A Little Piece of Home

It's a little bit funny...
The Feeling Of Insides...

I was caught the other day; bandits. Eldritch strength and numbers, green suns for caste marks. I was able to simply be taken by mantaining my vissage. No doubt I would not have been able to make it alive had I revieled I am an Abyssal for My Lord.

I escaped. Stole back my things, luckly Carrion’s Decay was useless to them. They didn’t even know what it was. I have the feeling that My Lord is guiding my toward his will.

After finding a spear I have run into a small circle of people. People around this area are more hesitent to trust the Anathama. Shortly I found that they have also exalted, however more caution is needed: they are the champions of the unconqured sun. It seems that the spear belongs to that of the Mortal they travel with. A brief time with them has shown that the largest one is also the largest tool: Basu-Maru. He is like a great storm in that he will wreck anything he is pointed at, however, his over inflated sence of justice might also come in handy.

As it turns out they are also looking for the group of people that held me prisoner. I was able to lead them to the camp under the cover of darkness. I was glad for the first chance in a while to actually say my prayers. We quickly dispatched them camp and made chase to the temple where they were, I assume, sacraficing some of the prisoners.

A quick jaunt to follow led us to the temple that, we assumed, the two of them had to cleanse. All I know is that My Lord wants me to be with them for now, I will do his will. At the least the three of them have proven to be an interesting distraction and new breath to my normal mundane routine of death and destruction.

Upon our entry into the temple, I could smell those above us and below us. Basu and I quickly took care of the Infernalists above and made our way to the Spider Queen below. (While we rescued the prisoners as well. I must admit it was fun talking to the ignorant and stupid spider demons here. They simply believed almost anything I had to say…Though, the Artifact with their symbol on it did help.) Having killed anything of note in here there was something that Taki had been talking to…a Mantis Headed program that kept this place running. I left before it could identify my essence. Paranoia, as my charm prevents anything from perceiving my true nature…still. We rested again, I played the Neverborn’s Advocate in that the people here are malnurished and exhausted. A good nights rest will do them good. In truth, I simply needed to say my prayers before I feel the touch of creation in everything I do. I also needed to refresh my essence, as I can not here… Either way, my motives were pure, I can not defend myself if I am out of essence, I can not do My Lord’s will should he ask me to. Speaking of which, I was required to do two things for him today. The first, was to find the cause of the flooding. Easy enough. While we made camp, there was a little girl who seemed to have suffered at the hands of the Demonists. She was obviously raped. It struck a chord with me. To see the touch it had done to her…I needed to help, not make it better, but to see if she would at least be all right: I saw myself in her for a moment. Alive, and yet dead. Qorin, her name was. Taki tried to get me to leave, thinking a Male presence here would make things worse. Indeed it would, but I am also no man. I told her of her two options, the same that were presented to me by The 14th Lord so many years ago…She chose to fight back. I felt…pride in her, oddly. That she would rise up and use this anger and hate and pain to make her better. To strike back at those that had hurt her.

She had her first chance to prove her dedication to her new path, to cement it in her soul. She was to scout ahead, and get the guard to guide the refugees back to the town. While Taki, Basu, the Priestess and I made our way to the house of their Water God. At our arrival we heard the sounds of crying. Fearing an ambush with the lure of that sound I was forced to remain outside his domicile as I was not invited. While true nothing barred my entry and I could have entered as easily as I wished; I couldn’t bring myself to enter his home without permission from a priest or the god himself—being a priest myself I still respect the gods of others.

A Long road short, we were able to save the god, while I simply tried to fix the house up a little. It was Taki who was the one to help him, Basu and I simply where there. The God knew what I was…he warned me of what path I walk. I responded that I have no interest in harming them…yet.

Once more on the road it seemed that Sorrel had disappeared. I noted that this seemed to upset Taki. He/She seemed almost…longing for his return. (As it turns out, Taki is a man, as shown by Basu’s attempted groping). Having followed the trail it turned out that he was captured by a woman and was having rituals done to him that I was unable to recognize. Something about preparing the body. I was mistaken at first into thinking that this was the preparation for his Last Breath. Something in green ink…my mind flickered back to the worshipers of the Green Sun that were housed in the temple. Basu made quick work of her and noticed something shoot out of her mouth. Nothing is easy. Basu and I were to make our way to the town again and see what had happened. Taki was to see to Sorrel. I didn’t like it. Leaving the two of them alone, in a undefendable position. It smelled like an ambush.I was wrong, but still. My fighting companion seemed to be at odds with himself for letting an innocent die. Having no time to deal with it now, I warned him that no matter what he see, or what I do: I am still the Ash he has been traveling with. A weak premise of no-combat should the truth be revealed for sure.

As luck would have it there was a play going on in the center of town, a performance troupe that Taki and Basu-moru were traveling with. The eerie song that this demon was singing had entranced the entire crowd. Obviously we would need to make this look like it was a part of the performance or risk revealing that we Basu is an Exalted. We didn’t need panic making it easy for the thing to escape. So, Basu and I were to act as Road Bandits here to tempt the young innocent. Of course Basu, who came up with the plan, immediately broke from it. Instead playing the role of the wandering hero. It was almost too funny.

Once backstage we were quickly surrounded, I knew he was trying to pull his punches and having difficulty with it. Warriors are trained to kill, not subdue. City guards are trained for that, not champions. Unable to hide it anymore, I simply bit into one—the elder—and tasted his essence, restoring my own motes as well. It was foul, inhuman, and acrid. Once I told Basu that they were no longer human, he let go with all his furry—destroying them all quickly. Once the bloodshed was over we needed to finish the play—to break the enchantment. I needed to drop my visage, revealing the woman I am. He was unabashedly distracted as I did so.

Between Him, Taki and Sorrel: it was Basu that took it the best. Taki feels that I have lied to him: though I may have stretched the truth, I have not lied to them once. Sorrel was out of it completely, so maybe it was the concussion that allowed him to deal with it. Basu…he simply didn’t care. I am still Ash, or Ashly, in his eyes. He has this innocence he just never lost. Maybe it is because he is an idiot, but he just sees things differently and has faith in it. Like me, I guess. I find it hard to imagine someone so…pure.

It is obvious to me now that Taki has feelings for Sorrel, and I am guessing that he feels the same. Though Taki seems to be unable to process this. It is strange. As far as I can tell, Sorrel is like an indentured servant to them, yet he seems to have feelings for…well, the scariest of the bunch. Sorrel is a human—I can dispatch with him as though he were a gnat. Basu is a force, but he is also a bit blind, so long as I prove—by his measure—that I am “good” (that is a broad term for him though) then I am OK. As well, a raging bull can be sidestepped. Taki though. I know he does something with a scarf, and can mend wounds. However, I know he is no coward—he willingly goes with us into battle—yet I have not seen him so much as lift a weapon. It is hard to judge the danger of someone without information. He also seems quick to judge. Calling me evil, and asking why I haven’t exploded. Either he bought into all the stories, or he simply doesn’t understand. All I know is that he is from the realm and a Solar. From this I can guess several things—That he is being hunted: An Anathama of the realm would surely be bad press. He has had some run ins with some Abyssals who did not get along. My guess is that we all have our share of enemies hunting us down.

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I'm Not One Of Those
Who Can't Easily Hide...

After much deliberation I convinced Taki, Basu-Maru, and Sorrel to travel to the west. My Lord’s only instruction was to avoid Thorns. I know there is a powerful Death Lord there. I will not tread into there unless I need to.

I am constantly surprised by them. Every time I expect them to act like Solars I have known before they do the opposite. Instead they have continued to be my friends. They hardly flinched when they discovered I was a Deathknight. The premise I gave them to travel to the west was to find my murderer. This is true. I also want to seek the vengeance and justice is due to me. I will find him, and kill him.

We have heard some startling news. There is a creature near the town that attacks every full moon. After a little more gathering of intelligence I relayed the information to Basu and Taki. I know that Basu has been looking for something like this. To protect the people and those that that need to be inspired. Taki, I am sure, just gets caught in his wake and wants to be sure that he is safe.
Also, by this time we witnessed Basu’s master, and I confronted Sorrel. He is running out of time and doesn’t know it. I warned him not to waste his chances—like me.

We arrived at the town. It has grown, but it isn’t supposed to be like this. This is a town locked in its past. It isn’t supposed to be like this at all. It is supposed to be happy, idealistic, frolicking. Not this dark depressing and troubled town. We barter our wood for information. The more I hear the more I begin to be troubled. The timing all lines up. This could be Song of the Hearth. Even though I think it is possible there is no proof. I need more information. Some of what we know now gives us an in: we are a band of Dragon Blooded. This will be risky in that we could attract attention to ourselves. However, should this come back to kill us then I can escape…with out too much problem. Though thinking of going through that plan is a little…painful.

It figures that I needed to see Story’s Heart. It is almost like this is supposed to be painful. It figures that Taki would put 2 and 2 together as well…he called it, for once. Someone as oblivious as him could see it. I guess it is a little harder when you are looking from the inside out. Now though, we have to deal with the beast.

It was harder then I had imagined. Some large man was there in the center of town. Turns out he is a Lunar, called Sambar. We brought down the large Raccoon Beast-Man in a fairly lasting battle. Our new companion was able to prove his worth a few folds over. I don’t lose any time with tracking him to his lair. The last thing we need is some monstrous mate following us. I follow the scent.

It isn’t too far away from the town. Sambar and I go ahead, being the only ones that can infiltrate with any real skill. I see a familiar sight, Iva, a childhood friend, walk past me as I scout the tunnel ahead. More voices are ahead. I send Sambar to warn the others. Three people, two young children have the appearance of being the progeny to our new captive, one looks wounded—leg injury, she can’t run. Prisoner, perhaps a mother to one of the spawn. It can’t be Song. He isn’t allowed to have a family, or two. After my approach it becomes clear to me that she is not here against her will. Where is the evil that this beast-man is guilty of? It must be here somewhere. I’ll confront Iva.

It was unsettling for her, but my suspicions were confirmed. That thing is Song of the Hearth, the four other women are there by their own volition, and I was wrong. Both of the children are Iva’s. I want to want to kill Hearth…but I can’t Not until I hear what he has to say. We have some time to think until he rises… More meditation.

He has explained it to me. How he felt, how he fled, how he became what he is now… It saddens me. He was supposed to get off with out a scratch and now it is clear to me that he suffered as much as I because of our mid-night rendezvous. I can’t find it in me to hate him, or to kill him. In fact I can feel the bond we had before strengthen, he is a childhood friend, brother really, who is now in the same boat I am, in a way. I find myself forgiving him, and enjoying my new family.

I feel empty. I can feel that the place where I stored all this hate is not gone. Like someone pouring out the steaming water from a hot bath, or emptying the embers of the forge and leaving nothing behind for kindling. I feel…lost. Either way, we now need to deliver my brother to receive some training…or something like that.

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I don't have much Morles
But, boy if I did...

We have some downtime again. Traveling across creation does that, we all agreed that we should stop in towns as infrequently as we can while maintaining our supplies. Between Taki and myself Saffron’s leg is doing much better. I might have broken it again, but it was Taki that set it straight. I have picked up quite a bit of ire from my masters due to my actions with my family. Some of whom can not seem to stop calling me by my former name, instead of my title. I have a gift idea for Joyous Dawn, something to help soothe her and her sister, Florin. Hearth and I were able to catch up for a little bit before I had to take to my studies and meditations. It is nice being able to commune with someone who I know so well.

I feel a little guilty. It seems that my pushing a metaphor has shoved the relationship between Sorel and Taki to develop much faster then the snails pace they were happy with treading. Good for them though. I still say they are adorable together. Basu and I were off attempting to maintain supplies for our cover of being wandering traders. A quick search of the caravan revealed some basic tools I can use for the gift and maybe some finished goods we can sell.

A few of us had a sit down and told our histories. Taki’s was poignant, a tale of familial abuse and betrayal. I am a little glad that he exalted—partly to get out of there, though I am sure the being exiled is a horrid thing for him to deal with, and partly because he can now fight back. Even if he chooses not to. Sorel told us his tale as well. Equally sad and still.

[Travel and Entering the Site.]

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

[Labrynth and fight outside]

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I'm just a Deathknight
In our, Traveling Show

[Travel to Crow-The Dragon fight]

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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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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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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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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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