As the tale of the Exalted Continues

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 7, 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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Edgar_Grim Sleet

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