Archive for category Exalted
The darkness is absolute, but even still I can just barely make out the essence of the spirit. It speaks to me, though it does not materialize. I am not sure it knows or cares that I can hear it.
“Who dares to enter this sacred chamber?”
I do not speak, as I desire more light, and manipulate my essence to flare my caste mark, brightening the initial chamber in the glow. The spirit is now completely visible, and it looks like it is bowing.
“Lawgiver! Forgive me Copper Spider, I have waited so long for one of the Princes of Creation to find this place. Now that you are here my geas is complete—“
“Wait! Before you go, what is this place, who put you here, stay, talk to me, show me around? I have nothing with which to compel you, but ask only in friendship.”
“This place is a sacred building of the Lawgivers. During the Usurpation it was buried under the Earth in one day by the magic of the Solar Exalted, it has remained here ever since, and by that same magic I was bound to remain here until it was reclaimed by a Lawgiver, and to allow no one else access to it. No one has come save you, and for that I will talk. I have no duty under Heaven now, since I’m certain they’ve given away my post…”
Despite wanting to know everything this being is saying, I focus on the task at hand. “Walk me through this place as we talk then?”
The building turns out to be a pyramid, long since buried. I am informed that the balustrade is a rain-collecting device for anyone who wishes to remain inside. That way they may have clean water. It has remained mostly intact throughout the ages, confined within the earth and that the entrance I used to discover it is an emergency tunnel built after it was sealed and connecting to the second level on the interior from the top. By the end of our tour we have travelled several rooms and floors, into a cavernous space inside the center of the pyramid. A dome of pure crystal caps the top and mirrors reflect the lights throughout the chamber. No sun, no light within the pyramid.
“And… where is the hearth room?” I ask of the spirit.
It… sighs. “So many questions, Twilight. Always questions. I will answer this last one and go. Yes, the manse is functional, but it has no power. It still caps the demense it sits on, and the magic that hides it keep either from deteriorating, but that demense is no longer being fed by natural essence flows. You would have to redirect the ley lines that formed the demense downwards in order to power the manse to give you a hearthstone. Until then…”
“Hmmm… yes. I should return. Thank you spirit.” With that, I return through the manse, quietly debating on how to do that, and more importantly, what to do with a family in a house that I will have to buy… I find myself hoping that at least one of them knows a skilled craft.
I pull out 83 dinar from a pouch near my groin. I know it is a generous amount, but having friends everywhere is a courtesan’s duty; also, if my investigation helps the family, even better.
The couple stares at the money, mouths agape. It is the wife who regains her wits first. “And what poor sop did you steal that off of, hmmmm? We don’t need your charity, beggar-thief.”
I look her dead in the eye. I am firm, possibly imposing, but not threatening, and not chastising. “It is not charity I give you, woman. It is more than ample compensation to justify my searching your house for something that belongs to me. On my word of honor, I will not harm a hair on your head, take one thing that is yours from your household, or disturb your children from their slumber.” I pray it’s not in the children’s room as I say this.
She seems moved enough by that. The husband seems abashed at his wife’s behavior, but despite that has said nothing. I was a fool for bargaining with him first, I should have known the wife would be the force within this home. Especially considering how much time I spend with an equally strong woman.
Finally she nods, and I begin my search. I carefully manage the reserves of my essence, making sure not to be noticed, but augmenting my sight to be able to see the spirits of the house. I can never be certain what resources my enemies possess, and spying with spirits is just another option available in the Great Game. As I look through the common areas of the house I find it, a small section of glossy yellow tiles poking out just under the wash-basin, almost unnoticeable.
“Can I move this?” I say to her.
“How long have these tiles been here?”
She looks down, thinks for a second. “Couldn’t tell you. Last heavy rain maybe? Can’t think of any recent earthquakes…” She looks to her husband, he shrugs.
“Can I move this?” I ask again.
“Sure… But I thought you were looking for—“
“Something that was hidden by someone else that belongs to me, I am… I just didn’t say how big it was.” She rolls her eyes at that, whatever trust I had built is gone; a suitably expense for now. After moving the washbasin I tap lightly on the plate. It is hollow, as I thought, and circular in form. Once more I flick the metal, allowing the essence to transfer into the tiles. It, along with a foot more of the ground, glows slightly, but nothing more. I clear away the dirt to the end of the glowing patch, finding a small depression just beyond the circle. I push down on the depression hard, almost going so far as to do a handstand on it. I am rewarded when the other side cracks open, and Stone, thankfully, places a broom inside the crack to hold it open.
I quickly move around the patch to the open side. I can see something lurking down there, dematerialized, waiting. I turn back to the couple who lives here.
“Things will change around here. They must, for your safety and mine, but I promise it will be for the better. If I do not come out of here by the first light of the Unconquered Sun, go to the palace, beg grievance from your Princess under the auspices of Huasi, she will direct you to my household where they will explain everything. I promise, on the word given before and the sanctity of my past-lives, things will be better for you.” So saying, I open the chamber and jump down, letting it close behind me.
Once there I search carefully, quietly, inconspicuously. Despite it having been so long ago, the metal does not seem to have rusted or twisted in any notable way. I run my hand along the top and get a quarter of the way down the railing before I feel it, wind. Looking carefully I can see the carefully concealed holes in the railing, funnels likely designed to catch rain-water… but why? I examine the flames on the bottom of the balustrade, feeling around where they touch the looser soils. Its then that it hits me, what the local Gods said, the house, the balustrade randomly appearing… this isn’t a singular thing: the balustrade is part of a larger structure!
I try something possibly very foolish then: I flick the railing, charging it with the essence of the sun, listening to the resonance. The note is sweet and pure, and after a couple of tries I am finally able to hear the response note. Almost the exact same, the responding note is just a touch flatter than the resonance note, it’s also at a much greater distance. I orient myself and follow it as best I can.
The note leads to a house near the edge of the district. I had not heard anything else from Sohana about this district, so it may be that there is something else which had made itself known that was less interesting. It would have to be so, otherwise why would it echo the resonance? Without hesitation I knock on the door.
The man of the house answers it, a young lad. He looks harangued, and I can hear at least three children in the background. His eyes go wide when he sees me.
“Are you from the Bitter Handler? Honestly, I have no money with which to pay you, and this is my home, my wife can’t see you or—“
“Relax, I’m not here from whoever that is. My name is…” I had not thought to use a false name yet. It is easy to see the man looks honest and embarrassed, if only mildly confused. “Subtle Blossoms. I just arrived from Port Cailin and have nowhere to go. A man at the gate said you were an honest and humble man, I was just hoping…” I give him a look that has made general’s flinty hearts melt. His relieved look turns to confusion.
“Oh… well, let me ask my wife… please come inside.”
“Thank you,” I smile demurely. The wife enters from the other room, having gotten the kids to finally sleep, and looks confusedly between me and her husband.
“Stone, what is going on?” She asks of him.
“I can explain,” I leap in before he has the chance to talk, that may be his wife, but I’m more confident that I can sway her better than he can. “My name is Subtle Blossoms, I arrived from Port Cailin and I told him I needed someplace to stay. That’s not the entire truth but its close enough. You see, I need to look through your house. I think someone hid something of mine here, and I would like to try and find it. I have money if you don’t mind.”
We had arrived back at the door to the palace. My majordomo was waiting for us there; apparently there was a letter from my Father that required my attentions. I begged leave of the Princess to go deal with the matter.
When we returned to the residence provided for me I thanked my Majordomo for providing me the exit. I did not like the fact that I had to arrange for such escapes from Sohana, and I would have canceled this one had we not been so pleasantly engaged in conversation. I also could not let it simply pass and remained with her: the closer I appeared to my Father, the more respect I showed to my house.
The sun was setting, the entire city bathed in the violet, rose, and cantaloupe palette of twilight. I breathed deeply of the cooling air, enjoying the array of possibility that existed in this. Even though it was still recent, I had already started considering twilight “my” time. I quickly changed into a simple tunic and pants, wrapping and tying the weighted sash in such a way that a single tug would unwind it for use. I also made sure to bring two fans, just in case. I would go through the poor district dressed and looking like a common street-walker, and for that I needed props. While I readied myself my Majordomo came in.
“I have decided to get much rest this evening, and so after handling affairs with my Father I retired for the evening. Due to the nature of my rest however, I should be available shortly after dawn to handle the affairs of today should anyone require me between now and then.” He nods, and goes to leave before stopped and turning back.
“Sire, if I may?”
“Speak. You know I value your opinion.”
“I simply wonder if this deception is necessary. It is obvious to see that Sohana has taken a fancy to you.”
“Please, use her title. And I wonder if it is necessary to. But I do not yet know how she will feel if she should discover the truth, and until I know that… The less people know the better. I must tread carefully, and so despite my desire to truly be honest with someone, until I know whether or not my caution is to the betterment or detriment of our House and its place in the Great Game, none must know.”
He nods, and once more leaves. I quietly follow along the servant access to the house, exiting by a side door, and cautiously making my way to the balustrade.
This is a small Exalted (R) fan-fiction that I wrote for a friend’s game, serialized to post a section every 12 hrs. Its relatively short, and as an exception, certain concepts are copyright CCP/White Wolf, Inc. Appropriate rights reserved.
“Tell me again what that balustrade along the side road belongs to in the poor district Sohana?” We were walking around the gardens, and though I dare say I was beginning to enjoy her company, it was difficult to adjust to everyone’s perception of what was happening. I have always enjoyed my freedom, especially in terms of being a courtesan; however, for a marriage this beneficial to my House, and since it is Father’s wish… I can put aside my preferences.
“Why do you enjoy this story so much, Huasi?” It was my mother’s nick-name for me, in the interest of the upcoming betrothal I had allowed her to use it. I was still getting accustomed to hearing it from her.
“Because it represents a mystery! All things mysterious fascinate me: the unknown, the unknowing. I might tell someone that their secrets are no concern of mine, but that doesn’t stop me from paying attention. What they won’t tell me I make up.”
“Are you saying I must be more mysterious to gain your attentions then?” She smiled coyly.
“Nonsense. You are your city, and when I have made a story for every mystery here, then I shall tackle your own… mysteries.” Subtle emphasis on the last mysteries and… there, a blush.
“But what of the stories that already are, Huasi?”
“It just means I don’t have to make up as many stories… which means time is running out before I turn my eye on you.”
She pouts. “I had hoped your eyes were already on me.”
I look into her eyes as I respond, watching her face to make sure I don’t go too far. I like Sohana, more as a friend though. “My eyes drink in many things Sohana, sometimes all at once. I have sipped your vintage and know it to be ambrosia that even little gods would die for the opportunities I have had. So until I can drink deeply of the draught you provide, I will drink in your city instead… ravenously.” I know my Father though, and so I know that I will grow to love her… Love just takes time.
She clears her throat politely, disengaging in order to open her fan and use it rapidly. I can’t help but smirk.
“I assume you were speaking of the shaped steel balustrade that stands on the side of the road for only a few blocks? No one knows where it came from, for most of the city’s history it has been around, but the older records tell us that it appeared one night after a particularly torrential rain. Most people were stuck inside for days, in fact several nearby houses collapsed, and when people were able to come out again they saw, running right alongside their street, a white-steel balustrade, shaped like frozen flames. The magistrates inspected, but could not find any reason for its existence. When the local gods were questioned they responded only that it had always been there. The poor thought it was ill-omen to press the investigation, so we stopped. We could tell it was harmless, merely a decoration that had appeared.”