As the tale of the Exalted Continues

Aster's Diary 13
Returning home: Celebrations!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

I wonder if I should try writing music.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

…I’ve never been on a date before.

View
Temporary Notes for May 28th's Session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View
Piper's Journal 14
Nemesis

Descending Wood 21 — Morning


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A comfort.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think that put Saiten’s back up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View
Broken Walls Journal 7
In which we PARTY

Descending Wood 2, RY768

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

Descending Wood 3, RY768

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

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

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

Descending Wood 4, RY768

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

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

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

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

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

This day feels like a failure.

Descending Wood 5, RY768

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

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

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

Descending Wood 6, RY768

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

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

Descending Wood 7, RY768

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

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

Descending Wood 8, RY768

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

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

View
Aster's Diary 12
Last Days in Volivat

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

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

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

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

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

This, it seems, was a mistake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Can I.

View
Saiten's Journal 5
We made it to Volivat!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View
Piper's Journal 13
Limit Break and Back again

Night of Descending Wood 20



There was a knock at the door. It was late but neither Aster nor I had fallen asleep. Rather I had laid awake ruminating pointlessly. Aster answered the knock and found Dasadi there asking for me. He said he wanted to check the streets to see if we could glean anything from the city while it was on lockdown. It was tempting. This restless tension I have been feeling left me dreading further attempts to sleep. Action was better than nothing. Aster and Saiten were formidable in their own right and hardly required minding so I agreed to go.

We made our way across the city sidetracked only by a brief encounter with a bumbling burglar on a rooftop whom we left to their own devices. I had suggested we look about the prison to glean what information we could while we could still be concealed by the shadows.

We Solars are such stupid overconfident fools.

We had split up for only a few minutes to check about the outer wall from the rooftops of the nearest warehouses when Dasadi came back. I spoke and Dasadi placed a hand over my mouth with a look of panic on his pale face. We froze. Something had Dasadi spooked but I had no notion of what. Time stretched intolerably as we spoke with nothing but our expressions and a few tiny gestures. We made to move, creeping silently over the rooftop on all fours willing every fiber to be silent. Dasadi scuffed a rough patch of the stone roof almost inaudibly. In the frightening instant that followed two enormous concussive thuds hit the roof followed by the sharp crack of thin stone as the roof gave way. As I fell I saw a massive stone hammer hit Dasadi square in the chest and he burst into silver and violet flames before disappearing without a trace.

The roof crushed the unlucky inhabitants of the top floor of the warehouse as I slipped through the floorboards in the wake of the hammer and made a run out the side door. I ran quietly as I could but not quietly enough. A stone hammer or rather a hammer that appeared to be carved from a single stone cracked the cobbles not inches from my feet and I lost all faith that I could outrun this threat. From the top of the wall a man’s voice told his subordinates that he had just ended the rustlings of some “inquisitive rats” and that they should fetch back the bodies.

I turned to the one thing I do have confidence in. Sinking into the calm center of my mind I saw the sort of man who held desperately to a life with little promise and felt the strands of silk bead at my fingertips. I needed to be old, pockmarked from disease and the use of the only temporary escapes available to men with few yen to their name. My eyes grew glazed with the early hallmarks of cataracts and I felt a number of teeth sink back into my gums as others blackened and shrank in my mouth. Calloused hands, knobby from hard labour half a lifetime ago replaced my hands. My ribs protruded under patched and worn cloths and the sort of smell one unaccustomed to regular baths seeped from my pores.

I had barely settled beneath the ragged blanket I spun from my power when a man with a bow, clad in armour addressed me. "I got nothing worth takin’ " I exclaimed not having to reach far to summon the quaver of fear into my reedy voice. “I know you didn’t sleep through that.” That voice accused “Tell me what you saw.” “Didn’t see mucha anything.” I insisted, “There was a loud noise that woke me up and I saw someone go that way.” Details were demanded but I was not forthcoming. “It was dark and they was fast.” I concluded. The man cursed me for useless. I poked my head out from under my blanket just in time to see him vanish like dust in the wind. I was careful to act bewildered and surprised and huddled beneath my blanket for a good long time before tottering off.

I couldn’t risk leading them anywhere so I got a room at an inn I didn’t know. They treated me as the man I appeared and demanded I wash out back. I paid the price of the room and they left me to my devices. The room was barren of decoration and unadorned food placed unceremoniously on a platter in the middle of the floor. I slept a few troubled and blessedly dreamless hours before leaving out a window.

I reached the room where Aster kept vigil shortly after dawn. She threw herself at me in an attempt to embrace me when she recognized who I was. I reacted quickly and halted the motion with a hand to her face which I think startled her. She of course inquired as to Dasadi’s whereabouts and I had to cough up the whole sorry tale. Aster reacted as you might expect but Saiten reacted… oddly. Not afraid or pensive but anticipatory. He wanted to challenge this man and I’m not entirely convinced it was just for avenging Dasadi.

Speaking of the missing exorcist none of us knew for certain if he was truly dead. I for one wonder if maybe that is just what happens when a Solar dies. It vaguely reminded me of Aster’s flames that consume the dead. I can’t say I much cared for Dasadi but there was some lingering regrets. He had known the most of anyone about our true nature but I was too preoccupied to dwell too much on his loss much.

Aster slept, Saiten trained and I huddled in a corner of the room. My chest was tight as I weighed a pool of options that grew smaller and smaller and a nagging ceaseless worry replaced them. I had little doubt that if we met Dasadi’s killer again it would not end bloodlessly. I found myself fretting over what would happen if Saiten or Aster died. I prodded the edges of that abyss and marked out the ragged gaping hole that would form from their deaths as though I were a plowmen placing pegs to mark the edges of his plot.

We ate a quick breakfast and began to head over to the Plane ( the inn we had received or information on the stryx syndicate from) I spoke to the others about my fears that what person or beast we faced had a gift much like mine. That maybe this creature could change it’s shape. I already knew it had watched us. It knew there were four of us. As a precaution Aster and I established that we could use the signal of three taps of the foot I used to use to establish my identity. Saiten could not recall this so I looked for an opportunity to tell him. I looked out on the street and saw faces that were too familiar. I was convinced we were being followed so we pressed on. A few blocks along a girl was still following us.

And then I stopped.

I could not will myself further. Tears flooded from my eyes as the insurmountable task we faced loomed and I was powerless in it’s shadow. I sank into a crouch and a wail rose from me. High pitched and long. Almost more of an inhuman scream. It was nakedness of a form I could not tolerate. Saiten bent down to put his cloak over me and I bolted trying desperately to get somewhere out of sight where I could be alone. I suppose if I had known where I meant to run to I might have had a chance. Maybe not, Saiten is very fast. I made it a fair distance but I didn’t make it far enough. He caught me and picked me up as easily as if I weighed nothing.

There was a familiar feeling then. That feeling of being outside of one’s body watching impassively as terrible events play out. I felt the air continue to catch in my throat as my sobbing body fought to breathe and had some vague sense of Aster and Saiten talking but it seemed distant and unimportant. It felt like nothing. Not that safe empty space I used to occupy but a terrifying lack of everything. Then Aster pulled my limp body over and laid my head in her lap and began to stroke my hair.

Instantly I smelt that heavy sick scent of an opium pipe and heard the kagura playing. The distant thud of feet sounding on a polished wood dance floor as my Master watched the practice of the dance forms idly stroking my hair while I lay tense in his lap not daring to flinch at his touch. I heard him speak, feeling it as a rumble through the meat of him and shuddered. Then I couldn’t stop shuddering. Long past the point he would have noticed. Long past the time when I knew with sickening certainty I would regret it. My heart raced in my chest and I sobbed but that terrible rhythmic stroking went on and on.

I recognized vaguely that I was lifted up and bobbing weightlessly in the hold of someone who does not find the weight of an adult any more an obstacle than that of a small child. I felt the discomfort of an arm pressing against my shoulder blades as I was balled up against a broad chest. Saiten’s I think. He was speaking, the words blotted out by the low pitched vibration I heard from the ear mashed against his chest. I was vaguely aware there were others there but I stopped caring. I was lost in a place somewhere between panic and memory and it was a long road back.

I became aware of my surroundings slowly. I had cried so long and hard that my eyes burned like acid and my throat felt raw. I was in a room I didn’t recognize. Sparse, not really meant for comfort. Aster and Saiten were there, their faces drawn and worried. I saw the harassed face of a lawkeeper out of his depth behind a counter. I placed two and two together and figured I was in a guardhouse. Not a cell, just a waiting room. I was terribly embarrassed but it was honestly a nice change from what I had been feeling up to that point. The guards there asked me some questions once I had regained my sense to make sure Saiten and Aster were not spiriting me away for nefarious purposes. I was actually kind of touched at his concern though the notion of him being several years too late in asking his questions was not entirely lost on me.

Saiten and Aster led me home. Well. Back to the inn. Aster fetched some food and water for me and they asked me gently if I was alright. I am not sure. I am changed somehow but I don’t know the shape of it yet. The problems we face are no smaller but there is comfort in not being alone. I see an unsteady path forward which is more than I had but I don’t know what else I’ve gained. Gratitude, maybe.

I told Aster that I had some issues with being touched. I don’t blame her for trying to comfort me the way she did. What she did is normally how you try to calm someone and came from a good place. I just can’t face that yet. Someday perhaps. Or maybe not, at the end I couldn’t even suffer Peony’s affections except maybe for her holding my hand. I suppose that is at least one thing that hasn’t been ruined for me.

Aster told me if I ever wanted to talk about it I could but she wouldn’t force me too. I really don’t deserve their kindness and I told Aster so. She scoffed a little as though she didn’t quite believe it. I am not as worried by this as I was. If she believes we can reform Guumari I would imagine whatever evil I represent seems trifling in comparison to her eye. I don’t much believe in reformation but I neither do I believe she will abandon me even if she knew exactly what I am. She even halted Saiten from giving me a friendly pat on the back which made me smile a little. A slap on the back is not much more personal than a handshake, low stakes but I appreciated the effort.

Saiten was steady as ever. probably worried that I am unstable but comfortingly stoic on the topic. He probably thinks I took Dasadi’s death pretty hard. Maybe it is simplest to not correct his assumptions. I feel a vague guilt over Dasadi’s death but him leaving no body behind to confirm he is in fact dead I think has cut the edges off his loss. If I’m not mistaken he also thinks of me as more female than male which makes a bout of hysterics seem less out of place. A man crying in the way I did is considered more than a bit cracked in most circles. A rare bit of luck I was female yesterday.

I fell asleep easily, feeling secure in my place in a way I haven’t for months. Yes I have enemies. Dangerous ones. I also have friends. Dangerous too, but worth it. Interacting with them has taught me more of myself in the past two months than I have learned in the past five years combined. I wasn’t really a person then, I just played at it. I suppose being known by others kind of forces you to be someone. It is easy to get lost playing the game of faces, particularly the way I choose to do so. Being lost was a good thing for awhile but now I need to balance that. I have no idea how but if we don’t die over the next week then I should have time to figure it out.

I know this feeling of clarity will pass soon back into the mess of ups and downs of the everyday but right now I have it. That counts for something I think.

Descending wood 21 — A New Day




I can’t say I felt much safer picking up our investigation for the day but I did see things much more clearly in the morning. I can’t allow myself to be swamped by endless possibilities. I have to focus on one thing and see where it leads and be wary… and maybe not quite so reckless.

We headed for the Plane and I turned my ear toward the crowd scanning for topics of interest when I heard it. A crunching noise from the direction of our destination. I sincerely hope it isn’t the hammer thrower but I can’t say it would surprise me if it was. At least this time Saiten is here with me though I can’t say that does much to favour my desire for less reckless courses of action.

View
Dasadi's Journal 2

Descending Wood 12 Continued.

Though the Fae are able to construct vessels of water and fog is intriguing, however there was no time to admire the sorcerous craftsmanship as their vessel circled like a avian predator closing in on weaker prey. In spite of our efforts to avoid, or gain me an opportunity to blast their ship it appeared as though we were to be doomed to fate that I recently was! Cast aside, drowned, plundered, dragged away for whatever amusement the Fae find with mortals… but as fortune would have it a giant claw, tentacled monstrosity burst from the waters below, and consumed those would be predators. As they say, there is always a bigger fish.

Just a note… I have caught myself place dramatic tension, descriptions and humour in my journal so far… I am not certain what underlying habit is forming when I find myself writing for an audience dispite this journal only being for myself. Theoretically no one else should ever have need to read this.

Well once again to those events that occurred. We hurriedly left that part of the ocean and resumed our journey to Volivat. Most the remainder of this was uneventful. I am still suspicious of my companions both intentions and natures.

Descending Wood 13.

I was able to assist the captain and his crew bid farewell to those who died in the encounter, and ensure their spirits passed on peacefully. The attractive young mystery woman however seems to possess powers beyond my knowing… A burial at sea turned into some sort of burial pyre as Aster bid the bodies burst into golden flames… I feel as though I sensed some sort of actual effect on the dead with this ritual… however I cannot begin to approve of this. Is this just the Sijanese in me speaking… No, the supernatural power that Aster seems to have… It must be investigated further. Upon inquiry with her it was clear that she herself either was unwilling to part with any knowledge of the process, or was ignorant of its full details. I can only hope it is benign.

Memo to self, be sure to catalog each instance of her powers for comparison and study when I have the time.

Descending Wood 14-19

As we approached the city and the shore line I turned my thoughts to retracing my steps and attempting to fill in the past two week gap in my memory. It appeared that Aster, Obi, and Saiten were loath to be rid of me however as they offered employment to assist in their investigation into a criminal organization called “The Stryx Syndicate”. I could do to obtain some funds before setting on the road again, and I believe my skills could assist them. I wasn’t going to decline an offer from the band of sailors that pulled me from the water.

Memo to self, I am sure it was just the disorientation of the memory loss however I could have most assuredly gotten myself out of that situation. See notes on “Sorcerous translocation”.

Long story short on the city of Volivat… they have a myriad of bizarre constructs that allow them to both keep metal boats afloat, descend hundreds of meters on moving platforms, and… keep their city intact despite those hundreds of meters being below the surface of the water. Occasionally the small reminder is provided that our world is vast and full of hidden knowledge.

Initial investigations and wanderings seem to indicate that our quarry is indeed in the city. I have listed some notes below for reference.
- The name of our quarry – Playton, he has stryx tatoo on one arm. Tends to keep to himself.
- The boat he arrived on is called the “Quail of Brilliant Plumage”. The avian naming convention between Stryx and Quail seems to only be a coincidence.
- Generally avoid the “Ten father” dishes in Volivat… they seem to be an acquired taste.

There has been a strange set of circumstances surrounding our companion Obi, who is sometimes called Piper by his companions. A nick name of sorts? Or perhaps an alternate identity. Only time will tell. Either way since we arrived in the city people seem to be looking at him far to often and the occasionally bit of physical contact seems to set Obi on edge. I starting scanning our surroundings for anyone watching our group… surely enough over lunch I spotted a fellow who seemed to be on the edge of staring at Obi. I gave my companions a hurried excuse and followed this stranger when they left the restaurant.

About an hour or so later left me standing in an alley watching this stranger around the corner wondering if I had been spotted. I decided that I would try to shadow him more thoroughly. If you have forgotten how to do this see side note on “How to Shadow”. The end result was not what I expected to say the least… I lost the man I was chasing only to discover that Obi had been tracking me, and also Obi seems to have some sort of supernatural ability as he leapt across a full city street from one rooftop to the next in pursuit of me… I was able to observe him, after he had lost sight of me. We all reconvened in the restaurant, and finished dinner and went to bed. An eventful but unproductive series of events. Though to be sure we are being followed.

Descending Wood 14

Perhaps foolishly I encouraged Saiten’s method of disruptive investigation. It seemed to be gaining the most ground, and my companions seemed confident we could handle whatever deadly forces came our way. The short of it is… this resulted in an ambush after spotting a man we thought looked like Playton. A bloody fight, a wall punched down by a fist, and devastating display of power later and now I have confirmed Saiten’s secret… The odds were astronomical. Against all chance, and the multitude of people that inhabit creation, how is it that I am now in the presence of another of my own kind… a Solar… and what do I do with that information…

Gah, I am writing dramatically again.

View
Piper's Journal 12
In which Piper slowly loses grip on reality

Descending Wood 20 Cont. – Surprises

Those of our assailants able bodied enough to do so fled. I let them go. Enough of their fellows remained injured and dying on the floor of the warehouse to ask my questions to. Aster, predictably and without missing a beat, changed her tactics to patching up those who remained. Dasadi, on the other hand stood, transfixed at the sight of divine light spilling from the mark on Saiten’s forehead. Saiten, not given to great acts of verbosity, was at a loss for words. It was the crossroads I had been dreading. My first instinct was to kill Dasadi then and there. It wouldn’t have mattered that I never verified what interest he served and had no impression of vice from him.

Those were simpler times.

These days I seem to have a fair amount of concern regarding the attitudes of my allies. I knew with leaden certainty I risked damaging my relationship to Aster and Saiten if I attacked Dasadi unprovoked. There were no real options to kill him subtly before he had the opportunity to slip the noose either. A storm of considerations littered my thoughts and were as quickly discarded. I lament that concern for our survival has taken such a back seat to these ethical sticking points. Thankfully at that precise moment Dasadi seemed capable of nothing but pacing distractedly and staring at my companion from time to time as he fumbled and blundered to assist the injured. I am not a healer but I think it’s safe to say that in his state of shock he did more harm than good to his patients. Dissatisfied but forced into inaction on that front, I turned my attentions to our immediate situation.

Saiten and I questioned one of the survivors of the ambush. The men who attacked us were forthcoming with explanations, broken by their own fear they babbled the answers to our questions unreservedly. Turns out all of them were until yesterday former prisoners of the Volivat prison. From their report the guards there had been killed by a massive creature that was described as having fur, claws and feathers. This was no simple dumb beast as it had threatened the prisoners into attacking us, telling them that they needed to lay in wait and kill the four people who entered the warehouse if they wanted to be spared. There is something else. Not a one of those assembled seemed to have heard anything about a Stryx syndicate. A room full of convicted criminals and not a one seemed to show the least recognition for the group. The implications of this are very unsettling. I am beginning to wonder how deep the delusion goes. Something has taken pains to lure Saiten here, playing us all like fish on a hook.

More disturbing, none of the survivors seemed to have heard or seen this Playton fellow enter the warehouse moments before we arrived despite Saiten claiming he saw Playton go in plain as day. I begin to suspect that the creature must have some aptitude at illusions or disguises. Could it be there is something else here with the gift of faces? My blood runs cold at the thought. By the time we finished our line of questioning Dasadi had sufficiently collected himself enough to address our group. He pulled us behind the paper screens and revealed that he too bore the mark of a Solar.

I felt numb. These revelations and the now omnipresent danger of the strange demon targeting us made everything feel surreal. It all seemed too convenient. Is it fate or the will of the Unconquered Sun that draws us together or is this just more of this demon’s elaborate trick? I ordered myself to calm down, to think. Madness lay down the road I glimpsed and I should not be too keen to chase it. I counted the number of felled enemies about me that had Dasadi’s knives stuck in various parts of their anatomy and those he had blown to pieces when we were attacked at sea. If Dasadi were in league with this creature and wanted us dead then his best chance would have been while we were distracted and outnumbered. Instead he aided us each time. His aim could have been to have use these attacks to ingratiate himself into our group for some other purpose. To steer us toward some unknown goal. The others don’t know it is possible to counterfeit these “caste marks” we bear and they are quick to trust another Solar. I remain skeptical.

I’m not sure I can trust anything I see anymore.

I watched as Aster , delighted at finding another comrade in arms immediately revealed her mark. The prisoners on the other side of the paper screens must have wondered at the sudden flares of light. Dasadi was seemingly overcome by the immense improbability of so many Solars gathered in one place looked to me and asked me outright what I was. I declined to answer his query. I needed more time to think.

We all knew the clock was ticking before the authorities would find their way to this badly damaged warehouse. Witnesses on the street would be quick to fetch the guards in this place. Cautiously we made our way to the back of the structure where we found a large hole that lead to a sort of long empty yard between buildings. At the end of the yard a massive hole was clawed in the stone of the walls of Volivat Prison. Sharpening my senses I listened intently for any signs of life and found only the distinct flutter of the wings of small birds and the soft rustle of mice and rats. No footsteps, no speech, no breath or heartbeats of anything larger than a pigeon. I tried in vain to shake the fancy that the prison itself was a sort of corpse. Hollowed out and purposeless with neither prisoners or guards.

The path of the beast was plain and we had no trouble tracking it’s path through the prison. There were no bodies of guards to be seen at first, only the occasional dismembered limb, spatter of blood or bit of viscera before we came to the yard. From there we could see what had become of the guards. They stood on the walls of the prison, propped up in an eerie mockery of life, faced outward and staring with sightless eyes. Men and women reduced to scarecrows.

Adrift on waves of essence came sounds of tentative investigation as someone outside the wall commented that the guards were too still. It was only when when I heard an odd and abrupt change in the wind accompanied by some conversation about someone jumping the wall that my companions and I unanimously decided to leave the way we came. It was a few moments later when I heard someone exclaim " By the Dragons!" that my heart truly sank. If I’m putting all the pieces together properly there is an Air Aspect Dragonblood here who has ties to the Immaculate Faith. As if we didn’t already have enough to deal with!

We made it back to the warehouse and all of us (Exempting Aster) fretted over the heavy coating of bloodstains on our clothes. Saiten thankfully had a spare set of clean, albeit unique, clothes and Dasadi had only a few stains on his sleeves which he rolled up after commenting " This is not the first time these sleeves have seen blood.". I’m not sure what to make of that comment. I may not trust him in full yet but I know he doesn’t want us dead or captured by the immaculate order. I suppose that is enough for now. I decided I would let him know one of my secrets. Given the current circumstances I refuse to handicap myself by being limited to one form while he follows us. If he betrays us he would be wise to try to kill me first for I would never stop hunting him. He could spend the rest of his days looking for me in the eyes of every seemingly insignificant social interaction.

Not entirely convinced we had finished shedding blood today I opted to use my power to weave a new layer of silk over the old. While I was at it I changed my form far beyond my normal sort of disguise. Done this way the alias I take on truly feels like a part of me. Sometimes to the point where I almost can forget who I am. I changed everything from my gender to my height , my age to my skin tone feeling with a sense of relief as Obi and his mistaken identity faded leaving the visage of someone with no history. Fresh and safe. I added some additional flares that could be pulled out at need. I decided that my new alias of “Garnet” was a fire aspect Dragon-blood making the necessary adjustments inside my power to mimic their auras. It is a much more difficult trick but this way I can surpass my normal limitations copying someone so perfectly that even a Dragon-blood might not notice the difference or I can shrink or stretch past the point that might have otherwise caused my bones to break. Dasadi watched my transformation with a mixture of concern and interest. I could see on his face that sudden shift in thinking as he weighed the sort of threat I present.

Strangely it made me feel a little better not being alone in my apprehension.

As we left the shattered warehouse walls we heard the sound of something that sounded sort of like a massive instrument. Not one I recognize but it’s purpose was clear. An Alarm. People we passed on the street on the way to the inn hurried to their homes or to get inside a safe place. We reached an inn called “The Clansmen’s Respite” and ordered a meal and rooms. Three rooms this time. According to Saiten, Dasadi has a habit of sleeping in the nude which makes Saiten less than comfortable. We placed a request for basins of wash water to be brought to our rooms. The service was prompt and we found them there for us when we had finished our meal. Saiten wasted no time and started to wash his beloved yellow leathers as Dasadi spoke to us openly about our nature as a Solars.

To satisfy Dasadi’s curiosity I lit the mark on my brow. He commented about my being “A Night Caste” to which I was taken aback. Something about the words had the ring of truth. In a short time he had answered a number of questions that had kept me awake in contemplation. He explained that of the “Solar Exalted” there are different types signified by the mark we bare. Aster he called a “Zenith”, Saiten a “Dawn” and himself a “Twilight”. I pondered the significance of my own designation; “Night”. If we are truly as Broken Wall’s had said , the favored of the Unconquered Sun then what is the meaning of being “Night” when there is no Sun in the sky? Does it mean I am weaker than the others? I don’t quite believe that. I am not as battle savvy as Broken Walls, as strong as Saiten or even marshal such destructive powers as Dasadi but I am dangerous in my own way. What of Aster? She shares a caste with Broken Walls but the two are not alike. What am I to make of the will of the Unconquered Sun that he chooses such extremes as Aster and I? Her with her gentleness and offer of redemption and I with my sullen promise of vengeance. Perhaps neither approach is complete on it’s own.

Aster, in her forthright way, asked Dasadi about the tale of how he gained his power. He explained in a vague sort of way that told me that certain aspects of the story were of the sort he did not wish to fully disclose. He told us that he had tried to help someone and almost failed but surpassed his limits in doing so. Aster, surprisingly, was much more forthcoming with the tale of her past than she has ever been. She told us that she had worked in a tea shop and one day a Fire aspect Dragon-blood came to their business in a drunken fit and demanded one of her sisters before setting the shop on fire. She had placed herself between him and his quarry, powerless to stop him but for her words and in that moment had become what she is.

I suppose it is useless drawing any comparison between my own tale and hers. In that moment I dreaded nothing more than them asking for my own story for I have no such noble deeds to claim. My methods were not wholesome nor do I yet fully understand how they came to pass. There are details of my past that still bear some shame that I can not fully erase and I want anything but pity. “Exaltation” gave my ignominious existence meaning. Thankfully Dasadi did not ask though he expressed a wish for us to heal over the distrust we have felt towards one another. I agreed though my heart is disquiet with more thoughts and emotions I feel I can bear. Rage, shame and fear press in close and trust feels a distant and lofty goal.

I washed my garments watching the seemingly clean clothes turn the wash water the murky brown of oxidized blood. Beneath the fakery the base cloth is red and shows little in the way of stains, not that it really matters. I hung the garments by the window to dry by morning. If I can sleep the cloth should revert to it’s original state and be dry by morning though tonight I struggle to close my eyes. Every sound seems to carry some sort of malice in it. I feel my connection to the Radius hum acutely with tension as it feeds on the horrors I have witnessed today.

Tomorrow I shall see what can be done to sort out this mess.

View
The Exaltation of Aster Full of Light
Enlightenment

I realized when writing my last entry to you, Diary, how difficult it was for me to speak to Dasadi about the first time I felt my Light. I think now that there were several reasons for this: firstly, it was quite some time ago. It seems that it has been almost a year and a half since I left home, and much has happened since then. Secondly, it was not an entirely pleasant experience; it was the moment where I left the only home I had ever known, my family, my city. And the circumstances which surrounded it were terrifying and saddening, even if the feeling of the light of the Unconquered Sun was indescribably beautiful. This brings be to thirdly: even if they too have had a similar experience with coming into their light, it was an occurrence which I think perhaps the words in which one might describe it don’t really exist.
Nevertheless, I think I shall try. It is something which is worth remembering properly, and I think worth noting down; if anyone was to read this in the future, I would want them to know exactly what happened, and how it felt to me.

It was late, somewhat past the hour the last patrons had dwindled out the door to our little tea and girls’ boarding house, and there were only a few lamps burning to help me see the dishes left on the tables. A window was open, letting in the cool night air, a bit chillier than I would have liked, but I did love to smell the sea breeze coming up from the docks. Normally Marigold would have been with me, but she had taken ill two nights before, and besides, the evening hadn’t been too busy. There were only a few cups left, and two or three of the little green lacquered tables to wipe clean. Petunia would have been still down standing watch, but she had her guard training that evening, and Sassafras, dear Sassy, who was deft with a sword, was supposed to have been in, but she had snuck off to see her young lady, and would probably be a few hours yet.
So it was quiet, just the clink of the little painted cups and crumb-covered plates as a guided them to the cleaning tray, and the soft breath of the sea.

And then peace turned to chaos, in what seemed like the longest moment of my life.

The door thrust open, banging far too loudly in the usual stillness, and a beast of a man staggered in. I had seen him before, but did not know his name; we are known for our pleasant staff, soothing atmosphere and skillfully crafted cakes and treats, so it was not unusual to see Dragon Blooded soldiers at our tables. His face was more than usually red, drink almost lighting on his breath. His flame-red hair was soaked with sizzling sweat.His eyes blazed with some dark emotion. At first I thought he might be ill, and took a timid step towards him, but then his voice roared, rattling the cups on their tray.
AMARANTH.”

Amaranth is one of my, then, seven sisters, a good four years my senior then, and quite a lovely sight to behold. Her hair is thick and chestnut brown, she loves to dance, and she often seemed the favorite of many of the young men who patronized our little shop, her rosy cheeks and playful laugh a delight for any who beheld them.

It was in such contrast to her usual lively self that she walked numbly down the stairs to our rooms that night, rosy face pale in the dull light, lively steps wooden, shining eyes almost blank with fear.
The man thumped brazenly on a table. “Am’ranth!” he bellowed, not seeing her at first, a flick of fire flinging from his clenched fingers. “Get down her, you stupid girl!”
He stomped forward, a bit unsteadily, and I do not now know how she managed to step towards him without fleeing, but there she was, mere steps from him, and there he was, reaching a smoldering hand for her shaking arm.

And that I suppose is when I made my decision, though I don’t really remember it being that way. All that happened was that the tray dropped from my hands; I remember the sound of the sweet little cups pinging and then crashing on the floor. And then I was leaping over the little green lacquered table as the fiery man’s head spun at the noise of the breaking china. I could not read Amaranth’s face as I looked back at her, sliding on my little slippered feet between her and her assailant. I looked up in his confused and outraged face, and a feeling of absolute calm came over me.

I knew that I had it in me to make him stop.

I thrust my arms out to the sides, and felt for the first time my light draw up and around me. The warmth of it was both gentle like the first rays of dawn, but also blazing like an inferno slowly starting from the core of your being and filling you like a wave of glorious tranquility and at the same time wondrous excitement, the golden glow coursing into every bit of yourself until…
“No.” With that word I felt my light burst forth from me, from every part of me, shaking me to my very essence, even as I stood still between them, light filling the twilit room as though the sun itself had lit there.

It was awesome.

I imagine it looked quite frightening to both Amaranth and the Dragon Blood, as the latter almost tripped backwards away from me as it happened. I barely even registered him as he stumbled for the door, though, as the most beautiful and terrible voice I have ever heard was then intoning in my mind:

Dear child, you are full of my light.
Go unto the darkest corners of creation
and shine until there is no darkness
anywhere left to be found.
I, the Unconquered Sun shall fill you
whenever you feel your light wane.

As my light began to ebb, and my thoughts returned to me, I grabbed Amaranth’s hand “Run” and took off with her into the night, knowing that neither of us would be safe there any longer.

And that’s it, I suppose. It is strange to think how long ago that was, and how much of myself I have discovered since then. I think of my sisters and the Ringing Bell that I once called home often, but I am sure it is for the best that I left them, and that Amaranth is now in another village somewhere near the Inland Sea; I would not change what has happened to me for the world.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.