As the tale of the Exalted Continues

Saiten's journal 10
Training montage

Ascending Fire 13

We finally reached Champoor in the afternoon, or “home”, as i’ve started thinking of it.
The docks were abuzz with the usual shouts of fishmongers and merchants. It was a sight for sore eyes. After our adventure in Volivat, I was happy to be back.

Not quite as happy as Aster was, however. She had spotted someone as soon as we docked and had rushed off in excitement. It seems the man was named Litaka, and was Aster’s former martial arts master. He was a fair looking man. Well dressed and well spoken. He reminded me very much of Aster, but in a way that I found unsettling. Aster is a beacon of everything that is good in this world. Litaka has that same sort of presence, but I feel he lacks the empathy that I take for granted in Aster.

I could be wrong though. Aster trusts him completely, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

Together, we made our way back to the Rising Sun House. We had to pass through mauk’s gate to get there. I’m still annoyed to pay this ridiculous toll. One of these days I’m going to see about making a “Saiten’s gate”. Not today though. It’s been a long trip, and I’d rather just take it easy for a little bit.

As we approached the Rising Sun House, it became clear that Broken walls had been busy while we were away. A giant tower now stood in the center of what was our courtyard. Covered in ornate inscriptions, and gold trim, it stood at least five stories tall. An impressive sight to say the least.

Broken walls came down from the tower to greet us. I told him of our adventures in Volivat. How we were attacked at sea. How we came to find Dasadi. How Pecahan AniAni had manipulated us the entire time.

Broken Walls was as sympathetic as one could hope him to be, but offered little actual advice. Chaoxi actually chimed in when she heard MahaSuchi’s name. She knew him to be a powerful and dangerous Lunar. She advised caution if we were to run into any of his associates again.
I assured her that I would be ready for whatever was to come.

Chaoxi made dinner tonight. It wasn’t anything too fancy, but it’s familiar taste brought a smile to my lips. It’s good to be home.

Ascending fire 14
It’s good to wake up in my own bed for the first time in weeks. I mean, the beds on the revenge, and in the inns were comfortable enough, but this one was mine. My bed, in my room.

With an excited grin, I donned my leathers. I was eager to get started on my first patrol since getting back. No doubt the usual hustlers and muggers were up to no good the entire time I was gone. It was time to make it known that I had returned!

I marched down the stairs, and had my hand nearly on the door when Litaka called my name. I looked over and he was standing in the kitchen, eggs frying in a skillet. He offered me a plate and a seat, which I hesitatingly accepted. Justice shouldn’t be delivered on an empty stomach, I reasoned.

As we ate, Litaka spoke to me. He had been told of our trip to Volivat, and wished to give me some advice. He suggested that I try to learn how people speak. To learn when they are being honest, and when they are not. I know he’s right of course. If I had seen though any number of conversations in volivat, things could have been much different.

I finished eating quickly, not wanting to linger. Litaka seems like a good fellow. Still, I can’t shake that unsettling feeling from earlier.

Patrol went mostly as I expected it would. A robbery here, an assault there. I stopped those that I could see, and brought the injured back to the clinic. It seems Mara has been doing a good job in Aster’s absence. The clinic looked clean, and well stocked. She got to work on the injured as soon as I brought them in. She might not be as good as Aster, but I could tell she cared.

We had a belated birthday party in the evening. Piper and broken walls must have planned it while I was on patrol, as I was just as surprised as Aster was. When Broken walls presented Aster with the gift of a new dress, I felt equally shamed. I had spent what little money I had saved up in Volivat, so buying a gift was almost certainly out of the question. My skills at crafting also leave something to be desired. Maybe I can get her something next time…

The party itself was actually pretty fun. There was music, and dancers. Most notably, there were acrobats. Their movements were fluid and delicate. Quick, but precise. I made note of how they moved. Who knows, maybe some acrobatics could liven up my training.

Ascending fire 15

Today, Broken walls has decided to make a trip past the city wall to find the temple of Karoski, the god of farming and harvest. Seeing a chance to spend some time with Broken Walls, I offered to go with him. He gladly accepted.
I decided to run, while he rode on horse back. I won’t get faster by letting an animal do my training for me!

As we journeyed, we spoke more of the trip to Volivat. I filled him in on some of the finer details that we hadn’t mentioned before. I wish he had been able to come with. I’m sure he would have been very helpful in learning the truth behind the whole ordeal.

When we finally arrived at Coroski’s temple, we found that it was in disrepair. If there were any followers of Karoski around, they certainly didn’t care for his temple. Broken walls took it upon himself to clean the place up a bit. He went to work repairing walls while I swept the place out. By the end of the day we had the place looking somewhat respectable.
It was then when Broken walls did something unexpected. He lit his headlamp and bowed at the temple alter. A sign of respect no doubt. I did the same.

On the way back to Champoor, I decided to once again to seek Broken Walls council. Since before we left Volivat, I’ve been feeling like I reached some sort of plateau with regards to my abilities. I’m stronger, faster, and more resilient than any mortal man, but I am not a mortal man. Not anymore anyway. I want to learn more, to go beyond my limitations.

It seems Broken walls has also been feeling this. He suggests meditation and reflection. It seems to be working for him.

Ascending fire 16-22
h5. Your title here…
I spent this week with broken walls on top of his tower to the Unconquered sun. It was here, that I tried to meditate on what it meant to be a Solar. I focused my mind and body on the power within me, only to be brought out my trance by stray thoughts. Pecahan. Platon. Mom…
This wasn’t working. I had a clearer mind when I was swimming behind the revenge. Maybe meditation isn’t what I need after all. It has given me an idea though.

Ascending fire 23.

After my failed attempt at finding clarity through meditation, I sought the advice of Aster. Her suggestions had merit, but they were not the answers I had hoped for. Her ideas were more along the lines of finding a disciple, so that I might learn through teaching, or to open a gym to train at a more intense level.
Training at a more intense level did sound like it would help. And it aligned with what I had learned on the tower. But I couldn’t do it here, nor anywhere near by. I’m going to have to leave Champoor.

Ascending fire 24-28

I spent the next little while scouting the lands to the north of the city. There is a river that flows south to the dreaming sea. I followed it for a long time. 20KM at least. It was the heart of the wilderness, but I had to be sure. I continued scouting until I found my spot. It was roughly 8KM outside of Champoor.

Here, surrounded by dense forest, I built my encampment. I cleared away some trees, and made a small shelter. I was going to be here for a while.

I diverted the river a touch. More of focused it. I made a whirlpool and moved the rocks so that the strong current would flow there. Swimming against the pull of the water felt good. It felt right. I used the powers within to help, and with it I could begin to see the path before me.

Resplendent fire 1-7
My training continues to progress, but in order to go further, I have to go all out. To truly go beyond my limits, I have to truly experience them.
I punched down dozens, if not hundreds of trees and chopped them into man sized pieces. I created a dam of sorts up river. It wasn’t really a dam, as it did little to hold back the water behind it. It was more of a wall, or a series of walls to be more precise.
What it actually was, was a trap. One that would surely kill any mortal man that was caught in it’s path. Once again, I remind myself that I am not a mortal man.

When triggered, the trap sent the hundreds of man sized logs down the river and straight towards me. A wave of uncertainty washes over me, but I calm it as I began channeling my essence. My headlamp glows brightly as I get to work.
My first swing splinters and shatters the log in front of me, revealing another behind it. And another, and another. Essence builds in my fists until they are as hard as adamantine. I Punch again and again, each strike more powerful than the last. I push further. This time my body begins to glow with the brightness of the Unconquered Sun, but it is not enough. I need to go further.
The logs were relentless in their assault. For each one I shattered, there were two more that took its place. The river slowed my movements. Dodging was not an option but for a few of them. I poured more essence into my fists and continued to work away at them. That is when I felt it. I had spent so much, that I could not contain the light within me. If my mark was my headlamp, then this was my beacon. The same image that was born as I fell from palanquin emerged. A giant flaming fist took to the sky.

Unlike during the fall, this time it was brought out with purpose. I raised my fists to the air and drew the emblem into them. As I poured more of it in, I felt my fists harden once again. Harder than adamantine, as hard as orichalcum. The logs might as well have been paper at this point. They offered no more challenge, but they had done their job.
Once the assault had finished, I collapsed on the riverbank, laughing to myself. I had used every scrap of energy I had, and I was exhausted. With that exhaustion came the clarity that I sought though. I think I understand what it means to be a Solar now. At least more than I did anyway. I’m sure that as the future unfolds there will be more questions. For now however, I just laid there and smiled as my strength slowly returned.

Saiten's Journal 9
Descending wood 22 continued

We rushed to the now unrecognizable tavern that was the Plane. There was debris everywhere. I clearing away stones as fast as I could. If there were any survivors under the rubble, I would find them.
Amidst the chaos, we learned that the bartender that had directed us towards the warehouse by the prison, Surmon, was inside when the collapse occurred. His bar would have been directly underneath a huge stone wall that now lay mostly flat on the pile.

Aster and I gathered as much help as we could to lift the wall from the pile. I was confident that I could probably lift it myself, but I couldn’t take that chance. If the wall fell while I was lifting it, even more people could be hurt. Besides, I’m not supposed to be showing off my superior strength and abilities.

We must have had a dozen people come forward to help clear the wall. Aster can be very persuasive when she wants to be. We all lined up, and got to work. As we started to lift the wall, I could feel my fingers sinking into the stone. I wouldn’t say it would have been easy, but I could tell that I could have done this by myself.
We practically threw the wall in the other direction, and quickly found Surmon under the rubble. He didn’t look good. Aster immediately went to work on him. There wasn’t much I could do to help, so I gave her my cape to use as a pillow, then continued to look for survivors.
Piper stopped me a moment after I had resumed tossing rocks to the side. “There’s nobody down there. I can’t hear any more heartbeats.” I looked at piper in awe. Piper’s talents continue to amaze me. I could barely hear my own thoughts in all the commotion taking place, yet piper could hone her senses to the point where he could hear a heartbeat under a building.
I returned my attention to Surmon, who had just regained consciousness. “There is one trial remaining, and then you will have answers. Head back to where you began.” He spoke softly.
Trial? What trial? What is going on!? And what does he mean “Where you began?” Does he want me to go back to Champoor? Did we come all this way only to to just go back? He refused to say anything else.
His silence didn’t go well with me. He clearly knew more than he was willing to say, and I wanted to know what he knew. Aster and Piper had other plans, however. Rather than force information from Surmon that he may or may not have, it would be better to retrace our steps and see where it leads us.
We returned to the Clansmen’s respite, and were relieved to find Dasadi waiting for us. We learned that he had managed to escape his encounter with what he believed was a dragonblood at the prison. He told us that in an emergency, he can shed his physical existence for a short time. Returning, however, can present other problems, as he found himself on top of the tallest tower in the city without any way of getting down. It was only through sheer luck that one of the occupants of the tower had heard his cries for help, and helped him down.
Once Dasadi had briefed us on his absence, Aster began to tell our own tale of what we had been up to these past two days.
As she did, I looked upon Piper curiously. She had such an emotional outbreak earlier when he had thought Dasadi had been killed. But now? Not even a hint of the happiness that she must be feeling. I can only assume that her feelings towards Dasadi weren’t ready to be shared. I will respect those wishes, and say nothing on the subject. It would be nice to see Piper happy though.
After we ate, we made our way back towards the fish market. Unfortunately, aside from delicious sea food snacks, we found nothing of interest.
We continued retracing our steps, until we found our way back to the Steam Kettle. At first, in the distance I saw what looked like steam pouring from the roof of the tavern. I quickly realized that the white smoke billowing from the roof was just that. Smoke. The Steam Kettle was on fire!
We rushed towards the tavern as quickly as we could. There was a crowd of people gathering in front. One of them shouted “Chellia is still inside! Somebody help her!” I didn’t think twice about it. I grabbed a bucket of water that was about to be dumped on the blaze, and instead poured it over my head. There, soaked from head to toe, I bolted through the door.
It was hot inside. Hotter than I was expecting. The bucket of water I had doused myself with would surely help in my withstanding the heat, but not for very long. I had to hurry. I shouted Chellia’s name, but got no response.
Piper must have heard my frustration. I could hear him shout from the entry way. “She’s upstairs! Wood side!”
I looked towards the staircase. It was an inferno. Rather than risk running up the stairs, I decided to bypass them. I leaped from the ground, and pulled myself up to the next floor. The flames were so close that I would have burned off any hair I had, were I not already bald.
I found Chellia in the second room I looked in. She was coughing pretty hard. I had to get her out now. I picked her up and threw her onto my shoulder. Going back downstairs wasn’t the best option, so I decided to punch my way out. With a single blow I shattered the outside wall of the room, and leapt to safety.
Aster made sure that we were both uninjured, and we were aside from my slightly singed scalp. As Chellia regained her composure, she told us that she had been instructed to stay in the building, and that she was to escort her rescuers somewhere, so that they may find the answers they seek.
I was both relieved and frustrated. I am glad I was able to bring Chellia to safety. But to learn that she is a part of this manipulation as well!? Is there anyone in this city that isn’t keeping some secret? Someone who isn’t in on whatever is going on!?
While I wasn’t happy about it, we agreed to follow Chellia. By the time my patience had almost run out, we arrived at a large building. Piper said she could hear people inside, and clicking coming from the upper level.
When we entered, we were greeted with an unexpected sight. There must have been thirty townsfolk all gathered in the room. None of them were armed. None of them looked threatening in any way. Above us, there were dozens of familiar looking birds. Stryxes. This must be it. This must be the Stryx syndicate! At last I will have my answers!
Just as I had realized that Platon was absent, one of the people spoke. Then another, and another. They spoke as if they were one person, but none of them would respond to any of our questions.
They introduced themselves as Pecahan AniAni, the daughter of MahaSuchi.
It seems as though Pecahan had heard of my fall from Palanquin. She knew I was strong, and she wanted my help to defeat her father, whom she claimed to be very evil. She knew her father was strong as well, so she decided to test me. She lured me, and my friends here, but we were not strong enough for her yet, and that we had failed her tests. She said she will be watching and will reveal herself again if she thinks we can be of any true help.
I couldn’t believe my ears. This entire trip. Everything that has happened since we left Champoor was some elaborate interview!? If she wanted to see how strong I was, Why not face me herself? Why let innocent people die for her curiosity!?
One thing is for certain, MahaSuchi may be an evil being. And I very well may try to take him down one day. But Pecahan AniAni is no saint either. She killed those guards in the prison. She forced those prisoners to fight us. She toppled the Plane, and burned down the Kettle. For all of these things and more, she will pay too.
I shouted at the room for her to show herself to us, to reveal her true form. The sound of silence was the only answer. The room had gone quiet, and none of the people would say any more.

I ran upstairs and grabbed one of the birds. Shouting at it to say something. To show me where Pecahan was. All I got was chaotic squawking and frantic flapping of the other birds as they tried to get out of my way.
Eventually, I let the bird go and rejoined my friends downstairs. They were just as shaken as I was, but I don’t think they took it as personally as I did. It was me that had lead them on this journey after all. It was my fault I had wasted everyone’s time with this quest.
We turned to leave, and as soon as we had passed the door, Chellia ran and slammed it shut. She had the door bolted before we knew what was going on.
This wouldn’t stop me however. I threw my fist at the door, ready to blow the door in, when I quickly remembered the crowd of people standing mere feet from it inside. I won’t hurt any more of Pecahan’s Pawns. I stopped my fist and instead grabbed the handle. Just as easily as I would have blown the door in, I ripped it from it’s hinges and tossed it behind me.
Inside the people were cowering as the Stryx flew out of a hole in the ceiling. Chellia was nowhere to be seen. We had been duped yet again. Chellia wasn’t some poor tavern girl, caught up in this mess. She probably was Pecahan herself! Playing us as fools!
I was so frustrated I smashed one of the pillars in the building on the way out.
“Lets get out of here” I said. The others nodded and we started to head towards the Revenge.
As we walked, Dasadi filled us in on what he knew about MahaSuchi. It seems that while we call ourselves Solars, there are other beings that walk creation with similar abilities. MahaSuchi is one of them. A lunar exalted. He wasn’t sure where we could find him, or how strong he expected him to be. He simply said that he was not to be underestimated.
We set sail for Champoor quickly, sparing no time to relive our fond experiences in Volivat. The sooner we were back in Champoor the better. It might not be the safest, or cleanest, or least corrupt city out there, but it sure beat Volivat. At least In Champoor, my enemies had faces.
Descending wood 26
We’ve been sailing for a few days now. Nothing really of note has been happening. I’ve decided that running around the ship and training isn’t doing enough to cool my rage. I’ve started swimming against the drag of the boat as a new method of distracting myself. The Captain and crew seemed against the idea, citing the dangerous creatures that live below. I assured them I could handle myself. Truth be told, I was hoping some giant fish would try to see how I taste. I could go with letting off a little steam.

Descending wood 27
Today, we dropped Dasadi off at a coastal fishing village. When we found him in the ocean, he had no recollection of how he got there, or what had happened on the weeks prior. He wanted to find out. We offered our assistance in whatever way we could manage, but he assured us that he would be fine. We told him how to find us if he ever needed help, and then left him.
As we pulled away from the dock, I could see a slight pout on Pipers face. She was sad to see him go. I wonder if they ever confessed their feelings to one another.

Saiten's Journal 8
Descending wood 20 continued...again.

It had only been a few minutes since we all had retired to our rooms, when I heard a knock at my door.
Aster wished to spend the night with me, as Piper had decided to run off with Dasadi on a late night information gathering adventure.
They’re both capable people. I was sure they’d be fine on their own for the night. Still, Aster was worried about them, and had decided to stay awake and wait until their return.

There was no sense in both of us staying up, so I prepared for bed. I offered a side of the meager mattress to Aster just in case, but she was adamant to stay up, and far be it from me to stop her.
As I slept, I dreamt that dream again. The one with the never ending swarm of monsters hell bent on beating me to a pulp. Adrenaline pumping, excitement soaring. Just as I was about to punch their leader, I was shaken awake by Aster.

Descending wood 21

There was still no trace of Piper and Dasadi, and Aster was growing more and more concerned. I reminded her that they’re both capable people. If they get into trouble, they’ll be able to handle themselves. Or at the very least, cause enough commotion that we wouldn’t be able to sleep through it.
I was able to doze off again, but the dream did not return. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll be able to play out that fight to it’s completion one day.

Piper was the next to wake me from my slumber. It seems as though she had a more chaotic night than I would have expected. He and Dasadi had returned to the prison, where they were spotted and attacked. Piper had managed to get away, but only after she had seen Dasadi burst into flames after being hit in the chest by a giant hammer. There was a distinct possibility that Dasadi was dead.

I wasn’t entirely convinced of Dasadi’s demise. The description of him bursting into flames…It made me think that was Dasadi’s doing. A method of escape perhaps? Dasadi had shown an affinity towards fire magic in our previous battles. It was even a small fire bird that had helped us find him in the water.
I could only hope my suspicions were correct. Time would tell.

Aster and Piper, having been awake all night, decided to get some rest. Hopefully Dasadi would return as Piper had. In the mean time, I decided to do my morning training regime, with the hopes of catching wind of Dasadi during my run.

By the time I returned, Piper and Aster had awoken from their nap, but there was still no sign of Dasadi.
We ate some food, then headed towards the plane to look for clues as to his whereabouts. We hadn’t gotten far though, before Piper collapsed and started to cry unexpectedly. It seems like last night was taking it’s toll on her. She clearly had feelings for Dasadi, and the thought of watching him die in front of her must have been too much to bear.

I reached down to comfort her, and he bolted. I knew that if I lost track of him, I might never see her again. Piper had proven his ability to not be found if she wanted. I knew if I let that happen, I might never see her again. Without thinking, I had channeled more energy into my legs than ever before. I caught up to piper in an instant, but we must have been several blocks away from where we started. I don’t know if I’ve ever moved that fast before.

I picked her up and she immediately collapsed in my arms, sobbing uncontrollably. I returned her to Aster, but she would not stop crying.
We decided to return to the revenge. At least there, we could let Piper have her breakdown in private.
The city guard however, had other plans. They must have thought we were abductors, because they asked us to come with them to their guard tower. I explained our situation. That she has recently lost somebody dear to her. They seemed understanding, and offered to use their tower for some privacy. Their guard tower was much closer than the revenge. It was probably for the best.

Piper must have cried there with us for hours, but she eventually came out of it. She offered no explanation for her ordeal, but none was really necessary. She reassured the guard that we were in fact her friends, then we made our way back to the respite.

It seems like most of the day had gone to waste. By the time we had returned to the inn, it was nearly dark. We had some soup for dinner, which Piper downed rapidly. Poor thing was probably dehydrated from all of that crying.

Descending wood 22
I awoke determined to find answers. Answers about Dasadi. Answers about Platon. Answers about everything that has been plaguing me on this trip. I ate quickly before starting my morning routine. When I returned, Piper and Aster were ready to get going.
As we resumed yesterday’s course towards the plane, we heard a commotion. The plane had collapsed!

Saiten's Journal 7
Descending wood 20 continued

By the time I had regained my senses, and calmed down somewhat, Aster was already helping the injured.Our own party had come out of the fight mostly unscathed, but we had shredded our attackers. While pleased that we had emerged victorious, I was morose at the sight of the victims of our defense.
I helped aster as best I could; Put pressure on wounds while she bound them, held down the men who refused to stay still.

Dasadi approached me as I assisted Aster. He was staring at me intently. My headlamp! I had forgotten all about it! Broken walls had warned me that powerful people were on the lookout for those of us who bore the marks of Solars. If Dasadi was one of those people, I guess I would have the chance to truly see how powerful of a person he truly was.
In the mean time, I had more important things to do than to ponder Dasadi’s intentions. I continued helping Aster with the wounded, when I saw Piper speaking to one of the men. As I walked over to him, I could hear him explaining between groans that our attackers were escaped prisoners, and that he had no idea who Platon was. I spoke to the room, saying that whomever would answer our questions would receive priority aid. One man was quicker to answer than the rest. He said that there was a creature in the prison that had killed all of the guards and set them free. The only condition being that they killed the next group of people who entered the warehouse. I would have thought that would mean Platon, but nobody saw him enter before us. I wasn’t sure if he was lying, or just blind, but everyone we questioned after him agreed. Nobody had come through that door but us. I know what I saw, but I couldn’t help but think there was something else going on here. Something that is guiding us along, blind to the true purpose of it’s manipulations.

Once Aster had finished dealing with the critically injured, we retreated to the far corner of the warehouse to discuss our next move. It was here when Dasadi made his move. He commanded my attention, then promptly revealed his own headlamp. His own mark of the Solar.
Aster was delighted. She immediately set her own mark ablaze, eager to show Dasadi her true nature. Dasadi was beside himself at the discovery of two other Solars. Piper chose to keep his mark hidden, which is probably for the best. While Dasadi has chosen to reveal his nature to us, caution is never a bad idea. I’m sure piper will reveal her mark when he thinks it is appropriate.

After we had calmed down, and our headlamps had dimmed, we decided to make our way to the prison. At the back of the warehouse, there was a hole in the wall that led to a small alleyway. The alley, while crudely constructed, allowed unrestricted access to the wall of the prison, which towered over us. If it were not for the giant hole in the side of it, I’m sure it would be quite effective at keeping inmates contained.

I had my concerns about entering the prison. This city had one of the best police force that I’ve ever encountered, and if they discovered us inside, it might send the wrong impression. The others reminded me that the creature had decimated the guards of the prison, so it would be better for us to take the lead on this. They were right of course. If this creature had killed all the guards in the prison, it would be up to us to stop it.

As we passed through the hole, I remarked at the size of the claw marks on the side of the wall. This thing was big. It could probably cleave a man in half with minimal effort. A small chill of excitement went through me. I bet this creature would give me a good fight.
We explored the prison for quite a while, finding body after body of both prisoner and guard alike. Eventually following a set of bloody tracks of what must of been from this creature, to the main courtyard. We lost track of it there. The tracks went in every which way. Impossible to tell whether it was coming or going. Looking up at the walkways and guard towers, we noticed something horrifying. There were bodies of guards pinned in place. I could tell that they were positioned to look normal from the street, but from this angle, they were more grotesque. I can only assume that the creature had the prisoners place the guards up there to give it more time for us to find our way to the warehouse.

We hadn’t been there long when Piper said she heard the sound of guards outside the walls investigating. It seems the scarecrows on the walkway only worked for so long. We looked at each other briefly. All of us, except Aster were covered in blood from our earlier fight. If the people outside were indeed guards, finding a bloodied group of suspicious people, amidst all of their fallen comrades would likely not look good. We hastily made our way out of the prison.
Once we got back to the alley, we all agreed it would be best to change to avoid suspicion. Dasadi didn’t have a change of clothes with him, so he turned his cloak inside out. He didn’t look terribly pleased as he did it, as he was no less bloody than myself or piper. While I changed into my laundry clothes, Piper took the prompt bit too literally, and donned a new body. He introduced herself as Garnet this time. Dasadi was understandably confused, but was quickly hushed as we started to make our way away from the prison.
I couldn’t help but look back with disappointment as we left. No Platon, and no creature. Will I ever get any answers?

As we made our way from the prison, we heard an alarm sound. No doubt the people investigating outside the prison had made it inside. I could only hope the creature wasn’t still there.
We found our way to an inn a fair distance from the prison. “The Clan’s Respite”, it was called. I ordered us rooms for the night, and brought food and wash basins up with us. Dasadi seemed offended that I got my own room. I just didn’t want a repeat of last time.
I washed my uniform as we spoke of the day’s events. Dasadi explained that while he, myself and Aster were all Solars, we were not all the same. An audible sigh escaped Pipers lips, then he lit his mark to show that he was also among the ranks of the Solars. I think this surprised Dasadi less than the reveal from earlier today had. Perhaps he already suspected Piper?
He explained to us that the marks that each of us bore on our foreheads, indicated a type of caste that we belonged to. He is what’s known as a twilight caste, while Piper is a night caste. Aster, and by extension Broken Walls are both Zenith. I belong to the ranks of the Dawn Caste. Our marks give hints to our abilities, and can serve as a warning to those who would choose to do us harm. Together, we are the chosen of the Unconquered sun, the god of the Solar Exalted.

I feel like I understand a little bit more about the changes that have happened to me in the past seven months. Dasadi has given me insight into this world I have become part of. I won’t forget it.

I spent the next while scrubbing my leathers. The bloodstains gained from the fight in the warehouse were being more stubborn than most i’ve dealt with recently. I should really speak with Aster about how she manages to keep clean at all hours of the day. It would be nice to not have to do laundry as often.

Piper's Journal 16
Blood, Tea and Intrigue

Resplendent Fire 8th to 13th – A busy week

There was some time to prepare for the meeting as it was over a week away. I did my best to continue on with business as usual though my mind hummed with tension like a plucked bowstring. I met a number of interesting people and learned a great deal more about the diversity of human suffering in the city. I tried my best to lend an ear to those whom I spoke with and was careful to use a number of fresh aliases so if my watchers were checking in they would find me difficult to track.

Things had settled into an almost comfortable cycle until Broken Walls sought me out one morning and asked me out to lunch. It was an unexpected interruption to my routine and I was immediately concerned by the implications. I suspected he had information to share that the others couldn’t hear or he suspected that one of the many people he has given access to the compound was compromised. Neither boded well. We settled on a Sukiyaki restaurant on the inside of the wall. It was a popular place, noisy and difficult to be overheard but in the manner of sukiyaki restaurants they had private booths. Perfect.

Over lunch I asked him what he wanted to speak to me about, already calculating the possibilities of how best to go about hunting a mole. Broken Walls cleared his throat and… made clear his intent to be my friend.

Unconquered defend me, please let that not be some implication of a romantic attraction!

I decided to take this statement at face value. My read on Broken Walls is such a tangled mess of impressions. I openly disagree with him on so many points but suppose it couldn’t hurt to try for a fresh start. I admitted that I had not considered him a candidate for friendship. I apologized for my cold demeanor and accepted his invitation to “be friends” hoping that he was in fact being literal but the rest of the meal was exceedingly awkward.

Later on that evening I took out my shogi board and offered to play with him. He proved an excellent player, trouncing me thoroughly at the game which given he probably has well over a century of additional experience was not surprising. It was not a disagreeable change of pace. Saiten is still learning and I have never really experienced this form of higher level of play.

Over the past few weeks I have been practicing the techniques of being personable I learned from watching Aster work. The first stage appears to involve an exchange of personal information and displaying an active interest. Seeming as he mentioned it some time ago though was unspecific on detail I settled on asking Broken Walls what the Unconquered Sun told him when he took his “second breath”. Aster had explained she had heard him speak and he instructed her to share her light with the world. I was curious to know what sort of directive the Unconquered Sun bid Broken Walls follow as I had neglected to ask.

I was a little taken aback when he explained that his directive was to lead and better mankind. That gave me pause. Is Broken Walls meant to be some sort of king, literally invested with the divine right to rule? What does that make him to me, my equal or superior? Hmpf. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care what the Unconquered intended for me in that respect, I submit to no one.

Returning the social grace, Broken Walls was curious about my own experience. He was aware of the fact that I was not told of the my purpose of my selection by the Unconquered and wanted to know if that effected me terribly. I told him the truth about my stance on the matter, that it never bothered me. At the time I recognized that I was amathema. I was not a follower of the faith but a monster seemed a fitting enough label for what I had become so I had not questioned it until I met the others.

Our talk continued to range over philosophical ground. Broken Walls aired some thoughts on whether mortal law really applied to us. The double standard does not seem just though I cannot deny that I have never seen the law as an applicable check to my actions. Do we bind the weak to the laws we make? That feels uncomfortably like slavery and oppression. Broken Walls seemed troubled by the implications as well which was to his credit. I have no answers, only more questions.

Resplendent Fire 14th – Something in the Air

Most of the day was unremarkable but this afternoon I asked Aster about what sort of tea might be suitable for a gift. I have much knowledge on the proper way to serve different teas and I can tell an inexpensive tea from a pricey one but I wanted the eye of an expert to narrow down the type to best suit the occasion. She did after all used to work in a tea shop and I have not been much in the habit of selecting gifts.

Aster was very helpful. She suggested a fragrant variety of herbal jasmine tea but as we spoke Aster mentioned that she had tickets to see a play at the Winter Meets Wind. Curious I probed a little further and learned that she is going on a date … with Hatelis… The God…

I tried my hardest to contain my shock. We can’t count on the man (god) as an ally yet and doubtless he has his fingers in a lot of pies. I mused perhaps she intended to use this as a means of investigating him which seemed unlike her but further questions revealed she actually fosters an infatuation. I didn’t trust myself to speak much to her about that as I felt an anger stir that I initially couldn’t place. After she left I reflected on the emotion and despaired.

I am jealous.

I cannot tolerate the barest touch and yet I feel acutely the sting of favours of affection being granted to someone else? What hypocrisy! My past apparently hasn’t taught me anything. I must relive it and weigh myself wanting again! I will not bear it. This disease is in it’s early stages yet and I can stop it before it progresses too far.

Troubled, I purchased my tea and went to my visit Xi. I had a small run in with her son who I can tell doesn’t like me much, I think he is suspicious of me, seeing little reason why a man my age is visiting his aged mother. I can’t say I blame him but I don’t like him much either. He treats his mother as a burden now that her eyes are failing and she can do little to help the bookshop. It seems a lonely business being old. Even the comfort and company of her books is deserting her as her vision goes.

I read to Xi from a book of poems as we drunk the jasmine tea and I felt that tightness in my chest loosen a little. Xi’s sense of humour is still intact and her wits are sharp. We spoke a little about what was on my mind and while I was exceedingly vague and realize it doesn’t help my situation it did make me feel a little better about the whole thing. It is odd to think that one day though I may be her age but I will never know what old age is truly like. I promised her I would visit next week and freverently hoped I would be alive to keep my word.

Resplendent Fire 15th- Aster’s Date

Aster had been most forthcoming in sharing the details of her date with Hatelis and as such I had a proper itinerary and time to prepare. Indulging this idiotic possessiveness I have no right to feel is not my intent. I won’t meddle in Aster’s affairs directly but Aster is privileged with great power and is much too quick to trust. In an attack I know Aster could hold her own but men are devious in their manipulations and a God of fine print undoubtedly more so. I arranged to join the stage crew of the Winter Meets Wind Theater for the night for their performance. The piece they are performing is a pretentious display of “high art”. The play features a piece of art which is painted onstage alongside the action.

I’ve encountered this nonsense before. The painting is sold after the show to wealthy patrons to increase the revenue of the production. A prospect that probably pleases a god of commerce. The Assistant Director has an owning stake in the theater so there is some pressure to please him amoungst the actors. In the afternoon the play began and I eavesdropped on Aster and Hatellis.

He was charming. He spoke respectfully and kept his distance as he introduced her to the Assistant Director who of course gushed over his latest passion project. It was however somewhat….impersonal. Hatelis’s approach to Aster struck me to being similar to trying to how one might attempt to impress an important client. I can’t tell if he actually harbors any legitimate affection for her though he is certainly attempting to get on her good side.

After the show they took a carriage to a high class teahouse hung above a garden on a delicate structure. It always mystifies me how the rich choose to waste their money. I gained entrance easily enough however at a glance the menu gave me a fair estimate of what I was in for. No prices were listed, yet another folly of those with too much money and a sign that this little outing was going to cost. I selected a tea and a wagashi to nibble and gazed out at the garden as I eavesdropped. The sweet was excellent though the money that was changed for it was an absurdity hard to swallow. From my dealings with the wealthy they look at the consideration of how much something costs as being distasteful. I don’t know if Aster was aware of how much Hatelis spent but I wager it would have kept her clinic stocked to bursting for a month.

Hatelis remained polite and distant for the most part but Aster did dig some information from him. He is not confined to the city having high end clients in the surrounding area and some sort of stake in a quarry outside of town. Worth investigating at some point when I have the time.

The sun was setting and Hatelis informed Aster that he was permitted to travel the city at night under some restriction and could see her home. I however had to trot home like a good little sheep before the evening locked me in. Aster is a capable young woman. She can handle herself and hopefully can realize when she is being taken advantage of. I on the flipside can wager a few guesses at what lurks the streets and I know that on my own I am not their equal yet.

I kept an eye out until Aster arrived in Hatellis’s coach where he gifted her the painting from that night’s performance. A ham-handed use of wealth to gain her favor but it worked. She was flattered by his attentions. I listened to her recount the evening with Chaoxi as I fought my unease and dislike of the god. I don’t trust him but there is true advantage if Aster insinuates herself into high society here through him she could foster real change from the city’s elite.. The whole matter makes my blood boil but I can only try to direct it’s flow. I am nothing more than a meddling over protective older brother of sorts and must accept my place.

Please let me not be a failure at that.

Resplendent Fire 16th – Using a hammer instead of a pin

This morning I spoke with Saiten a bit about easing my load of investigations. Lately he has been spending his time trying to train the guards of Rising Sun House, half killing them by exhaustion in the process. He goes on “patrol” but it doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme. I asked him if he was willing to look into the goings on at the temple of Kadu. I know he isn’t exactly subtle but perhaps there is advantage in that. If Kadu is up to something sketchy they would be reticent to let him join their venture and if they did try and lock him up Saiten should be powerful enough to overwhelm them and return.

I will be tasked with my meeting with the murder spirits for the next few days and providing they don’t kill me I hope to keep Saiten engaged and with any luck off patrol. I don’t know what sort of things my contact might get up to but I don’t relish the thought of running into Saiten while trying to infiltrate a group of murder spirits. Not to mention that if Kadu is up to something this could put Saiten on the track to making true progress here. It is a much worthier use for his time.

I have no fear of him fouling up the investigation. Seeing him handle things in Volivat I understand the effectiveness of his way of approaching problems. It is effectively pointing a cannon at something and seeing what damage can be done. Saiten is strongwilled, very direct and once he puts his mind to something he can’t be easily sidetracked. I wish I could be there to see someone try and stop him from going where he will but life if imperfect that way. If Kadu is on the level then Saiten will be able to pass harmlessly through their mechanations and tell us what they are about. If he causes distress then Saiten is well equipped to distress Kadu right back.

He took some convincing but I managed it. I look forward to seeing how he does.

I checked in with Broken Walls before I left for my own meeting. He had told me he was going to be keeping an eye out for me but he wanted me to arrange a signal for him. I didn’t want to tip my hand more than necessary with my enemies as to what I am so I donned a familiar disguise of Garnet and twisted my power to form the illusion of a fire aspect’s power over flame. I demonstrated it to Broken Walls who seemed a little taken aback. he expressed a minor worry over me setting fire to something but I informed him it was all fakery. He didn’t believe me until I waved a piece of paper through the flame to demonstrate it is harmless.I think I can create a fairly flashy display using it though I have never tested it’s outer reaches.

Finding the way wasn’t hard and I arrived at the place the spirit mentioned and found an arrow sketched in blood on the walls. That arrow lead to another and that arrow to an ajar door. It was an effective means of supplying direction but surprisingly childish.

I caught sight of the spirit lounging on the building’s lintel. He smiled and waved me inside. I nudged the door open and waited for my eyes to adjust. There was a woman there of middling height with dark hair and cold attractive features. She was wiping a silver bladed knife on the clothes of a prone man.“What did he do?” I asked. She spun, momentarily startled gave me an apprising look “Just trimming the fat,” she said dismissively. I wasn’t sure if she was attempting humour. The man on the ground was practically rotund when you account for Champoor’s average physique being somewhere between thin and malnourished. She introduced herself as “Lang” and after introductions bid me follow her to the top of the city wall.

From the height Lang motioned to the stream of people entering the city and informed me a number of things which do not bode well. Lang serves a Goddess of murder named Akkimu who is invested in keeping the incoming population in check by removing the worst elements of the city. Her followers wear masks and cloaks when out at night which allow them safe travel through the city. The mask she showed me seemed inspired by the visage of murder spirits like Hathesis. Membership comes at a cost and worshipers must murder regularly to keep these masks from cracking and relinquishing Akimu’s favour. The use of silver knives strengthen the connection between Goddess and Worshiper. My guide implied that this connection supplied Akemu’s followers with power but was vague on the details. She did however mention she would be willing to train me in her style of assassination… the Dreaming Pearl Courtesan style.

I was surprised and intrigued. It isn’t exactly a common style and I am aware my own level of aptitude with it is sorely lacking. After all Peony and I practiced it in secret for years with no critique of our form to guide our progress. If our “master” knew what we were up to it would have spelled disaster. He himself was such a degenerate, spoiled, coward that I doubt he ever really used it in battle. Such academic use of the skill must have left him with an incomplete mastery over the style.

I was introduced to the murder spirit properly as “Hathesis” whom she commanded find us a target to cut my teeth on. Like a black clad butler the spirit directed us to a man locked in the stupor of drugs and his body baring the unmistakable signs of repeat use. I can see how one might find someone like this a burden on society but I do not approve of this sort of target. I rolled my eyes at Lang trying to disguise the clenching muscles in my stomach as a lack of enthusiasm. I made it clear this wasn’t to my taste and demurred the lack of challenge and sport in it. She shrugged and killed the man with ease.

It didn’t bother her one whit.

Playfully, as though it were a game, Lang raced me to the next mark. I needed to ingratiate myself with these two if I was to learn anything of use and they seemed willing to indulge my choice of target. Lang laughed and encouraged me as I killed him. It was obvious she embraces this lifestyle to the hilt. The next kill was hers and I witnessed her use of Pearl Courtesan style. They were certainly quicker and more direct. This was no pretender to the aesthetic like Shufen had been, this was a gleeful assassin who had perfected the craft. I am not too proud to admit she was far better at it than me. Perhaps it is the obvious joy she has for the kill. I believe this woman is some sort of psychopath and our association made me uneasy. The old man had been speeding himself to an early death but he did not deserve to be dispatched so and that bothered me. One thing was certain, that had to pay off. This poor devil’s sacrifice couldn’t be for nothing.

On the next mark I demonstrated a bit of my own skill and she rejoiced that she had found a student she needn’t tutor from scratch. According to her the style that I practice, which is based on the original dance forms, has too much wasted movement and I lack the decisive edge to my blows. The innovations of later masters developed it into a more aggressive style which she took pains to demonstrate. It was fascinating but her enthusiasm for her work gives me the crawls. We practiced our talents on marks I probably would have killed anyway but I can’t deny it felt wrong to kill in the service of this Goddess.

I returned to the Rising Sun House and met with Broken Walls who had some of his own observations to share after I exhausted my recountance of the day’s gleanings. He asked if we should inform the others and I told him I thought we should. I felt we needed to bring our combined might to bear on this… that isn’t genuine. In truth I was shaken. I needed to hear perspectives that weren’t twisted and compromised as mine are. I am a shade too close to these monsters… to being these monsters.

We called a council. Saiten’s reaction was predictable, he wanted to charge off and face the problem head on. I had to bring up that this wasn’t just a mortal enemy that we can bludgeon into submission. As distasteful as the job is we still don’t know enough to land a killing blow on Akemu. Furthermore, once we do initiate battle the ranks will close. Information will be nigh on impossible to glean from them as they tighten down on possible leaks. Aster weighed in trying to balance acting quickly with the possible benefit of holding off. Overall we elected to wait a day while my “contact” collected more information. Saiten and Broken Walls would go and check on Kadu’s city works as the work party leaves from the temple tomorrow. We would reconvene in the evening and figure out our plan of attack.

I spoke again with Broken Walls as the others adjourned to bed. He was steadfast. I voiced my concerns about the viability of attacking these creatures and Broken Walls reasoned that spirits need to be material to attack and thus make themselves vulnerable to our attacks. Broken Walls also mentioned he had some sort of power that can force a spirit to materialize against it’s will. Regretting bring this all to Saiten’s attention I mentioned the possible route of us putting off the attack for longer if I slip further into my role as a double agent and warn the spirits of Saiten’s involvement. Broken Walls was right to shoot that down. I had lost my nerve. I must trust that we have a chance and stand with Saiten for anything less is to work against him and our chances.

Resplendant Fire 17 – The hunt

In the morning Broken Walls approached to inform me he had met with Mawk who, by his account, doesn’t seem a particularly worthwhile God. Not particularly evil but lazy and slovenly as his following is irreverent and crude. Mawk had confirmed that Akemu lived somewhere in Black Quarter. When asked what her deal was he had replied simply “Souls.”

I felt as though I were plunged in ice water. It was small comfort the people I had personally damned had probably deserved their lot. Broken Walls was a solid grounding presence and I tried my best to keep hold of my resolve but I realize I am walking a thin line that grows ever more fine. Broken Walls has placed his trust that I am a worthwhile ally but at what point do I become so irredeemable that I can not be distinguished from the monsters I chase? Yet, they must be chased.The whole lot of this bunch must burn. This isn’t Silgur whom we can trash thoroughly and send sulking back to his sewer. Nothing less than total and complete annihilation will do.

I called for Hathesis when I was far off from Rising Sun House and he greeted me as “Pearl”. Fantastic, that’s three aliases compromised and he knows I lodge at Rising Sun House. Pearl, Garnet and Mei are rendered practically unservicable until this lot is dispensed with. It can’t be helped. I asked after Lang and the spirit directed me to go inside the city walls and contact another murder spirit “Mathesis”.

Mathesis, who is a veritable twin to Hathesis, was forthcoming, giving me some more bloody arrows to follow. Lang was already at work, just finishing off some poor unfortunate soul. I tried not to think on it too much as I greeted her. She asked if I had used the silver knife yet that morning. I told her it hadn’t occurred to me to do so. It was after all quite early in the day. She bought that readily enough. She even teased me for being a late riser.

I broached the topic of what the actual benefit of joining the organization was in my particular case and she laughed at that mentioning that we would talk more after I got a few kills in. Like any cult they intend to string me along with mysteries. She beckoned Mathesis who brought us to yet another undeserving helpless victim. I showed my distaste for this sort of killing again hoping to sway her from this target trying to project a vision of the Pearl/Garnet I wanted my enemies to see. This identity is bloodthirsty but proud, caring not particularly for murder for murder sake but for sport. Powerful, vain, driven by self interest but wary of tricks and false dealings.

Taunting me yet again for being “picky” brought me to an off duty guard Mathesis told us was thinking of murdering his wife or committing suicide in a week or two. I don’t know if this was a lie and I didn’t press it. I endevoured not to kill him with the silver dagger so I needed a ruse. It was good that he fought back despite him being somewhat inebriated. My actions needed to be plausible. I killed him after a short, fevered skirmish with half a ceramic plate as Lang shouted her dismay.

I looked up at her with my best look of embarrasment and winced as I apologised, hoping my relief was sufficiently disguised. I might not have approved of killing this mark but at least I saved his soul. My instructor sighed and rolled her eyes. She applauded my enthusiasm but reiterated the importance of the knife saying again that killing with it was what strengthened my connection with Akkimu. She excused herself and crept upstairs to kill the wife of the man I had killed.

I felt sick. I did nothing to stop her and was aware that this was yet another stain that would never truly wash clean. I wish I believed in atonement but in truth deeds can not be repaid. I can only stop them from happening again.

When Lang returned she couldn’t help but advise me on how my form was sloppy and could be improved. She was a good teacher. Utterly devoid of a shred of humanity but certainly skilled. I focused on the lesson trying not to think about what just happened. I did my best to delay her from her next appointment by showing an an enthusiasm for learning the style. After we moved on and she got another kill in I tried to wheedle some more details from her about Akkimu but was told that I would have my answers once I had drawn my blood with the dagger.

A blood pact. No way in all the hells in creation is that happening.

Trying to pressure me into taking that step Lang waved the answer to the questions I asked in front of my nose.She did her best to tempt me with coins I could steal from my marks and the impunity to murder whom I pleased. I told her I had no use to trade for essense to power my attacks as I already could marshal power and I didn’t need a murder cult for murdering who I wanted either. Moving around at night was tempting but needed work to upkeep. I made it clear I was interested but looking for the strings attached. I asked her if there were any adverse effects from the pact and she told me there were none. I can’t help but think her inhuman lack of compassion is some sort of side effect she might not be completely aware of but for all I know she was probably chosen because she already possessed that trait.


I did my best to act exasperated with her secrets skirting the line between interested and not seeing enough benefit to offset the risk behind all these secrets she was keeping. She cracked a little and gave me free reign to pick a single question which she would answer so I asked about the bell. If it is the source of Akkimu’s power then it may hold the secret to her undoing. Lang proceeded to tell me the “host” chases people through the streets to the bell. When I interrupted her to ask if by host she meant the people in masks she scoffed and told me no. That they had nothing to do with the host. Of course she would tell me no more about the host accept for that it herds people toward the bell where they are then sacrificed to Akkimu. I was also told that my involvement in the nightly hunt wasn’t a huge commitment as it didn’t happen every night.

Lang was trying to sell me on the blood pact but I told her I still needed time to think about it. She gave me leave to get the knife looked at to discern if there was more at play here than there first appeared and told me she would ask after me tomorrow and if I were willing to take the next step would show me the “host”. I bid her goodnight and headed back to the Rising Sun House to see what Saiten and Broken Walls had found out and prepare for battle.

I think Saiten has the right idea.

Aster's Diary 14
Some answers, but still so many questions!

It has been a strangely busy time over the last week or so, Diary. I feel as though our understanding and progress in the city has grown by leaps and bounds!

First of all, I received a reply to the invitation I was sending out the last I wrote to you. If you had not already gathered, it was address to Hatelis, the commerce god of Champoor that I had spoken to a few times before. I suppose you, like my other companions, will marvel at this a bit, and I suppose it does seem a strange thing, to find oneself interested in pursuing a god. For one thing, as my companions were all quick to point out, he is likely much, much older than I am. I thought it rude to ask directly, but my closest estimation puts him at less than 700 years old, so there is very likely more than a bit of difference between our ages. My thinking on this subject, however, is that it is impossible to know whether or not that will make a difference between us until it is tested; as far as I can tell, I am likely to live quite a long time, so finding a companion who will do likewise seems appropriate. And if it becomes an issue, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
He is also, well, a god. Gods are not something that mortals usually pursue romantically, though I have heard stories of such a thing occurring. I am not, however, strictly speaking quite the same thing as a mortal any more. The things that I can do… well, in some ways I may be more powerful than some spirits and minor gods.
I am not entirely sure what has drawn me to him. He is…. interesting. He speaks to me like an equal, treats me with a great deal of respect. He makes me feel like an adult, like a woman.
But that is not it, not entirely. I think… I think he baffles me. I know so little about him, how he thinks, what he feels… a part of me, I suppose, just wishes to get to know him better.


His reply stated that he was otherwise engaged the evening I had suggested, but he would be delighted to take me up on my offer on another night, with a play and dinner.

I have never been so nervous.

My companions all took the news of this ‘date’ differently, and yet also very similarly. Chaoxi seemed happy for me. Broken Walls seemed skeptical, and took the time to remind me of Hatelis’ age. Piper seemed incredulous, distrusting Hatelis. I am grateful for the concern, but was not worried, myself. Saiten looked at me bemusedly. All of my friends are so protective of me that it must have come to a shock to them that I was pursuing the possibility of romance at all, let alone with a deity.

I met Hatelis in the theatre, and was introduced to its patrons. We sat next to them throughout the performance, which was a marvelous piece where the actors painted as they performed, the different parts of the canvas coming to represent what was happening in the play. It was lovely, though I do wish we had been alone. Our seatmates were lovely company, but it did make it slightly awkward trying to speak to him before the performance.

We then took a carriage to the most extravagant tea-house I have ever been in. Our table was in a hanging section above a garden! Our dinner was lovely, and we had some very fancy looking wine (though I will admit I don’t have much taste for it generally), and were able to converse a bit more privately. He was approached some time during the evening and was offered an invitation to some Gala occurring next month, which I was offered entry to as well! If it is anything as fancy as this, well, I will have to see if I can find something more suitable to wear…
After dinner, we went up to the roof, and watched the sun set. It was strange, after having been warned so many times not to be out after dark, but Hatelis assured me that I would be perfectly safe with him. This, I think, was my favorite part of the evening, because we were able to just sit in one another’s company without the distractions of the glitz and glamour.

When it had gotten quite late, we took his carriage to the compound. This, I would say, was my least favorite part of the evening. I would have been more frightened if Hatelis had not been beside me, but the curtains were drawn, the night was so dark… there was a thump on the carriage at one point. Even with his assurances, the streets after dark felt so dangerous. We really must fix this.

When I returned, Chaoxi was waiting up for me! She’s such a lovely person; she really does make me feel like I still have an older sister near me. Hatelis said a fairly brief goodnight, though he returned a moment later with the painting from the play (!). It was a lovely gesture.

That night was…

I am grateful for what Hatelis did for me. I was able to experience a side of Champoor filled with light, and laughter, and art, and music. My companion was charming, and attentive, and the evening was very pleasant…


It really showed me how different we are. Our worlds, our scopes are so disparate. He deftly navigated the world of the rich and powerful like a well-captained ship through the rapids, and I… well, I clung to the hull and did my best not to be seasick.
I grew up a serving girl, gawking and marveling at the shining armor and sparkling finery of those who passed me in the street. And that world, that shimmering world of silks and jewels.. well, it doesn’t need me. I am needed in the dirt, up to my elbows in Gumari’s poison, wading through the muck to give my hand to the scraped-kneed orphan. The world I stepped into that night was already bright enough; it didn’t need my light added to it.
Don’t get me wrong, Diary, it was a wonderful place to visit, and I will happily join Hatelis at the Gala next month… but it’s not a place I could live.
A part of me desperately wishes we could have just sat on the walls of Champoor together that night. Sitting in his study two days later, chatting over tea.. there I felt at home. I worry that his tastes may be more for the shine of coins and jade than for a usually penniless girl who uses song to buy her way and gives away her coin as quickly as she gains it.

This does have me thinking, though, Diary. There is so little money in the slums, and so much of it in the city. We should start a venture there and use its profits to fund some kind of work project here. Something that doesn’t require too much in the way of previous skill, but helps to improve the quality of life here. A road cobbling project maybe? I will have to speak to Broken Walls about this.

The next day we received some startling news: Piper had been told who the spirit was who was keeping everyone in at night! Apparently, this is the work of a goddess of bloodshed and murder, whose followers kill in her name, which is Akkimu, every night, which is why being out then is a dangerous idea. It seems as though the beings Chaoxi and I saw late that night outside Mara’s home were Akkimu’s followers, and that the silver daggers and white masks they have somehow feed Akkimu power? Saiten was all for going after them then and slaughtering the lot of them. I think for the moment I have put the idea of destroying their links to Akkimu instead of this; if nothing else, it may be a less violent way to weaken her, and it seems somehow inappropriate to stop the doings of a murder goddess by, well, murdering. We agreed, however, to put off dealing with them until both Piper had had a chance to speak to her contact about them again, since it would probably put them in danger were we to confront them the same night Piper was contacted, and because Saiten and Broken Walls had plans that next day to see what was happening with Kadu’s City Improvement Project, and that was something which only happened every once and a while.

The next morning, Broken Walls returned to the compound with his own startling news; he had visited Mawk! Broken Walls actually spoke to him, it seems, and gave Mawk something of an idea of who he is in the city, if I understand correctly. Chaoxi, upon hearing the description Broken Walls gave, was surprised by Mawk’s appearance, and that he seems to spend most of his time asleep and material; gods, when they are not active, dematerialize, it seems. She thinks that it is possible he may either just be a giant, and not actually a god at all, or that he was a giant, and became a god, if such things are possible. If Dasadi was here, he would probably have more insight into such things.
Since I was not going with Broken Walls and Saiten to investigate the City Improvement Project, I offered to go and ask Hatelis if he knew anything about Mawk’s nature. I confess that I also simply wished to see him again, if for no other reason than to thank him for the other night, with perhaps a small token of my gratitude. I was also curious to see if he had any opinions on Akkimu; Piper had warned me against bringing her up, since he does not trust that Hatelis is not working with her, but I thought it better to be warned of any aspects of her nature Hatelis might be able to provide. Although, to be honest, I did not think he would be able to give such information, since he has been unable to in the past when it comes to many of the other gods of the city, but…. well, I wanted to have some more idea of where he stands. Asking would provide an opportunity to see how he reacted to her mention.

As Piper left to again question her contact, and Broken Walls and Saiten headed off to investigate Kadu, I set off in the direction of the trade district in order to see Hatelis. Saiten had suggested finding him a pen set, which I had, at the time, thought was quite a thoughtful idea; he is likely to use pens often, and perhaps he would think of our evening together fondly whenever he used it. It seems, however, that he has them in more supply than he requires… When I went to the foyer of his temple in order to book an appointment with him (so as not to repeat the mistake of last time), I asked one of his attendants where I could find stationary, only to be told that the temple itself sells them in abundance! Well, I could hardly gift him something that is sold at his temple, so I set off to find something a bit less personal, but perhaps a bit more practical: cookies.

Hatelis it seems does not have much more information about Mawk than is generally available. He seemed surprised when I posited to him that Mawk might be a giant, though I think he thought it possible. This is when I learned something of Hatelis’ probable age: he mentioned that he was not around before Mawk’s active time in Champoor. I joked about being much younger than Mawk as well, and he smiled, stating that he wouldn’t have asked. He seems much warmer, and quicker to compliment me than before I invited him to dinner. It is pleasing, but still a bit strange.
When I asked him what he knew of Akkimu, he expectedly told me that he was unable to tell me. When I asked how he would feel about her no longer being in the picture he grimaced and said “no comment”. I am unsure as to how to take this, but I still believe him not to be ‘on her side’, so to speak. He seems… a good man (god), but I think he must be required to stay neutral, I suppose by his nature, or perhaps by some contract that he himself is under; no one could be more expected to keep their end of a bargain than a contract god.

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 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.

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.

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?


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.


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.





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


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