As the tale of the Exalted Continues

Piper's Journal 11
In Which Piper begins to lose his mind

Descending Wood 19 Cont. — An Afternoon in Volivat

We decided to start our education in the basics of Volivat by behaving like the complete newcomers to the city that we were. With such avid law-keepers everywhere it seemed prudent to keep our investigations civil. I decided to try to emulate Aster who is excellent at getting people to open up to her even if the information she is interested in is usually inconsequential personal trifles. It proved effective as people here are more versed in social graces than most of the places I’ve traveled through. We returned to the Steamkettle for an afternoon tea and to ask the staff there how best to tackle the city.

On our way, we passed a young girl who was passing out flyers for the Fish Market. Saiten stopped and dutifully took one and after the girl looked us over as though she had never seen anything like us her eyes grew wide as saucers. Nothing about this seemed particularly out of place at first since Aster’s almost ethereal good looks, Saiten’s unique fashion sensibilities and Dasadi’s milk pale complexion draw the occasional glance. You can imagine my shock when she turned her attention to me.

She seemed to have confused me for someone else. It is not the first time I have , by pure coincidence rather than design, adopted a disguise that looked remarkably similar to someone else. Indeed it seems that no human in creation is truly unique in appearance though I have heard it is unlucky to meet someone whose visage too closely resembles your own. I wonder if it was people like me who are at the root of that superstition.

The girl in this case seemed so convinced that even though I informed her that I was not this “Aria” person she had mistaken me for she persisted and reached out as if to stroke my cheek. Flustered I jumped back before I checked my reaction and the startled child fled. The others questioned me briefly about the interaction but I told them I knew nothing about it.

I chided myself for my momentary lapse and out of curiosity listened to see if the child had remained behind. It was if she had vanished. I heard no fleeing footsteps , the heartbeats of those nearby were calm. I didn’t think that much of it at the time. Though this city is strangely quiet she could have fled somewhere off the street. I sought not to linger on it unnecessarily. We reached the Steamkettle without further incident and sat down for some unusual but palatable tea.

The staff at the Steamkettle were very helpful. We arranged to rent some rooms there for our stay and asked them about what points of interest they might steer a newcomer to the city towards and what places the average visitor would do best to avoid. The barmaid seemed to place a good deal of trust in the watch but said that the area around the prison would best be avoided being lower rent dwellings and warehouses. That seemed like a decent place to start our search.

The barmaid also mentioned the city had an “aquarium”. At first when she explained it I thought it was a sort of museum filled with stuffed and mounted sea creatures but she corrected me and told me it was more like a menagerie of live ones in glass tanks of water. Like rice paddy fish kept in glass bowls only on what sounds like an entirely more impressive scale. I admit I have little interest in fish but it is tempting to see this marvel.

Before we had even finished our meal Dasadi excused himself from our table and left without explanation. I suspected that he was going to make contact with the allies in the city at large. He slipped out the back, melding with the shadows. The more I witness of his talents the more suspicious I am of him. He is well trained but he didn’t notice me following from the rooftops. He was following a man whose body language immediately struck me as the sort of defensive gait of one who habitually watches their back.

We didn’t get far. The man Dasadi was following stopped at a corner and waited and Dasadi settled in a short distance away. It looked as if the two made eye contact briefly but made no attempt to get closer. Could it be they knew they were being observed? For an hour we waited in complete stalemate. Neither of them glanced in my direction and I was beginning to wonder if they would call off whatever was happening here.

What happened next troubles me greatly.

I was staring straight at Desadi when I blinked and all of a sudden he was nowhere in sight. In that same moment the man on the corner broke into a run. I leapt to my feet and raced after him but when he turned the corner into an alley it was as if he had ceased existing. There was no sound to mark his passing. None. The only breathing I heard in the alley he had disappeared into was that of a beggar wrapped in rags in the shadow of a crate. I could tell from his breathing that he was not feigning sleep and thus he was not my quarry. I was dumbfounded. I was also thoroughly displeased. I felt like the cat who chased two mice and earned nothing but an empty stomach and it galled me.

I returned to the table and found Aster and Saiten gone. When they returned they told me they had ducked out to a textile market nearby. I told them of what I had witnessed and aired my concerns about Dasadi and the strange man. The way he disappeared concerns me. It was too reminiscent of the trick pulled by the little girl from earlier. It might not be wise to maintain the guise of “Obi” with these strange people seemingly taking notice. It may be worse to arouse too much suspicion from Dasadi however. Better to keep up the ruse of being a talented mortal. Surely some sort of compromise can be made.

Dasadi returned and told us that he had attempted to follow a man that had taken too great an interest in me. What he told us could be consistent with what I witnessed but he could be using the truth the way I am accustomed to telling it – to embroider and obscure falsehoods. My admiration for the man grows steadily. Some idiot part of me even feels a strange satisfaction with this rivalry.

Saiten purchased two rooms as individual ones proved too expensive which suited me fine. Better somebody at least could keep an eye on Dasadi even if it isn’t me. I shared the room with Aster.

I checked the room thoroughly for unwanted surprises and applied wedges to the windows and doors before retiring to bed. Aster didn’t seem disturbed by this and stripped off her outer dress and the layer of fine chain mail she wears as I averted my eyes politely. She told me that she had sufficient layers to preserve her modesty beneath and I needn’t do so. She doesn’t seem to fear me trying anything indecent. I wonder a bit about that. Earlier today when the girl reached for me Aster seemed concerned for me. Perhaps she senses that I am uncomfortable with even that mild display of affection directed at me. I must be slipping. If there was one thing that the Butterfly Court taught me that was worth knowing it was how to conceal my fear, disgust and rage. It cost me countless bruises to learn those lessons. I can’t afford to forget them.

Descending Wood 20 – Strange acquaintances

I awoke to Aster quietly singing to the accompaniment of birdsong. By the light I could tell it was still early morning. I greeted her and she averted her eyes as I rose from bed. I told her she needn’t.

It felt strange to be viewed but I see no harm in it. Sometimes I feel there is not a creature in creation who couldn’t trust Aster. She knows of my power and doesn’t seem repelled by it. I confessed to her by way of explanation that I felt I view her and Saiten as kinfolk of some kind. She looked very pleased at this and I felt immediately as though I had overstepped my bounds.

It is hard knowing that I have been gifted with kindness I do not deserve. I know that Aster believes me to be a better person then I am but there grows within me a sickening certainty that going back to living the way I was before is no longer possible. My life used to be fiction. Every day a fabrication, every interaction a lie. Nobody knew me and I was safe because there was only one thing I counted as too precious to not be left behind. I had stripped every shred of truth away and cast it aside. I was fine.

But if I was fine then why do I feel so sick at the thought of going back to being alone?

Dasadi knocked on the door and called us down to breakfast. Aster told him we’d be down soon which was appreciated since a careful listener might be able to distinguish that this form’s voice is somewhat different from my alias’s.

Stepping back into Obi’s form was easy. I made a few alterations but nothing extreme. Before we went to bed I told Dasadi I had intended to don a disguise to put an end to the nuisance of people recognizing me. I lengthened and changed the color of my hair since I still haven’t acquired a high quality enough wig but used waxes, glues, false facial hair and face paints in my kit to apply a disguise on Obi’s face. My clothes I altered to fit a bit more of the local style. Nothing I did was outside the realm of something a talented con artist or player might whip up. When I left the room I was satisfied when Dasadi didn’t recognize me until I spoke in Obi’s voice. I felt confident that if I could fool him my guise was more than satisfactory.

We sat down to breakfast of fish though the inn was sorely lacking rice. The fish tasted fine but the local fare does tend to favour more astringent and salty flavours. After eating such bland food on the ship it is a vast improvement but I do prefer sweet and tart dishes best. Afterward the staff directed us to a very fine bookshop where we acquired a map of the city , a handy phrase book of basic Forest tongue and some very sound advice.

In asking of the local customs I asked about places one might find buskers and was surprised to learn that noise levels are carefully monitored throughout the public areas of the city by the watch who carry “sound spheres”. I suppose it makes sense given how dense the city is but it struck me as unusual and useful information to know. I also asked about the “Tenfather” custom and learned that the city-folk are forbidden from speaking too much about it but that whatever the nature of the custom it does not involve rampant polyandry. Realizing upon study of our map that the Fish Market lay between us and the prison we decided to investigate the market on the way.

Fish markets anywhere else in Creation are the same – deafening. It was disquieting to go into a bustling market where the patrons spoke in whispers and the merchants never raised their voices. We had barely set foot in it when I felt someone reach out and tenderly stroke my hair. For an instant I was fifteen again and I could feel Shufen’s fingers idly running through the hair I was never permitted to cut. I felt as though someone had plunged me in ice water. I might have borne someone tugging the hairs from my scalp better. When I whipped around there was no one there.

I felt lightheaded, my chest felt tight and constricted with barely contained panic. I heard a voice beckon me forward calling me “Aria” again and for a terrifying instant I was convinced that they had somehow through all my disguises and I was standing there naked of the identities I had clad myself with. I heard Dasadi ask if I was alright and I felt anger ripple through that panic giving me something to grab hold of. All I had to do was lie. I have breathed lies most of my life. I am a lie. This is ridiculous. No matter what these phantoms think I am not “Aria”.

It isn’t even sound like a male name…

Aster and Saiten closed ranks and Saiten kept a watch behind me to prevent any more distractions. I felt comforted and a minute later contemptuous of my weakness. We stopped at a booth which sold what looked like armoured squid. I am beginning to recognize Saiten’s food preferences from a distance. We stopped and purchased one which he promptly ate with gusto. The merchant supplied Aster and I with some fried sardine like fish in a paper bag which were very crunchy. They gave me something to focus on.

As Aster inquired into the sort of things she generally does Dasadi excused himself to go off on his own. I insisted on following but we hadn’t traveled more than a few steps when we heard Saiten ask the merchant if he had encountered a blond man with a Stryx tattoo and the merchant’s reply that he had.

The merchant told us he had seen a man matching Playton’s description pass through a day ago headed in the direction of air which was coincidentally direction of the prison. We thanked him and continued on. I can’t remember much of the trip through the city. I was so lost in thought that I only realized we had arrived at a tavern near the prison when we stopped walking.

For a bar in a rough part of town it was halfway decent. The bar-tend was civil. Saiten, asked him flat out if he had seen Playton around was the man was surprisingly upfront about their whereabouts. As we made to leave a patron in a corner booth subtly caught our attention. He told us the Barkeep had been talking about the group a lot only recently and to watch our backs.

We all took a moment on the way to discuss with Saiten just how he wants to handle this. To be honest I wasn’t exactly sure what he needed from the Stryx Syndicate. Were I in his shoes I would hunt them down and kill them to the last man. Saiten plays by different rules than I and if he is to close this chapter and put it to rest it should be on his terms.

Saiten said he wanted answers but when he briefed us on how he wanted to phrase his questions it seemed unlikely that we would be leaving without it coming to blows. I hope he’ll be content with spilling Stryx Syndicate blood as that seems to be his path’s logical conclusion.

It was at this point I informed them a little about the radius. I could see Dasadi eyeing me with obvious suspicion but knowing what he’s capable of and not being entirely sure if he’s my enemy it could be a fatal mistake should he be affected.

We arrived at the warehouse in time to watch our quarry walk through the door. It was too easy. With my hearing I could tell there was a large number of people inside but now that Saiten had sighted his target he undoubtedly will take the most direct course.

Actually I didn’t necessarily think it a problem.

I have seen Broken Walls tear through thugs like rice paper and Saiten practically destroy a god and sweep the deck of enemies with nothing but his bare fists. I knew we were walking into a fight. Saiten was probably a match for whatever was on the other side of that door, I just needed to back him up and maybe keep one or two alive enough to answer his questions.

Dasadi looked decidedly uncomfortable. I couldn’t blame him, this sort of approach is decidedly outside of the wheelhouse of people like us and at the end of the day we will probably need to run from the watch. Besides, knowing what was coming it was probably best he didn’t witness what we were most likely about to do. I told him he could stay outside and he gratefully accepted.

We knocked at the door and Aster answered the doorkeeper’s passcode riddle with ease. It was dark in the warehouse. Aster used her power to light up The necklace she wore illuminating the back wall of paper screens. The ambush was on us in moments. I drew my folding fan from my sash and used it to snap arrows from the air. Saiten turned and punched a massive hole in the wall behind us sending it hurdling across the street narrowly missing Dasadi who recovered quickly from his shock to throw what looked like a hundred knives with a single motion of his hand which was odd because I was under the impression he only had 31.

Nimbly dodging arrows, Aster was staying clear of any real harm but I could tell she had shifted off balance. Hoping to earn her a second of respite I stepped in and deflected what blows I could as the blade wielding mob descended. I knew what was coming. Aster threw her arms wide and implored the criminals to stop. That we simply wished to talk. I could see the effect this had on them as for an instant they slackened their pace and almost stopped. Then from the back a new voice yelled something about there “being no choice” because of “It”.

Whatever “It” is it was enough to spur the men back into action. They came at us with swords so I returned the favour, biting the bamboo ends of my fan to points and driving them into their unprotected flesh. Saiten gathered his might about him and grabbing a man he used the knave’s hand as a ram sending the screaming man through his fellows… And I do mean through. It was a gruesome sight made more gruesome still as it was lit by the flare of Saiten’s Mark which stood out like a beacon on his forehead.

Somewhere in Nexus Shalrina is laughing at me.

Aster's Diary 10
Volvat, City of Wonders!

We’ve made it to Volivat, Diary, and what a wonder it is to behold! But I suppose before I start into that I should fill you in on just how we finished getting there!

After our escape from the strange fog and water ships (not to mention the giant crab beast :o ), we did still have some trials ahead of us before we reached our destination. Many of the crew had been injured during the fighting, and two of them had died. The injured were plentiful, but thankfully not too severe; with the more than welcome help I received from both Dasadi and Piper, we were able to get any injured patched up quite well and quickly. It is good to have another who is skilled in medicine travelling with us. Dasadi has been a welcome companion, and not just for his wonderful conversational skills.
One would almost think that he and Piper would get along more easily, but it seems they are not entirely friendly with one another. Both of them seem stoic, intelligent, and prone to solitude. However, neither of them seem terribly quick to trust, which hopefully means they will become better friends when they have had more time to get to know each other :). Like with Saitan, once Piper found common ground, they began to get along quite swimmingly.

Dasadi once again showed his incredible skill once it was time to send off the crew members who had fallen; he had mentioned that he was a mortician before, but his true talent with this was terribly evident when he began to prepare the bodies. I did not wish to disturb his rituals, and nor did I wish to overly expose what I am, but I felt compelled to offer my services in putting the dead to rest. The captain did not seem to object, and Dasadi, though I don’t think I properly prepared him for what I was to do, seemed mostly unoffended. I was able to transfer the crew member’s feelings into personal objects, which we will be able to return to their loved ones once we return to Champoor. The process is… regrettably flashy, but I feel it is worth the risk of exposing myself to allow these poor, brave souls to rest.

We were unscathed for the rest of our trip, but few days after our battle, we were treated to our first example of the Wonders of Volivat: a strange, metal ship, moving without any discernible source of propulsion, and emitting strange noises and gases came to identify and escort our ship towards our destination! It was so entrancing and strange, Diary! I know very little about how it is that such huge things as boats are able to stay afloat in the water, but these were made of metal! I have never, in all of my life, seen such unusual seafaring vessels. I found myself staring at it daily as it rode with us. After a few days of this, however, our fascinating escort left us, and we continued on towards our goal.

Volivat itself is… unlike an city I’ve ever imagined, Diary. coming upon it from the sea, the only way to approach it, as it seems completely surrounded by the water, one can only see the tallest of its spires, poking not far above the waterline. But close to the docks and peer over the short walls that surround the city, and you are greeted with a magnificent sight: the entire city sits in a basin that dips entirely below the water, like a colossal bowl resting in a wash basin! Oh, and the marvels do not end there, Diary. Oh no. To get down to the city from the water’s surface, one rides down the walls in strange, fast-paced contraptions called ‘elevators’! The drop at almost breathtaking speeds, but some trick of craftsmanship does not allow them to fall fast enough that they do themselves or their passengers any harm in doing so! I cannot wait, and can barely begin to imagine what other wonders must be contained within these walls!

But I cannot be too sidetracked with exploring the wonders of Volivat, Diary. We are here on a mission, after all. To that end, we have done some detecting. We were able to ask at the docks and gain the dock number that the ship, the Quail of Brilliant Plumage, at which the man with the Stryx tattoo was on was berthed. Unfortunately, the captain did not know much about the man, beyond his name, Playton, and the fact that he would not be leaving when the ship did, which was good news; we would probably have more time in which to discover his location. We have also gained more information about the city itself from an Inn and Tavern called the Steam Kettle, which is also where we will be sleeping while we are here.

Oh, I know I said I wouldn’t be side tracked again, Diary, but I must tell you about the strange foods and customs we discovered in the tavern! Fish I had never tasted before, and a beautiful, stationary instrument a man in the tavern was playing called the ‘Ten-Father’, which produced sounds not unlike a horn, but also like a flute…. but with multiple notes at once like a lute! I am overjoyed to have learned of its existence.

Speaking of strange, though in this case not exactly wonderful, things, something very odd happened the second time we were to head back to the Inn: a young girl giving away flyers for one of the markets on the street seemed to recognize Piper. Or perhaps I should say that she seemed to recognize ‘Obi’, the man Piper is currently in the guise of. However, the girl called Piper ‘Aria’, I name I have never heard Piper use, and looked like she had just found a long lost sibling. She ran when Piper, quite obviously disturbed by these happenings, did not return the feelings of recognition, and the whole situation was quite perturbing. I am terribly concerned, somewhat for the poor girl, as it may be that she is the victim of some kind of ailment which causes her to see things that are not there, but mostly for Piper.
Piper is withdrawn most of the time, and reticent to speak of the past, but that which I have been privy to leads me to believe that Piper has lost loved ones. Something like this, in which someone seems to believe that they are someone who is close to Piper, might bring up those feelings of loss in Piper, which could be terribly painful. I will do my best to provide whatever comfort I can, but I also do not wish to pry or push.
The other issue that this presents is that of whether or not Piper should change guises. If ‘Obi’ is someone who is recognized here, it might be best to change from him, but that might mean revealing to Dasadi exactly what Piper can do. We have hired Dasadi into our services while we are in Volivat, but I still hesitate to fill him in entirely on who we are; if he is some kind of Dragon Blood, which I doubt, it might be putting my companions in danger. If he is not, he is still clearly some kind of powerful being, which the Immaculate order seems to be against, and his knowing of our true natures could put him into more danger than he is already in. This matter, however, is in Piper’s hands; whether or not Dasadi learns of these abilities should really be up to the one who possesses them.

This night has been enjoyable, but somewhat odd. Separately, one after the other, Dasadi and then Piper both left Saiten and me in the Inn with little explanation. This did afford Saiten and me the opportunity to investigate the city somewhat, however. We spent a few hours finding our way to and browsing in the garment area of the local markets, chatting and perusing the wares there. It is nice to get a chance to spend time with Saiten. On the ship, he spent much of his time up in the rigging, bounding along with Piper. I know him the least well out of those in the Rising Sun House, and I do enjoy his company very much. He strikes me as a very honest, straightforward person, with little ill-will, but a strong sense of justice; I find we get along quite well.
When we returned, we tried out the tea served at the Steam Kettle, which was delightfully different from what I am used to, with the steam seeming to have as much flavour as the drink itself! Of the two that left separately, Piper was the first to return, and shared with us that, by following Dasadi, they had seen a strange man who seemed to vanish from their sight, and sound after a bit of tailing! Piper also seemed to have seen Dasadi vanish some time before this, which is strange as well. When Dasadi returned, he too related this tale, though with no mention of having noticed Piper following him, and no mention of his own disappearance. He seemed to have gone after this man when he believed him to have been keeping too close of an eye on Piper earlier that evening. I am becoming more and more concerned. If we have the time and means, we may want to pursue the mystery of why some of those here seem so interested in Piper, but perhaps it might be wise simply to conclude Saiten’s business and return home to forget it.
We purchased a pair of rooms for the night, one for Dasadi and Saiten, and the other for Piper and me. I know the others do not trust Dasadi yet, and are somewhat protective of me, so this room set up allowed for that and for Piper not to be revealed, as sleeping seems to cancel the form taking. I know Piper usually prefers to not have others see this form, so I will do my best to avert my eyes from it and not add to the stress Piper has already endured. This was evidenced, I suspect, by the amount of care that Piper put into securing our room. I think perhaps I shall sing a lullaby to help us fall asleep, and tomorrow should look brighter after a good night’s rest.

Saiten's Journal 3
Descending Wood 7

This morning, broken walls showed me a kindness. He made me a room in the Rising Sun House. And I want to be clear. He made it. In front of me. I don’t even know how to describe it.
Using nothing but his bare hands, he turned piles of wood into a fully furnished room. With my own door, and windows and everything!

I feel like I’m finally welcome. Finally wanted. Fearing that might change one day, I’ve resolved to train every day. I must continue to press the limits of my new found abilities, and perhaps learn new ones. I won’t let my new friends down.

The task of the day seemed to be meeting with Hatelus to resolve the non aggression pact with Silgur, the Rat god that I met briefly during my first day in Champoor. Everyone from the Rising Sun House gathered in Hatelus’ temple, but I couldn’t help but notice the absence of Piper. He always seemed to be around when important things were happening, but not this time.

Hatelus had drafted a long proposal earlier, and after clarifying a few points, Broken Walls and the others agreed to sign. I couldn’t bring myself to do it though. I’ve only just accepted my roll as a member of the Rising Sun House. Signing my name to official documents this early seems wrong somehow. Regardless of my missing signature, I gave my word that I would adhere to the non aggression pact so long as I was a member of Rising Sun House.

I decided to take the long way home to clear my head. I guess It was my home now. I had my own room at least. Complete with a marking on the door to match the symbol that appears whenever I push myself in combat. I’m not sure why Broken Walls put that there. Maybe to remind me of who I am? Or as a warning to others?

During my walk home, I couldn’t help but intervene in a few confrontations. The usual muggings and robberies. Nothing out of the ordinary, but I did what I could for those that I could. I ended up carrying a couple of injured back to Aster’s clinic for treatment. I’m glad to have her here.

After dropping them off, Piper came and found me. He’s been very curious about me since I arrived, and he’s finally decided to press me about my past. I told him about Nexus, about the fabric trade, and about how I lost my family earlier this year. He seemed remorseful that he had asked, but offered me some knowledge of himself in trade.

Piper is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Or would I know if I had? Piper can make himself appear like anyone. He can change his height, his weight, even his gender as easily as I can put on a new set of clothing. It makes me wonder how often I’ve been in his presence without even knowing it. He told me he likes to change identities frequently, and that he has a signal that he uses to identify himself to the others. I’m not going to say what that signal is, but it’s subtle.

After our talk, Piper showed me how to play Shogi. It’s kind of like Chess, but with tiles. I wasn’t very good at it. After losing several times, I decided to go for a run to cool off before going to bed in my new room. Did I mention I have a new room? I like it a lot.

After sleeping in my new room, I quickly decided that I’m going to need a mattress. While Broken Walls is fantastic at wood work, he doesn’t do fabrics. And my bed roll is not as comfortable as I would have thought when rolled out on an empty bed frame. With Aster’s help, I was able to aquire one in the morning. Shortly after my morning training regime, of course.

The day itself was mostly uneventful. I helped a few people while on patrol, but nothing really out of the ordinary. The real excitement came in the evening.

In the paperwork that Hatelus had brought forth earlier, The rising sun house and Kahi house would be merging in order to bring them under the protection of the non aggression pact. As such, there was a large celebration at Kahi house. I felt a little guilty at attending such a celebration, but it was made clear to me that I was a guest of honor, and it was important for me to be there.

There was dancing, and drinking, and music, and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time.
I was even approached by some women, wanting to be regaled at how I defeated the infamous Silgur single handedly. I told them how I ran at him and punched him a bunch, but they didn’t seem all that impressed. Broken Walls must have heard my story, because he immediately stepped in and told them “How it really happened”. I didn’t really notice much of a difference in how he said it compared to my story, but the women sure did. They barely left me alone for the rest of the night!

Eventually, the music died down, and the leaders of Kahi House and Rising sun house started their signing ceremony, to make the merging of houses official. The key members of the houses were called upon to sign, and I was one of them. I truly am a member of the Rising Sun House now.

The night waged on, but somehow I managed to find my way back to my bed. I felt like I had barely slept when I woke up.
After my morning training, I decided to head to the docks for my morning patrol. I hadn’t been back to them since I had arrived in the city, and felt like I was neglecting it from my patrols. The docks were no different from everywhere else I had been in the city though. Muggings and shoplifts, pick pockets, and thugs. This really isn’t a nice city.

I was just starting of thinking to head back, when something caught my eye. A tattoo of a giant Strix, down the arm of a man leaving port. I couldn’t believe my eyes. That tattoo…It was the same tattoo that Hannus had. The man that had helped murder my family had returned from the grave! Except it wasn’t him. It couldn’t be him. His hair was different for one, but I had pushed Hannus from the top of Palenquin! Nobody could have survived that fall. I mean, I did, but that’s different.
His tattoo was the same though. I’ll never forget that Tattoo. I had burned the Image of Mithrus Red and Hannus into my memory after they murdered my family. Whoever had a tattoo that perfect must have been involved with them.

His ship was too far out for me to catch them, but I quickly found the harbour master, and found out where it was going. The boat’s name was the Quail of Brilliant Plumage, captained by Eric Donyard. And they were sailing to Volivat. I knew that I could probably book passage on a ship leaving soon, but that wouldn’t be fair to my new friends. I decided to seek Broken Walls council. If I were to head to Volivat, maybe Broken Walls could help somehow.

I came clean to him. I told him everything. About my family, Mithrus, Hannus, Palenquin, the fall, everything. He told me that if I wanted to go to Volivat, he would do everything in his power to get me there as safely and as quickly as possible, but he couldn’t come with me. Having just signed the house merger and the treaty with Silgur, there was too much in Champoor for him to do. He told me to talk to the others though. They might be of assistance.

So I came clean to the others as well. If I were to ask them for help, they should know why they’re helping me. I told Piper first, and it’s a good thing I did. He’s a crafty one. He told me he would gather information on the Quail of Brilliant Plummage, it’s captain, and the tattoo that I had thought only Hannus had. I had barely said thank you before he had darted out into the streets looking for answers.

Aster was quick to offer her assistance. She offered to come with me before I even asked. It nearly brought me to tears at how much these people cared about me.

It wasn’t long before Piper returned. He had learned little more than I had, except that the tattoo was known to be used in a syndicate that operated out of Volivat. That was enough for me. We brought Broken walls up to speed, and he promised to build us a boat to carry us to Volivat.
He left quickly after that, to gather materials to make the ship. The rest of us gathered provisions for the trip.

Broken walls never came home that night. If it weren’t for the fact that I knew he was a competent warrior, I might have been worried.

Piper's Journal 10
In Which we arrive in Volivat

Descending Wood 12 – Cont.

The second ship seemed to assess our tiny vessel with more caution and held back as they marshaled their forces giving us a moment’s respite from the fight. I helped the most injured crew members below decks only to discover water seeping through the cracked timbres of our vessel. Other sailors were quick to tell me how I could assist but the brunt of the actual work fell to them as they placed wedges and tied ropes at a furious pace. A call from above told me we were attempting to come alongside the remaining ship and I hastened above deck. The enemy ship outmaneuvered our injured ship at every turn and I began to fear that they would come at us again and ram our small vessel to splinters. It seemed to me that should that happen we would perish. I doubted that these creatures intended to take us as prisoners or even that human beings could walk the deck of their strange ship. No matter how well we could fight our lives depended on our ship and our ship was obviously outmatched by this vile sorcerous construction. Just when a second sortie seemed inevitable, a massive claw like that belonging to a giant crab burst from the ocean’s surface and crushed the tail of the enemy ship before ensnaring it in clear tentacles, drawn to the surface, I think, by the dead bodies of our foes.

I begin to have a rather mixed opinion of sailing.

We sailed as fast as an injured vessel crewed by terrified mortals could away from that place. For an hour we ran until we felt reasonably sure that both our enemies and the creature were far behind us. I heard more than one crew member murrmur some prayer or another in thanks for our deliverance. If I had a friendly god to pray to in thanks I might have. Sadly most of the ones I’ve met have soured me on my spiritual prospects.

The detested task of cleaning up after the fight continued through the night though the crew was so weary I wondered if they would drop where they stood. I followed Aster and Dasadi into the infirmary where I lent my assistance, partly because I was interested in what Dasadi had to say in response to questions about the extraordinary abilities he had displayed. I didn’t have to ask many questions as Aster in her insatiable and good spirited curiosity grilled him on virtually everything I might have asked. Dasadi himself seemed to mildly insist that his powers were inside the range of a mortal sorcerer.


There is no way a mortal man can muster that much power that quickly. I might be a new initiate to the ways of the occult but I’m not a fool. Scrutinizing his answers closely I actually believe him when he doesn’t claim to be a fire aspect Dragon-blood. That leaves another interesting option. If he was something Imperials would term anathema then he would be wise not to spread word around of his true nature. That could account for his skittishness. I cannot rely on that being the most obvious reason for not being completely honest with us. Just because he is not a Dragon-blood does not mean he isn’t a potential agent of the immaculate regime. I feel out of my depth at judging this newcomer and find myself wishing Chaoxi was here as I feel certain she would have some insights to share. I barely know what I am much less what other so called “enemies of creation” might fall under Imperial prosecution and whether “the enemy of my enemy” truly can be counted on to be my friend.

Descending Wood 13 – Rites

Today we held the funerals of the two crewmen who perished in the fighting yesterday. Dasadi lead a brief but formal sounding service before Aster used the gold fire she wields to dispose of the bodies which handily meant we didn’t need to tip them overboard with that giant crab-beast only half a day behind us. This is my third time seeing these gold flames and every time I wonder more and more about them. I theorize this fire can only be used for the purpose of cremating bodies as I have never seen Broken Walls or Aster use it on an actual living creature.

While I may have grown comfortable or at least desensitized, enough with witnessing this peculiar rite, Dasadi was obviously perturbed by the display of power. I can’t blame him, I’m not sure how I would feel about having my corpse disposed of this way. I suppose I really should talk to my allies about what they should do in the event of my death just in case. I’d hate to think of the consequences that might arise if Radius were not properly disposed of after I am gone.

After the funerals I overheard Aster tell Dasadi a bit about her “light”. Thankfully her explanation is largely incomprehensible under the best of conditions. If it wasn’t obvious to Dasadi that Aster and Saiten are more than mortal after these last two days than he knows it now. He seemed as clueless after asking Aster as he was before he asked. He seemed to levy some discreet inquiries into who she is in my direction. I told him it was best if he didn’t think too hard on it. I suppose I should resign myself to having to explain away the unusual natures of my companions as I am the only one who doesn’t flaunt abilities so outside the scope of the mortal sphere.

Dasadi’s involvement with us is like an itch I can’t scratch though I suppose it is not so terribly dire. The truth of the matter is there could have been any number of spies amoungst the crew already. If that’s the case we may find ourselves in hot water since discretion is not highly valued by my companions.

Descending Wood 18 – Strange Ships

The last few days have been uneventful. We have more or less resumed our normal routines but they have become rather monotonous. I sleep, I eat dull food , I eavesdrop on Desadi (Who is so guarded he has little of interest to say), I play my flute and the game of Shogi I brought aboard and I train with Saiten. In the beginning it was relaxing but since the mood on the ship has been morose since the battle and there has been little new to amuse myself with I find myself pining for action.

During this time We did see a curious sight. A Volivat ship came to escort us. Usually this might not have captured my interest but the ship from Volivat is like nothing any of us have seen. They are made almost entirely of metal, have no sails and make a curious continuous hissing noise. They do not seem to be at the mercy of the wind and have bizarre chimney like pipes that belch medicinal smelling smoke. We speculated that it is probably run by some sort of sorcery but since these newcomers seem to be providing us with an escort for our protection there seems little to fear. I have halted doing anything too unusual in the sight of these outsiders to some personal pain. Saiten is continuing on as he always does but I guess I never truly suspected that he would change his habits. Our Escort remained with us for two uneventful days until today they sighted another Volivat ship on the horizon and signalling them with a fire work turned and headed back out to sea.

There seems to be a line between relaxing and boredom that I’ve crossed. I begin to feel restless. I wish I could sleep out in the sun without exposing my unnatural peculiarity. Below deck smells increasingly like the unwashed bodies of the crew and is stuffy during the day. I’ve re-read my book three times and feel like I am running out of things to think about and am ruminating on old topics until I cannot bear my own mind. Thankfully we reach Volivat tomorrow. On our return journey I shall need to remember to bring some more things to do. This confinement is practically intolerable!

Descending Wood 19 – Volivat

Today we reached Volivat though it was at first rather difficult to figure out if we were in the right place. At first all we saw were a number of towers which raised out of the sea with no sign of coastline much less a city. We were told that though our captain had never been to Volivat before that this matches the co-ordinates of where it should be. Sharping my senses I could hear the sounds of countless voices and other noises that told me that our eyes could not be fully trusted. We could not be far from our destination and having spent a few days mulling over the options I put forward something to the others that they hadn’t considered.

I told them I believed we should hire Dasadi.

It is an idiot’s folly but I am left with few options. Considering his field of knowledge I don’t doubt he at least has some suspicions about the nature of my friends. I wish I could act decisively but unfortunately I am far too unsure of this stranger’s allegiances. I try not to kill people simply because they are in my way if I have no proof that they are my enemy. I am a detestable creature but I’ve killed enough people I regret to know that shedding innocent blood is not my purpose.

Dasadi accepted our proposal easily without any hesitation and asked few questions. I don’t know of a spy alive who wouldn’t accept the offer to remain to observe their target so closely but keeping him alongside means I have more time to assess him and he will have less opportunity to slip away and report us. I doubt under the current conditions he will try to leave until he gets a more definitive read on what we are. That is assuming of course he is our enemy. There are more intriguing prospects to be had if I can count him as an ally.

It is a dangerous game and only a matter of time before the game is up. Saiten even slipped and called me “Piper” within Dasadi’s hearing. I suppose it doesn’t much matter as only a handful of people know me by that alias. I admit I have borne it long enough to gain a certain sentimentality towards using it but should push come to shove I could give it up and adopt something new. It is strange… when I think about it, only people whom I respect, who know of my power, have called me “Piper”. There is a strange difference rendered by that. I’ve even started thinking of myself as “Piper”.

I guess, on reflection, I would be rather loathe to surrender that identity.

We were lead into a dock by a pilot ship and were met by officials with whom we cleared our credentials as a trading vessel. As we disembarked we headed through one of the customs ports and]had our first view of Volivat.

For reasons (and means) I cannot fathom Volevat lies in a depression in the sea floor with nothing but seemingly rather low walls to stop water from cascading in and drowning the city. I say “low walls” but in reality they are only low in that they rise only a short distance from the water’s surface. As the city itself lies several fathoms beneath the sea the city gives the impression of being in a vast box canyon with sheer, almost fully vertical walls most of the way down. It was a dizzying sight. Even I have never been so high up. We were told to go to an “ellevaytor” by a guard which we were informed was a sort of moving platform that we were told would take us to the city.

I don’t believe any of us were necessarily prepared for the trip down. The guard pulled the lever and the platform fell at a startling pace. No so fast as if we had jumped off the walls but certainly faster than I anticipated. We were told later that the contraption is run by some sort of alchemical reaction and a number of cables and other works. I cannot really picture how it functions but the marvel of it is so far out of my comprehension that I feel as though I have crossed over into another world.

The contrast of Volivat from Champoor is startling. The public buildings here are well maintained and well armed guards walk the streets at regular intervals. There is an almost threatening efficiency with which the city runs. Our first chore was to visit the harbour authority and asked the harbour Master for the mooring point of our quarry “the Quail of Brilliant Plumage”. I was surprised. With no bribe and barely any coersion they gave us the information promptly and with little fuss.

I am so rarely impressed by the elegance of a bureaucracy.

On the one hand I am relieved to see this aspect of Volivat after our time spent in Champoor but on the other hand I cannot completely forget that I will likely fall on the opposing spectrum of this authority. I do not know what Saiten will do if we find whom we are searching for but in all likelihood some poor public servant will be scraping the bastard off the walls. Doubtless the law will take issue with that.

We stopped in at a public house that the guards had recommended and were treated to curious entertainment and an equally curious meal. A massive series of pipes connected to a strange board and two pedals served as an instrument and was played by a single man. The use of his hands reminded me of a koto player but instead of strings he depressed small boards which seemed each tuned to a specific note which sounded everything from deep resonating notes to shrill high pitched reedy ones. It sounded somewhat like a woodwind orchestra which was confusing. Air must pass through the pipes to create the sound but how does he martial that much wind? I could see Aster was as delighted by the instrument as I was perplexed by the odd stew I had ordered that I was told was a house specialty. It was called “Tenfather stew” and I cannot recommend it. It was edible but was more exotic then I was expecting.

We headed to the Quail after lunch and after an exhilarating ellevaytor ride we were back up at Sea level. We spoke to the Captain of the Quail and at least got some reward for our trouble. We learned the man we had saw was named “Peyton” and that he had disembarked with no plans to return. No one on the ship knew much about him as he seemingly kept to himself.

On the way back down I had a conversation with the operator of the ellevaytor and learned that slavery is illegal here in Volivat. Well, considering we are searching for an organization that deals in slaves our investigation will need to start digging into the illicit underbelly of a city with a vigilant set of public servants employed against that sort of thing. I don’t relish that. I am an outsider here and too ignorant of even the basics of this strange place to hope to pass for a local. The guard we spoke to was quite clear that there are aspects of this place which defy any convention I know of. There was something he said about every citizen having “ten fathers” which make very little sense. He implied he meant it literally which I can only imagine means the women here are all exceedingly polyandrous or that they are all looked after by a person with the title of “ten father” much like one might use the term “GodFather”. To be on the safe side I may abstain from any female disguises until I know the implications of this custom better.

Aster's Diary 9
A journey on the high sea!

Our sea journey has begun, Diary! When we woke the morning after Saiten’s request, Broken Walls had created for us a magnificent ship. I have never travelled by ship before, but I have seen many at the docks in the City of the Steel Lotus, and this one I thin rivalled the loveliest of them. He has named it “Saiten’s Revenge”, which I do feel is a somewhat more aggressive name than I would have chosen for such a thing of beauty, and has mounted a ramming fist on the prow. I am continually pleased with the lengths that Broken Walls has gone to in order to help his companions; the ship he has created for Saiten is has some personal touches that seem almost like a show of affection.
Our goodbyes were necessarily, but unfortunately far too brief. We have already left days behind the ship we follow. I am going to miss my companions, Chaoxi with her friendly smile and Broken Walls with his gruff exterior, but increasingly kind interior, but I also think I will miss quite deeply the city of Champoor. It has a vibrancy that can be seen beneath the hopelessness; if we were able to bring hope back to the people, bring them stability, I think it could be beautiful again.
It’s nice to have a place to come back to again as well. I’ve been travelling for so long, that it’s refreshing to have an anchor, a place that I will come back to, perhaps the first place in quite some time.

The trip itself has been… a breath of fresh air, so far. Oh, to be able to smell, breath the sea air again, Diary. In Champoor, so many other smells mingle with the sea air that it’s very unlike what I had been used to. Out on the Dreaming Sea, I feel…. relaxed. I know that this refresh will allow me to bring this light back to the people of Champoor when we return. Piper and Saiten seem to be feeling the effects of this reprieve as well; their daily routine has them bounding about the rigging like two birds flitting about in the trees. There is something joyful about it that fills me with a great contentment; seeing their blossoming friendship is heartening, especially when it comes to Piper. I worry about how much time that Piper spends alone, and it nice to see this playfulness with another. Piper even initiates games with Saiten, and agrees to Saiten’s.
Not that it’s been all fun and games and restfulness, Diary, Oh no! On my 17th birthday, which occurred a few days out into the trip, a beautiful little bird, who seemed to be made of fire rather than feathers, came to our ship and landed on my finger! Its little voice sung like a crackling fire, cheery and warming. It flew back and forth from my hand to some other place away from the ship a few times, as if to ask us to follow it, and the captain was kind enough to allow us to indulge. It was a mercy that we did too, Diary, because it seems the little bird wished us to find a man clinging to life at the scene of a shipwreck!
It seems his name is Dasadi, and, besides being in a shipwreck, he has also lost his memory of the past few weeks! The last thing he remembers is being in a village riddled with a terrifying plague that causes the body’s skeleton to become animate! He has some medical training, and seems to be unaffected by the disease himself, but I will of course keep an eye on his health. He does have some old burn scars on his arms, and seemed unwilling to speak about their cause, but he seems otherwise quite healthy, despite the time in the water.
Dasadi says he is a mortician, and has been travelling from Sijan, so we’ve been trading travelling stories over the past few days. He also has extensive knowledge of spirits, so I’ve been gathering information from him about the gods. I think he plans on continuing on from Volivat rather than coming back with us to Champoor, but I do think he’d be quite the asset if we could convince him otherwise.

Our trip was not all fun and games, however. The ship was attacked! Two terribly strange ships, one made of fog, and the other seemingly of water, came out of the sea mists! Bizarre creatures made of brass and kelp rode atop (and inside!) of them! Our courageous captain made a valiant effort to escape their clutches, but even with my encouragement, the light of our crew was unable to outrun their dark intentions. The fog ship was able to come upon us, and deposited some of the kelp-men on our deck. The stranger thing, perhaps, that resulted from this clash was the revealing of Dasadi’s magical abilities; when their ship attached to ours, he unleashed a brilliant gout of flame, like a host of firebirds, which descended on the fog ship and evaporated it entirely! While we did still need to dispatch the kelp creatures, the brass ones on the ship fell into the water below the ship.

I am unsure as to exactly what Dasadi is now. His magical abilities are astounding, and although he is definitely skilled with fire, I don’t think he could be a Dragon Blood; Chaoxi swirls with her element when she invokes her power, but Dasadi only burned the other ship, and did not ignite, himself. Is he a god, perhaps? but then why would he hide this fact from us? There is so much of this world that is new to me.

The battle did not end with the destruction of the first ship, however. But, we weren’t the ones to finish it! Just when the second ship was to come upon us, a great sea creature, larger than any beast I have ever seen, erupted from the sea, its crab-like claw snatching the members of the water ship! We were able to outrun the both of them while they were entangled with one another. What a thrilling adventure we’ve had so far!

Saiten's Journal 2
Descending Wood 5

Shortly after being asked to stay with them, I was quickly put to work by the members of the Rising Sun House. We had made a bit of a mess during the battle, and they needed help cleaning up. I did what I could, but I felt I was getting in the way more than I was actually helping.

Aster approached me after most of the mess had been taken care of, asking if I’d like to help her in her clinic.
I couldn’t do much to help Aster. I’d fetch clean water and cloth for her as needed. I’d put pressure on wounds to slow the bleeding when called upon, but I am no doctor. I stayed as long as she needed me though. I saw it as an opportunity to get to know her better. Everything about her seems….pure? It’s as if the filth of the world hasn’t touched her at all, which is fitting, because I don’t think I’ve seen her with a spec of dirt on her yet. She seems to care about every one and every thing. It reassures me that these people that I’ve chosen to stay with are good people.

Once finished in the clinic, I decided that If I were to stay in Champoor, I should start patrolling regularly. I set off into the city to see what evils I could stop, and whom I may help. Along the city streets, I saw many things. Traders and merchants were flogging their wares. People were busily shopping, and hustling around. It wasn’t long before I found a woman cornered in an alley, being threatened by a thug. I quickly disarmed him and sent him on his way. The woman thanked me before heading back into the street.

Content that I had made a difference, I headed back to the Rising Sun House, just in time for dinner. Chaoxi had prepared a stew, and it smelled wonderful. As I sat down for my first of many bowls, I was reminded of my mothers stew. I’m never going to taste that stew again, am I? I tried to shake off the memory as best I could. I can’t change what happened, but I can do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else, ever again.

After dinner, I retired to my tent. The morning will come all too soon, and a hero needs rest if he is to make a difference in the world.

The next morning, as I was donning my uniform, I could hear somebody walking towards the house. I poked my head outside my tent, and saw a very well dressed bureaucrat of some sort. He asked me if I knew where broken walls might be. I told him that everyone should be inside, as I hadn’t heard anyone come out yet. He nodded and continued on.

After I had finished my morning routine of 100 push ups, 100 Sit-ups, and 100 squats, I left the encampment for my morning run. I figured I could patrol while doing it. Good to see the city at all different hours of the day.

I had been out for not even an hour though, before I came upon a bloody scene. A mugging must have gone bad, because there was a bloody man laying at the side of the street, with two men hovering over him. Smelling foul play, I dispatched them with ease. The man was badly injured. He had a stab wound in the gut, and would surely die if left to his own devices.

Without missing a beat, I picked him up and ran back to the Rising Sun House as fast as I could. It couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes before I burst through the entry way. Everyone inside turned to look at me. I had interrupted a meeting of sorts with the well dressed bureaucrat.
When Aster saw me, she knew why I had come. She brought us into the clinic and started working on the man. As she busily cleaned and dressed his wound, I could hear the others taking in the other room. I could make out something about gods, and negotiating a deal, but I couldn’t hear much else over the man’s groans.

Once Aster had stabilized the man the man, she asked me if I’d like to join her in gathering medical supplies. I agreed, and so she and I set out together. It wasn’t long into our travels though, that I found myself again stopping another confrontation. I could tell Aster wasn’t pleased at how I had stopped it, but she didn’t voice her opinion. Truthfully, I think she was thankful that I hadn’t killed anyone. It takes great restraint for me to not accidentally hit somebody too hard, or in the wrong place. I think she understands that. Still, I will try harder to not to hurt those that I don’t need to.

We had to pass through Mauk’s gate on the way to the upper side of the city. There were men collecting a toll, but didn’t seem like they were there in any official capacity. Aster must have sensed my discomfort at this, because she had calmed me, and managed to convince me to pay both her toll and my own before I got confrontational with the men.

She took me towards a tavern, and told me that she’d need to stay here a little while to build up funds for her supplies. I stuck around for a bit, and watched her sing for tips. She has a beautiful voice. It matches her very well.

After an hour or so, I went out to patrol the local area. It wasn’t long before I saw a street brawl between two gangs. I leapt into action, landing roughly in the middle of the group. I knocked a few of them down before declaring “NOBODY ELSE NEEDS TO GET HURT TODAY. GO HOME!”. The group, seeing how quickly I had disabled their comrades, dispersed.

Aster was wrapping up her performance by the time I returned to the tavern. She seemed content with the amount she had acquired, and soon had us in and out of her supply store. I helped carry her supplies as we returned to the house.

Having enough for the day, we retired for the evening.

The next day, I was startled to find out that Piper, the soldier I had met after the battle, was still here. It appears that he is also gifted. Not like myself, but in a much more curious, and perhaps dangerous way. He can make himself look like anyone. As easily as I can break a face, he can make a new one. New clothes, new voice, new hair. Everything about him, it seems like he can control. Have I even met the real Piper? If I did, would I even know?

He was very curious about me. We talked for several hours, speaking on a range of subjects. One of them being about the fight that brought me to Rising Sun House to begin with. They were fighting Silgur, a Giant rat, and his minions. What I didn’t know, what that he was a rat god. To think that I had scared off a god with such ease… What are the limits to my power? Will I ever face a challenge worthy of me?

In the afternoon, the prime members of the Rising Sun House went to go meet with the well dressed bureaucrat from earlier. It seems that while he was indeed a bureaucrat, he was no ordinary one. He was actually a god! Hatellus was a god of finance and contracts, but a god none the less. The meeting was to address some details of a cease fire with the rat god, Silgur. It all seemed to go over my head for the most part. I’ve never been too good with contracts, or the fine details of negotiations, but Broken walls seemed like he had a good handle on things.

Before we left, Hatellus mentioned not to stay out too late, as people had been disappearing on the streets at night. Everyone seemed to roll their eyes at this, seemingly having known about it before. How could they turn such a blind eye to something so horrible? I couldn’t help but make my stand. I was going to find out what was going on out there!

Broken walls and the others finally decided to join me on my stakeout, but only after pleading with them. The Joke was on me, however. The night passed uneventfully. I was hoping for a fight.

Piper's Journal 9

Decending Wood 8 -The Voyage Begins

We arrived early in the morning to the dock where Broken Walls waited next to the ship he had purpose built for our journey to Volivat. The quality of the workmanship is what I have come to expect from the man which is to say excellent. How does his power to craft these structures so quickly actually work? Does he channel his essence through inert matter as I do when I assess the lethal potential of an object or is his energy channeled through his body which he then used to shape wood and metal to his whim? There is so much I do not know about the powers we possess. Do they come about as a matter of our needs or are they a reflection of something deeper about us that we cannot control? Broken Walls seems driven to impose his will over his surroundings including the people around him. Did living without a level of agency over his life for so long cultivate his power that way or did he set out to learn it? Aster’s power is somewhat more subtle. She is an excellent healer which given her compassion for every creature she encounters makes sense but I am not sure how much of those abilities are supernatural. Her voice seems to have some strange power but is that simply because she enjoys singing so much or is there something more to it? Saiten hasn’t exhibited any particularly strange abilities aside from being exceedingly adept at hand to hand combat. I suppose all he requires is sheer martial prowess to achieve his aims.

After some exceedingly brief farewells Saiten, Aster and Myself along with the Kahii house crew and a few of the Rising Sun employees left on the newly christened ship the “Saiten’s Revenge”. Thankfully Broken Walls hasn’t written that on the hull! The ship itself seems to have some artistic flourishes inspired by Saiten himself including an iron fist on the bowsprit in place of a figurehead. The accommodations were sparse and sadly communal. Broken Walls did include one bunk I believe intended for me with curtains for privacy. It was surprisingly thoughtful of him. Mind you I am still rather sore regarding his treatment of me as of late. A curtain is not a perfect guarantee for privacy but it is at least something. My newest disguise was chosen to have similar hair and skin tone to my morning form. If someone does attempt to wake me when I sleep then a cursory inspection in the poor lighting conditions of the hold might not reveal that anything is amiss. I have dubbed this newest alias “Obi” and I have made him a purposely shady looking character. I am hoping that it will encourage the upright citizens crewing the boat to keep their distance.

,p>I scaled the shrouds and found a place to observe Champoor as we left the harbour. The sailors cursed me for getting in their way and we traded a few insults but I felt strangely lighthearted. Once we were a short ways from land the odd quality of the sunlight around Champoor lifted and the actual sunlight beat down on my skin making me feel pleasantly warm and the brisk breeze off the Dreaming Sea smelt of clean saltwater instead of rotting fish and garbage.

My time was my own and I had nothing particular to do. I dozed in the sun on the cross spar for a time, careful not to actually fall asleep but enjoying the feeling of the sun and wind. Aster started singing some kind of sailing shanty that the other sailors were familiar with and they sang with her. Saiten trained a bit on the deck and then joined me in the rigging for some exercise in climbing and balance. He is quite athletic. Seventh Dawn also joined us. She managed, albeit clumsily. That evening I finished reading my book on spirits and went back to the first chapter to try and make sense of the first few principles it outlined. I feel I have barely scratched to surface. There are some techniques it outlines in the second chapter about opening one’s mind to the unseen world. A lot of the methods it describes seem somehow counter intuitive. It will require practice and I feel the skills behind the techniques will not come naturally to me. At least I have time to master them.

Descending Wood 10 – At Sea

This morning Aster approached me and gleefully informed me that it was her Birthday. I am not sure what she was expecting of me. My experience with birthday celebrations were mostly of lavish parties for patrons or members of the court. The simpler affairs my family celebrated are distant memories. I remember they had some things in common: one- Special foods and two – gifts. With no preparation to procure a supplies before setting sail and no skill in making things I could not deliver on either of those two expectations. When I asked what Aster if she would like me to do anything for her she assured me that she didn’t expect us to do anything on her behalf. She was simply happy that it was her birthday regardless of there being no celebration expected or planned.

She is perplexing sometimes.

In the afternoon a peculiar bird flew over the boat and perched on Aster’s finger to her obvious delight. It was a small bird like a finch but it appeared to burn as though it were on fire. Aster assured us it was only warm to the touch and petted it fondly. It made a sound like the high pitched hiss of burning wood resin and then flew away only to repeat the exercise only a few moments later. Aster reasoned that it was trying to get us to follow it. It seemed a logical conclusion as it always went in the same direction though we noted the angle changed rather rapidly indicating a point close by.

I was not perfectly inclined to follow the bird though I was curious what a bird made of fire was doing in the middle of the ocean on a rainy day. It seemed reasonable that it could be a trap to lure the boat into dangerous waters but Aster seemed entranced by it and it was obvious to see that she desired nothing more to follow it. One cannot forget it was her birthday…

I spoke to the captain who asked Saiten what he wanted to do and our plans to follow the bird were established amoungst the crew. It wasn’t long before we found signs of a recent shipwreck. There was only one survivor. Ghostly pale and clinging to a board gripping a pack, barely conscious as he floated adrift amidst the wreckage. We hauled him aboard and he came to quickly. He introduced himself as “Dasadi” . When questioned about how he ended up in the middle of the Sea he claimed to have no memories of the last two weeks prior. Perhaps he is a smuggler or pirate or something and doesn’t want to admit wrongdoing but as lies go it is sub par. I am a little suspicious of him since we didn’t just happen on him by chance but were lead to him by some sort of illusion or spirit. It is possible he has been planted in our midst to soften us up for capture or some other terrible fate. For his part he acted the role of the hapless victim convincingly. He seemed or pretended not to be aware of the bird leading us to him but didn’t seem surprised. He said “Thank Ishul” when we told him of it which I suppose is some sort of patron god or something.

Dasadi told us he was an exorcist and healer and the last thing he remembered doing was combating an outbreak of the puppeteer plague in a village called Zigma’s Tree. I have heard of this disease from the old tales. The bones gain minds of their own and rip free from their hosts to terrify the living. Aster gave him the once over to be sure but if he has symptoms it may be too early to tell. He repeatedly assured us that he could pull his own weight on the ship though in my opinion whether he does or doesn’t is of little consequence. We can’t very well throw him off now and none amongst us will starve because we have one more mouth to feed.

Aster spirited him in front of the fire and fetched him a blanket, dry clothes and food and proceeded, as is her way, to interrogate him thoroughly about personal minutia. Our new guest seemed willing enough to answer most of her questions accept about how he received the rather considerable amount of burn scarring on his arms. Nothing too unusual there. While in most cases people are often proud to show off a scar if it raises odd questions or serves as a reminder for traumatic memories scars can be a terrible nuisance. To be burned so thoroughly must have hurt tremendously.

Eventually our guest, exhausted from his ordeal, tied his pack to his wrist with a length of rope and hanging up his sopping wet clothes went swiftly to sleep. Aster and Saiten went above decks while I took an opportunity to learn a little more about this odd fellow. My companions are too quick to trust and in cases such as this I feel I need be cautious in their stead. I checked to make sure he was soundly asleep before going through his clothes. I found him very well armed, mostly with throwing weapons. There was a large lump of dissolving salt in one of his pockets which would be expected of an exorcist and some halfway decent chain mail which was already beginning to rust. When I went for the pack I must have touched the rope and even that small sensation woke Dasadi. Before I even was aware he was awake he seized me by the wrist. Fast reflexes and out of a dead sleep too. Interesting. He seemed willing enough to let the matter slide and took less offense than I might have were I in his situation. He let me go, moved his pack into a less accessible spot and feigned sleep.

Our new guest has all the hallmark wariness of one used to living dangerously and is well armed to boot. Curious.

Descending Wood 11- New Acquaintances

First thing in the morning Dasadi took me aside and offered up his pack for my inspection. As a move to prove his honesty it is a little lacking. If he had anything incriminating inside beforehand he would have had ample time to find someplace to stash it. At least that is what I would have done. I took the opportunity to look through the pack anyway. The contents certainly seemed to back up his story about being an exorcist. Many of his belongings seemed ruined by exposure to saltwater which was a nice touch. We had a brief chat wherein he told me that all he wants to to get back to what he was doing before he was sent adrift. I almost believe him. The outlandish nature of his memory loss is simply too convenient. If he is covering up some sort of illicit activity that doesn’t effect us then he is welcome to keep his secrets. Otherwise only time will tell.

I was content to let the matter drop for the moment and resumed passing my time by doing some training. I have finished my study of the book and continue to attempt to see past the veil of the physical world but since I am not sure there are spirits around to begin with I have no idea whether I have been successful or not. I also spent some time with Saiten excising in the ship’s rigging. It is an ideal space for keeping my skills sharp and I enjoy the feeling of being up so high with nothing to obscure my view of the sparkling horizon.

It is almost like flying.

I must say that there is something refreshing about his trip that I had not expected. For years I have always been preoccupied with a long list of tasks to do requiring careful planning. On the road I slept lightly, focusing on survival. Here there is nothing to do but rest and train. Perhaps I should seek to spend some time to rest at some point. I may have spent too much time in the company of my enemies. If my life is really going to be as long as Broken Walls says perhaps I can take time to reflect and relax.

Descending Wood 12- Smoke on the Water

I suppose all travel has it’s dangers. Our journey by sea had been pleasant so far with mild weather and a crew kept in good spirits by Aster’s enthusiasm and song. I have until this point enjoyed my first time sailing but today I realized just how vulnerable we are out here.

It was a slow beginning to the day. For a change from our regular exercise I decided to play a game of chase with Saiten. I had expected us to be fairly matched but to my shame after he caught me I could not tag him back. I suppose if I had gone all out I might have had a chance but even then it would have been no easy task. Dasadi had been keeping too sharp an eye on me for me to do anything that eclipses the ability of a mortal but perhaps one day we may have the opportunity for a rematch.

We had been at it for nearly an hour when a fog bank appeared on the horrizon and Dasadi grew agitated. He spoke to the captain about a ship in the fog and of impending attack. It wasn’t long before the aggressors hove into veiw. There were not one but two boats, the first seemingly made of condensed fog and crewed by strange bronze creatures and the other made of water in which strange beasts covered in kelp floated. Fair Folk. Splendid.

Our captain piled on the sail and tried to outrun the beasts but they were dogged in their chase. Aster whispered what sounded like encouragement in our captain’s ear and continued to do so as hour after hour the boats raced across the calm waters of the Dreaming Sea. I began to understand that there was something else at work than just Aster cheering him on. Her voice’s strange power was working on the man making him somehow more adept. I tried to encourage the men similarly by playing my repertoire of naval songs, most of which I have learned from Aster but I know I cannot inspire them in the same way she can. After eight grueling hours at the chase Aster collapsed, her face almost as ashen as Dasadi’s. I begged her to rest and save her strength for the battle but she would not be deterred. As soon as she was able she was back on her feet and at it again.

It was hopeless.

These uncanny boats were simply too fast and maneuverable compared to our mortal craft of timber and rope. One of the crafts rammed us and the force of the blow knocked my feet out from me and knocked the wind from me as I crashed into a wooden capstan. I was dazed, trying to get my feet under me as I coughed and wheezed when a brilliant red flash drew my eye. Dasadi stood amidships his hand splayed as light gathered into a gleaming birdlike shape and shot like an arrow into the ship of fog igniting in a explosive roar which shook the timbers of our ship. This is sorcery beyond anything I have ever seen. I suspect he is more than mortal, perhaps some sort of fire aspect Dragon blood. I was glad he was on our side as the blast sunk the ship and threw the metal men aboard into the water where they swiftly sank halving the number of foes which lept aboard our vessel.

Kelp covered savages flooded on board from the remaining ship striking us hard and fast. A number of them scrabbled at me where I lay, their sharp claws piercing the essence infused clothing I wore to rake my flesh as I struggled under the onslaught. I grabbed a rope on the deck, whipping the waterlogged length back and forth and lashing out with my feet to clear some room to leap to my feet. Saiten, with a single powerful strike sent the kelp creatures that harried us flying over the side. Looking about in the sudden calm I saw the others were about as well off as I. Minor scratches that looked deep enough to be painful could be seen on Dasadi, Aster and the crew. We had earned a moment of respite but not for long as the Water ship bore down on us…

Dasadi's Journal 1

Given light of my recent experiences I think it appropriate that I begin to keep a journal once more. Having nearly two weeks of your memories stolen from you is a rather educational experience on how easy it is to become lost in our world. Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.

Resplendent Wood 10 – 20

This all begin when I arrived in the small town of Roghaw travelling south through the forests well eastern of the Beast men’s domain, I believe the date was Resplendent Wood 10. I spoke with an elderly woman who managed the mortician’s services in this village and was pleasantly surprised she was of Saijanese origin. We exchanged goods, tea, and stories. I don’t seem to be able to recall her name, perhaps due to the nature of my memory loss as well? She also told me of some possible work in my field about ten days south east in a village known as Zingma’s Tree. Supposedly the dead walked creation here. Certainly worth investigating. I have not encountered the natively corporeal dead in some time.

I headed south travelling with a man and his son who journey to sell their perfumes. If I were richer perhaps I might buy some but they were not interested in trade at all. I bid farewell with them at a road crossing of a village, stocked up on supplies for twice the duration of my trip, and headed east to my destination.

I encountered nothing up to within a day of the village, and then stepped off the path in case undead wandered the roads, lest I be caught unaware. I shortly thereafter arrived at Zingma’s Tree to discover that it’s namesake had been cut down. A mountain of a tree, lost. Surely it once had a powerful oaken spirit residing within it… Also the town seemed vacant and empty except for the sound of steel on wood further in. I was determined to both resolve the fate of the towns folk and the spirit.

Now this is very specific and I want to be clear so my possible future self, should I lose my memory can be clear. None of those I found made any direct contact with me as long as my memory held out. Also upon next awaking I did a thorough self examination and found no reason to be concerned I had contracted this terrible plague.

The long and short of it from here was the the towns folk had become infected with the puppeteer’s plague. Also just in case I have forgotten what this is in the future. This is a terrible supernatural and cursed affliction that soaks in the very bones of a person causing them to eventually animate. Commonly shaking, itches, violent urges, and strange dreams are the heralds of this disease. Thankfully, once again, for clarity, I show none of these symptoms.

After cleansing the village of those terminally ill I encountered some sort of being… but there my memory stops cold. I lost all memory from somewhere around Resplendent wood 20 all the way to Descending wood 10. I think this is an appropriate place to close the first chapter of my Journey.

Descending Wood 10

This day I awoke and found myself adrift in an unknown body of water. Barely able to maintain consciousness for an unknown amount of time. Eventually I was rescued by those on board a sailing vessel bound for Volivat! I learned the loss of time shortly after. Not only had I been pulled across hundreds of miles but I had also lost at least the last two weeks of memory and had no recollection of how I ended up adrift in the Dreaming Sea.

I was questioned, counselled, fed, and clothed by my rescuers. They were a strange bunch indeed. The crew themselves seemed content enough if the Patron (?) of this vessel was fine with my presence. A strangely dressed fellow to be sure, but I am hardly one to judge. They decided to allow me to stay aboard until they reached Volivat. They informed me that a small bird made of fire informed them of my whereabouts. Thank Ishul! She still watches over me it seems. Reminder that I should find an appropriate gift. Also a note for future self. If you have forgotten who Ishul is, travel to the elemental courts of the scavenger lands and ask of her there. She will surely be able to help you.

I professed my work as a travelling exorcist which caught the attention of a stunning young girl named Aster full of light. She asked me strange questions though of how one fights spirits, specifically a disease spirit named Gumari, or how one might track down the source of a disease. After some returned questioning I learned that this Aster and her companions had actually encountered the disease spirit himself in his physical form and had bested him. Clearly these are no ordinary mortals. They were evasive as to their means of besting him, and I could not ascertain if this was due to sorcery or otherwise. I resigned myself to sleep after this.

But that wasn’t the end of the nights trials. One of the other non-sailors on board, a passenger I assume, named Obi tried to rifle through my things whilst I slept. Thankfully I tied my case to my hand as I do when I sleep. Suspicion I can understand, however this Obi has no manners of any kind. One could simply request to search my case in my presence. I have nothing to hide. After catching him in the act I slept little more that night.

Descending Wood 11

Further interactions with my strange rescuers. Aster seems fully committed, as if crusading, against this disease spirit. I could find out neither what the reason for this quest was, nor the means with which she employed. Also both the one named Obi and the strange man dressed in yellow leathers are capable of incredible feats of agility. Their “Casual morning exercise” was up in the rigging of the ship, and their bravado whilst doing so cemented in my mind these were clearly no mere mortals. Their manner is too rampant, the secrets too strange. Further to their oddities was a shrine at the back of the ship to the unconquered sun. Perhaps the individual the ship was named after, Saitan, was their sponsor and he was an exalted of some kind? I find it astronomically unlikely that he would be an exalted of any kind, but it is a strange world.

I spoke plainly and directly with Obi during today and allowed him a uninterrupted inspection of my pack after I had secured the safety of my water logged belongings. On that note, all of my best incense was washed away by the salt water! I shall have to begin again. Even my ritual incense preparations were gone. Anyways he inspected my pack to what seemed like his satisfaction. Hopefully he feels that will be sufficient probing into my belongings for the duration of our trip.

Also I spoke at some length with young Aster again exchanging stories, and medicinal methods. She was apparently a healer of some kind and requested that she inspect me for fear of the puppeteer plague that I was investigating. Hardly I was I going to deny a beautiful girl such as herself an opportunity to observe my bare skin. Nothing excited occurred though and we moved on with the day.

That night I slept with my now dried belongings on the far side of the bunk bed.

Descending Wood 12

I think it is best to perhaps sum up the events of the day.

I spotted a ship in a fog bank fairly early on and pointed it out to the captain. They seemed skeptical at first but I was insistent that I had spotted it. A strange feeling a déjà vu swept over me, and also I could feel spirits on the ocean winds. Perhaps this was whatever had left me stranded and without my memory?

They listened to my plea’s and sailed at full speed. The vessel behind us was closing in, and the closer it got the more solid form it took, along with a second vessel. Perhaps solid is the wrong word because these two vessels were made of Fog and Water, one of each. On board, creatures that swam in their ship, or creatures made of Kelp or Bronze stared out at us. Fair folk to be sure. Suddenly my gap in memory made sense. I must have been on a vessel that had been lost to these creatures and they had stolen my memories. I have to imagine it took all that I was just to escape their clutches, or perhaps I was left there as bait for other passing vessels.

Unfortunately our Captain was only so skilled, and the wind only so strong. Eventually after about eight hours of pursuit they closed in and boarded our vessel. The kelp creatures aboard the ship of fog poured on board while their Bronze overlords watched from the vessel. If this battle lasted long enough for them to close to battle we would surely be lost. I breathed deep the air of the Ocean and breathed out the flames of Ishul. I conjured the Brilliant Raptor as I had been taught, invoked some of my own power to quicken the casting and then let the brilliant flames consume the fog vessel and the Bronze fair folk on board.

We certainly struggled after that with dealing with the lesser kelp folk but the ships patron, a man dressed in yellow tights with a cape, was indeed stronger than first appeared. His blows killed at least several of the creatures at a time, or flung them out to sea. He certainly pulls his borderline supernatural strength from somewhere.

But then our battle with the water vessel was yet to come as they had only circled like a hungry predator during our battle with the fog ship. Well here is what happened then…

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