A Little Piece of Home

Data Log 2

{System Dioagnostic}
 
>> Review System Logfile002.txt:  debug mode
 
{Logfile opening…  Please wait.}
 
We remain guests at the floating Manse of Sagacious Jade.  Why we are here I have yet to ascertain.  The grounds have fallen into minor disrepair, possibly due to limited use or necessity.  I have analyzed the flora and fauna of the island and am intrigued by my findings thus far.  {REF Logfile Flora001.txt, Fauna001.txt} {No errors found}
 
We have been provided basic living quarters, to which we were confined for 5 days before being summoned by Sagacious Jade for dinner and being given leave to explore the island.  Our cart remains where it was left, and all items accounted for based upon my scans {Review Logfile CartInventory001.txt} {Ongoing process, Standby}
 
I have learned more of my captors {Error REF: “captors”=“travelling companions”=“band” reconciling error} since prior log entry.
 
She Who Flies On The Ash Born Wings of Decay is an Abyssal Death Knight {Reconciling error:  No Entry Found, New Entry to Exalted.db added, reconciling available data…} of which I have had little interaction since my initial analysis.  I am still unclear how she is considered an Exalt, but I will take close observation and append to future log entries for further analysis.
 
Cathak Taki is a Twilight Solar Caste Exalt, male, despite initial analysis.  He has a relationship with Sambar, a Lunar {Postulation:  mate?  Further Analysis Required}  He is bright and has requested of Sagacious Jade to undertake the art of sorcery.  He has begrudgingly accepted.  Further analysis will be required.
 
Basou Marou is a Solar Exalt {Postulation:  Dawn Caste?  Further Analysis Required} who I have had some time to interact with.  We ahve spent considerable time sparring, which I have used to re-attune my combat techniques and subroutines.  I am grateful {Error:  Emotion.db unavailable or corrupted.  unable to reconcile of confirm} for the opportunity, as my long slumber has caused a sort of atrophy of my systems.  He is energetic and willing to work until exhaustion.  His presence seems…  Appropriate.  {Error:  Definition/Clarification required.  REF Emotion.db  Error:  Emotion.db unavailable or corrupted}  I cannot explain why, for I do not yet know the explanation.  Further analysis required.
 
Sorrel is a Mortal.  He has provided basic garb to assist in my integration with my captors {Error REF: “captors”=“travelling companions”=“band” reconciling error.  Unable to reconcile.  Analysis ongoing}
 
I have requested if Sagacious Jade can assist in restoring the corrupted portions of my memory and reconcile the database errors I have been experiencing.  He has agreed, possibly more willingly than caution would advise.  I must remain vigilant, but his services are required.  I will have to make a redundant backup of my current state when I can devote the resources to do so.
 
Please Stand By for further details…
 
{debug analysis:  2 Postulation comments – Analysis required. Appending to Observation.app  3 Errors in databade referencing, reconciling.}
 
{Memory restoration ongoing, please wait…}
 
>> Close Logfile002.txt

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Meditations in Midair
The Split Mind

Ash went back to her room, not sleeping, and not awake, but somewhere in between. An apt metaphor for herself, she thought. In the meditative state she was in, she focused on what it was that she was intended to be, and should still be: a weapon. She thought of her focus: Carrion’s Decay. The weapons she wields.

My job is to end life. I am the decay that wracks the body. Everything ages, everything that ages dies.

It felt, different. As though her own mind rebelled against her will. She repeated her mantra. This time images began to fill her head. Basu-Maru, the Dawn Caste. Fighting non-stop against a horde of…anything. Dragonbloods, Abyssals, in the end the horde he was fighting didn’t matter. He was just fighting, taking a stand for what he believes in: Justice…and swords. How odd then, that she should be here, fighting beside him, anathema to everything she is. She didn’t force the images from her mind, but let them drift away. Once more she repeated her mantra.

Dreams was there. Looking at a small bird under glass, barely alive. “Strange isn’t it?” Dreams was talking to her, but She-Who-Flies-On-The-Ash-Born-Wings-Of-Decay said nothing. “It’s so close to death, a fraction of an inch on a scale we are too large to be calibrated for, and yet it fights to survive, to…live, at any cost.” Dreams lifted the glass and handed the bird gently, with reverence to her. Taking it in her hand she glanced down to notice the fresh wounds on it’s back, something small had punctured the back of this small bird. Blood was dripping out of the fresh wounds of the…Nightingale? “Why did you give up on that which to bargained to keep?” Dreams was still talking to her, but she was too shocked to do anything. She took a step back as was again sitting in the void that was her meditation. Once again she repeated her mantra.

Taki was a short ways off, sitting with Sorrel, not fighting, not close to death. Just watching the sunset, the beginning of twilight. She recognized that look on Taki’s face: love. Something so familiar, and now so distant. They were talking, sharing something intimate, secret, but the emotion and the sentiment was clear. Expressions of feeling. The two of them ignored her as she walked forward. What is this? In the end the moment was all too…human. The sun began to move faster and faster, days were passing by in what would be mere moments. Years in the day. Taki remained static: forever his age, but time was not so kind to Sorrel. Each tick of the seconds decades were added to his age. Until he was simply ash, a tombstone marked where he had sat. “Everything ages,” she heard Taki say, “Everything that ages dies.” There were sections of dampness on the ground, “I wouldn’t have traded anything for the few short years we had. I was at my happiest then.” She looked at the small memorial that marked their spot. That image too, faded away. She-Who-Flies-On-The-Ash-Born-Wings-Of-Decay didn’t know what to make of any of this. Once more she repeated her mantra.

She was kneeling before her Deathlord. He towered over her, shadows made up his features. This wasn’t the lord she served, this was something else. Something commanding her, but not her lord. He could feel her heart beating quickly, she was sweating, she was afraid. Fear, panic, terror where she should feel the most at home, and safe. She ran, ran until she could see the void, the gaping maw that wished to devour everything in and that made up Creation, giving Those-that-were-never-born a final death, an end to those-that-never-began. She looked over her shoulder, there was the thing pretending to be her lord. She stood, if she were to be ended: it would be on her terms. Turning around she crossed her arms and fell back: falling into the void of her undoing. For the last time her visions melted away. She took a deep breath, repeating her mantra a final time.

Her mind sumbited to the will of it’s owner, giving her the visions and foci she requested. The bodies of the slain left rotting where they fell, the slow decay of nature, time claims all in the end.

My job is to end life. I am the decay that wracks the body. Everything ages, everything that ages dies. She-Who-Flies-On-The-Ash-Born-Wings-Of-Decay stated the words in her mind, and Ash wondered, somewhere in the back of her mind, unknown to the one thinking them: did they hold any meaning. Nightingale in the Meadow rethought the last choice she had ever made. She-Who-Flies-On-The-Ash-Born-Wings-Of-Decay was at last able to return to her duties.

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Forgotten Glory, 1
Senada

The city roars behind you for a quick death, while ahead the army advances on you and your small band of brethren, pushing forward through the blood-churned mud and the bodies of those that have fallen already. You stand ready, to fight until there are none others standing.

“Traitors!” you scream into the wind, fast and razor-sharp as Adrian at her fall. “Blood traitors!” The army doesn’t falter, though, and your pitiful hand of defenders behind you grip their weapons nervously, staring out into their death.

Yes, they will probably die. It’s a shame, considering how long it took you to train them. Good Dragon-bloods, real Dragon-bloods, are hard to find these days, what with the blasphemous mixing of their blood with the lesser mortals they governed in your stead.

That was the first problem. When this battle is over, the first thing you’re doing is putting all the Dragon-bloods to the sword. They’ll understand, of course – their job is to lay down their lives for the betterment of the Solar God-Kings, right?

Right?

Arrows rain down from the sky; you swat them aside with a flick of your hand and turn them back on their attackers. Hundreds die in burst of green and white, red and blue. You frown.

This is boring.

A squad rushes you, armed with long spears tipped in jade. You spin in an effortless circle and take their heads in a single swoop, flicking them up to land on their own spears. “Boring,” you mutter, turning toward the next squad.

It goes on like this for what feels like hours, though you’re certain it took only a few seconds. “Boring!” you shout as you liberate the heart from a Dragon-blood traitor and burn it to ash. “BORING!” you scream as you flare your anima, becoming a towering pillar of glorious light that scatters the army like child’s toys. You have a momentary thought of your youngest child, safe within Carcosa’s whispering walls. You’ll have to bring him a souvenir of the battle. Now, what would he like?

Tassels from a hundred footmen? No, that’s far too banal for a son of a Solar.

Oh, the eyes of the sorcerer-priest you just ran through! Truthfully, they’re the only salvagable piece of him left. But no, eyes are too dangerous for such a young thing. Windows to the soul, as you know.

Yes, you have it! The spear from the general of this army of blasphemies, your once-trusted advisor and lieutenant! It’s large, yes, but a little practice and he’ll be ready to ride out beside you!

No, wait. He already has one of these. And the general died a little too easily, scrambling to protect his body from your inevitable strikes. Wouldn’t want the man’s cowardice infecting the boy – something like that is worse than death.

The battlefield is quiet as you look around, your anima still lapping at the bloodstained mud hungrily. What remains of the army is scattered, fighting in twos or threes against your own well-trained troops. You bound back toward the city gates, exultant in victory, where your three closest Dragon-blooded lieutenants wait, raised up after the rebellion claimed most of your officers, though battle or treachery.

“Not much of a fight,” you say, laughing aloud at the Dragon-bloods harried looks. They are bloodstained and filthy; the oldest, Paavel, limps on one foot, the other a ragged stump. The other two, Marlin and Pale Flower, exchange glances as Marlin fingers a long dagger of black jade and moonsilver. “Spent most of my Essence, though,” you say, turning around to survey the field once again. “I should have expected as much from lesser Exalts.”

“Lesser?” Marlin scoffs behind you. “We are Chosen, as you were.”

“Hah.” You roll your eyes – it’s the same argument, all over again. When will they learn? Perhaps Marlin will be the first to die when you begin the purge. He would serve as an excellent example of the differences between a Dragon-blood and a Solar. “We are all Chosen, but some are made to rule, and others to serve. Which one are you?” You turn back to flash a smile at your underlings, but a sudden sharp coldness pierces your back, and you see Marlin standing, his hands on the hilt of his dagger as it plunges into your back. The tip emerges out from your stomach in a gut-wrenching burst of blood and pain – surely it wasn’t that long to start with? The blade whispers as you feel it latch on to your soul and pull – it pulls the golden Essence from you and from the air and drinks it into the black blade, which you see now is not black jade at all.

Where did Marlin get a soulsteel blade?

There is more pain than you can bear as the blade shifts, widening to slice through your bones and bring you to your knees. Your vision wavers – you cannot be dying, that’s ridiculous! Killed by Dragon-bloods?

In what world does this make sense?

You slump to the side, unable to stand on nerveless legs and weakening as the blade drinks in what remains of your energy. Your anima fizzles and dies, falling dark as the faces of your three lieutenants look down at you. Paavel looks away, frowning; Pale Flower has tears in her eyes. Only Marlin watches as the light goes out from your eyes, his expression a mask until you see no more.

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Nightmares and Daydreams, 1
Blessing of Hollow

There is fire and death all around.

Screams echo through the palace as you run, for the first time in your life, away from battle. There is a strange sensation building in your stomach, faintly nauseous and cramping; you wonder what it is. Did the traitors poison the food? Surely it wouldn’t affect you, even if it did.

The hallways echo with screams and death cries, filling your ears and nostrils with the palpable stench of death. You should be used to that smell.

You aren’t.

You shoot past the nursery, see the little orange-and-blue furred Chillikin weeping and raging over the bloody bodies of their young charges, smothered or run through as they slept. There’s no time to grieve, though – only time to escape from the palace and make it down to the safe room in the center of the city, where the city itself will keep you safe. You’d hated Tlaloc for building this place at first, but the strangely shifting walls of Carcosa have become faintly comforting of late.

Words plaster themselves against the walls, directing you downward and out. The Yellow Palace is so helpful in that way, not like the rest of the city; it liked to mislead visitors, pushing them this way and that until they got so lost they’d break down weeping at the sight of another intersection. Even you found yourself pausing at well-known streets, wondering if they lead to the same place as they had last time you’d visited. Now, you have no choice but to follow the directions, though you can tell from the faint tracery of Essence in the walls that the Heart Room lies somewhere ahead.

Footsteps sound ahead of you – you duck into an alcove, folding your arms and legs up to remain invisible, and hold your breath as a squad of assassins run past you, bloodied from battle. How had they managed to get inside? Tlaloc used to boast that his city was impassable to those who wished him or his Circle harm – you suppose there must have been a loophole in there somewhere to allow the attackers in. The dozen you’d fought off had been well-trained and utterly silent – unnerving, to say the least. You stay hidden, though, and dart out as the assassins disappear around the curve of the hallway.

You skid to a halt a few hundred yards later as a portal yawns open beside you. The Essence flows are right – this is the path to the Heart Room. You dive in, feeling the warm embrace of the manse as it carries you down to the bowels of the city and deposits you in a small room, pulsing with power. A figure stands there with its back to you, immediately recognizable.

Hixkaryana, spirit of Carcosa, turns to face you, his mask weeping tears that are words. At his feet lies the body of his master, Tlaloc, his yellow robes stained with the ink of Hixkaryana’s tears, spelling out words. Master, you see, and Love.

Sorrow.

Regret.

Betrayal.

That feeling in your stomach is back as you watch Hixkaryana weep. You realize with a start that it is fear.

The portal closes behind you. You are trapped.

There is someone else here.

She moves faster than you can see, which is no mean feat. Red hair, green eyes; the faint smell of the flower that was her name. A stylish gown stained with blood and ink. “You,” you whisper. “You killed him.”

“No,” she says, at your back, her lips against your ear. “He signed his own death warrant years ago. All of your kind did, the day my sisters were lost to your vainglory.” The blade is thin, but sharp, and it slides effortlessly into your spine before you can even blink.

Gracious Dismissal holds you while you die, and over it all is the soft, pitiful sound of a demon weeping away his name.

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Visions of the First Age, 1
Alder

Crane fidgets at your side. He always gets so nervous underground. The feathers in his hair, white against his ivory skin, are mussed. You fix them, absently, and smile reassuringly when your husband meets your eyes.

“So, as you can see,” Iazhir continues, pulling your attention back to the matter at hand, “Should we employ the Rice Paper Concordant to adjust the geomantic issues, the dragon lines will lay in such a way as to form the Sevenfold Soul Binding, which you know, of course, is essential when attempting any sort of congress within the allowable function.” He seems inordinately pleased with himself; then again, arrogance is no stranger to Iahzir. Were you ever so self-effacing? Gods in Heaven, you hope not.

Tilting your head, you examine the diagrams floating before you, twitching them this way and that with a thought. Iahzir waits as he should, the nervous darting of his pupils all that betrays his anxiety. You have to extend some credit to him – his equations are flawless despite his youth. But there is something nagging at the back of your head, a little furry thing that warns you something is wrong.

You ignore it.

Behind you, the assembled crowd murmurs a soft undercurrent of sound. You should have known Iahzir’s little party would turn into a pitch meeting to find investors for his latest invention. He is young, you remind yourself, and newly come into his full might as a Chosen of the Unconquered Sun – you yourself were young once, too, and remember well the exultant feeling of putting the last character to a long-researched problem. Dimly, you even remember the dull brown feeling of mortality weighing heavily on your infant self.

Somewhere behind you are the rest of your Circle, mingling and drinking and enjoying themselves. Why are you the only one pulled into this conversation? Gods know you aren’t the best conversationalist, though discussing geomancy is certainly more your style than discussing the latest outfits with a gaggle of simpering idiots.

Glancing away from the equation, you catch Iahzir’s anticipatory gaze. “It’s very advanced,” you say, truthfully, “But I wonder if the entire project is unwise.”

“Unwise?” Iahzir barks with laughter until he catches your stern look. “Ah, my apologies. But understand that I’ve taken every precaution to ensure no unknown factors are present during construction.” He glances at his own equation, clearly reviewing it for any mistakes. “Yes, the requirements are precise, but still, such an undertaking can only bring more enlightenment to our kind.”

What an idiot. You and your brethren are chosen of the Sun – what need is there for further enlightenment than the warm gaze of the king of the gods? “You would do well to leave the advanced thinking to those of our kind that have more experience,” you say, not unkindly, but frustration and anger bubble to the surface of Iahzir’s expression before a more neutral one quickly replaces it. “You clearly have talent, Iahzir, but you are young, and your other projects, while impressive, did nothing to endear you to your brothers and sisters in Twilight.” Which was true enough. There were many among the Chosen that saw his creations as abominations to all that was good with the world. You’ve kept your own opinions on the matter to yourself for the most part – it wouldn’t do to taint a beneficial working relationship.

Their eyes unnerve you, though. You don’t know why.

“You could help me,” Iahzir says as you turn away; you glance back at him, frowning.

“I am not the right person to help you, Iahzir,” you say, again not unkindly. “Perhaps another of my circle will champion your cause, but not I.” You catch sight of Tlaloc standing near the refreshment table, idly watching the room; you beckon him over.

Tlaloc, resplendent in gold and orichalcum, strides over with the easy gait of someone used to travel. “Alder, my sister in the Sun, what causes you to call this lonely quicksliver falcon to your side?” he says, offering a flowery bow with a playful wink. Perfect.

“Iahzir is looking for a partner in his latest project,” You say, stepping away as quickly as you can. “Perhaps he can convince you where he failed to do the same to me.” Crane tugs you away even as Tlaloc offers a reply, and you hear Iahzir launching into his explanation of his diagrams and charts before you’ve gone three steps. Looking back, you see Tlaloc spin the diagram with a thoughtful expression. The furry feeling nags you, urging you to look again, to analyze and hypothesize and test, but you turn away.

Let Iahzir be Tlaloc’s problem now. You have much bigger things to worry about.

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Memories of the Past, 1
Coruscating Dream of Precision

You don’t remember much. Though you never do. Remembering is not easy.

The light flickers above your head in erratic sympathy to the Essence pulsing through your chest, leaking out of your fingertips as you jam them into the locking mechanism and pull. The pain is momentary, passing; you take a moment to revel at the wonderment of feeling when Iahzir shifts on your back, coughing a line of dark blood onto your shoulder. It beads and slips down your chest, so red against your pale skin.

Red. Red is an interesting color, the color of life and death, birth and suffering, community and war. This red is the deep crimson-black of hearts-blood. Prana would probably drink it. His grin appears before you, stained with demon ichor. He takes what he can get.

“They can’t know,” Iahzir murmurs, and you aren’t sure to whom he’s talking. Maybe to himself, though that’s silly. You continue fiddling with the door. “It was supposed to be for everyone, Dream, everyone!”

The lock pops open with a hiss of compressed air, blowing the blood in a dark splash across your neck. You feel it congeal as the lights flicker and fade above you; this room is cold against your skin. You activate a light and heft Iahzir into the room, laying him on a table. His wound is still bleeding deep red. His chest heaves. You are not a doctor – that was always her specialty. If you close your eyes, you can see Serenity bending over her patients, lovingly caressing them with the pins and scalpels and grafts of her panoply.

You can hear the screams of her patients, too. Now those: Those are easy to remember.

Metal and clay are transient, easier to fix than flesh. You watch as Iahzir’s chest heaves up and down, the blood flowing in gleams of color and wetness. “Dream,” he says, his voice thick with clots, “this wasn’t your fault.”

Of course it wasn’t. You know that. Why does he feel the need to reassure you?

He moves, groans, and sits up, supported by your arm, breathing heavy. “Maker forgive me, but I thought I could do it better. They were getting out of hand, using the world like their plaything – All of them, irrevocably tainted with some sort of madness. Like I am, Dream. I’m no different.” He laughs, looking down at his chest and the weeping claw marks there. “Foolish, making a city out of a demon. Demons never forget. I should have known.”

Iahzir stumbles to his feet, places his hands against the wall until they glow with red-gold light. It throws strange shadows on the wall, and his hands leave red marks wherever they touch, streaking the wall as the panels slide aside. “They’ve all gone away now, back to that city of lies. But you, Dream, you will be safe here, far away from that place. You must survive. You must, for my sake. You are the only one left now.”

It’s true. Shifting Prana of Enlightenment was first, torn to pieces quicker than he could shift between his myriad of forms; Puissant Khesar next, his speeches and proclamations no match for the honeyed words of his enemies. After him was Swiftly Shattering Arrow and Eyeless Iron Tiger, both trying to save the other and losing everything in the process. Finally Serenity in Silence was caught in her own chirgury, hands wet with oil and ichor and nothing able to stop her from plunging the scalpel into her own gleaming starmetal neck. You are all that remains of the Assembly now, and soon you will be gone, too.

Things are hazy now. There is a chair, huge and hissing that beckons you forward while Iahzir mutters to himself. Madness awaits you there, and also freedom, from this time before time and into a lesser world. But lesser worlds mean lesser evils.

Iahzar pulls the veil down over your face. You watch as the last life leaks out of his wounds and onto the floor. You will not be awake much longer. Embrace it.

Sweet dreams.

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Data log 1
Time stamp: {Unavailable}

{Log Online}
{System status: loading…}
{Memory system:  Damaged – Attempting repair…  Please wait.}
 
I live.
 
Multiple systems offline.  Primary weapons and defensive systems are online, as well as speech and language subroutinhes to primary cortex.
 
Considerable time has passed.  Everyone I knew is dead.  Creation is a very different and confusing place.  It is abundant with errors.  Gaps in memory are obfuscating matters further.
 
I have found a band of Exalted who are apparently responsible for reactivating me.  They are thieves, as I have identified many items belonging to others on their persons.  One is an {error}, apparently some sort of new Exalted.  the others have been identified and stored for furhter analysis when sufficient memory is available for analysis.
 
They are pursued, as now am I, possibly because they are thieves, but insufficient data to draw a conclusion.  I am accomplice to any crime the commit.  I will remain with this group until my systems are online and can make an informed decision as to what should be done next, and what my primary objective is.
 
We are currently atop a floating city.  We have been received by our host.  I must make inquiry into further details of current events.
 
Stand by for further information.
 

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I'm just a Deathknight
In our, Traveling Show

[Travel to Crow-The Dragon fight]

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If I was a Solar
But then again...no.

[Labrynth and fight outside]

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I'd mark out a grave that
My enemies could dig.

[End of Fight to Entering the Labyrinth]

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