Resplendent Earth 12
Normally routine scheduling is not something I subject myself to but I have to admit predictability is comforting during troubling times. Champoor is molding itself into a new shape with us here. The process happens with startling speed. Broken Walls and Chaoxi have been laboring to build an army and the new Temple district. Aster has been spreading clinics around the city and improving sanitation. Even Saiten, after a month away on some mysterious retreat has been running self defense classes for citizens tired of being the victim. Life improves in the general sense for the populace here as a result and things have stabilized with the Gods of Champoor. Kadu has fallen out of favor sightly but the rest seem willing to live and let live.
My spy network has structured itself into proper cells under my commanders. As a safety precaution only my high level agents are aware of “The Warren” and we’ve adopted a number of sub organizations within the structure who have little idea they are operating within a larger whole. I’ve kept Broken Walls appraised of my progress in vague terms, helping smooth alliances and spot trouble before it starts. We play games together in the evening still. He has been trying to teach me a game called “Gateway” lately but I get the sense that even had I not recently restructured how I think from the ground up I would struggle to understand these esoteric rules.
Hearing of my fellow Solar’s exploits ad nauseum is impossible to avoid. Everything they do publicly- and sometimes privately- is reported through my agents since their notoriety is so marked and my links to them not well known. The most distressing is that Aster has taken to spending time with Silgur and told none of us beforehand. If I didn’t have contacts in Rathouse I might not have known myself. My best guess is she is trying to “reform” him or something of that ilk. I don’t know, my contact wasn’t present in the room to learn of what they spoke about and the rumors of the Rathouse regulars are divided. All I know for sure is the two spoke and she was allowed to leave Rathouse unmolested. Crazy as Silgur might be I’m certain he knows that if he tried to lay a finger on Aster his hideout would be ash by dawn. In that theoretical scenario I might not even be the culprit, in some places in the city she is worshiped like a Goddess.
Even with the pains I take to keep a low profile I can not completely escape notoriety. The rumors of a “Void Being” existing in Champoor have been circulating and has captured the curiosity and imagination of my network. I told them to keep an eye out for more information to see how fast they can find me. It will be an interesting exercise.
If anything is to be the culprit outting me it’s likely to be our lunchs. While it presents a security risk, Broken Walls has instituted a group lunch arranged bi-weekly at different restaurants in Champoor. The amount of attention we draw is enough to set me on edge and I do my best to make sure nothing of any particular importance is ever discussed in these public venues but the others seem to appreciate the change of scenery. While I enjoy novelty myself I miss the days when people didn’t care who we were. Now they try very hard to impress us and I find that difficult to tolerate.
Today was one such lunch and we chose a modest soba house to eat at. The owner kept hovering about refilling tea and fretting, adding extras on for free and the like. I had just taken my first bite when Saiten drew our attention upwards. The sky was the dull dusty blue that passed for sunny in Champoor and there was something flashing on the horizon like a signal mirror. At a distance I could tell it made some sort of repetitive clinking and whirring sound. It kind of reminded me of the machines we heard in Volivat only much higher pitched.
The object appeared to be on trajectory to pass overhead harmlessly but at the last moment it spiraled down and hovered inches above the table. It proved itself to be a small mechanical bird with oricalcum framework and powered by crystalline gears of ice. Aster offered it her finger, which it immediately lit on and opened it’s beak. Startlingly, it spoke in Dasadi’s voice.
The bird replayed a message Dasadi had spoken to it in which Dasadi explained that he was sending us a message from Zingma’s Tree where he has managed to get himself trapped underground. Supposedly the town is in dire straights being threatened by skeletal undead called “Bonesiders”. The exorcist had mentioned when we met that he had been investigating cases of Puppeteers disease, by report it’s gotten much worse. Once finished it’s missive the bird spoke in it’s own voice telling us it’s plan to help ferry food and drink to Dasadi so he didn’t starve while he awaits rescue. A bird that size is going to have a hard time feeding an adult human for any length of time so it was plain we should make haste. We told the bird to inform Dasadi we were on our way.
Aster, always attentive to the needs of others, offered the bird some sustenance. The mechanical bird refused an offer of food from our table (having no guts to speak of) but requested a song which Aster and I performed for it by way of thanks before it sped off the way it came.
This is the second time some sort of unusual avian creature has stepped in to direct us toward rescuing Dasadi, the first being the little fire bird which fetched us to fish him out of the Dreaming Sea. Having an affinity with birds seems a useful skill given his affinity for winding up in circumstances he can’t get himself out of.
We made hastened preparations to set off exempting Broken Walls who demurred given the responsibility he believes he holds to Champoor. We are still awaiting word from Kampthehar and leaving the city during such a crucial stage seems unwise. He threw us a farewell party that night at which he seemed morose at not coming with us. Aster in turn seemed quite fraught over leaving Broken Walls behind. It was all sickeningly sentimental given if all went to plan we’d be back practically before they knew we were gone.
Resplendent Earth 13
എല്ലാം തെറ്റ് പോയിരിക്കുന്നു. ഈ യാത്ര വളരെ ലളിതമായിരുന്നു. അതല്ലായിരുന്നു. നമ്മൾ തിരിച്ചുപോകുന്നു, ഒന്നും ചെയ്യാൻ പറ്റില്ല. ഞാൻ പേടിക്കുന്നു, മറയ്ക്കുന്നു. അവൾ എന്നെ കാണുന്നില്ല.
मैं आभारी हूँ for this physical record of my thoughts. Right now I am Γραφή this by candlelight in the hold of the ship Saiten’s ਬਦਲਾ so that I may later review it to համոզվեք, որ իմ միտքը չի եղել been tampered with.
મેં કંઈક કર્યું. તે આ સમયે નિષ્ફળ ગયું. હું તેના પર કામ કરી રહ્યો છું. GODS OF LICE AND POX! I need to be calm. I’ve tried something and it backfired. This will pass. I will be fine- Well, maybe not “fine” given what just transpired. Fuck this is a mess. I’d tear out this page but it has my previous entry on the back and now- Whatever, moving on.
পূর্বাভাস OMENS for this voyage were all wrong from the start. This رحلة journey occurring four months to the day from our last one over the חולמת Dreaming sea. Thirteen and Four- ਬਦਕਿਸਮਤ inauspicious numbers both. To make matters worse the night before I had a dream of the common space filling with murky water. My friends and I struggled to keep our heads above it but finding myself chained by the ankle I began to flounder. I called for the help of my friends and as I did the door to the common area burst open and the shoulder height water began to rush away. The current was so strong that it knocked everyone off their feet. My friends were swept away but I, anchored as I was, lost my footing and was forced under by the strong current.
Upon waking, aside from the obvious jitters of confronting my childhood fear of drowning I observed something of a sense of constriction and something less easy to place. Melancholic but indirect somehow. As usual these notions quickly passed but left a lingering unease.
I dressed that morning in the guise of Sun Shen Li , the alias I had created for the tournament. The end result was not as comfortable as a disguise from the dreaming but was a more sensible choice given how uneasy I felt last time sleeping in close quarters with the crew. A curtain is was not a sufficient a privacy barrier for comfort and I’ve come to value my rest for the off chance I actually do sleep peacefully.
We left in the morning to literal fanfare. Broken Walls astride his horse looking like a figure from legends in sparkling brilliant armour seeing us off with a contingent of guards who gave us a ceremonial salute. Onlookers clogged traffic at the dock as he told all attending that we were departing the city. Why in Creation he did this I can’t fathom. Admitting that your allies are leaving temporarily in front of the public in a way that’s practically engineered to make the rumor mill spin like a top is tantamount to yelling “We are weak, now is the perfect time to take advantage!”
I said nothing. I’ve stopped advising my compatriots regarding pulling these flashy stunts. They don’t care and nagging them does nothing but make me appear paranoid.
At last Broken Walls and Chaoxi climbed down from their horses and swept us into embraces. I froze as Broken Walls manhandled my resisting body into a hug battling sudden chills and shortness of breath. Doing my best to bare it I wasn’t prepared for Chaoxi to follow suit. She broke off her embrace just as I was becoming convinced I was going to faint.
Slightly shell-shocked I clambered aboard and we set sail to the Northeast. By noon I was bored. Bringing a board game over to the ship’s infirmary where Aster was checking supplies I tried to coerce her into trying a game of Go. The game is complicated to master but the basic principles aren’t that hard. Played between equals the game ebbs and flows sometimes seeking points where the two players choose mutual existence rather than domination.
It wasn’t to be. Aster was distraught, indecisive and bemoaning the situation Dasadi had got himself into and that she couldn’t immediately save him. Contrastingly she didn’t want to leave her work in Champoor or Broken Walls who “missed us so terribly”. She was at the point of hysterics. I pointed out that we were doing all we could for Dasadi at present and that Broken Walls and Dasadi could manage for a little while without us. She resisted attempts to cheer her and seemed to be intent on lamenting not being able to help everyone at once. I don’t know what brought on this sudden attack of megrims but worried and suspecting that she probably required a hug or something I decided to fetch a surrogate. I wasn’t about to subject myself to that twice in one day.
Saiten was the obvious choice. I informed him that Aster was acting bizarrely and to see if he had any luck cheering her up. He headed below decks while I followed at a distance, posting myself outside the room to eavesdrop where I figured I’d be properly safe from any emotionally fueled embraces.
Saiten ended up saying basically the same things I did, trying to quell Aster’s, somewhat narcissistic, regret that she couldn’t alleviate everyone’s pain at all times. I get it, honestly I do. I am often frustrated that I cannot achieve everything I wish as powerful as I am but that’s just the price of being human. We need to prioritize. Inadvertently Saiten also mentioned this and expressed, like I did, that Dasadi would be fine until we came to rescue him as he knew we were on our way and were doing the best we could.
Abruptly Aster stopped crying though this was not comforting as it should have been. Her voice flattened to an uncharacteristic monotone. “You’re right.” She said with abrupt leaden certainty “He will be fine without us. We should go back to Champoor.” The hair on the nape of my neck promptly stood straight up.
Saiten backpedaled ferociously and layed on a speech that I wouldn’t have considered possible of him revealing a deep reservoir of feeling. He spoke of priorities – of helping our friends, even those we didn’t know very well and of his belief in his duty to assist the villagers of Zingma’s Tree who would be desperately in need of help. By the end of his short speech I believed he would lay down his life to protect any of us if we were in trouble. I don’t consider myself particularly prone to being effected by speeches full of ardor and fire but even I wasn’t unmoved.
If Saiten’s argument had been full of passion and shiny oricalcum gilded ideals of friendship and heroism then the counter argument Aster gave was one of iron handed practicality. No less correct perhaps but cold and dispassionate, delivered with magisterial imperative. She spoke of the duty we owed the people of Champoor, of how the suffering of the few were paltry compared to the needs of the masses.
She spoke with a most un-Asterlike air of authority as though her recommendations were the obvious choice. I can’t say she didn’t have a solid point but it was the source that made it seem aberrant. The Aster I know isn’t a creature of decisive bloody handed practicality. Trust me it takes one to know one. She twisted the definition of “hero” that Saiten bandies about to suit her vision and at the end Saiten swallowed it. “I guess you’re right.” he murmured thoughtfully.
Saiten, the man whom I could barely halt from diving into an enemy camp for a few lousy hours just agreed to abandon Dasadi and deny himself the opportunity to fight an entire army of undead and play the hero!
For an instant I was convinced my blood had transmuted into icy seawater. I had spoken to Aster before about her ability to sway people to her cause she had phrased it along the lines of “her light spilling into others and inspiring them”. She hadn’t liked being questioned about the ethics of overriding people’s autonomy but she had made it clear that to her the ends justified the means if it meant ensuring someone’s safety. Her wholehearted belief in her own brand of righteousness, a belief that painted “her light” as a unilateral force for goodness – overrode the necessity of other’s petty squabbling. At the time it had concerned me… terrified me actually but I had at least doubted she would use that power on us.
But what am I to think now?
I slunk behind some piled crates peering though a crack at the door as Aster strode through it, graceful, queenly, confident.
The Lady of the Golden Voice.
This was bad and not simply because she was going to turn the ship around and Dasadi might die as a result. What would happen if she met Broken Walls in this state? He commands a bloody army, what might she convince him to do in the face of this sudden about-face into forbidding austerity?! Tempestuous fury boiled in my veins at the notion I might end up hollowed out into obliging subservience. I’ve spent too much of my life being a toy for powerful people but at least I had the liberty to hate it! I wasn’t about to let us all become a puppets for some cross-grained seventeen year old!
I needed to slow her down, I needed time to try and talk some sense into Saiten. Scrabbling to think of something, anything I could do I reached out to my own power and came into contact with something… slimy?
“Fáisc ritskoða tišina nghloëdig”
Bind… Censor.. Silence… Sealed?
In a calm moment I might have not been so willing to use something I didn’t fully understand. This was not a calm moment. Recklessly I threw my will behind the alien words that lingered in my mind pledging anything to stop her from going back to Champoor. As I did I the strange syllables sunk into the fabric of my mind becoming a part of me. I could perceive some measure of delicate resistance and applying more force I felt the object of my focus slightly give. Then, as if in response something pushed back along that connection with absolute dominance of will. I struggled but the connection twisted and snapped causing my ears to ring.
Saiten and Aster passed my hiding place by seemingly oblivious. I remained frozen in place listening to her order the Captain back to Champoor above decks. I do not quite understand what happened but there is something very-very wrong with Aster. Changing into the form of a sailor I found this corner of the hold to hide in and started writing.
I have to get to Broken Walls as soon as I can and hope that he believes me.