An Imperfect Circle

Session 26
Midnight Showdown At The Fivefold Epicure

The Ugalu appeared before Minn and spoke, "Command me." The sorceress began issuing commends, but the demon spoke again, "Command me." Zakiti responded, "Subdue her." The demon lurched forward, seizing Minn. The sorceress sputtered and coughed up water as the demon grapple her. Zakiti slipped quietly into the room.

*

Genjo, Senka, and Dawning Seaspray completed their work in the Confluencial Colosseum. Dawn's hands were sticky with rum from defusing the firedust and Genjo flexed the stiffness from his hands after the work forging the Mask of Winters seal. A scale of 7th Legion solders stood guard outside the entry. Ivory Rain waved them aside and approached the Circle. She thanked them for their efforts and Senka told her that the glass firedust charges has seals on them identifying who was behind the plot. The ambassador assured them she would investigate the plot and asked the soldiers to begin removing the charges.

The others rejoined Zakiti, and discussed what to do with Minn. They decided to question her, and Genjo found a quiet riverside warehouse. They tied her, and threatened her with violence if she didn't reveal what she knew of the plot. She explained that Typhon was paying her very well and that he had planned to blame House Sesus for supporting Thran's rebels. He was going to position himself as the hero to uncover the plot and unite the Confederation of Rivers against the Realm. With some urging, she agreed to testify before the Assembly, but would not do so unless Typhon was removed as a threat. The circle agreed to her terms, and they brought her to Dawn's waiting ship the to keep her safe while they confronted the Deathknight.

*

Thanks to Senka's infiltration of the Nexus embassy, they knew to find Typhon at the Fivefold Epicure with the ambassador from Nexus. They assembled in the street, and Genjo stepped forward to call him out. Bronze Executioners, mercenary soldiers from Nexus, barred their way. A fight broke out, and Genjo strode into the mass of soldiers. Senka dropped into a fighting stance, and her blade flicked out, cutting down those who opposed them. From her hidden position up the street, Zakiti called forth her greenmaw, and it lashed into the soldiers as well.

A shriek echoed from above, and Dawn rolled out of the way just in time as a wing warrior woman swooped down from the sky spear first. Dawn's bow materialized as she reached out for it, and she fired bits of cloth as arrows at winged creature. A few well placed shots felled the creature as Genjo and Senka made short work of the mercenaries. Zakiti began drawing sorcerous essence around her, still hidden from the melee in the street.

Typhon emerged, a wicked hex-edged blade materializing dripping blood in his hand. As he strode forward, the fallen arms an armor of the dead mercenaries lurched to their feet driven by ghostly essence. Genjo recognized the tell-tale signs of war ghosts animating the weapons and armor of the dead men. He fought his way though, and stuck at Typhon. They exchanged blows, neither gaining significant advantage until Genjo landed a glancing blow.

The deathknight leaped away, beginning to fled the combat as the momentum turned against him. He moved to fast even for Senka flashing blade to catch him. However, as he made is way down the street, Zakiti emerged, essence around her crystallizing into shard of obsidian. A hundred razor-edged butterflies whipped through the air toward Typhon. He never knew they were there before death caught him and shredded him.

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Session 25
Haste Before Dark

The circle spit up to cover more ground, knowning that their time to act was short. Genjo and Dawning Seaspray went to meet with Onmoraki. Genjo warned him about the plot to attack the Assembly. Onmoraki lamented that he could do nothing, and while his master, the Waker in Darkness was powerful, he was too far from Marita to aid them now.

Meanwhile, Zakiti and Senka went to confront Thran. They found him providing council, aid, and arbitration in one of the market squares in Fenside. Zakiti stood to reveal herself to him, and beckoned for him to follow. They led him to a secluded spot, where he said stories of Zakiti's actions had inspired him. They debated the timing of his actions in Marita, with Zakiti arguing that the Mask of Winters was an enemy of all life and Typhon's Coils was not to be trusted. Thran responded that he knew the Lord of Thorns was not his friend, but that they had common enemies. Freedom in death was better than slavery to the Realm or the Guild.

Senka suggested that rather than killing the Confederation Assembly, Thran could speak to them and convince them of the need to change the River Lands. Than was stunned by the offer and agreed. Senka asked how they could stop the explosions. Thran explained that Minn's servants would ignite the charges. He then agreed to come with them to meet the rest of the circle and discuss how to proceed.

*

Recognizing the need for allies, Genjo and Dawning Seaspray went to meet the ambassador from Great Forks, Ivory Rain. They approach the embassy-temple staff, and Dawn draws on their connection to the Ambassador to talk her way in. Genjo used the opportunity to explain the plot and threat to Ivory. She listens attentively, and suggests they bring in 7th Legion forces to help deal with the situation. She agreed that the plot needed to be kept quiet for now, but said she would go in person to alter Toriki Antar, representative of Lookshy.

*

The circle gathered once again to discuss their next steps just a the long shadows of evening turned to the darkness of night. They agreed that there would be no way to get the Assembly to meet elsewhere, and they couldn't move enough of the firedust in time. They considered blowing up the building in the night to avoid casualties, but wanted to turn to that option as a last resort.

They agreed to go after Minn to bring her to the Confluencial Colosseum to encourage her to call of the attack in self-preservation. They asked Thran to warn the poor to stay out of the Colosseum, but to gather there outside in demonstration. They promised to bring him in to speak when they went before the assembly.

Outside Minn's guesthouse, the others waited in a shadowed alleyway while Zakiti climbed the wall to see whether she could use her sorcery to cast Minn into magical slumber. She peeked through the window, and observed Minn preparing the first steps of a ritual of demon summoning. After a quick discussion with the circle, she agreed to stay behind and try to seize control of Minn's demon. The rest of the circle agreed to go back to Ivory Rain, then do what they could about the Firedust.

*

Upon their return, the Temple-Embasy was much busier than earlier in the evening. Senka left an offering at Talespinner's shrine before entering. They were quickly able to get in to see Ivory Rain. Without consulting the circle, Senka asked Ivory to send word to the 7th Legion garrison to assemble outside the Confluencial Colosseum. The circle promises to go ahead of them to see if there was some good they could do to limit the damage.

After they departed, Genjo chastised Senka for changing the plans and risking involvement with the dragon-blooded of Lookshy. Senka responded defensively, stating that they need to act and stop debating in order to save people.

While the Solars were arguing, Sienna dropped her pirate swagger and took up the stiff gait of Inspector Leahni. She ordered the guards aside and the circle headed toward the nearest cache of explosives. Leahni quickly notices that the jars holding the firedust were marked by the emblem of House Sesus. She realized that the Mask of Winters' plot may be to frame the Realm for the attack and spark a new war between the Confederation of Rivers and the Scarlet Dynasty.

Thinking quickly, Leahni realized that the combination of spice and alcohol in Dawning Seaspray's endless jug of rum would defuse most of explosive power of the firedust, causing it ot smolder dully instead of producing gouts of flame. While she started breaking the wax seals and pouring rum into the jars, Genjo set to stripping the marks of House Sesus and replacing them with the sigil of the Mask of Winters…

*

Meanwhile, as Minn's ritual progressed, Zakiti set a counter-working against her from the roof of the guest house. Despite the glowing circle, she channeled away the binding of Minn's summoning and took hold of it herself. As the stars moved marking midnight under the Quiver, the essence of the summoning coalesced and the demon emerged…

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Session 24
Fire Within Smoke

Senka made her way to the Confluencial Colosseum, a massive First Age structure surrounded by water that served as the meeting place for the Confederation of Rivers Assembly. She circled the ancient building, noting the entrances. She recalled that guests to the Assembly could watch the proceedings from the upper ranks of the colosseum, payed the nominal fee to enter, and filed in with the other observers. Checking the schedule, the most noteworthy business for the day was a request for 7th Legion military advisers to consult regarding the growing aggression from the Sword Prince of Vaneha. The next day would be the Grand Assembly of the Confederation, with all representatives of the coalition present.

From the upper observation gallery, the speakers were still audible, their voices carried by the channeled winds of the colloseum. She used her high vantage point to surveil the premises. She noted that like most of Marita's First Age structures, the colloseum had sunk into the river. Interlopers could potentially enter through the water.

She paused to listen to the current speech. The ambassador from some minor far eastern principality of the Hundred Kingdoms was talking about raids from Vaneha. The speaker accused the Sword Prince of keeping an Anathema adviser. Taking the time to watch the proceedings, Senka noted that of the great nations, only Lookshy had a representative. Below the newly build observation decks, the seats of the other great nations were empty of all but perfunctory scribes.

Assessing the structure of the building, she realized the upper observation balcony was new construction build atop the First Age edifice. Were it to collapse, it would fall inward, crushing the assembly. With a clever excuse, she slipped inside, and adopted a servant's poise to pass unhindered within the structure…

*

Meanwhile, Zakiti returned to Thran dwelling to see what effect the dream she had sent had upon him. From the next rooftop, she expanded her senses, taking everything in. She sorted through the sounds of daily life and focused on Thran's voice. He was conversing with a woman, expressing doubts about the timing of their strike. She pushed him, insisting the time was now and that their ally would not be able to support them indefinitely. She promised to take his concerns to their ally but that they would likely need to proceed.

Zakiti shadowed the woman. She first noticed that while the woman's overcloak was travel-worn and dirty, she had far finer clothes beneath. She had dark hair and a superior bearing, with a slight sneer to her neutral expression. Zakiti's supernatural senses also caught the hint of a ripple behind her, like an oil slick in the air with the faint scent of blood. She looked with her spirit sight and saw a hulking, scale-skinned, cyclopean demon dripping black water that sizzled on the paving stones as it evaporated. She recognized it as an ugalu, a dweller in the black river. The demon took and aggressive step toward a gaggle of children, but with a sharp glance from the woman, it stepped back to follow her.

*

Senka wound her way downward until she reached where the lower levels of the colloseum met the water of the river. The area was mostly relegated to storage, and not well maintained. Amidst the arches, she spotted something glistening on the water, like an oily film and the air had a metallic scent. She went to inspect, and discovered claw marks in the First Age masonry, as if something had cambered out of the water. She walked a circuit of the lowest level and found nothing, and no signs of structural weakness.

She thought about where she would strike, and made her way to where the new construction sat atop the old colloseum, beneath the box seats of the great nations…

*

Zakiti tailed the woman, who walked with the practice of someone who did not want to be followed. Zakiti recognized her skill, but had no trouble shadowing her. As the woman moved toward the finer parts of the city, she removed her worn cloak, wrapped it in a bundle, and stashed in away. Her fine clothes would have drawn too mach attention in Fenside.

She entered one of the garden palaces that hosted guests of the assembly. Zakiti sneaked past the guards and positioned herself to listen as the woman knocked on a door. She heard a resonant male voice answering the door, but man's words escaped Zakiti's comprehension. She could hear the voice, and his speech was not that of a foreign tongue, but the voice echoed and vibrated, as if out of tune. She still heard the woman, who expressed a low opinion of Thran.

Zakiti found a position where she could watch the doorway. Her spirit sight revealed that the ugalu crouched, guarding the corridor, but she remained out of sight. From within she heard the woman, “ The last of firedust will be put in place tonight, whether Thran agrees or not.”

Zakiti heard the woman get up and move toward the door. Through the door, she saw the men that she was meeting with. His gaunt cheeks were pale and a thin scar marred one side of his handsome face. The barest cruel smile touched his lips but did not reach his eyes, which showed only disdain. He wore luxurious garments, included a sculpted leather chestpiece with geometric designs and a cowled cloak. Around his brow, a diadem held a stone that radiated luminescence of darkness and blood. The stone pulsed as he spoke, "Farewell Minn."

Zakiti followed Minn back to another guest house, where she entered, and likely went to sleep. She returned to discussed what she had seen with the others of her circle.

*

Senka followed the scrapping marks and oily metallic scent to a chamber deep in the new structure of the Confluencial Colosseum. From the glimmering indirect sunlight filtering through corridors, she saw dozens of massive glass jars capped in wax. She darted from one room to the next, estimating that there were over 100 jars of firedust beneath the seats of the ambassadorial delegations.

Before she could rightly react to what she saw, she felt the hair on the back of her neck rise as the smell of blood and metal intensified. A low growl emanated from the shadows and a massive, horned, shaggy creature materialized from the dark liquid on the floor. Senka released a shrill scream and vaulted up the stairs, through the arched halls, and out of the Colosseum before the demon could reach her. As she landed heavily on the rooftop on the other side of the moat, she realize the demon had not chased her.

*

Senka rejoined the others, grabbed a drink from the table, and downed it before speaking. Still catching her breath, she explained to the others what she had seen. She expressed the fear that the attack would start a war. Zakiti explained what she had seen, and Genjo identified the man she had seen as Typhon's Coils, ambassador for the Mask of Winters. The Solars discussed what do, including warning the audience and exposing the explosives or setting them off early to avoid unnecessary deaths. As they plotted, the shadows of evening began to fall…

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Session 23
Hints of Fire and Snakes

The Circle settled in to wait for Sienna's promised help. Genjo seemed to have a new and radiant poise to his demeanor. Dressed in a traditional haori with broad triangular shouldered that emphasized his physical presences, he sought out Onmoraki. He wore dark colors, accentuated with bright yellow circles where the symbols of house and clan would traditionally appear. Senka followed him in fine but functional cloths; hair cut short, mask replaced by a veil. They found the Walker's emissary in the Thousand Steam Palace. They met by a fountain beneath a flowering tree.

Onmoraki was surprised to see the Solars, and asked what they intend in meeting him. Genjo explained that they planned to secure a speaking place before the Assembly to give Onmoraki a chance to speak against the Mask of Winters. The ghost-blooded diplomat agreed with their approach. Genjo expressed his hope that his personal experience at the fall of Thorns would help move the Assembly to action.

Genjo asked what coalitions within would oppose their message. Onmoraki explain that Garath, the ambassador from Nexus, would likely oppose their position. He was a naturally suspicious man, and Nexus benefited from the current status quo. The great trade city would be called upon to fund the expedition and provide mercenaries, both emptying the coffers of the Council of Entities. Additionally, he was often in the company of Typhon's Coils, speaker for the Make of Winters.

Typhon endlessly twisted the truth to paint the Mask of Winters as striking only against the enemies of the Confederation of Rivers. He had liberated Thorns from a puppet ruler, installed to by the Realm to slake their greed and thirst for conquest against the River Lands. Typhon had made many friends among the representatives of the Hundred Kingdoms who had suffered at the hands of Thorns army during the Autocrat’s War. If only they would recognize the legitimacy of the Mask of Winter's claims, trade long closed would be open, and all would profit.

 Toriki Antar, Lookshy's ambassador from the 7th legion, would be the voice to sway. Ultimately, it would be Lookshy's army that would have to lead any campaign against the Mask of Winters. Antar was a traditionalist and had been unwilling to speak to Onmoraki. Senka added that Lookshy would not look favorably on them if they were recognized.

After parting ways with Onmoraki, Genjo and Senka spoke privately. Senka reminded Genjo that the politicians of the Confederation of Rivers care about their safety and wealth, and how that would be threatened by the Mask of Winters. She agreed to stand with him before the Assembly, but reminded him how poorly things went last time she tried to solve a conflict with diplomacy. Genjo asked her to find out more about Garath, and she readily agreed.

*

That evening, Zakiti joined them at their accommodations, chosen by Dawning Seaspray. She mentioned that there could be an additional complication, and suggested they move to a private room so they could speak freely. She explained the possible insurrection from the dispossessed of Marita, telling them more about the fiery speaker she had witnessed and the promise to undo many tyrants. She also confessed that the revolutionaries had been using her reputation and example to gain a following.

Senka asked if Zakiti had a cult following, and Zakiti admitted that she did, but was embarrassed her actions had led to that result. Senka suggested using her reputation to set an example and turn the common folk against the Mask of Winters. Zakiti agreed that could be a useful strategy, but said for now that the potential for violence had to be stopped before they could speak to the Assembly.

Zakiti told the others about how the rebels were expecting a final shipment before putting their plan into action. Dawning Seaspray suggested delaying the shipment, but Zakiti thought they might try to act without it. Dawn stated the need to find out what they were expecting in the shipment and what they planned to do. Zakiti said she could try to turn the rebels’ actions to their advantage. Genjo warned all of them about the need to keep a low profile. Zakiti agrees, and asks that they give her a chance to influence the leader of the rebels through dreams before they take direct action, and the other agree to give her a chance.

*

Later that night, clad once again in her usual functional attire, Senka headed for the Nexus embassy. The build was a First Age tower, rising smoothly from the river. Balconies spiraled up the ivory-colored tower and lights at the top showed a party in progress. Senka set a small fire on the roof of a nearby building as a distraction an as the flames drew the attention of the guards, leaped to the 2nd story balcony on the backside of the tower. She pushed the door open and found herself in a well-organized office that she quickly realized belonged to the ambassador's majordomo. She searched the desk, finding mostly financial records, delivery orders, and mundane notes, but also found a draft of the ambassador's schedule. Two nights hence, he was invited to dinner with Typhon's Coils at the Fivefold Epicure, a restaurant famous across the Scavenger Lands for each meal being a five-course competition using exotic ingredients from across Creation.

Filing the information away, and careful to return everything to its correct place, Senka continue her exploration of the tower. She ducked into the servants staging room to avoid detection by patrolling guards, and grabbed a platter of food to present herself as one of the servers. She made her way to the tower's top to observer the party. Garath, a heavyset man with bronze skin and a painted face, presided over the festivities. A collared woman in a revealing outfit attending to him. His guests, representatives of of the kingdoms and factions of the Scavenger Lands, shared gossip and other pleasant conversation. A servant rang a gong, and Garath stood to get the attention of the assembled guests. He announced he had something special to show them, a wonder just arrived from the distant South. Servants lit long matches and touched them to paper rockets that shot into the air and exploded in dazzling display of colorful fire. Using the finally as cover, Senka departed the part to return to her companions.

*

Meanwhile, Cloud Whisper came to Sienna to tell her that Sable Oak had arrive. Still clad in the guise of her mercenary destiny, she went to meet him in their usual place in Maritia, a guesthouse built around a massive tree growing from the stump of a shattered first age tower. Sable Oak greeted Sienna, who noted that his arrive was auspicious, and the two exchanged banter about politics. Oak said that with her agreement to marry him, he would cross the line to help "her Solars". He knew the Realm was broken, and didn't want to see Creation devolve into chaos. He asked whether the Solars would be overt so that he could determine who best to approach about allowing them to speak. They discuss the possibility of Toriki Antar of Lookshy, but ultimately settle on Marusaki  Name of the Guild.

They discuss how things could turn, and Sienna said that the return of the Solars would be great changes. She did not mind a war not that upset the old order. She asked if Sable Oak would like the meet her Solars, but he declined. He promised that the Guild will let them speak, but that he will have to depart; in addition to his usual duties, he had a wedding to plan. They exchanged kisses and Sienna departed with muddled emotions.

*

Zakiti set out into the night to stake out the rebel leader. She went to the Fenside shanty town and waited until the speaker departed his house. She trailed the rebel leader from the rooftops, his guards were alert and observant, but did not spot the masterful Solar guided through the darkness by her essence.

The speaker carried out good works for the dispossessed of Marita. The people respect him, and he repays their respect with aid. He brought food the the hungry, medicine to the sick, blankets to the cold; all the kindness Zakiti had shown in the past, but more organized. Watching him work, she gained respect for him and learned that his name was Thran.

Thran met with a dockmaster, who said that the final shipment had arrived and had been delivered to the usual place. Thran said the shipment was being repackaged and that Minn's servants would put it in place. At the mention of Minn's servants, Zakiti heard a sharp intake of breath from one of the conversations observers, perhaps out of fear, though it was hard to tell listening from the rooftop of the next building.

He continued his sojourn through the city, visiting more of the needy, but also a glassblowing workshop, where he paid the master in silver, and next to a waxwork, where he similarly paid in silver coins. As the arc of his excursion turn back toward the communal house, Zakiti ranged ahead to beat him there. She found his resting place, and tore a scrap from a piece of his clothing while no one was looking before slipping back into the night.

Returning to their lodgings Zakiti enacts her sorcery to influence Thran’s dreams. With her voice over she praises his works, admiring his passion and drive. Then the dream turns cold showing a shadowland and warning of the dangers beyond his control. The Mask of Winters looming over the city while she mentions his actions could leave the city and the people vulnerable. “I admire your drive and zeal, i do not disagree with your purposes, just the timing, I would not wish this place to be the next Thorns. Do not overthrow one despot only to leave it open to another.” As the city crumbles, burns, and people die and rise again she tries to persuade him to proceed with caution lest the people he helped come to harm.

*

In the morning, a blond haired, blue eyed woman clad in practical but revealing cloths was awaited the Solars, picking her nails with a small knife. As Zakiti came down, the newcomer eyed her as a a starving man looks at a steak. She greeted the Solars and introduced herself as Kala, a friend of Dawning Seaspray.

Senka reported about the party, and told the others about the dinner reservation between Garath and Typhon's Coils. She also mentioned the firework, and Zakiti realized that the Guild’s firedust shipment arrived at the same time the rebels received their final shipment. Considering the other purchases made by Thran, she did not like the implications.

Kala brought up that the Guild would be sponsoring the Solars to speak. Zakiti agreed it would be best if she avoided the Guild officials, and everyone agreed. Kala also warned them the Wyld Hunt was still making its way upriver after them. They would need friend in high places to make sure they accomplish what they needed before the hunt arrived. She also reminded them that Sienna's favor came with a price, and they should hasten to find and free the war goddess as they had promised.

Zakiti asked if anyone knew Minn or the servants of Minn, but no one knew who they were. She said that the servants of Minn would be delivering the last shipment to the Assembly and it would be worth investigating to find out who they were. Kala suggested using any potential chaos to their advantage, but Zakiti worried about the common people who could be hurt in the chaos of an uprising. Zakiti stopped Khala in the door. Kahala took her hand to assure her that their safety was assured. Zakiti wasn’t concerned for herself but Kahla assured her she should be. ‘You are the heralds of a new age’.

As they spoke, Senka slipped away to look for caches of firedust…

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Session 22

Travel up further up the Yellow River seemed painfully slow to the Solars and as they traveled, they discussed their options in Marita. They decided that while they did not trust the Walker In Darkness, he was not their enemy at present, despite the warnings passed to Zakiti by the Green Lady. Dawning Seaspray agreed to use her connections to sway the Confederation Assembly. While she had contacts in the city, her influence and connections had never been as great as those of her former partner and lover Sable Oak, so she penned him a letter and sent it by spirit to reach him.

Upon arriving in Marita, Dawning Seaspray took them to a bath house. On the way, Senka and Genjo noticed Zakiti receiving excited glances followed by whispers among the slaves, beggars, and urchins in the streets. When asked, Zakiti said she had a past here and she would tell them privately.

They ordered a private bath and slipped into the steaming water, dismissing the attendants to give them privacy to speak. Zakiti explained that on her previous passage through Marita, she had brought justice to a Guild factor. The man had arranged to have the cities criminals sentenced to banishment and slavery sold to him. He traded their dreams to the raksha for gossamer treasures and sold their dream-eaten husks to work the drug fields of Great Forks. But this was not enough for him and he bribed the judges and lawkeepers of Marita to unjustly sentence more bodies for him to wring for profit. Zakiti put an end to his business in the city. She did not realize her needs had been noticed.

The conversation turned to the matter at hand and they discussed needing to look the part to approach members of the Assembly. Dawning Seaspray revealed herself as the sidereal Sienna, and Zakiti recognized her from previous conversations. Senka too remembered following her through the streets of Nexus. She explained her purpose aiding the solars and that she would have to call in many favors to help them gain the right to speak before the assembly. If they aided her finding the ancient war goddess she sought, her faction and the solars would gain another great ally.

The solars revealed more of their plan to Sienna, explaining that the Mask of Winters was the ghost of Larquen Quen and that they sought his bones to bind his spirit. Even with the goddess freed, they would need more allies. While they did not trust the Walker In Darkness, his aim to warn the Confederation of Rivers against complacency regarding the Mask of Winters. The overlord of Thorns had claimed to be a liberator and enemy of the Realm. Genjo joked that he would tell the Assembly how liberated he felt.

After the bath, they purchased fine garments to meet with representatives of the Assembly. Zakiti packed away her fine new things and slipped into the city to do some reconnaissance. She cloaked herself in unobtrusive essence and listened to what the people of the street had to say. She overheard the whispers, "The Hero has returned!" They were going to some kind of meeting to hear a new hero of the people speak. Zakiti, drawn to know more, followed…

Senka visited the temple-embassy of Great Forks to pay her respects to The Three. Then, she set out into the city to do some intelligence gathering of her own. She found a bar near the 7th Legion barracks-fortress and settled in to hear what the soldiers had to say. She started asking question to find out whether any of them had heard of Solar activity until she noticed one of the legionaries watching her intently, then excusing himself. She feared she had been made, and departed herself to warn her companions.

Sienna adopted the destiny of Dawning Seaspray, and began to lay the ground work to get votes of approval to speak before the Assembly. She called in favors, cut deals, and cajoled representatives and knew she had done good work. If Sable Oak was amenable to her offer and could sway one of the ambassadors of the great nations, her ground work would ensure the motion carried.

Zakiti followed the beggars who had whispered about the heroes speech. They made their way to the shipyard where the scaffolds were covered with dock workers, beggars, and urchins waiting excitedly. After a short wait, a stocky man appeared on a raised platform, tough looking men and women around him. He was stocky and had terrible red scars across his face. He spoke and the crowd listed, rapt in is message.

He reminded them of Zakiti's story, of the nameless young hero who delivered justice and demanded no payment or credit. She brought help to those who were in truest need. He besought any who had seen her to speak up, and several in the crowd shouted that they had seen her passing through the streets. There time was soon.

Zakiti followed him back to a swamp shany near the edge of Marita. She reached our through her senses, resonating with the essence of Creation to hear him speaking. She overheard him discussing plans. Her arrival, he said, coincided with their last shipment. Another voice spoke, expressing concern that no one knew who she was or what she really stood for. She heard the scarred man's voice again saying that she had undo one tyrant, but they would undo many. 

Genjo dreamed of the Sun. His divine form rose in the East and soared over the rivers, sunlight glittering from the flowing waters. He spoke and Genjo heard. "Show them that there is a great way. Unite them. As the Sun rises in the east, so too shall the new age of Creation."

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Session 21

Smoke Orchid and Dawning Seaspray completed their journey to Great Forks. Passing through the streets, Smoke Orchid marveled at the strange inhabitants of the City of Temples. Gods led clamorous processions of their followers, beastfolk haggled in the street, and spirits mingled with mortals. All she saw was strange to her ordered sensibilities, but a wondrous part of the the wider world she could explore. She asked one of the gaily dressed locals what stopped the followers of the gods from conflict. The stranger replied that all gods were free to answer their worshipers and that "the Three" kept them from conflict.

After securing rooms at the appointed inn, Dawning Seaspray doffed the captain's destiny and Sienna slipped through the streets unnoticed. She made her way to the office of an old friend a rival, Sable Oak. They sparred verbally for a while about divine politics, then turned to reminiscing, followed by revisiting old passions.

Smoke Orchid continued exploring the city. While she was watching the procession devoted to a mountain god, she noticed a well-dressed, sword-carrying woman watching her. Sensing she was being followed, Smoke Orchid tested the theory by leading her through the crowd. The woman followed, and Smoke slipped round a corner and disappeared into an ally. She got a closer look at the woman and saw that she wore some sort of uniform and bore a sword with the tripartite seal of the city on its pommel.

Having lost Smoke Orchid, the woman started heading toward the center of the city. Smoke Orchid followed secretly. Before the woman entered the palace grounds at the center of the Temple District, Smoke Orchid revealed herself. The woman said she carried a summons from the Three for Smoke to appear before one of them. Smoke acquiesced, and the woman lead her into the temple, and passed her off to a temple attendant who led her into the temple.

In one of the central domed central chambers, Smoke Orchid saw the goddess Shield of a Different Day. She was standing in a pool of light reflected from the gilt dome and seemed to glow with inner radiance. She wore gleaming armor and had a shield slung on her back. While not taller than the attendants, scribes. and courtiers around her, she stood out from them.

The goddess dismissed her entourage to a respectable distance, and spoke to Smoke Orchid. She asked about the Solar's purpose in the city, and explain that the law of Great Forks required the beings of greater essence to appear before one of the Three before staying in the city. She asked about Smoke Orchids companions, though Smoke refused to give her any details. Dayshield gave her a week's grace to remain in Great Forks before need to appear again before the gods.

Another day passed before Senka, Zakiti, and Genjo arrived in the city. They disembarked from their dark ship, which slipped silently back into the river after depositing them. They made their way to the inn and were reunited with Smoke Orchid and Dawning Seaspray.

After a short reunion, Senka insisted on bringing Smoke Orchid and Dawning Seaspray before the three. They made their way to the palace, and were lucky enough to discover that Spinner of Glorious Tales had just returned from a journey. Senka requested an audience, and was granting one. Smoke Orchid was shocked by Talespinner's drastic differences to Dayshield. He was an ordinary looking man, travel-weathered and a bit scruffy. He address Senka informally, but called her Red Snow.

Senka shared her story with Talespinner, updating him on her travels and her recent meeting with the Walker In Darkness. Talespinner thank her for her stories and exchanged words with Dawn, implying that they knew each other and that Dawn had a "colleague" in the city. The god bid them fair travels and dismissed the Exalted.

Their delay in Great Forks having lasted long enough, the circle set out on the river once again…

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Letters to Amiliar Falling Brook - Part 3

Dear Master Falling Brook,

Oooooh boy are there things I want to tell you about but I probably shouldn’t but I have a Niece. She’s lovely and proud to be a child of the sun. Like she thinks her father, another companion of mine who has left the party, IS THE SUN. I talked to her about the virtues of ruling with temperance and kindness. How being loved and revered was a bit better than ruling with fear and absolute dominance. It’s complicated and scary and involves Raksha and lessons in ‘what not to stick your dick in’ but I won’t bore you too much. It may be a thing we have to deal with but Nexus has the ability to handle their problems too.

I think that agendas might be a good topic for this letter. Or at least it is in my mind. I’m dropping this letter off at a small town before I arrive at my next destination. We just came out of the Shadowlands from an audience with The Walker in Darkness. He allowed us just to call him Walker. Nothing more terrifying than being invited by your friend’s dead father to talk to a Deathlord. Doubly so when he’s quite hospitable. 

He wants Mask of Winters dead. Not just dead but Obliterated. He’s sent an emissary out and about in the world to petition to the Riverlands to be heard. It would be helpful for everyone to be aware of what is going on. Mask intends to do more than just extend his power. They have champions in their midst more powerful than us. Stronger than you and your legions. They would make the world dead or worse. 

Now do I trust Walker’s intention? Half maybe but not fully. Oh having Masks out of the way would be really big for Walker and reclaim his title of being the biggest lord of the largest Shadowlands. That said, I know he wants to expand himself. I don’t pretend to know what the plans of a Deathlord or whatever but I know the friendship extends as far as ending Mask of Winters. 

Even knowing this the Riverlands and others need to know and hear what his emissary has to day. This fight is too big for just us and everyone living will have to deal with it. While no one wants us to be here, no one wants to be dead either, so maybe we all need to compromise and try to figure out how to survive all of this.

 I am not at all good at this persuasion thing. I do apologize but I am kind of begging you to at least entertain the idea. Also sorry if this finds you kind of late because I may have asked someone to delay you some. That way we can get ahead and handle things on the side. Solar business and all of that. Debts to pay and agreements saw to their end.

So many other agendas that aren’t our own and we’re having to deal with all of them even when we have our own. Even the agendas of Heaven and those who give us power. I finally started getting visions from the Sun. In theory you see him when you first exalt, he tells you of your past or gives you a direction or you know tells you what to do. I haven’t gotten a single one until now. Oh and a mouse but we’ll leave Sunny out of this. He says my footing is as bad as yours and I won’t allow it. I have to keep on my toes because the shit we might be walking in will kill us all for sure. 

Sorry this isn’t as organized as last time so maybe if you send something to Great Forks I can catch up to how things have been going for you? What did you think about the Shadowlands? Any opinion about the Deathlord War the living are getting drawn into? Would you hear the Walker’s emissary out if it meant a threat to Lookshy and the Realm? Do you know Cathak Kitono? What do you think of him? How has your view on Solars changed given all the letters I throw at you?

What do you want most? I mean what do you REALLY want? What ends would you go to see it done? Who would you hurt to make it happen? What price is worth what you desire?

If you get this and we are far apart I look forward to a long answer.

Be safe,

Senka

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Session 19 & 20
Blazing Light and Darkest Shade

Pausing on the rooftop and attempting to recall what she was doing, Senka spotted a rain of fiery flower petals raining down from the pulsing firestorm above Firewander. She hesitated for a moment, considering whether to call together the rest of her circle, but decided to make her way to the Wyld-touched district alone.

The district showed signs of the recent Wyld activity More of the dispossessed residence from deeper in the districted were packed into shanty-houses closer to the more respectable areas of the city. As she passed deeper into the district, signs of fire and destruction marked the empty streets. Unlike the cloud of smoke that had inhibited their passage in the past, the firestorm clung to the districts melted towers like a low cloud. Strange orange light filtered through the smoke, illuminating the streets.

Senka announced her arrival, "I come to see my niece or nephew, and passed beneath the smoke, and walked from streets to a thick forest, the canopy burning in slow motion, then shifting to fire-colored leaves. Before long, her keen senses alerted her to the presence of someone following tracking her movements. A small figure flitted between the trees. Senka allowed her stalker the illusion of stealth, letting the unknown follower believe she remained unnoticed.

Senka paused in a clearing, and a young woman emerged from the forest bearing a disk of fire. A circlet of flowers, thorns, and flames crowned her and she wore the armor of a warrior. Her strong jaw resembled Drac and her striking eyes resembled Lilac.

Senka greeter her politely. The girl looked inquisitively at Senka's mempo. Senka removed the mask and passed it to the girl, who had though it was the Solar's face. She held up the mask in front of her own face, then lowered it, revealing her visage changed to match the fearsome countenance of the demon-mask. She handed the mask back to Senka, laughing as her features slowly returned to their former beauty.

Senka told the girl that she was a friend of her father. The girl believed she was fathered by the Sun himself, and was curious to learn about him. She believed as the daughter of the Sun, it was her birthright to rule the city beyond the forest, or so her mothers told her. Soon she would ride out and claim her birthright. Senka tried to temper the girl's fervor to rule by might, suggesting that to offer a warming flame was better than to burn harsh. The girl agreed that there was wisdom to Senka's words.

The girl tilted her head, appearing to listen to an unheard voice coming from her shoulder. She lifted a hand to her petal-armored collar, and a white mouse with golden eyes and a sunburst in the fur on its back scurried into her palm. She gave the mouse to Senka, saying that it had advised her as a messenger from the sun, but now wanted to travel.

Before departing, Senka asked the girl's name, which she gave as Golden Hyancinth Dreams.

That night, sleeping in Genjo's household, Senka dreamed. She felt the presence of the Sun, who did not speak, but she could feel him watching over her.

*

The Circle shared breakfast with Genjo's family. In the midst of the meal, a  Sijanese  funerist appeared at the door asking for alms for the dead. The door guard tried to turn her away, but she persisted, asking to be allowed to join them for breakfast. Zakiti found her familiar, and so she was allowed to stay. The conversation was awkward, but she counseled the Solars to leave Nexus immediately to continue their pressing quest. They debated for some time, but eventually agreed that it was not their place to solve all the troubles of Nexus. Zakiti in particular wanted to act cautiously, recognizing that her past actions had not always been well considered and had not resulted in favorable outcomes. After breakfast, and a heartfelt farewell to between Genjo and his family, the set out.

Dawning Seaspray met the Solars at the Nexus pools with a lighter ship for the shallower Yellow River. Their course was no longer sped by the River Goddess, so the journey upriver was slow. Genjo fell into working with the crew of the ship, Senka continued her training, now under the observation of Sunny, and Zakiti took the opportunity to speak to Dawning Seaspray privately once again.

Zakiti asked about reincarnation, but Sienna did not have expertise on the topic. Zakiti revealed that she had seen visions and dreams of a Solar in the past, presumably Larquen Quen. She wanted the know the significance of the visions. Zakiti also told Sienna that the ghost of Quen had become the Mask of Winters. Sienna took note that the ghost of the ancient Solar had become a Deathlord.

Several days later, while Senka was practicing her form, Zakiti saw the mouse sitting on the ship's railing, watching her friend. She recalled an tale she had heard in her youth about the Mice of the Sun, who were messengers of the Unconquered Sun and delivered his vengeance to the unrighteous. Zakiti asked Senka about the mouse, who Senka was now calling Sunny. Genjo joined them, and Senka relayed her experience from Firewander with Hyacinth, who she assumed was Drac Ir's daughter by Lilac.

*

As they sailed through mist past shadowed shores, Genjo noticed a flock of dark shapes moving toward them. The shapes grew closer and a flock of raitons descended over the ship, circling and crying. Dawning Seaspray looked at the birds and said that they were sailing past the Walker's Realm, she suspected the raitons were his spies. She signaled her men, who opened fire on the birds with bow and sling. They shot down some, but the flock retreated past the shadowed banks of the river. With the creatures gone, she set her men to rowing hard away from the blighted shore.

Less than an hour later, a dark fog rolled out over the river. The superstitious sailors warded themselves from the spirits of the dead, whispering prayers over salt-crystal charms. In the darkness of the fog, Genjo spotted a sail. The pursuing ship slid out of the mist, moving closer to their vessel. With her spirit sight, Zakiti could see the ship was crewed by ghosts. Dawning Seaspray challenged her crew to row harder, and set their sail to get whatever advantage they could from the meager winds. Genjo took up two oars himself. With their efforts, the pulled ahead of the pursuing ship and after an hour, in faded back into the mists behind them.

That night, Zakiti dreamed. She was walking through maze-like corridors, but she knew the path. It was a safe place, a hidden place. She was their with the remnants of her circle. They irritated her, especially that zealot; so superior he though he was. Hah! Being a priest of the Sun meant nothing now. Still, he had his uses…

Genjo slept fitfully too. He awoke lat in the night, a figure sitting at the foot of his bed. He rose with a start, drawing his essence around himself, before he recognized his father's face in the darkness. Noburo's ghost greeted his son, and told him that he had been pulled from the the drowning waters of the Underworld by the Black Psychopomp. The death god wanted to speak to Genjo. They said their final goodbye, and Noburo vanished into the cycle of reincarnation.

Genjo woke his companions to ask about the Black Psychopomp, who Senka identified as another title for the Walker in Darkness. A black, lantern-lit ship appears in the night mists behind them, and Genjo convinces the others that the time has come to meet the Deathlord. Dawning Seaspray gives them the use of a small boat, and lowers them into the river, agreeing to meet in Great Forks if they are unable to catch up.

Genjo rowed their small boat toward the black ship. As they approach Zakiti could see the ship was pulled by dozens of ghosts hauling chains. Aboard the ship was a single warrior, clad in dark steel, and massive square-bladed daiklave strapped to her back. The warrior welcomed them aboard and ordered the ship pulled up a darkened tributary.

After several hours, they disembarked in a dismal blasted landscape. Zakiti informs them that they are in a Shadowland, and must leave it while the sun is in the sky if they are to avoid being trapped in the Underworld. Crossing the desolate landscape, they saw a crowd of statues sculpted fleeing along the road. Their faces showed terror and agony. Senka noticed that the eye etched into the dark warrior's blade seemed to stir as they passed.

They arrived at the ruins of Pyron with nine dark towers looming above the walls. Shackled ghosts pulled open the gates. A host of ghostly soldiers and officials was assembled to meet them and the assembly knelt as they proceeded toward the enthroned figure of the Walker In Darkness.

The Walker greeted them cordially and declared the Mask of Winters as their common foe, stating that a Deathlord should not seek to rule in Creation. They asked what he would do, and he told them he would cast the Mask of Winters into Oblivion if he could. They explained that they plan to bind his rival, and he agree that if they delivered him bound, he would see that the Mask of Winters was destroyed.

The Walker explained further that his emissary, Onmoraki to the Confederation of Rivers had not been allowed to speak before the assembly to carry his warning to the nations of the Riverlands. He asked that the Solars support him in securing the permission to speak.

The Walker summoned another of his servants, a pale woman clad in a wrapping of green ribbons, to lead them out of his land. As she delivered the Solars to the river, she warned them that the Walker in Darkness was an enemy of Creation and not to be trusted. Zakiti feels like she recognized the spray of stars in the woman's eyes. The woman said nothing further and the ghost-crewed ship carried them upriver towards Great Forks

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Letters to Amiliar Falling Brook - Part 2

Dear Master Falling Brook,

I hope this finds you well and travel along the river has been agreeable. We made a new friend as well and passage east. A fair warning but you may be in for a good chase with this captain. I wasn’t sure if you got my first letter but I’m going to just assume you are. I mean who would pass up on some intelligence and a way to track the enemy. No one knows I write to you and to be honest I need the practice. So in a way thanks for the physical therapy. 
 
I’m healing up fine now thanks to the Yanaze herself. The temple was beautiful and the Goddess most kind.I found a new weapon, though it’s no Tree Splitter. Learning to adjust to the consequences of my actions and the actions of others isn’t easy. We arrived in Nexus and learned it had flooded and people died. I learned a lot about Family too. 

Are you a family man? Do you speak with your parents frequently, I mean if they are dead my apologies. Do you visit them at least? Do you have siblings? Nephews, nieces, children, grandkids? I hope these aren’t sore subjects but our time here in Nexus has made Family a thing on my mind. I hope you’ll indulge me a little.

Before we left Nexus for Lookshy we ran into a demon, Zsfokia the Kite Flute and her hoard. She was accompanied by a storm and the rain fell in beats with her drummers. Quite the sight and though most were unnerved I found it quite soothing. We defeated her in the streets of Nexus. Learned she was my mother, in so far as blood was concerned, and still drove an arrow through her chest. She threatened lives, because of one of us, and we’ve had to handle it. We thought dealing with the demon was the end of it but we were wrong. Remember that storm? The water rose in the city because of the downpour. The parts of the city we had loved ones in filled with raging waters. Genjo’s family, along with dozens of families from Thorns, were in that part of the city.

His father Drowned. I know he is taking it hard. He won’t show it but he is. His family beyond that is safe though. I trust you are a man of honor and will let them stay that way. We ran into other members of a family that are related to an acquaintance of ours. Well not an acquaintance a former companion. 

I know I didn’t rub him the wrong way and maybe I didn’t read him well enough but he was a sharp man who wished to use his skills to help. That said when someone doesn’t get along with you, in theory, you want to talk it out like adults? Us? Nope. No one communicates effectively about their pain or discomfort and then one day someone tries to curse you in the middle of the market without alerting anyone else there was a problem. So he walked away and I swear if you and he had spoken that night on the ship you would have listened. 

I decided when we returned to Nexus no more secrets. If they won’t try to be better I’ll do it myself and set the example. It is very frightening if I can be honest. Family should be honest right?

So I told them about how I exalted and who I was before they found me. Genjo nearly destroyed a window frame when I told them but I never got hit like I expected to. Genjo by the way is the ‘I punch the ship and it sinks’ guy. I may have also dressed Zakiti up and down more than once. She’s being more thoughtful now and very helpful. I mean I do have a handicap. Get it? What if I joke about it the whole ‘what is the sound of one hand clapping’ thing hurts less.

I wonder what my old family will think of me in the eventuality our paths cross. Nope, maybe for another letter, I can’t think on it now.

Maybe when this is all over I’ll return to Nexus. Maybe I’ll learn regicide properly from Genjo’s son. I’ll spend my days trying to aid those families left out and behind by the structure we’ve created. Probably not. I’ll likely die horribly and you’ll be standing over me or maybe you’ll miss it all together. 

For now I will keep fighting to keep our little family together and try to save others. Maybe learn from a few mistakes along the way. 

Be safe,

Senka

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Session 18
Despair & Desire

Bearing the Exalted heroes of the Sun and propelled by the blessings of  Melevashni Yanazee, Dawn's river ship approached Nexus. With the sun growing low in the sky behind them, the Exalted were surprised to see the sky glowing ahead of them as well. The firestorm above Firewander had risen up above the city like a glowering red thunderhead. Flashes of fire appeared above the cloud of smoke and fire, like summer heat lightning but without the accompanying thunder.

Melevashni's river current fell away as they passed the confluence of the Yellow River and the sailors extended oars to guide them into the harbor of the Nexus Pools. Passing the riverside neighborhoods of Nighthammer, they could see extensive flood damage. Debris littered the streets and clung to the mouths of the canals and the mark of fresh mud could be seen up to the second story windows in some places.

Worried for his family, Genjo leaped from the ship as it pulled into the harbor and ran across the floating refuse. Senka followed him with a graceful arcing bound. Zakiti waited a moment, told Dawn to be prepared, and whistled for her Agata to bear them. Dawn told her crew to dock the ship, and the two women climbed aboard the giant wasp to follow their friends. Smoke Orchid called out that she had other business to attend to but would meet them in the city.

On reaching land, Dawn handed her jug of rum to Zakiti. "This is where I take my leave. I have people to meet and things to do. I'll see you later, and I'll need that," she said with a gesture to her rum. She turned and disappeared into the crowd like a native of the vast city. 

Genjo reached his family home in the tenements to find the Nightside slum showing the signs of receded flooding. The streets were littered with debris and the mud that would turn to dust and grime as it dried. The street was empty save for the vagabonds beginning to creep back in. The windows were unlighted and no sounds of life came from within. Genjo searched fruitlessly, then went to ask Gol Yu, the herbalist who had become an early acquaintance of his family. The herbalist and his apprentice were cleaning the small shop which still showed signs of the flood damage. Yu told Genjo that Hira had said they were leaving the riverside neighborhood. A benefactor had stepped in to offer them safer lodgings in the wake of the flood.

Senka stayed behind to salvage what she could from the wreckage. She found a few personal items, including the rook from Roko's chess set and a sealed scroll case.

Accompanied by Zakiti, Genjo headed to meet the Astrologer, suspecting she was once again his family's benefactor. They took the cable car from the Big Market, allowing them to see the extent of the flood damage from the height of the gondola. Large sections of the Nighthammer and Nexus districts had flooded, and many of the crowded low buildings had collapsed or suffered damage. New construction was going up, changing the network of allies, passthroughs, and roofways that allowed navigation through the crowded city. They crested the hill, and the comparatively pristine view of Cinnabar was a jarring contrast to the lower districts.

Genjo and Zakiti were ushered into the Astrologer's palace to a waiting garden. Genjo set to pacing and Zakiti noticed the other woman in garden with them. She was russet haired and carried a measuring cane. She looked very cold and stern, which was off putting, but Zakiti felt she was somehow familiar. Other than the demeanor, she looked like she could be related to Dawning Seaspray.

Senka took her own path through the city, passing through Nighthammer, Nexus, and Sentinel's Hill on here way to join her friends. Passing through the lower districts, she noticed symbols painted on walls above crude effigy statues of a woman's form. She recognized the symbols as being similar to the first age runes for Tul Wan's name. She saw poor women and men offering prayers at the shrines. She listened, and heard them offer prayers to Tul Wan, god of laws, and his consort, the River Whore. They prayed for the gods to keep the order of their city and to deliver their true desires. She circled back through the lower districts to see whether there was a pattern to the marked buildings and those that had been damaged and spared by the flood but she identified no pattern.

Senka stopped at one of the makeshift shrines and talked to the teenage girl tending the shrine there. The girl was attired in revealing vestments, reminding Senka of both priest and whore. Her neck was marked with bruises lick hickeys and she was speaking blessings to those who stopped at the shrine to leave a coin. Senka left a coin, and received the blessing, “May the River Whore guide you to your desires." Senka asked, and learned that the shrines had sprung up to give people hope in the wake of the flood, which occurred just after they had left Nexus. The rainstorm that followed the demon huntress had caused the rivers to rise unexpectedly.

At the Astrologer's palace, the russet haired woman eventually introduced herself as Inspector Leahni and bid Genjo and Zakiti to follow her. Zakiti asked about her resemblance to Dawning Seaspray, which the inspector brushed off.

Kratz met them in one of the audience gardens. Genjo asked her if she had help his family, which she confirmed, but said she had done so indirectly. After the battle with Zsofika in the streets of Nexus, the Solars had become quite recognizable. Being tied directly to them could be problematic for them both. She told Genjo that she had urged Lohlyn and Sylus, the Dragon-Blooded of House V'neef to step in as patrons; their aid to the refugees of Thorns would be seen favorably in her eyes and the eyes of the Solars they courted. His family was safe in their townhouse in Cinnabar. The Astrologer bade Genjo to stay is anger for the Dragon-Blooded past actions as they knew no other way.

Senka joined them in the palace, and she and Zakiti explained what they had found in the Lookshy achive and that they planned to start their search in the Mountains of Dawn. The map had referenced the Sparkling Dawn River, which Kratz confirmed was now the Lesser Rock River. Greyfalls, a holding of the Realm, controlled access to the river.

With Greyfalls as their destination, Senka felt she had to reveal her story to her companions. She had grown up in Greyfalls, an abandoned orphan raised by the Immaculate Order. She had been inspired by the Order, and became a hunter for them. She tracked Anathema for the Wyld Hunt, and she loved it. Once, she captured the children of a newly exalted Solar. Cathak Kitono ordered her to kill the children to draw out their mother. She followed that order, and saw the rage of the woman who bore the mark of the night caste on her forehead. When that light went out, Senka felt it blaze upon her brow, and fled into the night, cursed to bear the woman's rage and sorrow. As Senka told the story, Genjo walked to look out the palaces window. He gripped the stone windowsill, slowly crushing it to dust.

Before they departed, the Astrologer requested that the Solars not approach her directly. Given their notoriety, their meetings would no longer be kept secret. Instead, they were to pass messages through Inspector Leahni. Zakiti asked who could have sent Zsofika after them, and Kratz confirmed that among the mortal institutions of the Scavenger Lands, only the House of 30 Seals had the knowledge and resources to summer the Kite Flute. She did warn Zakiti that whoever sent the demon could be a threat she was not aware of.

As the Solars departed departed to go see Genjo's family, Senka lingered to ask for council with the Astrologer. She offered to give her Treesplitter, hoping she would tell her what to do with the now useless bow. Kratz told her to keep it. It would be unwise to throw away a god-weapon of the exalted. Perhaps she could give it to an ally. Senka thanked her for the advice, and awkwardly slung the bow on her back. “Librarians are far more deadly than you’d think” she said.

The streets of Cinnabar were a little more crowded with the poor displaced by the floods in Nighthammer and the expanding Wyld storm in Firewander. At the V'neef townhouse, the door guard who Genjo intimidated at their last visit stepped aside stammering. The Thorns refugees were preparing their evening meal. Genjo had a heartfelt reunion with his wife and son. He was saddened to learn his father was swept away in the floodwaters.  Hira told him that their daughter was taking dinner with V'neef Sylus and his honored guests.

When Senka joined them, Roko gasped at the site of her missing forearm. She crouched down to greet him and asked how he had behaved for his mother. She encouraged him to behave well, reminding him that he'd be the man of the house when his father was away. She gave him the game piece she recovered from the ruins of the Nightside tenement.

Inspector Leahni mentioned that the Solars should be departing soon to tend to the important tasks before them. Genjo said he needed time with his family. He had left twice without an explanation to his wife, and would not do so again. Leahni warned Genjo that sharing more with his family would only put them in greater danger. Hira expressed her irritation with the Inspector speaking as if she were not there. Leahni gazed into Roko's fate and saw that he would become a wealthy man. She relayed to Genjo that his son would be fine, and walked out into the courtyard.

Hira told the Solars about happenings in Nexus since the night they disappeared. She told them about the flood following the storm. She had heard rumors of a blazing figure appearing in Firewander bearing the sign of the blazing sun. She told them about the warring factions fighting in the streets for the proper worship of their gods. As the conversation turned toward family matters, Zakiti slipped out to follow the Inspector.

In the courtyard, Zakiti met a familiar woman who introduced herself as Sienna. She emphasized the importance of finding the war goddess. Zakiti had the vague feeling that she had met with the woman before. Sienna offered to answer her questions. Zakiti replied, "Why repeat questions I'm sure I've asked already and forgotten."

They discussed Tul Wan and the River Whore. Sienna suggested that they ask in Bastion, where Tul Wan had never been entirely forgotten. Sienna gave Zakiti a note to remind her, and said she would remember receiving it from Dawning Seaspray. Zakiti also expressed her concern about the figure with the blazing son on its forehead, which she thought was likely Drac's child. She said she didn't expect to have to deal with the child so soon. Sienna asked what Zakiti meant by 'deal with it'. Zakiti said she didn't know what it was, and it wasn't necessarily bad. She'd try not to kill indiscriminately. Sienna grabbed her hand, and replied, "I will hold you to that." Zakiti left the courtyard. She remembered that she met a friend and promising not to kill indiscriminately. 

Sadako, Genjo's daughter arrived home in a tasteful evening gown. She greeted her father with a hug and told him she was glad he had come to terms with the V'neefs. She waxed eloquent on their virtues, especially about Sylus. Genjo recognized that she had a crush on the older man. He listened patiently, and said that she was ready to learn about the workings of their business from her mother.

Genjo shares the news about the other survivors of Thorns. Hira was happy to hear about Yin-guan. The conversation turns to stories of old times in Thorns before the fall. They raised a drink to Noburo and the family enjoyed being together for the first night in a long time.

Despite the late hour, Zakiti wandered the streets of Nexus trying to find people to help. She saw the displaced masses from the flood, caused by Zsofika's storm as she hunted Zakiti. She saw shrines to the River Whore marked by runes of Tul Wan. At the shrines, young woman gave the bodies to other devotees in orgiastic ritual. She saw signs of violence between the dispossessed of Nexus. As much as she helped, it didn't make a difference and some of the suffering resulted from her actions. She felt emotion welling up within her and resolved to making better decision in the future.

Leanhi took her leave and Senka followed her out. The Sidereal dropped her resplendent destiny in order to pass unnoticed. Senka followed her and recognized what she was. Sienna passed into the streets of Bastion and entered the grounds of a mansion. Senka could not follow and turned to leave, satisfied that she had learned the other woman's secrets. . Sienna entered the mansion, walked to the study, and spoke to the young woman there. "And how is my great granddaughter this evening…"

Moving across the roofs on her way back to Cinnabar, Senka realized she had forgotten who she was following and where they went…

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