As the tale of the Exalted Continues

Broken Walls Journal 8
In which several months pass

Descending Wood 8, RY768, continued

Well, it looks like I should have some peaceful times ahead hopefully, and in times of peace prepare for war, so I headed to the family compound to inspect their defenses.

I asked the kid at the gate to call someone to walk their walls with me, after reprimanding him for volunteering to abandon his post to do it himself. He called over a slightly older lad named “Dub”. Dub Dhau. I like it.

The family compound’s walls are about head height, and barely wide enough to balance on. I asked Dub to see if Jin was available, and when he arrived, offered to improve their walls if they would supply materials. I also told him I’d work on anything else they might need, and I’d appreciate it if they could provide bricks for my own compound, which is apparently not a problem. I also did some quick reinforcement and design work on Jin and Dub’s swords as a thank you. When Jin handed me his blade, I noticed it was constructed nearly identically to the swords I had taken from the fish-men. I drew the one I carry with me and showed Jin, and he seemed baffled, and indicated that most of Dhau’s blades were forged at their home village, and he had heard from them somewhat recently. A minor mystery.

Descending Wood 9 through Ascending Fire 13, RY768

Over the next month that my friends were gone, I managed to get a number of things done, but I find I don’t have much enthusiasm for writing about them, so I will summarize.

I spent more time with Chaoxi in general over the month, which was nice. With everyone else around, it seemed like the two of us kept having to split up to take care of the others, ha ha. I miss them, though. Our first night out, we went for dinner inside the city walls. I was observing how each business here appeared to hire their own private guards, and that was how order was (somewhat) kept, and how we could expand into hiring out our own guards, when Chaoxi asked me to please keep my mind off business for at least a little while. Ha ha, I deserved that.

One of the days, I visited Vinom, the Guild Harbourmaster, and negotiated a deal for better prices on stone, for which he holds a monopoly. I have a personal project which requires stone.

One afternoon when I had nothing to work on, I decided to head into the city and find a tavern, have a few drinks. There were some kids partying at the place I settled on. I reminded myself that, despite my age, I still appear to be in my early 20’s, so I joined them.
I drank with them for several hours (though felt no effect), and a pretty girl flirted with me. I had a passable time, but did not wish to lock myself in with them for the night per Champoori custom, so I headed home as dark approached.
I wonder – am I no longer capable of drunkenness?
I miss my friends.

I continued to recruit and train regularly with my soldiers.
Once I received the materials, I built a large, sturdy wall around our compound, leaving room within for expansion.
I also built, over several days, my personal project – a tower, taller than the city walls, to be above the city noise and closer to the sun for meditation and self-reflection. I built in floors throughout for later use, and purposed the ground floor as a temple to The Unconquered Sun, to be open to the public during daylight hours. I also spoke with Mosh Rinoh, and arranged for some boys and girls to take turns caring for the temple daily.
Looking out at the city from my tower, it may be the tallest structure in the city.
Since completing the tower, I have adopted the habit of meditating atop it for several hours each day as the sun approaches its highest point, as this feels like the most appropriate time, somehow.
It seems to bring me some peace.

One day, Knot and String asked if they could buy me lunch and offer a taste of their “special” mead. Ha ha, now that they see that I have some business clout, I guess I’m worthy to try it. Oh well, I won’t hold that against them.
A small taste of their mead, and the effect became apparent – it allows one to see the Essence flows around you, if briefly! I lit up a fingertip with a normally invisible spark of Essence and, sure enough, was able to see it tracing through the air – Knot and String were able to see it as well! Fascinating.
I did a quick mental calculation, measuring the local markets, and agreed to sell it for them, as well as arranging to send wagons for shipments of their more mundane meads.
It has been a month since my friends left.

After some weeks of meditating on my tower, I feel as though I can feel some kind of “lock” around my heart. I shall focus on this.

It was during my meditation on Ascending Fire 13 that I heard familiar voices floating up from below. I rose from my knees and looked over the edge – there with Chaoxi stood Aster, Piper (Obi), and Saiten! With them was a red-haired man I didn’t recognize. I called out to them, then raced down the stairs to meet them.

We went inside, and they told me about the events of the last month. Saiten in particular seemed pretty upset about it – I think this is the first time I’ve seen him in a bad mood.

First of all, the other man with them is called “Litaka”. He is apparently Aster’s teacher, he taught her how to use her voice in the various ways she does. He was apparently waiting for them when Saiten’s Revenge pulled into harbour? But how did he know where they would be and when they were arriving? And what is he, that he can teach power to a Solar?
He avoids answering many questions, and when I asked directly how old he is, he claimed to be about 32, and that was an outright lie, I am certain.
He acts very friendly, though, and Aster seems very fond of him, but she is so trusting…
Perhaps I am just jealous.

Anyways, I got the broad strokes of their adventure while Litaka was there, and some details when he ducked out for wine.

To summarize, their entire trip was the result of being manipulated by a crazy but crafty shapeshifter named “Pecahan”, and none of them figured out the details before it was too late to do anything about it.
I see why Saiten is so upset. He seems to be very direct, preferring head-on confrontation. Also, no one likes being manipulated.
Anyways, this “Pecahan” claimed to be testing them to see if they were worthy of helping her defeat her father, an ancient “Lunar” named Ma-Ha-Suchi. Chaoxi chimed in that she was aware of that name, and he is known to be powerful and dangerous.
Also, apparently on the way to Volivat, on Aster’s birthday (What? Oh no!) they found a ship-wrecked man named Dasadi, who was also revealed to be a Solar.

From what I had gathered and gleaned over my long years in the Imperial Mountain, and what knowledge I have of the Immaculate Faith, the “Solar Anathema”, while dangerous, are very rare. Have we recently somehow grown in number, or are we just somehow drawn across Creation to encounter one another? Perhaps it is somehow tied to the Scarlet Bitch’s disappearance – it cannot solely be due to a lessening of the Wyld Hunt.

Apparently, according to Dasadi, the Solars are divided into 5 castes – I knew that much – but he called them Dawn, Zenith, Twilight, Eclipse, and Night. That makes much more sense than the insulting Immaculate labels. Zenith is much more palatable than “The Blasphemous”. That also might explain why it feels correct to meditate when I do.

Anyways, apparently this Dasadi hired himself into their service while they were in Volivat, then went his own way.

I wonder if Chijiiwa is doing well, I enjoyed his company.

We stayed up fairly late, with the others heading off to bed one by one.

Ascending Fire 14, RY768

I headed downstairs somewhat early, but Saiten was already heading out the doors to do whatever it is he does every day. I know he starts with physical training, and he has mentioned “patrolling”, whatever that means to him. I should remember to ask him if I can accompany him sometime.

Litaka was cooking eggs as I came down, I assume taken from our supplies. He offered me a plate, and asked about the tower, and my relationship with The Unconquered Sun. I left things vague. A little later, he went out with Aster. Later still, Piper came downstairs. I asked her about Aster’s birthday, and if anyone had given her a present – she said there hadn’t been much they could do at sea, and they had been fairly busy in Volivat. I offered some suggestions for potential presents, but Piper didn’t think a field for Daisy was an appropriate gift. She suggested perhaps a pretty dress?
I have no idea how one buys a dress.
Piper agreed to help, then went upstairs and changed to look like Aster. When I asked why, she said it was to ensure the dress fit, and suited Aster’s skin. A dress needs to match one’s skin? Is it the same for men’s clothing?
When I mentioned that Chaoxi had helped me purchase my clothing, Aster/Piper gave me a look that I get from Chaoxi regularly.

In regards to purchasing the dress, Piper did most of the work, so I built a box for the dress (with an image of Daisy engraved on the lid), and the two of us put together a small party.
That evening we celebrated. Aster seemed very happy. I’m glad.

Ascending Fire 15 through 22, RY768

I think I should visit Karoski’s temple, make sure it isn’t too untidy. Saiten offers to come with me, to my surprise. I gladly agree. I rode my horse, Saiten jogged – the exertion doesn’t even draw heavy breath from him. Respectable.
The trip is peaceful.
When we arrive, Saiten assists me in sweeping and basic maintenance. While we clean, I make my caste mark appear as a show of respect. Saiten follows suit. I also plant a few berry seeds I had brought along.
On the trip back, Saiten says that he feels like he’s hit some kind of block in his training. Something about the way he phrases it brings to mind my meditation, and the lock I have felt recently. I invite him to join me, and he agrees.
He joins me throughout the week, but I can tell he is restless. The meditation doesn’t suit him, I think. I refrain from offering further advice – I think he needs to look inwards and sort this out himself. Still, I hope I have given him a starting point.
I do feel as though I am making progress. I have begun wearing Dauntless while meditating.
Dauntless urges me to battle, to face overwhelming odds. While meditating, I don’t seek to fight these feelings, but to find peace and calm at the same time.

Ascending Fire 23 through 28, RY768

One day, Aster and I have lunch together. It’s somewhat uncomfortable.
I have difficulty being alone with Aster. She’s too… pretty, and optimistic, and young, and innocent. I have so little in common with her. I think I’m a little over ten times her age – I don’t feel it, but when I’m alone with her I feel aware of it. I have difficulty making conversation.
She mentions wanting to open another location for her clinic, perhaps at the family compound? I am certain they will happily agree, and I agree to build it. From there, we talked about how else we could improve the lives of people in Champoor. She mentioned that it seemed difficult for people to be safe while shopping for food. I suggested perhaps we could build a market outside our compound? Put walls around it, have guards patrol, make it a safe place for people to work and shop. Aster asked what about the people the market displaced? Well, I could build some nicer housing for them, keep the rent affordable.
This actually sounds like a really good plan, I’m excited.

Saiten announced that he was going to leave town for a few days, but he would be back.

I also went into the city and found buyers for Knot and String’s special mead, and made deals with some drinking establishments and restaurants to purchase their more mundane mead.

I began work on the market and housing project.

Resplendent Fire 1 through 8, RY768

I continue to wear Dauntless while meditating. I feel close to breaking the “lock”.
One day, during my meditation, Piper came up to find me, saying she wanted to talk. She sounded nervous? At first she talked about how, since she wasn’t a member of Rising Sun House, she thought she should pay me rent. I couldn’t see how those two things were related, and said she was welcome to stay freely, but should follow the laws we were laying out. She questioned whether that was necessary – in retrospect, she may have been right to object. I will come back to this.
We discussed the fact that we should codify an actual set of laws, and debated what extremes of punishment are reasonable – we didn’t speak of execution, now that I think of it.
Piper then mentioned that he had been approached by a “Murder Spirit”. When I asked why, he didn’t directly answer, but implied much. He thinks there may be many such spirits in Champoor, encouraging the populace to unsightly acts, and arranged for a meeting with the spirit’s superior. He declined my presence at the meeting, so I said I would observe from a distance, and rush to aid if he made a signal. He was adamant that if he were to die, I should find his flute and destroy it. He didn’t say why, and departed shortly after.

When I took my Second Breath, I was given a vision and words from The Unconquered Sun, which have made certain parts of my life more bearable, and also indicated that I Exalted for a purpose. Piper did not receive such a vision, which must have left her with a great deal of uncertainty, but if I became a Solar for a reason, then so must she. Whatever laws we establish, if she has good cause, she should probably be allowed to operate outside of them.

During a meditation towards the end of the week I made a strong push against the “lock” I had been feeling, and it just… vanished. I felt a huge rush of Essence, sudden and feverish. I forced myself to wait it out, fighting the urge to leap to my feet and… yell at the sky or something, I don’t know what. Anyways, I rode that out, and when I had settled somewhat, I found that I felt… higher functioning, like I was full of new ideas.
Before I stood up to head downstairs, I looked within once more. I could not find the lock, but I felt like I could almost sense something greater, like the silhouette of a tower blocking the stars in the night.

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Saiten's Journal 6
The search for Platon

Descending wood 19 continued

As we descended on the platform, defeated, we asked the attendant if he knew of any good places to stay. He didn’t really seem all that enthusiastic, but he recommended the Steam Kettle. At least we knew where to find that!
As we wandered the city, I couldn’t help but notice how many city guard there were. They patrolled regularly, were well dressed, and well respected by the people within the city. It must be nice to live here. To feel safe. I bet they don’t need too many heroes around here.
We had almost reached the kettle, when something odd happened. A girl seemed to mistake Piper for somebody called Aria, and tried to touch her. Piper seemed noticeably shaken by this, but the girl had disappeared before we got a chance to question her.

When we got to the Kettle, the barmaid introduced herself as Chellia. She took our orders for food, and reserved us two rooms for the night. I got a noodle dish this time. The noodles came out steaming hot, and were an odd green colour, but they tasted good.
We hadn’t even finished our meal however, when Dasadi excused himself suddenly, and without reason. Maybe the food didn’t agree with him? Piper left shortly after to keep an eye on him. Probably a good idea. Food poisoning can be quite debilitating.

Once Aster and I had finished our meals, we decided to go shopping. She mainly wanted to look upon different fabrics, and restock her medical supplies. As we passed though the textiles shops, I was once again stung with the memory of my family. We used to sell our wares to shops just like these.
We returned to the Steam Kettle, where piper was waiting for us. She told us Dasadi was apparently following a shady looking bar patron, but both he and Dasadi had somehow managed to give Piper the slip. That’s quite impressive, as I know first hand how fast Piper can be.
When Dasadi returned, we retired to one of our rooms to talk. He explained that he was tailing somebody who had been watching Obi (whom Piper is currently disguised as).
We split off into pairs for the night. Myself and Dasadi to one room, Aster and Piper to another. I regretted this almost immediately, as Dasadi prefers to sleep in the nude. I’m getting my own room next time.

Descending wood 20

When we descended from our rooms in the morning, I noticed that Piper had disguised herself. She had once again put on the face of Obi, but had made an attempt to disguise it in a more traditional sense. Obi now had long hair, and an almost equally long beard. I couldn’t help but smirk when I recognized him.
We talked as we ate our breakfast. Without many leads to go on, we decided to ask around popular areas to see if anyone had seen Platon. And if that failed, we’d resort to the more unsavory areas of town and try our luck there.
We headed to the fish market first. I know I had just eaten breakfast, but the smells there were intoxicating. We approached one of the merchants, who was selling something he called “Squin Cross.” It was just as delicious as it smelled. Crispy on the outside, soft and flaky on the inside. I told him that I would defiantly be returning later to get more.
Before leaving the merchant’s stall, we questioned him about Platon. He said that he had seen a man of his description heading north, in the direction of the prison yesterday. We thanked him and headed on our way.

Fearing we would lose the trail before long, we ducked into a pub named “The Plane” to see if anyone else had seen Platon. The bartender introduced himself as Surmon. I wasn’t about to waste any more time, so I plainly asked Surmon if he had seen Platon. He told us that from the sound of the tattoo, he might be part of the Strix syndicate. They operate out of a warehouse near the prison. He warned us not to go there, as the Strix were a dangerous group. I told him not to worry about us. “I’m a hero” I explained.
We headed towards the warehouse when we saw him. Platon himself! He was entering the warehouse that Surmon had spoke of. We had finally found him. Finally I can get some answers!
When we arrived at the door to the warehouse,we quickly discovered that it was locked. As the group pondered on how to proceed, I decided to just knock. I hadn’t the intention of fighting Platon, so there was no need to be sneaky or forceful. The apperture in the door opened, and presented a riddle to us. I had barely time to consider the riddle when Aster had answered it. I am glad to her with me. I am not sure if I would have been able to figure that one out.

The door opened inward, and inside we could see blackness. Thankfully, Aster was able to use her light to let us view inside. We saw nothing. Nothing, but an empty warehouse with some paper walls, obscuring the remainder.
We cautiously entered the warehouse, but before all of us could enter, the door slammed shut behind us. Dasadi was trapped outside! It was only moments after that our ambushers appeared. There must have been hundreds of them. All armed with blades, bows, clubs, and all other manner of weaponry.
I knew I was going to have to fight them. That much I had already accepted. But I worried that this was not the only battle about to be fought. Outside, Dasadi was surely being ambushed as well. Before our attackers could nock their bows, I blew the door off it’s hinges. If Dasadi was in trouble, at least he could be in the same trouble as the rest of us.
Thankfully, when he entered, there was nobody with him. At least I was wrong about that.

The battle was fierce, and I may have over done it a bit. At one point I may have punched a man through another man. That’s a new one for me. By the time the enemy had begun to flee, my headlamp had revealed itself once again, though I was too wound up to care.

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Piper Journal 15
A leaf in the wind

Ascending Fire 13 – There and back again


The ship ride back was quiet. I think everyone was preoccupied with their bruised feelings over what happened in Volivat. Dasadi left us on the fourth day to retrace his steps and investigate what had happened to him that left him with no memory in the middle of the Dreaming sea. I was kind of sad to see him go.

As the boat made to Dock in Champoor we heard the jangling chords of a guitar and a Light male voice singing. Aster rushed to the prow and furiously started to wave. The source proved to be tall lean man maybe in his 30’s with red hair of a middling length serenading the boat from the landing. An acquaintance of Aster’s? A lover maybe? I tried to ignore the sudden swell of annoyance at this trite overly saccharine display as Aster lept ashore to throw herself into his arms.

Introductions were made and he was introduced as Litaka Aster’s teacher. Aster chatted with him non-stop all the way to Rising Sun House as I kept to the rear and stayed quiet. I could see why a young girl might be drawn to him. He was handsome, spoke with a smooth easy going charm and had this sense of being very comfortable with his place in creation. He was drawing the odd look from the girls and women he passed on the street. Saiten seemed drawn in by him too.

I don’t trust him.

We were actually quite far off from Rising Sun House when Broken Wall’s handiwork became apparent. A new tower soared out of the slums of Champoor like an alabaster beacon. It’s sides were decorated with sigils and statues dedicated to what I now recognize as the Unconquered Sun. Seeing it made my stomach tighten, goose flesh rippling over my skin as I followed the others through the gates. Why did it have to be a temple?

Chaoxi met us outside and told us that Broken Walls was aloft in his tower but would be down soon. She just finished giving us a quick overview of the expansions made in our absence when Broken Walls popped his head over the tower and told us he would be down immediately.

We all headed inside and introductions for Litaka were made. Broken Walls asked how our exploits in Volivat had gone and I think given our lackluster response it was plain that we were disheartened. Saiten gave Broken Walls the broad strokes of what had happened as Aster put in a few details. I was mostly silent. Seeing Broken Walls again was… odd. I was so angry at him when I left but in the light of everything that’s happened it all seems dim and distant. It was uncomfortable particularly when Litaka began weighing in with his opinions and observations on Saiten’s story. I excused myself to help Chaoxi in the kitchen before I was tempted to speak my mind to that presumptuous ass.

I was glad to see Chaoxi again. I chopped carrots for her and unloaded what was first and foremost on my mind: Pekahan Aniyani’s strange ability to see through my disguises and about the strange case of mistaken identity. She didn’t seem particularly concerned and told me that if my power came from being a solar then there are things out there that can see through that power. That was disconcerting to think of but it made sense. I have become overconfident in my ability to hide in plain sight. I must not fully rely on it if I am looking to challenge greater powers. Chaoxi gave me a friendly pat on the shoulder and told me not to let it get under my skin. Easier said than done.

After dinner Aster’s teacher went to fetch a bottle of wine which gave us a chance to fill in Broken Walls and Chaoxi on some of the more Anathema-centric aspects of what had happened. They for their part told us that things had been mostly quiet for them. Litaka reappeared with his bottle of wine and I retreated into my room to read and eavesdrop. Aster regailed her teacher with a toned down tale of our exploits though she was careful not to tell him much about me.

Ascending Fire 14 – Party plans.


In the morning I awoke to find food waiting for me on the table with a note in an unfamiliar hand. It was cold, probably freshly made a few hours ago. I was debating whether I would eat it when Broken Walls came by and asked about whether we gave Aster a birthday present. I told him we had not, it had slipped my mind while we were in Volivat to give her a belated gift. Too preoccupied. Broken Walls asked me about some advice for a gift immediately turning to grandiose options. A new wing for her clinic or a pasture for her cow.

While I’m sure she would appreciate those things I began to wonder if maybe Broken Wall’s doesn’t realize how troubling it can be to be the recipient of such overwhelming generosity. I told him we should think of something smaller, more personal, maybe something nice for her to wear. I could practically see the wheels in his head grind to a stop. It was plain he idea how to go about selecting women’s clothing and that his own choice of apparel was largely influenced by Chaoxi. I swear there are times they seem to give the impression of being an old married couple. We arranged to go shopping for a gift in the afternoon after Broken Walls spent some time meditating at the top of his tower.

I changed into Aster’s form and met him in the courtyard. He seemed a bit put off by me using her shape and asked if it was entirely necessary. I had to explain that it was. How else was I to find something that would fit her perfectly and compliment her skin tone and hair color? I was committed to finding her a dress that was nothing less than perfect. Besides, the chances we would actually meet Aster were relatively slim.

It took two hours before we found Aster’s dress. I managed to find a silk light spring green with a design of delicate pink asters and lush leaves picked out with metallic pale gold in the styles favoured by the girls of the inner city. The shopkeep recommended a tailor who pinned it to fit leaving a bit of allowance for Aster’s chain mail undergarments. I picked out a few little matching accessories to compliment the outfit. Not expensive but stylish. Broken Walls seemed a bit put out at not having much input on the gift itself but brightened a bit when I asked him if he was willing to make a box for the gift.

It was then we started conjecture towards what sort of party we should throw Aster. Fortitude being somewhat of a grim place Broken Walls had never been to a birthday celebration and was only aware of birthday custom in a sort of academic sense. I was accustomed to them but hated the lavish and hedonistic galas the butterfly court threw for it’s patrons. In the end Broken Walls arranged the food and footed the bill and I arranged for a troupe of acrobats and musicians I knew from the Winter Meet’s Wind theater to perform. Aster seemed overwhelmed and delighted. She wasn’t in the least put out that the meal only had three courses and a handful of guests.

It was the most enjoyable party I have ever attended by far.

Ascending Fire 21 – Two steps forward, one step back


It was time to reacquaint myself with Champoor. I had not gotten far when I walked past an open door and witnessed a man beating a woman bloody. She was screaming for help and I felt my blood run cold. A crumbling waterbarrel’s rusting ring provided me with a makeshift blunt chakaram and I went to work. The man as it turns out really wasn’t prepared to beat someone who fights back. He lay unconscious on the floor of his hovel as the woman looked at me with tortured fear in her eyes. She was afraid of him coming after her.

It is a hard thing trying to imagine the sort of person I wish to become. Aster believes in a kind of redemption and forgiveness that I don’t. Saiten believes that being a good person and saving people from an immediate threat is what being a hero is all about and that is enough for him. I fully believe what they do is important but it is also woefully incomplete. I’ve always wanted to change things for the better but I think that maybe it is not possible unless you’re willing to compete with an element the world would truly be better off without.

I beheaded the man.

The woman packed up and left in a hurry without looking back. The shack was a dismal place bare of all but the most basic furnishings. It took me awhile to bury the body in the dirt floor getting fairly filthy in the process. The dirt handily stuck to the blood on my clothes not that it matters in Champoor. Here everyone is filthy and every third person in the crowd had a few bloodstains on their clothes. I guessed according to the anarchistic rule of “might makes right” that the city runs on this shack now belonged to me.

I went about my business but the day was hardly half over when I practically ran into a man with fresh blood dripping from his hands not half an alleyway away from a man whose life was draining rapidly into the gutter. I apprehended the killer and weighed my options of what to do with him. Given the answers to my questions he was a common thug who had killed the man for his money. I watched a young boy kneel by the dead man and start to sob and asked myself not for the first time why the muggers here are so quick to escalate to murder.

I felt a little resentful towards the killer. I would like to not have to do something I would have to keep a secret from the others but I don’t see many other options. If I beat up and left him on the street he would probably just go off to kill again. He didn’t exactly seem remorseful, rather I got the impression that he thought very little about what he did and just existed on some sort of murderous animal instinct. If I let him go I would be responsible in part for the people he hurt wouldn’t I? There isn’t exactly any authority to dump him on that would stop him from just picking up where he left off. Maybe he could be more than a waste if his brutality could be channeled to some useful end.

We had a bit of a chat in my new shack. I told him that I would be willing to let his transgressions temporarily slide if he co-operated with me and joined a workforce for Kadu and reported on their activities. I admit I had very little leverage on him since I barely knew anything about him and was ill equipped to keep him prisoner. I had the feeling that this wouldn’t work but perhaps he could be threatened into staying put. Sure enough the next day he had fled. I’ll have to keep an eye out for him in the future.

Rising Sun House was quiet that week. Aster was off to study with her teacher and Saiten and Broken Walls went off on some errand for a few days. I pondered a little about how to really start making a difference in this place. My attempt with the overly aggressive mugger may not have been successful but it did give me an idea. If I am to make a difference here I need to look beyond operating on my own. I need to start looking for people who stood out. The gossip mongers and the people who get around and most importantly those who are desperate and needed help.

I will not be Pekahan Aniyani. The people I rally must not be forced to do what I ask because they fear me. The ambitions of the others are too slow. Broken Walls has created a little bubble where people can feel safer. His influence grows but it is far too limited to what he builds and owns. It is hard to remember at times but he is an old man, patient in a way that mortals can’t afford to be. That isn’t enough for me. I will find those who need protection and I will offer it freely. If they wish to show their gratitude I will give them opportunity but I will not solicit. I have always thought I had no place consorting with good people but I think maybe that was misguided. Maybe I need to start getting to know them better so I can offer consequences to those who try and grind them down.

It is time to start expanding my horizons.

I took the form of a young pickpocket and put forward a proposal to a few youngsters who were doing their best to become proper foists. I told them there was a gang they could join who would protect them with no strings attached and no greedy thief lords who skimmed off their take or beat them if they didn’t earn. If anyone tried to mess with them they only needed to leave a strip of red cloth or ribbon tied around a post in Shortshank square and in the evening someone would come by their den to listen and make their problems go away. Some were wary but a few signed on. I secured a place for them to stay and left fuel and food there. I would check back on them later.

I met with a few other people in the inner city. I checked back with the girls who remembered Pearl and got some mostly useless gossip about the Fire social season and started looking to get acquainted with people in multiple walks of life. Prostitutes, gamblers, players, shopkeepers, barkeeps, beggars – I wanted to start understanding Champoor better from all it’s angles and even though I was not truthful with the people I met about who I really was I found their company surprisingly pleasant.

In the evenings Aster checked in on me and we practiced music together. I let slip I wasn’t much comfortable living in Rising Sun House. I meant it when I said I didn’t want to be a member of this business but I do not relish establishing those boundaries with Broken Walls. He seems to think that I should march in step to his tune, as though being a Solar makes me bound to follow him and I cannot suffer that. Aster still thinks well of him. I think he is overbearing in the extreme, but he is the only other Solar I know who has few reservations about getting his hands dirty and I can’t deny that this place is safer than any place I might hole up in. I must think on the matter.

I discovered that Broken Wall’s tower was a quiet spot that nobody used after dark. I could light a candle and lean up against the cold stone and just try to untangle my thoughts. It was so much easier before. I never really worried about the implications of what I did coming back to bite me. In Volivat I tried not to overstep what Aster and Saiten were comfortable with and since they were almost always looking on I didn’t have anything to hide. Here I am free to use my judgement and I know that if they were aware of what that judgement entails they would be horrified. The last thing I want is to tarnish their shining, unrealistic ideals. We need people like them to show others there is good in the world.

So that is where I stand. Keeping secrets builds a wall between the others and I but staying within the limits of what they would be happy with will not change Champoor. I regret that I must always stay at arms length but perhaps it is enough. I continue to struggle to fit pieces together that do not align and wonder how, if at all, I can make them work.

Ascending Fire 28 – Contact


I spent my second week back mostly amoungst my new charges. Broken Walls has started some sort of joint project with Aster to create an adjoining market next to the compound and Saiten went off somewhere to “train without all these distractions” whatever that means. I came back in the evenings but I barely saw my fellows much. Aster’s teacher was still hanging about so I did my best not to be underfoot. The man makes me feel acutely the gulf between myself and other people. Would I have become like him if I hadn’t been spirited away? Comfortable in my identity and not frozen in a state somewhere in-between forms. Cocooning myself in a safe but isolating barrier between myself and the rest of creation.

Aster still speaks to me during the night. She tells me about her family. She misses them though she knows she can’t return. I can relate. She keeps her distance, trying not to ask too many questions about my past. I told Broken Walls but with him I was matter of fact and vague in a way I know Aster won’t stop at. She deserves honesty but I how do I even broach the topic of why I am not the person I should have been?

Anyway…

The small group I have accumulated is growing. As Nack and Mei I learned their names and their stories. Some had parents they were trying to help and did not stay in the humble dwelling that I provided while others had fled their families or had simply been abandoned to fend for themselves because their people couldn’t feed them. Many of them were wary about someone sticking up for them and asking nothing in return but when no one ever appeared asking for their earnings and the concerns they whispered through the knothole in the back of the shed in the final hour before dusk were addressed the next day they began to relax. I didn’t kill any of the thief lords but I did my best to leave behind examples of what happened if they messed with one of the children under my care.

As Mei and the mysterious voice from the other side of the wall I informed the growing number of children that there were a few rules if they wanted to remain under protection. They could not bully or steal from their den mates. They would offer no prayers to Silgar and they would not seek to do violence. They were pickpockets, not thugs or murderers. I was clear that to be anything else would mean the one who listens to the whispers would grow deaf to their words and they would be on their own.

I have been making a few friends with some of the older beggars on the other side of the wall and found a bookshop with an excellent selection. Most of the more interesting volumes are more pricey than I can easily afford but the owner’s grandmother has taken a shine to me. A few days ago she invited me for tea and we talked about the Edda of Ieyasu. It was one of Peony’s favorite books and I remember them fondly. I made plans to come visit her again next week. Maybe I will talk to Aster about where to obtain some good tea.

Resplendant Fire 7 – Thin Blood


It was satisfying to watch the bruises slowly fade from the skins of the children who were no longer under the thumb of a bully. Which is why a few days later when I encountered a few adults beating one of my charges on the street I was furious. I thrashed them until they could hardly move and sliced off the first joint of their right hand pinky finger as I told them in a low hiss that was the price for messing with “The Whisper’s” kids. I had just walked away when I ran into a man who had mugged someone in the Champoori fashion of skipping the part where they demand money and going straight into slipping a knife into a vital organ or two.

There was nothing for it. I killed him. As I did it I felt as though I lay another brick in the wall between myself and my more idealistic allies but I couldn’t let him go. Around the corner I met two more murderers working in tandem. I killed them as well. I spiked their lifeless corpses upright to a wall and as an afterthought used their blood to write out a message. “Knock it off.”

There is something wrong with the murderers here. It isn’t just that they are endemic, it is how inhuman they are. There is no apparent guilt or reason for their violence. They say it is because someone had something they wanted killing people to take it isn’t necessary. Yes this place has no oversight and authority to deter violence so these people operate with impunity but the more I saw it the more I felt it was wrong. Not in the moral sense but in an unnatural one. Almost as if something had hollowed these people out. Turning a corner I saw a silver knife on the top of a crate. It immediately struck me as a sort of ceremonial weapon and I became more certain of what I was dealing with. I took the knife with me and wasn’t entirely surprised when I turned the next corner and found another man trying to free his knife from someone’s intestines. I bound him swiftly and towed him into an alley to talk.

I asked the man why he had killed someone and got the same answer they all give. He wanted to steal their money. I was about to ask him why he didn’t just beat them up when a voice whispered in my ear “You should probably kill him.” I inhaled slowly, willing myself to see the world through a different lens. My vision wavered, the colors becoming more saturated The shadows deeper and darker. I saw something take shape that I had heard descriptions of but never seen. It was pretty much as I imagined it from Chaoxi’s description. Pale birdlike face, human shaped but too thin in places and hands that dripped blood. My heart quickened, I knew one day I would face this thing, I expected it. The game I was about to play was the most dangerous I have ever attempted but high risk was offset by potential reward. I felt a rush of adrenaline. The board was set, time to take the first move.

“And you are?”

It didn’t seem prepared for me to turn and look it square in the face. It recovered quickly and introduced itself as “a murder spirit” The way it spoke it didn’t seem like it was the only one and maybe not at the top of the pecking order. It told me I “did good work” and applauded my use of disguises. It offered to arrange a meeting with someone in his connection, someone I shared something in common with. I can’t say I understood what he meant. My first thought went to another identity spinner. The trussed up man in front of me must have thought I had lost my mind and was talking to myself until the spirit materialized. Once the murderer saw the spirit he began to scream and cry so I gagged him. It appears this man was not a conscious agent of this spirit but was maybe influenced by it somehow. I agreed to meet with this mystery person and set up a place and time the following day.

The creature, seeming pleased with itself rubbed it’s bloody hands together and stared expectantly at the man in front of me. I waved it off and it shuffled a few steps further back. I gave it a look and it took a few further steps. I gave it a glare and it made it’s way out of the alley, pausing to wave as it rounded the corner. It sounded quite cheerful as it bid me adieu and that it looked forward to working with me. Turning toward the gagged murderer who was now fighting his bonds and frothing at the mouth I grew queasy. I doubt that he was fully responsible for his penchant for stabbing but there was no way to snap him out of it. Knowing I was being watched I needed to play my part convincingly. I looked at the man in the eye and though my stomach turned with distaste at the idea he might not deserve what was coming the only outward expression I allowed myself was a little sigh.

“Well, this is awkward.” I said as I sunk the knife into his temple.

I headed back to Rising Sun house and checking about me to make sure I was not being followed by something others couldn’t see I made for Broken Wall’s tower. He was there, kneeling as if in prayer, his eyes closed. I coughed to get his attention and he asked me what I wanted. I was apprehensive. My dealings with Broken Walls have ranged widely and have been mostly to my pain. He cares for Aster and Saiten and they trust him which means he is more or less an inevitable fixture of my present if not my future and I believe he least thinks of me as an ally. I know we are not entirely on the same page but I needed help. It was time to see if I can trust him.

I asked him what his plans for a justice system were. His answer didn’t inspire me with confidence that there would be one on the horizon any time soon. The logistics of it are more complicated than I think either of us are fully equipped for at present. I think the thought of locking people up might not sit well with him given the time he has spent in a cage. I wasn’t sure work details were the lesser evil. The citizens here lack for paid work. Little good will come from undermining what little work exists here with indentured labour. This didn’t make me feel better. I have so few options in dealing with these murderous husks of human beings. Beating them up and leaving them bleeding is useless. It won’t be consistent enough to deter them from just picking up where they left off. Maiming them is an option but I admit it is one that I don’t find savoury. Killing them definitely stops them from killing again but I find myself conflicted. Certain people deserve what is coming for them but these people are driven by desperation and probably some spiritual influence eroding them away from the inside. I can’t just chuck them into a hole for later. Prisons require guards, food, cells and more. No easy fix.

I narrowly accused Broken Wall’s vision of being too small. Confined to only what he builds with his own two hands as the conversation turned to why I was bringing this up. I hesitated. It is time to start putting some cards on the table. I told him about the murder spirit. As I expected he caught on as to why I may have drawn this spirit’s attention but he didn’t reprimand me. Instead he asked if I needed backup. I was actually somewhat pleased he was willing to back me up but I told him no, I can’t risk it. If this thing discovers I am playing it for information then I am cat meat. I can see these spirits but I can’t touch them yet. All the power is in my enemy’s court. I instead left him with one request should I perish : Find and destroy the Radius. This may have confused him. I let him know about where and when I was meeting my contact. It is nice to know he will be keeping an eye out for any sign I am in trouble but I in all likelihood if it all goes south I will be dead before anyone can reach me.

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Invitation

You are cordially invited to a casual dinner with Aster Full of Light on the evening of Resplendent Fire 10. Please respond with your affirmation or refusal as soon as is convenient.

Yours,

 

Aster.

 

The invitation is pressed with one of Aster’s customary little yellow flowers.

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Aster's Diary 13
Returning home: Celebrations!

I’m sorry for how long it has been since I last wrote, diary. I have been keeping very busy! There has been so much to do now that we ate back in Champoor. Let me fill you in on everything.

We returned to Champoor to an unexpected fanfare: Litaka was there on the docks, waiting for me! My friends hadn’t met him before, so I was very pleased to see him there. Litaka is my mentor, my teacher, and my friend. We’ve crossed paths on a number of occasions over the course of my journey in the light, usually just for a few days, and not usually very frequently, but in our time together, he had taught me much. He is a great teller of stories, performer of music, and lover of life. He taught me my form of combat through song. His meeting with my friends went well, I think, though I’m not sure they trust him yet.

From the docks we headed back to the place I think I am now glad to call home. It was more… Fortified…than I last remembered it, but I suppose it meant that Broken Walls kept himself busy while we were away. There was also a tower now in the middle of the new walled off area of the compound, decorated with images of the sun.

In the courtyard stood Chaoxi, a welcome sight! She greeted us with open arms, and seemed pleased that we were home safely. Our conversation drew the attention of Broken Walls, who wad at that time up in his new tower. He descended, and we were able to have a lovely reunion that evening.

Litaka had decided to stay in champoor for a few days or so, so was with us that night while we recounted what had happened during our visit to Volivat. I think the news that there wasn’t a new enemy company to contend with was somewhat welcome news, even if our mission had others ended disappointingly. Chaoxi seemed to have some more knowledge of the nature of Lunars, so if Pecahan resurfaces, we may be somewhat more forewarned.

Our talking and catching up lasted late into the night, and I was not the last to head to my room.

 

The next day I checked in on my beloved Daisy, and my beloved clinic, and went out into the city proper with Litaka. It was comforting to be spending time with him again. We made our way to Hatelis’ temple, and I filled him in on our journey, letting him know that we had returned, should he wish to revisit the idea of asking for our help. He seemed… Distracted… Which, in discussing and hindsight was probably due to the amount of work he may have during the day. I probably should have told him we were coming first.

When we arrived home, a wonderful surprise was waiting for me: my friends had put together a birthday party!  Since my birthday had occurred on the journey to Volivat, I had mostly forgotten it, accept for its humorous relation to our meeting of Dasadi, so I was well and grueling surprised by this celebration. It was a wonderful was to be welcomed home, knowing that my friends cared about me so much. There was a cake, and musicians, and they presented me with a beautiful new dress in a magnificently carved box. I was overwhelmed.

 

The next few days were a bit of a blur. Many things happened, but I can’t quite recall what happened on which day, not in what order… I’ll let you know add best I can. I have made it my mission to get to know my friends and my city better. To that end, I’ve taken to making time to talk to all of my friends each week. Broken Walls and I shared a meal, and discussed creating a market next to our complex to provide a safe place and save produce for the residents nearby. In doing so, we will also need to provide those we displace with new housing, but it will probably be better than what they were living in before anyway, so it seems like a win-win for everyone :). Saiten and I discussed what he wants to do from this point on with Litaka. I worry about him. I don’t like seeing him so listless and without purpose. I think he’ll figure it out, though;  I have every faith in him!  

Piper and I played music together and spoke of family. It was… Bitter sweet. I miss my sisters dearly. It was good, however, to speak of them. It makes me believe that they are still alive and well.We also spoke of Pipers discomfort with being tied to the Company, and with speaking with Broken Walls about this. I hope my words instilled some more trust in him for her; Broken Walls may not have the best way with people, bit I think he is far more caring and understanding than his stoic exterior belies.  

I have also been singing… Differently… With Litaka’s instruction. Every day, when the sun is high, I song on the walls of champoor. I pour my heart, and my light into my song, entwining both into every note. I stretch my voice to the ends of its limits, and then let my light carry it just that much further, every day a new emotion to spread to the people of my city. I feel new, cleansed and clear.

 

I wonder if I should try writing music.

 

Litaka’s has left, now, gone in the middle of my most satisfying performances. As is his way, I suppose, though he stayed much longer this time than he usually does.

 

My weekly visits with my companions of course includes talks with Chaoxi. She feels more and more like a sister to me these days, especially after our last talk. She asked me about any romantic attachments I might be forming, which was terribly uncomfortable, but very much like my older sisters might. She gave me some very sound advice on how I might approach the object of my affection, so hopefully my invitation will not cause either of us too much discomfort.

 

I am nervous. I have never before expressed my desire to meet with someone in anything but a platonic sort of way. I was too young to pursue any romance when I left the City of the Steel Lotus, and haven’t been anywhere for long enough to really even think about anyone that way until now. I’m not sure how my advances will be taken.

 

…I’ve never been on a date before.

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Temporary Notes for May 28th's Session

Ascending Fire 13 – Arrive back in champoor, Litaka is waiting for everyone. They go and hang out at the solar compound, and discover Broken walls’ new tower.

Ascending Fire 14 – Broken Walls & Piper shop for a pretty dress for Aster. Aster meets briefly with Hatelis for lunch with Litaka.

Ascending Fire 15-22
- Broken walls & Saiten maintence Karoski’s temple. Saiten tries meditating with Broken Wall’s on top of the tower and finds it distracting.
- Aster recruits a new aid for her clinic. Starts looking for a second clinic location.
- Piper works on obtaining new contacts throughout the city.
- Slum Shack baby yeah

Ascending fire 23-28
- New clinic is planned at the main family compound
- Piper starts a pickpocket ring. Also murders some dudes
- Aster and broken walls plan out and begin construction of a market & a set of low income town houses
- Siaten explores meditation in the wild and finds some peace there.
- Broken walls finds some buyers for Knot & Strings Special Mead

Resplendent Fire 01-07
- Aster meditates on new song, and widening her perspective on how she can shape the world with her light (Or however shannon phrases asters experience in her upcoming journal)
- Saiten explores pushing himself to his absolute limit. Finds there is a limit to his ability, and experiences the flow of essence accumulating within his body.
- A murder spirit has taken interest in Pipers activities and has been setting up convenient murders for her/him.
- Training/Meditation/Self reflection result in +1 Essence for Saiten, Broken Walls, and Aster

Resplendent Fire 08
- Aster makes up a fancy Dinner invitation for some unknown person.
- Piper’s meeting with the Murder Spirit is planned.

Other things happened between characters that I wasn’t able to accurately track.

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Piper's Journal 14
Nemesis

Descending Wood 21 — Morning


Crowds had already gathered by the time we arrived at the Plane. The building was in shambles, which was unusual since Volivat architecture can best be described as “sturdy”. A stunned serving man outside told us Sermon, our quarry, was somewhere underneath the almost entirely intact back wall in the space that had once been a kitchen. With only a whisper of a mention that she should get help from the crowd Aster understood implicitly what was required and went to work. In a trice there were enough brawny looking Volivat natives and myself ringed around the collapsed wall with Saiten, our veins bulging as we struggled with the heavy slab. >/p>

Well, “We” struggled. Saiten did more than struggle.

I heard the rock splintering a little under Saiten’s fingers as he bore down on the heavy stone. I hoped the sound wouldn’t have seemed out of place to mortal ears. As a ruse I think it worked well. Distributing the responsibility for performing an impossible feat does tend to make a spectacle somewhat plausible. The crowd cheered as the slab was leaned up against another building and Aster leapt into action to heal the injured barkeep. I sent his waiter running for water and clean linen bandages to get him out of the way and knelt beside Sermon, hoping to give the appearance of assisting as I went through the man’s pockets. I didn’t get far before Aster stopped me with a few admonishments.

It is a little frustrating that once she has taken someone into her care she brooks no interference but having been on the receiving end of those attentions I guess I shouldn’t complain. She told me that I might “injure” Sermon further by going through his pockets which I tried not to take to mean she thought me ham handed. It is ludicrous to think I could have harmed him by picking his pockets so I think she just takes issue with me going through his things. After my unseemly display yesterday I hesitated over pushing things too far and retreated to make use of the time to dig about in the rubble for anything that might be a clue. I reaffirmed that excavation is not my strong suit but that is the extent of revelations I was able to unearth.

Under Aster’s administrations it wasn’t long before Sermon came to. Just like everyone else who has run afoul of this damnable creature he couldn’t answer our questions. He told us that it left a message : “we have one more trial to face back where we began” and refused to talk further. With Aster advocating for his safety should he overstep his bounds while under the threat of this creature I was unable to pursue the line of questioning much further.

The notion we were being tested didn’t sit well. Particularly since whatever was pulling the strings regards ordinary mortals as disposable. If the prisoners it put in our path were just a test then it had torn through prison guards like rice paper simply because they were in the way of what it wanted. I have heard of nobles who test the edges of their new weapons on the bodies of criminals. Perhaps a similar mentality is at play.

We called back Saiten who insisted we go digging for survivors in the rubble. I told him he needn’t bother. Anyone beneath that heap was dead if they were even there at all. Saiten, in the grip of his passion for being a hero wouldn’t give it up that easily and argued that I couldn’t know that since “I wasn’t a doctor”. I reminded him that I didn’t have to be because it is common knowledge that living humans have heartbeats and I would be able to hear if they existed in that silent rubble heap. He just looked at me “You can hear that well?” he asked me surprised. I stared at him a moment as I considered bringing up the numerous occasions I have demonstrated this ability and settled on “Yes.” I don’t believe Saiten is terribly clearheaded about things when he believes he has people to save.

Turning recent events over in our collective minds we returned to the Clansman’s Respite for a more private conversation over our next move and to tie up loose ends. To our surprise we arrived there just as Dasadi turned the corner. I had relegated Aster and Saiten’s hopes of his possible survival to the realm of wishful thinking but there he was. Looking definitely the worse for wear but undeniably alive. He explained later that when he is in mortal danger he can call upon his power to save him but that it pulls him to a place not of his choosing. This time he had ended up on the top of the tower in the middle of the city. He had needed to ask for help to get down and the story he gave by explanation of what happened is sort of a mix of the truth and lies with the ratio heavily relying on lies. Since he dropped some names of clans here but was vague on specifics it should take some time for the authorities to fully discredit his story but in a tightly knit community like this the fact he had lied would eventually come to light. Maybe this explains something about how he ended up in the middle of the Dreaming Sea… and why his cover stories are somewhat lacking. I am beginning to think lying isn’t his forte.

A comfort.

Dasadi was starved from a night and day spent on atop a tower so we talked as we picked at massive slabs of roast yedam that Saiten brought from the kitchen downstairs. We covered what we’ve learned and tried to establish a reasonable course of action deciding to retrace some of the places we had visited as we made our way across the city. I wanted to visit the book stores again to try and understand what, if anything, a stryx signifies. It could be nothing but if I had an organization and decided to name it “the Tiger Conglomerate” then the image I might try to project is one of wild and dangerous power. “Rathouse” before we knew they were the patrons of a rat God conveyed underlying context of cunning, treacherous and illicit behaviors through similar connotation. Given the attack on the prison had to do with a beast that had feathers there might there be more to this choice than just picking a random bird of prey. Dasadi didn’t know much on the subject of stryxs’ and the bookstores of the city were clustered a little ways past the Steamkettle which was one of the places we looked to retrace our steps.

Nearest to us was the fish market so it seemed reasonable to check back with Harold of Seafoam since he had sent us Playton’s way. No such luck. He had nothing to add to our investigation but another bag of his seasoned krillifish which I must admit are growing on me. I had only picked at the grilled yedam as it was tough and I had wondered at how long it had been dead given that Volivat is in the middle of the sea and not exactly pasture adjacent. We were heading toward the bookstores when oily black smoke on the horizon drew our notice. It seems the Steamkettle was on fire. Indeed there has been a run of inconvenient events following the inns and taverns we’ve frequented since we first came here. Fancy that.

On arrival the bucket brigade had already started ferrying water to the building. I am no expert but it appeared a lost cause. The stone outer structure might be fine. Crumbling mortar isn’t a big issue here since entire sides of buildings seem to be hewn from single slabs of rock. The internal guts of the building however were wood and were going up fast. Voices in the crowd cried that Chellia raised by Valkiden was somewhere still inside and Saiten dove into action without a further thought stopping only to soak his leathers before barreling into the building. It occurred to me that the Steamkettle was a large place and he could use my help in pinpointing her location. I grabbed a bucket and poured it over myself, chasing the water with a wash of power feeling it mingle with the wet fibers.

Saiten barreled ahead using his leather cloak to protect him from the hungry flames. Seconds after I entered the building water was already steaming from my clothes that were both spun from and channeling my power. I could tell the minute protection provided from soaked garments wouldn’t last long. Following Saiten was foolhardy, nothing would be served from both of us burning to a crisp when all Saiten needed from me was direction. I yelled at him to head for the Wood (east) side of the building and headed back outside circling the building and using my sash to scale the building next to it. I bounded into a window nearest the sound of Chellia’s weak coughing. If Saiten for some reason couldn’t reach her, I would.

I needn’t have bothered. The moment my feet touched the floor of the Steamkettle upper floor I felt it reverberate from a noise that I now recognized very well. The sound of Saiten’s fist hitting what belatedly could be described as a wall. Poking my head out of the window I saw Saiten jump down from the second story, bending his knees to absorb the fall, unaware the cobbles beneath his feet had split in half. I hopped down after him. Aster and Dasadi raced around the side of the building at our call as we propped Chellia up against a wall. Chellia coughed as she thanked Saiten and told us that her instructions were to lead the people who rescued her to another place to receive answers to our questions. She was unwilling to tell us anything much about who had given her instructions except for something we hadn’t heard before. A pronoun : “She”

There was something about Chellia’s mannerisms that irked me. We had met too many people in this city who followed their instructions like sheep herded by dogs. Why do they offer so little resistance? Mayhap a life living in this secretive society that shunned outsiders weakened their citizen’s sense of indignation at being coerced against their will? In the beginning I had admired Volivat’s orderly nature but now I found myself questioning it’s cost. Was this a result of a life of obligatory obedience to authority or was this a more supernatural effect caused by this creature? Either way it left a bad taste in my mouth.

We followed Chellia through many twisting and turning streets until we arrived at a large building. Checking it from the outside I did my best to pick apart the sounds of life within listening to the sounds of hearts big and small and the overlap of breathing that plucks the smallest sounds from the throat. I estimated there were more than twenty but less than fifty people within and not a one of them spoke. A rustling clicking noise from above told me there were creatures of some sort on the story above. None of this was encouraging.

We weighed a number of options ranging from sneaking in to burning the house down before settling on going through the front door. Whatever it was had lured us here said it did so to give us answers. If we approached this from the wrong angle it was possible there were hostages inside we might endanger. It seemed in keeping with this creature’s style. Saiten and I were both indignant at being forced to play this game at the cost of mortal life and safety, Aster was concerned at the danger not complying posed to Chellia and Dasadi seemed to be willing to do whatever we decided. There was nothing for it. We walked in through the front door and waited for the trap to snap shut.

The interior was dark and as our eyes adjusted we saw there were thirty people of different ages and genders gathered there. Above on the railings of a second story a bunch of birds with four legs and golden beaks watched expectantly. Stryx I guessed. A girl, maybe 5 or 6, spoke up. “My father is an evil man.” She stated. I looked about trying to discern if one of the assembled might be the one she referred to when the next one spoke, an old man who referred to himself as " Pekahan Aniyani, Daughter of Ma-ha Suchi". Alright, new set of options, was this possession? I glanced sidelong at Dasadi who looked as clueless as I was. The next of the group stepped forward and addressed me as “Aria of the Sighing Leaves” which made me feel momentarily queasy.

They can see through my disguises but still think I am somebody else?

I was disturbed at the notion that this thing could see through my power and had enough time to pose a question to myself over whether I had some sort of tell before I interrupted myself mid-thought. Of course I have a tell. I have an almost ethereally beautiful woman and a man who dresses like an escaped circus act who travel with me. Not to mention the late edition of a career exorcist who looks as though he were coated in chalk and left on an unattended roasting spit too long. I knew it been watching us. It might be able to notice the hallmarks of another like itself but it could just be as simple as the company I keep. It wouldn’t take a genius looking for someone like me to keep watch over my known associates. If I were them I would probably notice the fourth person they traveled with changed every so often.

Saiten addressed the crowd with his indignation at being used but they didn’t seem to notice , they were intent on delivering their message like a chorus of players soldiering on through a crowd of hecklers.The monologue went on explaining the process of hooking Saiten’s attentions, masquerading in the form of a Playton and seeding the notions of the fictional Stryx Syndicate around the Dreaming Sea to lure us here. That much I had theorized. I was angry. I wanted more than this little stage play. I wanted to see who was responsible and I wanted them to explain to me why they believed this little act would do anything but incense me. Above all I wanted them to pay. The act plowed gamely on explaining that we had passed it’s test but we were no where near strong enough to take on Ma-ha Suchi.

I think that put Saiten’s back up.

Their message delivered the assembly fell silent an stared fixedly at the floor. I went over to an old man and forced him to look me in the eye. The man looked at me with fear in his eyes but wouldn’t reply to anything I asked. The five year old girl was just as forthcoming as the old man. Were they possessed or had they just been forced to memorize each part of this message? Either way this was a puppet show and the puppeteer couldn’t be far off. It had to be somewhere near, were I in it’s place I would want to observe how my message was received. Saiten ascended to the second story where he grabbed one of the birds by the neck as he addressed it. It behaved as any tamed bird grabbed thus might react and tried to defend itself but drew no ire from the rest of the flock. I searched the top floor finding the trappings of a lived in space. A library, mostly histories and stage plays drew my attentions briefly.

Stage plays. This thing has a taste for theatrics doesn’t it? Maybe it fancies itself a player hence the assembly of human and animal props on this dimly lit stage. What was the purpose of this display? A show of force? Likely it was just to hide itself in their ranks to observe how we might react. If she had wanted my help then she has made a grave miscalculation in using these people. I do not feel particularly inclined to help. In fact I feel much more inclined to put something sharp in her brain and give it a good hard twist.

I weighed our options in front of Chellia and the assembled chorus of actors. I theorized the stryx above us were likely there to descend the moment we were gone and gobble this collective of sheep leaving no witnesses. Aster of course objected to us slaughtering innocent birds before they had proven themselves a threat. It is possible they are just more unwitting toys of this Pekahan but where I pitied the people caught in this spider web I felt no more for these birds than I had about Silgar’s rats. Dasadi was our best option against destroying these airborne vermin but as he was quick to point out he could kill everything in the room but not half of the things in that room. Chellia didn’t take the information of us killing everything in the room well. Hardly out of the ordinary. I assumed she was beginning to wonder if her supernatural puppetmaster or us posed her the greatest threat.

We agreed to leave and see how it played out as I would be able to tell if the birds twitched so much as a feather after we left. I held the door for Chellia as she was the last out when she grabbed the door and slammed it, engaging the lock. I didn’t have time to swear. I leapt out of the way before Saiten gripped the doorknob and pulled hard sending the door flying. I snagged an airborne hinge pin that flew neatly past my head and plunged inside. Chellia was gone. The Stryx were fleeing out a hole in the ceiling and the assembled citizens cowered wordlessly. I dropped the hinge pin in disgust noting a similar look of anger on Saiten’s face. “Next time”, I told my companions “We kill the birds.”

On the way back Dasadi told us all he knew about Ma-ha Suchi. It wasn’t much to go on. He is reportedly a “Lunar” another type of exalt that Dasadi knows depressingly little about. “Lunar” means it probably has something to do with the moon which is at least something to go by. I know practically nothing about even my own patron deity but maybe Chaoxi knows something about Lunars. I also nicked a double armful of books from the library of the “Stryx Syndicate” they might be meaningless but best case scenario they have something relevant within and worse case I at least have something to distract me on the boat ride back to Champoor. I have a fondness for books. Reading is soothing.

We left Volivat for our ship, Saiten and I simmering with rage. It was comforting to not be the only one maddened by this turn of events. He and I really are alike where it counts.The voyage should also give me time to mull over some new and disturbing thoughts – uncomfortable parallels between myself and this adversary. This creature and I are two players of the same game. We differ, but is it simply a matter of experience? Might endless years of living as I have not one day lead to that callous disregard of mortal life? I have spent the last five years not really paying much heed to where I was going. I have just grabbed hold of one job and let it lead me to the next. Is this monster to serve as some sort of morality tale of what happens when my grip on being human frays too far?

Then there are other things. More obscure, like finding a pattern where it doesn’t really exist when your eyes unfocus. Things I hope are just figments of an overactive imagination. when I met Shalrina she seemed acutely aware that the names I gave her were falsehoods which she refused to use. “Very well, the only real difference between a name and a lie is a name is given to you by someone whereas a lie is something you fabricate for yourself. If you will not give me your name then I will name. Hmm…How about Piper of the Whispering Radius? I think it suits.” she had said with that indecipherable grin. I hadn’t questioned it as I had thought her mad as a hatter at the time. The memory had sprung into my head unbidden the moment Broken Walls asked my name and I had used it. I had never really adopted the last bit of the epithet Shalrina gave me but it’s still there in my memory. I may never have used it outside Shalrina’s shop but it is still a silent part of what I increasingly think of as my name. Now I wonder. “Aria of the Sighing Leaves” and “Piper of the Whispering Radius” don’t seem very far off. Could Shalrina be wrapped up in this somehow?

Aster asked me my thoughts and I admitted that I thought I did have some sort of connection to me. When she asked my reasons I told her of the other connection that was on my mind. Pekahan had an affinity with birds and took the shape of a giant feathered beast. I confessed that I had been born a wyld mutation… wings. I know it’s a tenuous connection at best but it is one that makes me feel like I am truly looking at a distorted reflection of myself… Maybe it made the choice to adopt the shape of a feathered beast for just that reason.

Aster looked shocked at the news that I was wyldtouched. I can’t say I blame her. I wondered if the others believed that mutations were a sign of moral failings. For all I know it might be true, my own moral failings are not insignificant. If Aster did have misgivings she kept them to herself. Saiten, overhearing asked me if my wings had resembled stryx wings. I was surprised he was so matter of fact about it but then Saiten is matter of fact about everything. Dasadi was diplomatic about being privy to this information and said nothing.

We left Volivat as soon as the last of our crew was aboard for the night. I stayed up to watch the city receded into the distance. I am troubled but that is not new. In the past two months my solitary existence has been challenged and my mind and heart were pulling me in two separate directions. It was driving me mad. I remembered too well how people I cared for had been used to control me in the past and I never wanted to have that happen again but five years of the alternative is a slow death of sorts. I think I always accepted I would die on one of my hunts. That I would just press on to challenge after challenge until somebody caught me. Preferably when I was too old to have much more to get out of life. But what if there isn’t an end? I had never considered that I could go on forever. I don’t think I can handle a forever as I was.

It isn’t perfect. The pace at which I move has quickened to keep step with people who throw caution to the wind and I need to evolve to keep up. I can’t run away. Where would I go? Back to years, decades, centuries where I have no one I trust to speak to? My life has changed for the better even if those changes make it a little shorter. Maybe it took seeing the shadow of the sort of monster I might become to really bring everything into perspective.

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Broken Walls Journal 7
In which we PARTY

Descending Wood 2, RY768

Today was mostly clean up, scavenging, and repairs. Many dead rats to dispose of. Cleaned Dauntless, not sure how much he needs it. Still, respect is due either way.
Over all, a shit day. I never need to see a “Rat Fire” again. Ever. Or smell one.
The only plus side is I gathered many weapons and bits of armour to melt for other possibilities.

Descending Wood 3, RY768

As I dressed this morning, Aster called from outside my room that there was a man waiting to speak with me. I put on my pants and headed downstairs. The man appeared to be fairly young, dressed in clothes that were plain in design but obviously of high quality. He politely introduced himself as Hatelis – the Champoori God of coinage, commerce, and contracts – or so he claims, anyways. He began by offering us a small chest of coins as a gift, and of no small value, to my eye. He then explained that he had come on behalf of a collection of other Gods of Champoor in order to broker a truce between Rising Sun House and Silgur.
Deep Breath.
Check your pride, Broken Walls, think rationally, hear him out.
I asked him to explain, and he presented a contract, already signed by Silgur, which layed out a number of terms that amounted to saying that Rising Sun House won’t attack Silgur’s holdings, and in turn Silgur and his people won’t attack Rising Sun’s holdings. Also, that our entrance to the sewers would be collapsed.
It was around this time, I think, that Piper clarified that she is not a member of Rising Sun House, which stung. I will come back to that.
The group as a whole had a variety of questions about the terms, I don’t recall who exactly asked what.
What counts as a “holding”? Basically, just owned land. Wagons do not count, people not occupying a holding do not count. I made an argument that ships should be considered holdings. Apparently the entire sewer system was to be counted as Silgur’s holding, but we argued that and had it removed.
Are our allies protected? Only if they are members of Rising Sun House.
What are the consequences for breaking the contract? While it seems the contract is in fact magical, the only effect of that magic is to alert the other signatories if anyone (or their agents) breaks the truce. In all other regards, it functions as any mundane agreement: by putting the signing parties honour and reputations on the line.
Now, I don’t put much stock in either of those as being objects of value for Silgur, but I suspect a number of other reasons for him to agree and adhere to this contract.
One, it is likely very much in his best interests, and this was likely made very clear by the thrashing we just gave him. To him, we must have looked like a minor (but insulting) threat that he could crush, and perhaps make an example of. Instead, we sent Silgur himself running with his tail between his legs, killed many of, maybe most of his followers in the process, and did all this in front of a sizable crowd of Mauk’s worshippers, who I’m sure are spreading the word of Silgur’s defeat and the death of his followers. I almost feel sorry for him, trying to gain new followers after this, or even not lose the ones he has left.
Almost.
So that’s one reason for Silgur to want this truce.
Another would be pressure from (fear of?) the mysterious group that is employing Hatelis to broker this contract. He declined to reveal their identities, but when I asked in a more indirect fashion, he implied that the group might be led by someone named “Tenepeshu”, who I have not heard of before. I also believe that Mauk and Kadu may be involved in this group.
At any rate, we made some revisions to the contract, then told Hatelis we would need some time to discuss it, and possibly make arrangements with our allies.
Someone also asked Hatelis what he knew about the creature Gumari. Hatelis expressed distaste for Gumari, but didn’t have much information.
After that, he departed, telling us how to find him when we were ready.
I think I like Hatelis, he left a good first impression.

Piper. She was very clear that she is not to be considered a member of Rising Sun House. Unexpectedly, this hurt quite a bit, and I’m not sure why. I’ve spent enough years, however, with no one for company except myself and sometimes Chaoxi, that I prefer not to let things like this fester in my mind without examining them… Although maybe if I had done so sooner, it might have prevented some problems that came up later. I’m getting ahead of myself again.
Maybe I just want friends too much? I have been in prison for over 150 years, with only Chaoxi for occasional company. I… don’t know how to make people happy. I thought giving people things would make them like me? I mean, Piper and I took down Rat House together, and then I built Rising Sun House on top of it – one of the first things I did was build a private room for Piper.
I don’t know.
“I thought giving people things would make them like me?”
Am I that shallow? No, I don’t think so. When I make something for someone, it’s because I think it will make them happy. I guess, despite that, I don’t like being taken for granted. I’m not entirely unselfish.
I’ll think about this later.

So, back on track – Hatelis departed. We discussed the contract, and while I think signing a truce with Silgur leaves a foul taste in everyone’s mouths, no one objected. I headed over to what I have been calling “Kahi House” to discuss this contract – if they join their business’ with ours under the name “Rising Sun House”, they can be covered under the agreement as well, in addition to what I imagine will be more free cooperation between us.
They… agreed, surprisingly readily. It seems they were more pleased with our thrashing of Silgur (and other things we’ve done) than I knew, and proposed a celebration to commemorate joining our houses.

Descending Wood 4, RY768

Piper and Aster wanted to see if Hatelis might have any information about Gumari’s whereabouts, so we headed into town to visit his temple. I believe this was my first time really stepping inside Champoor’s walls, which is kind of funny. We weren’t really here to see the sights, though, and it wasn’t too long before we arrived. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that Hatelis’ “Temple” seems to be more like a bureaucracy or business than a , well, temple, but I was surprised anyways. I was expecting something more like Karoski’s Temple – which reminds me, I should check up on that at some point.
Anyways, Aster handed over some small scrap of parchment to one of the uh… Acolytes? Clerks? and we were taken up to Hatelis’ office. I couldn’t help but notice that he had a desk I had crafted and sold in his office. An elaborate attempt at flattery, some kind of research into my character, or did he just genuinely enjoy my work? I decided it wisest not to remark on it.
In answer to our questions, he could not tell us the exact location of Gumari’s Sanctum (for free, anyways), and thought the other families should be covered by the contract under our planned arrangement with them. That, at least, is good news. Kahi, Fardo, Dhau, and Rinoh have been nothing but kind and generous to us, and I would hate to see them targeted as a result.

Next, we headed to Kadu’s Temple, to see if one of us could accompany Aster to visit Kadu as a guard.

Kadu’s Temple is more in the spirit (heh) of what I was expecting, and about as ostentatious as I was expecting. I spent some time there arguing that I be allowed to accompany Aster as her guard, but the priest insisted the invitation was for her alone.
Aster is better at talking than I am, perhaps she should have done the persuading, but she isn’t always willing to stand up for herself – others, certainly, but not herself.

At some point someone mentioned to Saiten the strange threats that keep Champoor’s residents locked indoors at night, and he insisted that we stay outside that night to face them. He was correct to do so, as well, and I am somewhat ashamed I had not already thought to do so. Partly, this is because I have been constantly occupied since our arrival in Champoor, and partly I think because everyone we have met here seems to just accept that this is how things are here that I didn’t really question it.
I have things to learn from Saiten, it seems.

We prepared, and spent the night completely uneventfully in the streets near our home.

This day feels like a failure.

Descending Wood 5, RY768

I realized this morning, as we all went to get some rest, that Saiten is camping outside!
What an ass I am.
I asked him to help me take a few boards inside, to an unused space upstairs, and I quickly put together a room for him, and stamped the door with the marking of a fist, which seemed amusingly appropriate. When I turned to ask him what he thought, there was a look of shock on his face. I guess he’s not used to having his own space.
I headed to bed for a bit.
Later, Jahir, head of Kahi, joined us, and we headed to Hatelis’ Temple. Piper did not join us.
Everyone that attended signed the contract, except for Saiten, who seemed surprised but pleased when we asked him to sign with us. Were we perhaps unclear when we asked him to join our House? Anyways, he said he didn’t feel right signing, but would adhere to the terms, regardless. Jahir told us the celebration at the family compound would be tomorrow.

I spent the rest of the day training my guards and crafting furniture to sell, as well as some spare weaponry. I also spent some time studying the swords I’d taken from the fish-men, and I think I’ve figured out their secrets – the way they fuse different metals together is very interesting, and I think I could improve on it with the right materials.

In the evening, Piper asked me to instruct him in learning Old Realm. I’m not sure if this is a gesture of friendship, or just that I have something he wants. I agreed, and spent some time teaching him – let him use me, if that’s what he wants. I will continue to try to be his friend.

Descending Wood 6, RY768

I woke up early this morning, and made sure my nicest clothes were clean.
A Party!
I haven’t been to a party in about 159 years, I think!
We didn’t have many parties in Fortitude, and I wasn’t even Broken Walls then, so you could even say I’ve never been to a party! Maybe I was a little excited.
That might also explain that when I spoke to Piper later that morning and she told me she had no intention of attending, I was somewhat upset. I said she should go as Pewter Spoon, she brought up some kind of problem with String… In the end she agreed to go. I’m glad.

Alright, so what I said earlier about having never been to a party may have actually been true. When I was Reedbuck, what we called parties in Fortitude was a bunch of kids getting drunk around a fire and hoping we’d be suave enough to have some sex. This party was more like a festival, complete with food carts and music!
I made sure to spend time with everyone that I consider a friend there – I told stories with Saiten to some pretty girls (maybe he’ll be suave enough?), and danced and ate and drank with as many of my friends as I could find.
Later, there was a bit of a ceremony – they made some announcements – Gi is going to be a captain! There was also a marriage announcement, and then our group (again, minus Piper), and the heads of Kahi, Fardo, Dhau, and Rinoh all signed. Even Saiten signed with us this time! I’m happy.
We celebrated into the night, then slept there until morning.

Descending Wood 7, RY768

I spent the morning working on our own compound. By now I have built Aster’s clinic, our home, stables, a well, a barracks, a forge, and a guard tower. I think walls are next, when I have materials.

Some time around noon, Saiten came to speak with me, visibly upset. He had been near the docks this morning when he had seen, on board a ship leaving for a city called Volivat, a man with the same tattoo as one of the men who, he tells me, murdered his entire family. He says this could not be the same man, because he killed that man, but he has to investigate.
Obviously, I immediately told him I would help, but…
We have just established a place for ourselves here in Champoor. There are people counting on us, on our protection. If we all suddenly leave the city, everything could fall apart, and our mortal friends could be in danger.
I apologized to Saiten – I want nothing more than to go with him, but I feel obligated to remain. However, I told him, I would head straight to the Family compound and then to the docks and build him a ship so that he could leave tomorrow morning. I then gathered my tools and headed out.
It turns out, the Rinoh family had an interest in establishing a trade rout with Volivat for spices and eagerly agreed to provide a crew as soon as I could provide a ship – materials, as well.
I then headed to the docks and got to work.
I took my time on the ship, spending all day and night on it – I wanted to make sure it was done right. I gave her one main mast, and two smaller, and 3 decks, with bunks, cargo space, a kitchen, and captain’s cabin belowdecks. I also included a small shrine to the Unconquered Sun near the bunks, and tried to give Piper’s bunk as much privacy as possible. The, uh, “figurehead” doubles as a ram, and is in the shape of a large, gloved fist. I should have coloured it red, but I didn’t have the paint.
On the side, in flowing Rivertongue, I carved “Saiten’s Revenge”.

Descending Wood 8, RY768

A sad day, the day my friends head out to sea on a ship I built, leaving me behind. I sent a small squad of the troops I’ve trained with them, headed by Seventh Dawn.
Chaoxi is staying with me, thankfully – at best, I would get nothing done without her, and more likely, I’d probably accidentally burn the whole place down.

Who knows, I thought as I watched them sail away, maybe it would be an improvement.

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Aster's Diary 12
Last Days in Volivat

It has been a strange few days, Diary, since I wrote to you last, but we are finally on our way back to Champoor. It is not in the best of spirits that we return, but I do feel somewhat better for it; it is the comforting feeling of returning home. We return without Dasadi, who, now that we have concluded things in Volivat, now seeks to discover what occurred during his missing weeks. We have wished him well, and he knows how to find us in Champoor, so I have high hopes that we will see him again.

But you must be wondering how everything turned out in Volivat.

When I last wrote, we were just settling down to sleep after the strange and terribly unsettling events at the prison. Piper and I had again opted to share a room, and I was just removing my armor when there was a knock at our door. I re-donned my outer dress and opened it to reveal Dasadi, seemingly feeling restless and asking if Piper wished to join him in scouting out the city now that things may have calmed down somewhat. Piper agreed, and I decided to join Saiten in his room in order to ease everyone’s possible discomfort at my spending the night alone; I realize that my skills in defending myself are not as strong as my companions, so did not wish to distract them with worrying over me while they were gone.
I have to admit that I was somewhat gladdened by Dasadi’s invitation. He and Piper seemed so much at odds before discovering each other’s light, and it is good to see that they may become friends, or perhaps even more than this. It would be nice for Piper to have more people to confide and trust in.
I was unable to sleep with the two of them out in the city, so I repackaged and sorted my stores while Saiten slept. He offered me space next to him in the bed, but I felt that this would not be entirely proper, and besides, I was concerned for our companions.

The night seemed to crawl by, and it was almost morning before another knock came at our door. It was Piper, who I was so overjoyed to see alive and well that I nearly leapt in for an embrace; I forget sometimes that piper seems uncomfortable with showing affection. Dasadi, however, was nowhere to be seen. It seems that in the course of their investigation, they were noticed by what could only be some kind of dragonblood, who hurled hammers at them from a great length, and with little regard for any who might be injured in the process. Dasadi was hit, and it seems he then exploded into purple and gold flames! Piper feared that he may be dead, but I could not believe it. I’m not entirely certain why, but I just couldn’t believe that he would die. I managed after this to sleep a bit while Saiten did his morning routine, feeling somewhat better for having Piper back with us, but quite troubled by Dasadi’s disappearance. We decided that day to continue our inquiries as planned, and to leave a note for Dasadi at the Inn in case he were to look for us there.

We were unable to pursue our next line of questioning that day, however. While walking towards the Plain, the inn in which we last spoke to the man who pointed us towards the warehouse in which we were ambushed, Piper suddenly began to cry. No, really this does not cover it. Piper began to wail with such feeling and emotion that I was sure that her heart must have been breaking. Taking off from us in sprint, I wasn’t sure Saiten would be able to catch up. He, however, was able to catch Piper, and we brought her, shaking and sobbing, to a more private alleyway.
I still am not entirely sure what brought this on. I only know that Piper had been increasingly disturbed by what had been happening, and the possible involvement he may have had in it; from the strange girl calling Piper “Aria” to the prisoners obviously having been sent to attack us specifically, I can see the repression of all of the emotions Piper must have been feeling deeply damping his light. But even that does not seem to explain the depth of feeling she must be having in order for this heart-wrenching display to be taking place.
I, completely at a loss as to how to help her, began to stroke her hair and sing to her, one of the songs Belle herself sang when I was small, and scared, and felt alone, a song of hearth, and coming home, and the sweet embrace of those who love you.

This, it seems, was a mistake.

Piper began to wail even more fervently, and Saiten scooped her up into his arms. What kinds of horrors must Piper have faced that thoughts of home and comfort bring him such pain?
We had intended to bring her back to the inn to wait it out; eventually she must become tired enough by this to sleep. However, we were stopped by several guards, brought, it seems, by the sorrowful noises Piper was making. They seemed quite concerned for her well-being, and offered to take us all back to their guardhouse. I think Piper would have been more comfortable at the inn, but this was probably as much so that they could keep an eye on her and make sure she was safe than anything, so I am grateful to them for it.

It took quite some time for Piper to cry herself out. She seemed more embarrassed by this situation than anything, and the guards allowed us to take her with us once they were convinced we had not caused this terrific amount of grief.
With most of the day gone, and Piper sorely in need of rest, food and drink, we headed back to the inn. When he had eaten and drunk, Piper seemed much more calm and at ease, and thanked us for “putting up with” him during this time.
Piper also said something which greatly disturbed me, though I tried not to show it too much: that he didn’t deserve our help. How is it that someone can be so abused as to feel that they are not worthy of kindness? Who could do such a thing as to make someone feel this way? Piper is kind, a protector who seeks justice. Piper is our friend, and has helped us time and again. What act of degradation has been imposed upon you that you cannot feel you are worthy of decency? I must tear away this feeling of unworthiness, and remind Piper that she is worthy of love, caring and friendship.

We renewed our search for answers the next morning. Walking towards the Plain, however, did not go as smoothly as we may have hoped. As we approached, we heard a loud crash, and Piper’s keen hearing discovered that the Inn we were walking to had collapsed! We raced towards it, hoping for the best but fearing the worst, and discovered that there had been one known person inside when it had fallen, Sermon, the man with which we sought to speak! Saiten sprang into action then, and with some encouragement a few more of the local men, Piper included, sprang from their shock at this incident to help him lift the rubble off of the poor trapped man. They were able to free him, but he was quite badly injured. With some time and assistance from a few others who were able to bring me the things I at that moment sorely missed from my clinic (thank you, Broken Walls!), I was able to bring him back to health.
It was then that Sermon said something terribly strange, though. He told me that we now had “one more test”, and that we were to go back to the place where we started. He would say no more, and seemed as though he had been told this by someone who frightened him greatly, so I did not press him. Saiten searched the rubble for signs that anyone else had been in the building, but did not find any. With this new information, we decided that we would retrace our steps of our first day here backwards in order to discover what this meant.
We took a detour first through the Fish Market in order to speak with Herald of Seafoam, who had seen Playton heading towards the warehouses. Once again we were privy to his wonderful Krillo Fish, but he had no more answers than he had when we first spoke to him. Our next stop, then, was the Steam Kettle, the inn we had first stayed in when we arrived. This, it seems, was in fact our intended destination.
When we neared our destination, we began to see dark black smoke coming from the direction we were headed: the Steam Kettle was on fire! It seems that once again there was only one person inside, this time or one time server Chellia. And once again, Saiten sprang into action. With little time for even a thought to his own safety, Saiten doused himself with water and dove through the doorway into the flames.
Saiten often touts himself as a “hero for fun”, but that was the moment that I truly believed he had become a hero. Saving others when you are strong and can overpower your opponents in one thing, but this did not require strength, only the willingness to do whatever was necessary in order to help someone in need. He put his own life in mortal danger in order to save her. Probably for the first time since I have known him, I felt fearful that he might not make it out alive.
Piper circled the burning building, also looking for a way to aid the trapped Chellia; a much more prudent approach to saving her. I stood helplessly outside, only able to watch and wait. This did not take long, however, as a few breathless moments later the wall of the Steam Kettle burst open, and Saiten, carrying Chellia, leapt from the flames, followed closely by Piper. Thankfully, none of them was hurt badly, and were easily tended to.
Chellia then told us that she had been instructed to have us follow her to the place where we would gain the answers we had been seeking. Once she was up to the task of walking, we all four began to follow her down the streets. My heart went out to her, then, so brave for having endured so much, but still stoic in the face of bringing us further. Little did I know why this calm was.

We were led to a large house on a still street, windows marking a second story, but only one entrance, the front doors, to be seen. Chellia told us that she was to enter with us, so stayed while we deliberated how we would enter. Some of the others were, understandably, leery of just walking through the front door; we had had difficulties with doing so quite recently. However, we finally decided to walk through it anyway, if for nothing else than a show of good faith, and perhaps the difficulty it would prove were we to try and enter else-wise. You must remember, Diary, that we still had very little idea what was waiting for us. Piper was able to discern that there were quite a few people, and perhaps some animals in the building, but we had no real way of knowing if they were friend or foe, or what the layout of the building was really like inside. So we opened the doors.

What greeted us was strange, and, if I am being honest, a bit frightening. The room was full of frightened looking people of many ages, heights, looks and gender. If I had to say now, I would guess about thirty different people. The second floor could be seen all around the room we entered, a balcony running around its outside, and Big, black, four legged birds perching on its railings: Stryx.
Then one of the people, an old woman, I believe, crept forward, and began to speak. She told us that her name was Pecahan Aniani, and that she was the one who was testing us. But then another person stepped forward and began to tell us more. Each person, young and old, stepped forward and told us just one thing. It began to be quite plain that another was using them to give us information about herself. At first we suspected some sort of mind to mind connection between Pecahan and these people, but they did not seem like mindless puppets, even when they spoke, and did not respond to our queries when we interrupted. We soon came to realize that these people were in fact just reciting what they had been told, and that Pecahan did not have a mental control of them, but an emotional one: they feared her, and what might happen if they did not perform as she had asked.

What they told us, as I remember it, was that she was the one who had brought us here. She had spread rumors of the Stryx syndicate, which does not actually exist, and disguised herself, possibly, I think, through means like Piper’s, to look similarly to one of Saiten’s family’s attackers in order to lure him and us here. She had heard of his strength, and of us, and had spoken to a bridge god near to where he gained his light in order to track us.
What she wished of us was to see if we were strong enough, or perhaps just whatever it was she needed, in order to destroy her father, a being known as Ma-ha-suchi. Dasadi later told us that he was an exalted being like a solar, but known as a Lunar, and he believed him to be quite powerful. However, it seems as though we were not strong enough to pass her tests, and she was done with us, at least, for the moment.

This was devastating news for everyone. Not that we weren’t strong enough (though, I think Saiten may have been a bit upset by this news), but that the reasons we had thought we were coming here were not, in fact, true. There was no Syndicate, there were no answers about the girl calling Piper “Aria” (which Pecahan instructed her mouthpieces to do again when we entered), and, possibly most unfortunately, there was no closure for Saiten.

Saiten is strong, physically, and, most of the time, emotionally. He is and has been a rock for the entire time I have known him. But to find out that, not only were you brought somewhere on false pretenses, but the answers about your family’s death you thought you might glean were all smoke and mirrors? I am terribly afraid that this might break him. He is gentle, and kind, and I am terrified that he may become hardened by this in a way that cannot be undone.

When the people were done speaking, my friends reacted… angrily. Saiten went up to one of the birds, and grabbed it by its leg, fruitlessly trying to get it to speak with him, hoping that it had some connection to Pecahan, and that it would provide answers. The others mused over the idea of killing the Stryxes, inviting Dasadi to venture that he could destroy “the whole room, but not half of it”. We had no notion of really how the birds were connected to Pecahan, so I had no intention of allowing the others to harm them. We told the people that they could leave, but they just shuddered and looked away from us fearfully. We asked Chellia if she could leave, and she seemed not to know. She asked us if we planned on killing Pecahan if we found her. I admit that even my anger and frustration got the better of me there, and I did not immediately say that I would not. Pecahan likely caused the suffering and death of many innocents, just to get to us. If it came to it, and she could not be swayed from doing so again, I may have to end her existence. But I would wish with everything I have not to, if I could. I should have said so.
We decided, for the people’s sake, to leave this now wretched place. Piper stopped to inspect the rooms above, perhaps out of a sense of needing to find something of value here, or perhaps in order to relax her angered nerves. Saiten marched angrily outside, and Dasadi and I waited for Piper to return so we could leave together. When Piper had finished, arms loaded with new books, we all began to exit. Chellia went last, and waited for us all to be outside. Then she slammed the door, closing herself in with the villagers.

I cried immediately for Saiten, who yanked one of the doors so forcefully that it tore from its hinges. But she was gone. The Stryx were swirling up a hole in the roof that we had no seen before, and the people inside were huddling together in fear. But Chellia, Pecahan, was gone.
We realized then what had been happening. Chellia, and likely Sermon, had been Pecahan, watching us save her from her tests. It is possible that she was not the terrifying monster that slaughtered the prison guards, but it seems unlikely that this was not the case. It seems that, in order to get our attention and test our skills, she was willing to kill as many innocents as it took, and put as many of them in harms way as she needed. I felt sick. We headed back to the boat, and never looked back.

Even with everything that has happened, Diary, I still plan to stop needless suffering in any way I can, to the full extent of my abilities. I know that what happened here was in part a result of someone seeing us for what we are, and that this can be dangerous both for us and for those around us. However, I cannot, and will not, base whether or not I will help someone on this. If I reveal myself as a Solar in the midst of saving someone’s life, there is the possibility that in the future someone may see this as reason to put myself or others in danger. If I keep the nature of my abilities a secret, but in doing so allow someone to suffer or die, then they have suffered or died. I cannot base my decisions on what might happen in the future in spite of what is happening in the present. When someone is suffering, it will still never be a matter of Should I,

But Can I.

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Saiten's Journal 5
We made it to Volivat!

Descending wood 12 Continued
Immediately after the fight with the first boat, we cleared away the remains of the monsters left on deck, and tended to the injured. The bodies of what were the kelp men that attacked us, had lost all semblance of what they once were. They were just piles of kelp on the deck of the revenge. I put some in a nearby bucket for later. Good kelp is hard to come by after all.

The second ship was closing on us soon after I was comfortable with the condition of the deck, however it never made it close enough for us to engage it. A giant crab appeared out of the deep and our would be foes in it’s pincers. Our captain made the call to leave the area with haste. I was admittedly disappointed, but it was the right call to make.

As the evening settled in, I decided to help with dinner. I used some of the kelp I had gathered earlier, and made a pretty decent rice dish. It seemed to go over pretty well amongst the crew. Maybe i’ll take up cooking more often.

Descending wood 13
This morning, Aster and Dasadi held a funeral for the crewmen who had died in the fighting yesterday. It’s touching that Aster cares so much for people. Even in death, she wants to make sure that they’re taken care of properly. I only wish she didn’t have to. I know that I cannot save everyone I come across. I know that. But it still wounds me to think that I might have been able to prevent their deaths. I must resolve to continue my training, so that these things never happen again.
I spent the rest of the day training.

Descending wood 18.
Nothing of note happened since the 13th. I continued my training, but that should go without saying at this point.
Eventually, we noticed a ship approach us. It was a curious sight, as it had no sails to be seen.
When it got close, a man appeared on the deck, and asked us where we were going. We told him that we were a merchant vessel from Champoor heading to Volivat. It wasn’t exactly a lie, but it wasn’t exactly the truth. Regardless, he accepted our explanation and explained that he would escort us. These waters can be dangerous it seems.

Descending wood 19
We had been speaking with Dasadi for the past few days about what he was going to do when we got to Volivat. He really wants to retrace his steps, and find out what happened to him, and how he came to be adrift in the dreaming sea. Piper seemed to think that Dasadi might be of use to us within the city, so we offered him a position with the group for a short time. I was pleasantly surprised when he accepted the offer. I’m sure having a strong companion like Dasadi will prove helpful in the coming times.

Volivat is a peculiar city. It’s not a coastal city like I expected. It’s actually a city within the sea itself. A large bowl a fair distance off shore, with a dock encircling the entire city.
Once moored, we descended down upon a moving platform that would bring us to street level of the city. Peering down at the city from the lift, I couldn’t help but remark at how much better off the citizens of Volivat must be, in comparison to those of Champoor.
When we reached the ground, we headed for the Harbour Master’s office. The lift attendant had told us where to find it, as well as a decent place to eat near by.
We found the office soon enough. The clerk inside was very helpful, and gave us the Quail’s location without much coaxing.

On the way back to the lift, we stopped by the tavern the attendant had mentioned. The Volivat Steam Kettle. Once inside, I was overwhelmed by the smell of fresh, delicious food. The food on the boat was fine, but this was a treat. I left full and happy.
That happiness didn’t last though. When we finally arrived at the Quail, we found out the name of the tattoo’d man, but also that he was a mere passenger, and as such they did not know where he was, or where he was going.
I should have guessed it wouldn’t be easy to find this “Platon.”

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