After leaving another friend behind and securing an ambassadorial recommendation, the Solars completed their journey to Lookshy. They approached the tiered city through the main gates, flanked by statues of Nefvarin Gilshalos and Tien Yu. Smoke Orchid demanded they be admitted through the priority line. Zakiti was posing as the itinerant scholar Osprey Rampant with the others as her retinue. Senka adopted the name Red Sparrow, but the others used their usual names. When asked for their origins, Smoke Orchid said she was born in Thorns. The guards were slightly surprised to see a letter of ambassadorial recommendation, gave the document due diligence, and allowed the Solars to pass into the city.
Inside the gates, the company was very quickly stopped by peacekeepers, members of Pel Kan's Ordinaries. The peacekeeper asked their business, and guided them to lodgings that could accommodate their horses. As they walked through the streets, they observed that the locals all seemed to be direct in going about their business. Regular patrols of peacekeepers guided foreign visitors. The buildings were sturdily constructed and austere, and Genjo observed that each could be turned into fortress to support street-by-street fighting in the event of a siege. Zakiti notices that there were no destitute children or elders, as was be common in the trade districts of the Scavenger Lands.
They found their lodgings easily, and Senka and Smoke Orchid went to explore the Foreign Quarter. Smoke Orchid observed the city with new eyes. No longer was she bound by duty and purpose, and she noticed the small signs of pride and artistry that adorned the outwardly austere construction. Senka sussed out whether stories of their circle were common among local gossip, which they were not, and along with Smoke Orchid, got a sense of local politics. The political factions of Lookshy debated, as always, but much of their debate related to the Seventh Legion's disposition toward the Mask of Winters.
Genjo went to explore the Lower City. Lookshy's trade port was connected to the city proper by massive elevators and a series of switchback stairs and bridges. The district was much more like other ports of Creation, with raucous sailors swaying drunkenly through the street and fewer peacekeepers guiding traffic. Genjo learned that Lower City was home to a contingent of Thorns refugees, and discovered one of his old friends, Baolu, had escaped Thorns and made his home in Lookshy.
Baolu revealed that he had heard stories of Genjo's exaltation, and Genjo tacitly confirmed it. They discussed what happened after their escape, and what had happened to other members of their crew. Genjo was surprised to hear that Yin-guan had cleaned up her act and was acting as a community leader for the refugees who had fled to Jiara. Baolu said they she had expressed her fears that the Mask of Winters was going to attack Jiara next, and suggested that Genjo should go to protect the province. They concluded their walk along the docks, reminiscing about old times.
Zakiti explored, and discovered that their were relatively few shrines or small gods in the city. Smoke Orchid later explained that Lookshyan's were practical, and not particularly pious, and reserved their prayers for the greater gods who acted as patrons to the city and the Legion.
The next day, they begin the search for any records of the Fortress Invisible. They waited at the gates to the Scholars Quarter for a few hours before the officials interview them to ascertain their purpose. An extra scribe and two soldiers of the Seventh Legion observed the interview, which took almost another hour. Zakiti, as Osprey Rampant, was eventually admitted and her transit permit seal changed to green for a ten day period. Smoke Orchid heard a whispered exchange between the interrogator and the other scribe. Under the guise of looking for "Mistress Osprey's" calligraphy case, she went back into the interview room to spy on the note. She caught the quickly scrawled note, which said, I may have found the people we are looking for – a scholar named Mistress Osprey has applied for entry to the scholar’s quarter.
Passing through the scholars quarter, they saw students, both local and from across the River Province, rushing about their business. There were fewer guards than in the foreign quarter, but those they spotted were Seventh Legion Regulars rather than mercenary peacekeepers. Passing by the walls and checkpoints to the Academy of Sorcery, they spotted a cadre of guards in heavy artifice armor; a marker that they were probably Dragon-Blooded.
The archive library was a four-story building set against the outer wall on the east side of the district. Monolithic columns supported a carved and painted pediment that depicted an ancient battle. They entered the portico and found a young scholar organizing books. Several copying stations were unattended. The young man did not register their arrival until Zakiti greeted him. He examined her papers, and asked them to wait for him to fetch Master Falling Brook.
Several minutes later, after Zakiti took a quick look at the books arrayed for copying, the assisted returned with a gracefully aging man in scholars robes with a blue jade reaper daiklave hung at his hip. He greeted them politely, introduced himself as Amilar Falling Brook, and inquired about their scholarly pursuits. They discussed the archive, and Falling Brook told them that for the last century, they had been working to create new copies of the libraries oldest volumes. Satisfied, he allowed them to enter the library proper.
The main chamber of the library was light from a multi-paned skylight that illuminated the tables and reading desks in the open central area. Four stories of tiered balconies lined with bookshelves housed the library's collection. An orrery depicting the journey of the Incarna through the constellations. A few other scholars quietly reviewed the ancient codecies of the collection.
Zakiti asked about an index of the oldest volumes, and the young scribe fetch the four volume index collection, which he lamented was from from complete. Zakiti began reviewing the index, and drew deep on her essence to fuel her search. She was stuck with a vision; she was a man in another library, placing a crystal in a reader. The index projected about him as patters of light as he searched for what he needed. The vision passed and she found herself pointing to the entry she was looking for: Known Strongholds of the Solar Exalted and Their Sealed Tombs.
While Zakiti reviewed the tome, Smoke Orchid patrolled the library, checking on Amilar Falling Brook and his assistant. Senka searched out ancient maps, and Genjo waited impassively. Finally, Zakiti found the reference that she was looking for, the name was wrong, "La'guin Ken", which galled her, but she was sure it was right. The Solar, called Abomination, fled far up the Yanazee to a tributary called the River of Sparkling Dawn, where he was believed to have a hidden citadel. They lost the trail when an earthquake shook the mountains near the river's headwaters. Senka compared the description to what she new of the eastern reaches of the River Province and to an early shogunate map in the library's collection. The rivers were no longer the same as they were in the map, or in the book, but she identified the tributary as the Rock River, which flowed through Greyfalls. The Mountains of Dawn, including the legendary floating Mount Metagalpa, formed the northern boarder of her home satrapy.
While they were examining the map, Smoke Orchid overhead a commotion outside the library. Over a hundred soldiers, with five Dragon-Blooded officers, were massing in the square and clearing pedestrians from the area. She could tell they were cutting off routes away from the archive library. She quickly went to warn the others, then went to look for alternative egress from the building.
While the Solars discussed their plans in excited whispers, Amilar Falling Brook approached to ask them about their search. He seemed to be growing suspicious and Smoke Orchid recognized the need for a distraction. Unwinding her chains, she lashed out at the orrery, unbalancing it, then used the other chain to shatter one of the windows. The orrery tilted, and with a sound of groaning metal, the spere representing Venus, Maiden of Serenity fell, shattering on the floor below. Master Falling Brook's reaction was immediate; his and went to the sword at his hip, ready to draw the blade in a flash, and he leaped to the second, and then fourth balcony. Smoke Orchid was barely able to hide herself in time to avoid him.
After finding nothing during his quick patrol, he rushed out the main entry to the library toward the waiting soldiers. The Solars took the opportunity to get to the roof. The soldiers poured in as the last of them pulled themselves onto the roof. Smoke Orchid used her knowledge of the city's layout to get them passed the patrols and checkpoints and back to the Foreign Quarter.
Knowing they needed help getting out of the city, Smoke Orchid agreed to try bringing them to her old contact. His house was in the Foreign Quarter, and he had a habit of reading on his balcony in the early evening. She waited for him to appear, and caught his eye. He nodded in recognition, and she lead the others through the secret entryway into his building.
The man, Smiling Lark, answered the door with a deep frown. He greeted Smoke Orchid, calling her Lia. He asked why she hadn't stayed away, and she confessed that she had for a while, but had good reason to be back in Lookshy. Senka stepped in to give a succinct account of their purpose. Smiling Lark asked if Smoke Orchid vouched for her, which she did. Smiling Lark said he could help them get out of the city, and would because of their mission, but would not be able to help them escape the Seventh Legion beyond Lookshy's walls. Genjo said Baolu would be able to smuggle them out by ship. Smiling Lark confirmed where the smuggler operated and Genjo sent him a note to be ready to have them on a boat to Goodharbor. They waited for nightfall, and set out to meet Baolu at the docks…