Exalted Diary – Charles

The Narrative of Charles Dexter Ward

   Our first Modern Exalted campaign wasn’t especially successful: the triumvirate of Game-Masters running it were less than clear on the power level and scale of an Exalted game – and so tried to mix in a “slice-of-life” high school setting in a vaguely-defined Atlanta setting on a roughly “normal” Earth. with more serious elements.. After all, High School was the setting a lot of Anime series used – and Exalted was pretty anime-like.

   Unfortunately, there was an immediate split. Some of the characters took up the “slice-of-life” idea and started applying their powers to causing chaos in high school, treating Exalted conflicts like conflicts between high school cliques, casually accepting Abyssal or Solar characters as if they were victims of ethnic, or modern “racial”, discrimination, and ignoring problems a few weeks away as if they’d never arrive. Others – like mine – felt that they had better things to do and started thinking in terms of decades or centuries instead of days. Still others kept trying to bridge the gap. Things got even worse when serious threats to the world put in an appearance. Still, while the game only lasted about three months, it did form the basis for most of our later Exalted: Modern – and even Exalted: Future – games, to which most of the more serious characters were eventually transferred. This section includes the Second, Third, and Fourth-Age summaries for the Exalted: Modern setting and Charles’s personal narrative from the first campaign.

 

Prehistory: The Second Age, Sans Solars

 

   With the marriage of the Scarlet Empress and the Ebon Dragon, the Yozi’s force the gates of creation. The Fair Folk follow in their wake, overrunning the elemental poles as the Wyld annihilates the threshold realms and sweeps towards the shores of the Blessed Isle itself. Released once more into the Wyld, many Yozis, Deathlords, Infernal and Abyssal Exalted, ordinary Men, and Malfeans go free – to reforge themselves in chaos and be reborn.

   Those of the Fey who had adapted too much to Order to welcome Chaos join their power with the defenders in a hasty alliance. It is not enough.

   Gaia concludes that – given the finite speed of the attack – the best defense is distance. She calls upon Autochthon and the collapsing essence of the Defense Grid and shapes a few feet of the Wyld about her – transforming seven feet of boiling chaos into 10 to the one-hundreth power light-years of space filled with other worlds and suns. Many of the people and realms who had been swallowed up in the attack are reborn as alien races and worlds.

   The remnants of Creation become Earth. The dearth of shadowlands on the Blessed Isle, the loss of much of the structure of the underworld, and the transformation of so many wraiths, leaves the forces of the underworld sealed away. It will be many thousands of years before they rise to threaten the Earth.

   The surviving Fey – isolated from the Wyld by distances too great to comprehend and having already thrown their lot in with Order – settle in to isolated pockets of hidden wilderness.

   The Sidereals grasp on Earth is broken. The few who are left focus on maintaining the Loom of Fate and trying to rebuild their strength – and on trying to locate and train the resurgent essences of their fallen comrades. The essence-stars of the Loom diverge from the actual, physical, stars.

   The few surviving Lunars – many stranded in the pocket-worlds left in the wake of the Great Shaping – are unable to locate and train the new Lunar Exalted. They are forced to find their own way.

   The Dragonblooded – those who weren’t burned out by essence surges or slain in the fighting – became the heroes and rulers of the survivors.

   But they were few, and widely separated. The carefully-arranged marriages and conserved bloodlines of power were no more – and so the Dragon-Blooded faded. Every so often the blood would flare up, and a mighty champion or two would arise – but they had little impact.

   The few Abyssal Exalted were locked away with their Lords, most of the Solars slept within a Prison of Jade, and the few Infernal Exalted who yet sought for Gaia found themselves confronted with near-infinite space to search.

 

The Third Age: The Age of Men

 

   The years, like drifting leaves, were gathered into the vaults of the past. With the world reshaped, and the old order swept away, men built civilizations anew with little interference from the Exalted. Gaia, wishing to avoid any disturbances which might draw the Infernal Exalted to her, restrained the Gods. For an age, man made his own way.

 

Recent History: The Fourth Age

 

   With the Age of Exploration, the Dragon-Blooded rose again. Like called to like – whether to mate or battle – and the occasional throwbacks began to find each other, to hear news of each other, and to gather. Dozens of clans arose – competing, allying, warring – and became wealthy and influential, the secret Princes of the Earth.

   There would never be enough to rule outright – men, in their teeming millions, now controlled scientific powers that rivaled the magic of the Dragonblooded – but the remaining Sidereal Elders saw a chance to return things to their “proper order”. They offered their services as advisors and aides – but found that the current crop of Dragonblooded were too fragmented to do much with. Even attempting to get a little more mileage out of the “Anathema” routine wasn’t much help: the Dragonblooded could not be united against a “menace” they couldn’t see.

   The remaining Deathlords began to stir during WWII. So much blood and death, so concentrated, called to them. It opened the way – a narrow passage at first, but enough. The darkness began to rise against the light. Suicide-cults, serial killers, a thousand organizations of hate began to become the rule, rather than the exception. The remaining human Thaumaturgists – already a rare breed – found that attempting to use their powers against the Deathlords was little more than a spectacular way to die.

   Most found that out too late.

   Likely opponents in the Exalted: Modern setting include other Exalted (especially Alchemical, Abyssal, Infernal and Dragonblooded), various Demons – the abandoned children of the Yozi’s especially – confused Lunars, Cyborgs, and an assortment of Aliens.

 

 

  • 1944: The Exalted: Fortress Europe WWII Campaign.

  • 1982: The Infernal Exalted locate the Earth.

  • 2004: The Jade Prison is broken. The Infernals claim 50 Solar Essences, the Deathlords claim 100 – and nearly 200 escape to join the dozen or so which had been free.

  • 2004 (Late): The original Exalted: High School Havoc Campaign.

  • 2005: The Razing of Yu-Shan. An unknown force erupts from a a temporal flaw and virtually levels Yu-Shan. The Games of Divinity are destroyed, and the High Gods once again begin to play an active part in the universe. Yu-Shan is still fairly corrupt, but at least it’s working again.

  • 2007: Autochthon, orbiting a star a few hundred light years away, is detected by his/her/it’s emissions.

  • 2010: FTL drive theory developed. Planning for testing, and a later extra-solar expedition if it works, is begun.

  • 2014: The Deathlords seize control of various military systems and attempt to launch WWIII – and the complete annihilation of all life. Luckily, due to a Warding Against Armageddon, most of the major weapons fail. The Exalted become extensively involved – and apparent to the world.

  • 2015: Rise of the American Empire.

  • 2019: FTL drive theory confirmed.

  • 2022: World War IV. Both Cyborg and Exalted soldiers are deployed, and prove comparable.

  • 2023: Starship design finalized. Construction started.

  • 2030: Starship nearing completion. Testing started.

  • 2032: The Exalted: Stellar Explorers Campaign.

 

-Age 7

 

   That’d been a really weird feeling. Ever since he fell in the lake and there’d been that bright flash he’d been seeing all those neat spirits and things. Still, the bus was really fun. It went to LOTS of neat places. He could do without that pesky Lytek who kept dropping by to pinch his cheek and pat his head though. Even worse than Aunt Telera.

 

-Age 8

 

   Yay! Disney-World! Then Hawaii! Round-the-world!

 

-Age 9

 

   Charles wished the spirits would use a real roof instead of pretend. Every time he played with them and got wet like this he caught another cold. His head and his throat hurt and he couldn’t even eat his lunch. He stumbled miserably back to the house, but the servants found him collapsed just outside – and brought him to his grandfather.

   He’d had a lot of children, and a hundred grandchildren. What made one small, frail, grandson so important? Was it just that the sickly child needed his help so badly? Even for a human, he wasn’t well.

   It was a bad fever this time. He put the healing spell on him, but… Well it couldn’t hurt. He took the child to the manse that focused healing energies and tucked him in with the Hearthstone. He didn’t need it anymore anyway, and its unfocused energies might help the boy a bit even if he couldn’t actually attune it. Who knew?

   In the morning the boy was sleeping comfortably – and the hearthstone pulsed in time with his heart. That simply wasn’t possible.

   Evidently the feeling that there was something special about this grandchild meant more than that he was bright, ill, and well-behaved. He was what, nine? A bit young to start teaching him magic – but he really wanted to see how much the boy could learn.

   For someone who was apparently a normal human it was quite a lot. More than was strictly believable.

 

-Age 10

 

   The book had been a lot of trouble to get. Get past the monster in the lake, get the seal on the tunnel open, solve the lock, beak the ward around it, and then get out again. Still, it had been calling him for weeks.

   Presumably it was good for something.

 

-Age 11

 

   Gorim lets me go anywhere I want now. Avalon, odd pocket-realms, wyld outposts, even Yu-Shan. Seems sort of run-down for heaven though. Hey! There’s Grandpa! I took the bus from school, why?

 

-Age 12

 

   Oops. Even if he hadn’t wanted to explain where he got a set of 20$ treasury printing plates he shouldn’t have panicked and teleported out of the Ambassador’s office. He’d never hear the end of it now. At least the ambassador seemed decent enough.

 

-Age 13

 

   Well, he’d finally finished the Talisman. Time to look around for another project. Maybe take a couple of days off and mull things over for a bit.

 

Session I

Ah, all three “Evil Dead” movies. Now if I could just find someone besides Ixiah to watch them with. He always wants to jump around fighting things and spills the popcorn.

Ah, now he might be willing to – who’s that screaming? Should I call the cops?

They want to see who it is first. Er… Well, as long as they’re in front.

Just some minor argument, but a couple of them are glowing and they want to head off to someone else’s place. Well, as long as they’ve got a big-screen TV.

What a bore. The “Secret” history of the world again, at least from one viewpoint. They’re not nearly as secretive about it as Gramps though. With him I had to work a bit to listen in.

Sneaking off to bed are they? I wonder if I’m going to get that obsessed in a year or two. I hope not. Maybe I should stop advancing my age?

Oh, it’s mister Lytek/pet-me again. Well, at least his energy aura is great for making popcorn.

 

Session II

I always knew public school was a mess. Just because I’m in-between tutors again. Is it my fault that the man thought he was wasting his time on a kid and then got all huffy when I out-thought him? ANYway, I guess that we’d call this the “It’s our Principle!” show. Maybe “It’s against our principle”? Looks like it’s breaking things up pretty good anyway. Maybe I can find something to read in the library.

Not a thing. I can’t even find what’s making half of the students in this place exalt. Wouldn’t it be funny if simply wearing glowing caste-marks did it? Sympathetic magic with a vengeance.

The guys from last night? They want to go and look at a Solar Manse they found in the sewers?

Now this guy has a cool car. Almost as plush as Gorim!

What a dump. Hasn’t had anybody fix it up in a couple of millennia it looks like. I can patch things a bit, but it really needs some work. It’s got what, four rooms? Pretty minimal for a manse. What’d they do back then, use an outhouse? I suppose it’ll be convenient having the sewers right outside then, but what a stench.

Especially with that girl smoking up the place. I’ll have to make her something just so I can keep breathing.

OK; so you want to make a deal with a wood-aspect dragon-blooded about environmental protection Ms raccoon? (Maybe I have inhaled too much of whatever-it-is she’s smoking). Trouble is, he’s disappeared? You have no idea where he went.

Well, how much do you know about him? His birthday? A few other bits and pieces… Should be enough. Give me a minute.

Hmmm. I can follow him back quite a ways – but his trail ends at some little town out in the boonies. Could be divination-blocked, but more likely he’s out of reach of fate. That’d be In the Wylds, in the Underworld, and/or dead. Could be bad, but then I’m out of reach half the time.

No I’m NOT getting in the trunk or getting crammed into your car like that! I’ll meet you there!

What took you people so long? This place is washed out. Can’t even get a sandwich – and if you could you couldn’t eat it for the smell.

Looks like a dam broke. No real signs of anything odd, place has been cleaned up pretty well, should’ve been on the news, but maybe I missed it. Stench seems to be from perfectly normal mud, a bit polluted with mine runoff, but nothing too abnormal there for a mining town.

Now our lunars are vomiting and nauseated? The place just smells bad to the rest of us; they smell something different, not just more intense.

Supernatural stench of death, lots of people recently killed, area abandoned, news blackout, one dragonblood exalted disappeared here and cannot be found through astrology. Well I guess it couldn’t get much more obvious. A Shadowland. About six hours until nightfall; I’ll get a good ward set up.

Can’t these people make up their minds? First they want to stay, then go, then stay, now they’re going (and I made a new ward at the new location), now they’re all coming back to the first ward. At least there was plenty of time to rest.

So who have we got here anyway?

 

Player Characters Of The Moment

 

  • Charles Dexter Ward, Master thaumaturge

  • Demion, the Amethyst Dragon. Apparently a combat monster specialist. Probably Solar Exalted

  • Mace Fondue, a huge military guy

  • Seth Thomas, a punkish pacifist Sidereal Exalted with many obscure secrets.

  • John White, a huge black guy with numerous tattoos, apparently a Twilight Caste Solar Exalted with a funky car.

  • Kiko / Ikcho Taquka, a small, marijuana-smoking, Japanese-American punker Night Caste Solar Exalted.

  • Charity Break, a Techno-Goth and Daylight Caste Abyssal Exalted.

  • Erin Wallis, A dedicated football player and loner with a big drive to succeed.

  • Tierna, a Lunar Exalted-Raccoon Girl.

 

OK, so there are no stars and the dead are out. They don’t seem too pleased. Apparently they’re caught in-between reality and the underworld, the labyrinth and it’s monsters have risen to surround the shadowlands, and the dragon-blooded guy (The “Knight of Leaves” I think) got killed by an emissary from the Mask of Winters. They don’t want to talk much more than that, just keep trying to lure us into coming out of the Ward. A total waste of time all around. They don’t even want me to try warding against oblivion.

Well that was pointless. They goaded Demion into letting off a huge powerflare attacking the mutterers. That’ll probably draw any major nasties within twenty miles. At least it’s only a few hours until dawn.

Looks like Seth decided not to wait. Activated some sort of Hearthstone designed to teleport everyone back to his Manse. Didn’t work though, we’re all in some weird city with lots and lots of stars…

Meanwhile, back “home”, one unfortunate fellow who’d gotten left behind was trying frantically to reach everyone. He even resorted to bribing his cat to try and get some information out of it. Sadly, everyone he was attempting to reach was in another dimension.

 

Session III

So: Through the Calibration Gate to Yu-Shan. Well, I haven’t been by there for several days. Maybe we can stop in YesterYears restaurant (I’m hungry!): their Triceratops Shish-Ka-Bob is absolutely great. I’m not even going to comment on the underwear-destroying-tempest.

There was a bit of confusion, but it rapidly turned into a welcoming committee/job festival. It seemed that at least half the factions were hiring. The Bronzes wanted Seth back again; apparently he used to be their old faction head Kojek (he didn’t want the job; he didn’t like his old self’s ideas), the Silvers were recruiting (they were working with the Lunars), and the Golds were out in the open and would like a shot at the new guys. We’ve got Gustav Myer, chosen of secrets, and Hosea, chosen of mercury.

You’d think they’d be a bit less friendly somehow. Still, there are what, nearly a thousand Sidereals now?

So Seth’s used his mind-control stunt on Kristoff, the current head of the Bronze Faction. For someone who’s thousands of years old (and apparently chosen of endings), he’s awfully easy to control – or at least wants it to look that way. Still, he is getting ordered to do some awfully stupid stuff…

Seth had better cover his ass really well later on.

I think my first theory was right: the universe is being run by idiots. I mean, look at these guys. They’re supposed to be the greatest masters of subtle manipulation in the universe, and the best way they can think of to separate a guy from his family so they can gain his loyalty is to kill them off? Did they ever consider offering a scholarship at a boarding school? Provoking a big quarrel and picking him up when he ran away? Hiring a hypnotist? Simply grabbing the kid before he realizes any of his powers? But NoOOo.

So; Mr Grumbotz is being audited (he apparently skipped out for a hundred years and missed ten of them), this lady is Blossom Of Lost Dreams (A pretty Asian Sidereal, our representative from the Gold faction), and I didn’t catch the other guys name. Oh well, it looks like the Bronzes are busy trying to get control of the dragon-blooded again. Good luck with that. The Iron faction has rebelled against destiny and isn’t welcome here. Since most of a Sidereals powers are based on destiny, there are some obvious problems with that too. I suppose they can switch to the stars of the underworld, but that’s really a pain. Anyway, the rest of them are all against the extra-dimensional types (or at least the ones who haven’t gotten settled in; the fey in Atlanta are pretty reasonable).

At least most of them think abusing Mr Kristoff is pretty amusing – but I find it hard to believe that anyone with 5000 years worth of experience and resources will be quite so easy to push around (or will have left his artifact-computer open for anyone to use). Of course, they also think that’s it pretty lucky that our abyssal has diplomatic immunity – for her. They also think she’s the spitting image of the old statue of Brigid (apparently actually Brigid, who came up here and got turned into a statue when she got to feeling old), which is just down the way still clutching her magic staff – which defends itself against anyone who tries to take it with massive magical injuries which are very slow to heal. It’s supposed to be some sort of test or something.

OK, so we’ve got an “appointment” with Lytek and we’ve got to take some of those flying rickshaw things; they still won’t let me drive. Seth’s pretty paranoid about his Hearthstones; of course, I wouldn’t let anybody use mine. Not the big one anyway. They won’t stop for lunch, but they’ll stop to check out the statue. Funny; it does look exactly like her, but the staff seems to be calling to the new guy – Matt I think his name was. I asked the statue politely and he took it without a fuss (Lots of applause from the nearby gods). Seems to belong to both of `em. I thought those two were weird: two aspects of the same person.

  • Matt: Apparently Demion’s brother (He seems to have turned out to be a Siderial), a Twilight Caste Solar specializing in Sorcery and Necromancy. Red hair, solid black eyes, likes the “Goth” look.

Anyway, off to see Lytek. Lots of discussion about who used to be who. Seems that Demion used to be “Black Eyeshadow”, a Sidereal of Death, and one of the most deadly killers of all time. Keko was some sort of acrobat, a freedom-fighter against the realm in the south. Both Matt and Charity used to be Brigid. Lytek seems pretty upset about that. Isn’t at all clear on how it was done.

How to split up a soul into light and dark sides and still have each be as powerful as a normal soul? That’s fairly easy actually; The void at the heart of darkness may be terrible – but the unrelenting flame at the heart of the light is just as terrible. It’s only in their interaction that you find understanding and acceptance of the flaws of others and the universe at large. Being opposites, of course, some of their power neutralizes itself in a normal person. It’s only in moments of great enlightenment or transcendent evil that most people tap into the full power of one or the other.

Splitting them up makes that power available all the time – and makes them utterly focused. It’s hard to tell the difference from the outside. Hopefully just being in close proximity will moderate each of them though.

Rachel and Mitchell used to be Lita (Who ran a crusade against the realm and killed lots of people) and Swan, a Warrior-Diplomat (a bit of a contradiction in terms, no?).

ANYway, isn’t this who WAS everybody? Or at least the exalted power in them. It’s not like I need Lytek or voices in my head to tell me; Devon left nearly 12,000 pages of annotated autobiography in the back of his book (the damn thing has already started recording my life, but it doesn’t seem too interested in mundane details, thank goodness).

Lytek wanted to show off his cabinet: lots of empty spaces these days. I guess the Exaltation business is in full swing. I filled `em up with some art deco glassware. He might as well have something to look at.

So the old conventions are now responsible for the various continents, and the bronze faction mostly draws anti-faerie action at the poles. More about the secret history of the world; this time it’s about the invasion of the cyborg freaks from autochthonia and how they stole a lot of the magical materials (why they’re so scarce) and set up a technocracy for a time. I’ll have to check some more libraries. So far I’ve heard three “histories” and none of them agree worth a damn. Of course, why should they?

ANYway, they’re using the computer to hunt up the old manses their previous incarnations owned. Apparently Yu-Shan has never heard of “Back Taxes” or “Squatters”. A manse is prime real estate: why would they be left sitting empty for thousands of years unless something serious was going on with them?

Still no lunch though.

One fellow had a relatively simple place, an old armory, a few pieces of walking furniture, and a hearthstone that lets him fake being dead (how very useless). Old Mr “Black Eyeshadow’s” manse was a lot more interesting. It was labeled “The Sepulcher of Frost and Cold” and was all done up in purple mood lighting. I tried to point out that there might be a reason why no one had gone inside in several millennia – the man was the grand master of death after all – but nobody wants to listen. They can go first. They promptly hired a couple of servants but didn’t send them in first.

Mace wants to look up who he used to be; one “Grillo”, a hawkrider. Well this place has a library. Warded though. Something pretty nasty. What a surprise. And the servants had to send out for something to eat that wasn’t toxic. Apparently they’d killed at least three intruders while their boss was away. How jolly.

Even with permission, scanning through the library is just too slow. I need more power… Hey, the servants have been collecting a Quintessence allowance for 20,000 years or so with nothing to do with it; how much have they got? Maybe I can convert it back into usable essence motes?

Drat. It’s possible, but I’d need a specialized charm or artifact. Still, this place is so conducive to magic; maybe I can convert my personal energies fast enough to work the speed-up charm? Oh Yes! Enough to average an hour of work per second. Now all I need is to work up a better wand… Done… research an eidetic memory charm that’s independent of the Libram… Done… Get the Sigil of Fury assembled… Done… That’ll make it two hours a second… Geez… Only about half an hour so far… Now to just run a visual scan on the books via detection and linking…

Cool. It would’ve taken half a year to get through that library normally. Doing it this way I’ve got the entire thing memorized in about an hour total. I’m going to research some more spells while I’ve got this much power to play with! Wait, who’s this guy now? Reku Tendo? Haven’t I heard that name… Nah. Anyway, he seems to have his own place, but is a bit confused about it.

  • Reku Tendo: Dressed in a red military uniform, Reku is, as yet, quite disconcerted by the fact that he – or she at the time – killed at least 30 dragonblooded warriors and kept their gear as trophies during his/her past life.

It was about an hour later when the group decided to go back to Seth’s place. That was fine. Charles had done quite a lot of research by then: at his current speed he could finish researching a spell in 2-3 minutes. He was feeling a bit weird though – and that shouldn’t be possible.

He doesn’t know how to put armor on? Yeah, that piece (the helmet)? It’s a codpiece.

Oh well, I didn’t think he’d fall for it.

Hey, Seth has a library too! A first and second age library belonging to a very powerful chosen of secrets! The library of Secrets! And he’s letting me read it!

It would have taken about three years to read through it normally. Charles had it memorized in less than two hours. It was WORTH the funny feeling.

 

Now this part could be awfully handy. Active astrology. Trouble is, you need a cooperative pattern spider to make it work. Of course they really got along with Devon. Liked the way he looked for rules and patterns in everything. Maybe a few of them still remember him/me? I’ll have to try and get in touch with any who do.

So they’re all getting ready for a costume party being given by the god of recreational drugs? Gramps would have a fit if I went to something like that! What do you mean, he’d never know? He stays here a lot! What? No, I don’t think he’s a god, I just keep bumping into him here.

Meanwhile Seth’s power came unstuck from Kristoff, but he pulled the old “I know what you did” bluff. This has got to be a stand-in or an illusion or something; I mean, 5000 years of social manipulation and he falls for that one?

Gramps doesn’t seem to be in the city now – and I’m getting the weirdest feverish feeling. Maybe I’d better lay off the power rush for awhile. I guess I’ll take a break and go to the house of psychidelic jello with them.

Charles went as the Great Pyramid, complete with a crew of laborers chasing after him with a few last blocks.

OK: we’ve got Seth as his old self, whom several other people want to kill, we’ve got drunks, people having sex, people on drugs – and they’re all boring. I can’t even get them doing anything interesting by giving stuff away. I’m going to go and look up the local god of real estate agents. I think I can make Ambrosia… OK. Easy enough to pay for it then. I’ll take the Asian-style townhouse in the nice area.

So you’ve got a job for Refractor, god of Cameras, at a Kodak research lab, you’ve got to go and check out some weird disease cult in Africa, and you have a mission too? That’s what you get for joining up with Sidereals. They’re much too used to issuing orders.

Lets go home. I’m tired and I don’t feel so well.

Back in Atlanta it was dawn. They’d left on Thursday, so the spirits had done it all in one night. Things were a bit of a mess as far as Charles was concerned though:

 

Geez… Depression, headaches and general malaise all over Atlanta from the power flux. Local ley lines drained, paint on the manse walls scorched, and the power pool taking hours to rebuild… Well… I did pull nearly 20,000 essence motes out of the local ley lines and the manse node. So this thing does have an upper limit; I’d better not try to pull something like that again for couple of months. Looks like I can get away with 10-15 minutes on a daily basis though. Should be plenty for most things. A good thing the Mirage Of Protective Shelter is good for another six months or so. I’ll have to add some wards too…

And it’d looked like a limitless power supply. Oh well.

 

Session IV

You know, according to tradition and divine law, the only ways in and out of heaven are supposed to be through the gates – and nobody’s supposed to bypass the guards. I wonder how long it’ll be before Seth gets into trouble for teleporting in and out this way? For that matter, it isn’t even supposed to be possible: it means that there’s a gap in the defenses that could admit abyssal exalted, deathlords, demons, and fey. In fact, it HAS; we brought one. Oh well, that’s his problem. ANYway, I don’t think I’ll bother heading to school today: I’ve got some spells I’ve just GOT to try out and a new charm or two to work on – and I should be getting a new private tutor in a few weeks anyway.

First I think I’ll use the Divided Essence of the Ba and Ka* (so I can go out and keep working if I need to), work up the materials for Imbue Amalgam, get some puppies, and start the ritual to make some familiers. I’ll need the extra power-capacity soon I think… It takes 12 hours though, and even with the Sigil I can’t do more than two at a time. Hopefully that’ll be enough. It looks like I’m not going to be able to avoid getting involved with the Sidereal bureaucracy anymore…

Meanwhile, at School, there were new security guards and procedures and they were keeping people’s laptops. Probably to try and find out who bugged the principle’s office. Of course, more than half the circle had skipped out in any case.

 

Just about done… There! Just in time too. I’m being pestered by a note. I wonder how long I’ll have to ignore it to get it to call my cell phone instead? Oh well.

So they want us to go on a mission? To the “Temple of Doom?”. Actually some ancient pyramid-manse in south america/mexico (they’re a bit vague) called the Temple of Lasariss, “He who walks in shadows”. They want us to investigate some dragon-blooded cultists who are trying to reawaken some old plague (Bubonic? The Fey Plague? The Great Contagion?). The Mayas used to use it, it’s supposed to be cursed, and it stands outside of fate. In the underworld again probably. I’m taking my camping gear. ANYway, we’d better be being paid damn well for this (I’m getting a Yu-Shan salary? What the hell do I want with that? I’m going to have to re-negotiate this). Oh well, it’s after school and everyone is getting together. They brought some zombies too. Looks like I can’t transmute them for easier storage. Too bad. At least they’re plastic-wrapped so as not to smell. At least not too much.

So it’s off to Yu-Shan via Seth express again and into the hearthstone chamber. Yes, it’s just a sculpture. At least we got to stop and eat this time. I took a picnic lunch and some snacks as well; eating in Mexico is just asking for indigestion.

Primordial Soup tastes like Creation and Creation tastes like Chicken? Oh well.

So we teleported off to just outside the place thanks to some coordinates from the Master of Veils. An old stone road, a massive ancient pyramid, and a wet sticky rain forest. At least it’s easy enough to ward the rain off. Yep, it’s a manse on a dragon line in a shadowland – and with lots of sorceries up there; at least some up to the Solar level, none at the Void level though. Well that’s something. Don’t just run off that way Kiko!

An invisible wall? Well that’s about the most benign thing she could’ve run into. It’s only Terrestrial Sorcery. I could break it easily – but that’d almost certainly be noticed and we’re just supposed to be scouting.

At least getting in is easy enough: just walking slow gets you through the wall of air. (Hopefully that won’t set off any alarms). The pyramid itself’s covered with a mess of toxic black roses and there’s a big crystal on the top. Chemicals don’t affect them, evidently the manifestation of a spell. Oh hell, just let the zombies pull them apart while somebody forces the door (Now that’s strength. Must be cheating again). Oddly enough there are no ghosts around. I guess the enter-at-your-own-risk sign should be pretty obvious. Death upon all those – great plague – pool of Lasariss – etc. A big emerald-counterspell on the door. Guess I’ll have to leave my smoke bombs behind. Hopefully it won’t cancel the age-adjustment spells. I’ll have to put the eidetic spell back up though.

Oh gee, we’re all cursed. What a SURPRISE. Seems to be tied in with a much older curse of some sort… Oh well. It’s no biggie. It’s not like I don’t get cursed fairly regularly. Must remember to hire a psychoanalyst. The Sidereals don’t believe in curses? Remind me to give them all itchy feet. That counterspell was pretty good too; affected a group and even low-level artifacts. Oh well, probably a multiple or built up over time.

Lasariss’s mound of ancient wisdom, cursed are all… yeah, got that. Black jade all over, how depressing. The door panels are all set up with abyssal caste symbols and keyed to abyssals. Lucky we brought one.

A bedroom. A huge bed with a soulsteel frame, a big dresser full of perfume bottles, and a mirror. Why is Draco calling Ms Abyssal “master” and taking off his clothes when she suggested it? His reflection in the mirror’s trying to get out and waving at us too. Evil doppleganger from another dimension I bet, like when Spock had a beard. And there goes another one. Idiot. They’re against breaking the mirror, so it’s probably the best thing to do. I’ll cover up my eyes and write to them to tell them to WRITE ON THE MIRROR. Let me out? I thought so (even if we did have to order the doppleganger to read it). Somebody had a lot of power to burn. Of course, it’s not like we don’t. Too bad we had to break the mirror to get them out.

Onwards I guess… Now if there’s a cult active here, why isn’t there anybody around? Oh well.

Well here’s Mace and Zeke. Teleported in by the Master of Veils? Guess he needed somebody on the inside to get a fix on.

Gee. A big tree surrounded by a flowing stream and curtains of fire that make a wind vortex that protects it. What great Feng Shui! The tree goes up through the stone and the flames go up in waves. Now I need a room like this. Must remember to make one. Could be some sort of elemental temple I guess. Now how’d he get over there? He went up to the top and saw some corrupted dragon-blooded types. Apparently they’re looking for a girl since they found the statue of Lasariss. He could only get to the top; all the other levels were walled off.

I wonder it this is a nice tree? I’ll give it some of the soda from Yu-Shan; can’t get much holier than that.

Hmmm. It likes it. Warm fuzzy feelings. I think I like this tree.

Hey, don’t mess with the Feng Shui! You might foul up whatever’s protecting the tree in this shadowland!

Oh geez, that IDIOT! Squirting lighter fluid into a vortex of wind next to a wall of flame? He’s just asking for an explosive mixture to form!

Well no serious explosion, but he managed to foul things up anyway. Poor tree. I don’t think there’s anything I can do for it. It made another door appear anyway. Probably more traps, just like the outside, so don’t…

Too late. Seth dissipated the necrotic blast anyway. Odd; it looks like he used a countermagic hearthstone, and they shouldn’t protect anyone but the user. Maybe he’s got it set in some soft of amplifier system; that might explain how he’s gotten the teleporter stone so overcharged as well. Should be simple enough with an augmentor stone or effect. Still, it seems to be automatic or reflexive; it wasn’t like he had a chance to react. Hopefully he can turn it off, or a lot of helpful spells won’t work on him either.

The door’s a solid sheet of soulsteel keyed to abyssal energies again. No big surprise there given the general motif.

So… A room with a woman sleeping under a time-stasis veil on an altar. The place is worked with the sigils of each type of exalted, including the lost lunar types. The sigils of the thirteen deathlords mark their spots and the place was obviously used for some major ritual magic. So what would make the deathlords work with the rest of the Exalted? The place is supposed to have something to do with a plague – and it’s way too old for bubonic and such. Maybe the great contagion started to affect even the dead? It was a magical illness after all. Could be she’s it’s avatar or containing it or something like that. Green hair, blue eyes (well, we just seemed to know that; she seems to be sleeping), loose shirt, and webbed fingers. That’d be Thorns, second age.

Lots of magic still running in here. Never meddle when you haven’t got enough information…

Now what’s this symbol? A fourteenth in the deathlord section and supreme over them all? Definitely worth making a note of anyway.

Got Seth to go and check for information with the Bureau of Destiny; not a thing. The only one with any was some elder who wanted a lifetimes service for it. No deal I guess.

Everyone agreed? No meddling for now? Some of you want to stay and stand guard? Oh fine. Hopefully the door will unseal from the inside.

Hey! The trees back! Cool!

So we’ve got a selection of statues. Looks like Draco and Charity kneeling before a demon. Onyx for the man, Sapphire for the woman, someone being blessed by the 13 deathlords, hand in hand with yozis, statues of this Lasariss person, lots of other obscure symbolism.

Trouble with symbolism is that it’s pretty personal. Could be taken to mean any damn thing and there’s no way to sort out which interpretation is accurate – even if it matters. Without a key we’re simply collecting pointless details.

Mace had been muttering on about sneaking around in the school; seems that one of the security guards is a phony, has been strolling around holding an ancient guitar case like a weapon, and may have a goon squad, while another guard has been doing the same thing. One of them goes by the name Joachim, an old testament prophet (as if a quarter of the people in the country don’t have biblical names of one kind or another). Still, here we are with a possible threat to the entire world; who cares about school?

About this time the people who’d stay behind to guard all came out; looks like they’d been having some strong past-life influences. They say she does indeed contain the great contagion and we need to look into ways to seal it off permanently.

Well – it was a purely supernatural illness. The usual antiviral and bacteriological agents won’t work. Demonic guardians can be possessed by the Yozis every so often, and they’d probably turn it loose. Even if I infuse some wards with third-circle energies they could be countered and they’d only last a few centuries without maintenance. The Gates Of Oblivion rite would probably work, but I don’t know it and it’s probably legendary anyway. An amalgam-guardian could be pretty good, but they’re vulnerable to countermagic. Crafting something out of chaos offers lots of power, but who knows how it might turn out and I’ve never even tested that spell. An artifact-guardian might do, but it would need a power source – either a Hearthstone or an Exalt I could bind into it. Maybe if we catch some of those dragon-blooded cultists.

 

Session V

Come to think of it, what are we using for time around here? According to Seth’s library It’s normally a measure of the progression of changes in the loom of fate. Still, how can there be changes without time for them to occur in? Same logical flaw as the one about the loom containing itself; it’s an infinite loop. I really need a day or two to get the information in that library sorted out properly. 90% of it seems to be descriptive poetic drivel.

Still, we are fairly definitely outside the loom here – or at least in an area the Sidereals are blind to. Since Sidereal Astrology works by manipulating the Loom of Fate, it can’t work anywhere outside of Fate – and I’m pretty sure that the one fellow used the “Everywhere and Nowhere” technique (Not too much in the way of specifics in Seth’s library, but a lot of general stuff. Still worth reading, but I bet the good stuff’s salted away somewhere else). Either it’s just Sidereal and divine blindness or something else is going on… A dark loom for the underworld? That’d explain the stars of the dead, but not why his trick worked.

Wait a moment here! That trick simply lets you live on the fringes of society and avoid all attention, just like a lot of the other astrological signs. If it actually let you walk through walls and such the Sidereals would have a free way to get in anywhere, assassinate anyone or anything, and spy on anyone, and they clearly don’t. The poetic description really doesn’t mean much… It worked the way he thought it would, not the way it actually works in creation.

So there’s a very strong subjective component to the shadowlands. What are we using to measure time with respect to creation then? The slow slide towards entropy and oblivion? That’d kind of imply that the length of a spirits stay in the underworld is subject to a maximum perceived duration before reincarnation. That’d neatly explain why the older spirits aren’t usually much more experienced and seem so much less active – and why so many ghosts are so vague about how long they’ve been dead.

ANYway, that does open up some other possibilities towards contagion containment. I might be able to ward against time here, or possibly just drop the entire area into oblivion.

I suppose we could just fling the entire thing into space, but that’d be pretty risky. The deep wyld would let me transform it, but it would probably be better just to place it at an infinite distance behind a permanent illusion even if I could be sure that the Wyld wouldn’t break the current containment. Forcing anyone who wants to reach it to search infinity is about as good as security gets.

Now what’s Kiko gone and stuck her nose into? One blue-glowing doorway (at least with magical sight) and one attempt to drag her in. A fairly impressive evasion anyway.

Eww, Yuck! I’ve barely even read about those things! Some sort of necromantic iron golem! I’d better hit it…

Oops. I forgot that that spell had an area-effect stun that went with it. Oh well, looks like it didn’t bother anyone.

It’s still standing? After that shot? Well SHIT. I blew through a hundred feet of rock practicing that one! Our necromancer’s control spell didn’t work either. Time to run away? Well… At least it looks pretty badly damaged. I’ll let the others finish it off while I get that spell recharged.

So it was built around an onyx coin that lets someone really powerful enchant and power things from range and that’s what threw off the control spell. I’d pour concrete over it, but that’d probably just result in a concrete golem when we come back around the corner. It does have the symbol of the First and Forsaken lion on it. I bet Charity scoops it up as soon as we look away… Yep. Gone.

So; another bedroom, this one with a big orichalcum chest with a soulsteel lock. I can’t find a key anywhere; nothing but this fancy mystical diagram. All the mystic castes among the exalted at the points this time.

Huh. Kiko sprang the lock and most of the floor simply vanished. Good thing this part didn’t… Seems to go on down forever (my fishing line won’t reach the bottom, but at least it doesn’t dissolve or anything). Above us the light is just shining down. So… looks like the chest has a big crystal in it. I’ll just levitate it over here… Looks like it fits into this socket… I’ll power up the twilight seal. Gets us a path out, but nothing more – except for Charity looking so pleased. Probably need the other four for any serious results from whatever this ritual is. Too bad there’s never enough information to make a rational decision.

Why a maze? This is actually turning out to be dull. Teleport commuting is boring – and all we’ve really done here is not touch stuff and look at art. None of what little information we can get actually leads anywhere; Charity and Matt are weird, a lot of guys did a major ritual, don’t touch the exhibits, and the place is really old. Even Mace is bored; he just likes to fight – but with Draco around he never really gets a chance. Next time I’ll just send a minion with a camera.

Maze ends in a “stargate”-style set of transport rings with an abyssal seal. So we popped up to the top and saw five corrupted dragonblooded drinking from a well. Draco instantly killed them. Ever hear of asking questions? I warned him that it would probably set something off or complete a ritual or something; it did. A major void-circle summons that I couldn’t stop. So the First and Forsaken Lion turned up as Charity and Matt fused together, he said “Sorry” (and looked appalled) and left. Apparently the Well is outside of time and grants about three days worth of power in exchange for a permanent geas to keep it pure and flowing. Are they insane? I’ll wait the three lousy days. I’m only 13 and I’ve got that much patience.

So I replayed everything for the report back in Yu-Shan and the department got a bit upset; apparently they hadn’t known about the contagion being there. Mace got into an argument with WWW (god of the internet) and got lightly fined for it (and all his records trashed). It could’ve been worse I suppose. Why did I come to work for this bunch? Oh yeah, all the extra power I used them to arrange…

 

Session VI

I wonder how long it’s going to take the department – and the rest of heaven – to figure out that we’ve left the key to the great contagion, and a major artifact of some kind from outside of the universe, in the hands of an Abyssal Exalted? It’s not exactly like we had a lot of choice since they couldn’t be moved, but they’re still going to have hysterics. At least they seemed to be too upset over the mere notion of the Contagion still being around to come up with any immediate jobs for us.

So we get Sunday off I guess. That’ll let me get a bit more done. I think I’ll make another familiar and Hobbes. You never know when you’re going to need a bit of help.

Besides, he should be fun.

A bit of spell research next, mixed in with some time playing video games with Ixiah, then…

School. I’ve got to get another private tutor. Well they aren’t really licensed or anything, maybe Hobbes counts? I’ll check on that next. ANYway, here we are again… No, Jun! I’m NOT going to play supervillian! You’re crazy!

Now what? The place seems to be practically overrun with dragonblooded types. A couple of transfer students – new security guards – a couple of temporary “teachers” – and they don’t even all seem to like each other. More than one faction? If they’re sniffing for magical energies I could just give them some. Lets see – if I ward all the entrances against cold and flu viruses, than ward the cafeteria against the malignant strains of E Coli and Salmonella… Maybe I can get a count and confuse the issue a bit at the same time? If I lay a lot of really-weak alarm wards that are just alarms…

No use. There are at least a dozen or so around, and I can’t get anything meaningful out of the blips. Well, I’ll go and ward the roof versus rain, that should give them a lot of magic to sort through.

Meanwhile, John White had decided to simply go and hide out up on the roof – where he ran into Charles when he started laying wards up there. They discussed things a bit and decided that maybe making some actual trouble might be in order.

Well, lets start by making sure we’ve got a few minutes; I’ll just lay a high-powered ward at each exit door; that way they’ll either have to break them or climb out the windows to get out.

You know, there are a lot of unfamiliar cars out in the lot today. If we can sort out which ones belong to the dragonblooded guys none of them seem to be protected.

That was a job for deduction, investigation, perception, and some quick computer-registration checks, but they got it sorted out fairly quickly.

OK… I can use a bit of TK to roll down the windows and then put them up again. So lets plant a bunch of drugs (what? Oh, I’ll just make some with alchemy), then ward the cars against dragonblooded, relock the doors, and then call the cops. Be careful not to leave prints on anything. Yeah, gloves work beautifully. You can “Speed The Wheels” of bureaucratic operations? Now that’s a handy power.

Now that’s hysterical. I’m sure that they’ve got enough lawyers and influence and such to get out of it, but getting arrested and hauled away has got to be embarrassing. The media is descending, two teachers, the new Principle hasn’t arrived yet.. On the TV already? “Heroin ring busted at school” – “Security Guards actually Local Drug Lords” – and it looks like it’s going downhill from there.

Now some of the new “students” are climbing out the windows to get out. Well it looks like another day off anyway; lets see where they go. I’ll just hang back and follow the evidence of their passage. You’ve got an invisibility-type ability? “Easily overlooked presence method”? Sounds like another really handy one. I’ll throw in some illusion-disguises just to make sure.

Two large houses – and no police yet. They’ll probably make the connection pretty soon though. Four into one, two into the other one, and one with a basement we can get at… Just a padlock on the door and a ward versus thieves and violent criminals. Well, we’re not either, and we look like the proper owners at the moment. We should be able to sneak in easily enough. Now lets see; a couple of old tables, some camping gear, a hotplate, some gardening supplies, a pantry, and some old pots.

Their fingerprints should be all over everything already.

All we’ve got to do is add some drugs and some drug-making chemicals, plate some residues across a few pots and bits of glassware, and slop some stuff around a bit. That should do it… The cops could find some holes in the evidence of course, but their JOB is to fill in the holes in the evidence. I hear them coming; lets get out of here and watch the fun from a little ways off.

What, you found some weird papers while I was setting up the lab? Snap some quick pictures, we’ve got to get out of here!

On the way out they heard a good deal of yelling as the youngsters who’d made it home discovered their nice new drug lab as the police arrived. This, of course, looked all the more incriminating. Oddly, the police didn’t bother with the house next door. Maybe there was no known link. Well, no reason to involve the four youngsters who’d gone in there with this much trouble. The point had been made.

 

So what’re these papers? First age script, but nonsense words. It came in by fax? Probably some sort of code. I’m not too good at that either – but maybe Hobbes can read it. Lets head on back.

Oh, you’ve never been this way before? Well that’s the goblin market – and they’re wanting to sell us pixies that we squash or eat or something for healing magic? They come right back, but it still hurts? Oh fine. I’ll buy the lot. Now all of you SHOO! And don’t get caught again!

Stupid pixies.

Yeah, it’s fine. He’s with me.

Don’t worry about them. They’re just the border riders.

Why should I worry about having faerie warriors riding around? I live here.

 

AAAUUGGHHH!

 

That’s what I get for naming my tiger-guard-amalgam after a cartoon character. I guess I’d better get used to getting pounced.

Figuring out the code was a job for linguistics, statistics, and lots of fiddling around – but they got it eventually.

 

So what have we got here? (a good thing I gave Hobbes the linguistics skills). ANYway, we’ve got a couple of new addresses for secure meeting places, and a set of escalation plans. It looks like they’ve already crossed off stage one – Observation, went to stage two – Identification and Assassination three days ago (without much luck, fortunately for us), and were planning to go to stage three – Containment and Crusade – if stage two didn’t work out.

“Crusade”? Versus heretics and anathema? Oh “Mass murder without regard for collateral damage”.

In a HIGH SCHOOL?!?

This really won’t do.

Well, there are a few vague references to locations in the directions – “The Water Tower”, something about the “221 Beech Street Drop”, and not much else. We could try to get the phone records I suppose, or just lurk around the new meeting places, but lets plug in that address and see what comes up.

Hmm… Google says that there’s no such address. Odd. I’ll get the disguises back up and let’s take a look.

Heh. Two big buildings which take up the entire block. 220 and 230. Nothing between them but an alleyway and a dead end with a dumpster.

220 has a mailbox for 221, but there are only ten rooms on each floor, and none of them are using that address. They say that someone comes by to pick up the mail every day or so.

Well we could wait – or try putting something traceable in the box. Are there any spells or wards or anything around here?

Now why would there be so much essence in this alley? I’ll send a demon to have a look first, in case of ambush.

Lots of essence around this wall… One worn spot – and who’s been polishing this loose bit on the fire hydrant?

Hmm… The dragonblooded like to work in groups. I’ll twist this bit while you press the spot on the wall.

A modest skyscraper that nobody’s ever noticed taking up most of the center of the block. At least it explains why a building the apparent size of 220 has only ten rooms per floor. A couple of wards around here. One designed to warn planes away from the invisible tower and one versus demons and supernatural horrors, like the Abyssal Exalted.

Looks like the one versus “horrors” includes us to some extent; blast.

Let’s just lurk a bit.

Place looks to have a water manse at about rank-4 on top of a rank-5 demesne. Pretty powerful. Probably a major center. The concealment effect seems to be one of it’s minor functions. Five fountains around the place in a pentacle, the water flows into a channel that makes a complete circuit, and the ward seems to extend just beyond the water’s edge. Must be a physical component; that makes it easier to cast, but it’s always a vulnerability. Well, we do have a dumpster full of trash. If we can interrupt the water flow for a bit it should weaken the ward locally without requiring any noticeable magic.

Jun, you have remarkable aim.

I’m picking up about a hundred minds here. Most of them human, a few exalted, some neither human, animal, nor exalted. Maybe spirits or constructs or something. The statues are carrying a good bit of essence too. Golems? Looks like it might be animation magic.

Sometimes I hate being right. Looks like someone’s spotted us. The place has sprouted bronze plates all over for armor and the statues are attacking. Well, they’re pretty much mindless. I’ll just make us look like golems and make some of them look like us – no, better, I’ll send some illusions of us up to and “through” the main door.

Cool. Let’s just follow the golem assault. They’re not having much trouble getting through the door either.

Lots of normal types. The first few floors are just really big rooms. Looks more like a clubhouse or mason’s lodge than anything else. All the water seems to have stopped outside. I wonder why?

We really need to get the normal people out of here. Is there a fire alarm or something around here? Maybe this thing…

What the hell?

A siege alarm?

Well, I guess filling the place with breathable water full of piranhas who only attack outsiders is a kind of fire system. It’d stop arrows and bullets pretty well, holds the doors shut, and makes anyone who gets one open regret it, the rain of glass from the exploding windows would make hash out of any besiegers outside, and it’s certain to disconcert most intruders. It startled us anyway.

Golems just kept right on though, and we were already inside. Looks like the piranha aren’t supposed to go after the golems though. Good thing that’s what we’re disguised as.

Mostly office workers. Weird. This is ruining the papers, but the computers and office gear seem to be shielded. I think I’ll swap the golem-disguises for random office worker disguises.

Past the offices there were four floors full of magical pumping equipment. The golems did a fair amount of damage with random smashing though.

Floors 10-16 were labs. Charles couldn’t resist taking a few moments to look things over – but they weren’t any better than his, and most of the equipment was worse.

Whoops! We just ran into someone with the authority to order the golems to stop. What are we doing running this way? Well, we figured that if the GOLEMS were running away, we’d better run too!

The guard started to explain that they weren’t running, they’d been chasing illusory intruders – when he abruptly realized that he didn’t recognize the people he was talking to. He started in on some sort of major summoning spell.

 

Oh drat. Hit him with something, would you John? You used the sensory intensifier? Ok then, BOO!

Uh-oh, his spell is running out of control… Lots of little tiny new water elementals? He must’ve been trying for a really big one. Well, electrical shock won’t hurt water elementals. I’ll just point out that electrical equipment is fun to climb into and play with.

Charles managed to get five successes on a four-die influence check. The little elementals went off to have a party.

The next group of guards were setting up a defensive line at floor 19. The group ran straight for them yelling about the horrible things that were happening downstairs and how the enemy might be right behind them. They got shoved behind the lines while the guards sealed off the lower floors.

 

No Sir! We won’t touch anything! Is there any way we can help? Bring some more weapons and get out of the way? Yes Sir!

Geez, three floors of armories? These guys really are military-oriented aren’t they? And they are out to kill us. We’d better keep them busy and convinced that there’s an enemy below them. I’ll just send one of my guard-demons to break legs. No killing, not even just by letting people die after you inflict too much damage. Just break legs. Got that?

At least I summoned guardian demons rather than killers.

Charles got another five successes on four dice this time. He managed to get the orders right, so there were no fatalities. He did agree to play some more first-person shooters with them though.

 

OK, this is security central. A modern command center, but the real orders are coming in from somewhere else. They’ve started to realize that we might be further in than they think – time to over lay some combat images on the monitors. That should keep them busy.

Hell, they’re setting up fixed emplacements in front of the stairs up and hauling sandbags? Do we know how to use guns? You point and pull the trigger, right? Just-carry-sandbags, yes sir…

Hmm. Really solid blast doors, magnetic lock, bar lock, hand crank – and only two guards behind it. (Think you guys can handle two guards? You think so? Lets go for it then).

They simply stepped through – and Charles instantly closed and sealed the doors behind them. These guards were commendably alert. Jun simply BUILT chains around one? Now that’s fast workmanship. Charles sent another legbreaker after the second – but a third one showed up and got off some shots before John anesthetized him.

What, two entire floors full of magical weaponry (OK, there are some artificing facilities too, and most of it’s pretty feeble, but still. These guys are NUTS). Still, I can do a fast sort for anything interesting… some minor bits and nothing else. I can do better easily – but these few might be worth a bit of study. I’ll haul them along.

I guess you’re right Jun. The pizza-delivery gambit would never have worked. These guys are just too paranoid. At least these last few levels have been nothing but offices and living quarters. Mostly vacant though. I guess there aren’t really that many dragonblooded around.

Right, six full dragonblooded in full armor. Must be the final line of defense.

You know, a sufficiently powerful Ward should drive them back by sheer psychic pressure..

I recommend using the windows and some bed sheets guys! They make decent ropes!

More normal people? We’ve got to be at the last few floors. Right: I’ll just make a loud announcement from on high: “The Self-Destruct Sequence Has Been Activated! Evacuate The Building Immediately!”

Well, it provoked confusion anyway. Lets just run around like everyone else and keep heading up.

Right; there’s a powerful concentration of elemental essence up ahead – and we’re almost at the top. Must be the people in charge.

Hum. Barricaded themselves inside the control room have they? Must think that something really awful is on its way up. I’ll just put up a really strong ward across the door and stand ready to put it back if they’ve got a Sorcerer with a countermagic spell.

Now if someone would open the door?

Hi everybody!

The group behind the door threw quite a few charms, fired weapons, and launched various attacks – but none of them happened to know countermagic, so it all bounced off the ward. They seemed somewhat nonplused by the fact that the “attackers” were three nonviolent (if disguised) teenagers – none of whom had expended enough power to show an anima banner – who simply wanted to talk.

 

Look, if you don’t cut it out, I’ll power up the ward enough so that you won’t be able to get out of this room for twenty years.

Why did we attack? Was it just the three of us? Who are we?

Well, actually you were pestering us at school, so we followed you back to ask you to cut it out – and when we got to the outside of your tower your golems attacked us, so we just came on in to complain about it. Yes, it was just the three of us, why?

No, I can’t really agree that we’re “anathema”, who told you that? The Elders?

Would these be the same Elders who told you this place was impervious?

The group spent some time tying the local commanders up in logical knots – and then proposed a solution; proving they weren’t unholy by going on a visit to heaven under a truce. This led to more argument, but the dragonblooded commanders agreed in the end. After all, what choice did they have?

And at least they’d be out from behind the bloody ward.

 

Right then! We’ll take the bus.

The group took them on a grand tour of heaven – with a lot of effort expended on keeping them out of contact with any irritable gods and avoiding trouble. They visited the Halls of History, looked at the mansions of the gods, and saw the Loom of Fate. They stopped for lunch.

They wound up with a peace agreement. Whatever else might happen, the dragonblooded didn’t want a visit from the Celestial Exalted when they were forewarned and in a mood to hurt people. Unfortunately, the agreement was with one little clan. There simply was no world-spanning organization to bargain with any more.

They weren’t even the only local clan interested in the school.

They didn’t want any help either. They just wanted the group to GO AWAY – at least for now. The repair bill was going to be high enough already.

The group did stop to heal up all of the injured on the way out and wound up with a rather limited alliance – at least with this group, since they weren’t interested in trying to take them over.

 

Well, that went reasonably well. And all done before lunch! You know, I think I’ll make them some better artifacts to send back with these once I’m through studying them. Those guys might find them handy and they obviously need something.

There was a Sidereal guy waiting with a cab for them when they came out.

Hey, now there’s a speciality! Pick people up and either ensure that they make it to their destinations with the right ideas in their head or ensure that they miss the relevant appointments. What a way to steer fate!

You don’t do that – although it’s a good idea – the cab is just a cover, and you’re a member of the rubber faction?

Don’t tell me you go around distributing condoms to people who shouldn’t reproduce?

Not that either – although it’s also not a bad idea – and stop asking silly questions?

But if they’re good ideas why are the questions silly?

Just stop it? Oh all right.

What’s up?

Your tiny faction has a half-dozen or so members, and you don’t like running the universe – it mostly seems to take care of itself if you don’t meddle – and you ally with anyone who’s handy at the moment.

You wanted to let me know that the Bronze faction has moved me up on their threat level list; making alliances with the dragonblooded could bring down the entire system. Also, the moon is outside of fate so the Apollo program had some very odd effects, the fact that I keep disappearing to outside fate is making the other Sidereals even more nervous, and I shouldn’t go on the field trip next week or I’ll get detention. John should study sorcery and influencing people, tinkering with the Sahara and Australia is OK, but I should be cautious in the Gobi, and it’s started to sink in back in Yu-Shan that the keys to the Contagion are in the hands of any Abyssal Exalted and the bureaucracies are going insane.

 

Come to think of it, what in hell is going on? The Solars were made to lead and rule justly but got arrogant, the Lunars were made to adapt but couldn’t handle civilization, the Sidereals were made to plan and advise but everything they do turns into a disaster, and the Dragonblooded were made to cooperate and they split into factions at the drop of a hat. It’s like something is turning our own strengths against us. Has there been any research on this? Nothing much? Why not? I’ve got to look into that later on.

So who’s this old guy with the hoe? Grass and trees are springing up wherever he works. Neat trick that, I complimented his work – and it gives me an idea.

So that’s what that bit about the Sahara was about! I won’t be ready for that for a bit though.

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4 Responses

  1. […] Exalted Diary – Charles […]

  2. […] Exalted Diary – Charles […]

  3. […] Exalted Diary – Charles […]

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