An Imperfect Circle

Session 12
The Five Days Darkness

At the gates of Firewander, Zakiti performed the ritual prayer to summon Tul Wan and peer into the spirit world to see his approach. She was surprised to see the River Whore following sinuously beside him, he lips stained black with ink. Tul Wan looked somehow taller and more gaudily decorated. The River Whore thanked Zakiti for the prayers in her name, pulled her hands from beneath Tul Wan's robes, and departed.

Tul Wan ordered them to take hands and follow him, leading the Solars through a winding series of streets until a doorway opened up into the courthouse of Hallow at the center of Firewander. The Solars could see the plaza was now scorched and the heat of the flames was somehow stronger. Tul Wan shuddered, and asked Zakiti to store him for safe transport out of the accursed place. She opened one of her spirit jars, and he flowed inside.

The Solars descended to the vault chamber and Zakiti once again examined the doors, mandala, and five statues around the room. Senka pointed out that the broken statue seemed to have some working of artifice within, and feared they may come to life. In a moment of frustration, Zakiti had a vision of the past. She was frustrated, unable to understand the working before her. How could her mentor expect her to solve a puzzle where nothing was visible? Essence moved within her and blossomed as a third eye, revealing the sorcery before her…

Zakiti opened her eyes, breath rapidly, and saw the sorcery before her; the ancient and powerful bindings of the mandala and the door, and a second pattern, drawing from the power of the first, and flowing into the statues. As the Solars took their places in the mandala, Zakiti prepared to redirect the energies from the statues.

When Kaveh took the final place in the mandala, each of them felt their essence swell within them, setting their caste marks glowing. The mandala and the doors began to glow with bright, golden light. An apparition, the outline of a woman in the light of the setting sun appear and spoke. She spoke the language of spirits and gods, but all the Solars understood her words. "The Deliberative has sealed the Five Days Darkness within. Withdraw or speak the words of unbinding." Genjo asked what the Deliberative was, but the apparition repeated her message. As she spoke, Zakiti seized the sorcerous energy flowing into the statues and twisted one to her will, cutting it off from the others.

The three remaining statues lurched to life. The first charged at Genjo, who drew on his essence to harden his skin and crossed him arms to parry the incoming blow. The force of the blow skidded him back across the floor, but he remained unphased. Across the circle from him, Senka drew on Treesplitter's might, firing an arrow that punched a hole though the statue charging at her. Drac and Kaveh moved to intercept the final statue.

Zakiti reached out to call her familiars and leaped into the air catching her agata's saddle. Materializing for the first time since its summoning, a greenmaw appeared and slammed itself into the statue knocked back by Senka. The green maw opened its mouth wide, preparing to devour the statue, but the construct wedged its arm in the elemental's toothy maw, parrying the attack. Senka and Zikiti continue their assault against the statue with arrow and throw dagger.

Genjo centered himself, preparing for a mighty blow with his fist. His anima began burning with the orange light of the noon sun. As the statue facing him began to strike, so did he, their fists meeting. The force of the combined blow sent out a shockwave, kicking up dust and debris. That statue went flying backwards, slamming into the wall. Behind him, a line of darkness spit the orichalcum doors as they began to slide open. Genjo surged after the statue, seizing its leg and twisting around to slam it into the ground, shattering it.

Drac and Kaveh finish of their opponent, Kaveh distracting it and Drac stepping in for the killing strike. The greenmaws tongue shoots out, wrapping around the statue as Zakiti and Senka continue their assault. Zakiti overbalances from her throw, and slips from the saddle of her agata, catching herself by the straps. The greenmaw reeled in the statue, and chomped down on it, beginning the long process of digesting the ancient metal.

With the final statue destroyed, the sorcery slowing the opening of the doors fail, and a wave of darkness emanated as the doors slid smoothly open. The light faded from the mandala, from the doors, and from the burning hieroglyphs coving the walls within the chamber beyond the door. In the center of the sealed chamber, a four-arm man made of darkness stood with his arms outstretched. The Solars who had received visions of their patron though the figure shared the bearing of the Unconquered Sun. Around him, five small statue-alters bore his panoply; a scepter, a staff, a circlet, a cape, and a sword. At the base of the alters were prayer-beads, sacred mirrors, offerings of incense and other holy offerings.

The figure lowered his arms and spoke in perfect Rivertongue, "I am the Five Days Darkness, and I have not existed for a very long time." After a few moments of silence, Genjo asked why he was locked away and the Darkness responded saying that the ancient Solars thought he was dangerous. He explained that he was the Sun's shadow and could not exist in His presence. They explained that they hoped he could help them, and he said he had understood, for he had dreamed the Sun's dreams. They asked if he could help them against the Mask of Winters in the freeing of Thorns. He call the Deathlord the ghost of Larquen Quen, said that he never liked him. Finally, the Darkness agreed to meet with Kratz, who he called a vizier, and urged them not to trust.

The Solars prepared to depart Firewander back through the Wyld, which was even now beginning to creep inward toward the courthouse…

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Session 11
Old Friends, New Enemies

On the river barge journey back to Nexus, Kaveh approached Senka for information to ask her about how she new about him and what else he knew. To get her attention, he led with "Hey assassin…", then asked his question. Incredulous with his greeting, Senka replyed, "Hey assassin? That's not a nice way to make a request. You have to start with something like Nice night for an evening", as she shield her eyes from the midafternoon sun. Kaveh repeated his request, and Senka asked him what the the information was worth to him. He paused for a moment, declared she was right and the information wasn't worth anything, and walked away. 

*

Upon arriving to Nexus, they made their way to the tenement home of the Thorns refugees in Nightside. The first man who saw Genjo had a grim expression on his face, and immediately went to get Hira. She was in a state of distress – the children had been taken by dragon-blooded from the Realm. She described the dragon-blooded; an elegantly woman, a finely dressed man with a well trimmed goatee, and a heavily armored body guard. They took the children, and demanded that Genjo bring Kaveh to their townhouse in Cinnabar.

Genjo's anger at his children's capture turned outward in an aura of intimidation that parted the crowds has a moved through the streets of Nexus. The other Solars followed in his wake, greatly speeding their passage through the city. At the townhouse, Senka climbed up to a rooftop overlooking the courtyard, and Zakiti disappeared into the shadows to follow the group in. The guard and the dragon-blooded's townhouse said he would announce there arrival, but Genjo intimidated his way into through the door.

Genjo was surprised by the scene he found in the courtyard. The elegant woman sat sipping wine and reading a book. Nearby, the heavily armored man, with a jade-studded tetsubo, sat across a table from Genjo's son Roko, a game of regicide set between them. The two dragon-blooded start at the unannounced arrival. They both stand, and the big man rolls his shoulders to loosen the the tetsubo slung across his back. Genjo went immediately to his son, who leaped up to greet him.

Kaveh recognized the woman; she was V'neef Lohlyn, his former lover. She greeted Kaveh as Ragara Kaveh, and said she was glad to have found him. He asked how she did it, and she said after hearing rumors coming out of the Scavenger Lands, she went to Nexus, sure that the trade city is where he would go. The scheme with the gar root as a fashion item from the Lap lead her to Genjo's family, and then to Kaveh.

Genjo interrupted their reunion, demanding the release of his children. Lohlyn assured him they had been kept safe and in the best of comfort, far greater comfort than the Nightside hovel where they had been living. Genjo grew further enraged, and demand his daughter be brought to him immediately. Lohlyn said she was safe with her brother but in a different location. She did not think Kaveh had become a demon, but she need insurance. He browbeat her into sending for her brother immediately. She sent one of the soldiers and Zakiti followed.

Kaveh explained that he was not who she remembered. He hastened to add that he was not a demon. He explained that he had made a deal with Madame Marthesine, and she had taken his memories of his family. Who he was had been lost with those memories.

She revealed her intentions when Kaveh asked. She said that she and her House could help him and his companions avoid the attention of the Realm and the Wyld hunt, and when the time came, she would ask for their help securing her House's position in the struggle to seize the throne of the Realm. She did not expect her house to be dominant, but she wanted them to be throne-makers and be part of the power behind the throne. Kaveh said he didn't see why he should help her since he didn't want to rule the Realm and didn't want to get involved with the struggle.

As the conversation continued, Senka leaped down from her rooftop perch. Lohlyn was startled, as was her body guard, who stood whirling and taking his jade weapon to his hand. Senka smiled and Kaveh said she was with them. Genjo turned to his son being held in his arms, gestured to the bodyguards reaction, and said, "Roko, see that? That is fear."

Things settled and Senka, Kaveh, and Lohlyn began discussing possibilities. Perhaps House V'neef could aid the liberation of Thorns, and use the support and prestige gained to make their bid for power within the Realm. Lohlyn presented a scenario where a young dragon-blooded officer united her loyal legions the forces of the Confederation of Rivers to drive the dead from Thorns. Much like the Empress did centuries before, she could use a great victory to propel herself to the throne. All this would be done with House V'neef's backing and the secret support of the Solars. House V'neef would lead efforts in rebuilding Thorns, granting them a place of prominence in that satrapy.

Senka presented an alternative; along with that dragon-blooded officer road a Solar general, clad in orichalcum. He fights valiantly beside her, aiding and advising. In the end, the Solars too could be presented as heroes, and maybe, she said, "we can prove that we're the gooder evil." Lohlyn said that would take careful planning, but was an intriguing possibility.

While his companions talked to Lohlyn, Genjo allowed his son to continue his game with the bodyguard, Unbroken Anvil. Anvil laid a trap on the board for young Roko, sacrificing one of his pieces. The boy took the bait, and Drac recognized that it was only a matter of a few moves before Roko lost the game. Drac suggested ending the game, but Anvil insisted on letting it play out so Roko could see what had happened. After winning, Anvil passed along the sage advice to look beyond what your opponent wants you to see to discern his true intention. Genjo agree, telling his son that while his master was an idiot, Anvil was clearly a man of wisdom.

V'neef Sylus, Lohlyn's brother, arrived with Sadako, Genjo's daughter. She was dressed in fine clothing walking arm-in-arm with the handsome dragon-blooded. She seemed happy in a way that Genjo hadn't seen in a long time and she was happy to see him. She started to tell him about her time with Sylus and Lohlyn, but Genjo didn't not want to hear about it and said it was time to go. Lohlyn asked that they think about her offer. Genjo lead his children from the townhouse and the other Solars moved to follow him out.

Kaveh was last to leave, and Lohlyn stopped him quietly saying,  "And Kaveh… I did miss you."  He replied, "I think I missed you too," and walked out of the townhouse courtyard.

*

On the walk home, Sadako started talking about how good a time she had with the House V'neef dynasts. Genjo cut her off saying they were dangerous and urging caution. Sadako became angry, saying she was tired of living in squalor and this was how things were supposed to be. Genjo replied angrily saying that he was giving her what he could and getting her an education. She shouted back, "No you're not, you're not even here!" That deflated Genjo, and he apologized. "You're right, I'm sorry I can't be here for you and give you the life you should have. I'm doing what I have to to protect all of you."

Back at Genjo's, Hira was overjoyed to be reunited with her children. She apologized to Drac for being a poor host, and said she had a message for him. The message was a sealed letter from Rinriven Dai, who said he had news for Drac and asked him to come at his convenience. 

Kaveh spent some time walking through the markets, letting the process of commerse and negotiation wash over him and thinking about the days events. When he did return to Genjo's, Hira apologized to him as well, and gave him the money from selling the gar root. Since the scheme had endangered his children, Genjo insisted that Kaveh let Hira keep more of the money. Kaveh disagreed, saying that no one had been hurt and they had negotiated a fair deal. Genjo grew angry, and said Kaveh had put his family at risk. Kaveh replied, "Creation is a dangerous place.  Just being what you are puts them at risk." "Get out", Genjo replied, "you are not welcome in my house." He pushed Kaveh through the door and threw the purse of coins after him.  Some of the coins clattered into the street, and the destitute passers by scrambled to grab them.

Senka, having stopped in the market to buy a regicide set, arrived to see Kaveh beginning to gather the coins. She asked what happened, and he told her the outline of events. He gathered most of the coins, though did not stop those picked up the ones that had scattered beyond his reach. He left Nighthammer, and found himself a comfortable inn in Sentinel's Hill.

Senka gave the regicide set to Roko and encouraged him to continue improving his game. When Zakiti arrived, Senka told her about Kaveh being kicked out of the house, which set Zakiti seething.

That evening, Drac visited Rinriven Dai. Drac told him about his meeting with the assassins in Great Forks, and his encounter with the woman who looked like Rasa. Rinriven speculated that the demon must have killed the assassins in Nexus. Then he tells Drac about rumors he's heard about the dead from Thorns beginning to raid Marukan and Puyo. He knew Drac was proud of his homeland and wanted to tell him what he could as a friend. Drac asked if Rinriven can help him find accommodations so he would have a safe place to stay and an address in the city for people to contact him. Rinriven agrees to help him find a place in Cinnabar in one of the neighborhoods where mercenary officers had their townhouses. 

The next day, Senka asked to meet the  Astrologer. They received an audience, and Senka asked her about her intentions and about what was in the vault. Kratz confirmed again that she didn't know what the Five Days Darkness was, but though it could be used against the Mask of Winters. Senka talked about stargazing, and implied she knew something about what Kratz was. She said she would help open the door as part of her deal with Genjo and the rest of the circle.

Genjo went to get Drac and Senka and Zakiti went to find Kaveh. They found him in the Big Market. Zakiti disappeared, and began gathering essence to unleash sorcery. Senka greeted Kaveh and asked if he was ready to go, which he was. Zakiti completed her spell, and hurled green energy at Kaveh, but he resisted the magic and the energy dissipated around him. He recognized the spell as Corrupted Word, and binding that would bar him from speaking about a certain subject, lest he vomit large, meaty maggots. Shocked at Zakiti's action, Kaveh turned and walked away.

Senka was also shocked, and was surprised to hear the depth of anger Zakiti harbored for Kaveh. She said she was trying to protect Genjo's family since Kaveh couldn't be trusted. Senka said that didn't excuse Zakiti's 

They went to meet Genjo, and explained what had happened. Genjo said he would go to Kaveh and ask him to come. It took him some time to find Kaveh, and when he did, Kaveh was packing for a journey. He said he was not welcome or appreciated, and would no long associate with the rest of them. Genjo besought him to help them open the vault, since they could not do it without him. The five of them together was clearly a sign of destiny. Kaveh agreed that he would help them open the door, but did not know what he would do after that.

They finally gathered once more outside Firewander, and Zakiti began the ritual prayed to call to Tul Wan, who would fulfill his bargain and take them back to the heart of the old city…

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Session 10
Death in Decadence

Drac followed Kaveh, leaping to the edge of the temple roof three stories above the street. The moved toward the hooded woman, preparing to strike, as a cloud materialized before them. Chitinous green arms ending in vicious weapon-like claws reached out of the cloud to attack the solars. Drac fended off the attack, and Keveh leaped over the demon to engage the assassin, his cast mark glowing. The assassin leaned back, performing a brief kata and adopting a sneak-like fighting stance. Lashing out once again, the demon caught Kaveh unawares, striking him from behind with a glancing blow and sending him stumbling forward. Genjo, Zakiti, and Senka moved into position to aid their allies.

The demon, which Zakiti recognized as a temescu, continued to attack Drac and Kaveh. Drac counterattacked ineffectively, leaving himself open to attack. Responding to her summons and occult whispers, Zakiti's agata familiar, an iridescent shimmering demon wasp, appeared and swooped toward the assassin, who deftly dodge the attack. In responce, she made a serpent-quick finger strike toward the agata, which disipated in a shimmering cloud of essence to reform behind her. Genjo pulled himself over the edge of the wall, and launch himself at the tomescu, which fended him off. Kaveh, still reeling from the attacks against him, poured his essence into his attack against the assassin. His anima began to glow with the sun's light. He stuck the woman and drove her back across the domed roof. Senka cursed as she saw Kaveh begin to glow, she pulled herself up to the roof across the street, nocked an arrow, and took aim at the assassin.

The light of Kaveh's anima caused the crowd below to panic, Genjo grabbed the extended arm of the demon, and jerked down, slamming it into the roof with a crash. The demon lashed out, attempting to knock Drac and Genjo from the roof. The solars were driven back, but kept their footing. Drac pressed forward, but the Tomescu parried his blows. The agata continued harrying the assassin, who easily dodged its attacks. She stuck toward Kaveh's chest. He panicked and threw himself backwards, casting a confused jumble of illusory images around himself, and fortunately avoiding the attack. Zakiti invoked Spirit Slaying Stance, and flung a blade from the balcony across the street. He blade flew true, and the tomescu shrieked as its very essence was cut.

Drac followed Zakiti's attack with a fearsome blow, turning the tide of battle against the demon. Kaveh whirled, anima glowing, struck twice in close succession and regained his footing.  Zakiti leaped from her balcony, calling her agata to catch her, then sped toward the Tomescu, attempting to strike it with another thrown blade. Senka fired an arrow at the demon. Drac spun his glave, cut the tomescu in half, and as it dissipated, his eyes caught those the the assassin. He recognized her as Rasa Ha, paler and more beautiful than he remembered, but definitely her. She recognized him too, and turned to flee. Kaveh pursue her and attempted to strike, though she avoided his attack once again. A ring-shaped caste mark appeared on her forehead, and began to bleed. Atop her agata, Zakiti also pursued.

With a flash of sunlight, an armored female warrior bearing a shield that shone light the morning sun appeared atop the temple dome; Dayshield, god of war, god of Great Forks. She spoke in a booming voice, ordering everyone to lay stay their weapons. The solars complied and the assassin continued to flee. Dayshield gestured and an air spirit materialized and rushed after the assassin. The Solars obeyed, and the assassin disappeared into the darkened streets. Dayshield demanded that they leave Great Forks or seek audience before the Three. Senka replied, "Great goddess, i shall see your wishes done." The others agreed and Dayshield vanished.

As the dawn kissed the walls of Great Forks, the Solars entered the Temple of the Three seeking audience. The Three awaited them in the audience chamber.  Talespinner greeted them and asked for the story that lead them to the City of Temples. Senka humbled herself before the gods of her chosen home and asked forgiveness for the others, who had only come to find her. Talespinner coaxed the tale of Drac and Rasa from them. Zakiti and Kaveh told them how Drac was seeking revenge for the death of his lover at the hands of assassins, and they were speaking to a representative the assassin's order who carried out the killing. They fought only in response to the other Exalted's attack on the man they were speaking to. Dreamweaver commented on how Drac's heart was now split, referring to his passion for the  Raksha.

Dayshield questioned whether they wished to return to Great Forks, and what they would do keep that right. Before the others could respond, Senka spoke, "Mighty Three, I will take responsibility for the actions of the other Solar. They came to this city in search of me for a great task. Their actions would not have happened were it not for me. Please allow me to make amends for my guest's actions." Dayshield responded, "Will you take responsibility for their actions, Red Snow, Now and always?" Without hesitation, Senka replied, "Until I no longer draw breath, great goddess. I would do anything for the city of my heart and the gods who rule it, whom I love."

Dayshield addressed Genjo, with a glance to Dreamweaver, and asked that he stay his rage. Then she presented Onmoraki, an emissary from the Deathlord Walker in Darkness. Onmoraki warned them that the agents of the Mask of Winters were sowing discord among the Confederation of Rivers. At Genjos request, he promised to send word to the Walker in Darkness that the Chosen of the Sun may come to him seeking council in their struggle against the Mask of Winters. He asked the Three for a mark of their favor so he could speak before the Confederation Assembly in Marita. Dayshield gave him a seal, and sent him on his way.

After preparing for the journey, the Solar's took passage on a ship traveling downriver to back Nexus…

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A Vision Of Things To Come

An ebon-skinned woman spins, dancing in the embers of a dying fire. Cloaked figures surround her, their ritual finished, watching her naked form reflect the glowing embers about her feat. One of them will likely die. Her rhythm is perfect, one spin for each drumbeat that reverberates around her. Her hair, the red of hot iron, whirls about her as if beneath the water, out of sync with the predatory motions of her dance. Bells woven into the long braids jangle as if in time with the beating of a heart. The drum comes to a crescendo and her spinning stops. She laughs, a harsh sound, the shadows waver, as the Things That Dwell in the Corners quiver in excitement. She steps from the embers, purposeful, and clashes the long, sickle-shaped blades she cares together. The first of her standard bearers arises, bearing a hollow tube atop a long pole. The wind picks up, the beginning of a storm, and the tube emits a keening wail. The hunt begins and drums continue…

*

V'neef Lohlyn stepped of the river boat onto the thronging docks of the Nexus. Her brother, V'neef Sylus, followed, carefully avoiding the refuse littering the dock. He wrinkled his nose at the smell. "Are you sure this is where you want to be sis?" "Come on Sy," she replied. "You've heard the same rumors I have. Even if he isn't here, I'm sure we'll find something that'll put us on the right trail." Sylus sighed, "I suppose you're right, and it is for the good of the house. I just wish in weren't so… malodorous." Their heavily armed and armored body guard laughed. "It's been a long time since the last time I was here, but if memory servers, the docks have the strongest smell. We'll get accommodations in Bastion in Cinnabar that I'm sure we'll be up to even your standards." As they passed through the crowded streets, the call of a steed peddler hocking his wares caught Lohlyn's ear. "…and it's sign of prestige in The Lap." That sounds promising, she thought…

*

The mountain of corpse-flesh cast a grim shadow over the dying remains of the once proud city where the dead now outnumbered the living. The living, half-starved and hollow-eyed sheltered in the shattered remains of elegant palaces. Smiling statues of their masked ghost-king graces the squares and crossroads. And temples once dedicated to the Immaculate Order directed mandatory worship to the dead who now ruled in Thorns. The Deathknight looked out, hand resting on the railing that adorned the palace atop the putrid mountain, and smiled. He had helped bring this to pass. In fact, he had enjoyed himself as the Dragonblooded who claimed to protect the city had bleed before him, and then died. He turned and walked into the fortress to kneel before his Deathlord's throne. The skull-masked figure, not smiling in person, gestured regally and spoke. "Rise with my favor go forth, for it is now time…"

*

The dark-skinned woman passed unnoticed through the streets of Nexus toward Firewander. Were her identity know, she would have faced dozens of petitioners seeking her favor, but she wore an unfamiliar face, one that slid quickly from memory as she passed. She entered an unassuming building, the spirits guarding it allowing her entry, and went through the hidden gateway therein. She was met by Jade Lions, guarding the other side of the gateway. They bowed in deference and she continued to the silver stream that would take her to the Bureau and the Loom. Hours later, she stood before it. Millions of threads wove in an impossibly complex pattern, starmetal spiders crawled about it, pulling, smoothing, and trimming efficiently as they moved. The weave was frayed and tangled in places, and more threads than before seemed to move of their own will, gleaming brilliantly. Her mouth tightened, things were moving faster than she had hoped. A hand alighted gently on her should and the woman behind her spoke. "Do not fear daughter, they will be ready before the end…"

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Session 9
Night in the City of Temples

Several weeks later, the Astrologer summoned our heroes together once again. She said she had found a Solar who would suit their needs, an assassin residing in Great Forks who was know as the Red Snow. The characters booked passage on a Guild operated barge making its way up the Yellow River to the City of Temples. They arrived a few days before the Festival of the Three, the triennial festival that commemorated the coming together of the Three Gods and Three Peoples who founded the city. After several days, on the first day of the festival, they tracked the Red Snow down to the Copper Bottom, a dark bar frequented by some of Great Forks more unusual residents. While Drac went to attend to a personal matter, Zakiti, Kaveh, and Genjo went to meet the Red Snow.

The Red Snow was sitting alone at a shadowed table near the back of the bar sipping a strong drink through a metal straw from beneath her oni mask. After confirming her identity, Genjo explained they needed her unique talents to help open a vault, impressed her by downing a powerful beverage, and flashing his caste mark. The Red Snow revealed her name,  Senka, and suggested going somewhere more private to continue the conversation. They sent word to Drac, and wound their way inward toward the Temple District to the Bronze Coatl.

After being shown to a private room, requesting refreshments, and turning down the offer of courtesans, they exchanged more formal introductions and explained the situation with the vault and the Five Days Darkness in greater detail. Senka was incredulous with the situation, and Genjo explained that the Astrologer wanted to use the Five Days Darkness as a weapon against the Mask of Winters. Senka said she wanted to help, but afterward, she wanted their help to kill someone who she said deserved it. Kaveh was outraged, he was no assassin and did not want to kill someone, much less someone he didn't know. Senka revealed that she had heard of Kaveh, and that he was a Dynast of the Scarlet Empire. She said that she'd give them some time to think about her offer and that she would meet them again on the following day. Finally, she gave them the name of the man she wanted to kill, Cathak Kitono. Kaveh remembered having met him at a gala in The Lap after Kitono had brutually put down an uprising in the highlands of An Teng. He remember Kitono being arrogant and abrasive, even for one of the dragonblooded.

Responding to Kaveh's reluctance to killing Kitono after Senka's departure:

  • Genjo: He sounds like a terrible person.
  • Kaveh: There are other ways to hurt people…
  • Genjo: Yes, I'm thinking about starting with those.

For the remainder of the evening, Zakiti turned to her usual diversion of picking pockets and distributing her gains to the poor, though she found that the poor of Great Forks were better off than most. Genjo, Kaveh, and Drac discussed the possibility of agreeing to the deal, but having a code to with draw if thing went wrong with the operation. Genjo eventually agreed and they settled on a code. Kaveh remain uncharacteristically silent having already expressed his disapproval for the plan.

Over the next day, the Solars enjoyed the entertainments of the festival. Through their search for the Red Snow, Drac had discovered a local contact location for the Serpent's Fangs, the assassins he was hunting. He scouted the Raiton Temple, where their acolyte waited for prospective customers. He discussed his search with the others, and Zakiti agreed to do some information gathering of her own for him. After asking around, she found Content Not Found: old-mother-raition, a well known fixer in the criminal underworld of Great Forks. She spoke to the old woman and learned the the call and response to contact the [[Serpent's Fangs]] and was told that the Red Snow was a reliable assassin.

  • "The petals fall on an empty bank."
  • "The petals cover the fallen."

That evening, they met once again. Genjo accepted Senka's offer, though Kaveh said he would not be involved. The discussion moved on to Drac personal investigation. Senka offered to help them, and suggested that Drac should probably not be the one to speak to the assassins, since he didn't look the part and may be recognized. She, Zakiti, and Kaveh went to speak to the representative of Serpent's Fangs.

They went to the acolyte, spoke the code phrase, and left the temple. A representative followed them, and approached them in a fancy hooka bar to discuss business. Kaveh acted as a representative of a potential client, and expressed reluctance because an assassination attempt in Marita had left survivors. The representative said that the job had probably not required the execution of all witnesses, and that if it had, the order would have sent more assassins. He also explained that he would not have the details of the job because the Fangs operated as independent cells in different cities to compartmentalize information. He agreed to find out what he could if that was an issue causing reluctance on the part of Kaveh's patron.

After the meeting, the representative departed, followed quickly by the Solars. As he moved through the crowd, Senka spotted a flash of steel as a rooftop assailent flung a blade at that representative of the Fangs. Acting quickly, she unwrapped he bow, and fire an arrow which deflected the blade. Kaveh leaped to the rooftop to pursue the unknown assailant. In the shadows and lantern light of the festival, Drac caught a glimpse of the assailant's face. Impossibly, she looked like Rasa, the fallen Ambassador of Puyo and his former lover…

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Interlude
Life in Nexus

While they wait for Kratz to find the one they would need to open the vault, life continued in Nexus. 

Drac met with Dromb, the Bronze Executioner who investigated the murder of the assassins. Dromb told Drac that he had found the case a little unsettling. Normally, a simple murder wouldn't be investigated by the Executioners unless someone important was involved. But in this case, the number of bodies and the brutality of the killing merited their attention. The safe house looked like a slaughter yard. He suspected multiple killers, given the number of dead and the apparent variety of weapons used in the attacks, but he couldn't find evidence for more than one assailant on scene. Most disturbing though was that in the center of the carnage was a single flower. He showed the flower to Drac, which he recognized as a Hiparkes Star, a five-petaled flower said to grow on the steppe were [[:hiparkes | Hiparkes]], the Horse God, leaves his foot prints as he gallops across the open land. The flower had been on of Content Not Found: rasa favorites before her death.

Kaveh took the time to delve into his past. Disguising himself, he went to the Guild to ask about the deal that lead to his exaltation. After spreading around a bit of coin, he learned that the contract he negotiated was between the Guild and House Ragara of the Realm. He knew Ragara had dealing in the South, and given his involvement with the Dragonblooded of The Lap, his family working for one of the great house of the Realm made sense to him.

He attempted to learn more about The Five Days Darkness. He quickly found that the documents at the Library of Nexus did not reach far enough into the past to cover the time he was looking for. Curious about his own kind, he asked the Astrologer where he could find out more about the Solar Exalted. She recommended not asking in Nexus about the Solars and their history. Such questions could attract unwanted attention, including assassins sent by the Wyld Hunt. She did, however, impart the knowledge she has learned over the years…

In the First Age, Solars were the greatest of the Exalted. They had lead the champions of the gods against ancient forces that threatened the very nature of Creation and triumphed. The gods granted them a Creation Ruling Mandate and the Solars established the Deliberative to rule. Through the age, the Solars battled against many enemies of creation, including demons, rogue spirits, the Raksha, and ancient races lost to time. They defeated each in turn. The Eclipse Caste were the diplomats and administrators that kept creation running. Through their power, they bound some enemies of creation, such as the Raksha, to respect parley; these pacts are woven into the very fabric of Creation, and by entering, all must obey. The Solars created great wonders and all Creation prospered under their reign.

But as the age wore on, and all foes were vanquished, a darkness crept into the Solar's spirits. They turned from collaborative rules to tyrants, jealous of each other's power. They waged proxy wars against one another as games. They wrested secrets from the enemies of creation, and constructed foul sorceries that corrupted creation. And the people of Creation suffered. The Dragonblooded, who had faithfully served their Solar masters for centuries, watch the suffering and knew they had to act. In a Creation spanning conspiracy eventually called the Usurpation, they rose up and killed the rules of Creation. The Solars were not reborn as in the past, but locked away from Creation for millennia. The Dragonblooded tried to carry on the tradition of rulership established by the Solars, but the wars of the Usurpation left scars that could not be healed. That was over 1500 years ago.

Genjo took his time to check in on his family. He was please to discover that his wife's leadership had brought stability and even some prosperity to the refugee community. He role in the bureaucracy let he ease the process of getting permits and licenses for the members of the community. He looked into the local criminal underworld, and discovered that like everything else in Nexus, the chains of loyalty and patronage wound upward toward the Council of Entities, though the system was too Byzantine for him to untangle on his own. He looked into the Astrologer, and found that she was somewhat reclusive. The extent of her personal wealth and influence was generally unknown, as was her personal power. She certainly had some kind of supernatural support, as she had been a member of the Council of Entities for over a century at least, though she was certainly not its longest serving member. By reputation, she was considered fair but shrewd in her dealings. Most curiously, her entries into the Civilities seem strange at first, but often show foresight that helps those who follow them.

Zakiti continued her sorcerous research and received several spell scrolls from the Astrologer. With Kratz, she concluded that they would not be able to break the wards through sorcery alone, since the Vault was likely a sorcerous working of the third circle. She continued to offer succor in the name of The River Whore, but also in the name of Tul Wan. When she met with Tul Wan, he expressed that he was learning the brilliance of Nexus legal system and was surprised to be receiving prayer. Finally, she researched the history of the Emissary, learning that he appeared early in the city's history and took an active role in the daily life of Nexus. Curiosity piqued, Zakiti observed the Emissary announcing new Civilities in the market.

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Session 8

True to her world, 1000 Lilac Cascade led them from the glade. The flowering hedges parted, revealing a blossom covered hall. The blossoms shifted to colorful ceremonial and carnival masks. Their faces displayed extreme emotion; anguish, ecstasy, and horror. Our heroes felt like hollow lights in the eye holes of the masks were watching them, but when they looked closer, this masks showed only empty darkness. Lilac's shell became a carnival riot of cloth and color, mirroring the masks. She stopped at the end of the passage, a broken tiled square in front of a grand building ahead. She bade her farewell to Drac, and said to call upon her when they were ready to depart.

The cracked tiles of the square formed a ten-pointed sunburst. The same sigil was engraved upon the massive gold doors. Genjo approached, and grunted with effort as he heaved the door open. The light of the firestorm overhead pierced the darkness within. Dust hung in the air, and the beam of flickering light illuminated a massive gold statue across from the door. Refuse and debris littered the floor. Looking in, they saw the room was circular, 5 doorways and 5 statues evenly spaced about the room at the points of the ten-pointed sunburst mandala on the floor.

As the Solars entered, the figure of a man rose from the debris. His gaunt form was garbed in ornate green robes of office stained with dark splotches down the front.. A long beard and mustache adorned his face, doing little to hide his sunken cheeks and sallow skin. His finger nails were inky black and his eyes reflected the mad flames of Firewander. The man spoke, stating that it had been many years since he had visitors who were not creatures of the Wyld, and asking them if they had come for a judgement. As he gestured, droplets of ink spattered from his fingers. After speaking briefly, he reacted with anger when they did not know his name.

"I am Tul Wan, Cityfather of Hallow, High Judge of the East."

Zakiti assuage his anger, and asked about the Law. She learned that this place was a court, and during the Shogunate, mortals and Princes of the Earth from across the direction came to Tul Wan for judgement. To make or change a law, required a quorum of five judges from among the Princes of the Earth, the lawgivers, or courtly gods. Tul Wan had been High Judge here since a few centuries after the Lawgivers were overthrown by the Princes of the Earth, and he did not remember much before that. He had served as judge for nearly seven centuries.

Upon asking whether the courthouse held artifacts of power, Tul Wan accused them of being thieves. Once again, Zakiti assuaged him and explained their purpose. Tul Wan said they were looking for a vault sealed by the Deliberative during the height of the First Age. The Five Days Darkness was sealed within the vault and it could only be opened by a quorum of Solars of each caste.

Zakiti and Genjo went to examine the vault while Drac and Kaveh remained to speak to Tul Wan about ancient law. Drac quickly became convince that Tul Wan was dangerously unhinged, but kept quiet about his opinion.

The vault was sealed with an orichalcum door with no visible mechanism to open it. The floor was a mirror of the sun-burst mandala above, except for the five circles marked with the five castes spaced evenly around the room. Zakiti examined the door, and found it was inscribed with archaic old realm script. From what she was able to understand, she learned that the vault sealed away The Five Days Darkness, which was deemed a threat because it was unable to face the light of the Sun. The vault was sealed by the order of the Deliberative, and could indeed only be opened by a quorum of the five Solar Castes.

Zakiti explained to Genjo that there may be ways around the seal, besides finding a fifth Solar. A powerful sorcerous working might be able to circumvent the requirements, but that would take research, materials, and time. Similarly, a third circle demon could almost certainly break or bypass the seal. Finally, if they were unable to find a Solar, and the rumors about the dark reflections of the Solars turned out to be true, finding one of them of the right caste would probably suffice. With no present way to open the vault, Genjo decided that their task for the Astrologer was complete.

Before leaving, Zakiti asked Tul Wan if he could bring them back to this place without passing through the Wyld. He explained that he could always get to the courthouse, but could not go through the Wyld. She offered him a way out in one of her binding jars if he would bring them back here when they needed. After some negotiation, he agreed, provided that Kaveh bound her to an oath to release him from the jar once they were beyond the Wyld and carry him out again through the Wyld if he brought them here. For his part, he agreed not to visit destruction upon Nexus, nor to disrupt its legal system. The agreement was sealed, and they departed.

Drac called out to Lilac, who's Wyld avatar appeared almost immediately from among the masks. She led them once more through the Wyld.  The walls became glassy and ran like melted wax before solidifying once again in rainbow hues, the light reflecting at odd angles, casting strange lights and shadows. Sounds were distant, and even the breath of the Solars echoed strangely as if from elsewhere. When the reached the curtain of fire that marked the boundary of the Wyld region, Lilac expressed her affection for Drac. In turn, Drac said he hoped they would see each other again soon. She said that time flowed differently for her. "The seeds of the sun are strong, and I'm sure we'll meet again soon." With that, she opened the curtain of fire, and the Solars departed once more into Nexus. Zakiti released Tul Wan, who quickly disappeared.

After resting, Drac went to meet with Rinriven Dai. The guild boss told him that several weeks ago, a group of the assassins he was looking for had been brutally murdered. Rinriven gave him the name of the mercenary captain who investigated the scene, and said he would call in his favor in the future. Drac told him were he stabled his horse, and that messages could find him there.

Drac met up with his fellow Solars as they returned to speak to Kratz, the Astrologer. She lamented that they were unable to unseal the vault, but appreciated their efforts. As a gesture of goodwill, she said she would fulfill any favor they asked of her if she were able. She would try to find out more about The Five Days Darkness, and would use favors to try to find a suitable fifth Solar.

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Session 7
Into the Firestorm
  • Genjo receives a vision from the Unconquered Sun.
  • Kaveh takes the next step on his mercantile scheme.
  • Our heroes enter the Wyld zone in Firewander and encounter a lovely Fairfolk who eventually agrees to lead them where they want to go for a price Drac finds more than willing to pay.

As the Sun crossed the horizon, Genjo experience a vision of the Unconquered Sun. Sol Invictus stood before he and spoke, "Genjo, forge a perfect circle," five flames in the colors of the sun of the sun appeared in a circle around the god, "and release my reflection." Genjo awoke, and went up to the roof to watch the sunrise.

The others awoke shortly later and shared a communal breakfast with Genjo's family and the refugees from Thorns. When questioned about the gar root, Kaveh explained his plan to sell it as a high fashion item from the Lap.  Hira quickly caught onto the scheme, and she and Kaveh worked out a deal in which she would take care of the proper licensing and sale in exchange for twenty percent of the profit.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In Firewander, they approached the edge of the firestorm. Heedless of the heat, Genjo strode into the smoke and flames, and made his way through to a corridor made of cool silk curtains. He called for his companions to follow, though his voice sounded distant and muffled. Zakiti followed him through, pulling cloth over her face and wetting her clothing to protect herself from the flames. She passed through unharmed, followed closely by Drac who coughed and choked on the thick smoke and heat. Kaveh covered his face, steeled his will, and race through the flames, coming through unharmed.

Genjo lead them through the silk, brushing aside curtains, until they stiffened pulled away. The pathways were then formed with razor-edge, steel-strong sheets of crimson lace. Through the gaps the in lace, silhouettes of dancing flames or writhing bodies could be seen hazily. As they continued through the strange realm, Drac noticed the lace formed the shape of a face with eyes that watch him. He saw the eyes blink, and turned to take a closer look. Out of the lace, formed from the lace curving in on itself, stepped the hollow form of a perfectly formed woman.

The Solars greeted her, and she asked their purpose. Genjo told here they were trying to find a vault within the old capital building near the center of the district. She said she could guide them. When they expressed reluctance, she told them not to worry, the Interdict still held and she would keep to the Accords. The Solars did not know what she was talking about but she assured them that she meant them no harm. Zakiti asked what price she would request for guiding them, and the lace woman requested a kiss from Drac in the flesh. She danced spritely between the sheets of razor-lace, encouraging them to follow. Despite their reluctance, they decided to follow.

As she lead, the lace became glassy, and melted like wax into shimmering pools. The woman's form shifted too, becoming glassy, then running into liquid that shimmered like the pools she led them across. Giant mushrooms sprouted, growing rapidly to form a jungle of stalks and a canopy of gills. Sweet fungal spoors wafted down, clinging to the breath of the Solars. Genjo accused the woman, now made of mushroom stalks that more clearly showed the nakedness of her feminine form, of leading them into danger. She assure them of their safety and lead onward.

The mushrooms dried and were replaced by clusters of giant flower petals. The characters had to push by the petals, and found their clothing coated in a fine dust of brightly colored pollen. The wind whispered through the petals like distant lovers' sighs. Finally, the petals parted, revealing a glade domed by fire. Their guide, now formed from petals, blew away in the wind, and the characters saw an open pagoda atop a small but steep rise in the glade. A figure lough upon a divan in the shade of the pagoda.

They mounted the hill to meet their guide in the flesh.  In person, he presence was overwhelming; the sweet smell of lilacs permeated the air, her dusky flesh exposed save where purple flowers clung to her like wisps of cloud doing nothing to conceal her nude body. Her lilac eyes were flecked with gold and her pupils slitted like a cat's. She greeted them, "Welcome, and now for my price." Drac move to her, intending a quick and chaste kiss, but she move quick as a striking snake to touch his face and pull him in for a full-mouthed, passionate kiss.

Genjo expressed his displeasure at not being led where he wanted to go. The raksha replied that she had agreed to lead them, but never said where she would lead them, and they never asked. They asked what would be needed to guide them to the vault, and she requested a story. Zakiti recognized that when she asked for a story, she wanted something more than a spoken tale, and cautioned the others against agreeing. Kaveh suggested that he could weave a tale from illusions, perhaps the story of Genjo's escape from Thorns. Genjo refuse to share that story, fearing that the raksha would weave in into the reality of the wyld.

The Raksha has Drac's name, which he gave, and she provided her own name, 1000 Lilac Cascade of Discordant Poise. She gestured for Drac to come sit by her. Zakiti offered her a bound spirit, that of an irksome road god bound within one of her jars. The spirit could be hers and tell her many stories. The raksha said the spirit cost Zakiti nothing, and that the value of a thing was in its cost. Kaveh was outraged at the assertion and tried to convince her to accept the small God and a spoken story. She said she would guide them for the god and an hour of passion with Drac Ir. 

As they argued, the raksha worked Drac's armor loose, the the breastplate fell to the ground. Zakiti tried to lift it and found it almost too heavy to manage. Genjo tried to help Drac put it on again, but Drac refused. The solars argued, but eventually she sweetened the deal by offering to balm Drac's burns. Despite Kaveh's protests and Zakiti's caution, the deal was eventually accepted at Drac's urging. While the Raksha took her price, the other Solars withdrew from the pagoda.

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Session 6

After meeting with Kratz, Genjo wanted to spend some time with his family before venturing into the heart of Firewander seeking the vault.

Kaveh began the day exploring markets of Nexus before heading to the Guild headquarters and bank to cash out his bill of credit from Meresh.

Meanwhile, Zakiti asks Genjo's family where to find medicinal herbs. They refer her to Gol Yu, an herbalist with a shop at the edge of the Nightside neighborhood. She goes to the shop, finds its proprietor friendly and jovial, and buys a number of herbs. She discovers that he has mistakenly put gar root on sale for joint pain and points out the mistake. Yu is furious with his apprentice for such a foolish mistake and removes the offending root.

Drac checked on his horse and stowed gear, and once satisfied, began wandering the streets of Nexus, hoping something would catch his eye that could lead him to his lovers killers. Near mid-day, he entered the Nexus arena as a spectator. No major matches were in progress, but Drac spotted a well dress man with guards and scribes away from the main press of the spectators. Drac spoke to the man, and asked for assistance finding his friends who could be identified by the token he had taken from the assassins when he exalted. The man agreed that he could help, introduced himself as  Rinriven Dai, and arranged to meet Drac in his office near Yinhang square later that evening.

Kaveh returned to the Little Market to find wares that he could use to turn a profit. I found Zakiti shopping for rarer herbs, and expressed his desire to find something rare, but of little value. Zakiti told him about the gar root, and Kaveh went to meet Gol Yu. He purchased Yu's entire stock, selected the finest looking roots for himself, and had the rest delivered to Genjos house. Back in the Little Market, he negotiated a free sample of fine silken cord, which he use to tie the root to his belt. A scheme set in his mind, he took the gondola up to Cinnabar to find a fine establishment.

On her way across the city, Zakiti noticed someone following her, and recognizes the face of a woman she knows is a Lunar. The woman had helped her escape hunters from the House of Thirty Seals before she met Genjo. Zakiti lead the woman into a blind ally, and positioned he self to be able to step behind the woman before greeting her.

They discuss Zakiti and her circle having made an enemy of Ma-Ha Suchi. The Lunar reveals that Ma-Ha-Suchi is one of the Ancients, Lunars who have seen the passing of an age. The woman says she met Aycus once, and he was a boor. Zakiti asked her why she was in Nexus, and she said "business". Before departing, Zakiti asked her name, which she said was  Luminous Silk. Zakiti took her hand to shake it, and had a momentary vision of not herself taking the hand of a Lunar in another place and time, and placing a ring on the Lunar's finger. Silk showed no sign of sharing the vision.

In Cinnabar at the edge of the Parko Llana, Kaveh found an outdoor tea house, Madame Fei's, that seem to be popular with the wealthy youth. The tea house had lattice walls covered in flowering vines. He claimed he was supposed to meet a young, beautiful woman. The hostess told him that his companion had not yet arrive, but she would show her to Kaveh's table when she did come. Shortly thereafter, the hostess brought a young woman, Calra Ettros to the table, and Kaveh charmed her with flattery to join him. He bought here drink and told her tales of his travels and his homeland. After some time, Kaveh offers he a gift of the root on the cord, claiming that such decoration is highly sought after and fashionable in the Lap.

Drac went to meet Rinriven Dai in his office, a three story building with a nice facade and courtyard on a street adjoining Yihang square. Dai learned that Drac is seeking revenge against a group of assassins. He said he doesn't think Drac has the money to pay him, and instead asks a favor for finding the information. He instructed Drac to return within three days. Drac was satisfied with the progress in his investigation.

Zakiti begins asking questions to the dispossessed of Firewander. As she does, she offers food and aid. She learns that the firestorm at the center of the district sometime expands to consume the blocks surround the old capitol. She learns that wyld creatures and the Fairfolk sometimes emerge from the storm. And she learns that mad spirits roam the streets of the district. Attuning herself to the spirits, she looked into the immaterial. She was unsurprised to see the usual collection of disease and decay spirits, but was surprised that she was being watch a followed by the spirit of a young woman who had the look of a prostitute. The woman watched disapproving of Zakiti's actions.

Zakiti led her away from other people and address her with an offer of help. The spirit responded, "Succor is not yours to offer here." The spirit claimed to be the god of all in Nexus who seek their desire. She said she had no name but what they call her, The River Whore. Zakiti attempted to ascertain the spirit's motive and remained respectful. The spirit revealed that she wanted Nexus to be her city, for it had no god of its own. Zakiti thought the spirit wouldn't be a good thing for the city, but was convinced that her influence could be better than the Council of Entities for the poor. The spirit agreed to bless her efforts if she granted aid in her name an offer which Zakiti accepted. After the encount, Zakiti aproached the edge of the firestorm that shrouded the center of the Firewander district before returning to Genjo's.

Kaveh found a restaurant favored by those who serve the wealthy, a second floor place in Sentinel's Hill call Chiaroscuro's Gleam where candles in colored glass holders cast rainbow reflections around an otherwise simple establishment. Kaveh added to the rumor mill that Lady Ettros had acquired a new and fashionable item from The Lap and that informing their ladies about what would surely be a new trend as soon as possible would reflect favorably upon them. Satisfied, he returned to Genjo's.

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Session 5
Nexus of All Things

Our heroes make their way up the rivers through the Scavenger Lands to the heart of trade, Nexus. They make their final approach to the city through the manicured estates and densely packed farmlands around Nexus. They wait their turn to enter the city, and having no trade goods, they pay the head tax, and enter the city with throngs of other travelers. Genjo warns them about the laws of the Decree, tells them to meet at an inn called Riverman's Rest across the canal from the Iron Market before heading out across the city. Zakiti disappears into the crowd behind him, secretly tailing him.

Kaveh and Drac set out into the city, following the main broad avenue into the city. After passing along the broad avanue for some time, and crossing a rather large canal, Kaveh began to ask where to find Riverman's Rest. No one had heard of the place. Mildly frustrated, Kaveh continued, into the city. Cresting a hill, he saw the bulk of the city stretching out ahead of him, with the tangle of streets, canals, and suspended cable cars. He and Drac decided to take the cable cars. At the boarding station, they were told they couldn't take their horses on the gondola, and would be best off to pay for their horses to be delivered wherever they were needed in the city. Striking on an idea, Kaveh approached the horse-porters, and asked if they could deliver horses anywhere in the city. The porter said he could, and asked where they'd like their horses delivered. Kaveh named the inn once again, and the porter asked what part of the city that was in. Realizing his mistake, Kaveh told the porter it was across from the Iron Market. At that point, they were able to find a stables to take care of their horses, and make their way across the city to the meeting point.

Meanwhile, Genjo was tailed by Zakiti across Nexus to Nightside, where he had a joyful reunion with his son and father. His father, Noburo, told him that one of the recent civilities demanded that Genjo and his companions appear before the Astrologer, one of the Council of Entities ruling Nexus, within 25 hours of his arrival in the city. [The civilities are the ever-changing laws of Nexus as laid out by any member of the Council of Entities.] He also told Genjo that the community had done well; Hira, Genjo's wife, had a job with the civil administration, and many of the older children were getting an education. The tenements they were staying in had been repaired, and there was plenty of hearty and healthy food for the refugees of Thorns. It was as if fate had smiled upon them.

Sometime later, Kaveh and Drac finally arrived at the Riverman's Rest. Genjo was waiting for them, and told them that they wouldn't need to pay to stay there because his family would host them for free. Kavah, incensed at having marched across the city to find a place that they didn't need to go, stormed into the inn and ordered a strong drink. Genjo followed him in, and tried to convince him to leave. Kaveh insisted on having the drink, and down the tall cup of river rum in a single drought. [Kaveh's player rolled Stamina + Resistance (2 dice) and rolled double ones!] He sputtered, stumbled sideways, and dropped the cup, which Genjo deftly caught. Genjo hoisted Kaveh over his shoulder, and led the others to Nightside to meet his family.

Upon arriving home once again, Genjo was reunited with his wife. She first slapped him, demanding to know where he'd been, then hugged him tightly. While a drunken Kaveh insulted his hosts and bemoaned the state of the accommodations, the others discussed the civility with Genjo and Hira. Hira tells them that the Astrologer's name is Kratz, that her role in the Council is unclear, and that she seems to have some skill for predicting the future. She's worried about Genjo but has prepared formal attire for him to meet the Astrologer.

The next morning, our heroes made their way to the Astrologer's estate, a First Age tower across from the Parko Llana. Kaveh, suffering from a hang over and not yet having changed, used his artifact to garb himself in illusory finery. They were shown in, and asked to wait for the Astrologer to see them.

While waiting, they are served a fine meal of light fare. Part way through the meal, a ostentatiously and archaically dressed man with a corpulent build joined them at the table. He asked Genjo to pass him a bowel of fruit and in exchange, he'd pass the wine. Genjo agree to the exchange. Afterward, the man scrutinized Genjo for a moment, then exhibited a momentary expression of surprise before beginning to gorge himself, glancing warily at Genjo between mouthfuls.

Shortly thereafter, the Astrologer arrived. She is an elegant woman with deep black skin, more common in the south, and short tightly curled hair. She wears multiple layers of fine silks fringed with gold and silver charms. Bangles decorate her wrists and ring her neck and jangle slightly as she moves. She carries herself with a self-assured poise that isn't quite smug.

Smiling at Genjo, she spoke. "So you're the son of Thorns I've heard so much about…" Turning to the corpulent man, "Is he what I though?"

The man replied, "He is. This can't be kept from the Council Kratz."

Kratz: "Ah, but it must. Remember what you owe me. Fear not, your city will be safe and trade will continue to flow. You man go Master Gen."

And with that, the old man took his leave.

Now alone with our heroes, Kratz turned to Genjo.

Kratz: "I trust you have met with your family and seen that fortune has smiled upon them."

Genjo: "I suppose your going to say that's your doing."

Kratz: "It is."

With the tone set, the conversation continued. Kratz asked them to go into the crypts beneath Firewander, and unseal a tomb beneath the old administrative center. She admitted to not know exact what was there, but she knew only the Solar exalted could open it and it would likely contain powerful artifacts or sorceries that could be turned against the dead. Genjo felt he had no choice but to cooperate, but the others were reluctant to go along; they did not trust Kratz with whatever power could be recovered from the crypt. She agreed that they could negotiate about what was recovered after the task was complete. She hope this would be the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship.

During the conversation, she also implied that she knew something about Kaveh's family.

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