As the tale of the Exalted Continues

Aster's Diary 8
Onward to new adventure!

I have startling news, Diary! We will be leaving soon for a new city, though we plan to return to Champoor as soon as we are able. It all began two days ago:

Well, alright, it began this morning, but I haven’t really told you about the last few days, so I’ll start there anyway :)

We have officially signed our contracts now, Diary, both with Silgur, and with Kahi house (which is now calling itself Rising Sun House). In order to have everything sorted with Silgur, we went with Jahir of Kahi House to see Hatelis, so that we could sort out the details of what would happen with the co-operative once we were made a member; what with our becoming another member in their collective, we wanted to be sure that they would be kept safe from Rat House’s harassment as well. This meeting was a much more formal one than the others we had previously experienced with Hatelis, which spoke of the importance he, understandably, puts into contractual arrangements.

I feel, now that I am becoming more accustomed to meeting them, this concept of gods being so tied to their vocations odd but interesting. Does Hatelis put so much stock into contracts because it is one of the things he is a god of, or would he do so anyway? Do the gods have preferences for their work? Hobbies? Other interests besides their vocations? But I have gone off on a tangent once again.

I was pleased to have Saiten join us for this visit; I am glad it seems he is becoming part of the team. I was saddened that Piper did not join us, but I suppose I am not entirely surprised after the reaction to the contract Piper first portrayed; while I understand having someone not officially part of the company, but still nonetheless with us may be advantageous, I do worry that Piper does not feel a part of our group, either by choice or by our own misdeeds. I think perhaps I shall need to take some more time to get to know Piper further, so that we can improve our bond, and so that Piper does not feel so alone.
With a few question asked about the nature of the contract, and some changes made to include those hired by our companies in the stipulations, and the further defining of the sewers, we signed the official contract with Silgur. At some point during the proceedings, Hatelis called off to some unseen agent, asking for input. I am somewhat concerned that he spoke with Silgur, but if so, there was no answer, and we did not appear to be in any danger there. I suppose this would make sense, as he was part of this contract as well.

With that completed, our next course of action was the next day to attend the party at our new partners’ house! I realized suddenly early in the morning that I had nothing appropriate to wear! Luckily, Chaoxi came to my rescue with a quick shopping trip out into the city. It was a lovely bonding experience, even if far too brief. I think perhaps, after all of this time travelling with Broken Walls, Chaoxi enjoys having someone more feminine to let out her girly side with.
The party itself was a wonderful distraction from some of the more distressing events of the past week or so. Oh Diary, the food, the music, the dancing… and flowers, flowers everywhere! Speaking of dancing, even Broken Walls took a few turns around the dance floor with each of the ladies of our party. I think, Diary, that evidence points towards him being a gentleman at heart.
The actual signing was a fairly ceremonious thing. Broken Walls, Chaoxi, Saiten (but still not Piper) and I all went up and put our signatures next to those of the other involved houses. I feel honoured to have been a part of such a grand and momentous occasion!

A part of me wonders now if Hatelis, and I suppose Kadu, witnessed the event. There was a rather large contract signed, and a feast had. Do the gods take note of (or even attend in secret!) large doings of their various types?

The next day, before the events which set the next leg of our journey in motion, I visited Hatelis again in order to ask him some questions about the nature of the gods. If you have not already gathered, Diary, I am quite curious about them, especially since it may allow me to better understand what it is we would need to do in order to stop the spread of Gumari.
Hatelis was once again terribly courteous. I remember him mentioning something about having been around for several hundred years(?), and perhaps his courtesy extended to us is from having met Solars in the past.
From what we spoke of, I gathered a few bits of new information regarding the nature of the gods, and in particular what may be done about Gumari: it may be far more complicated than I had anticipated. Firstly, the gods themselves are not the same as the things they control. Gumari, for example, is not the purveyor of the disease, but merely its controller and perhaps benefactor. The disease itself has a source, and this must be stemmed, I believe, before the disease itself can be eradicated. Destroying or changing the vocation of Gumari would not end the disease; its care would be passed on to another god. It seems gods must be confronted in their sanctums in order to defeat them, as well. While Hatelis seems still unable to tell us of Gumari’s, it would be somewhere where Gumari would be most powerful (?). and so confronting him there would not necessarily be the safest course of action either. First I shall have to find and then stop/destroy the source of the disease. Then winning the fight against it should be more plausible. Then perhaps I can see about finding some atonement for Gumari, if that is still necessary.

This is when we come back to the beginning of this entry, Diary: when I returned to the trading house, Saiten had some troubling news: he had sighted a man who he believes may be connected to those who murdered his family, but the man was on a boat bound for Volivat! Saiten desperately wished to follow this man, and I of course offered to help him in any way he required. Unfortunately, Diary, this will mean leaving Champoor, still so in need of our assistance, for some time. Saiten is, for the moment, willing to allow for a few days to gather information on the man and whatever group or organization he may be involved with, so I will have a few days to get things in order. After that, though we will be leaving for Volivat, thankfully a destination that one of the co-operative families already wished to send goods to and trade with. Broken Walls has offered to build an appropriate vessel for the trip, which is terribly kind of him, but will remain behind in order to keep things up with the company, as will Chaoxi. I shall miss them both terribly, and feel somewhat guilty leaving them and my new clinic, but I simply cannot leave a friend in need! And besides, Saiten and Piper will be with me, so I will not be short of friends.

I shall have to make a list of everything I will need to do before I leave: I shall have to make a large supply of the tea and bath herbs required to treat Gumari, should the need arise while I am away. I shall also have to see Mara again, and see if she can be convinced to come and work for the company. I think it will do her the world of good to be out and about and helping others. I think I shall also have to let Hatelis know that we are going to be gone for some time; he had mentioned in our last meeting that he may ask some kind of favour, though nothing untoward, of us in exchange for all of the information we have gleaned from him. I would not wish him to come to ask for it, only to have us across the sea and unable to comply. Perhaps I shall visit one of his shrines and offer him something small in recompense in order to tide him over until we are able to return. A song perhaps? It is what I usually use in trade, him being a god of trade, after all. Although he did seem to like the flower I offered to him last time. I suspect he isn’t offered them very often; it was on his table the last time I visited.

Piper's Journal 8

Decending Wood 5 -Contracts and Other Such Nonsense

Early this morning I left to run a few errands. I purchased new clothes to replace those ruined in the battle with Silgar and bought a necklace with a tiny rabbit carved from a bone I found at a junk shop. I reason that if I establish that the trinket is mine and wear it openly around my allies as a credential of who I am I can stop tapping my foot at them every morning. I am not at my best in the morning and often forget myself. I will just be sure to tuck it away when I deal with outsiders.

As I was about to leave the junk shop my eyes caught on a worn and beaten shogi board with a hinge down the center. Opening it I found all the peices inside. The characters on the wooden tiles were faded and chipped from hard use but serviceable. I purchased it. I have played little in the past five years and I expect I am quite rusty. I was schooled in games in the event that I was ever required to play them but it was a skill I was never tested on. I have some lingering fondness for shogi and go in particular. I was never much for dice or cards. I’d rather I and my opponent determine the outcome of a match instead of fate or chance.

I checked up on the temple of Kadu regarding their city improvement work schedule and was notified that the next party leaves in two days. I have a bad feeling about this work party though there is nothing substantial for me to base this instinct on. I busked a little to replenish my spent funds and went back to the House of the Rising Sun for noon to shadow the others as they went to confirm their contract with Hatellis. I took some pains to ensure my allies didn’t notice I was there. I listened from the roof as they finalized their affairs and negotiated things like what areas were considered holdings and factored in the inclusion of Kahii house into the Rising Sun Holdings. Hatellis was aware I was on the roof as he at one point asked if there were any objections from outside. I cannot say for certain he knew who I was. I know Gods are not automatically aware of who or what I am since Gumari didn’t notice me when I was the tea girl and I was practically under his bulbous nose. I don’t know if Hatellis just assumed I was an interested party given I was there but he made no attempt to confront me. I in turn made no attempt to negotiate. This is Broken Wall’s decision and I have no right to alter it since I refuse to be bound by it.

On the way back I stopped at a used book shop where I dug through their volumes for some reading material on spirits. I found a weather beaten book with it’s binding coming apart but the contents seem sound. I must learn something of spirits and gods if I have any hope of killing them. Right now I find myself at a terrible disadvantage. I read a little from my new book that evening and got Broken Walls to teach me a little of the Old Realm language. He wrote me out a few basic words and phrases to start with. Afterwards I challenged Saiten to a game of Shogi. He had never played before so I taught him the basics. I believe he will master it quickly and I hope he will take a liking to it.

Decending Wood 6 -A Bad Turn Owed

As I was leaving to attend to some business this morning Broken Walls stopped me and demanded that I attend the party for the merger of Kahii House into the Rising Sun. I don’t understand why he was so insistent that I come. I took no part in rescuing Gi or Zeo and have dealt exceedingly little with the people of Kahii House. They hardly would be offended if I did not attend for they do not really know that I exist. When I mentioned this he saw fit to chastise me for not showing proper gratitude to them. Does he mean the help they provided with Silgur? I won’t deny that they were useful but as far as I am aware they were paid money to be there.

Broken Walls hit on the idea that I should go as “Pewter Spoon” since the membership of Kahii House would recognize that alias. Knowing Knot and Sting would be in attendance I flatly refused. When I gave him the reason that I would not suffer being a target of String’s romantic interest Broken Walls dismissed it outright. Then he went on to say that he felt insulted by my rejection to become officially involved in his House. Insulted? I am enraged that he seeks to bind me to his enterprise without my consent! I am not one of his flunkies that he can order me about as he pleases!

I must remember that in the fight to come Broken Walls could be a useful ally or a terrible enemy. My pride is a liability I cannot fully afford but treating with him grows more difficult. I went to his damnable party but the injustice of it chafed me. The festival reminded me more of the sort of affair they used to put on in Do-Yuangi than the sort of amusements staged at the Butterfly Court which was a comfort. For a time I did my best to distract myself by seeing how many skewers of food I could stack on Saiten’s plate but when a number of simpering female admirers came over to him I beat a hasty retreat.

Aster seemed to enjoy herself. She danced and adorned herself with as many flower garlands as she could as she flittered between conversations. She is enamored with seemingly everyone. Saiten seemed to spend most of his time sampling the fare and Broken Walls danced with everyone under his employ. At one point he came over and requested a dance. Was his purpose to rub salt in my wounds?

What is owing will come due for this.

They called everyone inside for a number of announcements and the signing of the papers that joined the two businesses together. Afterwards the party continued on. I was happiest when the dusk arrived and those party guests who were not staying the night left en masse. The others stayed behind while I went back to the Rising Sun Compound alone. When I arrived I sorted through my belongings and packed them carefully as I weighed my options. Champoor is not a safe city with so may powerful gods arrayed against us. I will not abandon my allies but I will not live under the roof of someone who treats me as their property. I should find it easy enough to lair up somewhere in the city but the risks must be carefully considered. I need not rush haphazardly into new living arrangements. I can begin my search on the morrow.

Descending Wood 7 – A friend in Need

I slept poorly during the night and woke late this morning. The house was quiet with everyone having stayed the night at Kahii house. I found some edibles in the kitchen and had just sat down to eat them when Saiten burst in looking unusually wild eyed. He came over immediately and asked for my assistance in finding a man with a highly detailed tattoo of a Stryx on his arm. When I asked what he wanted to find him for he told me the man he had spotted leaving on a boat that morning bore the exact same tattoo of one of the men who had killed his family.

He paced as he told me the whole story. The murder of his family at the hands of two men, the long tiresome journey to Palanquin and the climactic finale as he and his family’s killers plummeted to almost certain death from Palanquin’s heights. When he had described it before he had seriously undersold the whole affair. “Punching them really hard as I left Palanquin” doesn’t exactly do his tale justice. One of the men, Hannas, had gone over the rail before them but Saiten was unsure if he remembered seeing his body. It is possible he may have managed to grab hold of something and pull himself to safety but somehow it seems unlikely. According to Saiten, the man he saw today had a tattoo was a perfect match for Hannas’s but the man had blond hair instead of brown and Saitan never had a chance to see his face.

It isn’t much to go on but I told him I would help him. Perhaps it is because I can imagine so well how I would feel were I in his stead. Nothing in creation would stop me from hunting down my hated enemy and ending him once and for all. Call it solidarity. I will gladly adopt his enemy as my own as it will be nice to hunt a target of actual flesh and bone. These spirits have made me feel hopelessly out of my depth of late.

I went into my room and changed my form from the Cheerful “Mei” into the ubiquitous “Feather Weight”. When I exited Saiten seemed impressed at my quick change between the two. Recently he seems to have been voicing an interest in discovering my first form and seems continually surprised at the range of my capabilities. Not surprising as I have been purposely vague with him on the full scope of what I can do since I don’t want to make him nervous. I think he admires my skill more than he is unnerved by it so I suppose I don’t mind showing him my first form, though not in front of outsiders which is a difficult condition to attain in this place with so many people coming and going. I don’t know what he seeks to learn by examining it. I suppose there is information to be gleaned from it such as my original ethnicity, age, gender and so on but those things have become so inconsequential to who I am these last five years. I might not like my original face for the memories I attach to it but to anyone else it is just another face. People are always interested in what is true but sometimes a lie is more revealing.

I told Saiten to speak with Aster as I was sure she would be willing to offer her assistance. From what I have witnessed, once Aster counts someone as her ally she does what she can for them. I do not know what help she can offer but perhaps she can at least offer Saiten some calming words while I scout the situation. It was time to work.

I started out delicately as I could since I didn’t wish to arouse too much suspicion until I knew something about what I was asking after. If it was a different man with the same tattoo it could be possible that there is just an artist out there who reuses the same design but it could have more sinister connotations. Asking about the dock taverns and acting the oblivious idiot I learned little of the man and never learned of the individual’s name but I got at least some information regarding the tattoo. It seems it is a tattoo for an organization of slavers.

For my next stop I headed to the old city where Champoor’s slave markets were as dismal as I last recalled. I know I have little to be thankful for but I am glad I was never subjected to the indignity of being sold. Here people’s mouths were wrenched open to check their health and their bodies prodded and squeezed like fruit to check their strength. Seeing the eyes of the slaves up close I could tell to what sort of use they had been put. Most were not scared, their hopes for any kind of improvement on their situation long since turned to ash. Alongside those poor souls whom hard labour and usage had spoiled there were here and there a few who still had their spirits. I don’t know which I felt more pity for.

Had I my way each of these sellers would be lying in pools of their own blood by sundown but such an open assault is unwise given that my companions still have to treat with Kadu. Once we have gleaned what we must from him I believe I will endeavor to partake in a personal project that may solve my need for a new living arrangement. I am sure I will make a most interesting houseguest to these merchants.

I passed a richly dressed female customer who was selecting purchases for their attractiveness and suitability for the sort of toy a certain breed of the rich prefer. I felt the bile rise up in my throat and threaten to choke me but I swallowed it. I spoke with the man in the next stall over who looked like the sort who at least took pride in keeping his people well and training them for a higher position. When I made inquiries he was able to give me a little information about the tattoos, calling the barers the “Stryx Syndicate” According to him they are not welcome in Champoor for their particularly brutal methods and that their base of operations was in Volivat. I thanked him for his information and as I turned to leave went over to the woman who was selecting her second pick. Leaning over her shoulder I pretended to inspect her choice and complimented her on her good eye as I stole her purse.

Getting so close to her and breathing her sickly perfume I had to stop myself gagging from revulsion. For a moment I heard the rattle of prayer wheels in a stream, the sweep of a robe over pavers and the familiar clink of chain. I felt the gentle pressure about my neck and a wave of panic. My fear resonated in the radius which hummed steadily from where it lay bound and hidden in my sleeve between my shoulder and elbow. A temptation to a sort of madness I dare never indulge. In a breath of time it passed and I was my own again. My heartbeat racing I retreated.

It was time to report back in. I tracked down Saiten back at the company and informed him of what I learned. He told us he intended to leave for Volivat immediately to settle his affairs. His connection with Kahii house should grease the way since if I recall they have a ship ready to leave for Volivat soon. Aster pledged her support and I have pledged mine to the journey. I know I must return to Champoor as there is far too much here left undone but I feel like a break would be good for my spirit. Broken Walls has said he will stay behind as he cannot leave his fledgling business yet. He offered to send along some of his people which Aster and Saiten accepted. I am a bit sour on the subject since I find them an awful nuisance. I know they are not bad people but I do not wish to let them know I exist and the measures I must take to operate with them around are insufferable. I can’t help but wonder what opportunities I might find to ditch them somewhere along the way.

Piper's Journal 7

Descending Wood 2 – Clean up

The cleaning up effort of the aftermath from the battle took awhile. The clinic was overrun with injured and Aster with the assistance of the Kahii house’s people worked hard to get a handle on the situation. She even press ganged the new Solar into service though my services were not welcome as I was so thoroughly covered in the guts of vermin that I posed a health risk to the patients. Waiting for the baths or for Aster’s help in cleaning the wound proved pointless as there was a massive queue of people waiting. Outside a number of volunteers were shoveling the bodies of rats into piles to be burned. I eventually retreated to my room with a basin to clean myself as best I could. The clothes are ruined. Normally it wouldn’t matter but since these clothes were ones I bought rather than spun from my power there is no easy solution to them being ripped and thoroughly soaked in vermin blood. I threw them away. Tomorrow I will have to go buy some replacements.

I slept for a time and when I awoke in the late afternoon I went out to investigate the temple of Kadu. I spoke to a priest there who was willing to answer the questions of someone new to the city and about the improvement projects the temple is spearheading. He was very helpful and I sensed that he was relatively free from vice though that is possibly because he is too far down in the temple’s hierarchy to know of any misdeeds. He was also rather helpful in clearing up what his patron god’s stance on slavery is.

The priest informed me Kadu is both a patron god of slavers and of the slaves themselves. Those slaveholders who worship him are advised to feed their slaves well. That buys the God nothing in my good graces as that mandate is purely economical. A starving slave cannot work as efficiently. Kadu does nothing to end their unfortunate position and I must wonder if he does anything to protect them from violence of misuse from their masters. As far as I am aware he is a god of the status quo regarding the subject which means he and I are at odds. I will, begrudgingly, let the matter stand. As much as I would like to find some way to stop mankind from treating others as property, I acknowledge it is currently beyond my power to stop. I know from close association that there are slaves who feel that they are cared for well enough that they serve their masters with little resentment but from what I have seen few Masters are so kind. Even under the best circumstances it is a terrible thing to have one’s liberty taken away.

Seeing I had time, I crossed into the New city to check out the upscale Dock’s District temple of Kadu. Looking inside I found few differences from the one in the slums of Fish District such as a small library of cook books, texts on etiquette and place setting ideas and other such frivolous nonsense. Not impressed, I asked a young acolyte if she knew where I might find Gumari’s main shrine and she answered I should look in a place in the old city called Black Quarter. The way she wrinkled her nose a little when she said it and the comments about going during good weather told me that the city had yet more unsavory places for me to explore.


I found a library in the New City and dug up an old map of Champoor. No specifics as to where the temples are located were on it. All in all the thing wasn’t terribly useful though it gave me somewhat of an overview. I checked around to see what the word was about the fight at the Rising Sun Trading Company and heard nothing out of what might be considered “the ordinary” in regards to my companions. I headed the the Rising Sun Company before dark and listened to Broken Walls try to goad his gaudily dressed new recruit into training with him. In need of some amusement I stood by to watch but they eventually decided it was in everyone’s best interest if they didn’t fight. Sensible but disappointing.

I asked Chaoxi if she was willing to accompany on my way to Black Quarter tomorrow and she gladly agreed to accompany me. I tracked down Aster who was predictably in the stable caring for Daisy. I told her of the things I had found out on her behalf and she distractedly thanked me. I had the sense that I come second to the cow in her regard as she seemed to barely come out of the euphoric trance she adopts when she pets the thing. It reminded me of the manner Broken Walls took when I handed him money to fund his mercenaries. That perfunctory manner in which the words of gratitude are about as heartfelt as if I passed them the salt at the supper table. It does little to make my efforts on their behalf feel particularly rewarding. I know it shouldn’t matter. We are supposedly working to a similar goal that benefits the city as a whole after all but the whole affair served to lower my spirits somehow.

It is meaningless. If they only pay me mind when they want something I must seek to lower my expectations accordingly.

Descending Wood 3 – A Far Worse Place

I awoke this morning and donned a new disguise I based on Chaoxi making myself as close to an approximation of a younger brother to her as I could imagine. She takes things is stride so well I thought I might amuse myself a little to see what her reaction might be. I could see she was unnerved by my appearance and she struggled to retain her composure which would have made me laugh were I in the habit. I could see my choice effected Broken Walls who scowled at me as has become his custom. I wouldn’t doubt he thinks me morally defunct and disapproves of my antics but is determined not to make a scene. Perhaps tomorrow I will see what I can come up with to make him squirm. I know it might not be wise to bait him but a little fun at his expense might do me some good.

Before we were out the door we were stopped short by the appearance of what looked like a solicitor. I wasn’t entirely wrong about that first impression. It was a god of Finance and contracts named Hatellus who had come to call on behalf of the gods of Champoor to negotiate a pact of non-aggression in regards to further acts of mischief against other Rathouses in the city. The trade off would be that the properties of the Rising Sun would become equally sacrosanct. The way he worded it implied that the rule would only apply to members of the trading company which seemed like as good a time as any to sever any official stake I may have had in the company. I could see this distressed Broken Walls. Gauging from his reaction he has seen our relationship this entire time as me being a part of his business venture though I have never really counted myself as such. It felt good to find some pretext to formally extricate myself from his affairs. It is time he realized that I do not do the things I do for the sake of lining his pockets. His business is his to do with as he sees fit and mine is to solve the problems of this city at their root.

Alright, the truth. I grow increasingly wary of his pet project. I have seen him do many things since we’ve arrived but only things which personally benefit himself and his company. The only thing I have seen him do that I could say may have had purely altruistic intentions was building Aster her clinic and even then I am not entirely sure that wasn’t just to keep her under his thumb. After the events of today I have a better scope of just how big a shithole this city is and I do believe he has the capacity to make things better here because things can’t get much worse. Perhaps I shall need to speak to him plainly. A prospect I dread. I have virtually no experience in dealing with people in such a fashion. I spent years concealing any sign of distress and was never permitted to express the slightest amount of temper. It bothers me that Shufen’s legacy created some of my greatest shortcomings.

Besides being a needed strike for independence I hope that by maintaining distance I can’t be included in this ( or future) contracts that are made on Rising Sun’s behalf. I believe I have a case to make about never being in Broken Wall’s employ if I decide to pursue Rathouse of my own accord. After all he has never given me a single eighth of a yen. If asked about that large cash donation I recently made I can always say it was a loan or perhaps intended as rent for boarding in one of the rooms. As to activities that could be seen as helping it’s members- they have interests which align with my own and our alliance is…. personal, not professional.

But now, for the record’s sake, I turn my attention back to Hatellus. This, rather underwhelming looking God told us he was representing other gods in the city which he referred to as “The Patrons of Champoor”. He disclosed after a little prodding that the consortium was headed by a goddess called Tempeshu whom he was forbidden to tell us anything about. Odd that the Goddess nominally in charge of the city has never come to our attention until now. One would think that her shrines would be more prevalent. Hatellus seemed genial enough but was unable to disclose much to us that was of any use. When he referred to Gumari as a “waste of Essence” it endeared me to him somewhat. I made note to investigate this Goddess Tempeshu more thoroughly as I’ve a feeling that we will probably trespass on her domain eventually, whether we intend to or not.

The god left after doing some brisk business with Broken Walls, and Aster. Chaoxi and I were on our way. Saiten, whom I haven’t reintroduced myself to yet, went off somewhere looking like he had some sort of business to attend to. I supposed that I might talk to him that night but part of me was reluctant at revealing my true nature. Not because I believed him a threat mind you. I just am in no mood to be treated as a curiosity at the moment.

Chaoxi and I set out along the outside of the city walls and ended up regretting that decision rather quickly. We first passed through cudgel district where we were accosted by roving bands of Mauk followers who exacted their tolls on anyone who didn’t seem familiar to them. Chaoxi dutifully paid them whenever the demanded money but I was sorely tempted to reject their demands and send them back to their hovels with a few less teeth. It was Chaoxi who reminded me that making a scene was counter to our goal and that we had much larger aims. I mentally rebuked myself for letting these annoyances almost override my priorities, there are greater evils than nitwits with clubs to address today.

We traveled through Red District ( The less I say on that the better) and on to Black District which is an extension of Black Quarter inside the city walls. Of all the slums it seems the worst, as if the residents cannot muster enough respite from their despair to even attempt to care for themselves. The sludge which comprised the roads smelled indescribably bad. Feces from animals and humans, rotten vegetables and butcher’s waste had been trampled into the mud of the road. The ammonia of old urine and tanner’s runoff stung our eyes as we slowed to keep our footing in the mess. So bad were the conditions that we instead opted to travel back through Red district, past the old city gate and through Red Quarter.

I hate that place and shan’t speak of it.

We at last arrived in Black Quarter. It was nicer than Black District in that there were well constructed buildings and there were paving stones beneath the muck but less pleasant in that every person we saw there was very recently dead. These victims looked like they had died from lots of small wounds until the victim eventually died of blood loss. Nasty way to go. We encountered these bodies everywhere we went. We came to a great silver bell at the top of steps that were caked and clotted with layer upon layer of coagulated blood. Chaoxi was quick to tell me that there was something supernatural about the place which, given it looked like an alter for blood sacrifices didn’t surprise me. She took out a bowl of water and did some small ritual over it proclaiming that there were no spirits nearby. Despite the obvious mess on the temple steps and Choaxi’s anxiety I was more curious than scared of this strange structure. I felt it merited a closer look.

The bell was of the style one might find at a temple and was a piece of exquisite craftsmanship combined with poor taste. The outer rim was engraved with pictographs of violence and murder caught in loving detail. As I examined it the familiar sensation of being observed returned. I asked Choaxi to do her ritual again and upon a single glance into her scrying bowl she paled and stated it was probably best that we leave. Everything I have witnessed Chaoxi do shows me the meticulous and analytical mind she possesses. Out of all of us her judgement is the most unclouded. She is unbowed by cowardice, anger, pity, greed, malice or pride. She views disaster with a calm sense of determination and obviously perceived great danger of a spiritual nature which she seems to have some expertise in. If I have a weak flank it is that I do not understand the world of spirits and gods. Though it chafed my pride I told her that we would do well to head back.

We passed corpses of victims, more variations of squalor, shady dealings, a slave market and those tiresome pigs on Mauk’s gate before I felt that sense of being observed finally pass. Chaoxi told me once we were clear that she observed a black clad being with eerie mask-like features hovering around me. This news made the whole picture becomes clearer. I think I may have caught it’s attention before when I eliminated those thieves. Indeed it could be said that I have done much that would interest a blood soaked god of violent death. I do not approve of this being’s selection of seemingly random victims and will need to find some way to stop it but I feel that I am somewhat out of my depth. I either need to know more or bring more power to bear than just Chaoxi and myself before I attempt anything.

What a miserable day. I am more hungry for information than I was this morning. I suppose the day was not a total waste but I feel so frustrated!

Over supper ( which was prepared by Oob and thankfully overseen by Chaoxi) we told the others what we had seen. Afterwards the others made it plain they wanted me to properly introduce myself to Saiten. His reaction was… more or less what I expected. I did not expect him to seize me by the face and try to manually remove my disguise. He has a very strong grip. It was unpleasant being subjected to it. Aster and Broken Walls left us for a time to attend to their own business and mull over what we learned. In that interval Saiten told me a little of himself.

He told me he gained his mark by punching with all his might the murderers of his family as he was leaving Palanquin. This gave me some pause. Looking at him I wouldn’t have said we had a single thing in common but beneath the surface we are more similar than I could have believed. Both of us gained our marks when we took vengeance on those who stole our families from us. When I first heard he was a hero for fun I thought he was mad but really when you look at it don’t we both derive satisfaction by fighting evil people? The biggest difference between us, besides our fashion choices, is that he sees himself as a hero where I have accepted that I am a monster.

I sensed that as we spoke that I unsettled him a little. I think the implications of what my power is had sunk in. I wish it were as simple as dawning a costume and going out to beat the wicked to a pulp with my fists. I am only beginning to realize how alienating my power is to others but I feel it cannot be helped. Mine is the face that will never be familiar. I hope he can in time overcome his reservations. I feel as though there is some potential for us to work as a splendid team.

Some time later the others rejoined us and we spoke of our plans. I had thought that we might go together to mash Gumari into a greasy pulp but it appears that it is not so simple. Anything less than destroying his “sanctum” will simply delay him, not destroy him. Curse these Gods, nothing is ever simple with them! We made plans to band together and see if we could speak to Hatellus about disclosing to us the location of Gumari’s sanctum. Broken Walls and Aster pledged to come with us. I look forward to tomorrow. Hopefully we will get something real done.

Descending Wood 4 – On the Town

We set out to Hatellus’s temple which reminded me more of a business than a place of worship. Aster gave the desk clerk ( acolyte?) the God’s business card and he came down to see us right away. He brought us to his office which was modest but elegant in style which I thought was very tastefully furnished. He spoke to us for a time but revealed that he doesn’t know where Gumari’s sanctum was but for a price he could have the matter looked into. We also asked some questions about the nature of Gods and we learned something about how Heaven adjudicates things such as who the patron gods of a place might be. The others still seem to be carrying hopes of Karoski’s return and Aster seems to think we can talk Gumari out of being a slimy grease ball. That doesn’t pay for the lives he’s taken. That bill is far overdue.

We tried our best at the library to research whatever we could find on the Gods but with little luck. It was then I recommended that to gain our answers we might need to go speak to one of the Patrons of Champoor. There is only one we actually know of who doesn’t outright want us dead. Kadu. We went to Kadu’s temple to see if they would be willing to allow Aster to bring at least one guard with her. Seemingly Broken Walls made it clear that he was Aster’s Guardian of sorts. Something about Aster inspires others to feel protectively toward her. Saiten and I aren’t immune to this either. We spoke of who would accompany Aster if we went after the fact but I knew I was never a candidate. Should they need to escape the others would be much better at holding off attackers than I. The temple reminded them that that was not the original arrangement.

I think the lot of us felt as though the day was not as productive as we had hoped. We made a pact to at least attempt to test ourselves against the ghostly nighttime hoard to see if they were indeed flesh and bone but even then we seemed to fail as the night passed uneventfully. I will see about joining Kadu’s city improvement initiative tomorrow to see what I can find out. Aster may decide to visit Kadu’s barge in the bay to find out what she can even if she cannot be accompanied. I should trust that she can stand on her own. I only wish that she doesn’t have to.

I could go in her place but being less than honest with Kadu could have some serious consequences.

Aster's Diary 7
Contracts, Gods, and Districts, oh my!

Things definitely seem to be changing around here, and so quickly, Diary! I will see if I can do everything that has happened in the last few days justice.
The morning after the day that we spent cleaning up after the battle with Silgur, a new face appeared before the entrance to, as it now seems to be called, the Rising Sun Trading Company. A well dressed man came to our door, claiming to have a proposal for our little group, and from Silgur, no less! Well, I suppose this is not entirely the case, Diary. I shall explain: a not entirely transparent group, of what I can’t help but think of as ‘concerned citizens’, made up of beings like Kadu and the followers of Mauk, sent a proposal for us and Silgur to cease our hostilities towards one another. More specifically, if we agree to the contract they sent, no one from our company would harass their company’s holdings, and no one from theirs would harass ours. I can only assume that this group is afraid of what might happen if we were to continue to fight in such a manner as was seen the other night; the whole city could be leveled :O ! Silgur seems to have signed it already, and with both his sound beating from the other night, and perhaps some encouragement from those who seem to perhaps run this city, I am not entirely surprised. We have yet to officially agree to the contract, though I think we shall; continuing to fight with Rat House in this manner seems… unhealthy for the city, to say the least, and if this council is able to cow Silgur, it may not be entirely wise, at the moment, to make outright enemies of them, either.

The man who brought us the contract was something else of a surprise, however, Diary. His name is Hatelis, and it seems he is a god of coinage and contracts! At the moment, it seems he is a neutral party in all of this, though he does seem to show some concern for a few of the same things we do; he seems displeased with Mauk being the ‘god of the land’ outside of Champoor, and uneasy about the beings that wander the streets at night. I think perhaps he could become a new ally, with some convincing.

Not that I am an expert in such things (far from it!), but Hatelis seems unlike any of the other gods we have encountered. Gumari was gigantic, and stinking: larger than life both literally and figuratively! Kadu, it seems, is most likely in the form of a giant frog. Silgur looked like some kind of rat/man hybrid, and came out from the ground in a swarm of insects. When I think of the gods, I think of these otherworldly, inhuman beings. But Hatelis seemed so much like… a man. He was courteous, polite. He wore a neat suit, and spoke to us like equals. His temple, or whatever the place we met him in later, seemed like an office, or a company, not a holy place.
As a god of coinage, in a place such as Champoor, I could have expected him to have been opulent and corpulent, fat on the trade of goods and coin that goes on all over the city. But, instead, he was a sharp eyed, intelligently spoken, and not unkind man. That someone like him watches over at least one aspect of Champoor gives me hope for the redemption of this poor city.

The day was full of more than just a visit from a god, however, Diary. I was able to spend some more time with our newest member, Saiten the Fallen. It seems he is every bit the hero that he continues to claim to be! He walked me to a tavern further into the city, so that I could make some money in order to buy supplies for the clinic, and saved numerous people from the ruffians of this city on the way! He is certainly an… unusual man, and he seems to have a somewhat cavalier attitude towards harming others, but I think we will get along quite well (so long as he doesn’t object to me saving those he saves others from…). He may not say very much, and he seems to have little memory for music, but anyone who saves the downtrodden is a good person in my book. (That’s you, Diary!)

We also received another contract offer, Diary; the Kahi House wishes us to become a member of their family co-operative! While I fear for their safety, as we do seem to both attract and seek out trouble, i think having them as our new partners will be a good stepping stone in our quest to help this city. And the others seem to agree! We will be joining our company to theirs in just a few days. I very much look forward to being able to see all of our friends there again :).

The day was not all sunshine and flowers, however, Diary. Despite knowing which district Gumari’s temple is in, we have been unable to locate where he is living in Champoor. And the quarter he is residing in does not, apparently, lend itself well to searching. It seems it is mostly devoid of people, except those who have been killed there, and a large set of stone steps, like an altar, perhaps, sits in its midst, topped with a horrifically friezed bell, and stained with the blood of those who have been taken there. I must put a stop to this place and what is happening there, but I fear we are not yet strong enough. Chaoxi and Piper were the ones who discovered the horrifying area, and it seems they attracted some kind of spirit to them while they were there. Wile we are unsure entirely as to the nature of the spirit and the bell area, we believe it has something to do with the beings who wander the streets at night, and that they may be the ones who have been staining the steps…

I spoke to Mara as well today, Diary. She is… as well as can be expected, I suppose. I have offered her work with me, but I am unsure yet as to whether it is too soon for her. I do not wish to push her and cause her more pain than I already have, but I fear being cooped up in her house will not do her any good either. I will give her some more time, and then see what I can do.

After visiting Mara, I sought out assistance from Hatelis. He seemed willing enough to answer our questions during the meeting about the contract, so I thought he might be willing to answer more (and might have information about Gumari’s whereabouts..). After having prayed again to Karoski earlier that day, I felt somewhat more confident in attempting to contact the gods. I had no coins, so offered a yellow flower to his shrine. He seemed to accept this, as a little business card of his showed up beneath it when I had opened my eyes. It is good to know this is in fact a way to contact him.
After speaking with the others, during which time Broken Walls told us about the contract with Kahi House, we set out to find his temple. Broken Walls seemed, rightly, concerned about how the nature of the contract with Silgur might effect the contract with Kahi house; we didn’t wish to have them come under some loophole in the wording, and come under fire from Rat House in place of us. It is nice to have confirmation that Broken Walls cares for the welfare of others now and again; he can be rather… gruff… at times, and it is good to see his more feeling side. I think it can be hard for him to have to deal with so many people and their feelings and personalities after having been alone with only Chaoxi for company for so long. She is a good person :).

Speaking of Chaoxi, you should have seen Piper’s newest disguise, Diary! Lee, as he is monikered, looks very much Chaoxi’s younger brother, much to the chagrin of both Chaoxi and Broken Walls! It probably makes it easier for them to travel together or some such thing, but I can’t help but delight a bit in the unusual way that Piper’s personae affect others; it must be so interesting to be able to become someone new like that. Not that I’d really want to be anyone else, but it’s fun to see someone else’s experiences with it.

Hatelis, during our meeting, told us he would look into how the two contracts would work in tandem, but was unable to tell us much more about the gods of Champoor. He did not seem to know where Gumari was, and seemed unable to violate whatever oath he had made to keep quiet about the others. So, with hearts thirsting for more knowledge, we headed to the library!

Aster's Diary 6
Defense of our Home, and a New Friend :)

This next entry will barely cover 24 hours, Diary, but I really feel it requires its own entry; we were attacked! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The day started out fairly normally. Healing a scrape here, getting Gumari rinsed out of a patient there, (… although it seems as though Kadu’s followers have been saying I’m part of some plan to fix up the city? I shall have to look into that. If he is, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer my help! Anyway…..) when all of a sudden, Broken Walls burst in with a gravely injured young boy in his arms! I saw to him at once, and thankfully the poor thing was mendable, but he must have gone through some great pain….
And then there was a great ruckus below us! At first, I left it to the others, as I did have a patient to tend to, but once I had gotten him as stable as I could for the time being, my curiosity got the better of me, and I went down into the basement to see what was happening. The guards down the tunnel all seemed quite nervous, and it was easy to see why: a large, rat-like creature was growling at Broken Walls, and taking up most of the tunnel space! They seemed to finish whatever it was that they were saying as I got closer, and the creature disappeared into a hole in the floor! Wonders never cease, Diary!
Broken Walls told us that this was Silgur, a god who was very unhappy with us for having chased out Rat House. It seems he was intent on attacking our new home! I’m not terribly comfortable with fighting, but I knew that many of our guards and employees (not to mention my Solar Friends) would get hurt or worse if I didn’t help to defend them, so of course I decided to help.
Broken Walls, perhaps deciding to mend fences (or maybe just needing as much help as he could get), asked if there was anything that I could do in this fight to help. While I’m reticent to do actual harm unless it is necessary, I was more than willing to give a rousing speech to our newly acquired troops; it seems Broken Walls was very busy finding those who were sympathetic to our cause, because we had many soldiers and brave warriors by the end of the day! I gave them as inspiring a speech as I could muster, and it seemed as though it was helpful. Broken Walls also asked me if I could do something similar to help him plan the best strategy for the coming battle. I think my words of encouragement (filled with the energy of my light) were of help to him, because his strategy seemed masterful, if only to my very untrained eyes.

Before the battle began, I made sure to put on my bravest face, and shone my light so that everyone might feel emboldened by it; if I haven’t the strength to put a shield between my compatriots and our attackers, than I will be their light in the darkest of places!
The battle itself was horrifying: as night fell, eerie bells tolled, darkness seemed to creep into every corner, and hundreds of rats seemed to pour from every opening! Giant, rat-faced creatures lumbered from the shadows, bellowing and slathering. But we were ready for them!
The warriors were undaunted, their blows true. A few stood out to me, even in the dim light: a handsome young man (who now I think may have been Piper), swung a sharp whip through crowds of dark robed men. Chaoxi, of course, with her dazzling blade-work, and swirling, deadly waves of dragon-magic. Broken Walls, ever the bulwark beacon in his glowing, golden armor. And another, unusual man caught my eye as the battle raged (although I would soon find out why): a bald-headed man, dressed in yellow and red, his cape dancing behind him as he struck out bare-fisted at the crowds of assailants.
I first tried my Terrifying song in order to drive away the beasts, but some otherworldly presence seemed to strengthen their resolve, and they bravely did not waiver. So, I did something I have not had to in more than a month: I used my Nightingale Voice.

You must understand, Diary, that I do not use this lightly. I understand that using your greatest strength makes sense when you are to attack, but the thought of using my voice, something I have cherished for so long as a tool to sooth, to brighten, to make joyful the people of this world… the thought of using it to damage and destroy fills me with a great sadness. But, as I learned from my Teacher, sometimes you must do distasteful things in order to make the world a less distasteful place. Or, as he would say it: “In order to make an omelette, you’ve gotta break a few eggs.”

Opening my stance, deepening my breathing, I let forth my Nightingale Song, fearsome notes that tear at the very air, the very flesh of those it contacts. Several of the Rat-Beasts fell in front of the men Broken Walls defended; as always, those notes reverberated back into my soul, bringing the sorrow of causing others pain. But I persevered, to save those who I protected.

Suddenly, the ground in the middle of the courtyard seemed to open up, and the terrifying beast we had seen before emerged, in a swarm of vermin: Silgur had arrived, rats swirling over his body as he rose.

Much to my surprise, however, he did not stay long.

The Bald-headed man seemed to almost blink over to the terrifying creature, and with blows that must have been given awe-inspiring names by the creator of whatever style he now fought with, he tore through the rats protecting Silgur, and tossed his body like a rag-doll up onto the walls of the courtyard. Silgur then, seeing that his forces were dwindling while ours still fought bravely, slunk back into a hole of insects, and disappeared.

Oh, I forgot to mention, Diary! Our new friend, who is named Saiten the Fallen, is a Solar too! While he fought, a blazing glory of light began to shine in the form of the Unconquered Sun’s mark on his forehead! He has agreed to stay with us for a time, and I can’t wait to learn all about our newest companion :)

Aster's Diary 5
New Clinic!

I feel as though I am being productive again, Diary. After the unpleasantness of the other night, I feel more full of the will to help this city than ever; I will take the poor man’s passing as a sign that I must redouble my efforts!

There was an unusual man at the temple when I went to continue my healing. Razu Topeshi, a priest of Kadu, was there praising me and Kadu before I arrived. I am… uncomfortable… with my work at the temple being connected with a god I know very little about, but the temple has been kind enough to allow me to continue my works here, so I will leave it for the moment. Razu actually approached me before I began healing, and told me that Kadu himself wished to speak with me on his island! I have never directly met a god before…. I am terribly flattered, of course, but I can’t help but fear that Kadu may wish me to use my healing to spread his name, or become a more permanent fixture of his church, and I have little desire to do so. Having another’s name, especially a god, tied to my healing may attach unwanted ties to it; I do not wish those who seek it to feel as though they must pay homage to a god, or some kind of tithe in order to receive it. My concern with going to meet Kadu in person is that he may not react… well… to my declining his offer, if that is what he intends. I have delayed my answer for the moment, and will ask the others what they think of this.

When we returned, Diary, we were told that Piper and Broken walls had found us a place where we can set up our “Base of Operations” :). We were taken to the building, which was on the edge of the area… unfortunately near the sewers, which may not be the BEST location for setting up a place of healing, but this is probably why such a larger area was abandoned, so I’m not about to complain. There are a series of smaller, older looking buildings near by a larger, much newer looking building (that I assume Broken Walls has constructed :) ), which it appears is going to be our new home.
The clinic Broken Walls has set up is in the main building looks like it will do just splendidly! It has a few baths, some cots, and it seems as though he’ll be able to make pretty much anything else, in terms of wood products, that I’ll need as well! I’m going to need to stock up on herbs, and probably get my own garden up and running, but this is a wonderful start. I can really start to make a difference!
He has even made a stable for Daisy! I’ll need to set up a pasture for her at some point, but I think when she’s feeling better I’ll be able to make butter! And I shall also have my own room, for the first time! I shall have to see if I can get some flowers or prints to brighten it up :).

The others agreed to come with me to meet with Kadu, if Razu will allow it, which is a great relief. Oh! Piper has a new disguise, a beautiful woman in rather elegant clothing that she calls Pearl. She was wearing a stunning gown, which she actually allowed me to borrow when I mentioned not having anything to wear to meet a god in! I feel so… pretty :).
Razu, it seems, may have some… ulterior motives. He was not willing to allow my friends to accompany me, which I suppose makes sense, given that, as he said, Kadu did not invite them, but I also feel there is something somewhat… untoward about his offer. I have declined, for the moment, to meet Kadu, but Razu was kind enough to leave the offer open. I shall have to keep it in mind for the future.

My clinic seems to be up and running fully now, which means I shall need to take occasional days off in order to restock, which means making my way into the city proper. The gate into the city is so impressive! And Mauk’s cudgel does indeed seem to be something a god would wield… while I am still unsure as to his role as a harvest god, he definitely seems to fit being a god of cudgels…
We have found a place that I can get my herbs and supplies at, but, again, I think I shall have to find a way to make my own… I couldn’t possibly charge people for my healing, so I have little income at the moment. I shall start singing in taverns again to try to make back some of the money, but for the moment I shall have to rely on the kindness of my companions. I am also going to start teaching others what to look for for signs of illness, so that they can catch it earlier, and will know when they should come to me for help before it becomes too late… and I’ve been instructing them to take down those horrible shrines in their houses to Gumari. He may be in this city, but we cannot simply invite him into our homes. I have asked Piper to look into where he may have his sanctum; I believe I shall soon be paying him a visit.

I have just learned something… disturbing about my companions, Diary. Let me explain: a gentleman accompanied by a strange… ratbeast?… came to our door one morning. Broken Walls said that the man was from Rat House, the group of unsavory individuals we were told of at Kahi house. However, it seems the man was here because this place used to belong to one of their chapters. This means that Broken Walls and Piper…. stole it! I understand that they are not used to being treated kindly by others, and perhaps this is why they believed that those of Rat House deserved to be thrown from their home, but I am terribly disturbed by the idea. We cannot become criminals if we are to make this city a better place; it has seen far too much of those willing to take what they want with no regard for others. We must teach them that there are better ways than stealing, and that starts with not taking things from others ourselves.
When I told him how cross I was with what they had done, Broken Walls seemed quite upset; I think I have hurt his feelings by not being as appreciative of the work he has done for me. The Stable, the Clinic… He is so… strange. One moment, he builds a well, erects a Clinic, saves helpless fishermen… the next, he’s running men from their homes because he believes they do not deserve to be there. True, I should find some way to properly thank him for what he’s done for me, but I cannot help but feel he may have a very different idea about what is right and wrong than I do. Perhaps if I continue to show unrelenting kindness, it will rub off on him.
Piper seemed… uncomfortable.. when I discovered what had been done. I am still unsure as to whether this was because of guilt over what they had done, or guilt over my having found out, but either way, this seems like a good sign. I will continue to oppose theft and suffering, and show others the light.

Aster's Diary 4

I am sorry, Diary. I know it has been a few days since I last wrote you, but I have not been able to bring myself to do more than think on the events that I would have told you of. It was not a good day.

I spent my day healing again at the temple. I find the events that occurred there this time… difficult to describe, Diary, but I will do my best. Gumari is prevalent in the city, and this was none more evident to me than today.
A man came to the temple later in the day, far along enough in the disease to be almost beyond hope, but I…I could not allow him to just die without doing everything I could for him. This time, my light allowed me to prevail over the beast, and pull him from death’s door.
This was not the case with the second man I was to see in this shape that day.
A woman, [Mara], flaming red hair limp with grief and despair, came to the temple, seeking me. She claimed her husband was in the same condition as the man I had just helped: coughing black, flush with the dangerous venom of that thing. Chaoxi was nervous of this woman’s intentions, but I believed her plight was real. I followed her through the city to her home.

I fought, long and hard, Diary, but the makeshift bath, the prolongation of the disease, and my meager light meant that a wife has become a widow. We imposed upon the grieving woman for the evening, as night had fallen too fast for us to make it back to the Kahi house.

My battles against Gumari have been to small, too few. He has insinuated himself into the homes of the poor and destitute, and has caused them suffering that I can no longer abide. I can no longer simply hold back the floodgates, I must stop the flow altogether. I will stop Gumari, by any means I can.

Broken Walls Journal 6
In which Silgur is a problem.

Descending Wood 1, RY768, continued

I needed to blow off some steam, so I went and trained with the men for a while. I’ve been focusing my energy on training the men, what the Realm Dragons call “Essence”. I think my training techniques will make the men braver, and improve their endurance, which they could sorely use.
On that note, when they tired out (to be fair, they’re getting a little better), I went into my smithy to work on some weapons and study one of those fish-swords. I think, given the right materials, I might be able to use the techniques I’ve learned to craft a blade that can channel Essence to a specific purpose, similar to how my Dauntless can. That said, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to create anything as masterful as Dauntless.
After that, I went to have a bath in the clinic, which would have been more relaxing if not for the recovering Gumari victim in one of the other tubs.
Really got to hunt Gumari down at some point.
After my bath I decided to go for a walk, and this would be the point in a story where the author would write, “Things were about to take a turn for the worse.”

Things were about to take a turn for the worse.

Almost immediately upon leaving the Rising Sun compound, I could feel ripples in the mists of Essence around me, hostility in the air.
Someone was watching me, and with malicious intent.
Then more ripples, sharper. This was more than one set of eyes, far more.
I drew my energy up into my senses and spotted the eyes, scattered all along the street, and the eyes were all attached to rats.
And the rats were all watching me.
Well, if Silgur wanted to play, I’d play too. I found the nearest pickpocket boy (didn’t take long) and I put a bounty on rat tails, told him to spread the word. However, before the lad had run twenty paces, his essence trails twisted. I ran after him and found him covered in rats, biting him. I scooped the boy up before they could kill him, and rushed him back to Aster. Barely had I handed him into her care when I heard a thump, thump, thump coming from below.
The sewer.
I ran downstairs, Dauntless fastening himself around me as I descended. Thump, thump, thump.
I rang the bell to signal an attack from below – someone was knocking on the wall I’d put up across the sewer entrance. Well, if someone was going to knock on my wall, I’d open the door – even if it didn’t exist yet.
I swung open the new door to find the tunnel into the sewers devoid of anything but Silgur’s deep, snuffling breathing. More games. Silgur loves to think of himself as intimidating, but he underestimates the strength of the Solar Exalted, a fatal flaw.
I invoked the name of the Unconquered Sun, and commanded Silgur to appear before me. Unwillingly, Silgur climbed out of his pit of vermin on the floor. He looks like a man-shaped rat, except about 10 feet tall, and emitting an evil red glow, which seemed to frighten the men who had gathered at the sound of the alarm. I shall have to increase their training. Piper had also appeared beside me – she appeared shaken by Silgur’s appearance, but stood her ground.
Silgur and I conversed in the Old Realm tongue, though the sound of it from his tongue was unpleasant to my ears. We threatened back and forth, and Silgur revealed he was aware of our identities as Solars, which makes me wonder if he is very old, or just gathered that from his rats.
He used the Old Realm word for “Solar”, though, and he couldn’t have learned that from his rats.
Aster came down part way through. This is good, she needs to see the evil we face in Champoor is more than what she deals with in her clinic.
Eventually, when I tired of the banter, I dismissed Silgur. Before he departed, he told me he would return within a day. Stupid. Attacking me, stupid. Warning me first, worse than stupid. Silgur’s pride is my greatest weapon against him. Upon reflection, however, my own pride – especially when threatened – is no small thing. I am uncertain what, if anything, to do about that, but if Silgur’s pride can be used against him, mine might be used against me.

After Silgur departed, I explained the conversation to Piper and Aster. Piper was curious about the language, and asked me to teach her some time.
I sent some men to get building supplies, and went for another walk, this time with a purpose. I headed to Kahi house through the slums, while wearing Dauntless. On the way, I spread the word that the Rising Sun House was looking for mercenaries. Gor greeted me in front of Kahi house. I like him, he seems honest, and not too phased by seeing me wearing Dauntless. He took me in to see Jin Dhao, to whom I explained the coming battle, and offered my remaining coin to hire his men. Jin responded with great enthusiasm, assuring me he would bring men immediately. I headed back, and went to speak with Aster about what was to come. I know little about what she is capable of beyond frightening enemies with her song, and her extraordinary healing abilities, so I asked her. She told me a few surprising things, and I asked her if she could inspire the growing number of mercenaries gathering outside, and if she could inspire me in planning our strategies for the battle.
She gave a speech to the men, a good speech. It got them cheering. Chaoxi and I got the men working, tearing down some of the surrounding abandoned shacks for space and materials for the battle. Jin Dhao arrived personally with 50 strong men. I saw Piper (I think) running around stringing up ropes, but I know not to what purpose.
Examining the mercenaries, there are some unusual looking men among them. I saw one dressed all in pink, another man – completely hairless, wearing yellow leathers and a white cape, and a third who had his hair and beard styled into long spikes.
strange soldiers, to be sure, but they’re what I have to work with. Also, it seems I’m not the only one inspecting the troops. Followers of Mauk are gathered atop the city wall, with a good view of the battlefield. They seem enthusiastic about the coming fight.
Chaoxi has said she will pay the mercenaries, but it will deplete her funds. After this is over, I will need to focus on raising the profits of the Rising Sun House to repay her.
I went inside with Jin, Aster, Piper, and Chaoxi to examine a map of the area and plan our strategy. Aster spoke words of encouragement into my ear, and it was as if the map became clearer, and I could see where Silgur was likely to direct his forces. Laying my Essence over the map, I pointed out where we would hide troops to ambush Silgur when he arrived. I then went out to build some ballistae.

As night fell, a bell tolled over the city, which is unusual. Hours passed, and then Silgur’s forces arrived. Men and rats poured from the streets, and a dozen of the giant rat beasts erupted from the ground near the sewer. And then, my men hit them all from behind.
I immediately moved to engage the rat beasts, intercepting their strikes against my men with my shield, clearing the way for the mercenaries to slash at them.
I saw Aster open her mouth, and the air rippled past me, knocking one of the beasts off its feet.
I felt a concussion from elsewhere and looked over to see a large gap in the enemy lines, with the man in yellow standing plainly before it, his cape hanging limply behind him.
I saw a trail of corpses leading to Chaoxi, spinning and twisting through the enemy like a maddened top. I think I saw Piper lashing the enemy with a belt, and running along those ropes she had strung up. Why she doesn’t use a sword, or maybe a whip designed for combat, I don’t know. As the Dhau unloaded the ballistae into the rat beasts, and I removed a couple heads, a great number of rats began piling on top of one another, and the shape of Silgur appeared, and headed towards the Dhaus, and I was in no position to help them! Before he could cause any harm, however, a streak of yellow flashed across the battlefield, and then the hairless, yellow-clad man was striking Silgur with his gloved fists, each blow audible above the din of the battlefield, each blow sending a spray of the rats that were coating Silgur across the battlefield. As he launched his combo of strikes, a glowing, golden disc became visible on his forehead.
Another Solar?
He finished his pummeling combo with a great blow that launched Silgur against the city wall, cracks spreading behind him. The unknown Solar landed lightly on his feet and stood looking up at Silgur, clinging to the wall.
As we killed the last rat-beast, Silgur opened a portal in the wall and fled through, the small remainder of his troops losing their will and fleeing at the same time.

At battles end it seems we lost a number of mercenaries, and Piper took a cut, but the Dhao troops and the rest of our House were unharmed.

Aster, Piper, Chaoxi and I gathered to speak with the new Solar, who introduced himself as “Saiten the Fallen”, a travelling “hero”, looking for challenges (and food?) on the way to Nexus. I told him if he stayed with us, there would be many good challenges, and he agreed. I went and fetched him a jug of Knot and String’s mead and then set to the task of purifying the corpses with Aster. An unpleasant task, but a necessary one to avoid our company being haunted, which would be a near certainty after a battle of this scale.

Saiten's Journal
Descending Wood 1

I’ve decided to start a journal of my travels. I’ve been thinking a lot these past months, and it’s probably best to start writing stuff down.

After traveling for what seems like months, I finally arrived in Champoor. I arrived at the docks, having gained passage on a small vessel a few days earlier.
The boat I came in on wasn’t well provisioned, so very quickly after docking, I bought some cooked fish at a food cart. It wasn’t good. I hope I don’t get sick from it.

This town seems to be riddled with crime. I hadn’t even been on land for an hour, before somebody tried to rob me. I had some words with the boy about how stealing is wrong. Hopefully he’ll change his ways.

Minutes after that, I saw a woman being threatened by a would be robber. I disarmed him and sent him on his way. The lady thanked me, which I thought was nice.

Heading towards the center of town, I noticed a bunch of mercenaries and fighters gathering. They were following a guy in some fancy armour, saying something about a big fight coming up. I ended up joining what ended up being some sort of rat exterminator task force. At least I should be paid enough to restock my pack before I continue my journey.

We were eventually led to a large encampment. We were all given various taks to attend to. Mine was to disassemble some old structures and clear the area for the coming fight.

After we were finished, we were all grouped up. A beautiful woman gave a pretty rousing speech to inspire us all. It worked quite well. All the troops were cheering by the end of it. Even I got a bit excited. I was eventually ordered to hide in a small shack until the battle started. As soon as the signal came though, I got to work. I broke through the wall and sent one of the enemies crashing into his compatriots. The sheer number of rats was impressive. Where did they all come from?

Before I could think on the rats too much, I saw a giant rat, seeming made of rats appear in the distance. He looked a lot stronger than the guys around me, so I dashed off and punched him a few times, sending him flying, and crashed into the city wall. Amazingly, the rat didn’t die! He did run off though. Still, pretty cool. Haven’t had something live since I left Palanquin.

Unfortunately, I probably overdid it. My head lamp ended up going off. I need to remember to take it easy. Until I learn more about the thing, its probably a good idea not to show it off.

Immediately after the rat fled, the leaders of the task force approached me, wanting to talk. The guy in the fancy armour calls himself broken walls. The Beautiful woman giving the speech was Aster. There were two more there. A woman named Chaoxi, and a soldier named Piper, whom looked very out of place.

They thanked me for my assistance, which is a relief. I thought for sure I was going to be in trouble for fighting the rat guy before they had a chance.
They ended up asking me to stay with them for a while, saying they may be able to help me find the challenge I’ve been hoping for. I think I’ll give it a shot. Should be nice to have some friends for once.

Piper's Journal 6
In which a God is punched

Descending Wood 1 – Cont.

I decided to start my investigations by following the leads who are closest at hand. First I spoke with Oob who told me in his dull way that he didn’t know the location of the Docks District Rathouse but that their strength was greater and the number or Rat creatures they boasted was superior to the Rat House we inhabited. he further informed me that aside from people who asked for work they had some debtors amoungst their ranks. When I asked about Gumari’s shrine he lead me to a small shrine for multiple Gods Gumari amongst them. It seems that people here pray to him to not contract his disease. It sounds almost like a protection racket. I am saddened that I must prioritize hunting Rathouse when such filth is permitted to exist but I should finish what I start lest I bite off more than I can chew.

My next act was to seek out Rue to speak to him about the sort of lending that Rathouse uses to inflate their ranks with indentured goons. I suspect for the most part given his history that gambling debts are a big contributor to their numbers. Before I had a chance to find him Aster intercepted me outside in the courtyard. She seemed concerned. She had news of some sort of city improvement initiative the temple of Kadu has started. Troublingly they seem to be using her reputation for helping at their temple to provide publicity for whatever they have planned. From the outside it seems harmless, even good intentioned, but neither Aster or I trust this Kadu’s motives. Something smells off with that god. I told Aster it would be my pleasure o check in on the temple to find out what their plans were but that I might have another priority to address. I told her that our activities in the city had antagonized a god of criminals who was now attempting to target us though I was deliberately vague on exactly how we angered the god. She was very understanding of my desire to address our Silgur problem first.

I had barely resumed my search for Rue when an alarm bell sounded from our cellar. I raced to the stairs. Broken Walls was fully armoured with his compliment of guards when I arrived. It took me very little time to ascertain what was going on as my fellow Anathema shouted to a dark mass of insects on the wall demanding that the spirit within step forth and make itself known. There was some strange power behind those words. A mass of Rats flooded from the portal to coalesce into a being of mighty stature with a rat face and the body of an emaciated giant.


He spoke in a grating sibilant voice in a language that Broken Walls later told me was Old Realm. They conversed for a time sounding off what I imagine were threats when Broken Walls turned to me out of the blue and asked me to reveal my mark before this beast and the crowd of his hired guards. Broken Walls must have been addled if he believed I was going to reveal myself so publicly. I doubt it would have made a difference, The way Silgur fixed me with his mad stare I knew he was aware I was more than I appeared to be. More words were traded and Silur, angered by Broken Walls, began to glow with a red light. As that red light radiated out from Silgur I felt a near overwhelming sense of fear swamp me for an instant and froze in the face of it like a rabbit in the path of a charging dog. I am no stranger to a bad situation but even counting some of my nearer misses it has been a long time since I felt that afraid. I bit the inside of my cheek until it bled and let my indignation devour my fear. I will not be intimidated by a rat. God or otherwise.

Glancing behind me I noticed that at some point Aster had arrived and was ready to back us up. I felt an odd sense of reassurance though I can’t say why. I didn’t believe her capable of much in a fight though I have noticed that she has a habit of charging into battle headlong which is curious for someone not predisposed to violence. It was then I heard Broken Walls say something in Old Realm and all of a sudden the Rat God dissolved into a flurry of rats that retreated ;through the portal. I let out the breath I was unconsciously holding as Broken Walls immediately began to marshal his forces, taking me aside long enough to inform me that that Silgur would be back the next morning for us. It seemed we had some time to prepare. I for one wasn’t going to waste it.

I disguised myself as a young mercenary I called “Feather Weight” and headed out. Broken Walls had gone out but a few minutes earlier and spread the word that the Rising Sun Trading Company was hiring mercenaries. It seemed as soon as the words were spoken the whole of the lower city knew. I went through the gate and spread the word around Dock districts hoping to catch the ear of some upscale fighters. The followers of Mauk had already gathered at the Gate saying there were portents of blood to be spilled. When I mentioned that there was an imminent fight they became very excited at the prospect of spectating. Doubtless they would have figured it out eventually but I regret speaking to them all the same. Useless idiots.

I had one last chore to do. For about two months now I have been holding onto the deed for a fishing business that I had investigated and found doing some shady business. Killing or crippling the owner wouldn’t have been particularly fitting but a pack of hungry creditors sounded just the cure for his greedy grasping fingers. I took out a loan at a local bank posing as the owner leveraging the business. I got a tidy sum for it but not the whole value of the business. It was the best I could manage on such short notice but I have the added satisfaction of knowing that it will come back to bite Red Trout.

I brought the money to Broken Walls to add to his war chest. He seemed relieved to see it. In my absence he had accrued a large number of mercenaries who ranged from those who appeared capable and well armed to those barely able to scrape by on their skills with a couple of strangely dressed oddballs to round out the ranks.

I admit I was apprehensive. I don’t lend myself to warfare. Ever since I have met the others I have been weaned further and further from the shadows and the advantages of staying out of the limelight. I am not like Broken Walls who has the security of being clothed in remarkable armour from head to toe. I am not like Chaoxi, schooled in the tactics of battle to approach problems with a calm heart. Even Aster has within her a sense of determination and conviction in her light. I am no warrior or hero but I am vain. Being seen as a coward by my fellows galls me. Is this how idiotic bravado gains it’s foothold? I was angry with myself for my lack of better judgement even as I prepared for the battle ahead.

I sought Aster’s company to ask her for her thoughts on the situation. She seemed composed and willing to join us in battle which I assumed meant would mean her singing some sort of battle hymn to inspire the troops. I was surprised when she told me that this time she would fight alongside us in earnest. I was shocked to learn that she has intentionally killed once before and not simply because the person in question was suffering unendurable pain. I hadn’t thought her capable. She told me that she believes killing is hard to come to terms with and it should always remain so. I find myself trying to remember if I ever found it difficult. There are people I have regretted having to kill but it doesn’t sound like the same thing. There seems to be more to Aster than just her light.

Feeling heartened I went to Broken Walls to ask him for rope and strung a web of strands between the buildings to create overhead pathways. The rope was not particularly thick but somehow that never seems to matter to me. When I focus I can be surefooted at need. As the sun set I shed the form of Feather Weight so that I could reclaim the strength required to maintain his form for the battle ahead. I used some of the make up I had purchased for Aster and Broken Walls to alter my appearance so that I felt a little less exposed. It was unsettling looking at my morning form so closely in the mirror as I carefully brushed on the powders and applied the fake mustache and beard. It has been almost two years since I last studied the reflection of this face and I found it has changed very little since I saw it last. It feel it does not quite look my proper age. I wonder when I will cease aging physically as Broken Walls has or if maybe I already have. The disguise I created with these more conventional means felt less comfortable than my second skins but I felt better for being beneath layers of powder, wax and paint all the same.

We gathered in the courtyard. I saw some of the residents of Kahii House in the crowd looking ready and eager for battle. Aster and Broken Walls gave some speeches which fired up the crowd. Even I was not fully immune to their words. There was nothing left but to wait. I catnapped, I toured the rooftops which had changed in layout over the last few house and I settled in to a lookout post. We had plans to ambush the enemy before they reached the house. I was amusing myself by threading rusted nails I had pulled from the shingles through the belt I wore when I heard the roar of our warriors and the smashing of stone and timber. I leapt from hiding an swinging my nail studded belt ran across the ropes I had strung to plunge into the midst of knife wielding followers of Silgar.

I caught only glimpses of the others through the mass of rats and human opponents I faced after that. I saw Aster project a ripple of sound like a bullet from a sling at one of the Rat ogres narrowly missing Broken Walls who sheered the heads off of the Giant Rats with seeming ease. I saw Chaoxi draw her weapons and with an aura of watery blades mow down an impressive group of foes. Rats swarmed over the ground making the footing difficult and biting when they could get a purchase. I noticed a mass of them began to gather and the shadowy shape of Silgur rose from the street. The light of early dawn cast a blood red light through the clouds and I felt again that wave of revulsion and fear and refused to give in. His followers attacked with renewed vigor and though I dodged the majority of the hits a knife slashed me straight between the shoulder blades in a horizontal slash across the width of my back.

I lashed out with my belt to seize an particularly unfortunate rat eater about the neck and his body, sans head sailing into the mob to injure his fellows. I used the momentum to jump back up on to my rope bridge strung above the square when I felt rather than heard a string of concussive hits like a kettle drum being pounded with an closed fist. Glancing over my shoulder I froze as I watched a man, bald as an egg and dressed in lemon yellow leathers, red gloves and a long white cloak lift the body of Silgur up with a ferocious finishing blow and sent him crashing into the stone of the city wall. A mark, different from the one borne by Aster and Broken Walls and different from the one I possess burned on the stranger’s forehead.

Then it began to rain rat guts. Uhg.

Silgur, hissing and spitting violently started to melt into the wall through one of his portals. With Silgur retreating and his goons falling victim to the mass of our forces the mopping up began. Broken Walls started using that golden fire to burn the bodies of oe and follower alike and Aster followed suit using the same power. I must remember to ask about how they do this. They don’t seem to use this power on their living enemies so maybe it is not an effective weapon but the ability to eliminate evidence of a body seems a useful skill to someone like myself. Maybe they can teach me how to do it.

Once we had the day in hand the lot of us went over to speak to this new anathema. He introduced himself as Saiten the Fallen. The story he told us was that he has been travelling back from Palanquin to his home in Nexus. His manner was exceptionally bland for one who had just beaten a God unaided with his bare fists. He phrased his reasons for answering our call for mercenary work as being for the money and because… and I quote : " I am a hero for fun."

I am not one to speak of fate or fateful meetings. I heartily dislike the idea of being moved into position by forces outside of my control as though I were a pawn on a shogi board. While this meeting certainly feels like no accident, I have a hard enough time believing as it is that I am a supposed avatar of the Unconquered Sun as Broken Walls claims we are. Am I to believe that I was chosen by the same God as this man? He’s just so…mild. With the others I sense a conviction that matches my own. We may be different but within us all is an unwavering sense that what we do is right. What does being “a hero for fun” even mean? Perhaps he delights in killing evil people? Put that way he and I have something in common but… “fun”?

It may be optimistic but I think we can be of use to each other. I know of a number of local problems that might interest him if he seeks challenge in combat. He doesn’t sound particularly reliable but perhaps there is something valuable about someone who is motivated by something more pure than money, power, rage or fear. I certainly can’t say I care for the way he dresses. How did he even find leathers dyed so exacting a shade of yellow? Maybe it’s some sort of foreign style? Here in Champoor it sure looks unusual not to mention gaudy. It’s sure to garner a lot of attention which is less than ideal. However I suppose it matters little now. With Mauk’s followers cheering our victory from their seats atop the city wall we have notoriety here whether we wished it or not.

The wound on my back is proving incredibly aggravating being in a cursed difficult place to reach and I fear I risk infection from the rat blood and gore which have more or less ruined one of my few spare sets of clothes. When Aster finishes tending to the more critically wounded I will ask her to clean the wound thoroughly with the most powerful antiseptic she possesses.


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