Hopefully, now that the holiday insanity is over with, I can get back to updating here regularly…
The last few days had been filled with endless checklists, as Charles made sure that everything was ready, that backups were ready, that all important points were protected, and that all the normal people – like his parents, and the cheetah-kid messengers, and the girls, and the refugees were all in secure shelters. Even in Aden… some of those disruptors might figure out how to sabotage his geomancy. Hopefully he’d surrounded all the important points and people in Aden and Yu-Shan with enough protection
Geomantic Sabotage could really be trouble! His current limits were pretty high – but he’d never really been in a all-out fight and couldn’t claim to be good at it even when he wasn’t massively distracted and committing a huge chunk of his power. He’d just have to hope that he had enough reserves and powers that he’d never displayed to counter the stuff that he’d never seen.
Which, when you came down to it, was all sorts of things. Still… there wasn’t much for it but to assume that the number of creatures who wanted to hold the universe together would outnumber the ones who wanted it to come apart, at least locally!
That had been one of the “hidden” criteria on which third circles to invite after all, even if the main purpose was to make it clear that help for the Yozi’s was also on the schedule!
And then… buds suddenly rose from the ground at six locations in Yu-Shan, including within the pavilion! They were… made of adamant, with orichalcum and white jade grooves, and matched the local Essence patterns of their environments perfectly. The adamant portions glowed faintly from within.
Oh dear. A manifestation of Yu-Shan?
(Charles) “Uhrm… Hi?”
The bud didn’t respond to verbal communication, so Charles checked with the Lions and the Tenders. This seemed like it would be in their field!
(Arelis Sorrowhands) “Ha! It would seem the young mistress is freeing herself! THAT is what it looks like when the Celestial Plain grows her lesser jouten. From the ornate pattern… she’s growing her Third Circle self there.”
(Charles) “Hrum! Well… I’ll check to see if I’ll have to recalibrate anything… and assign some guards to them”
It wasn’t that the pattern itself had changed, just the strength of the geomantic energy flowing through it. It was going to bump up uncomfortably against the suppressive geomancy – but that was already going to be revamped and separated… so Yu-Shan would manifest on the tender/overseer/original version level. That ought to work out OK!
The least ornate three were scattered at the outskirts of the central quarter. A slightly more ornate one had appeared at the center of the Calibration Gate’s plaza; you could draw lines between the other gates inside and they’d meet right where that bud was. Another like it had sprouted near where the control Manse for Project Stanewald was.
A major geomantic control center at the boundaries of the geomantic conflict? Charles hoped that she wasn’t going to try to tinker too much! She was certainly entitled to, but there were problems with patient participation in delicate surgery when the patient was half comatose! There was a reason why surgeons didn’t let the patient take the knife and help out just as they were recovering from anethesia…
Charles checked with Cangha. This could get very awkward!
(Cangha) “Hello again, Aden! What a spectacular time this is!”
(Charles) “Yes indeed! Things are about to go! But… I was wondering what Yu-Shan was up to; if she starts trying to take control before she’s fully awake, things might go very wrong!”
(Cangha) “The progenitor wishes to investigate all the layers you are creating within her world-self. To fulfill this desire, she has decided to deploy all her jouten at once. They had to be reabsorbed into her greater self before she fell asleep. Thus . . . she’s regrowing them. But have no fears! Her contact with human wishes and desires means she won’t deliberately harm them!… I can’t promise that for the Shapeless as much. She gets rough when she’s playing with them.”
(Charles) “Oh well! I was mostly wondering if she’d be wanting to start tweaking things while I was working… She’s certainly entitled, but I didn’t think that it would really be a good idea.”
(Cangha) “Err . . . that’s VERY likely. I wouldn’t try to dissuade her, either. Remember, she’s deigning to let you alter her body.”
(Charles, sighing) “I was kind of hoping to hold down the number of active participants… oh well! At least she’ll be working towards a coherent goal, rather than disruption!”
(Cangha) “It should be interesting. She’ll want to get to shaping as soon as she’s awake-and probably on multiple layers.”
(Charles) “Well, I hope that she’ll study it a bit first!”
(Cangha) “I can’t guarantee that!”
(Charles) “I wouldn’t have thought you could… but the suggestion might get through. I know she’s going to be pretty impatient to get to doing things, but thinking first is almost always a good idea!”
Cangha agreed to try – and that was all that Charles could ask.
Meanwhile, a lot of the kids from school wanted to watch the concert – although most of them were sensible enough to not want to come physically! Well… setting up a remote panoramic experience for them and the girls and anyone in Aden who wanted to watch was simple enough. It didn’t even take much of a speciality manse! He made sure that there were invitations and guides and gates to get them there – although he also made sure to let them know that he was going to be involved with a major project, and that unless there was some really major problem that could not be solved with local assistance and resources, they should PLEASE not disturb him for a bit.
Huh! Quite a few of them seemed much more interested in getting into Aden, watching him, exploring the place a bit, and otherwise fooling around, than in the event! Sure, Aden had a lot of fun things to do, but the concert was going to be a once-off event! Why would they want to see anything else before it was over?
Oh yeah. They didn’t really know that.
Come to think of it, neither did he! He might have to do it again some time at that!
The shouting match at the Pavilion actually turned out to have nothing much to do with him! It was just an argument over who got to sit closest to the Sun and Saturn’s contest. This year, it was sumi-e painting, and it was taking place… right next door! Right next to the central point of a powerful ritual, with a Primordial growing a jouten there too. And the contest would be taking place… right at the climax of the music unless he intentionally tried to evade Saturn’s request…
Well, that could get a little odd! Still, nothing had come up to stop it – and the final moments of calibration were a time when energy naturally settled into it’s new patterns for the year – a very good time to finish the working.
With his preparations finally complete, Charles spent the last few hours greeting guests. Some of the ones who usually had a hard time getting invitations were showing up a bit early to have a look around the carnival before the main event!
First up among the important ones… There was a young man arriving in the pavilion, with auburn hair and fine, flawless robes of emerald sampling the wines of heaven – and there was much confusion, frantic messaging, and general upset! Why was Ligier the Green Sun walking around in the Carnival of Meeting? Even that did not normally have Yozi guests! Why were the Incarnae not doing anything about this? Why wasn’t he sampling MY wines?
Charles made sure that Ligier had an escort to keep people from annoying him, and that he was provided with a selection of celestial wines and went to welcome him to the concert!
Ligier… seemed to find him rather amusing – and was looking at Yu-Shan’s Jotun-bud with some satisfaction!
Charles didn’t mind the oldest powers in the universe finding him amusing – and got the sense that he might do a little more, if he didn’t have so many celestial lions watching! He didn’t seem dismayed by them, though.
Of course, he did have twice their Essence, and could crush them very easily. Still, as Charles usually tried to arrange… things were currently moving in a direction to his benefit, so there was no reason to! Or so Charles hoped!.
Orabilis arrived looking around with some disapproval. He too spotted the bud – although his facial expression was far more ambiguous. Was that some minor talent of his? He WAS a keeper of secrets, and would almost certainly be protected against simple expressions revealing his own thoughts…
Charles made sure that he too was considerately hosted!
Orabilis deigned to speak with him, while Ligier watched with much bemusement.
(Orabilis, in a voice of rustling pages forming the words of a tongue long extinct) “Charles Dexter Ward… You are very wise for your age, but much is still hidden beyond barriers that you have yet to breach. In that ignorance, can you accomplish what you have dared to try? That tale… is not yet written.”
(Charles, after an instant to get a translation program running) “Hello Sir! While what I know is very little compared to the End of All Wisdom, He who Sets Stars Against the Night, I make do with what I have – and I am glad that you could come!”
(Orabilis) “It is rare to be invited into Creation in such a way, and rarer still for scholars to be pleased with my visitations… In truth, I would have come for you sooner were it not for your ever-more unusual status.”
For knowing too many secrets? Oh, that had to be frustrating for poor Orabilis! Using the Privacy Manse meant that not even Orabilis could know if HE knew forbidden knowledge, and even if he did, he didn’t know it all the time… Not to mention that he might be sort of outside his authority and awkward to try to deal with anyway!
(Charles) “Well, I will have some work to do in Malfeas fairly shortly… almost everybody there needs help!”
(Orabilis) “Ah? Now how so?”
And Ligier became a little more alert.
(Charles) “Well… quite a lot of functions and freedoms were lost during the war, and many of the feedback loops governing the essence-flows in everyone were disrupted. Now, in some cases, that may have improved function – it can happen – but in a lot of cases things have gotten worse, and will need some fixing up! Leaving people hurt is not a good thing!”
(Orabilis) “I suppose that is one way of describing it.” (And now he was amused.) “Pray tell, how do you intend to do this?”
(Charles, happily) “I’ve been designing artifacts to make up for the damage and allow self-correction. Using artifacts is better because if the people using them don’t like the effects, they can just deattune them and turn them off!”
(Orabilis) “Huh. I see. That might or might not work. That would depend on whether or not you can learn certain things known only to the Yozis.”
(Charles) “You never know until you try! And it would be wrong not to try!”
(Orabilis) “I assume this would require you to enter the city and treat with the titans, yes?”
(Charles) “Uh-huh! That’s part of the work I’ll have to do there!”
(Orabilis) “I see. Well, it should be curious seeing how they react to someone of your unique nature coming into the city… or the desert, for that matter. The words from that should spawn several new libraries at the very least!”
(Charles, still happily) “More stuff to learn!”
Within the impenetrable privacy of his own mind Orabilis had to wonder… Was this child really that simple? He really seemed to think that he could simply… drop by and set to work fixing everything and anything! The child was well on the way to being a true Primordial – and perhaps even something beyond a natural Primordial – but there were older and far more experienced powers. The youngster had his elemental poles, his manse-emanations had become true devas, his mind was multiplex and nigh-unfathomable… but he had little to no idea of how crazy some of the Yozis were! While it would be nice to have his progenitor in solid form again, and the child likely DID have the power to fix things, would he be permitted to do so? As powerful as he had become… the massed strength of the Yozi’s could easily throw him out of Malpheas and bar the way to his return if he displeased them! Still, if he succeeded in healing Yu-Shan… who knew what that would lead to?
Over the next few hours, as more and more Third Circle guests arrived, the mood in the Carnival as a whole shifted from fear to curiosity. The Yozi’s didn’t seem to be attacking, despite the fact that they were at the center of Yu-Shan!
The Celestial Lions had to move gawkers along pretty regularly.
And then, there was shouting and the faint feeling of reality blurring a bit outside.
Oh dear. Had Oramus decided to attend in person? Charles had thought that he was going to settle for remote viewing… He went to check!
Outside the pavilion… there was a massively powerful being out there! It looked like a man made out of shimmering fractals, in a long white coat, with eyes like starry black voids. He was waving his four limbs around, looking very distraught. The air around him also shimmered with fractals, and those looked pretty maddening! Nearby gods were gibbering. Some had ducked and hidden their eyes as the Lions tried to hold him back!
Charles added a touch of memory-erasure where needed.
(Charles) “Hello there!”
(Being) “Where’s Ayuji!? I need to talk to Ayuji! “WHERE’S AYUJI?”
Time for a quiet area and a phone!
(Charles) “Is something wrong?”
His arms waved like springs cleaving dimensions as Charles maneuvered him into a quieter area. It was quite disconcerting even from his protected perspective, like one of those “Magic Eye” books when you got it right.
(Being) “Oramus sent me to find Ayuji! Where’s Ayuji?”
(Charles) “Well, she’s still manifesting as the Loom of Fate! But I’ve got a communications link right here…”
(Being, radiating – or extending – in strange fractal patterns that didn’t fit within reality) “I will bend reality to find Ayuji!”
Charles set up a direct link! It was much simpler than bending reality… besides, the structures around the Loom of Fate were visible from here anyway.
(Being) “Ayuji?! Where are you? What? Stuck? I’ll save you!”
Oh dear! Now he seemed to be intent on going straight to the Loom Chamber, and was looking out a window at it and starting to REALLY warp things!
CHARLES called Ayuji! With I AM helping and some extra manses – she surely had enough spare power to manifest or at least to use her new remote!
Ayuji sent her remote over right away. Oramus had to be worse off than she thought; that – as she informed Charles – was Feng, the Atelier of Realities Unshackled, and neither She nor Charles wanted him running around unsupervised. He broke the universe down into a selection of REALLY low-probability results and picked the one he wanted! A VERY frustrating sort to deal with if you were a part of Creation, since what he was doing operated both within it’s rules – the breakdown of future possibilities by negating Ayuji’s grasp on Creation – and without them! (Binding the results back together to avoid a localized Time of Cascading Years).
At least as far as what he did fit into words anyway.
(Ayuji) “Oh yes! A friend of Xiang’s! Very helpful for dealing with Shapeless!”
(Charles) “Well, Ayuji’s here, and doing fine… was there anything else you needed Mr Feng?”
(Feng) “I don’t want to go back in the wings! The wings are scary and I can’t find anything in there!”
(Charles) “Well, there’s no real reason to… would you like to spend a little time on a nice quiet private planet?”
(Feng) “I want to talk to Yu-Shan! Er… if she’ll let me.”
(Charles) “Perhaps in a couple of days when she’s awake? That’s hardly any time at all!”
(Feng) “Can I watch? I want to be in the pavilion with the others!”
Somehow, despite being with Feng in a private reality-fold…. Charles could see Ligier, behind Feng in the pavilion proper, making eye contact with him and slowly shaking his head.
(Charles) “Err… How about a private spot? That way you can do without all the concealment spells; they must pinch!”
(Feng) “Terribly!… Can I get sprinkle cupcakes there?”
(Charles) “Why not?”
Charles set it up for him and Ayuji’s remote; she was quite pleased to be outside and getting to watch “in person”, even if only in spiri – and it was nice to get a chance to talk ot Feng again. He was one of the few who really understood her work. Charles was simply pleased to be able to accommodate people!
For now anyway. Things would doubtless get more awkward if he did manage to start curing the Yozi’s; he was REALLY hoping that the “there are plenty of empty galaxies to play in!” thing worked out – because if it DIDN’T there was going to be an awful lot of damage if he couldn’t keep the peace! And he really couldn’t have that! Still, even getting them fixed up without letting them back into creation would be a BIG improvement! It would make Malfeas more pleasant at the very least, and make devas like that Feng and Ligier a lot more happy. And if it took a few millennia of study to improve on that…. well, no one had mentioned the quick approach of the end of time yet!
Charles was busy for some time – and was SO glad that he’d been selective about sending invitations to the saner third circles only even if a fair number of more difficult ones had shown up anyway.
Well, he’d TRIED to hold down on the unnecessary complications.