things a lot simpler to keep time more or less linear… someone is meddling with it though; that may be possible simply because Ayuji and Nox are able to act more effectively now – and can probably choose to permit exemptions.”

(Gauderis) “I miss Ayuji… all she wanted was for things to MAKE SENSE.”

(Charles) “Well, she’s doing better now!”

(Gauderis) “Ah! You had better be careful with her! If she dies, all your hard work will be for naught!”

(Charles) “I try to make sure that nobody gets hurt!”

(Gauderis) “Now, your list… if you’re wanting a physical copy, He Who Bleeds the Unknown Word had a copy, though I THINK he was one of the ones who suffered feitch death. I have no idea who he might be.”

(Charles) “Hm… He’s now Elloge, the Sphere of Silence – and a female Yozi”.

Information on what they used to be like would probably help fix them! And Gauderis would want to know what had happened to all her friends.

(Gauderis) “He… he would eat the knowledge we had accumulated and let us cut him open when we needed it again. Thus, He Who Bleeds the Unknown Word. I see that fetich death took away his voice as well as his manhood.”

Hm… Given that Yozi’s current form, he might have to pay Elloge a visit when he went to Malfeas. Everything in Elloge was iconography.

(Charles) “Well… more fixing!”

(Gauderis) “I’ll hold you to that!”

Gauderis broke contact just in time for Mercury to finish the story; she’d happily gone into an explanation of Za’el’s journeys across Creation to find the components for certain gods. Of particular interest, Lytek…

Charles found that very interesting! Even if he’d thought that Lytek had been a later replacement!

(Mercury, nudging his shoulder) “See, kid, your god Lytek was originally just a god of reflected light. He just wound up with a field promotion!”

Charles considered that fair enough – and rather appropriate symbolically!

(Mercury) “But Za’el made him from high-quality materials, and that’s why he has the position he does today!”

(Charles) “Well, I like him! Za’el did a really good job!”

(Saturn) “Of course you do, kid. Speaking of jobs… how would you feel about an official position with the Bureaucracy?”

(Charles) “Er… I’m sort of busy right now… What sort of job? And maybe later?”

Aaagh! Audits!

(Mercury) “The Bureau of Heaven could use a straight-shooter like you to shake the place up. I’d have to talk about it with the Sun, of course, but we could get you a position in the Division of Infrastructure. And maybe in a few months. Years? We’d have to get another pair of avatars out.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, that will be long after this project is over… it should work out; otherwise that sword from the future probably wouldn’t have arrived..”.

He finished up the tour. Catherine needed the time to think anyway! It was fairly obvious that she was more than a little freaked out by all this – and was suddenly putting a LOT more urgency on the “WHAT are YOU!?!?!?” question!

Well, to be fair, virtually everyone else had already asked him that at this point.

(Saturn) “Thank you for hosting us, Charles.”

Well, really… it was sort of required if you were in heaven and they came to visit! Turning on the Veilward would have given him about a 60% chance of diverting them into another universe in theory – but that would have made a HORRIBLE mess!

(Charles) “You’re quite welcome! I’m sorry it’s so much trouble for you to get out and about these days… I’ll have to think about ways to make that easier… perhaps an avatar-making booster artifact?”

(Mercury) “Ooh! More avatars to get to more places at once… it would be nice to get the solar system fully mapped.”

(Charles) “Oh! That I should be able to get for you… (he pulled a map from I AM) Here you are! Is that what you wanted?”

(Mercury, who was not at all surprised by that) “I thought it was running around somewhere! I’ll have to catch up to it.”

(Saturn) “Oh, and Charles, a small favor?”

(Charles) “What do you need?”

(Saturn) “Your Song of Creation will overlap with Calibration. Could you delay its completion until my annual contest with the Sun begins?”

Every year, at the Carnival of Meeting – the third day of Calibration – the Sun and Saturn had a contest. It could be anything. She had always lost the contest, and no one knew what would happen if she won!

Personally, Charles doubted that it would be anything much. Despite the mythology about the “Unconquered Sun” and it being a part of his nature… he was a god with attributes and charms, not a defining part of reality. If he got beaten… well, he got beaten! Better luck next time!

Did they have some enormous bet riding on it?

(Charles) “Hm… I don’t know! I can try – but if it comes to a choice between finishing and inviting some disaster while waiting, I’ll have to finish!”

(Saturn) “We shall see.”

(Mercury) “Hey, come on! I want to visit Venus’s baths before the Games need us again!”

(Charles) “I can give you a quick lift if you can use it!”

(Mercury, producing a giant kite out of nowhere) “Nah, we’re good. I just need a high enough takeoff point, and I can fly us both there!”

Charles cheerfully assembled a giant launch-pad catapult on the roof – and they flew off, somehow going unnoticed thanks to Saturn’s cloaking.

(Catherine, watching them go) “Okay, Boss… WHAT IN MALFEAS ARE YOU?”

(Charles, switching things back to the perfect privacy wards) “Well… I seem to have started off Deva-Blooded – but that didn’t have much effect before I exalted as a Solar when I was eight. Lytek and probably Devon had been doing a bit of tinkering with things though, and these days I probably qualify as a Primordial too. I needed to do a lot of expanding to get enough capacity to fix things!”

That didn’t really help.

(Catherine) “WHAT? Deva-Blooded – which shouldn’t be possible. Solar, probably Twilight, MAYBE Zenith. But PRIMORDIAL?”

Hm… She’d never been to Aden had she? He’d had over… a few demons, a couple of gods from school, various Sidereals and Solars, some random young women, Righteous Hala, a few ghosts, some Raksha, some Dragon-Blooded, some Scientists and Bureaucrats, and lots of refugees – but no Nocturnals that he knew of! Even Astrid hadn’t been over…

(Charles) “Well… if you’d like a look, the world-body is just through here at the moment!”

(Catherine) “Gah! But it shouldn’t be possible for a Solar to be a Primordial…”

(Charles, thoughtfully) “I don’t really see why not… Once you really start working on a world-body most of it comes naturally. Pursue that path far enough, and, well…”

(Catherine) “Surely SOME record would have been left of this happening. That’s… that’s unprecedented!”

(Charles) “Oh well! There seems to be some precedent… the Solar Exaltations have a lot of potentials that are normally latent, but they can be reset to use those instead of the usual set. Thus the current Deathlords are distinguished by possessing Tomb-Bodies, which are pocket worlds for the dead, while Infernals can develop them. It’s just not one of the usual accessible ability sets – but, as I mentioned, Lytek and probably Devon were doing some tinkering!”

(Catherine) “Wha… wow. Let’s see what you’ve done with the place, then.”

Charles – as cheerily as usual – had this aspect play tour guide for a bit while he worked elsewhere. Catherine was quite impressed with the place and asked many, many questions – notably “Can I do this? It looks really useful to have your own internal facilities!”.

(Charles) “I don’t really know! Given the nature of your abilities though… it SHOULD be possible for you to develop a charm which gives entry to a realm that you could learn to generate by some means – but you’d likely have to share with other versions of yourself… want to check? You can drop it if you don’t like it!”

(Catherine) “Wait, you can just GIVE people complex Charms like that?”

(Charles) “Well, it takes a little work! See… this area is undeveloped, so first a demesne, then a manse designed to provide you with a boost to your charm selection with that one in particular! Since the pattern spiders are cranky at the moment – (being reminded, he sent more artifact presents to help out!) but I have more than enough computational capacity available to design it directly now anyway. So… one appropriate Manse… and now you just need to attune to it!”

(Catherine) “You just built a Manse in seconds! Why do you need to work at a factory-cathedral?”

(Charles) “Every tool helps – and Factory-Cathedrals are very good ones once you can tap into them remotely!”

(Catherine) “Huh. Why not just build your own in here, then? You’d be much less likely to get audited when the Bureaucracy finally wakes up!”

(Charles) “I made a couple of dozen – but Dudael is the current incarnation of one of Autochthons second circles and has some very interesting archives!”

(Catherine) “Oookay then… that’s pretty unique.”

She gingerly attuned to the place as Charles waited to see the results of yet another one of his incredibly reckless experiments!

Shortly thereafter… two people came out of the manse! Catherine and a similarly-attired man!

(Charles) “Allo!”

(Catherine) “Ha! Boss, it worked… a little too well. Meet Christopher Wingates.”

(Christopher) “Aw, man, Ajulf warned me about this. Does this happen a lot in your shard – um, what’s the male name for Charlotte?”

(Charles) “Charlie? Although that might cause confusion too…”

(Christopher) “Charlie works. Let me guess, you built a Manse so she could pick up another Charm.”

(Charles) “Yep! And the most likely method of accessing that, er… meeting hall – is for a somewhat similar version of myself to have built a similar manse? Ergo, a strong selection pressure!”

(Christopher) “Well, this is going to suck… I was going to meet my fiancee for dinner. If you’re anything like MY Boss, though…”

(Charles) “Well… I don’t see why you can’t just go back through – unless the actual result of the charm was not at all what I intended!”

(Christopher) “Huh. Well, I’ll check… Okay, yeah, it’s still open. Whew! Now I won’t have to listen to my girl rant like poor Ajulf did!”

He waved goodbye and left.

(Catherine) “Huh, that was weird . . could’ve gotten something weirder than a gender swap, though.”

(Charles) “Bye!… I take it that – on emerging into this reality in company – your alternate got swapped into a male form?”

(Catherine) “Yeah, I think so. Maybe there always has to be a difference…”

(Charles) “Oh yes; Pattern Exclusion is built into the universe; I think it’s to avoid possible infinite loops; it’s why people cannot be resurrected… that pattern has been excluded. Since you were already here, normally your alternate could not enter – but your powers are based on bending reality a bit; ergo the pattern shifted to make it different enough to come in!”

(Catherine) “Hmm… I wonder how small that difference can be.”

(Charles) “Nonetheless, while the “crossroads” realm will be a resource for many versions of yourself, you can also cooperate with yourself in adding facilities even if it WILL be on time-share… it should be quite handy and comes with free advice!”

(Catherine) “Well, thanks, Boss. Um… still not wanting anything in return for all this stuff?”

(Charles) “I don’t really need much of anything! I suppose if you pick up any interesting insights from alternates they might be nice to hear about though!”

(Catherine) “Well, okay, then. I just expected a Primordial to be more… demanding.”

(Charles) “Why? I can make the vast majority of the things I need, and still have lots of capacity to spare. I might as well put it to use helping out!”

Huh… was her boss actually building a personal mythos around being benevolent and helpful? Sure, that was NICE – but he must have been pretty sheltered! He could walk into all KINDS of trouble acting like that – or get exploited mercilessly!

(Catherine) “Do any of the others like me know about all THIS?”

(Charles) “Well… not at the moment! I’m trying to keep complications down for the next six weeks or so though!”

(Catherine) “I guess you’ve got a lot on your plate. Need any help with that?”

(Charles) “Help is always handy! If you want to look at the plans… well, I made a coordination and planning manse for it!”

She took a look…

The plans were more complex than ever, what with the Deva inputs – but Charles had, of course, made a manse and special systems to track it and to explain it to people. That way he didn’t have to keep doing it manually!

(Christine) “This is REALLY BIG. Can you really protect all that at once while you’re working on it?”

(Charles) “Well… I do have a fair amount of forces available – but interference is certain and the balance of hidden allies and opponents is uncertain. I can’t be SURE – but I think the odds are much better than not trying!”

(Catherine) “I might have to see what we can do to help out. Subtly, so I don’t break that oath… gah!”

(Charles) “Well… if you think people really need to know, it’s not breaking it to bring them to me OR to give them jobs without telling them why. Or you could bring them to any of the Devas!”

(Catherine) “I’ll see if I can get everyone gathered!”

(Charles) “Oh, if you want to check… Astrid has the information too!”

(Catherine) “Okay then… might as well start working with her, then. Mind if I take some time off? This is going to be like herding cats in some ways!”

(Charles) “Go right ahead! We’re way ahead on the order schedule anyway!”