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 [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)

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Manovan Marrowsteel

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Number of posts : 319
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Location : Sweden
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Fri Apr 02, 2010 8:03 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 19: The boy from the fishing village VII

It was midnight and Nighthammer Pool was as dark as it could get. There weren't much light in this district. The exceptions were inside the factories and storages where people still worked at this hour. All the signs of life came from Sentinel Hill and Nexus District, but its sounds were muffled by the sounds of factories at work. Viper had sought out a small, quite desolated, cobbled square close to the border between Nighthammer Pool and Nighthammer District. This was where he had followed Wing four years ago when he had been working for the cutthroats.

When he arrived to the square this night, it was just like he remembered it. The Iron League didn't care about the gangs and cutthroats as long as they kept to themselves in the poorer parts of the city and didn't bother too many people. This was where they were allowed to gather. There were a few people at the square – most of them were youths not much older than him. One or two boys were his age or younger. What they all had in common was that they wore black bandanas around their foreheads and painted their eye-lines with black make-up. Viper himself wore a beautiful shirt in red linen with a black dragon pattern along its back as well as fitting pants and sandals. His hair was long and smooth with a few tight plaits carrying rings of seashells and polished stones.

The boys at the square looked at him with raised eyebrows and sly smirks. The oldest of them all was an eighteen year old boy who smoked a pipe and played around with a dagger by balancing it on his fingertips. When he saw Viper, he grabbed the handle of the dagger and hammered it into the wooden bench he was sitting on. He leaned forward and exhaled some smoke.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked, eying Viper up and down.

Viper didn't even flinch. He was staring at the leader with determined eyes. He took the bloody razor from his belt and held it tightly before himself.

“I'm a killer”, he said. “And I'm going to join you.”

Everyone else in the square were dead silent. They looked at each other and they looked at the stranger who had come.

“Why would you want to join us?” the leader asked. “You look like you live a fancy life already, kid.”

“Shut up, you don't know anything about me”, Viper hissed as he showed all his white teeth. “You know what I just did? I killed a nobleman inside his mansion in Bastion. Yes, I sliced his throat.”

The leader looked at the razor in Viper's hand. It was covered in dried blood. Some teenager next to the leader couldn't help but to say: “Seriously? A nobleman in Bastion?” Another boy said: “Well, he looks like the rich folks who live there. I don't think he's lying.”

Viper was staring at the leader. He knew that he had to act tough. He wouldn't show any weaknesses. He would do anything – kill anyone – to prove himself worthy to these boys.

“Are you fucking with us?” the leader asked. “Or are you just fucked up?”

“Why don't you test me?”

“Oh, I will.”

The leader nodded to his friends who jumped down from their benches and barrels and walked up to Viper. Two boys grabbed his arms and one boy grabbed his neck. He didn't try to resist. He was still staring at the leader, refusing to show any of all the feelings he had inside. The boys dragged him up to the leader who inhaled some smoke from his pipe and exhaled through his nostrils.

After four years of physical and mental torment, there would be nothing these boys could do that would bring him down. He had decided what his goal would be. He would join this gang and become the best cutthroat Nexus had to offer. He would become an assassin. And he would hunt down all of his former master's associates who had forced him into their bedchambers for all kinds of depraved punishments.

He could endure all pain. All torment. He would even sell his soul if he had to.

The leader grabbed his dagger and jumped up from the wooden bench. He looked at Viper, took the razor from his hand and put it back in his belt. He then grabbed the boy's chin and tilted his face upwards. He took his dagger and slowly moved its edge closer and closer to Viper's left eye.

He refused to even blink.

The leader stopped with the blade just close enough to almost touch Viper's eye. He smirked to the boy who still stared with the same determination as before. He moved the dagger further down with the blade along his cheek, past his chin and down to his neck. When at the neck, he let the edge cut a thin, small line along Viper's skin and a small drip of blood ran down his throat.

But he wasn't intimidated.

“I like this kid”, the leader said and stepped back to the bench. “He's got guts unlike you guys.”

The other boys looked at each other, slightly insulted by their leader's remark. Those who held Viper let him go and walked back to their posts. Viper didn't move.

“You don't have to act tough anymore, kid. What's your name?”

“Viper.”

“All right, Viper”, the leader said and put his pipe between his teeth. “Why do you want to join us?”

“My reasons are my own.”

The leader turned to the other boys in the square. “You should learn from this kid”, he said. “He knows when to speak and what to say. He wouldn't spill his guts if he got caught.” He turned to Viper and raised his hand in a friendly gesture. “Call me Dagger.”

Viper took his hand.

“Come back to this spot at this time tomorrow and we'll give you an initiation assignment. If you pull through, you're in.” He removed his black bandana and Viper noticed he had a scar going across his forehead. He gave the bandana to Viper. “This is your key. Wear it tomorrow and none of my boys will give you trouble.”

Viper nodded, took the bandana and tied it around his belt. He turned around and left the square. When he was back alone in the dark alleys of Nighthammer Pool, he took a sigh of relief. He ran up into Nighthammer District, hurried through crooked alleys and jumped wooden fences. Within half an hour, he reached the storage room in which he had lived together with Wing, Glittering Wolf and all the other orphans four years ago.

But now it was abandoned. There were no signs of his former home.

For a moment, he felt all alone in the world. What if something had happened to Glittering Wolf as well? He had to make sure. He ran further north-east to Nexus Pool. There were some activity in this district. Taverns were open at the docks and crews from the ships were up drinking late. He was looking for his very first home in Nexus – the pawn shop.

The shop was still there. It was a three-floored building with the shop in the bottom and the home of the family who owned it upstairs. He used to live secretly in the cellar floor together with Wing and Glittering Wolf shortly after Hyena's death. The only one who knew was their only friend in Nexus. It was the owner's son.

Viper took a small stone and tossed it at the window to what he remembered as his friend's room. It gave a small clink against the glass but there was no response from inside. He took another stone and tried again. A minute or so later, he could see the silhouette of a teenage boy opening up the window from inside.

The boy had brown skin and black hair – just like Viper – but his hair was short and he had more male features than Viper who still looked twelve even though he was fourteen. The boy who opened the window looked down on Viper and raised his eyebrows. He showed the biggest grin Viper had ever seen.

“Viper!” he said. “You're alive!”

“Hello, Mufo”, Viper said. “How are you?”

“Who cares about me? Where have you been all these years? And what's up with those clothes?”

Viper bit his lip. Mufo would never understand him. He wasn't an orphan. He was a regular kid with a happy family. He couldn't tell him the truth.

“I was adopted by a nobleman from Bastion”, Viper lied. “I've been living with him for four years. I'm sorry I didn't tell you guys. He wouldn't allow me to talk with you.”

“A nobleman from Bastion? I'm happy for you, Viper. So you're rich now?”

“Not really”, Viper continued. “He died last night so now I'm an orphan again.”

“I'm sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, but where's Glittering Wolf? I went to the Place but it was all deserted.”

Mufo scratched his chin. “Yeah, she was devastated after you and Wing disappeared. She heard about his execution and assumed you were dead too. She has a new place in Nighthammer District together with the kids. It's bigger than the Place.”

“Where is it?”

“It's another deserted storage facility. You know the one who was just the road down from Vinegar Well? Believe it or not, but she actually collected enough money to buy the whole building.”

“Thanks, Mufo”, Viper said and started running towards the building.

“You have to tell me everything one day, Viper”, Mufo shouted after him. “It's great to see you again.”

Viper hurried back to Nighthammer District. He quickly found the shop Vinegar Well and followed its road south-west to Glittering Wolf's new home. It was a large two-floored building with a great wooden door. There was a smaller door next to the bigger one. It was dark inside the windows, but he assumed it was because it was past midnight.

But he had to see Glittering Wolf. He would wake them all up if he needed to.

He walked up to the smaller door and knocked on it. He repeatedly knocked on the door until a light was lit inside and he heard muffled footsteps approaching the door. It had been four years. He was trembling with anxiety.

A boy around his age opened the door. He held a lantern in his hand and looked at Viper with dizzy, tired eyes. Viper recognized the boy. It was Farim. He lived with them still back then. When he recognized Viper, his eyes turned into big, round globes.

“Viper? Is that you?”

Viper smiled. He wasn't alone anymore. He had his old family back.

Farim turned into the building. “Hey! Wake up Glittering Wolf! She's gotta see this!”

Only moments later, the building was lit up and there was almost too much activity for Viper to handle at once. Glittering Wolf was almost dragged out of her quarters by one of the orphans and to the door where Viper waited. He hadn't seen her for four years. She was still a girl four years ago. Now she was sixteen. And she was the most beautiful woman Viper had ever seen.

When she saw who was there, she burst into tears. She ran up to Viper and embraced him with her arms. She cried on his shoulder and he couldn't keep his own tears in. For a moment, he felt like he was Tear-Eyed Viper again. He hadn't cried for years. But this wasn't tears of sadness.

“I thought you were dead”, Glittering Wolf cried. “You promised you would never leave me. You promised.”

Viper could recall the day when Hyena died. She was crying in his arms. He promised her then that he would never leave her. He had left her for four years but now they were reunited. He would never leave her again.

“Things will change from now on, Glittering Wolf”, he said. “I'm finally back home.”


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sat Apr 03, 2010 12:11 am

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 20: Children of the Moon

Coral Snake dug through the other wagons and found food and packages filled with bottles of rum. He cheered quietly and took a few sips of the alcohol. He enjoyed the refreshing burn in his chest and stomach. There were two bulls still alive after the slaughter and Coral decided together with Whispering Rainbow Cypher to use the bulls to drag the wagon with Glorious Horizon's cage. The man didn't want to leave his cage and Coral had pointed out that it would be wisest not to let him out.

Yuko neither said nor did anything. She was afraid of Cypher and was shocked by the fact that she was alone with an Anathema, a masked man and a caged monster. She hid in the background, followed them around and only replied to what few questions she got with abrupt, unfocused replies. There was nothing else she could do.

Coral took the orichalcum key from the dead warden, unlocked the cage and put all the food and rum together with Horizon inside. He locked the cage and put the key in his item bag. He then led the bulls to the cage and tied them to it. They continued their journey towards the Glimmering Peaks.

According to Horizon, all the animals in the region had fled because of the Empty City's great curse. He said that animals could feel the curse at this distance but humans could not. Tamed animals like the bulls that pulled the cage felt the curse but were forced to endure. He had felt the curse himself when he was down in the valley a long time ago, but he hadn't seen much of the city before he decided to flee.

Hours passed and they got closer and closer to the mountains. The sun had almost set when they felt what ruins they could find of the ancient road turn uphill. The road went steeper and steeper and eventually all they could see were what little the moonlight let them see. They stopped in the middle of the steep road.

“We should set up camp”, Coral said.

“That's a good idea”, Cypher nodded.

Yuko still didn't say much but she didn't seem as tense as she had earlier.

“But I don't like camping outdoors”, Coral muttered. “I can go uphill a few hundred yards and see if I find a cave or somewhere we can be in peace.”

Cypher nodded and Coral hurried up the hill, past the last jungle trees and to the rocky precipices. There were no more ruined cobble but only rocky slopes. He followed them up about two hundred yards and then found a small but open cave where they could set up camp without letting any bandits, barbarians or whatever monster might be around know. The light from their fire wouldn't be seen from the jungle, but covered by another rocky precipice.

He hurried back down to let the others know what he had found. They led the bulls up to the cage and sat up camp in its middle. The cage was big enough to host them all – about twenty feet from wall to wall. They roasted some meat on an open fire and let the bulls drink. Horizon still wasn't let out from the cage, but he was given some roasted meat. He ate with great appetite. They all did.

When they were tired enough, they all went to sleep. All that could be heard was the wind soughing through the pass. The fire slowly died out.

Coral Snake was the first to wake up. It was still night and dark, but it felt like he had slept at least for a couple of hours. He heard a sniffing sound and how someone moved around inside their camp. Before him slept both Cypher and Yuko. Horizon hadn't left the cage.

He carefully reached for his black backpack, unbuttoned it and grabbed his Serpent-Sting Staff inside. His gaze was leering to the side and he could see the dark silhouette of something big and humanoid, yet very far from human. It tried to sneak around the camp and look around their stuff. It was probably looking for food.

With one swift movement, he pulled the seven-sectioned staff from the bag and swung it like a metal whip towards the intruder. The blow hit its wrist and it recoiled with a short whine, holding its wrist with its hand. Coral noticed the hand had sharp claws. He jumped up on his feet, ready to strike again.

The intruder looked at him and he could see silver-white glows reflecting from its eyes. Only glowing coal were left from the campfire but it illuminated the cave enough for him to notice that the intruder's feet were big, hairy paws.

It grinned to Coral with sharp teeth and then leaned back to howl into the air. The sound woke up Cypher and Yuko who quickly got to their feet. Horizon huddled inside the cage.

“Beastmen!” Yuko called.

The half-beast, half-man shrinked together, bent its knees and then leaped towards Coral with its sharp claws and teeth ready to dig in. Coral leaped too, somersaulted under the attacking beast and turned to swing his weapon at the monster's back. However, as he was about to turn, he noticed two more beastmen entering the cave. He quickly got up on his feet to dodge their sweeping strikes.

The first beastman turned its attention to Cypher and Yuko who were crouching on their blankets. Cypher got up in a defensive position in front of the growling beast. Yuko was still crouching on the blanket. None of the two were fighters – but Cypher knew that at least he had some basic knowledge in martial arts.

The first beast was part man, part wolf with gray-brown fur and cloth around its waist. It was a muscular beast with wide shoulders and a bulky chest. Its arms were long and so were its claws. The two beastmen who had their attention on Coral were part cat. One of them looked like a leopard while the other was more like a lynx.

Coral dodged the cats' attacks with movements like a slithering snake. When one of them started to tire down, he kicked it in the face in the same moment as he vaulted over the head of the other, thrusting his weapon through its skull, nailing it to the floor. As he did this, Cypher evaded the wolf by jumping over its head and jog to the cave entry. As he approached, more beastmen entered the cave. They were all either part cat or wolf.

Yuko didn't interfere. She could take them all on with a spell if she wanted to, but Coral and Cypher would also be caught in the blast. She decided to lay low, watching the fight. She was curious about what powers the Anathema Cypher would have, but she was more surprised to see how good a fighter Coral Snake was. His moves were flawless. And his weapon was … orichalcum?

Two more wolves attacked Cypher and he slipped between them. Thus far, he hadn't showed any other skills than that he was as difficult to catch as a house rat. Coral Snake moved the seven-sectioned staff around his body like it was an extension of himself and managed to hit the other beastman he was fighting in its chest and follow it up with a finishing elbow.

Cypher noticed a female beastman with traits of wolf approaching the entrance. She was dressed in cloth and leather and wore a walking staff of beautifully carved wood. At the top of the staff were peacock feathers and along the branch were carvings of tribal tattoos and old realm symbols. Cypher instantly knew what they meant.

“Don't attack us”, he said in forest-tongue. “I know that you understand me.”

The chieftain looked at the two dead beastmen at Coral's feet and she didn't seem happy about it. The wolves Cypher had avoided before came at him again, but he dodged their attacks and ran up to the chieftain.

“I don't think that will work, Cypher”, Coral said as he swung his staff three turns around his body to gain enough speed and power to crack the skull of the wolf he had earlier hit on its wrist. The hit sounded like cracking wood and the beastman fell to the ground with a loud thump.

The chieftain tried to hit Cypher with her staff. He grabbed it and clung to it with all his might. He embraced it like a pine-cone which utterly confused its wielder. She looked at Cypher who clung to her staff, looking back at her with pleading eyes.

“That's so pathetic, Cypher”, Coral muttered as he charged at the two other beastmen who had been fighting Cypher.

“Please, call your tribesmen off”, Cypher pleaded to the growling chieftain who tried her best to get him off her staff. He lit his caste mark.

The glittering symbol got the chieftain's interest. “Solar”, she said in forest-tongue with a growling pitch. “Twilight.”

The beastmen instantly backed off and even Coral got the picture. He stopped swinging his staff and took a few steps back. Cypher let go off the chieftain's staff.

“That's right”, Cypher said. “I'm a Solar Exalted of the Twilight Caste.”

She looked at him with great fascination.

“And you are the daughter of a child of Luna”, Cypher continued. The chieftain proudly raised her head. “I wasn't sure about your people's past before, but after I saw the markings on your staff—”

Suddenly, a loud echo was heard and the cave filled up with dust. When the dust-cloud settled, they noticed another beast standing in the middle of a small crater. It was another half-beast, half-man, but this one was different. He was about 8 feet fall and had the head of a bull with great, black horns. He was dressed in clean cloth and leather with beautiful texture and markings. His muscular body was covered in glittering tribal tattoos and his eyes glittered like water under moonlight.

He looked at the dead beastmen on the cave-floor and then glared at Cyper and Coral with an echoing growl. He noticed Cypher's caste mark and snorted, then spat on the ground.

More beastmen showed up at the cave. One of them was an armor-wielding black panther with a grand daiklave on his back. He too had glittering tribal tattoos on his fur. He walked proudly and with more perfect balance than even Coral Snake himself could dream of. The panther looked at the cage with Horizon inside. He pointed to Coral who still held his Serpent-Sting Staff in his hands.

“Let him out!” the panther said in fluent forest-tongue.

Coral thought it was best to obey. He put his weapon back in his backpack and took the orichalcum key from his bag. He walked up to the cage, unlocked it and let the key stay in the lock. He then took a few steps back and stood at Yuko's side. She was both amazed and terrified by the creatures who had arrived.

“You are Lunar Exalted”, Cypher said. “It's an honor.”

“Don't speak”, the panther growled. He turned to the man in the cage. “Come on out.”

Glorious Horizon didn't say anything. It was clear that he too hadn't seen creatures such as these before. He opened up the cage door and stepped outside. He was still naked, but he had washed off the blood from yesterday.

“Be nice now, Omar”, said a soft female voice from outside the cave.

Another of those Lunar Exalted entered the cave. This one was a woman with the face of a red fox. She was tattooed like the other two and wore cloth around her waist and chest. From her red head hung one silvery lock.

She walked past the chieftain and the beastmen at the entrance. She smiled to Omar and the bull and then looked at the confused four inside the cave. When her eyes met Coral's, she suddenly flinched in surprise.

Her tattoos got a faint glow and her red fur shrunk into her body which slightly decreased in size. Within an instance, there was no longer a fox but a beautiful, tanned woman standing in the cave. Her hair was still as red as the fox's fur and she still had the silver lock hanging down her cheek to her chest. She walked up to Coral who was more surprised than before. She grabbed his head, pulled down his black mask and kissed him gently on his lips.

She smiled and then grabbed his hand just to put a silver-looking ring on his ring-finger. He knew what it was. It was a wedding band in moonsilver, the Lunar Exalted's magical material. She already wore a ring in orichalcum on her's.

A flash caught his eyes. He saw himself standing on the balcony of a great, white tower. This very same woman took his hand and put that ring on his finger. They kissed each other and then turned to a cheering crowd. Tens of thousands of mortals, Dragon-Blooded and Gods were looking at the two and cheered. It was thousands of years ago.

Now he was looking into her eyes once again after all this time. He noticed his caste mark was glittering and so was her's. Two glittering circles, one with golden light and the other like the silvery moon.

“Chanti Green-Paw”, he said.

“I've been waiting for you for a very long time”, she said and kissed him again.

Coral noticed six round eyes looking intently at him. Horizon and Cypher seemed shocked by the fact that he had been kissing the most beautiful woman they had ever seen – and would probably ever see – while Yuko was surprised by the fact that another caste mark was glittering on somebody's forehead. She was alone with what the Immaculate Order had taught her were Demon-Lords from Malfeas; Anathema. To her surprise they didn't seem as demonic as she had thought.

“I'm sorry”, Coral said. “I don't remember much of my former self.”

“Give it time, my love”, she said, carefully stroking his cheek with the palm of her hand.

She turned to the naked Glorious Horizon who stood next to his artifact cage. She gave him a friendly smile. “We're here to take you in, child”, she said.

“Huh”, he said. “What do you mean?”

“You're one of us, child”, she said. “But you still haven't found your true self.” She walked up to Horizon and put her hand on his shoulder. “First we must see how far you're gone.” She closed her eyes and let motes of Essence flow through the palm of her hand and into the young man. “Focus, child. Focus on overcoming your inner chaos.”

She took a few steps back. Horizon shrugged but then felt a pulse of energy flowing through his body. He looked at his left arm. The muscle were growing and the skin begun to bubble. Straws of hair started to grow from his skin and his nails turned into sharp claws.

“No”, he said. “Not again.”

The transformation spread. Fur grew over his body but then dig itself back into his skin, just to turn into scales. Veins popped up on his scaly skin, eyes grew across his chest and the veins pierced through his skin and turned into horns. The horns then receded and tentacles grew out from his back just to transform into hairy spider legs. All the time he was screaming – but even the screams transformed into hissing and roaring.

When Chanti Green-Paw had seen enough, she nodded to the bull-man who ran in and struck Horizon with a punch charged with Essence. The chaotic body of Horizon's flew into the cave wall and the transformation almost instantly turned back into his former self. His body was soar and when he looked up, his eyes were filled with tears.

“A chimera”, Cypher said.

“He's far gone”, Chanti said, still turned to Glorious Horizon. “But it's not too late for you yet. If you agree to follow us, we will make sure that you will find a stable form.”

He nodded and she gave him a friendly smile. “There's no need to be scared, child”, she said and then turned to Omar. “We must perform the ceremony at once.”

Omar nodded and disappeared outside. After about twenty minutes, he came back with a bag of tools, needles and vials of moonsilver ink. The Lunars sat Horizon on the cave-floor next to the campfire and Chanti prepared the needles and the moonsilver. She was all the time talking to Horizon, asking questions about his life and dreams. He felt at once comfortable in her company and he didn't even flinch when she started decorating his body with tattoos.

Cypher, Coral and Yuko sat next to a wall further inside the cave. Cypher explained to the other two about what he knew about this ceremony. He told them it was an initiation and that the tattoos would protect him from the chaotic Wyld. From what he had read in various forbidden books, he knew that Chanti Green-Paw was now Horizon's loremaster and she would show him the true path of a Lunar Exalted.

“What is the true path of a Lunar Exalted?” Coral asked, but he didn't get a clear reply.

The ceremony took until morning. The sun was rising outside the cave and the three of them were quite restless. Horizon sat calmly on a blanket, getting his last tattoos from Chanti. He seemed to feel at peace. The fear of his inner chaos seemed far gone and he looked happy. Like if he had finally found a family.

Coral was curious about Chanti. He remembered her as his wife, but he didn't remember any clear details about their time together. He was instructed not to interfere with the ceremony, but he had so many questions he wanted to ask her.

Yuko finally seemed at peace with the idea of Cypher and Coral as “Anathema”. Cypher had spent a few hours trying to explain the faults of the Immaculate Order and what the Solar Exalted truly were. She didn't understand it all and some of it truly offended her – but there had been a time when she was crying.

Coral had also found Cypher's knowledge interesting. He had learned much about himself that he didn't already know. About how the Solar Exalted once ruled Creation before they were all wiped out by their former servants, the Terrestrial Exalted Dragon-Blooded. He looked at Chanti and felt a comfortable warmth in his chest. They had ruled it together with their Lunar soul-mates.

When the ceremony was finally over, Chanti packed the needles and the moonsilver while Glorious Horizon carefully got up on his feet. He looked at the tattoos on his body and noticed how they glittered in beautiful patterns.

Chanti walked up to Coral who quickly got up on his feet to meet her. She stroke his cheek and gave him a hug. “We'll take Glorious Horizon with us for now. He still has some things to do.”

“Wait”, Coral said. “Are you leaving?”

“You'll see me soon enough, my love.”

He nodded. “I was wondering”, he said. “I saw us on a white tower in a beautiful city. Was that city our's?”

“I will take you there someday”, she said with a smile. She gave him a kiss and then left the cave together with Horizon, the other Lunars and the beastmen.

Left were Coral, Cypher and Yuko, one cage and two bulls. They all knew that just down the pass was the valley where Denandsor would be. The journey would finally be over.


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Mon Apr 05, 2010 1:11 am

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 21: A city cursed and forgotten

They walked for hours through the rocky pass. Whispering Rainbow Cypher and Ledaal Yuko were walking alongside the two bulls and Coral Snake sat in the wagon with a bottle of rum at his side. Almost no breezes could reach them between the precipices and the heat was overwhelming.

Coral was only dressed in his black, baggy pants and the tight, black vest he used to wear underneath his clothes. He had placed his boots next to himself in the cage and he was holding his black bandana in his other hand. It was five years ago he was given the bandana by his first handler in Nexus before he became the city's most feared assassin. He had nothing in common with that organization today, but the bandana was a memento of a dark past. It was a scar that would always follow him around.

He noticed a glimmer in the wedding band on his ring-finger. It wasn't quite clear, but he was sure that he could see the reflections of his since long lost parents and siblings in the metal. Moonsilver was a magical material just like orichalcum and jade. Perhaps what he could see reflecting in the ring were more than just the memories of his past.

He took a sip of rum and couldn't help but to smile. So he was married now? His big brother Amir would laugh at him if he knew. He was only nineteen years old and his wife was … thousands? On the other hand, he had always had a thing for older women. He let a single mote of Essence flow into his wedding band and he could feel that Chanti was close-by. He could sense a feeling of warmth and determination emanate from his ring. He felt like he was a cherishing mother caring for a hopeless child. Wait, this wasn't his feelings. They came from the ring.

That's interesting, he thought. The wedding band was a true soul-bond. No matter how far they were apart, the ring would always bring them together.

As the pass reached its end, Coral felt the wagon coming to an abrupt stop. He heard the gasps of Cypher and Yuko and decided to quickly put on his mask and boots and take a look outside.

They had passed the precipices and could gaze out over a gigantic valley. In its center was the most beautiful city he had ever seen. The city was shaped as a perfectly symmetrical circle and in its center was a white tower reaching almost all the way to the clouds. The city was protected by high, white walls surrounded by grassy meadows, thick jungles and high mountains. From where they were to the main city gate was a long road of white cobble with countless ancient statues watching over it from along the sides.

The sight was truly remarkable.

“It's Denandsor”, Cypher said. “At last – the lost City of Makers.”

“It's almost ghostly deserted”, Yuko whispered. “Not even any birds in the sky.”

Coral jumped up on top of the cage and looked at the valley and the city with great fascination. He wanted to smile but he couldn't. Something didn't feel right.

“I'm starting to feel it now”, he said. “The curse, I mean.”

Cypher and Yuko both looked at him with bewildered eyes.

“It's so … unwelcoming”, he continued.

As he said those words, the bulls tried to back away in distress and the wagon almost fell to its side. Coral desperately tried to keep his balance but decided to jump down on the ground next to his companions. He pulled down his mask and took another sip of rum.

“Yeah, I'm starting to feel it too”, Yuko said. “It's like a whisper in my head, telling me to not come any closer.”

“Really?” Cypher mumbled. “I don't feel anything at all.”

“But I guess we can't give up yet”, Coral said with a smile. “Right, Cypher?”

“Right.”

Coral grabbed the bulls' bridles and tried to drag them further down the slope into the valley. They resisted the best they could and he eventually had to give up. “I think this is as far as the wagon goes”, he muttered and released the bulls from their load. They ran almost instantly out on one of the meadows and calmed themselves down from the cursed atmosphere by grazing from the green grass.

The three of them followed the slope down into the valley and walked along the road towards the city. The curse felt heavier with every step they took, but it wasn't until half-way through the valley when Cypher first could feel it was there. It wasn't intense enough for them to want to flee, but it definitely drew their attention to feelings they didn't know they had.

It was fear of the unknown.

More than half the day had passed and it was well into the afternoon when the three of them stood before Denandsor's great city-gate. None of them could explain why, but all of them felt a strong sense of dread. Cypher felt the least of the city's great curse and Coral was more than bitter about the fact that he showed more emotional weaknesses than Cypher did. Yuko was speechless. She gazed upon the great city-walls and trembled as the curse wrapped around her and tried to force her away.

“If I stay much longer, I'll go insane!” Yuko cried. “We're not meant to be here. It's way too much for us to handle.”

“Please, Yuko”, Cypher begged. “It's too late to go back now.”

Coral contemplated the situation. He didn't want to stay longer than he had to, but the trip would have been useless if he left without scavenging first. Any artifact from this city would be worth enough to feed him for life. Maybe he could even buy a place at the sea, hire a crew and start making life miserable for the Peleps.

“Something else is bothering me though”, Cypher muttered. “Well, you know, I wonder, um, why you feel the Miasma stronger than I do. Perhaps—“

He grabbed his pendant and held it tightly in his hand. He could feel a sense of warmth from the swirling Essence within the sphere's clockwork. He remembered a passage from the Tome of the Makers.

When the sense of dread will torment your soul, the Craftsman's Key will air it. When the sense of dread will drain your spirit, the Craftsman's Key will grant you anew.

Maybe this artifact truly was the key to opening up the city? Cypher channeled Essence from within and let it flow through the sphere in his hand. Small round lights lit up around its sides and it glowed like a tiny sun. Yuko and Coral could feel the curse mute around them until it eventually became bearable.

They still felt the sense of dread like a heavy burden, but they could somewhat breath out and enjoy fresh air. Cypher looked at the two with a big grin on his face. “Hopefully it will give us enough time to, um, find the cause of this Miasma and see if, well, if it's possible to deactivate it.”

“Well”, Coral muttered. “First we must get through the gate.”

He walked up to the heavy gate. Coral Snake was a master of breaking into places. There wasn't a lock he couldn't pick. There wasn't a place that could keep him out. But this gate was so big and the walls were so high. He put the palm of his hand against the surface of the gate. He could feel heavy wood, metal alloys and reinforcements of stone. This gate wasn't opened with mortal hands. It had to be opened either mechanically or through the help of an artifact.

But first things first. He closed his eyes and called on his divine Anima. He let streams of Essence wrap around his hand and he could feel the lock-mechanism in his fingertips like if he was reading the blueprints themselves. There was a magical lock which spread Essence through two jade gears which in turn would move two jade bars to each side of the door. This would loosen the chains which held the gate tightly in position. He had to be focused but the design wasn't too complicated. Coral let a burst of Essence flow from his hand into the lock. The Essence quickly spread through the jade gears and bars to the heavy chains.

A rattling sound could be heard from within the gate.

“There”, Coral said. “This didn't open the gate but at least it unlocked it.”

“Great”, Cypher smiled. “But how do we open it?”

Coral scratched his chin. He leered back at the bulls who still grazed in the meadows at the far end of the valley. It would be impossible to get them to come all the way here to pull the gate. And even if they tried, he was sure they were too weak.

“We could try to climb over the wall.”

“No”, Cypher said. “Not in a city like this one. Um, there must be active defenses.”

They stood there for a while without saying anything, pondering over how to open up a gate of this size. The valley had been quiet all day except for the warm breezes soughing through the high grass of the meadows. It was all calm and quiet until one loud stomp could be heard echoing through the valley.

Not many yards behind them was a crater and a dust-cloud. And in the crater knelt an exhausted Glorious Horizon. He was dressed in woolen pants but his chest was still naked. Glittering tattoos could be seen all over his body. He had a big grin on his face.

“Horizon?” Cypher said.

“Hello”, Horizon said as he clumsily stood up.

“Aren't you, um, supposed to be with the Lunars?”

He showed a big grin and hints of blood could be seen on his teeth. He pointed to Coral Snake. “His wife said that he was feeling scared and that I should keep an eye on him.”

Coral balanced his weight from one foot to another, slightly embarrassed. “How considerate”, he muttered in a sarcastic tone. When he thought about it, he realized that he wasn't actually sarcastic about it. It felt good to have someone care about him.

“Were you on a Sacred Hunt?” Cypher asked.

Horizon nodded with a grin. “They say I've got a stable form!”

A Sacred Hunt? Coral thought. That must have been why Chanti's emotions felt like they did back when he activated his wedding band. Cypher had told him that she was Horizon's loremaster and that it was her obligation to train him in the ways of the Lunar Exalted. That must have been why she felt like a cherishing mother caring for a hopeless child. Then Glorious Horizon was that hopeless child.

“Um, you must tell me all about it later”, Cypher said.

“What are you doing?”

“Well, we're calculating how to, um, best get this gate open.”

Horizon scratched his chin and looked at the gate. He looked at the three who were all looking back at him. He found them so short and puny compared to his length and mass. He had spent half a day hunting together with the Lunars. And the best way to prove himself strong to weaker people were to show his muscles and what he could do with them.

He proudly walked up to the gate, bent his knees and tried to get a grip of the gate. He then bit together and tensed all the muscles in his body as he tried to stand up with the gate in his hands. It didn't work. He was strong but not strong enough.

But he refused to give up. He pulled the gate as much as he could and Coral could notice a small crack open up at the bottom of the gate. The crack turned into bigger space and Yuko gasped as she noticed Horizon's muscles almost doubled in size as he pulled the gate upwards.

Coral realized he had to help. He nodded to Cypher and then hurried up to the side of the gate and reached for the big chain within the gap Horizon had created. Cypher didn't understand the gesture at first, but then got the picture and ran up to Horizon to try to help him lift the gate. Coral grabbed the chain, put his feet against the wall next to the slowly opening gate and pulled with all his might. Eventually, even Yuko got her senses back and tried to pull the chain on the other side of the gate.

The strains on their bodies were great, but eventually they had managed to open the gate enough for Horizon to step underneath and press it upwards. Coral couldn't even imagine its weight and he was amazed at Horizon's strength. Was this the power of the Lunar Exalted?

When the gate was high enough for them to be able to pass through, Coral put his hand on the gate and infused motes of Essence. The gears and bars could be heard within and the chains moved into position at the sides of the gate and locked it in position. They all let go of the gate and it didn't fall down.

They looked inside the empty City of Makers and noticed an astonishing architecture of smooth stone, crystal and all kinds of metal. Crispy, dead leaves lied quietly on the roads and made the city look isolated and dead. All over the place stood beautifully carved statues in stone and metal.

The intensity of the curse increased tenfold.


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Wed Apr 07, 2010 9:39 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 22: The boy from the fishing village VIII

“Wow”, Viper said. “You've even got wine.”

Most of the orphans were back in bed and Viper had moved into Glittering Wolf's quarters for the night. It was a small but nice room with a bed, a desk and a locker. But he was looking at a shelf of different wines. There were nothing fancy like what his former master used to drink, but it was enough to get his interest. He grabbed a bottle.

“Do you mind?”

“Are you sure?” Glittering Wolf said. “You're only fourteen.”

“And you're only sixteen”, he muttered, sat down on the side of Glittering Wolf's bed and uncorked the bottle. He took a sip of the wine. It was a little dry – not at all like the expensive wines his former master used to force down his throat – but it was still refreshing. The alcohol was soothing.

Glittering Wolf sat down next to him on the bed. The only lights came from the lit candle on her bedside table.

“Viper”, she said with a soft, caring voice. “Where have you been?”

He didn't answer. He took a few more sips of the wine and lost his gaze in the wall of the room. He heard her, and he was pondering an answer, but he didn't know what to say. He was too ashamed.

“You've been gone for four years, Viper”, she continued. “I've been so worried.”

“This is a nice place”, Viper said and took another sip. “You even have your own room now. So you actually bought the whole thing, huh?”

“Viper?”

“And there are so many new faces”, he continued. “They all seem so happy. You're quite the den mother, aren't you?”

She leered at him but he didn't try to return the gaze. He was looking at the wooden floor. She looked down and noticed wet drips falling, one after another, to the floor. Viper ground his teeth and tensed the muscles in his face. He did all he could to hold the tears in, but nothing helped.

Glittering Wolf put her hand on his back and felt his short breaths. She gently stroke his back. He looked up at her with eyes all red and swollen from tears. “Am I evil?” he asked as a lonely tear ran down his cheek. “Is there really a curse on my soul?”

“What makes you say that?”

He tried to dry his tears with his arm but it only irritated his eyes. He still had nightmares of what he did to Wing four years ago. How he was the cause of his best friend's execution. He knew that it was because of what he had done that he had been so severely punished for so many years. “I'm just ...”

She embraced him with her arm and leaned her head on his shoulder. When she looked down, she noticed a razor blade with dried blood on its edge as well as a black bandana in his belt. She lost her breath for a while and her heart skipped a beat. She took the razor from his belt and looked at it. Viper didn't try to stop her.

“I understand that you have suffered, Viper”, she said. “But please, don't make the same mistakes Wing did.”

“Don't talk about him like that!” Viper roared as he rushed up from the bed. “Don't talk like you understand! You don't know anything!”

“I'm sorry”, she said with her soft and calm voice. “Maybe you're right.” She gently stroke his shoulder and then put the razor on the bedside table. “I'm really glad you're home, Viper. You can sleep in here tonight. We'll talk tomorrow.”

She walked towards the door and was just about to leave when Viper said: “No, I'm sorry, but you can't know where I've been. What I've been through. Please, promise me you won't ask.”

She couldn't help but to feel more sympathy than she had ever felt to anyone before. Viper had always been cheerful and full of hope. To see him this devastated was more painful than she could have imagined. She understood that he was in pain – and that only time could heal his wounds.

“I promise”, she said. “But know that I'm here for you. There's nothing you can say or do that will change that.”

She left him all alone in the room. He sat down on the bed and took the bandana from his belt. If he really had a curse on his soul, then it was already lost. There was nothing he could do about it. All he could think about was becoming stronger. This bandana was his key to the cutthroats. But joining the cutthroats wasn't his main goal. They were just another key. However, what they would unlock was nothing more than what an old rumor had told him four years ago. The rumor mentioned a group called The Ebon Daggers. Viper wasn't sure what they were or what they did – but he knew that they were powerful and that they were connected to some of the cutthroat leaders.

He could cry all he wanted. It wouldn't change the fact that he had already decided what path he would take. He would go back to Nighthammer Pool tomorrow and talk with Dagger. He would accept his initiation assignment and clear any task. Then a new chapter of his life would begin.

He went to bed and almost instantly fell asleep. He slept until late in the afternoon. When he woke up, Glittering Wolf had put some clean clothes next to the bed. It took a few moments for Viper to realize where he was – if it was a dream or not. He felt exhausted and relieved at the same time. He didn't have a master to fear in the morning.

Viper put on his new clothes, a set of gray woolen pants and a shirt, and then went to the main room downstairs to get to know the new kids.

The main room was huge. It was a combined meeting- and dining room, built from what remained of the main storage room. There wasn't much left to remind of the former storage that was. The wooden walls were painted white and there were plenty of couches, chairs and tables to make it feel more of a home. This was where the kids ate and had fun. They even had a few shelves of books the older boys and girls used to learn the younger ones how to read. It was a very nice place to live and every homeless orphan was welcomed. It felt like a sanctuary where even the toughest thug – there were some – was brotherly and caring.

Today there were about fifteen people in the main room. About ten of them were boys. Most of them were younger than fifteen. The oldest one looked seventeen. Even though Glittering Wolf wasn't the oldest one there, she was still the most respected of the elders and the one with the leading position.

Viper learned that Glittering Wolf had got quite a reputation during the last couple of years. She was known to take care of every child who needed help without segregating anyone. When someone were thrown into the streets, they all came to Glittering Wolf. She was loved and respected. Farim, who was one of the boys Viper remembered since before, told Viper that he believed she did all this good for the orphans to make up for losing Viper and the others four years ago.

Glittering Wolf was sitting in a chair with a young girl in her lap. The girl was probably not older than six or seven and she had brown skin and long black hair. She looked just like Viper's lost sister Lira who he hadn't seen since she was in that age. The resemblance was almost scary.

The girl was singing and laughing together with Glittering Wolf and Viper realized that they both seemed so happy. A thought occurred to him that maybe he made things more painful for Glittering Wolf by coming here. Maybe she had already moved on and he was just tearing up the stitches of her scars.

She smiled and waved to him. He smiled back.

“Is that Viper?” the little girl said. “He's cute.”

Glittering Wolf giggled.

“I am?” Viper asked and gave the girl a friendly smile. “And who are you?”

“I'm Lotus.”

“Hello, Lotus”, he said and walked up to the chair where the two of them sat. He knelt before Lotus and looked her in the eyes. “I'm Viper. The best big brother you will ever have.” He smiled and patted her on the head.

“Then you have some work to do”, the girl said. “Farim is my favorite big brother for now.”

Glittering Wolf burst into laughter and the girl grinned with all her remaining baby teeth. Viper was surprised by how well a young girl like that spoke. She seemed very intelligent for her age.

“Oh, I'll show him”, he said with a big smile. “Do you mind if I borrow your big sister for a while, little Lotus?”

She shook her head and jumped down from Glittering Wolf's lap. She looked up on Viper with big eyes and then crushed his waist with a big hug before she ran away to some other orphans her age. Viper didn't know how to react. The girl had actually managed to put a real smile on his face. He hadn't smiled for real for years. It hurt his cheeks. But it felt good in his heart.

He looked at Glittering Wolf. “Are you tormenting me?”

“What do you mean?”

“That girl”, he said. “She looks just like my sister.”

“Really?”

Glittering Wolf reached for Viper's hands and carefully pulled him closer to her. “Come here”, she said. He liked how her cold, smooth hands felt in his. He walked up closer to the chair she sat in and let her embrace his body and rest her cheek on his belly. She felt his breaths and listened to his stomach rumble.

He could feel her embrace tighten and he almost lost his breath. She pulled him closer and closer until he lost his balance and accidentally overturned her chair. She fell backwards to the floor and he fell on top of her. She looked up at him with big, shocked eyes and laughed. He laughed too. She gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“I'm so glad you're home”, she said. “You are everything to me.”

He blushed a little. “Thank you.” His stomach rumbled again.

“Are you hungry?”

“Starving.”

They made some food and ate together with some of the kids. Viper almost forgot about life's all problems for a few hours. He laughed together with his family and played a little with the kids. He didn't leave the building for the entire day. When the sun was setting and the evening came, he started to remember what he was going to do at midnight. The more he thought about it, the less he could smile and laugh. But he knew that it was the right thing to do. He couldn't get cold feet now. This was something he had to do.

When the night came and all the younger kids had gone to sleep, Viper sat in the main room together with Glittering Wolf and drank some tea. Her face suddenly got more serious.

“I know what you're going to do tonight”, she said.

He raised his eyebrows.

“That black bandana”, she continued. “Wing got one of those before he got executed.”

Viper avoided eye contact and locked his gaze in his warm cup of tea. He wasn't interested in a lecture.

“I won't stop you from leaving tonight, Viper”, she continued. “I know it would be useless.”

He looked up and noticed that her nut-brown eyes were sharp and determined. “I'm sorry, Glitter”, he said. “I truly am. But this is something I have to do.”

She looked at him. “I know”, she said. “And I've promised that I will be here for you no matter what.”

“What I have to do will take a while”, he said. “Probably years. But when I'm done, I'm going to marry you and buy you a mansion.”

She smiled, then put her hand on top of his and stroke the back of his hand with her thumb. They sat quietly like that until midnight was just around the corner. Viper then left the home to meet Dagger and the guys at the cobbled square in Nighthammer Pool. He had the black bandana tied around his forehead. He felt strong. He felt ready.


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sat Apr 10, 2010 6:59 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 23: An unwelcoming presence

The City of Makers was desolated and quiet. Breezes were rustling the dead leaves on the ground and muffled buzzes could be heard from statues and buildings. The city's several Manses called for them with intense pulses while its cursed Miasma filled their hearts with fear. Before the city's main street stood Coral Snake, Whispering Rainbow Cypher, Ledaal Yuko and Glorious Horizon. None of them knew what to do. They just watched.

“So many statues”, Coral gasped. He was looking at the row of giants in stone and metal, the tallest ones reaching up to fifteen yards high.

“Actually”, Cypher coughed. “Few of them are actually statues. Um, most of them are automatons.”

“Automa-what?”

“They are guardians”, Yuko filled in. “Think of them as constructed beings. They can walk around and interact with the people.”

“And kill them?”

“Naturally”, Cypher said and pointed to a few automatons who stood idly outside buildings with weapons in their hands. “They are guards who never get tired. They were, well, more common than you might think in the High First Age. This city, however, thrived on, um, construction and design. They are said to have been as common here as the former citizens themselves.”

“And now the citizens are gone but the automatons remain”, Coral muttered.

They all looked at each other, waiting for someone to take the first step into the city. None of them wanted to take the initiative. The curse was too intense. Too unwelcoming. Eventually, Horizon nodded to them all and forced a smile.

“I must go back to hunting”, he said. “There are a few beasts behind the mountains. I'll come and say hello tomorrow morning.” He pointed to Coral Snake. “Your wife tells you to not touch anything in the city.”

Yeah, right, Coral thought. Then what would be the point of this journey?

“Thank you for your help, Horizon”, Cypher said and forced a smile.

Horizon nodded and started running back along the road towards the pass. Neither Coral nor Yuko could take their eyes off the empty street. The place was much more astonishing than Nexus. The towers of Yuro were plain ordinary compared to what could be seen here. Nothing was ordinary along these streets. The buildings were beautifully constructed and some gave the illusion of defying gravity as parts of the buildings could float in the air or balance on a foundation as thin as a spear.

However, there was this unwelcoming feeling ...

What's wrong with me? Coral thought. It's just an empty city.

He felt a drip of sweat on his forehead and placed one foot inside the gate. He breathed out and then followed with his other foot. He looked up at the closest guardians to see if they seemed hostile or not, but there was nothing that could distinguish them from ordinary statues. They just stood still. It was unthinkable that they would ever move.

He slowly walked up along the street, stepped on a few crispy leaves along the way, and Cypher and Yuko followed shortly behind. They walked along the street while looking at the surrounding guardians and buildings. They realized that everything seemed more and more dreadful for each step they took. There was a weight too great for them to bear and they looked at each other to see if anyone was willing to already turn back.

All of them endured for now. All thanks to Cypher's glowing artifact.

“The intensity of the curse”, Cypher stuttered. “It seems it must come from, um, somewhere in the city's center. Most likely from the central Manse.”

“Can you turn it off if we find it?” Coral asked.

“I don't know”, he muttered. “Well, you see, some Manses come with, um, one-time-usable defenses. It's like having a sword where you can make the most deadly and um, awesome cut against the enemy, but the sword itself will disintegrate in the process. You have the sword, waiting for an enemy to come when you know that you will, well, die … and then you use the sword only once and never again.”

“And what does that mean, exactly?”

“Well, to reset such an effect would be, um, like finding and repairing a disintegrated sword, a weapon that no longer exists.”

“It was a poor analogy, but I think I get the point”, Coral muttered. “So this might be hopeless?”

“It might, yes.” Cypher scratched his nose and coughed.

“But?”

He forced a smile. “But something tells me to keep going.”

They walked further along the main row, aiming for the highest tower in the city's center. The next highest building was another tower with a few great balconies. Cypher told them that it was probably used as a harbor for airborne ships in the First Age. Coral remembered seeing airborne ships dock in Nexus from time to time as a kid. It wasn't a common sight, but he knew that those ships existed for few influential enough to afford them. He had heard that the militarist state of Lookshy had a couple of them.

Eventually, they reached the main square in the city's center. In the middle of the square was a tall pyramid-shaped building next to the incredibly tall tower which was partly connected to a smaller building which looked like a minor palace with roofs like golden domes. Around the pyramid were overgrown flower beds and old trees which dropped their leaves on the cobbled ground below. There were a few active fountains and water lines around the pyramid and the buildings in the proximity. The clear water seemed fresh, but they thought it would be wise to not try to drink it. The guardians stood idly outside the doors to every building, especially around the stairways up the central pyramid.

“It's beautiful”, Yuko said.

“It is”, Cypher agreed. “Um, all of the city's Dragon-Lines must connect to that pyramid. From watching the architecture of the square, I can assume that, um, another central Manse is within the building with the domes.”

“Which one's the curse?” Coral asked.

“We should check both.”

“Do we have time for that?” Coral balanced his weight from one foot to another. “I mean, we should go back out soon and try to relax for a few hours. Then we can come back in and look more carefully for that Manse.”

“I agree with Coral”, Yuko said. “I don't want to be here anymore.”

“You can go on ahead”, Cypher said with his eyes locked on the top of the pyramid. “I want to go up on the pyramid and, um … take a look.”

“I'll wait for you”, Yuko said.

Coral scratched his chin and looked at the buildings around the square. He thought about what kind of treasures could be hidden inside them.

“I'll take a quick look around”, he said. “Then I'll go back out to the meadow.”

He walked back along the main row and tried to figure out the buildings along the way. He thought that some of the buildings with more basic architecture could be common shops while the more complex buildings could be homes or guild houses.

Did they have guilds in the First Age? he thought. Might as well take a look inside one of them.

He slowly walked up to a three-floored building with a rotating sign he couldn't read. The building seemed to have a common door with a common handle next to a tall guardian holding a great axe. Coral gave the guardian a quick glance and then slowly reached for the handle, turned it and noticed it was locked. He gave the guardian another quick glance just to make sure it was still inactive.

He put his fingers on top of the door and let motes of Essence run through. He heard a click from the lock and then tried the handle again. This time, the door went up. He looked inside and noticed a small vestibule with two doors leading left and right. What caught his interest was the grand orichalcum daiklave that was on a stand which was nailed to the wall before him.

He walked up to the sword, looked around himself to make sure he was alone and then took it down from its stand. He felt the great weight in his arms and then heard three faint clunks when three egg-sized gems fell from the sword to the floor. He knew that the gems were inactive hearthstones and that they would be of no use to him unless he could find the Manses which powered them. He let them be, rested the heavy sword on his shoulder and then walked back out towards the street. This daiklave alone was invaluable.

When he had managed one step outside the building, he noticed a great metal axe suddenly appearing before him, blocking him from going any further. He gave a quick glance to the great guardian next to the door and noticed it had tilted its head to glare at him with two eyes glowing with strong yellow light. It said something in another language with a mechanical and echoing pitch. Coral didn't understand a word.

But he understood enough.

He flinched, took a careful step back into the building and put the sword back on its stand. He then slowly took another step outside and noticed the guardian intently watching him, then removing the axe to let him pass. He walked outside to the street and noticed that the guardian once again looked as inactive as before. He took a sigh of relief.

Getting some loot here won't be easy.

He suddenly felt a cold breeze of dread as the city's curse increased in intensity and instantly worked on tormenting his mind, trying to drive him insane. He leaned forward, rested his hands on his thighs and felt like he wanted to vomit. He was too far away from Cypher to feel the soothing effects of his artifact. He had to get out of here as quickly as he could.

Or maybe he could try to reach the radius of Cypher's artifact to buy some time.

Cypher walked up to the top of the pyramid and looked out over the square. The building wasn't that high compared to many of those around, but he could see most of the city from where he stood. He saw a huge district with structures so weird that he couldn't tell if they were magical effects, active artifacts or live monstrosities. He hadn't seen anything like them before, but one thing crossed his mind.

They must be the Makers' Tombs.

At another direction he noticed a district of high towers and weird domes big as mansions. Those were another sort of building he couldn't even get a grasp on in his mind, but something subconscious told him that they were Factory-Cathedrals. It must have been there the Makers created most of their wonders. He had to take a closer look if he could just manage to break this curse.

On top of the pyramid itself was a glowing gem floating in a beam of light. It was a hearthstone, powered by the Manse on which he stood. But something about the Manse felt wrong. It didn't seem quite as it was supposed to be. But on the other hand, nothing did with this Miasma twisting his perception. He couldn't even focus on the inscriptions and paintings inside the small pavilion on the pyramid's top in which he stood.

“Cypher”, Yuko called from the square below. “Come on down. Let's go.”

“Just a minute.”

“I can't wait for you”, she said. “I'll go back by myself then.”

Yuko turned to jog back along the main row and Cypher ignored her. He was watching the glowing hearthstone and tried to focus on what could be wrong with this Manse. He looked at the building and then closed his eyes to feel its great Essence. The Miasma disturbed him, but he understood one thing. The Manse wasn't originally constructed for the Demesne that lied below. Somehow, the Demesne itself must have been “rewired” by conscious hands. He could, in theory, repair it.

But not with this curse around.

Coral hurried back up the road to the central Manse where Cypher would be. He stopped when he noticed Yuko jogging in his direction. She slowed down when she reached Coral and looked at him with red eyes. She breathed heavily.

“You look fresh”, Coral said with a fake smirk.

“So do you”, she muttered.

Coral realized that he was totally drained. He was sweating and had problems standing without wanting to lean forward and rest his arms on his thighs. He noticed that Yuko was doing exactly that. She gulped and vomited on the street.

“I'm … going outside”, she said and then forced herself up on her feet and ran.

Coral shrugged. He could manage to endure this curse a little longer. Even though he would rather be anywhere – even in the heart of Malfeas – than in this city right now, he knew that he could pull through. He was a Solar Exalted. Fleeing wasn't his thing. He had to stand his ground – even against an ancient curse such as this one.

He continued up the road and could feel the curse mute more and more the closer he got to Cypher. As he reached the square, he could see Cypher overlook the city atop the pyramid. His pendant was glowing brightly and so was the caste mark on his forehead. He didn't look as troubled by the curse as Coral himself, but he was paler than before and he looked a little more fragile.

Cypher reached for a glowing hearthstone floating in a beam of light. He grabbed the stone, felt it in the palm of his hand and closed his eyes. He tried to feel the strength of the stone as well as the flow of Essence in the Manse he stood in. He then opened his eyes and put the stone back in the beam of light. He noticed Coral below.

“Coral”, he said. “This Manse is, um, broken.”

“So?”

“Well, um, it's just interesting, I mean.” He poked his chin.

“Aren't you bothered by the curse, Cypher?”

“Um, well, yes, I guess I am”, Cypher said. “I was thinking about, um, committing myself to this Manse, but I'm afraid it would take a little longer than the, um, Miasma would allow me to stay.”

Coral Snake pointed to the building with the roofs of golden domes. “Then why don't you come with me to check out this place”, he said. “You said it was another Manse, didn't you?”

“Well”, Cypher said while poking his nose. “Yes, indeed, but there are some interesting scriptures here in the pavilion. I'll be there shortly.”

Coral nodded and walked up a short stairway, passed two giant guardians, up to a big wooden door with metal reinforcements. He grabbed the ring and pulled the gate open. It wasn't locked. The guardians didn't move. He didn't bother to close the door behind him after he entered the building. He wanted it to be as easy as possible to get out quickly if he needed to.

As soon as he stepped inside the building, he felt the curse increase rapidly. He felt the presence of Cypher's artifact, but the curse was so intense in this building that he had problems moving at all.

He took a deep breath and then looked around himself. There was a giant vestibule with two stairs leading up to a second floor. Between the two stairs was a reception with a smaller-sized automaton sitting idly on a chair. It didn't seem active. A few yards behind the reception was an open door leading into a back-room chamber and there was a stairway leading down to another double-door of reinforced wood. The corridors of the upper floor could be seen overlooking the vestibule with metal railings. The ceiling was lifted like a dome and was almost fully in painted glass where the paintings themselves seemed somehow animated. Coral noticed a dragon breathing fire on an army of soldiers and the flames, though painted, moved like real fire.

He would have wanted to stay to look at it for a while, but the invisible grip the city had on his heart was too hard. He walked up to the reception and looked on the other side.

“Hello”, he said to the slim automaton, but it didn't reply. It was probably broken.

He walked around the reception and went for the stairway leading downstairs to the big door. He knew from previous experiences that the bigger the door, the better the treasure inside. He stood before the door and noticed it was locked. He put his hand on the lock and used his Charm to unlock it. He heard a click and pulled the handle.

When he opened the door, he was filled with a strong breeze of dread. He leaned forward, pulled down his mask and vomited on the stairs. He couldn't even think. It was like he was losing his mind. He promised himself to take a quick gaze inside and then get the hell out of there. But the room was dark.

He lit his caste mark and illuminated what little of the room he could see. He saw traces of jade on the floor, mostly green and red, and he could see the foot of a skeleton. Further inside floated a glowing hearthstone. He realized that this must be the other Manse Cypher was talking about. He stepped back up on the stairs and left the building. Before he walked down the stairs outside, he carefully investigated if the guardians were alive or not. When he noticed they were not, he hobbled out on the square.

Cypher was still on top of the pyramid, this time once again holding the glowing gem. He nodded to Coral but seemed a bit surprised by the fact that Coral looked half-dead by exhaust and fear. Coral himself seemed also disturbed by the fact that Cypher could manage as well as he could despite the circumstances, most likely because he was the one who was wielding the pendant.

“There's, um, a gate with a magical lock on the other side of this pyramid”, Cypher called down to Coral. “I've read about an, um, armory below the central Manse. I'm sure the gate leads down to it.”

“You want me to unlock it for you?” Coral asked. “You'll have to wait. I'm getting out of here.”

“Not necessarily”, Cypher continued. “Well, you know, the key is supposed to be a jade sigil.”

“Then why do you ask me?”

“You were inside, weren't you?” He pointed to the building from where Coral came. “That was the, um, palace of the Solar Prince in the First Age and, um, after the Usurpation it was taken by a Dragon-Blooded Daimyo. The sigil could be inside.”

“Then go inside and take it”, Coral muttered. “I'm out of here.”

He ran down along the road towards the city-gate. He was thinking about all the rum he had stored in the wagon up at the pass.

“Oh, wait”, Cypher called to Coral, but he was ignored.

Coral disappeared down the street and Cypher hurried down the stairway to catch up to him. Just as he passed the idle guardians standing at the foot of the pyramid, he noticed a moving shadow in the periphery and he heard the sound of moving metal.

“You have stolen from holy ground”, the statue said in Old Realm.

Cypher flinched and stopped. He looked down and realized he still had the Manse's hearthstone in his hand.

What a silly mistake, he thought.

The guardian raised its great goremaul before him and swung it down on Cypher's back. He was no fighter. He wouldn't have time to guard himself. Cypher called on his divine Anima and absorbed some of the blow with a barrier of Essence that wrapped around his body. The blow was still heavy and he was pushed into the air and dragged about twenty-thirty feet along the street. The guardian walked after him, reached down and took the hearthstone Cypher had dropped with the blow, and walked back to the central Manse.

Cypher couldn't move. He felt the great Miasma choke his senses and then everything went black.

Coral Snake hurried along the road. He hadn't heard the ruckus up at the Manse and he wouldn't have stopped even if he had heard it. He was focused on leaving the city and run all the way up to the wagon with rum. This place was just too dreadful.

When he could finally see the gate closing in, he noticed a quick shadow move in his periphery. He turned his head and noticed a slim figure disappear behind a corner. He was close to the gate. He could manage to waste a few minutes to find out who else was lurking in this city. If someone was here to claim his loot, then that person would be in great trouble.

He hurried into the alley where he had seen the shadow and rounded the corner. He followed the thin alley around another corner and then almost bumped into a slim man dressed in a fine linen robe. He noticed that the man's face was made of metal. It turned to him, bowed and said something he couldn't understand.

This is just too sick, he thought and took a few steps back.

He didn't respond to the walking automaton and backed away back towards the main row. The automaton looked at him for a while, then turned around and moved forward. Coral was sweating and his throat was dry. He had a very hard time breathing. He slowly turned around to walk back to the street when he saw a small, walking bear with a metal face and pink, fluffy fur look up at him.

It raised its hands and said: “Nah-nah-nah!”

Coral shrieked and fled the city.


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Fri Apr 16, 2010 9:20 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 24: From one cruel curse to another

Coral Snake ran out from the City of Makers in fear, continued about a hundred yards along the road and fell to his knees. The Miasma itself wouldn't force him away further, but he could feel the presence of another curse. He could feel a great depravity well up from the depths of his soul and he saw the fragment of a memory from the First Age when he teared a Dragon-Blooded servant into pieces – just because he had disobeyed. The curse wrapped around him and filled his heart with thoughts of sadism and cruelty.

He got up on his feet. Next to him stood a disoriented Ledaal Yuko with pale skin and flickering eyes. She looked at Coral with her mouth opened in shock.

“Where … where I am?” she asked.

Coral wrinkled his nose, then snorted and started to follow the road towards the wagon up the pass. Yuko sighed in despair and then grabbed Coral's arm. He glared at her with sharp, dark eyes.

“Don't touch me, you imperialist whore!” he growled.

She instantly let go of his arm and looked at him with bewildered eyes. Her skin blushed and her eyes watered. Coral snorted and walked away. He followed the road until he reached the wagon. He then opened up the cage-door, jumped inside and opened a bottle of rum.

He sat down at the entrance to the cage with his feet hanging outside and drank heavily from the rum. He noticed the grazing bulls in his periphery and he ground his teeth in a sadistic smirk. His fingers were twitching. He had to do something about the tension.

He jumped down from the cage and walked up to the closest one of the bulls. The tame beast seemed to notice his intentions as it recoiled in distress. Coral tried to resist twitching too much with his fingers as he carefully reached for the animal. He grabbed the bull's throat with his right hand and pressed his fingers together. The bull was stronger than he was and it tried to recoil even more, but he was fast and pierced its skin before it had managed to get away. He felt blood run down his wrist and he could feel the smooth surface of the inside of the bull's throat. He made a sly smirk and ripped out the throat, looked at the bloody goo in his hand and threw it to the grass.

The bull staggered from its left to right, choked on blood and tried to shriek. It fell dead to the grass. Coral wiped some of the blood on his clothes and took a sip of the rum.

That feels so much better, he thought.

Still inside the City of Makers, Whispering Rainbow Cypher woke up in the middle of the street. He had bad aches all over his body and he felt like something had mashed together his brain. Something didn't feel right. There was a dark void inside his mind. He knew that something was amiss, but he didn't know what it could be.

He carefully tried to stand up but quickly realized that both his arms and his legs were broken. A quick analysis of his current state made him realize that he could force himself to move despite the fractures if he managed to properly stabilize his dislocated limbs. He forced himself to the side, leaned his weight on top of one shoulder and then pressed it down towards the cobble. He had always preferred to fix dislocated limbs my moving them into position swiftly, but this time that was out of the question.

About ten painful seconds later, he could manage to move his right arm. He sat up, grabbed his left upper-arm and gave it a quick pull to get even that shoulder into position. He then went on to fix his legs.

When he eventually could stand, he started to hobble towards the city's exit. He felt the Unconquered Sun's presence in heaven and immediately understood that he had been out cold for two hours. The Miasma had dug far into his mind already. He knew that he would never truly be himself again. But he wasn't afraid.

Finding this city had been his life's greatest ambition, ever since he was a …

I've never been a child, he thought.

He tried to remember but he couldn't. He remembered vast amounts of information. He remembered more than every book he had ever read. But he couldn't remember a day of his life before his Exaltation. He remembered friends and family, but there was not a memory to recall of what they had done together. There were no experiences other than the information itself.

But I don't forget, he thought. I should be able to remember not only my childhood, but what the weather was on every day of it.

He hobbled out through the open gate and noticed Yuko sitting on the grass next to the road further up the road. He walked up to her, waved and then flinched by her shriek.

“What happened to you ... eh, what was your name again?” she said. “Cypher, right?”

Cypher noticed his robe was covered in blood and his skin was bruised and blue. But he was more bewildered by the fact that Yuko had forgot his name.

“I was attacked by one of the guardians”, he said. “I'm okay. What about you?”

“I'm so dizzy.”

“I'd like to, um, analyze your condition”, he said. “Where's Coral?”

She pointed to the wagon at the pass. “He's up there”, she muttered. “But he's really angry.”

“Why's that?”

“I don't know. He just yelled at me without a reason.”

Cypher tried to scratch his chin but his broken arm was aching. Instead he decided to carefully lie down on the grass. “Maybe the Miasma has affected you too”, he muttered. “You forgot my name. You wouldn't do that.”

“Maybe”, she said. “It was Cypher right?”

Cypher leered at Yuko. He looked her up and down and studied her every move. He watched her distressed eyes and paid attention to how she intently watched things around herself. He felt like he was opening a seal to let his Essence flow reach a new perception. He used one of the first Charms he ever learned after his Exaltation – The Flawless Diagnosis Technique.

He could see how her every symptom was connected.

“You have low blood pressure to your brain, Yuko”, he said. “It's affecting, um, your memory and cognitive thinking. Try to relax from time to time. Don't study or read without breaks and make sure you do continuous meditation. It might, um, slow down the development of your disease.”

“Of my disease?”

“Yes, it's dementia. Permanent. Sorry.”

Yuko wrinkled her nose and raised her eyebrows. She looked at Cypher without even a hint of trust in her eyes. “How can you know something like that after just a quick look?”

Cypher tilted his head. “Well, um, you see”, he poked on his nose. “It was with a Charm developed in the High First Age by Twilight Caste Solars who, um, were specialized in advanced medicine. They learned how to channel their Essence to increase their own perception of, well, symptoms and to rapidly increase their cognitive thinking when analyzing potential causes for said symptoms. Doesn't the Dragon-Blooded have similar, though weaker, Charms?”

“I wouldn't know”, she snorted. “I'm no physician. But I can see that you're walking around with broken bones.”

“Indeed”, he said. “One hundred and twenty four fractures to be precise. But don't worry about me. It would only take me about two days to fully recover. Um, maybe we should go and get Coral to discuss our next move.”

Yuko found it wisest to drop the subject. She would never understand Cypher or his way of thinking. He was too complex a character for her to comprehend. And she didn't feel very bright at the moment. But it couldn't be dementia. That would ruin her career as a Sorcerer-Engineer.

But it might be ruined already, she thought, remembering the fact that her dragon had been wiped out and she hung around with Anathema. Oh my ... I can never go back to Imperial Island now. I'm an outcast.

“You talk to Coral”, she said. “He had a dangerous look in his eyes.”

Cypher nodded and then started hobbling up the road towards the wagon. He noticed from afar that Coral was a bit further out the meadow at – what looked like – a dead bull. Cypher limped over there, carefully eying the statues along the way, and then greeted Coral Snake who crouched next to the dead bull and skinned it with one of his throwing daggers.

“Oh, are you preparing dinner?” Cypher asked.

Coral raised his eyebrows and gave Cypher a quick look. “Eat it if you want”, he said. “Just remember that I didn't wipe the coral snake venom off my dagger before I started skinning it.”

“Um”, Cypher coughed. “Why?”

Coral shrugged. “I have no intention of telling you anything”, he said. “Why didn't you tell me this city was cursed when you recruited me?”

“Well, I—“

“Whatever, I don't care.”

Cypher scratched his chin while looking at Coral who carefully stood up. It was obvious that he was going to leave the half-skinned bull to rot on the meadow. He would leave so much meat to waste.

“We should discuss our next move”, Cypher said.

Coral didn't reply. He gave Cypher a quick gaze and started walking back to the wagon while wiping the blood off his dagger on his pants.

“Well, you see”, Cypher continued, following Coral to the cage. “I have realized that the central Manse has been rewired to, um, harness power from an Earth Aspect Demesne despite the fact that it was originally constructed to be Celestial. This was probably done sometime during the Shogunate.”

Coral walked up to the wagon and reached for a bottle of rum inside the cage. He opened it up and took a sip.

“You see, after the Usurpation the city was taken over by a Dragon-Blooded Daimyo who most likely had the Manse being reworked”, Cypher continued. “Don't ask me why?”

“And you're telling me this why exactly?”

“Well, you see”, he stuttered. “I just wanted to share my findings.”

“Well, I don't give a rat's ass about your findings”, he said. “In fact, I despise you for how you act and for who you are. The fact that you sold your services to the Realm is a sin worth killing you for.”

“It was a cover to get to this city”, Cypher said. “I thought you knew that. But anyway, to get to the point. I wanted to tell you that the source of the Miasma is most likely in the armory underground, um, or through the Manse you walked into in the palace. As soon as I take a look at it, I might know what our next move will be.”

“Lovely”, Coral said with a smirk. “Then I won't kill you just yet. Go back into the city and fix it.”

“Um, why would you want to kill me in the first place?” Cypher asked while proudly standing his ground. “I'm the only one who is conversant with First Age technology. Also, I suggest we wait until morning to get some rest.”

Coral grinned. “Well, that's where you're wrong”, he said. “I do want to kill you. But I'm gonna let you go back into that city to remove that curse instead. And you'll do it now, even if I have to drag you over there” He took a few sips of rum.

Cypher scratched his chin while looking at the indifferent Coral Snake with pondering eyes. He knew that something was wrong. The Miasma had given Yuko a mental illness and he had some sort of amnesia. Could it have done something to Coral's empathy? He took a deep breath and activated the Charm he had used to diagnose Yuko and carefully watched Coral. There wasn't a twitch of a muscle he wouldn't perceive if it could be directly connected to an illness or injury.

But despite how carefully he analyzed the man, he couldn't see anything that hinted that he would be mentally or physically sick. His brain was fully functional. There had to be something else causing this shift in personality.

“Um, we wouldn't gain anything by going back inside today”, Cypher said. “We would only exhaust ourselves further.”

Coral ground his teeth and threw the half-empty bottle of rum at Cypher, aiming for his face. The bottle hit Cypher across the forehead and shattered on a barely visible barrier of Essence. Cypher remained unharmed, but shocked by Coral's lack of temper.

“So I have to drag you after all?” Coral asked while he jumped down from the wagon to walk up to Cypher. His steps showed determination.

Cypher frowned his forehead and took a step back. Coral went up to him, grabbed his wrist and twisted his arm to his back. The broken arm was aching enough as it was and Cypher ground his teeth in agony. He realized that he had to do something to save himself from this man – hopefully without hurting him. He had to render him incapacitated for the rest of the day to see if he would calm down and go back to his former, slightly more compassionate, self.

Cypher reached for Coral with his one free arm and pressed his fingers to the skin on his neck. He let his Essence flow through his fingers and into Coral with a Charm that transformed its energy into the effects similar to very potent opium. Coral felt a strong burst of euphoria go through his body. He muttered quietly to himself and then started to feel dizzy. He let go of Cypher and fell out cold to the ground.

Cypher took a sigh of relief. The effect would only remain for three hours, but he could always give him a refill later. He grabbed Coral's arms and dragged him up to the wagon. He then walked along the road back to Yuko to tend to his own wounds.

The hours passed by slowly. Cypher made sure that Coral remained unconscious until dawn the next morning. Yuko spent a few hours practicing her sorcery. She seemed to have forgotten many of her spells, but after a few hours of reading through her personal spell book, she remembered one of her more useful ones for situations such as these.

After they had put up a camp on the meadow next to the wagon, Yuko performed a spell which Cypher recognized as Food from the Aerial Table. A cascade of pink flakes appeared in the air around her and then descended slowly like flower petals to the ground. Both Cypher and her took the flakes from the ground and ate them. They were nourishing but lacked flavor. It was still a useful spell for desolates places such as this. Most of the food they had found in the broken caravan had been used to feed Glorious Horizon's great appetite. Now there weren't much left.

At dawn the next morning, Coral Snake woke up with a yawn. He stretched his arms, still feeling dizzy from all the opium or whatever it was Cypher had given him. He noticed he was lying on a blanket next to the wagon while Yuko and Cypher were eating breakfast a little further out on the meadow. He looked at himself and noticed the blood on his clothes.

Did I really rip the throat out of a bull yesterday or was it just a bad dream?

“Cypher”, he said while slowly standing up.

Cypher turned his head to Coral. Yuko gave Coral a bewildered look. She seemed reluctant to speak.

“Good morning, I guess”, Cypher said.

Coral scratched his head.

“Um, about yesterday”, Cypher continued.

“Don't worry”, Coral said with a fake smile. “I'm not going to kill you. I wasn't myself yesterday.”

Cypher looked at Coral for a moment and then showed all of his teeth with a wide grin. He still couldn't remember anything from his childhood, but it didn't bother him at the moment. “Well then”, he said. “Why don't we forget about the past and, um, keep looking forward instead?”

“I guess”, Coral mumbled. He gave Yuko a quick gaze. She noticed it and blushed. “Yuko! Calling you an imperialist whore might have been unnecessary but it doesn't change the fact that I still don't trust you. Or your people.”

Her face turned more pink and she looked down on the grass. She seemed disappointed by his apology. Was it even an apology?

Coral leered at the two while equipping himself and putting on his buff jacket. He pulled his black mask up over his face and tied his bandana around his forehead. Only his eyes were visible and his long, black hair floated gracefully with the wind. He grabbed a few strings from his bag and tied his hair into three linear knots going from just below his crown to his neck. He missed to tie some hair which created a long fringe parted in the middle.

“Cypher!” he said. “I saw the other Manse yesterday. It's in the basement of the palace. I didn't get a clear picture of the room itself but I saw a skeleton and a hearthstone.”

“Really?” Cypher said. “Then, um, perhaps there might be two entrances to the armory or, well, the cause of the Miasma isn't actually in the armory itself but just below the palace. Um, I hadn't thought about that possibility but it is plausible that the Solar Prince wanted the greatest defense to be, well, close to home.”

“I'm ready to get back in. Are you?”

“Hold that thought for a moment, Coral”, Cypher said. “Well, you see, I got quite the headache when encountering a fierce automaton yesterday. Some extra protection could be nice. And, um, I'd also like to try something I've been practicing in secret since you got me those two tomes back in Yuro.”

Coral shrugged and Yuko gave Cypher a confused look. Cypher got up on his feet and walked further out on the meadow. He stretched his limbs a little, cracked his fingers and his neck, and then started shaping a spell.

“That's Immaculate Sorcery!” Yuko called in surprise. “I didn't know he could do it.”

Coral watched Cypher with interest. He was standing on the meadow shaping the spell and nothing seemed to happen. Coral got bored after a few minutes but Cypher kept shaping the spell for hours. Yuko watched him intently.

While the two sorcerers were out on the meadow, Coral grabbed some breakfast from the wagon. He barely noticed Glorious Horizon walking up to him from the pass. The Lunar Exalted still wore the same pants as yesterday, but now he had a brown vest to go with it. His tattoos weren't glittering like they did yesterday when he opened the gate, but he seemed happy and relaxed. He waved to Coral.

“Hello”, Horizon said, then shrugged a little when he noticed Cypher on the meadow. “What's he doing?”

“Beats me”, Coral said. “So, found any beasts or whatever?”

Horizon grinned and Coral noticed some dried blood on his teeth. Coral raised his eyebrows.

“How's Chanti?” he continued.

Horizon's grin disappeared and he got a scared look in his eyes. “Scary.” He noticed the bottles of rum in the cage, then grinned once again and grabbed a bottle. He took the cork between his teeth and bit the bottle open, spat out some shards of glass on the ground and then drank gulps of rum.

Coral frowned his face.

“I'm here to help you now”, Horizon said. “Oh, look at that.”

He pointed to Cypher who had stopped shaping his spell. A small twister of breezing wind took shape before him and transformed into a bear reaching fourteen feet high with soft, red fur and a breath as visible as smoke. It looked around itself with shining, golden eyes, twitched a little when it noticed the great walls of Denandsor and sniffed the air around itself. It then looked intently at Cypher.

Cypher spoke to the beast in a language Coral couldn't understand. The beast replied in the same language.

He then turned to the others and said: “This is a haruka. A wind elemental. It will, um, protect us when we go back into the city.”

Coral and Horizon looked at each other and then at the great beast that had appeared before Cypher on the meadow.

“Well then”, Cypher said. “Shall we?”


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Tue Apr 20, 2010 8:41 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 25: The boy from the fishing village IX

The night was chilly and Nexus was covered in thick mist. The lower sections of Nighthammer Pool had been flooded with water. One of those parts were the cobbled square where Viper was supposed to meet with the cutthroats. He found them on top of a tiled roof overlooking the flooded square.

Dagger was sitting on a chimney, playing around with a black dagger, when Viper climbed up to the roof. He was dressed in black and had the black bandana around his forehead. None of the thugs did or said anything to him. They guarded the roof while Dagger was smirking at the newcomer. Dagger was dressed in a black shirt with gray sleeves. He had a pair of smooth black gloves, one of them reinforced with thin metal plates, and baggy pants with bandages around his right knee. The bandages were only for show.

“Viper the Throatslitter”, he said. “So you decided to come after all?”

Viper walked up to the chimney where Dagger sat. “Just give me the assignment already.”

“Eager to show us what you got, eh? I won't keep you waiting.” Dagger nodded to Viper and tossed his black dagger over to him. Viper caught it in the handle and looked at the sharp, black blade. It was custom made and the weight felt slightly off. The blade was pitch black and the black handle was beautifully carved with the symbol of a snake in purplish blue. Viper looked up at the leader.

“There's a man who's been giving some of my boys some trouble”, Dagger said. “He's working night-time shifts here in Nighthammer. Usually keeps an eye out for us and tips off the Iron League. We can't have that.”

“Where do I find him?”

“He's about six feet tall. Strong. Twenty-five to thirty years old. Has a tattoo of a gauntlet holding a rose on his left shoulder. Works at the lumber storage two blocks down south from here. I have some guys there who are keeping their eyes on him as we speak. They won't interfere. The kill is for you.”

“And when I've killed him?”

“Then you're in. But if you fail ...”

“I won't.”

Dagger smirked and nodded to Viper. “Then go do it.”

Viper answered with a grin and then jumped down from the roof to a bridge going over the flooded lower sections. He put the dagger in his belt and ran quietly towards the lumber storage through crooked alleys and over bridges in wood and stone.

Just before he was about to leave one alley, he heard a sound of chatting and clapping boots. He stopped instantly and waited with his back against the wall. Four men from the Nighthammer Iron League walked by the alley but couldn't see him because of the covering shadows. They casually talked to each other, chuckled to some joke which Viper heard too out of context to understand how it was funny, and then they disappeared.

He continued closer to the docks. Eventually, he came across a wooden sign saying: The Guild's House of Lumber. He climbed up on top of a nearby building, knelt down at the roof edge and watched the House of Lumber's yard over a wooden fence. There were five people out lifting logs and planks from a small boat docked to the yard to the building. Most of them were simply teenagers while one man, clearly the boss, was older and had a tattoo of a gauntlet holding a rose on his shoulder.

Viper rested his chin in the palm of his hand and thought about how to best approach his target. There was a skeleton crew of five people at the yard. He couldn't guess how many were inside the building. Only he with the tattoo was a target. He didn't want to kill any of the others.

When he sat on the roof, watching over the House of Lumber, he noticed a teenager standing at the corner of a house with his arms crossed. The teenager was casually dressed and didn't wear a bandana, but it was certain that he was one of Dagger's scouts. Were they really supposed to watch over the target or were they here to watch over the recruit?

Viper watched the yard carefully. He wondered how he could kill one man without being noticed by the four who were with him. He looked at the boat at the yard's bridge and got an idea. He quietly climbed down from the roof and sneaked up the alley next to the wooden fence. When he came to the bridge going over the small river which the workers used to transport lumber from the docks, he slowly climbed down into the water and carefully swum past the wooden fences up to the bridge with the boat. He was an excellent swimmer. He barely made a sound.

While at the bridge, he took the dagger he had been given and cut the rope to the boat. It slowly danced away along the surface of the river. He dived in under the bridge where he could breath without being seen. Shortly, he heard one of the teenage workers shout: “Look! The boat!”

“So, go and grab it!” the boss ordered.

The workers seemed reluctant. “But, sir”, one of them said. “I've heard about creatures in the rivers. Poisonous snakes and giant lizards.”

Oh, I'm a poisonous snake all right, Viper thought with a smirk.

The man sighed. “Cowards.” He hurried to the bridge and dived into the river. He started to swim towards the boat, grabbed its rope and slowly dragged it back towards the bridge. Viper was waiting under the bridge with his dagger ready.

As the man approached the bridge, Viper carefully sunk his head under the surface, swum up to the man who was about to tie the boat and, without hesitation, stuck the dagger into his stomach. The man screamed and blood came gushing out his mouth and wound. Viper pulled the blade down along the man's stomach until he noticed intestines gushing out. Slightly disgusted by bathing this close to that gore, he swiftly swum up along the river towards the bridge, climbed up to the alley and hurried back towards the square.

Behind him, he heard the workers on the yard: “Creature! A creature got the boss!”

When Viper returned to the roof, the group were still there. He noticed the young man from outside the House of Lumber standing on the roof next to Dagger. They all looked at Viper with raised brows.

“I heard you went creative, Viper”, Dagger said with a smirk. “Not bad at all. But you messed up.”

“What do you mean I messed up?” Viper muttered. “I killed the man, didn't I?”

Dagger pointed to the tiles below Viper's feet. “You left a trail.”

Viper looked down and noticed water dripping from his clothes. He flinched and raised his brows. He hadn't thought about that. He looked up at Dagger with determined eyes. “So?” he said. “I failed?”

“I didn't say that”, Dagger said with a smirk. “You're good enough to join. I'm sure most of my boys would have spent plenty of time before coming up with the same solution you did. But what would you have done if one of the other workers went for the boat and not the target himself?”

“I would have come up with something.”

“Good”, he said and nodded to the others. “Scatter. Make sure the League won't pick up Viper's trail. I want to talk to him alone.”

The rest didn't reply but they immediately jumped down the roof and disappeared into the alleys. Dagger nodded to Viper. “Meet me inside”, he said and disappeared flexibly into the chimney.

Viper looked around himself. He was all alone. Not even any trails of cutthroats were left. He hurried up to the chimney and looked down. It was pitch-black. He didn't even know what kind of house this was. Did it belong to Dagger or did he go into it anyway?

He shrugged. The chimney was out of the question. He could always lock-pick the window and get in through that way. Lock-picking wasn't a big deal. He had specialized in that when stealing together with Wing as a child.

He went to the edge of the roof, grabbed it with one hand and leaned over to the upper window. It was dark inside. He grabbed a needle from his hair and easily picked the lock to the window, opened it up and sneaked inside. He entered an empty bedroom. Next to the bedroom was a hall leading to a stairway going down to the first floor. At the first floor was a small dining room with an open fireplace.

Dagger was leaning before the fireplace, trying to get a fire going on some dry pieces of wood. Even though he had entered through the chimney, he seemed as clean as he did above. He wasn't covered in soot. When he got some nice flames going, he turned to Viper with a smile.

“This house belonged to one of our old targets”, he said. “My boys and I used to meet on the square outside and the father living here didn't like that very much. We put a new recruit to take care of him. Unfortunately, the recruit got to the wife and kids as well. We didn't like that very much so we had another recruit make him disappear.”

“I can see you like to toy with people's lives”, Viper muttered. He walked up to the dining table and leaned against it, intently watching his new superior.

“And you don't?” Dagger said with a sly smirk. “Why do you want to join us, really?”

“I told you already. My reasons are my own.”

Dagger walked up to the dining room where Viper stood, pulled out a chair and sat down. “So it's not because of the four years you were a sex slave in Bastion?”

Viper gasped and his face turned red. “How did you know about that?” He felt awkward and ashamed. But when he looked at Dagger, he saw no emotion. Just a killer's calm. A professional coldness.

“I have my sources”, Dagger said. “You're here today because you want revenge. Not on the bastard who kidnapped you – you've killed him already – but on all of the noblemen who bought your services over the years.”

“Maybe so”, Viper muttered. “What about it?”

“Nothing”, Dagger said with a smirk. “I can relate.”

He removed his gloves and put them on the table. Then he removed his shirt. His body was illuminated by the flames who crunched on the dry wood. Viper saw severe burn scars going from Dagger's neck, all the way down his torso and along his right arm.

“I've been a slave too, Viper”, he said. “However, my master was a God-Blooded. The son of a Fire God from the Southern Deserts. He had his way with me in ways you can't imagine. You think these scars are bad?” He pointed to his temple. “Then you have no idea what scars I carry in here.”

Viper looked at Dagger's scars but didn't reply.

“I got my revenge”, he continued. “I killed the fiery bastard. But do you think I can just leave? Then you're wrong. Once you join, you're in for life.”

Viper ground his teeth. He then took the black dagger from his belt and hammered it in the table. “If it's my life you want, it's yours!” he roared. “I'm cursed already. I have nothing to lose.”

Dagger looked at Viper from top to bottom. He then took his shirt and put it back on. “I like your determination, boy”, he said. “But if you want to achieve your goal, a cutthroat won't do it. Train under me and I'll have you recruited by The Ebon Daggers in no time. I'll vouch for you.”

Viper nodded. “Yes, sir”, he said with a smile.

“Then I'll see you here tomorrow, Viper”, Dagger said and turned to the fireplace. “Oh, and say hello to Glittering Wolf for me. She's hot.”

Viper snorted. “So you know about her too?”

“I have my sources”, he said and then crouched down next to the fire to warm himself.

Viper looked at him for a while and then left the house to go back home to Glittering Wolf and the orphans. He had made it into the cutthroats. Next were The Ebon Daggers.


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Fri Apr 23, 2010 1:51 am

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 26: Breaking the Miasma

The city's curse felt even more intense on the second day. Perhaps it was because of the fact that Whispering Rainbow Cypher's artifact now had two more minds to sooth – Glorious Horizon's and the red-furred haruka's – or perhaps it was because they now had realized that the curse not only filled them with dread but could drive them insane. It had happened yesterday. Coral Snake had suffered from temporary sadism while Cypher and Yuko had issues with their memories.

And the City of Makers didn't feel as desolated as it had before. Now they knew what the guardians could do. Cypher had experienced it first-hand and was looking both to his left and to his right to make sure that the guardians wouldn't attack him again. His summoned elemental did its task and watched the guardians intently while looking out for its master.

When they once again reached the central Manse, Cypher noticed a dried pool of blood on the ground where he had been knocked out the day before. He tried not to look at it, but he couldn't resist gulping in fear of thinking what the guardians could do to him next. But what if he could rewrite their directives somehow? With these many guardians, they had to be controlled by a central system. Perhaps it was in the armory below.

“Should we, um, separate while in the palace?” Cypher asked. “I mean, some of us can, um, search the rooms for the jade sigil while the rest and I see what we can do about the Miasma in the Manse.”

“No way”, Coral said with Yuko nodding in agreement. “I'm not separating from you while in this city again.”

Glorious Horizon didn't say much. The unwelcoming curse made him look distressed, but in fear of seeming weak to the others he raised his chin a little higher than usually and stretched his back a little more proudly. He constantly checked over Coral – probably on orders from Chanti.

Yuko was the one feeling the most uncomfortable. Her eyes were flickering as much as yesterday and she flinched in surprise by the slightest sounds. She didn't try to hide her tension, but she was reluctant to speak because her voice was stuttering and weak.

When they reached the palace, they noticed the doors were still open. Coral had fled quite swiftly the day before. The two guardians still idled before the entrance, silently watching over the order in a desolated city. The group walked up the stairs towards the entrance and discovered that the haruka was too big to get inside with its great height of fourteen feet. It tried to crouch its way through the door, but then stepped back when it realized it couldn't get in.

Cypher said something in Old Realm to the elemental. It looked at him, then sat down on the stairs outside and watched over the two guardians at its side. It didn't look too pleased, but the others could move along. When inside, Yuko and Horizon stopped to watch the impressive display in the ceiling. The painted glass was as cinematic as before, but Coral was too focused on removing the dreadful curse to be able to focus too much on anything else. He nodded to Cypher and pointed to the open door leading downstairs.

“That's where the Manse is”, he said.

Cypher nodded and walked towards the stairway. Coral gestured to Yuko and Horizon to tag along. They did so without hesitation. When they caught up to Cypher, they all felt a great intensity in the dreadful curse. They stopped to take a few moments to breath. Cypher had already lit his caste mark. The light illuminated the room downstairs and they noticed a full skeleton leaning to a podium with a floating hearthstone. The skeleton was dressed in red jade. Next to it was another skeleton, though more casually dressed.

The room itself had markings of jade along the floor and walls. It looked like the Five Elemental Dragons, all in respective color of jade, as well as divine symbols and markings in Old Realm. Coral couldn't understand anything, but both Yuko and Cypher read intently.

“Don't step on the floor”, Cypher said. “You see, some of the tiles might be trapped.”

Coral was already half-way into the room when he suddenly stopped to look down below his feet. He hadn't stepped on any of the markings. If they were trapped, he couldn't have set anything off yet.

“I saw similar symbols in the pavilion outside”, Cypher continued. “I didn't have enough time to decipher their meaning out there, but, um, I'm sure it would have helped in here.”

He looked around himself in the room. Coral and Horizon gave each other bewildered looks.

“If this Manse is somehow connected to the other one”, Cypher said, “then that means the armory is in that direction.” He pointed to the wall on his right-hand side.

“Why is that relevant?” Yuko asked.

“Well, you see”, he said. “As you must all feel, the Miasma is stronger in here than it was outside. But the Miasma is the effect of a highly defensive War Manse. It was common in the First Age to, um, connect a city's armory to its War Manse – if it had any – because of its defensive capabilities. My hypothesis is that the Solar Prince had this Manse built under his palace so that he could access the city's defense without having to leave the palace to get into the armory outside.”

“So you're saying this could be a secret passage into the armory?”

“Not necessarily”, he said while poking on his nose. “I'm just suggesting that the room with the Miasma's origin could be between the armory and this room. That way, it can feed on Essence from both Manses.”

Coral gestured to Horizon with a nod, like if he was saying: “Do you understand what they're talking about?” He replied with a shrug.

Cypher looked at the markings in the room. “I understand that the Elemental Dragons portrayed on the markings refer to the Five Elemental Pillars. Um, the Pillar of Earth is the podium in the middle. We must pass the Pillar of Fire to get to the Pillar of Wood in the east or the Pillar of Water in the west. If the traps are, um, based on the properties of each element, then my initial assumption would be that if we step on the Pillar of Fire, we would burn our feet.”

“Just hurry up and come up with a solution already”, Coral muttered. “I really don't want to be here anymore.”

“Well, um, I'm trying”, he said. “But I don't know if my hypothesis is correct yet. Assuming a hidden door is within the wall on our right-hand side, then, um, I think we must pass the Pillar of Wood. We could try to jump over the markings of red jade and aim for, well, the green.”

“And what properties does green jade have, exactly?” Coral asked, twitching a little in his fingers as he said so.

“Well, I can't think of any too destructive ones.”

“It is quite a leap of faith, Cypher”, Yuko muttered.

“Just hurry up and make up your minds already”, Coral continued. “Cypher! Since it's your hypothesis, I suggest you take the first step.”

Horizon sniffed the air. “I don't like this feeling very much”, he said.

“Me neither”, Coral muttered. “And the fact that there are skeletons in the room doesn't help calming me down.”

“Actually”, Cypher said. “The skeleton with the red armor matches the, um, descriptions of the Dragon-Blooded Daimyo who took control of the city during the Shogunate. It's plausible that he was the one activating the Miasma. Well, you see, the fact that his remains are in here might prove that there actually is an entrance to the source of the city's curse in this room.”

“Speaking of that curse”, Coral continued. “Are you going to stand there talking or are you going to do something about it?”

As he said those words, Ledaal Yuko hurried past them and jumped over the red jade and landed on the green. She looked up on the others with a forced smile under red eyes on a pale face. Cypher and Coral looked at her with raised brows. Horizon's gaze was locked in the air and he was chewing on his finger-nails.

Nothing seemed to have been activated in the room. Yuko was still alive. “I don't have anything to live for anyway”, she said.

“Well, it seems safe”, Cypher said and jumped over. Coral and Horizon jumped shortly after. “Now we need to figure out how to get through this wall.”

Horizon suddenly got a more focused gaze as he grinned to Cypher. “I can smash it.”

“Well, I'm not sure smashing it would be a good—“

CRUSH! Before they even had time to react, Horizon's arm was through the wall and pieces of stone had fallen to the floor. His arm looked twice as thick as normally and the tattoos on it glittered faintly.

Cypher recoiled and looked around himself in the room. What trap could have been activated by this brutal entry? Were there any sounds? Any lights? He quickly looked around himself and was surprised by the fact that it seemed as calm as before.

Yuko gasped and Coral chuckled to himself as Horizon teared the wall apart, stone after stone. On the other side of the wall was a dark corridor leading to another room. It was illuminated enough by Cypher's caste mark that they could see the complex panel in the room's center. The dreadful breeze felt warm and filled their minds with thoughts of death and decay. Suddenly, all of them felt like dying would be a better idea than to take even one more step further inside this depraved Manse.

That's why it was only natural that the only one of them who had already lost everything, was the only one brave enough to take the first step inside. Yuko walked into the corridor and Cypher forced himself to follow, despite how obvious it was that it took plenty of willpower to get the courage to go inside. Both Coral and Horizon remained behind. They would gain nothing by going into that room. They didn't have the brains it took to shut off the system anyway.

Coral turned his gaze to the transparent, square stone that glowed with violet light in the middle of the room. Cypher had mentioned something about committing oneself to a Manse. Perhaps he could use the power of the hearthstone if he harmonized his Essence to the Manse's. He looked at the skeletons at the podium and he looked at their ancient artifacts in all kinds of different materials.

Suddenly he felt an overwhelming impulsion to take what he could see. It was a stronger impulse than he had ever felt before. His fingers were twitching He just had to take something. That Daimyo carried some nice bracers in orichalcum. Maybe he could take those? Would the guardians notice?

Who cares? I can probably sneak past them unnoticed.

Without thinking, he grabbed the bracers from the corpse and even managed to get the pair of gloves from the other skeleton. He put them in his item bag hanging from his belt. His mind felt blank and he grabbed the hearthstone from the podium, sat down on the tiles of green jade and tried to meditate by harmonizing his Essence with the stone in his hands. It was difficult to concentrate with the curse still draining his spirit, but there was this void in his mind that ignored the dreadfulness that filled him just so that he could make this entire Manse his own.

Horizon looked at him and scratched his head.

Inside the other room, Cypher and Yuko slowly approached the complex panel in the room's middle. The panel itself looked like a podium in smooth, white stone with three levers looking like crystal orbs. On top of each orb glittered Old Realm symbols for different numbers. From the levers throughout the stone panel stretched a complex network of orichalcum veins, continuing down to the floor and tapping into the Manses themselves. There was a red button next to the levers, glowing strongly with alarming red light.

“Do … do you know how … how it works?” Yuko forced herself to ask. The pressure from the panel was intense and the Miasma's Essence felt depraved and wrong. Cypher's pendant glowed like a miniature sun, but it didn't help soothing the curse enough for them to endure this feeling.

It was now or never.

“Somehow, I ...” Cypher muttered. “Somehow, all of this feel very familiar.”

He put the palm of his hand on the smooth panel and felt the Manse's heartbeats echoing within. He could feel the powerful sensation of electrical static in the palm of his hand. Just being in here was dangerous, with or without the curse. He intently watched the network of orichalcum veins and recognized some pattern he had seen before.

“This panel has … um, almost a thousand traps”, he said. “There is only one code to kill the system. I'm not sure if I can ...”

“How do you know that?”

“I think ...” he muttered before a flash of divine light came before his eyes. He could see himself touching a smooth sphere and make a complex three-dimensional blueprint manifest as a projected picture before his eyes. Around him stood a dozen other men and women, all dressed in fine robes. Some of them had glittering marks on their foreheads, all sharing the same caste as he did. Somehow, he knew that the rest of them were Solar Exalted as well, but didn't show their marks. The pattern on the blueprint in his vision was similar to that on the panel itself. When he came to, it was like ages of knowledge had been suddenly implanted into his mind. “I think I was … I think I was one of those who designed the system. No, the city itself.”

He touched one of the orbs with his finger-tip and felt how it responded with his touch. He slightly moved his finger-tip down and noticed the number on the orb scroll between numbers. He touched it again and it scrolled even further. He could see the blueprint in his mind. There was a thousand different combination of numbers. There was a thousand different orichalcum connections. All but one was trapped.

He couldn't afford to make a mistake.

Cypher scratched his chin and then moved all of the orbs until three different numbers appeared on the panel. He looked at them for a moment and then tried to force a sigh.

“Yes”, he said to himself. “Should be it.”

He slowly moved his hand to the red button. Yuko coughed to get his attention.

“If this is wrong ... we will die, won't we?” she asked.

“Yes”, he said and pressed the button.

A sough went through the room and they could feel the great Essence flicker from the panel. The soughing got more and more intense until it died out with the light from the red button. Suddenly, every single light except from Cypher's caste mark and his glowing artifact disappeared and left the room in darkness. Cypher stood silently and watched the panel for a while. He then looked at Yuko who looked back.

They both took deep sighs of relief and noticed that the intensity of the curse was gone. Cypher had broken the Miasma. The City of Maker's ancient curse was forever gone. Only he who had created the weapon knew about its weak spot. Perhaps it was a destiny he had made for himself in the High First Age. Maybe he knew that he would return one day, and that if the defense would be active, he would have to unlock the city to one day flourish with a new generation of Makers.

When Cypher and Yuko returned to the previous chamber, they noticed Coral sitting on the floor with the hearthstone in a tight grip. He was focusing his Essence to the stone and to the Manse. Horizon nodded to the two sorcerers and scratched his golden locks.

“Uh?” he said. “It doesn't feel weird anymore.”

“The curse is gone”, Cypher said and leered a little at Coral before looking back at Horizon. “Is he really going to do that now? That will, um, take quite a while.”

Horizon shrugged.

“Oh, right, the sigil”, Cypher said and jumped over to the skeleton in the red armor. He looked closely at his belt and bags, then scratched his head and stood up. “Not here.”

“Sorry for asking”, Yuko said. “But what is this sigil you're talking about?”

Cypher poked on his nose. “It's a key”, he said. “It will unlock the armory. That much I know. It will probably be vital for, um, more of importance in this city. Defensive systems, perhaps. Maybe for the guardians.”

“So where do we find it?”

“Don't know. Maybe we should check for an office or a bedroom.” He looked at Horizon who watched all of them with a confused look. “Are you coming, Horizon?”

“Um”, he said and scratched his head while shifting his gaze between Cypher and Coral. “Chanti told me to watch over him.”

Cypher nodded. “You can, um, meet us in the vestibule later.” He jumped over the red jade markings and hurried up the stairway. Yuko followed him.

What's a vestibule? Horizon thought.

As Cypher passed the stairs and came back into the grand vestibule, he noticed the red haruka crouching outside the door, still intently watching the guardians at its sides. Cypher slapped himself on the forehead, realizing that he had forgot about his summoned elemental and jogged out towards the door. As he crossed the door frame, he heard a mechanical swirl and noticed one of the guardians outside turning its head to look at him. Its glaring eyes had a yellow glow.

The haruka quickly got to its feet and slammed its clawed fist into the guardian's face. Cypher took a few steps back into the vestibule. “Wait”, he said to the elemental in Old Realm. “It's not certain that it―”

The guardian lifted its great goremaul and swung it towards the elemental who successfully dodged and loaded up a new attack. The other guardian reacted to the violence and swung its sword into the back of the elemental. Cypher stepped further into the vestibule.

“What's happening?” Yuko asked from the entrance to the stairway.

Cypher didn't have time to respond before a furry, red head landed just outside the open door. The elemental's golden eyes looked at Cypher and Yuko with an unconscious look before the creature dissipated with a gust of wind. Even the fourteen feet elemental couldn't stand a chance against these guardians.

“Why did the haruka get killed?” she asked.

“It attacked a guardian”, Cypher said. “I believe the guardian was going to, um, scan me. But since I haven't stolen anything I should have been okay. The haruka must have, um, thought of it as a threat and, well, attacked.”

“Is it safe to go outside?”

“I think so, yes”, Cypher said. “But let's go upstairs and, um, see if we can find the sigil first.”

They passed the stairway towards the second floor and followed the hallway which overlooked the vestibule with a golden railing. There were multiple rooms next to the hallway and another stairway seemed to lead out from the dome into what seemed to be a tower connected to the palace. Cypher opened door after door, finding lecture halls and minor offices. Yuko opened up doors on the other side.

“This seems to, um, have been more than a palace”, Cypher said. “It's a town hall. It, um, probably has some important documentation I should take a look at when I have the time.”

After they had looked through most of the rooms along the hallways, Cypher came across a big office with a window overlooking the central Manse. The office had a huge desk, a jade armor standing next to a wall, some filled book cases and a couple of ancient paintings of clearly important people. Cypher noticed one painting portraying a Dragon-Blooded in red jade armor. Most likely the Daimyo who's corpse was in the Manse.

Coral Snake slowly stood up in the Manse below. He looked at the violet gem in his hand. “That's interesting”, he said. “I understand what this is. What it does.”

“Huh?” Horizon said. “Oh yeah, the smart ones went upstairs.”

Coral gave Horizon a quick gaze and then noticed how empty the chamber felt. He suddenly realized that the curse had been gone for quite some time. He had lost track of time committing to the Manse. He could feel its Essence harmonized with his own. It was a refreshing feeling.

He nodded to Horizon. “Let's go then”, he said and put the gem in his item bag together with the other loot he had taken from the corpses. He couldn't help but to smirk. With the curse gone he could take his time to look for more loot in this city. He would become rich. He would become the wealthiest man in Creation.

They left the Manse to meet up with Cypher and Yuko. The curse was gone. What would be their next move?


Last edited by Manovan Marrowsteel on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Mon Apr 26, 2010 5:43 am

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 27: Ancient wonders

Coral Snake and Glorious Horizon entered the palace's main office where Whispering Rainbow Cypher and Ledaal Yuko were looking through books and tomes. There were a series of paintings along the walls next to an empty jade armor. A huge desk stood in the middle of the room and behind it was a huge window overlooking the pyramid outside.

There was no curse to torment them anymore. They were the first people who could actually relax in the City of Makers for a very long time.

Coral nodded to Cypher: “Nicely done, Cypher. What's next?”

“Well”, Cypher said while scratching his chin. “I was certain the jade sigil would, um, be in here, but I guess not.”

“A jade sigil?” Coral asked. “What color?”

“We can't be certain but, um, according to the Tome of the Makers, it should be white.”

Coral gave a sly smirk hidden under his black mask and then unbuttoned his black item bag to dig around in it with his right hand. When he found what he was looking for, he showed it to Cypher. It was a white jade sigil with a beautiful heraldic marking in Old Realm.

“I found it on the corpse downstairs”, he said and tossed it over to Cypher.

Cypher intently investigated the sigil with a big grin on his face. Yuko was obsessed with one of the books she had found in the office. In the middle of the desk was another book which was about a foot thick. Next to the book was a pencil set with dried ink, some wax and seals. There were also two wine glasses in orichalcum next to a round bottle of wine.

Coral moved past Yuko and Cypher and sat down on the chair at the desk. He took the bottle of wine, opened the cork and sniffed it. The smell was divine.

“Is wine from the First Age safe to drink?” he asked. “Shouldn't it be … too old?”

Cypher shrugged. “I don't know but I, um, advice against drinking anything in this city before we know more about it.”

Coral didn't listen. The smell was so fresh and sweet. He had to take a sip or two. He poured some wine into one of the orichalcum cups, took it in his hand and smelled the wine again. It filled him with euphoria. He placed the glass to his lips and swallowed a sip, then drank the entire glass.

“Oh my Unconquered Lord, the Sun, I just went to Yu-Shan and back”, he said and leaned back in the chair, then filled the glass again. “You must try. I swear I can buy a kingdom for one bottle of this.”

Cypher and Yuko looked at each other. “Maybe later”, Yuko said and kept reading her book.

Horizon had a big grin on his face as he moved through the office up to the desk, took a sip of the wine and grinned even more. “Nice!” he said.

Coral leaned back into the chair and opened up his item bag. He took a heavy orichalcum bracer with the symbol of a hawk. He had found it on the Daimyo's corpse. He looked at it for a moment and let his finger-tips move along the smooth surface. He then tied it to his wrist. He leaned back and committed himself to the artifact. He let his Essence flow through the artifact's magical material until it felt like an extension of himself. The heavy bracer wasn't heavy at all. It felt like a part of his arm. Like if it was supposed to be there.

He looked at the golden bracer, tightened his fist and focused his Essence into the artifact. To his surprise, the hawk symbol begun to move and then climbed out from the bracer and took solid shape. It sat with its sharp talons in a steady grip of the bracer and looked around the office.

On Coral's arm was a bird in golden orichalcum, and it looked at him with sharp eyes. “So you are supposed to be my new master?” it said. “How weak.”

“What did you just say?” Coral asked the hawk.

“What did you just say?” Cypher asked Coral. “I didn't know you could speak in―”

“I said you're weak”, the hawk said. “I'm sure you'll have me save your sorry little ass all the time.”

Coral was almost speechless. He had no idea what had just happened. Was he insulted by an artifact?

“What are you?” Coral asked. “You can talk.”

“Of course I can talk”, the hawk muttered. “What do you take me for? Instead of wasting my time, why don't you tell me why you summoned me?”

“Uh, do you have a name?”

“I'm your artifact, aren't I? Don't ask me stupid questions.”

“Uh … I need to clear my head.”

“I'm sure you do.”

Coral had the hawk be drawn back into the bracer and the hawk symbol appeared once more. He looked at it for a moment and then looked up at the others. “What did just happen?” he asked.

Cypher poked on his nose. “You spoke in Old Realm, Coral.”

“I did?” He shook his head. “Anyway, was that an automaton or what?”

Cypher shrugged. “Difficult to say”, he said. “It seemed to have real emotions, but, um, it could very well have been created to seem that way. I haven't heard about automatons being summoned through artifacts like that, but, well, it could have been called out from Elsewhere to seem like it climbs out from the bracer. I don't know what artifact you have found, Coral, but another possibility is that a living soul was used to forge it in the First Age. It could have been through a deal with a spirit or a ghost. Anyway, I think it's safe to assume that the hawk is, in fact, alive and thinking.”

“That's amazing”, Coral said and leaned back to dig around his bag once more. He took out a set of finger-less gauntlets which he had found on the second corpse. They had a dark alloy in black and blue jade with three depressions on the metal on the back of their hands. He looked at the gauntlets and then nodded to Horizon. “Gauntlets are too bulky to be my thing. Do you want to borrow them?”

He tossed them over to Horizon who grabbed them and put them on his big hands. “They feel good”, he said. “Thank you.”

“They are artifacts”, Coral said. “If you commit your Essence to them, they will most likely be lighter. I think that's how it works.”

“That's right”, Cypher said. “But are you sure it's okay? The guardians might―”

Coral scratched his chin with his right hand. The bracer on his wrist gave a warm glitter as it reflected the sun-light from the window. “I've been thinking about that”, he said. “But since I found the artifacts on the corpses, no one is technically owning them anymore. The guardians might not notice.”

Cypher scratched his head. “I don't know about that.”

He put the jade sigil in his belt and then tilted his head to look at the big tome in the middle of the desk. He walked around the desk, nodded to Coral and said: “Could you move aside, please?” Coral didn't respond but stood up from the chair and took a few steps out into the office and looked at the paintings. He drank the rest of the wine from the orichalcum glass and then put it in his bag.

When Cypher sat down in the comfortable chair, he noticed a strange feeling. The chair itself was an artifact. He focused his Essence and suddenly the chair changed its shape into a comfortable divan. He gave it a surprised gaze and then had it change back into the form of a chair.

“I can see how this can be useful”, he said to himself and then investigated the thick book on the desk. It was locked by a cloth-binding which had the same heraldic mark as the white sigil. He took it from his belt and placed the mark against that on the binding. It loosened up and he could open the book.

As he turned the pages, he saw thousands, maybe millions, of names written in beautiful calligraphy. Some were marked with brief details and some were marked as deceased. He knew that it would take lifetimes to look through all of the names. But he realized something interesting. The book was an artifact. Perhaps the names in this book was connected to the administration of the city. Maybe adding names in the book would add citizens to the city.

“I would like to, um, mark all names in this book as deceased and add our's as, well, new citizens of Denandsor.”

“Citizens?” Coral muttered. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, you see”, Cypher said. “By becoming citizens, we might get access to parts of the city. Maybe the guardians would accept our presence and, um, even act in our favor.”

“I can see how that's useful”, Coral said. “But maybe we should go outside and get the rest of our things first. You know that we have a wagon filled with rum out there, right?”

“I guess we could do that. But, um, I'd also like to see the armory.”

They grabbed their stuff and was just about to leave the room when Cypher suddenly recoiled. He looked up at one of the paintings next to that of the Daimyo. The picture showed a beautiful young woman.

“What's wrong, Cypher?” Yuko asked.

Coral and Horizon stopped to turn their heads. They gave Cypher bewildered looks.

“I recognize that woman”, Cypher said. “It's Shara Ice. You know, the Dragon-Blooded woman who fled the city because of a forbidden romance with the Solar Juliandra. It seems she, um, moved back into the city after the Usurpation. I'm curious to know what happened to her.”

Coral coughed from the door.

Cypher nodded and then followed the rest outside. Coral stepped carefully outside to the guarding automatons and took a sigh of relief when he noticed they didn't activate to attack him. He took the stairs down to the central square and started jogging down the main row when he heard a sound from behind.

“Coral! Watch out!”

He turned his head and saw one of the guardians from the palace door reaching for him with its great goremaul. Cypher was holding it back by entangling it with long, clawed fingers of thorny wooden branches. His hands had transformed into wood. The automaton wasn't slowed down too much by Cypher's clinch and managed to swing its goremaul towards Coral. He dodged the attack by jumping backwards into the middle of the street.

Cypher let go of the automaton. “Run!” he shouted and moved quickly down along the street. Yuko and Horizon followed quickly behind.

More guardians stepped out from the street corners and started swinging their weapons towards Coral. He evaded the attacks with slithering, hypnotic movements. It seems the guardians didn't know exactly where to strike to hit the man, but he couldn't keep dodging forever. He moved like a quick cobra along the street, dodged swinging blades and aimed for the exit.

He could see the others running before him. It didn't seem like the guardians were trying to kill them. He was the target here. But Horizon wore artifacts from the city as well. Could this mean that they didn't attack him because of the bracer? It had to be the hearthstone. Or the orichalcum cup. He damned himself for accidentally having put it in his bag. Why had he stolen it when he knew this would happen?

Something is wrong with me, he thought. I can't keep my hands off things.

He could see the gate closing in. There were only a few yards left. Coral didn't notice the guardian stepping out on the road behind him, glaring at him with glowing eyes and then shooting him in the back with a blast of Essence. The blow went right through the buff jacket and into his back. He could feel parts of his spine shatter and he was shot into the air. He flew straight through the gate and crushed into the meadow outside, creating a crater as he landed.

When Cypher, Yuko and Horizon came to the crater, they could see Coral's intestines through the hole in his back. It was a wonder that he was still breathing. The guardians hadn't pursued them outside the city and they went back to their posts.

Cypher spent the rest of the day trying to save Coral's life. After plenty of different diagnoses, medicinal herbs and divine Charms, he managed to stabilize Coral's condition, but without healing his injured spine. He was unconscious and it wasn't certain he would ever be able to move again.

But he healed rapidly. It was like threads of Essence stitched his wounds together.

He opened his eyes at dusk. His body was sore and he could see two familiar faces looking at him. Cypher had a big grin on his face while Chanti Green-Paw had a more grim look.

“We thought we would lose you, Coral”, Cypher said. “You're lucky that Chanti's Charms could, um, heal your internal injuries.”

“Uh”, Coral stuttered.

Chanti lifted his head in his hair, slapped him in the face with her other hand and then kissed him on the lips. “Don't be so reckless, my love”, she ordered. “I don't want to wait for your next reincarnation. Even if it will be a wiser one.”

“I guess you'll have to settle with this one for a little while longer, Chanti”, he muttered as he tried to sit up. “And thanks.”

He reached for his sore back and took a sigh of relief when he realized he only had some mild scars. It was nothing his Body-Mending Meditation couldn't take care of within a day or two. Chanti's healing was amazing.

He looked up at her and noticed she was exhausted. She knelt before him with her moonsilver tattoos glowing on her athletic body. Sweat was dripping from her forehead and she breathed heavily. She seemed to have exhausted her Essence. He couldn't help but to feel guilty.

When she noticed he was looking at her, she quickly got to her feet and tried to hide her exhaust. She frowned her face and glared at him. “Why did you make the guardians attack you anyway?”

He opened his bag and took out the orichalcum cup. “It's most likely because of this”, he said. “I don't know why but I couldn't help myself. I stole it without even knowing that I did.” He put it back in his bag and took out the glowing hearthstone. “I took this one too.”

“Then put them back”, she muttered.

“How? The guardians will attack me if I set my foot in the city again.”

“I'm sure you'll figure something out”, she said. “This city has been cursed for thousands of years but your comrades unlocked it. You might be dumb but you have clever friends. Use them.”

She turned around and started walking towards the jungles on the valley's western side.

“Hey”, Coral called. “Are you leaving again?”

She leered back at him. “I'm having one of my tribes settle in the jungle. I'll keep a close eye on you because I don't rule out the fact that you might die again.” She smiled. “But the last time it took more than an automaton to take you from me.”

He watched her walk into the jungle where he noticed a few beastmen waiting for her from behind some trees. The only one's left on the meadow was Cypher, Yuko and him. Horizon seemed to have gone with the Lunars again.

A few birds could be seen in the sky above the City of Makers for the first time in thousands of years.

“Cypher”, Coral said. “The Daimyo was the owner of the palace, wasn't he?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?”

“There is something I would like to test out”, he said with a sly smirk.


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:05 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 28: The boy from the fishing village X

Viper returned to the house the following night to meet Dagger. Viper wore the same loose, black clothes as the day before but Dagger was wearing a black training gi. He had already lit a fire in the fireplace and he had placed a series of basic throwing knives on the table. The house was guarded by some cutthroats and they wouldn't be bothered by anyone.

“All right, Viper”, Dagger said when Viper entered the room. “From now on, you will call me sifu.”

Viper nodded. “Yes, sifu”, he said and leered at the throwing knives on the table.

“If you want to become an Ebon Dagger, you must learn how to act like one”, Dagger said. “We'll train for six hours a day. For another six hours you'll be working with the boys. Understood?”

“Yes, sifu.”

“Good”, Dagger said with a smirk. “As you already know, I'm no cutthroat. I'm a recruiter for Nexus' most powerful assassination guild. During the three years I've been leading the cutthroats in Nighthammer, I've only deemed two worthy of initiation. If you think you have what it takes, you better show obedience and respect. I will train you. I will test you. If you don't have what it takes, I will cast you aside and let the cutthroats kill you. Understood?”

“Yes, sifu.” Viper couldn't help but to swallow his pride. This was serious business.

Dagger looked at Viper from top to bottom and suddenly smiled. “Well then”, he said. “Are you ready?”

Viper felt a surge of adrenaline flow through his body. He was spurred to begin. He would show everyone that nothing could stop him from achieving his goal. First the noblemen. Then the Peleps. “Yes, sifu. I'm ready.” He grinned to Dagger who stood before him with his arms crossed.

“Keep grinning, Viper, because soon it will be wiped off for good.” He gazed at his student with a sudden cold in his expression and in his voice. “The Ebon Daggers don't care much for emotion. Love and anger clouds your judgment. You will get an assignment and you will do it without questions. If you're told to kill your loved one, you will obey.”

Viper's grin disappeared.

“I'm going to teach you a style of martial arts that has been passed down from sifu to student within The Ebon Daggers for generations”, Dagger said. He raised his hands in a defensive guard and had his body flow back into a stance with one smooth motion – head back, body ready to advance or retreat and his hands before him like the heads of cobras. His knees were slightly bent and tilted inwards, protecting his crotch while letting him easily move in any direction. “It's called Snake Style. A style befitting your name. Don't you agree, Viper?”

Viper looked at Dagger with admiration and respect. This young man was powerful. He could feel it in the atmosphere. He was eager to learn.

“Take up one of those knives and throw it at me”, Dagger ordered.

“What?”

“Just do it.”

Viper looked at the throwing knives with slight hesitation. He grabbed one of them and then looked at his sifu with eyes questioning his sanity. But Dagger stood calmly in his stance, waiting for Viper to obey.

He raised the throwing knife and then threw it at Dagger who, without moving his feet, caught its blade with two fingers while moving his upper body like that of an angered cobra. Within an instant, the knife was thrown back at Viper. The blade caught him in his shirt's collar and hammered into the wall behind him – Viper stuck with it.

“That's the power of this martial art”, Dagger said. “It's focus are speed, balance and precision – attributes important for an assassin.”

Viper was shocked. He grabbed the knife's handle and pulled it out from the wall. He stared intently at Dagger with the knife in his hand and his mouth open in amazement.

“We'll start with the basics”, Dagger said with a smirk.

The training begun. During the first weeks, Viper was tormented by running and building muscle. He thought he was already in good shape but every second of training was painful. With time, he felt stronger. He felt faster. He spent time learning different katas and practicing his precision by throwing knives and needles. He mastered stealth and larceny, picking locks and brewing poisons. If he didn't obey a command or if he was tired and weak, he got beaten up by his sifu. He learned how to endure pain through fighting and punishments, and he learned how to focus his mind through meditation and yoga.

When he didn't train with Dagger, he hung out with the cutthroats who came to respect him more and more. He got minor assignments and killed off some troublemakers. During the days, he spent time with Glittering Wolf and his family of orphans. There were barely time for sleep. The few hours he could take each night was as painful as the hours awake. He woke up by the slightest sounds, paranoid from the frequent surprise attacks from cutthroats Dagger had sent out to test him.

But he learned fast. He was a natural born assassin.

Many months later, a few weeks after Viper's fifteenth birthday, he came home to see Dagger sitting at a table in front of Glittering Wolf. The two of them were alone in the meeting room. They each had a cup of steaming tea before them. Glittering Wolf was crying and he tried to comfort her by placing his hand on her's. At first, Viper felt a wave of jealousy which later turned into suspicion. He hated to see Glittering Wolf cry. But why was she crying?

“Sifu”, Viper said. “What are you doing here?”

Dagger nodded to Viper. “Hello, Viper”, he said. “I just had a little chat with this beautiful Glittering Wolf.”

“Yeah? And why is that? You know that I don't want you to bother my family.”

“I invited him, Viper”, Glittering Wolf sobbed. “I'm sorry.”

Viper turned his head and gave his sifu an angry glare. “What exactly did you say to her?”

Dagger leaned back in his chair and took a deep sigh. “I'm sorry, Viper”, he said. “I assumed that she already knew.”

Viper felt his blood boiling. His face blushed and he glared at Dagger with burning eyes. “That she already knew what?” he asked, but he feared that he already knew the answer.

“I'm sorry, Viper”, Glittering Wolf said with her eyes filled with tears. “I had no idea. I'm really sorry.”

Viper leered at her and then ground his teeth while glaring at Dagger. He tightened his fist and punched his sifu in the face. He clearly saw the punch coming but he didn't try to evade it. He took the blow which overturned his chair and he fell to the floor. He muttered something to himself and carefully stood up, bleeding from his mouth and stroking a swollen cheek.

“Remember what I told you on your first day of training, Viper”, Dagger said. “I know you want to kill me and you certainly have the talent for it. But there is one more lesson to be had.”

Viper remembered. “Love and anger clouds your judgment”. So this was a test too? Dagger had told Glittering Wolf about Viper's deepest secret just to test his temperance. He would never forgive him for that.

But he wouldn't have trained for nothing. He took a deep breath and calmed down, relaxed his fists and then turned to Glittering Wolf. She avoided eye contact and was sobbing quietly. He walked up to her and they embraced each other. Her embrace was tight enough to strangle a yeddim. She wouldn't let him go. She felt too guilty for knowing the secret that had tormented him for so long. She knew what had happened during the four years he was gone. She knew why he was trying so hard to join The Ebon Daggers.

“Can you forgive me, Viper?” she asked. “I love you so much.”

He relaxed even more in her comforting arms. Maybe it was okay that she knew. Maybe he had nothing to be embarrassed for.

“Of course”, he said.

Dagger walked up to him and put his hand on his shoulder. “I think it's time for you to meet with Dust Spider.”

“Who's Dust Spider?” Glittering Wolf asked.

Viper gently stroke her cheek with his thumb. “He's the last test. To get initiated into the organization I must have his blessing.” He slowly moved his hand to the back of her head and stroke her soft, black hair. A single tear ran down her left cheek and he kissed the tear gone. “I have to do this, Glitter.”

She nodded. “I know.”

He kissed her on the lips. It was their first kiss. It was his first one out of love. His first one without the tainted smell of alcohol and tobacco. It tasted sweet and he liked it.

He let go of Glittering Wolf and stood up. He turned to Dagger who was watching them. Viper knew that love clouds the judgment, but he noticed that Dagger didn't look at him with disrespect. Maybe he had understood that it was Viper's love for his family and his lost siblings that was the key to his strength. He didn't know if it was enough for The Ebon Daggers. But it was enough to take him to Dust Spider.

“Let's go”, he said.

Viper nodded.

They left the storage and walked further south-west to a small house in Nighthammer Pool. It was close to an empty dock a few blocks away from the closest industries. Ashes snowed from the sky and a thin layer of gray ash covered the cobbled ground. Dagger knocked on the door with three long knocks and two short ones. A minute or so later, a teenage girl with short hair and a black bandana opened up the door.

“I brought Viper”, Dagger said. “Tell Dust Spider.”

The girl nodded and closed the door. A few minutes later, the door opened once again. The girl nodded to the two of them. “He's waiting.”

Dagger and Viper entered the house and walked into a small hall with a few young Ebon Daggers on guard. The girl sat down on a chair next to the door and two more was guarding a closed door. They all looked at Viper with unimpressed eyes. They had heard the stories of Dagger's favorite student. But they hadn't seen him in person.

Dagger nodded towards the door. “He's in there. You may go inside.”

Viper felt the butterflies in his stomach. He looked around himself and then approached the door with slight hesitation. The guards didn't try to stop him but they followed him with their eyes. He reached for the handle, turned it and opened the wooden door.

It was a comfortable room with an open fireplace. An armchair stood before the open fire and the walls were decorated with exotic swords and hatchets. Someone was sitting in the armchair. Viper couldn't see the person's face, but he noticed that his right hand was tightly wrapped with bandages. Drops of blood dripped slowly from the bandages – one after another.

“Welcome, Viper”, Dust Spider said with the cackling voice of an old man. “I've heard great things about you.”


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sun May 02, 2010 1:44 am

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 29: In the Daimyo's shoes

Whispering Rainbow Cypher and Ledaal Yuko gave each other bewildered looks when Coral Snake left them to go further out the meadow. He hadn't told them what he would do but he had told them not to disturb him. “I have been practicing this for a while but I haven't really tested it out for real”, he had said. “I want a few minutes of absolute focus.”

They could see him standing out there on the meadow. His back turned against them and his eyes gazing the high, green grass around himself. At first, nothing seemed to happen. But both Cypher and Yuko could sense flows of Essence and see some disturbances in the air around him, like if the air itself enveloped him like a magical layer. That layer then rippled and its colors seemed to change. Coral's long, raven-black hair turned into fiery yellow and orange. His skin went from darkly brown to blushed olive. He grew a little taller and his shoulders got a little wider.

Cypher and Yuko looked at each other and then frowned their faces when Coral eventually turned around. What they saw was not Coral Snake. They saw a Dragon-Blooded with taints from a fiery Anima. His eyes were slim and slightly oblique and their irises were intensely yellow. He slowly approached the two Sorcerer-Engineers and Cypher could suddenly recognize whom he portrayed.

“You're the Daimyo”, he said.

The new Coral Snake showed a sly smirk. He still carried the same clothes as he had before, but his body was completely different. He removed his buff jacket – which was already torn in the back – and dropped his mask and bandana to the grass.

“So?” he said. “How do I look? I tried to copy the man on the painting.”

“Amazing”, Cypher said. “But you, um, still sound like yourself.”

Coral scratched his chin. “Of course”, he said. “I haven't heard the voice of a man who's been dead for centuries. This isn't a perfect disguise, but it's the best I've got. Do you think it will fool the guardians?”

Cypher poked on his nose. “Um, I see, so that's what this is about? Well, I'm not sure what kind of method they use for detection. But, um, if they are equipped with Essence lenses, they will know that your, um, Anima varies from the former Daimyo's. As far as the appearance goes, well, they might be fooled. But all guardians are unique. Some might recognize you for who you are. Others might not.”

Coral grinned. “Well, we'll know when we enter the city.”

“I'm sorry”, Yuko muttered. “I don't get it. What's with the disguise?”

Cypher turned to her with a smile. “You see”, he said. “Coral has stolen from the former Daimyo. Um, the guardians might not know that the Daimyo is dead. He wasn't marked as such in the tome we found. If he can, well, fool them with this disguise, then he can safely put the loot back where he found it. That should, um, clear him from the guardians' suspicions.”

Coral reached for something in his bag and then took up the glowing violet hearthstone. He showed it to them. “I have no intention of putting the loot back”, he said with a grin. “When I committed myself to the Manse, I understood what this stone is capable of. If you think I'll give it up, you're a fool.”

Cypher tilted his head and looked at Coral's new self with a confused look. “Then why would you―”

“I'm the Daimyo now, Cypher”, Coral said. “I'm going to store this stone in my Manse until you have managed to deactivate the guardians or whatever you said you were going to do. When the place is clear, the Manse will safely belong to the real me. That is my intention.”

“Uh?”

“Don't you want to take the Manse in the pyramid as your own? The one you were so intently investigating yesterday?”

Cypher scratched his head. “Well, I guess.”

Coral smiled. “Well then”, he said. “And by the way. Since I'm the Daimyo now, I believe that sigil belongs to me.”

Cypher hesitated for a second and then tossed over the white jade sigil to Coral who caught it and attached it to his belt.

He nodded. “Shall we go then?”

The sun had fully set and only the crescent moon illuminated the grassy meadows. Its light reflected on the smooth surfaces of Denandsor's white walls and round lights had automatically lit along its streets. Some of the metallic guardians looked almost ghostly in the moonlight. The three Exalted walked through the main gate. Coral walked first with Cypher and Yuko closely behind. When he passed the two closest guardians, he stopped to see if they would move.

They didn't.

He leered back over his shoulder to give Cypher a satisfied smile. He then kept walking up along the street back towards the central square and to the palace where this issue had all started. He almost felt like the real Daimyo when he walked along the street. The impressive guardians seemed calm and they weren't as scary as before. Just the disappearance of the curse had changed how he perceived this city. He wanted it. All the loot he could find in this city were nothing compared to the city itself.

What if he could become it's real Daimyo? It could be the beginning of creating a nation strong enough to take on the Peleps family. But the Peleps were at the Imperial Island and the shores around it. This was far into the Scavenger Lands, close to Lookshy's domains. With a mighty military force like Lookshy close-by, it was unlikely that he could lead a war against the Peleps from here.

But just the idea of becoming wealthy was tempting enough.

They were surprised to feel small drops of rain falling from the clouds above. The rain was cold and refreshing in an otherwise warm and stuffy environment. A human-sized automaton suddenly stepped out from a shadowed alley. The machine was metallic and reflected some of the moonlight, but the only thing that was glowing on it were its two thin lines for eyes. It looked at Coral who took a sudden step back and put his right hand in his backpack. He could feel his Serpent-Sting Staff inside and was ready to whip it out at any moment. The automaton said something in Old Realm and Coral gave Cypher a quick gaze only to notice that he seemed relieved.

“It's, um, asking if it can be of any service”, he whispered to Coral.

“Tell it no”, Coral whispered back.

Cypher turned to the automaton who still stared intently at Coral. He said something in Old Realm, it turned its head to him and then made a graceful bow before it went back into the alley.

“That was a steward”, Cypher whispered. “They were, um, mass-produced helpers for the people. It's, um, too cheap and common to see through your disguise.”

“Good”, he said and kept walking.

“However”, Cypher continued. “These were all made in the High First Age. Um, the guardians aren't like those stewards and they should be able to see through if someone has copied their leader. But why aren't they? Perhaps … Ah, yes, these are all a newer model. They are stronger and more bulky than those mentioned in Tome of the Makers. The focus must have been elsewhere.”

“Why don't you study them some other time, Cypher?” Coral said. “Let's focus on getting to the palace.”

They continued along the road until they reached the central Manse. The trees around the pyramid were almost like a miniature jungle in this faint light. Guardians stood idly by, forever watching over the city. The pavilion at the top of the pyramid seemed to emanate a faint beam of light reaching up towards the sky. It faded away into thin air long before reaching even half of the tallest white tower in the city – the one connected to the palace. The sound of an owl could be heard from the branch of one of the trees at the pyramid. Just the fact that they could hear the sounds of life inside this deserted city was a refreshing feeling. That owl must have traveled here to explore what it previously couldn't.

Coral walked up the stairs towards the open door leading into the mighty palace. The guardians outside were inactive but there were still trails left from the fight between the guardians and the elemental. There were no blood since it had evaporated into air as the haruka had died, but cracks could be seen in the ground.

When Coral passed the entrance and entered the grand vestibule, he took a deep sigh of relief. He had fooled these ancient wonders. He proudly walked up the stairs and turned towards the office. The first thing he did when he entered the office was to turn to the painting and compare his disguise to the man portrayed. It was flawless. The second thing he did was to once more taste that heavenly wine.

He took the orichalcum cup from his bag and put it on the desk. “That's one”, he muttered to himself. He then walked around to the other side of the desk and sat down on the chair. He took the sigil from his belt and looked at it for a moment. He carefully looked at the Old Realm seal. The same seal was on all of the desk's drawers. He placed the sigil against one of the drawers and heard it click. He opened it up and found it was filled with ancient scrolls and papers. They had survived the thousands of years very well. He took some of them out from the drawer and placed them on the desk, then he placed his violet hearthstone inside and locked the drawer. “That's two.”

Yuko and Cypher came in through the door.

“What's that?” Cypher asked and nodded towards the papers.

“Homework”, Coral said. “For you.”

He leaned back into the chair and then shifted back into his real shape. The yellow and orange hair turned black and the blushed olive skin got as darkly brown as it was before. Cypher was looking through the papers but Yuko stood a few steps behind and intently watched Coral's transformation. She seemed fascinated. Impressed. Maybe a little scared.

“Now all I have to do is walk out to the street to see if I'm safe”, Coral muttered. There were some hints of anxiety in his voice despite his attempts to sound cool. “Are you coming?”

“Um, I guess we should”, Cypher answered and then put the papers he was reading on the desk.

Coral moved past them through the room, out into the corridor and down the stairs into the vestibule. He stopped for a moment before walking through the open door and waited in Cypher and Yuko who came just behind. He stepped through the door, looked up on the guardians and realized that nothing happened.

And yet he had the bracer on his right arm.

He turned to the others and smiled. “That's one problem out of the way”, he said. “Now, do you think you can take care of their directives somehow?”

Cypher nodded. “I think so”, he said. “But I must, um, find the heart of the system first.”

“The armory?”

“I believe so.”

“It's two hours before midnight. Do you want to go now?”

“Um, I thought you'd never ask.”

Both of them looked at Yuko. They didn't say anything but was anticipating a reply. She gave them a bewildered look. “What? Yes, sure, let's go.” Why their sudden interest in her say in the matter was a mystery of its own.

Cypher smiled and hurried out through the door, past Coral and towards the pyramid. Instead of going for the stairway leading up its front, he took a left and walked around to its backside. Coral and Yuko followed him. Coral looked carefully around himself but noticed that the guardians didn't care about his presence. He had safely returned what he had stolen.

Before them was a metal door reinforced with all colors of jade. A quick look for whatever locking mechanism there could be made Coral remember the time he had tried his Charm on the door in Yuro. It had activated a trap and let a surge of painful Essence flow through his body. He wasn't quite sure if this door would do the same, but he didn't want to find out. Luckily, he had the jade sigil in his belt.

He took the sigil from his belt, looked at it for a second and then noticed the same Old Realm seal as was on the sigil was also in the middle of the door. He carefully placed the sigil against it. They heard a faint buzzing and then heard clockworks in the process of doing something with the door. It opened up like an iris and disappeared into the frames. Before them was a pitch-black corridor tilted downwards into the pyramid.

They walked inside, lit their caste marks to illuminate the way and heard the buzzing door close behind them. The lights from their caste marks showed two ways, one going left and another going right. In front of them was a smooth stone wall. They looked at each other and then decided to take the way leading right.

“Be careful”, Cypher said. “There might be, um, dangerous things here.”

“Well”, Coral muttered. “It is an armory after all.”


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Fri May 14, 2010 3:41 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 30: The armory

They followed the right corridor until they reached a storage room. Racks were filled with weapons and armors. Almost all of them looked like artifacts. There were daiklaves and reinforced buff jackets in jade of all colors. A few orichalcum items, such as a spiked mace of some sorts as well as a helmet with horns, were placed next to a sign which Whispering Rainbow Cypher said meant “private property”.

Coral Snake licked his lips. There were so many artifacts. He walked up to one of the jade daiklaves and was just about to touch it when Cypher ordered: “Don't touch anything! There, um, might be traps.”

Coral leered at Cypher. “Traps? This is an armory. Isn't its main purpose to quickly buckle up the boys?” He gave Ledaal Yuko a quick glance. “And the girls. Why would there be traps?”

“Well, um, because it's located in a highly powerful Manse with a First Age defense system”, Cypher muttered. “And, um, we're not citizens yet because, well, I haven't taken a closer look at that tome in the office yet. For all this city knows, um, we're nothing but intruders.”

“For all this city knows?”

“Well, you don't know when it, um, comes to First Age technology.”

Coral lowered his hand from the daiklave on the wall. He gave Cypher a quick gaze and then walked through the room to an open doorway leading to a neighboring room. He looked inside, then turned his head and smiled to Cypher and Yuko.

“There are some strange stuff in here”, he said and walked inside.

Cypher and Yuko walked up behind him. Yuko kept looking around herself, investigating the items at the walls. “Now I know why Peleps Wakde was so obsessed with finding this place”, she muttered to herself. “There are more artifacts in this room than there are … was in the hands of his entire dragon.”

Coral's bright caste mark lit up three capsules of some sort standing at the room's edge. The three objects were the only thing in the room. They were made of metals with alloys in orichalcum and jade. One of them seemed to have hints of moonsilver. The capsules themselves seemed to fit a person and there were tubes going from them to panels at their sides.

When Coral approached one of them, he looked inside the window at the front of the capsule. He raised his brows. “Armors?” he said. “But they look more like hollow automatons.”

Inside the capsule, resting in a violet fluid, was a great armor made of orichalcum. The armor had shoulder pads heavier than even most Exalted would be able to carry and its smooth, stream-lined helmet had three eyes instead of only two. From its back stuck two wing-shaped constructs out but they seemed too small to be able to take it to the air. The elegant armor had inscriptions in Old Realm and its gauntlets alone were far greater than Glorious Horizon's fists.

Cypher walked up behind him and looked in through the window from over his shoulder. “Holy Sun”, he said. “I think I know what this is. It's a power armor.”

“So it is an armor after all?”

“Yes”, Cypher took a step back. “But these aren't meant to, um, be taken out of the capsules.”

“And why is that?”

“Well, you see”, Cypher said as he looked through the windows of the two other capsules. The armors were similar but still unique. One were slimmer than the other and one seemed to be made completely in moonsilver. “I believe the capsules are storing the power armors for, um, one-time uses only. When an Exalted warrior puts on an armor like this, he would be strong enough to take on a nation. But, um, once the effect runs out, it would be destroyed forever. Remember what I said about the Miasma before? About the disintegrated sword? Well, you see, these armors are the same. Um, I wonder if the violet liquid is Essence itself transformed into physical form. I would like to study it more but opening the capsule would wreck the suits.”

Coral was already half-way out of the room. He seemed to be aiming for the room on the other side of the previous one. Yuko stood at the entrance, watching him pass by. Cypher gave the power armors a last quick look and then followed Coral to the other room. Mostly to make sure he didn't touch anything.

But Coral had heard enough. If he couldn't take the power armors out of their storage capsules, then what good would they be to him? When he entered the room on the other side, he met a sight far more fascinating than that. It looked like a toy store. There were strange mechanisms all over the room. Some of them were protected by glowing barriers or strong cages. Coral walked through the room, looking at the strange items around him.

“What are these objects?” he asked.

Cypher's eyes were locked on one item alone. It was a sphere caged inside a protective barrier. He knew that he had never seen that item before but yet the depths of his soul told him that it was dangerous. The sphere itself was made of a material more ebony than black jade. The dark metal gave the illusion of being made of trapped souls. Cypher didn't believe it was an illusion. It was soulsteel. He knew that much. Around the sphere was an outer sphere of smoky quartz. A dozen concentric orichalcum rings were set so that they could rotate freely around the spheres – riveted to them were pegs of starmetal, a material said to be crafted from dead gods.

Below the cage was a sign in Old Realm saying: “Soulbreaker Orb”. Cypher shivered by the name.

He took a step back. “A weapon of mass destruction”, he said to himself.

Coral flinched and looked at Cypher.

“Don't touch anything in this room, Coral!” Cypher ordered. “It's, um, for the safety of us all. Well, you see, perhaps even for the safety of the land itself.”

Coral reacted to the serious look in Cypher's eyes. He liked to be the one in control and he had some issues with Cypher's personality and mannerisms. But he knew one thing. He knew that Cypher was powerful. He knew that Cypher knew things about the Exalted and the First Age. Important things. If there were artifacts that could scare even that reckless engineer, then it would be wise to be careful.

He nodded to Cypher and walked back to the door. Before he left he looked through his bags to see if he hadn't accidentally stolen anything. He couldn't control his impulses when it came to shiny objects. He had learned that today already.

“I think ...”, Yuko muttered as she watched the sphere inside the barrier. “There is a legend passed down from generation to generation in the Realm. Especially among us Sorcerer-Engineers. It has peeked our interest the most. It is said that in a battle between the Sixth and Ninth Imperial Legions and Lookshy's Seventh Legion, a weapon of mass destruction was launched. It wiped out both of the Imperial Legions with a force strong enough to create the shadowland we today call the Mourning Fields. My father told me this story. He referred to the weapon as the Soulbreaker Orb.”

“I've heard about that too”, Cypher said. “But, um, I didn't know it was caused by a single artifact. I thought that, um, maybe a War Manse had turned the tides of that battle.”

Coral looked at the two from the entrance. “Hey”, he said. “There are more rooms to look through.”

“Yes, um, of course”, Cypher said and followed Coral to the door.

They walked back out into the corridor and followed it further inside the armory. They had taken a right when they entered the armory, then turned left and seen those rooms at their right-hand side. Now the corridor was turning left again. They were moving in a square. Another entrance was on their right-hand side. Their caste marks illuminated only a few yards before them. The room itself looked deep. Coral walked further inside until he bumped into something made of metal.

“Uh”, he said. “A railing?”

Cypher was looking around himself just inside the entrance. He found a disc on the wall and pressed his palm against it. He let a single mote of Essence flow into the disc. A surge of energy went through the walls towards the roof and then lamp after lamp lit up.

Coral realized that he was standing at a railing on a balcony probably twenty feet up. On the floor below stood inactive automatons. Some of them were big enough to reach almost to the ceiling. The room continued for as long as they could see. There were probably thousands of automatons.

“Wow”, he said.

“Reserve guardians perhaps”, Cypher said and walked up to the railing. “Or, well, they could be the army itself. That would explain the lack of, um, weapons and armors in this armory. There, um, were no reasons for ordinary citizens to fight. That's why we have only seen artifact weapons for the few Dragon-Blooded servants and the Celestial masters. Yes, that must be it.”

“Are you saying that these automatons are this city's army?” Coral stuttered. “Then what about the guardians that are roaming the streets?”

“Well, they are just that. Guardians. These were probably never used. They didn't have to be used. You see, Denandsor was a city created by engineers. Construction was what they were good at. We thrived … I mean, they thrived from it.”

“Well, you certainly feel at home here, Cypher”, Coral said with a grin. “Let's keep looking. We haven't come across a single panel or whatever yet.”

He walked past Cypher and Yuko towards the entrance again. Cypher gave Yuko a quick gaze and shrugged. She raised her brows. “I think he enjoys this just as much as you do”, she said.

Cypher smirked, then hurried up to Coral who had already continued along the corridor. They walked along it for a few dozen yards, then followed as it took a left turn. They understood that they were probably on the left side of where they had come in now. The corridor had been shaped like a square and another entrance appeared on their right-hand side. It led into another deep, dark room.

Cypher noticed a similar disc on the wall next to the entrance. He pressed it and waited as the lamps lit up. There was a long pathway going through the center of an enormous room. But the most impressive things about the room were at the pathway's sides. Hundreds of large, strange constructions were all over the place. Some looked similar to automatons and others had the shapes of giant metal bugs and animals. Others looked like ships, wagons and hawsers.

“Warstriders”, Cypher said as he walked along the pathway. “Vehicles. Siege weapons. Oh, My Glorious Sun.”

Coral walked just behind him. “What are these things? More automatons?”

“Better. Worse. These are, um, the true tools for war.”

“I'm understanding more and more why Peleps Wakde wanted this city so much”, Yuko muttered.

“Yes, speaking of Peleps Wakde”, Coral said with a grin as he walked along the pathway, watching the impressive constructions at his sides. “What kind of man is he anyway?”

“He's a Dragon-Lord of the Peleps family”, Yuko said. “I heard he was bitter because he had served as a Dragon-Lord for nearly twenty years without being promoted to Strategos. He wanted his legion so much he could do anything. At least that's what the rumors said.”

“He seems greedy”, Coral said.

Yuko gave him a quick gaze. “Are you the one to talk?”

He blushed a little. Touché.

But still. Peleps Wakde had killed his parents. He had kidnapped his siblings. He had taken a dragon of mortal soldiers on a suicide mission far into the Scavenger Lands to find the armory of this city. And it was for a promotion? A Strategos had ten times the forces of a Dragon-Lord. And if he would equip a legion with these artifacts then serious wars would be inevitable. Especially since this land was under Lookshy's influence.

Now he knew. He was glad if it was Cypher who had caused the destruction of the dragon with the phoenix-shaped Manse. And now all these weapons were left for him to take instead. Was he one step closer to taking his revenge on the Peleps?

It took about half an hour before they had passed all of the siege weapons and left the pathway up to a bigger platform. The wall on the room's short side looked like an enormous gate. Before it stood a panel connected to two big circles of metal and stone.

“A panel”, Coral said.

Cypher looked intently at the circles. The right one was bigger and looked newer while the left one, though smaller, was more impressive in its design. It was smoother and had symbols in orichalcum and starmetal. Cypher couldn't believe his eyes. He walked up to the panel and noticed three levers. One of them were next to a series of numbers. The numbers seemed to have something to do with the right circle.

Cypher scratched his chin a little and then slowly pulled the lever next to the series of numbers. A buzzing sound could be heard and surges of Essence flowed from the panel to the big circle. The frame lit up and begun to rotate. A swooshing sound echoed through the room and a liquid surface appeared within the circle's frames.

Cypher gasped and immediately turned the lever down. “Like I thought”, he said. “But I, um, never knew that they actually existed.”

Both Coral and Yuko gave Cypher confused looks. He turned his head to the other, smaller circle. A flash of light appeared before his eyes and he could see himself, in another body, activate the smaller circle by pulling the left lever. A liquid surface appeared within its frames and he walked up to it. He stepped inside the liquid surface and felt a suction inside his stomach. When he next opened his eyes, he was stared at by a giant lion with golden fur.

Cypher – or the Cypher that was – reached for the lion with a letter in his hand. “Best Celestial Lion”, he heard himself say, but with a voice that wasn't his own. It was the voice of his ancient self. “This is an urgent message from Denandsor.”

“I will pass it on”, the lion said with a growling voice which echoed within the depths of his soul.

He suddenly came to, realizing that he was in the present. He looked at the circle and then at Yuko and Coral. He pointed to the smaller of the circles. “That is a gate to Yu-Shan”, he said.

Both Coral's and Yuko's jaws dropped. “A gate to … Yu-Shan?” Coral stuttered. “You can't be serious?”

“Coral is right”, Yuko said. “Surely a gate to the gods' home in heaven can't exist?”

“It's called a Celestial Gate”, Cypher said. “But we, um, can't pass through. The other side of the portal is guarded by Celestial Lions. You see, they would kill anyone who isn't permitted entrance.”

Coral snorted. “How do you know these stuff anyway?”

Cypher poked on his nose. “Well, because I lived here in the First Age. Well, um, my former self that is. Don't you have any memories from the First Age, Coral?”

Coral remembered the vision he had when he saw Chanti Green-Paw for the first time in that cave at the pass. He had seen them standing on the balcony of a great, white tower, looking down over thousands of people. He knew that he had had a previous life from the day he first Exalted. But he hadn't felt anything since he entered Denandsor. He knew that his former self didn't use to live here. He was from somewhere else.

“Well, anyway”, Coral said. “If that is a gate to Yu-Shan, then what is the bigger one you somehow activated a moment ago?”

Cypher scratched his forehead. “Well, you see”, he said. “I didn't really believe it myself, but I, um, had a theory before about the First Age. You know, it was said that, back then, Creation itself was about ten times bigger than it is today. And believe me. According to all of my sources. It is big today. I had this theory that perhaps the people of the High First Age had mastered some kind of, you know, instant transportation. They had impressive flying ships and vehicles, um, and could travel great distances quickly, but with a world as big as it used to be … not even that could have been enough. But I always believed that portals were, well, even a magitechnological impossibility.”

“So you are saying?”

“Well, my theory is that this portal is only one of, um, many spread around Creation.” He pointed to the series of numbers on the panel. “This code is, well, actually a destination to another portal. Could be anywhere. Inside a city. On the bottom of the sea. It would be dangerous to walk through without knowing where it leads.”

He looked around himself in the room and noticed the ramps going from the floor with the siege weapons to the platform they were standing on. “I believe that, um, the Makers used to sell warstriders, automatons and siege weapons to other cities by, well, transporting them through this portal.”

“Just what is this place anyway?” Coral muttered. “It's like another world. I've lived in Nexus all my life and yet I can't even comprehend what in the Sun's name this city is.”

“Well”, Cypher said with a sly smirk. “Nexus is said to be quite impressive. Um, I've never been there myself. But I've read that, um, if you want to see something similar to this in Nexus. Then you should look underground.”

Coral forced a laugh. “Or just go to Firewander District. At least if you want your guts to be turned into snakes and your eyes to crystallize in their sockets.”

“That's because that district is infested with the Wyld, Coral”.

Yuko nodded in agreement.

“Shut up. I knew that.”

Yuko looked at the panel before him and pulled the middle lever. A buzzing sound was heard coming from the gate in the wall. It slowly opened up and revealed a long, dark corridor. “It must, um, be through there, well, where they take the vehicles up to the surface.”

Coral nodded to Cypher. “Any ideas of where the guardians might be controlled?”

He shook his head. “Not in the slightest. But, um, I believe we are too far in. Must be closer to the entrance.”

“Then let's go back to the palace. We'll continue the search tomorrow.”

Cypher closed the gate with the panel. “Yes, um, that might be wise.”


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sat May 15, 2010 11:45 am

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 31: The boy from the fishing village XI

“I've had my eyes on you for a while, Viper”, Dust Spider said as he stood up from his armchair. His cackling voice was as charismatic as shattered glass and sounded just as poetic.

The old man was dressed in rags. He was tall and pale with dark eyes and long, gray hair. His skinny body had almost no muscles at all and his cheekbones made his face almost skeletal. He looked like a man who had never wielded a weapon or a tool in his life. Like an ordinary, overly skinny, old man. But there were two things about him that intimidated Viper.

The most noticeable thing were the bloody bandages on his right hand and arm. It could be from a cut wound. And blood was still dripping from it. Viper thought that the man probably needed stitches. The other thing about the man was his cold eyes. He didn't look dangerous but his eyes did. Viper had seen a similar look before. He had seen them in Wing's eyes as he cut the throats of his victims. They were the eyes of a psychopath at the moment of his climax. But on this old man, the eyes were constant.

“I would like to join the Ebon Daggers, Master Dust Spider”, Viper said and avoided eye contact. “Dagger told me that meeting you would be my final test.”

“Oh, did he?” Dust Spider said while slowly approaching Viper. “What you have done up until now is quite insignificant. I am the one who will put you to the test. My test is the only one that matters.”

Viper gulped. “Yes. I'm sorry, sir.”

The old man put his hand on Viper's shoulder. He was about two heads taller than him. Viper knew that he was a little shorter than average but this old man was definitely a little taller than the average as well.

“I think you can do it, Viper”, the man said. “You have it in you. Ever since you sliced the throat of Meadow Walker. There is no hesitation in you.”

Viper looked up on the man and their eyes met. Dust Spider's looked sinister and depraved while Viper's were wide-open in shock. “Meadow Walker? That's the name of my former master. How do you know about him?”

“I told you I've had my eyes on you for a while, boy. Dagger came to me that very same night, directly after you first visited him, and told me about that 'strange boy with the rich clothes' who claimed to be a murderer.” Dust Spider carefully stroke Viper's chin with his bony fingers. “Do you remember that night? It was the night you first drew blood. How did it feel?”

At first, Viper didn't understand the question. He thought for a moment and then looked up at the cold eyes who were still intently watching him from two heads above. Dust Spider showed a wide grin with poor, dirty teeth.

“I felt relieved”, he said. “But he deserved a far greater punishment than that.”

“So it was hatred that made you cut his throat?”

Viper ground his teeth and looked down on the wooden floor. “I know that's not one of the virtues Dagger have taught me.”

“Are you referring to the Ebon Daggers' rule about not showing emotion?” Dust Spider asked before he ruffled Viper's hair. “Don't take it too seriously. You see, some emotions can be quite useful for the art of murder. I don't blame you. In fact, I commend you.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Dust Spider stepped back from Viper and then turned to watch the crunching flames. “You will become a great assassin, Viper. You have spirit. I've been waiting for you to find the courage to grow. Ever since you tipped off the Iron League about your friend almost five years ago. What was his name? Wing, right?”

Viper felt a cold blade pierce his heart. How can he know about Wing? He dropped his jaw and didn't know what to say. How to react. He could barely move. Who was this Dust Spider anyway?

The old man tilted his head and showed Viper the same wide grin as before.

“You seem shocked”, he said. “Don't be. Wing asked me for help that night. He was desperate to succeed on his first assignment. I gave him some tips. Showed him some tricks. But I also kept a close watch over him. And I saw you. I saw you tipping off the Iron League about him. I saw you there on the execution grounds when the Emissary came to finish him off. Oh, he went so artistically.”

Viper bit his lip for a moment and then showed a grin just as big as Dust Spider's. He took a deep, exerted, almost hissing, breath. “I don't care who you are or how powerful your friends are. If you talk badly about Wing, I will rip your fucking tongue out and stick it up your ass!”

Dust Spider silenced for a moment. He tilted his head and raised his brows, but his grin wasn't even budged. “Well done, Viper”, he said. “That's what I call murderous intent. Okay, enough about Wing. There is another name I want to mention. Tell me if you recognize it. It is Shin Cloud.”

“One of Meadow Walker's associates. A priest from Great Forks. He liked to take advantage of young boys. You know, in the most despicable ways.”

“Ah, yes. He still does. And he took advantage of you too, didn't he?”

Viper didn't respond. He glared at Dust Spider who grinned back at him.

“Tell you what, Viper”, the old man cackled. “Speaking of ripping out tongues and all. If you do me one tiny little favor, I will tell you where to find Shin Cloud. You see, he's in Nexus now.”

Viper remembered Shin Cloud all too well. He remembered how horribly despicable he had been. He carried the true morbidity of a demon under the flesh of a handsome, trustworthy man. He was a well-liked priest in public, but what he did to his associates' young slaves was too horrible for most of them to live with. The only reason Viper had endured was because of his goal. He knew that life would eventually turn in his favor. He had refused to give up hope.

And now he had a chance of killing that man. His eyes got determined and sharp.

“Just tell me what I have to do”, he said.

“One of the boys guarding my door is not trustworthy”, Dust Spider said. “He talks too much about our business to people who aren't entrusted with our secrets. I want you to go out there and bring me his tongue.”

“His tongue?”

“Would that be a problem?”

Viper shook his head. “No. Just tell me which one it is.”

“I'll give you one clue. His name is Rak.”

Viper nodded.

“Before you go, Viper. Is there anything you need to better take care of the problem at hand? You may choose any kind of weapon. Any kind of item. As long as I have it, that is.”

Viper leered at the door like if he was trying to see the boy on the other side through the solid wood. Outside that door was not only Rak, but one more guard, the door-keeper and Dagger. Dagger would probably not intervene, but he couldn't go out there and kill a man with them watching. And he didn't want to hurt someone else. Maybe he could knock them out without hurting them?

“What about two needles and some paralyzing poison? Then I'll show you exactly how talented I am.”

“Taking the silent approach, I see”, Dust Spider chuckled and then walked up to a drawer at one of the walls. He opened it up and took out two needles and one vial with a transparent liquid.

That's weird, Viper thought. He had just the items I needed in that drawer of his.

After he received the items, he took a deep breath and then opened the door. One of the needles were hidden between his teeth with its poisonous edge carefully distanced from his tongue. The other needle was hidden between his right hand's middle- and index finger. Dagger had taught him well. With these simple tools he would be creating wonders.

When he came out from the door, he noticed the four Ebon Daggers watching him from the hall. The girl was at the front door with Dagger waiting next to her. Two boys around his own age were standing at each of his sides. Dagger nodded to him with a smile.

Viper turned to one of the boys. “Which one of you is Rak?”

One of the boys, the tall one with short, red hair who stood at his left side, raised his brows. “That would be me―” He was interrupted by a quick fist grabbing his tongue. At the same moment, Viper's right hand pierced the other boy's neck with his needle. He spat the needle between his teeth into the forehead of the girl in front of him.

He then ripped out Rak's tongue and gave him a quick, but deadly, punch in his throat. The other two guards fell paralyzed to the floor.

Dagger looked surprised.

“Final test”, Viper explained and nodded to Dagger before he walked back into Dust Spider's room with Rak's tongue in his hand.

Dust Spider looked at him with the usual wide grin. “Beautifully done, boy”, he said. “You're in. You're definitely in.”

Viper walked up to the old man with determined steps. He raised his hand with the sticky tongue before him. Dust Spider held out the palm of his left hand, the one which wasn't bandaged, and took the tongue from the boy. He dropped it in a metal bowl on the desk next to his armchair.

“Like you said, Master Dust Spider”, Viper said. “I don't hesitate. Now, tell me about Shin Cloud.”

“You and I are going to have so much fun”, Dust Spider chuckled. “Are you going to cut his throat like you did Meadow Walker?”

“That is my intention. I want the other associates to know that I'm the one killing them all. I want them to fear death.”

Viper could hear Dust Spider's excited breaths. He had never before met someone who loved murder as much as this old man. It was as despicable as the men he was after. But he had already decided that murder would be his tool for getting his revenge. He could use this man to achieve his goal.

“Then you should use this”, Dust Spider said and walked back to the drawer. He opened it up and took out a small razor. It looked just like the one Viper had used to kill Meadow Walker. He gave it to him. “Here. It will give you luck.”

Viper looked at the razor. It was exactly the same. If he knew that the murder weapon he used to kill his old master was lying on the night-stand in his bedroom, then he would think that this was the same one.

“Shin Cloud is visiting a friend in Bastion”, Dust Spider said. “They will be watching a play at Che-Lu's Theatre in Cinnabar tomorrow night. And knowing his tastes, he will most likely be watching the streets for fresh meat afterward. Do you think you can take care of it from this information alone?”

“Yes, Master Dust Spider. I know I can.”

Viper bowed before Dust Spider and then walked back out through the door. He met up with Dagger who was crouching before the paralyzed girl at the door.

“I know he's an evil fuck, but to actually ask you to kill fellow Ebon Daggers”, Dagger muttered.

Viper walked up towards him. “I guess he wanted quick results.”

Dagger nodded towards the girl. “Will they be all right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, congratulations then, Viper”, Dagger said with a smirk. He opened up the bag on his belt and took out a black dagger with an engraved snake along its shaft. He tossed it over to Viper. “A present for you. Your very own custom-made ebon dagger.”

“Thank you, sifu”, Viper said with a smile. “Now, do you mind if I go back home to get some rest? Tomorrow will be a great day.”


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sat May 15, 2010 6:51 pm

really enjoying this. The character development is good and i like the switching between present and past story lines.

In the interest of helping with the English I'd point out a little niggle with some of the sentence structure as the grammar is not quite right at times (though it has improved a lot from your earlier stories Smile ) and, in one or two places, i think i would have chosen different wording e.g. you wrote 'Cypher poked on his nose' whereas i would have written 'Cypher tapped his nose'

But once again, great stuff and looking forward to more Smile

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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sat May 15, 2010 8:57 pm

Thank you. I thought you guys'n'gals grew tired of this story many chapters ago. ^^
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Manovan Marrowsteel

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Number of posts : 319
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sat May 22, 2010 10:42 am

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 32: Warmth within a frozen heart

Coral Snake woke up early the following day. He had been sleeping well on the divan in the office while Cypher and Yuko slept on the benches in the corridor outside. Cypher had found an old game called The Game of Life the previous evening and they had played each other for who would get to sleep on the divan. Coral took home the victory with a little something called discrete cheating.

They assumed there was a master bedroom on the same floor, but the hallway leading into it was destroyed and filled with old corpses. It was too much of a bother to clean it up that night. Perhaps they would have time to do it today.

Coral welcomed the new dawn with a sip of the lovely red wine. He then geared up and took a little stroll through the rooms around the vestibule. He had been to the backdoor kitchen before, but today he noticed a strange room inside. It was freezing cold and most likely used to store food such as meat so that it wouldn't be spoiled. It was also a nice place to cool down from the heat outside.

It was still too early to expect Cypher and Yuko to wake up. Coral gave the stairway leading up to the corridor a quick gaze and then decided to take the time cleaning out the hallway into the supposed master bedroom. But when he got to it, he realized it was more work than he had expected.

A chunk of the outer facade was gone and mild breezes soughed through. A tree had grown outside and spread its branches into the room. He did what he could. He started by climbing over some pieces of furniture to get a better look at the room. There was some broken book shelves, an upside down desk and chairs. This was not a hallway. It was an office.

He pushed some of the furniture out through the hole and piled up the dusty skeletons at one of the walls. An hour or two later, it was still a mess. But at least it was possible to walk through.

He dried some sweat off his forehead and then put on his bandana. He walked up to the entrance to the bedroom and looked inside. It was messy in there too, but not as badly as it was here in the office. It had obviously been a big fight out here.

A long dire lance was stuck into the wall inside the bedroom with a female skeleton around it. He knew it was female because of the garments and jewelry she was wearing. Other than the murdered girl, the room was quite nice. It was big and comfortable. Even more so than a luxury suite in the best hotels in Nexus' Bastion District. The stench of death had probably disappeared thousands of years ago when the last of the girl's flesh rotted away. It could probably be cleaned quite swiftly.

Maybe he could sleep in here tonight? He grabbed the lance's handle with both of his hands and felt its great weight. He managed to pull it out from the wall and the skeleton fell to the floor with a rattling thump. He walked back into the office with the lance in his hands and threw it out through the hole in the wall. It was too ungainly to have lying around in here. He then walked back into the bedroom to grab the corpse from the floor.

When he took it in his arms, he couldn't help but to feel a little sympathy for it. The feeling confused him. Why would he feel sympathy for someone he knew nothing about?

“You were the Daimyo's wife, weren't you?” he asked the skeleton – though he spoke more to himself than to the corpse. “I bet you were quite the beauty when you were alive. But look at you now.”

“Who are you talking to?” It was Cypher's unique voice. “Oh, you've cleaned in here.”

Coral turned to see a newly awake Cypher scratch the sleep from his eyes. Cypher suddenly flinched when he saw that Coral was holding a skeleton in his hands.

“Who's that?”

“Why don't you tell me?” Coral muttered. “Good morning, by the way.”

“Good morning.” Cypher tapped on his nose. “Um, why are you holding a skeleton?”

Coral walked past him and carefully placed the skeleton on the pile of corpses. “I'm cleaning up”, he said. “I believe this was the Daimyo's wife.”

“Could be. Could be.”

Cypher took a look around the room. His eyes were carefully investigating the hole in the wall. “Um”, he said. Then he said it again. “Um.” Still while looking at the hole. “Someone punched the wall a little too hard.”

“There was a battle in here”, Coral said while stretching his arms into the air until he felt refreshing crackling. It felt good. Even though he was a Solar Exalted, it had been exhausting to clean up this room.

Cypher nodded. “A battle leading up to, um, the activation of the defense system.”

“Speaking of defense systems”, Coral said with a smirk. “We should get back into the armory to see if we can find what is controlling the guardians.”

“Yes, indeed”, Cypher said. “But I'm hungry.”

“There's a bull outside. It's basically food with four legs.”

“Um, I'm not very good with … gutting animals.”

Coral sighed. “Very well then”, he muttered. “I'll do it.” Though, disturbing as it might be, he was more used to gutting humans than animals. It came with the profession in a dark past. A past he hated but couldn't give up. Wouldn't let himself give up. And after having done it so many times, a person could get blunted to any kind of gore. Cutting up a bull was child's play.

But things were so simple back then. It was all about achievements. Accept mission. Don't reflect on whom your target was. Achieve. All the innocent people he had killed over the years were necessary sacrifices after all. But he couldn't neglect the fact that sometimes he experienced their deaths again and again in his dreams. Would someone entirely without a heart see his victims in his dreams?

He hoped not. Because that proved that he still had a heart somewhere.

He looked at the pile of corpses. “We should give them a proper memorial”, he said.

“Yes”, Cypher said with a nod. “With the Miasma gone, um, their ghosts might eventually come. If they still roam the Underworld, that is.”

Coral walked up to the pile of corpses and took the girl's corpse in his arms. He nodded to Cypher. “Wake up Yuko. Have her help us carry them out to the meadow.”

He left the palace with the skeleton in his arms. The heat was greater than the days before, but he could see dark clouds spread behind the mountains. The first things he noticed were the sounds of chirping birds and a fly buzzing around his head. More and more life returned to this valley. It was like if the curse had never existed.

Coral left the corpse on the meadow grass and then walked up along the road towards the pass – and towards the cage. He could use the wagon to carry the rest of the skeletons out from the city. But the first thing he did when he came up to it was to take a sip of the rum.

He noticed a small mouse escaping from under the wagon and running through the space between his legs. He gave a sly smirk and then unbuttoned his snake bag.

“Fetch”, he said and the coral snake crawled swiftly out from the bag and slithered after the mouse on the ground.

He took another sip of the rum. Then realized that a single bull could probably not carry this big wagon. Why had he killed the other one?

“Coral, my friend!” he heard someone call to him.

When he turned towards the sound, he recoiled in surprise. Glorious Horizon had changed somehow. He was bigger than before. Next to him walked both Omar and Chanti in their human forms. He hadn't seen Omar in his human form before, but he immediately recognized him.

Omar was tall and had brown skin with pale shades, short, black hair and bushy, black beard. He was dressed in his articulated moonsilver plate and wielded his grand daiklave on his back. Coral noticed that he could see the reflection of his lost family in the armor's glimmering moonsilver. It was an illusion created from his dreams. He tried to ignore it.

Chanti was as beautiful as always. Coral looked at her tanned skin and her glittering tattoos and realized how lucky he was. She was dressed in cloth around her waist and chest and had some charms hanging from a belt and a necklace. She had one bag attached to her belt but she wore no artifacts with the exception of the wedding band on her ring-finger.

A sudden memory of Glittering Wolf, his previous love, flashed before his eyes. But this was different. He was connected to Chanti through a deep celestial bond. His destiny was far greater now than what he could have imagined when he lived in Nexus.

“Horizon”, Coral called back. “Have you been working out?”

Horizon grinned and flexed his muscles.

Coral nodded to Chanti. “Hello”, he said.

“Hello”, she replied. “The tribe is restoring the jungle. It's overgrown and out of balance. We've brought animals here from outside. You should be able to hunt food here shortly.”

“Thank you.”

“But it's remarkable”, she continued. “There are artifacts buried underground which are stimulating the growth of plant-life. And they still work.”

They came up to him and he gave her a hug. “You should talk to Cypher about that”, he said. “I'm an illiterate when it comes to artifacts.”

“You're young”, she said and kissed him.

“I'm curious”, he said and took her hand. “How is it like living for thousands of years?”

She gave him a surprised look and then smiled. “It's not that bad when you have something to live for. I've been spreading tribes all over the southern jungles to battle the Wyld. And of course I have been waiting for your return.”

“I must be quite inadequate in my current state.”

She smiled and kissed him on his cheek. “Yes, you are very young. But you already know that the Solar Exalted are the strongest and the most glorious there are. Your people, together with mine, will bring peace and stability to Creation. And until you're mature enough to change the world for the better, I will be watching your back.”

“Why is that Twilight carrying corpses from the city?” Omar asked and pointed towards the city.

They could see Whispering Rainbow Cypher clumsily carrying skeletons in his arms and putting them on the meadow outside the city.

“We're moving into the palace at the central Manse”, Coral said. “But we had to clean it up first.”

“I'm curious about that boy”, Chanti said and started walking towards Cypher. She still held Coral's hand and he was pulled with her.

When Cypher noticed them coming, he waved with a big, goofy grin. Coral noticed that he looked at Chanti with the utmost admiration and respect. Probably because she was a living record of the High First Age. Coral also noticed that Cypher strained himself trying to avoid looking at her womanly forms. She showed a lot of skin and Coral knew how difficult it was to avoid looking at her body a little too intently. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen after all. Unnaturally beautiful. A human couldn't even imagine such beauty.

“Whispering Rainbow Cypher, right?” Chanti said.

“That is correct”, Cypher replied, still with that goofy smile.

Chanti looked at Cypher's spherical artifact. It glimmered under the strong sunlight. “May I take a closer look?” she asked.

Cypher's goofy grin disappeared and he leered at both Chanti and his artifact. He seemed reluctant to letting her borrow it. But he couldn't say no to someone like Chanti. He removed his pendant and gave it too her.

She looked at it for a moment and felt the warm orichalcum with her hands. Then she put it on and Cypher flinched when he realized she was committing her Essence to it. Coral didn't say anything. He had no idea what her purpose was.

“Is Yuko awake?” he asked Cypher.

Cypher nodded, still with his bewildered eyes locked on Chanti as she committed to his artifact. He bit his lip and his eyes trembled a little. Coral noticed that his fingers got shaky and his body shivered.

“Then go to her”, Chanti said. “I would like to study this for a while. Don't worry. I'm not going to steal it from you.”

She walked back up towards the wagon and Coral followed her. Cypher's body trembled and he wanted to say something. Instead he walked back into the city.

Coral and Chanti sat on the wagon for a while. She had committed to the artifact and had its chain around her neck and the sphere in her hand. It glowed with bright light.

“What is that exactly?” Coral asked.

“Um”, she said. “I'm not sure but, um, well, you see―”

“Are you all right?” There was something familiar and disturbing about that speech pattern.

“Well”, she said. “This artifact must, um, somehow affect a person's, you know, psyche.” She quickly removed the pendant from her neck and took a deep breath. The artifact lost its light. “I can't believe he has managed to carry it for so long without becoming insane.” Her speech was back to normal.

“Sometimes I wonder if he is”, Coral said with a smile. “But he's useful. He knows things. I could never have guessed that the thing we found in the armory was an actual portal to Yu-Shan.”

“What did you just say?” she said, almost shouted. “Are you saying there's a Celestial Gate here? Take me to it at once!”


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:34 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 33: The central mind unit

Chanti Green-Paw touched the celestial gate with the palm of her hand. She looked at its golden markings and then investigated the rest of the room with her eyes. Cypher stood by the panel before the two portals but nothing had been activated. Coral stood a few steps behind them and waited for Chanti to elaborate why she had forced him to take her here.

“They are just like I remember them”, she said.

“Are there more of them?” Coral asked.

“Yes, I have seen a few. Some of them have been destroyed. Others are forgotten.”

“Have you ever stepped through one?”

Chanti's eyes met Coral's. “I stay away from Yu-Shan. I have witnessed friends enter only to be slain by the Celestial Lions. Times have changed. There's nothing for us to gain there anymore.”

Coral nodded. Before him stood a gate to another world. He was curious about it, but he could stay away. He had to. There were more important matters to attend to. They had to find a way to bend the guardians to their will if they would ever hope to control this city.

“Chanti?” Coral asked. “Do you know where in this city we should look for the system that controls the gaurdians?”

She shrugged. “I'm not an engineer but such a powerful system should be located close to the central of the Manse.”

“That's, um, what I thought as well”, Cypher muttered while tapping on the spherical artifact Chanti had returned to him – after quite some nagging. “But there is nothing there.”

She raised her eyebrows and looked at him for a second. She then burst into laughter. “Well of course there isn't”, she said while grinning. “Did you think this would be easy?” She placed her face in her palm and sighed. “It's a miracle you guys are still alive.”

Both Cypher and Coral couldn't help but to blush.

“You were lucky with the curse”, she continued. “But a curse isn't enough to protect a city such as this. Imagine thousands of tripwires all over the streets and floors. You have been lucky enough to not step on any of them yet.” She pointed to Cypher. “In the High First Age, Twilight Solars like yourself could spend countless lifetimes for places like this and even longer to figure out how to defend them against power hungry brethren. You haven't even been here for a week.”

“What are you saying exactly?” Coral muttered. “That it's impossible?”

She shook her head. “Not impossible. But you're too careless and too young to truly understand this Manse, let alone this city.”

There was a moment of silence before Coral nodded to the two of them and said: “Let's go back.”

They walked back towards the entrance to the bunker while intently looking at everything around them. The corridors were illuminated by Essence lamps and the stones looked smoother and more clear than when they had walked these halls with no more light than what their caste marks could spread. None of them knew what to look for so they looked at everything.

“Um, there should be a marking at least”, Cypher muttered while tapping on his nose. “Something that indicates that, um, there is an entrance somewhere.”

They were close to the entrance when Chanti suddenly stopped. “Not necessarily”, she said. “It could be hidden in plain sight.”

Cypher gave her a bewildered look and tapped on his nose.

She nodded towards the wall to her left-hand side. “I saw a flicker in the stone”, she said. “And the light doesn't seem to reflect from it like it does from the other walls.”

Both Cypher and Coral stopped to look at the wall. Cypher leaned forward and carefully investigated it. “I don't see any difference”, he said.

“Neither do I”, Coral filled in. “But now when I think about it: we walked in a square around this wall the first time we were here. All of the rooms we entered were pointing to the opposing wall. It's located directly underneath the Manse. Of course something is hidden within.”

Cypher nodded as if to say “naturally” or “I was thinking the same thing”. He carefully touched the wall with the palm of his hand. “How should we get in?” he asked more to himself than to the other two.

“We break through”, Coral said with a grin as he drew the Serpent-Sting Staff from his backpack and hit the wall in one swift sweep.

“Wait, you reckless fool!” Chanti roared but it was too late.

The hit didn't seem to have done any damage at all. Coral shrugged and gave Chanti a confused look. He noticed that the iris in her shocked eyes glimmered with swirling Essence. She ground her teeth.

“I used a Charm to improve my eyesight”, she said. “The wall is not made of stone at all. It is in fact a barrier and I'm sure you just set off its alarm.”

Coral flinched. “So what do we do now?”

“Try the Seal of Authority”, Cypher suggested. His sphere seemed to be giving a faint golden glow.

“The what?”

“The jade seal!”

Coral remembered the white jade seal he was carrying in his belt. He quickly loosened it and placed the seal against the wall. A faint glow emanated from the seal and spread throughout the wall. The white stone faded into a membrane of golden orichalcum. Around the place where Coral placed the seal, a glowing corona spread like rings on water and opened up a hole in the membrane.

In the middle of the room reached a thorny crystal pillar from the ceiling to the floor. It looked like a barrier around a small, glowing orb. Cypher approached the pillar like he was hypnotized. Coral gave Chanti a confused look.

“I've never seen anything like it”, she said with a shrug.

Cypher intently looked at the pillar from all sides. He quietly investigated and calculated before he dared touching its surface.

“Try the seal again”, he said.

Coral walked up to him and placed the seal against the pillar's surface. Nothing seemed to happen.

Cypher scratched his tangled, black hair and made a short snort. “Um, the pillar seems to be some kind of advanced locking-mechanism protecting the, you know, sphere inside. Give me a day or two and I'll have it figured out.”

A locking-mechanism? Coral thought.

“Can I try?” he asked and, without waiting for permission, carelessly touched its surface.

“I suppose, but what can someone like you―”

Coral called on his Essence and let it flow through his fingers and through the palms of his hand. As he touched the surface of the pillar, it felt like the Essence was drained from his touch. He remembered the door he found in the basement of the palace in Yuro. His mistake back then was that he wasn't prepared. Now he was. His Essence spread through the pillar and its glow suddenly faded. It opened up and revealed the sphere within.

Cypher looked at him with amazement. “What did you do?” he asked.

Coral grinned with self-confidence. “One of the first Charms I recalled after my awakening”, he answered. “I can open any lock. Even magical ones.”

“Lock-Opening Touch”, Chanti said. “One of your basic Charms, even back then.”

He smiled proudly and then stepped back to embrace his wife. Cypher's full concentration was now on the sphere before him. It was about as big as his own artifact, but that was how far the similarities went. While his artifact was covered in markings, discs and carvings, this one was completely smooth. It was like a dimmed globe where you could faintly see what hid inside, but not deeper than half an inch or so. What hid inside this orb was an endless network of orichalcum with beams of light pulsing through them.

When Cypher touched the sphere, its surface seemed to recoil. He instantly removed his fingers. “The surface feels like liquid”, he said. “Absolutely no friction at all. But, um, the reaction ...”

He carefully grabbed the sphere with both hands so that it wouldn't slip out of his grip. He looked at it and poked it with the tip of his finger. He could feel a sensation of a ripple wave spreading from the place he touched. The beams of lights increased at that same place. Now when he thought about it, the light pulses had increased rapidly from the moment he touched the sphere.

“It's uncomfortable”, he said and smiled to Coral and Chanti. “This thing is alive!”

“You're making me uncomfortable”, Coral said. “What do you mean it's alive?”

“Well”, he muttered. “Look at it this way. This orichalcum network is like a network of nerves while, um, the beams of light are impulses. Much like you can manipulate nerves with acupuncture needles, you should be able to manipulate this, um, artificial intelligence if you figure out how the network is connected.”

Coral gave the sphere a skeptic look. “When you say intelligence, do you actually mean intelligence?”

Cypher nodded and his eyes were widely spread in fascination.

A rumble echoed outside.

“We must get out of here!” Chanti yelled. “The alarm must have triggered the guardians!”

Coral nodded. “Cypher!” he said and grabbed his friend's shoulder. “Chanti and I will go in advance.” As he spoke, a short white flash went through his mind and he could feel the voice of his divine shard echo the words “obey me!” as Coral said: “You stay here until you have figured out how to subdue the guardians!”

He could almost feel Essence wrap around the words as they left his mouth and he couldn't help but notice how Cypher's reaction suddenly changed. For the short moment it took Coral to utter that sentence, Cypher's focus was completely on Coral's words. His eyes had a blank look for a moment before he turned to the sphere in his hands.

“Um, very well”, he said. “I'll figure this thing out.” He sat down on the floor with the sphere in his hands and obsessively begun to study it.

Coral was taken aback for a second by the feeling. What did just happen? It felt like he had used some kind of Charm but he wasn't sure what it was. He shrugged it off and followed Chanti out through the entrance, leaving Cypher in the hidden room.

The rumbles continued as Coral used the seal to open up the iris gate. They didn't see anything else than the smooth cobble street and the overgrown gardens around. The rumbling came closer and closer and they could hear that it were footsteps. A fifteen feet tall metal giant's head looked out from the thick corner of branches and roots before them. It's indifferent face seemed to penetrate them with its glowing, artificial eyes. It stepped forward and drew its grand goremaul. Another of the guardians came out from behind it.

“You take the left one”, Chanti said and ran towards one of the guardians.

“Wait!” Coral called. “Did you say 'take'?”

She leered at him with a sly smirk. “Will that be a problem?” she asked before she vaulted into the air and landed on the guardian's neck. While balancing on his shoulders, she started to weave a spell. Leaves were ripped from their branches and swirled in the air around her. The guardian immediately tried to reach for her, but she flexibly evaded its hand without loosing focus.

“I guess not”, Coral muttered as he noticed the other guardian coming at him with its grand goremaul raised over its head.

Coral let his left foot slide back a feet and took the position of an angered serpent; back slightly crouched, head leaned back and his hands in an open guard before him. It was just like his old sifu had taught him – but with one slight difference. As the goremaul descended over his head, a shroud of faint Essence wrapped around his form and he seemed to flicker before the mace hammered a crater into the ground.

Coral stood on the giant's left shoulder and whipped the Serpent-Sting Staff down towards its head. He put much force into the blow, but it still only made an echoing clang. He had underestimated the density of its body.

The guardian tried to grab him with its other hand but he slithered away from its reach. When he next noticed Chanti, he realized she had taken the form of the humanoid fox. She was covered in red fur and she was more muscular than before. As the guardian tried to shake her off, she kept her balance by maneuvering her tail. Her circular caste mark glittered from her forehead and Coral could feel another rumble in the ground – however, this time it wasn't from the guardians.

The branches around them seemed to get a life of their own and they swiftly entangled Chanti's guardian, trying to root it in place. The more the guardian tried to break free, the quicker the branches grew up along its legs and body. With the same cold face as before, it managed a quick swing with its goremaul, aiming for Coral Snake.

Coral wasn't prepared for the blow and he was hit off the other guardian's shoulder and thrown into the air. He landed on the closed iris gate with a loud thump and fell to his knees. He looked up on the guardians with shock in his eyes. Blood ran from his mouth.

The branches spread along the guardian's arm and weapon. As Chanti witnessed Coral get hit, her eyes got mad and she grabbed the guardian's head. The tattoos on her arms and torso glowed as her muscles grew. Cracks were heard from the guardian's neck and she howled as she ripped off its head and tossed it to the ground.

Coral was amazed, but he had no time to idle. The grip of his Serpent-Sting Staff tightened and he quickly got to his feet. He ran towards the guardian that remained and somersaulted between its legs while swiftly hitting both of its ankles. The first blow had enough force in it to crack up the entire ankle, causing the guardian to fall to its knees.

Coral jumped up behind the guardian with a bloody grin on his face and sent his staff down like a projectile, piercing the giant's neck before he landed smoothly on its back.

“Are you okay?” Chanti asked.

Coral knelt on top of the guardian's back and breathed heavily. He nodded.

More rumbles echoed from behind the pyramid and three more guardians appeared.

“Get up!” Chanti ordered. “No time to rest.”

As he slowly stood up, he could feel that all of his ribs were broken. He probably had some fractures in his arms and legs as well. It would be impossible to fight these many of them.

He nodded to her and they both ran towards the guardians. She seemed calm but he was fully prepared to die. Before they collided with the metal giants, something like a rumbling storm flew past them and crushed into all three guardians at once. They both recoiled in surprise and Coral could swear he heard a hearty chuckle from the dust cloud that occurred from the mysterious collision.

An eight feet tall Lunar Exalted with monster-like muscles, glittering tattoos and the head of a bull appeared within the dust cloud, holding a metal arm as big as himself in his right hand. Below him was a pile of junk.

“Are you playing without me?” he chuckled.

More rumbling echoed through the city square and the Lunar quickly turned its head. Coral and Chanti couldn't see what he was looking at because of the thick bushes and trees. But they noticed that he was grinning.

“Ten more incoming”, he said, then looked at Chanti with hopeful eyes. “Can I?”

“Yes”, she said with a nod.

He grinned, exposing all of his bull teeth, and then ran towards the incoming guardians while chuckling to himself. When he went outside line of sight, Coral noticed that his chuckle transformed into a growl and he could hear a cacophony of sounds indicating a battle of monsters.

All he could say was: “Wow.”

Chanti walked up to Coral and put her hand on his chest. She channeled her Essence and he could feel the fractured ribs heal.

“Let's rest for a while”, she said. “Blackhorn has always wanted to see if the guardians were worthy opponents but I forbid him from picking fights with them. He can take care of them for us.”

Coral ground his teeth and hissed in pain. His body was still aching, even though he was regenerating. “I had no idea you were this scary”, he said.

She smiled and helped him sit down by the gate. “I can tell that you wouldn't survive a day without us. I think I'll leave Horizon here with you. He can protect you.”

“Don't underestimate me”, he stuttered. “I survived five years on the road and then eight years in Nexus as a mortal human.”

She stroke his hair while transforming back into her human form. She then kissed him on the cheek. “Nexus, you say?” she said. “Then have you been to Firewander District?”

“Close enough to see the Wyld infestation”, he muttered. “But I wouldn't set my foot there even now when I'm Exalted.”

“My friends and I have battled the Wyld for centuries”, she said. “We walk into the Wyld and shape its chaos into balance. So I know what I'm talking about when I say you're weak.”

“Brag on”, he muttered, but couldn't help but to smile. “I will be the one protecting you in no time.”

“I have always been the one to protect you, you reckless fool”, she said. “Even when you commanded legions.”

Coral raised his eyebrows. “Wait? What?”

She smiled and stroke his cheek. “I have waited for your reincarnation longer than you can imagine, love”, she said. “But don't think I can't wait any longer. If you cause much more trouble than you already have, I might just kill you and hope that your next reincarnation will be wiser.”

He gulped. Yikes. For some reason, he didn't think she was joking.

“Have you done that before?”

She stroke his cheek again. “It was thousands of years ago your shard was last reborn.”

After a short moment of silence, more rumbles were heard from behind the pyramid. Blackhorn was still fighting and it seemed more guardians had joined the battle. How many could have been destroyed by now? A dozen? They sat quietly for a while and listened to the battle. They heard Blackhorn's happy laughter as he crushed the guardians into pieces. The man truly was a monster both in mind and form. They couldn't see him from where they sat, but his enormous shape cast a shadow even here.

Maybe an hour had passed when a small steward automaton walked out from the corner, turned its head and noticed Coral and Chanti. It tilted its head, opened its metal mouth and gave a metallic shriek.

The rumbling steps of guardians approached from the Manse's other side. They heard Blackhorn fighting. Could he make it in time?

They witnessed half a dozen guardians coming at them at full speed and with full force. They drew their weapons. One of them seemed to charge up an Essence canon. Chanti and Coral was quick on their feet but it was unclear if she would have time to even weave a spell to protect them from the incoming force of metal and magic.

Coral noticed that the Essence canon was almost fully charged up when a faint buzz were heard echoing from all of the guardians and their glowing eyes faded away. Some tipped over and some seemed to hibernate. Coral was most happy over the fact that the Essence canon faded with the guardian's eyes.

Coral and Chanti could hear a disappointed “aw” coming from Blackhorn. They gave each other confused looks.

“Cypher!” Chanti said. “Whatever Charm you used on him, it must have worked.”

“Well”, Coral said. “I only gave him some dedication to succeed, I think.”

That fool, Coral thought. He saved the day once again.


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:05 am

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 34: The boy from the fishing village XII

Cinnabar District was bright and lively even after sunset. The market in Cinnabar was not as big as Market Row in Nexus District, that was for sure, but there were other things that attracted the many people who roamed the streets this beautiful evening. There were open theaters and art galleries as well as late-night restaurants with professional troubadours. This was a cultural district and there were something here for everyone, despite taste.

Viper had been given the direction to a specific building overlooking one of the minor streets. Dagger's guidance had been more like a warning. “Introduce yourself to the leader of the Cinnabar Squad”, he had said. “Your deed will be on their grounds. Whatever you do, do not provoke Skin. He would rip yours off.” Skin was the name of the leader of the Cinnabar Squad. Apparently he was a strong man, twenty years of age, and with depraved tastes when it came to art, sex and blood.

The building where the Cinnabar Squad would be had a round balcony overlooking one of the minor streets. The surrounding houses were dark and Viper didn't know if they were homes, shops or simply empty. He guessed on a combination of the three. He heard laughter from the balcony and he could witness smoke. It was a beautiful, calm evening after all. Obviously they would be enjoying it from up there.

He looked at the street around him. Intoxicated men and women hobbled around, holding bottles and chuckled at bad jokes. There were no children here but a few young teenagers. He could see a few lone boys and girls with black bandanas around their foreheads, watching over their superiors on the balcony and taking care of troublemakers in the alley. The alley smelled of curry, opium and oil.

Viper wasn't dressed for assassination this night. He was dressed in fine red silk. He was going to watch a play after all. Glittering Wolf had braided his hair and it was dressed in cheap but pretty pearls. The guards didn't give him much thought. He was dressed like many other in Cinnabar after all. Fashionable, yes, but not too rich.

He noticed one lone guard leaning to a wooden facade. It was a boy, twelve or thirteen years old, with dark skin and blue hair. He had a unique look. Viper guessed that the hair was colored.

He discretely approached the guard but instantly noticed his watchful gaze. Even his eyes were unnaturally blue. The boy was on his toes, waiting intently for Viper to do something stupid, and seemed to finger on the handle of a dagger in his belt. Viper answered with a discrete nod and then slowly took his black bandana from his belt, held it visibly to the guard and then tied it around his forehead.

The guard leaned back to the wall for a moment and scratched his chin. He then let go of his dagger and walked up to Viper, put his hand on his shoulder and leaned in to his ear. “Come with me”, he said and walked towards the building.

Viper followed him.

The boy nodded to another guard who stood outside the front door. The guard opened the door and let them in. Viper didn't say anything. He followed the blue-haired boy into the building and up along a dark stairway illuminated by oil lanterns.

“Did you know that Gods of Murder walk in the shadows?” the boy asked.

Viper had waited for that question. He was prepared to answer it exactly like Dagger had instructed him to. “Followed by their tools, the Ebon Daggers”, he said.

The boy didn't reply. He opened up a door at the end of the stairs and they were greeted by cheerful laughter and heavy smoke coming from a pipe. Viper recognized the sweet smell. It was not tobacco, that was for sure.

“Wait here”, the boy whispered and walked out onto the balcony. He bowed before someone Viper couldn't see from inside. The only people he could see were a man and a woman, around eighteen years of age, holding hands while drinking and smoking. They both wore black bandanas and had their eye-lines painted black. The man gave Viper a quick gaze but didn't seem to care.

“There's an Ebon Dagger here from another squad, Master”, the blue-haired boy said.

Viper could hear a man sigh. “Bring him out then but let it be quick.”

The blue-haired boy nodded to Viper to come out. As he stepped out on the balcony, he was surprised by what he saw. These people had more than just an entertaining evening. They had an orgy. The leader, Skin, leaned back in a divan with a pipe between his lips. He was a muscled man with a scar over his lip and even more along his arms and chest. He wore a black vest and wide black pants. Behind him stood a young woman with exposed breasts and massaged his shoulders while a boy a few years younger than him was kneeling before his crotch, pleasuring him with his mouth.

Viper looked away. It brought back unpleasant memories from his enslavement.

“You're fancy for an assassin”, Skin laughed mockingly after he had exhaled some smoke.

“I apologize for disturbing you, Master Skin. My name is Viper the Throatslitter and I'm sent here on an assignment”, Viper said. “I'm requesting your permission to perform a murder in Cinnabar District.”

“What squad are you from, kid?”

“I'm from the Nighthammer Squad, Master.”

“And why the hell is a Nighthammer assassin sent into my district for an assignment?”

“I'm sent here because this is where my target is, Master”, Viper answered, instantly regretting his choice of words. “The target has no reason to come to Nighthammer so I was sent here instead.”

“Because this is where my target is”, Skin repeated with raised brows and cold eyes. He sighed and then pushed the boy away from between his legs with his foot, put his penis back in his pants and gave the boy a kick to the chest. The boy screamed as he fell backwards over the edge and crushed his head to the ground. The young couple who still held hands looked over the edge and laughed.

Viper swallowed his pride but refused to move even an inch. This guy was insanely dangerous.

Skin leaned forward and looked intently into Viper's eyes. “Now can you tell me why this target is yours and not the Cinnabar Squad's?”

“Well”, Viper said. “He's not an official target, so to speak. The assignment was given to me by Master Dust Spider.”

Skin leaned back in his divan and gestured to the girl to continue massaging his shoulders. “That complicates things”, he said. “Very well, the target is yours. Since it's not official business we'll turn the other cheek. Be sure to thank Dust Spider for this.”

He gestured Viper to leave. As soon as Viper left the balcony, he took a sigh of relief. He walked back down to the street, avoided stepping on the dead boy and disappeared among the crowds of Cinnabar.

Thinking about Skin made him ground his teeth. I refuse to be looked down upon, he thought to himself. I'm going to become the best damn assassin in Nexus and have those insane mother-fuckers bowing before me.

He saw the boy's crushed head in his mind. An innocent boy murdered in cold blood. It wasn't the murder itself that bothered him so deeply. It was the humiliation that boy had to endure. The thought of what the boy had been ordered to do made Viper's skin crawl. He ground his teeth even more.

Skin, he thought. One day I'm coming for you. I'm gonna make you shed that skin of yours like a snake.

As he walked towards Che-Lu's Theater, he took off his bandana and once again hid it under his belt. It was the biggest theater in Cinnabar and it reached over the surrounding buildings like an ancient palace. It's entrance stood behind giant stone pillars at the top of a wide set of stairs. The canals reached almost all the way to the stairs and gondolas carried passengers to a small dock.

There was a crowd outside. Most of them seemed to be fancy people from Bastion or properly dressed-up middle-class men and women. They were the minority in Nexus but they still had the power over the common hoi polloi.

Viper walked up among them and let his flexible hands go to work. Before he had reached the top of the stairs, he both had a ticket to the play as well as a pouch full of silver bits. He waved with his ticket before a guard and was let inside the theater's vestibule. Even more people were inside, mingling with each other while holding cups of wine.

This sure is fancy, he thought to himself while looking around. Finding Shin Cloud in here could be difficult. He walked among the rich folks for about half an hour – he even managed to steal himself a cup of wine – while looking for his target and waiting for the play to begin. He didn't even know what it was about.

He was used to dealing with rich people. He had lived in a mansion after all. But he had done so as a slave and had never actually been to something like a play before.

Viper sat down on a chair next to a table. It didn't take long before a middle-aged woman with a pearl necklace came up to him.

“It's not very common for a young man like yourself to visit Che-Lu's”, she said with a forced sociolect.

Viper had his focus over her shoulder, trying to see either Shin Cloud himself or one of his associates.

“To tell you the truth, ma'am”, Viper said, using all the rules he had learned on how to act around rich folks. He decided to add a little bit of charming self-confidence to his speech and gave the woman a wide smile. “I wonder what I'm doing here.”

“Are you here with a girl?” the woman asked.

“No, ma'am”, Viper said with his most charming smile. “I'm not that lucky.”

The woman gave a hearty chuckle. “Aren't you a cute one?” she said. “You do look a little uncomfortable.” She leaned forward slightly and whispered. “To tell you the truth, so am I. I don't even like plays.”

“And I have never been to one before”, Viper said. “I'm here because I recently lost my father. He was a priest and I want to follow in his footsteps. I was hoping to impress one of the priests here and, if I'm lucky, be initiated by one of them.”

She looked surprised. “I heard that the immaculate high priest Shin Cloud from Great Forks is coming to watch this play. He is supposed to sit on the balcony next to my husband's and mine. Maybe you can join us. I'll ask my husband to introduce you to Shin Cloud during the intermission.”

“Really? I mean ... I don't want to cause any trouble.”

This is perfect.

“Not at all, young man”, she said with a chuckle. “What's your name?”

“Sun”, he lied and took her hand.

“Sun? How beautiful. My name is Elma. Please, don't bother with any honorifics. I'm a common woman at heart, despite all these pearls.”

Only minutes later, Viper was introduced to Elma's husband, Claymore. He decided to go for a more respectful approach to him but soon noticed that the old man was as surprised as his wife about his new fortune in the salt business. Some arrogance had already managed to trickle forth, but the man's efforts to make allies among the elite seemed to have affected his attitude towards Viper.

He was more than welcome to join them on their balcony.

It was first when they entered the balcony overlooking the grand stage, when he saw Shin Cloud take seat in the balcony next to his. He was here together with one of his associates. It was a man in his mid twenties with a slim, red moustache and brown eyes. Viper had seen him before but he didn't know his name. He only knew that he was a priest.

The mingling from outside had spread to the seats as more and more people arrived. Claymore leaned over to Viper who sat on his left-hand side. He nodded towards Shin Cloud. “That's high priest Shin Cloud”, he said. “And his assistant Marca. I first met them in Great Forks last year when I was there to open up shop. It truly is a marvelous city of magic and divinities.”

“I've heard that gods walk the streets there”, Viper said.

“It's true”, the old man said with a smile. “But so do they here in Nexus, Sun. You have seen the Emissary, haven't you?”

Viper remembered when the Emissary executed Wing almost five years ago. “I have”, he said quietly and leaned back in his chair, leering at Shin Cloud as he did so.

The play began and Viper found it incredibly boring, though he pretended not to. He was still unsure how to approach Shin Cloud with these many people around. Claymore and Elma had seen his face too. He had to be careful. He had to remember his training. The two priests seemed to be alone though. If they were going to be looking for boys on the streets after the play, like Dust Spider had told him, they would probably want to do it discretely.

But what if they could get what they wanted here, without having to look at the street? Viper pondered the idea. He was sure that Marca hadn't seen his face before. If he could get to him alone, he could trick him into leading Shin Cloud to a private area. If they both expected a prostitute, they would be sure to come alone.

He had no intention of letting those filthy hands touch him though. He just needed to separate them from the rest of the crowd. But he couldn't afford to show his face to Shin Cloud before they were alone together. He would surely not come if he recognized him.

He turned to Claymore. “I'm sorry to ask this in the last minute, sir”, he said. “But I'm a little nervous. The high priest is a high priest after all. Maybe we can just speak to his assistant.”

Claymore smiled and nodded, then turned to look at the stage.

The show was about an imperialist soldier who grew into a Dragon-Lord. It glorified the Immaculate Teaching and the Imperial Army. The very same army that had murdered Viper's parents and kidnapped his siblings. His thoughts were elsewhere though. He only focused enough on the play to be able to join the conversations during the intermission.

The razor blade was well hidden inside his belt – which was more of a sash – and he could feel its flat surface against his waist. Thinking about its sharp edge soothed his senses. He would perform a murder tonight. But this murder would not be like his usual ones. This would be justice.

The play eventually reached its first intermission. The guests went back into the vestibule to meet with the actors, the director and with the owner Che-Lu himself to discuss the play. Others went to the high-class restrooms on the second floor. The restrooms were fully equipped with indoor water fountains and chamber pots in private booths. When people were done, they emptied the pots in holes in the wall which took it to the sewers in the Undercity as well as the canals. Not only luxury theaters like this had these restrooms, but most of the Bastion mansions as well. Viper was familiar with how the rich folks' shit soiled the poorer parts of Nighthammer with every flooding. But yet he would rather die than live in Bastion again.

Claymore gave Viper a pat on the shoulder and then stood up to leave the balcony. “If it isn't high priest Shin Cloud and Father Marca!” the old man said.

Viper slowly stood up from his seat and walked up to the balcony curtain. He gazed outside but didn't reveal himself. He witnessed Claymore kissing Shin Cloud's hand, being rejected by him but still managed to ensnare Marca. While the high priest continued to the vestibule, Claymore was leading Marca back to the balcony.

“There's someone I'd like you to meet, Father”, he said.

Viper stepped back out to the balcony, took a deep breath and poured up some wine in his cup. When Claymore pulled the curtain to the side and gestured towards Viper, he answered with a graceful bow.

“My apologies, Father Marca”, Viper said. “My name is Sun and I was wondering if I could speak with you about joining the temple?”

“Sun here is the son of an immaculate priest”, Claymore said.

Marca gave Claymore and unwilling look. “Can we do this later? I should be going to Master Shin Cloud.”

Good, Viper thought. He doesn't know who I am.

“I'm sorry”, he said and quickly took Marca's hand. He looked up in the priest's eyes. “You have time for one confession, don't you, Father?”

Marca was just about to remove his hand and hit the boy, but instead relaxed in his grip. Viper shivered a little by disgust when he noticed the man's eyes intently looking in his. At least it was proof enough that he shared his master's tastes. It would be safe to proceed.

“I assume I have time for a confession after all”, Marca said. “It is my duty as a priest to lead this boy to a straight path towards righteousness.”

Claymore smiled. “I'll leave you alone then”, he said. “Much gratitude, Father Marca.”

Marca bowed gracefully to Claymore and gestured to Viper to sit down. He sat down on the chair next to him.

“What's bothering you, young man?”

“I was lying about my intentions, Father”, Viper said. “The truth is that I was sent here by a friend of Master Shin Cloud's.”

“Really?” Marca said and raised his eyebrows. “Who might that be?”

“He ordered me not to tell anyone but Master Shin Cloud himself. I come bearing a gift.”

“You have seen me together with the high priest, haven't you, boy? If you give me the gift, I will happily pass it on to the high priest for you.”

“Well, you see, Father”, Viper continued. He looked around himself to see that they were alone and then whispered: “My master has sent me … as the gift.”

Marca leaned back and quietly looked at Viper.

“He was hoping that Master Shin Cloud would come visiting him in Bastion”, Viper continued.

“Remove your sleeves, boy”, the priest ordered.

Viper looked confused.

“Your arms. Show them to me!” He grabbed Viper's arms and pulled up his sleeves. “You wear no brand. So you are not a slave then?”

“My master doesn't want to brand me, Father”, Viper said. “He says it would be a sin to brand a pure body.”

That part was true. It was something Meadow Walker had told him almost five years ago.

Marca seemed to believe him. He looked at Viper from top to bottom and then exposed all of his teeth with a big smile. “Master Shin Cloud will be pleased”, he said. “There is no way he will be able to wait until the play is over after he has seen you.”

“He doesn't have to wait, Father”, Viper said. “The restrooms should be empty after the intermission is over and everyone is seated.”

“Good thinking, boy”, Marca said with the same big smile. “I'll be sure to pass it on. I just need a good look at you.” He grabbed Viper's head and looked into his hair. “No lice. That's a good sign. And your teeth seem white and straight. Strong body as well. How old are you?”

“I'm fifteen, Father.”

“Fifteen? I would have guessed thirteen. Very well, I'm sure he'll be pleased nonetheless. Be in the restroom ten minutes after the intermission is over.” He stood up and walked towards the curtain. “And remember, boy. Even an obedient slave may one day be reborn with the Dragons' blood. Just follow your master's commands and follow them obediently.”

He smiled and left.

When Viper was alone on the balcony, he could no longer keep the laughter in. Be reborn with the Dragons' blood, you say? he thought. I would rather be reborn as a cursed Anathema, the very demons they despise.

The bell rang as the intermission reached its end. People walked back to their seats and Viper greeted Claymore and Elma.

“Did it go well?” Claymore asked.

“I think so, yes”, Viper said. “We only talked though. But Father Marca seemed to have known my father so he seemed willing to invite me to the temple.”

“Really? Congratulations, Sun!” He turned to Elma. “Could you call in for more wine, darling? We need to celebrate this.”

“No, let me do it, sir”, Viper said and walked into the corridor to find a steward. As soon as he got a carafe, he took two leaves of some sort from a pouch on his belt, rubbed them to pieces with his fingers and dropped them in the wine.

Sorry, but I just can't have you come looking for me, he thought before he returned to the balcony just in time for the play's second act to begin.

He filled their cups and put the carafe down on the little round table they had next to their chairs.

“Aren't you having any, Sun?” Claymore asked.

“Oh”, Viper said, pretending to be taken by surprise. “My cup's already full. I better empty it before I drink any more.”

They toasted and drank. Then Viper leaned back in his chair, waiting for them to doze off. They would most likely miss the rest of the play and their memories of the evening might be a little foggy when they would wake up. Hopefully, they wouldn't get a too clear picture in their heads about his face or how he was dressed.

Too bad though. He liked them.

They fell asleep within minutes and Viper watched the play until it was time for him to get to work. He had kept his eyes on the neighboring balcony so he knew when the priests had left for the restroom. Though he watched the corridor carefully before he went towards the restroom.

He noticed Marca standing guard outside the room. He nodded when he saw Viper. “Just go inside and do what he asks of you. I'll make sure no one disturbs you.”

Viper nodded and was let into the restroom. He didn't see anyone in there. Was this a trap?

“What's your name, boy?” a man asked from inside one of the booths.

Viper recognized the voice immediately. It was Shin Cloud. He slowly walked up to one of the water fountains and turned to look at himself in the mirror. “Whatever you want, master”, he said, while looking into his own determined, cold, dark eyes.

Viper slowly took off his shirt while he heard the man chuckle from the booth. The man opened up the door and saw Viper's bare back.

“Are you undressing this quickly, boy?” he asked. “That eager, are you?”

“It would be bad to soil my clothes, master”, Viper replied with a sly smirk.

The man chuckled again. “Indeed it would”, he said. “Turn around.”

Viper slowly turned around and their faces met. He walked up towards him while slowly reaching for the razor inside his sash.

“Wait a minute?” Shin Cloud said. “Aren't you?”

Viper rushed forward and placed his palm before the man's mouth. He quickly grabbed his razor and made one quick cut across the man's throat. The man tried to scream and cough but Viper pressed his hand hard against the man's mouth.

“You tortured me for one week inside that dungeon of yours”, Viper hissed. “Now demons will torture you for eternity.”

He watched as the man's life faded from his eyes. It was an ecstatic feeling. He leaned out from the booth and gazed towards the door. Marca stood outside. Maybe it was time to invite him to their party.

Viper walked up to the water fountain and washed away the blood from his hands and torso. He then slowly approached the door, opened it slightly and whispered to Marca outside: “The master fell asleep from exhaustion. Could you help me carry him to his seat?”

Marca sighed and then walked into the restroom. Viper closed the door behind them, turned towards him and grinned. He raised his bloody razor.

Shortly thereafter, a young man stepped happily outside Che-Lu's Theater and disappeared into the night. It was his first time in a theater. He had enjoyed it immensely.


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:34 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 35: Manovan of the Sea

“Snap out of it already!” Coral said and snapped his fingers before Cypher's eyes.

The young Twilight had his full focus on the central mind unit which floated in the air before him, surrounded by swirling streams of Essence. The orichalcum synapses were sparkling from all the impulses caused by Cypher's Anima.

“You have subdued the guardians already”, Coral continued. “It was all I asked you to do.”

Cypher looked at Coral with tired, red eyes but with determination to keep going for days.

“Um”, he said. “If you give me a few days, I will have installed new directives.”

“You can do that tomorrow”, Coral said and grabbed the sphere from Cypher to place it within the pillar in the middle of the room. “We need your help if we are to safely explore the city.”

Chanti stood next to the entrance with her arms crossed. “You'll have to do that alone, the three of you”, she said. “I have some matters to attend to at the country border and I'll be taking Glorious Horizon with me. I'll bring him back here tomorrow or the day after.”

“What kind of matters?” Coral asked while helping Cypher up on his feet.

“Concerning the eastern Wyld infestation”, she said with a snort. “Melekin's military is laughable at best. If the capital city fails against the chaos – and they eventually will – I will place some of my tribes in the jungles there to keep it from approaching this valley.”

“Still concerned about me, are you?”

“Hah! Don't get your hopes up, my love”, she said with a smirk. “Battling the Wyld is the reason my friends and I are here to begin with.”

He nodded and then placed his hand on Cypher's shoulder. “Well then”, he said. “Let's see what kind of treasures we can find here now when the guardians are subdued.”

Cypher tapped on his nose. “Well, all of them aren't”, he said. “I think that only the older guardians, um, the slimmer models, were controlled by the sphere. They are still the majority of the guardians but not, um, all of them.”

“So the bulky ones are still hostile to us?”

“I don't know about hostile, but they are still active. I assume that most of the bulky models have other directives than the older ones. Most of those I have deactivated are those idling outside buildings. Most of the, um, bulky ones are, well, patrolling and keeping order.”

“Let's leave them be for now then”, Coral muttered.

The three of them left the armory together. Dark clouds had now spread all over the surrounding mountains and some of them rained over the meadows outside the city. There would still be an hour or two before the rain reached the city border.

Cypher gasped when he saw the pile of destroyed automatons outside the Manse. Blackhorn was sitting on top of the pile with his chin resting in the palm of his hand. He still had the shape of a humanoid bull. Blood were dripping from his fur but he didn't look severely wounded.

“Now I'm bored again”, he muttered to himself.

Chanti waved to him. “We're going east now before the rain slows us down. Get Omar and Horizon and meet me at the northern gate.”

Blackhorn nodded and jumped off the pile of metal. He started running down the road towards the gate. Chanti reached over to Coral, kissed him on the cheek and stroke his hair with her hand. She then transformed into an owl and flew away.

Coral could swear that he had seen that owl before.

He nodded to Cypher. “Where's Yuko?”

“Still piling up corpses outside the city, I suppose.”

“Let's join her and burn the corpses”, Coral said. “Then we'll take a look through the city.”

They met up with Ledaal Yuko outside the gate. She was sitting before the pile of skeletons, surrounded by tiny petals that had rained down on the grass around her. She was chewing on one of them and greeted both of them with an angry glare.

“Where were you two? And what was that ruckus about?”

Coral let the cloth around his neck mask his face like he used to. “Never mind that”, he said and nodded to the skeletons. “Let's get a fire going before the rain comes.”

“They won't burn in time”, she replied with a sly snort, clearly irritated that he had ignored her question. “The rain is here in an hour or two.”

“Then let them burn for an hour or two”, he muttered. “Or ignore them. It's not like they stink or anything.”

“I, um, don't really like discussions about how long it takes for a, um, corpse to burn”, Cypher filled in. “But in the state those skeletons are in, I would, um, assume that they burn almost instantly. Well, my point is that it would be more troublesome to, you know, lit them after they are moist from rain.”

Coral hid a victorious grin under his mask. He had grown up fearing the Dragon-Blooded and it felt good knowing that he could actually intimidate one of them. He couldn't say he hated Yuko, but he surely didn't trust her. Only once had he met a respectable Dragon-Blooded and the fact that Yuko had been employed by the Peleps was the worst sin of all.

Yuko seemed paler and weaker than before. Maybe she had finally realized that she was far away from home, trapped in the wilderness and surrounded by Anathema. Coral would accept her as nothing else than as a servant and he knew that she was still too naive to degrade herself to such a position. Maybe time would change that. It's not like she was in a position to argue.

They burned the corpses and Cypher said some prayer to show respect to the dead. Neither Yuko nor Coral said anything. Why they would need to show respect to that ancient pile of bones was foreign to Coral. If he remembered correctly, those skeletons had once been the Dragon-Blooded who had overrun the Solar Exalted in the first place. At least he assumed that they were.

A dark pillar of smoke stretched up towards the sky as the crunching flames devoured the dry bones. The sun was covered by the approaching clouds and a cold darkness shaded the humid valley.

Once they had start walking back into the city, Coral looked at Cypher with a tilted head. “What next?”

“Um, I was thinking Factory-Cathedrals but maybe it's best to start out with the tome.”

“What tome?”

“Well, you know, the one with the record over all the citizens.”

“Are you going to write us in?”

“Yes, I thought that would, um, be a safe bet to assume the city won't see us as invaders.”

The three of them walked back into the city and followed the main row towards the city hall. Once inside the office, Coral took the still glowing hearthstone from the drawer and put it in his item bag. He drank a sip of wine and noticed that Yuko looked at the bottle with thirst in her eyes. He smirked to himself, knowing that she would not dare asking for a taste and that he wouldn't offer.

Cypher sat down on the chair before the big tome. He touched its binding and felt the old, but strong, paper pages between his finger tips. When he turned a page it gave a crisping sound and he seemed to relax. Suddenly, the book seemed to get a life of its own and flipped through the pages with great speed only to open up after a few thousand pages towards the end.

Both Coral and Yuko recoiled as it happened.

“Don't worry”, Cypher said and reached for a quill. Ink seemed to drip from it even though time would normally have dried it out. However, there were nothing normal in this city. “I, um, wanted to find the daimyo and the tome found him for me.”

One name seemed to glitter on the page but Coral couldn't read the writing it was written in. Cypher moved the quill towards the name and wrote a symbol in Old Realm next to it. The symbol suddenly glittered like the name next to it before the text faded to look like ordinary black ink. He wrote the same mark next to more names on the same page.

“What are you doing?” Coral asked.

“I'm marking them as deceased”, he said. “To let the, um, city know that they are dead.” He leaned back and looked at the big book. “But there must be some better way to mark all these names. It would, um, take lifetimes to do it by hand.” He looked intently at the book and then placed his hand on its frame and closed his eyes for a second. When he opened them next, all the names on page after page seemed to get that mark next to their names before eventually fading away completely.

Cypher looked at an empty page and then wrote his own name on it. He looked up at Yuko and Coral with a proud smile. He made a short cough. “Um, do you want to be citizens of this city?”

“I have nowhere else to go”, Yuko said. “Write me in.”

Cypher wrote Ledaal Yuko on the page. He had used Forest-Tongue for his own name and High Realm for Yuko's. He then looked up at Coral who scratched his head.

“My name, you said?”

Cypher nodded. “Should I write Coral Snake?”

“Well ...” Coral Snake wasn't Coral Snake's real name after all. He had made it up on the spot because Cypher had asked him that time in Yuro. “You can write Vip—“ He remembered that Viper wasn't his real name either. Did it have to be his real name? Did he remember it? Yes, he remembered it as clearly as he remembered his father's severed head sinking in the sea.

Maybe this was the beginning of a new chapter of his life. Maybe this city was the tool he needed to take revenge upon the Peleps. He wanted them to fear his real name. Not some alias he had made up to get by.

“Write Manovan of the Sea”, he said. “That is my real name.”


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:28 pm

still going strong i see. good stuff Smile

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Manovan Marrowsteel

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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Tue Sep 07, 2010 11:24 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 36: The screaming box

Manovan and Yuko had found themselves in the backdoor kitchen while Cypher was attending to some “business” outside. The young Solar sat on a marble counter of sorts with his legs crossed and his coral snake twined around his arm, releasing a dose of venom into one of his vials. He wore his black clothes and his mask like usually but had his bandana as a hair band instead of around his forehead. He seemed relaxed and stroke his snake gently along its back.

Yuko sat on a chair a few feet away. She was dressed in the same purple robe as she had had since they left the phoenix and Manovan tried to ignore the fact that it smelled. She looked at him as he filled his vial.

“So your name is Manovan of the Sea?” she forced herself to ask.

He leered at her a little, corked the vial and attached it to his poison bag. “It is now”, he answered and looked at the snake as it slithered along his arm and up around his neck.

“Why didn't you use it before?” she asked. “Why did you use a fake name?”

“And why didn't I tell you that I was a Solar Exalted, Yuko?” he said as he sat up on the counter and turned his body towards her. He sat with his legs in the lotus position and cracked his head from side to side. His snake crawled down into his snake bag. He gave Yuko a sharp gaze. “Or Anathema, as your people so politely calls us.”

“Point taken”, she muttered. “But why didn't you tell us after we got to the cave? Or found the city?”

He gazed at her shortly and sighed.

“Cypher believes you're just a thief but you're an assassin, aren't you?” she continued.

He rolled his eyes. “What gave it away? The snake venom or the weapons?”

“The attitude”, she said. “You have cold eyes.”

Yuko barely had time to react before Manovan had jumped down from the counter and grabbed her collar. He intently stared into her eyes and barely noticed himself activating his caste mark. “You have no idea what cold means, Ledaal”, he growled. He stared into gray eyes that were more surprised than afraid. “Tell me of what use you are to us now. I have never seen you fight and your knowledge can't compare to Cypher's. Are you anything more than a burden?”

She gulped and didn't seem sure how to react.

“Tell me!” Manovan roared.

“Why do you hate the Dragon-Blooded so much?” she asked.

He sighed and released her from his grip. His caste mark faded away and he turned to leave.

Cypher was standing inside the pavilion atop the manse and held its hearthstone in his hand. Rumbling could be heard from the thunderclouds that covered the city and rain fell heavily from the sky. Luckily, the pavilion's roof shielded him from getting wet. Even though it was afternoon, the clouds shaded the city like in late evening. Cypher's caste mark glowed as he committed himself to the manse. He thought that maybe if he took this manse as his own, he could understand it better.

He leered at the Factory-Cathedral District in the distance, eager to investigate it firsthand. He couldn't even imagine what kind of wonders he could create using those cathedrals. But the thought of crafting made him wonder if everything was all right with Elisa and the shop back in Yuro. Should he travel back somehow and ask her to marry him? They could live together here in Denandsor.

Cypher strained himself not to lose focus on the manse. He could feel its Essence harmonize with his own. It was a powerful manse. More powerful than he would have guessed. How long had he been standing here? A couple of hours? It felt like forever.

He could feel the round, brown stone's power as he committed himself to its manse. It felt like when using this stone, he could face the chaotic Wyld itself. He only needed some artifact through which he could harness it.

He was just about to put the stone in his pocket when he felt the burn of a thousand needles on his right shoulder. He ground his teeth and fell to his knees with his hand covering his aching shoulder. He carefully lifted his sleeve and noticed a black tribal marking like a tattoo on his shoulder. He didn't know whether it was a curse or a blessing.

Manovan was looking out through the hole in the wall where he had found the many corpses this morning. He was listening to the rattling rain while looking at the impressive towers disappearing into a foggy sky. Breezes carried his black hair in the wind and the distant thunders felt refreshing. It reminded him of the many storms he used to look at from his window in Sakana Village. It felt like such a long time ago.

A man had once told him that he had an important destiny. Though he so often dreamed of how his life would be if that dreadful day fourteen years ago had never happened. He wondered if his siblings were alive somewhere in Creation. He wondered if they thought about him like he thought about them.

He wondered how they would react if they knew what he had become.

I'm a demigod now, he thought to himself. I can't let human emotions overcome.

He looked at the towers in the distance. If he was a demigod, then why did he let this petty rain keep him from exploring the city? He jumped out through the hole in the wall and landed smoothly on the cobble street below. He accepted the burden of the heavy rain and ran along the streets towards the tall towers. He had no idea why he had chosen to go to them. It felt like it was his destiny.

Cypher's eyes were burning from bright, white light. He tried to cover them but could not. He tried to scream but the screams he heard didn't sound like his own. It sounded like the screams of a hundred mortals – men, women and children fearing for their lives. Once the light faded away, Cypher witnessed two men and two women standing in a circular room high up in one of the tall towers. He witnessed himself holding a small box before the other three. From the box came an echoing scream.

A tall and strong man were standing proudly before him, dressed in plates of orichalcum marked with the Dawn Caste's symbol; rays around a circle, symbolizing the glowing sun. He was leaning on a grand orichalcum daiklave socketed with three glowing hearthstones. A fourth hearthstone glowed from a pendant around his neck. He had sharp, brown eyes and curly raven-black hair.

Next to him stood a woman dressed in thick leather reinforced with chainmail in moonsilver. She had tattoos all over her body and reminded of Chanti Green-Paw, but had darker skin, green eyes and short, black hair. Peacock feathers were attached to her armor and sheeted on her caped back were two moonsilver slashing swords. She stood close to the Dawn and Cypher assumed that they were mates.

The third woman couldn't be seen and Cypher couldn't get a grasp of what she was. He could feel her presence there but his memory of her seemed muted.

“Where is it this time?” the Dawn asked.

Cypher could hear himself talk, but with another man's voice. “South-east. Two days by foot. Will you travel by means of your own or shall I weave a spell of instant transportation?”

“Save your Essence, my friend”, the Lunar said. “We'll fly.”

“When do you estimate the attack?” the Dawn continued. “And how great is the threat?”

“I could feel the presence of a demon of the second circle commanding a legion of erymanthoi”, Cypher's former self said.

The Dawn smirked and gave his mate a quick gaze. “We can take care of that alone, can't we?”

She nodded back to him with a grin.

“And when is the attack?” the Dawn asked Cypher's former self.

“Tomorrow at noon.”

“So soon? Are you sure about this?”

The other strange woman uttered a few words which were somewhat clouded in Cypher's mind. He thought that he could make out the sentence: “The fate cube doesn't lie.”

When he came to, he was kneeling in the pavilion atop the manse, breathing heavily while holding the aching mark on his shoulder. Yuko leaned over him with shocked eyes. She was shaking his body.

“Are you okay, Cypher? I heard you screaming.”

“Um, yes”, he stuttered. He looked towards the district with all the towers. “Let's go. There's something I'd like to find out.”

They hurried through the streets of Denandsor. Water drenched them not only from the heavy rain but also from the puddles on the ground which splashed on them with every step they took. Cypher was aiming for the tower he had seen in his vision and Yuko followed him, though confused.

“Where are we going exactly?” she asked.

“To there”, Cypher said and pointed to one of the towers.

She looked up on the tall white tower and then looked back down on Cypher's neck as he ran before her. “And why are we going there?”

“It, um, came to me in a vision”, he said. “I can't really explain how but I'm very familiar with that tower. Or, um, I was familiar with it once.”

She didn't reply. Instead she gave the dark clouds a quick glance and snorted. She called on her Essence and let her Anima shroud her like twisting breezes. She almost instantly caught up with Cypher and her glowing, blue eyes met with his. He noticed that the rain seemed to be caught in her Anima and neither he nor her got wet.

He exposed all of his teeth with a goofy grin.

Manovan stood inside the bottom floor of one of the white towers. It looked like a vestibule or meeting room of sorts. There were chairs and sofas, untouched in centuries but barely dusty at all. A hibernating automaton stood at a wall with a broom in its hand and next to it was a metallic window with a pitch-black crystal screen.

Other than that, there was nothing too special in this room. Common book cases with common books and scrolls. An open door leading into a room reminding him of the restrooms in Bastion. Spherical lamps in the ceiling. However, this was only the first floor of a tower and there seemed to be no way to get to the upper floors.

He shrugged and walked back outside into the rain. Maybe I was wrong, he thought. He had assumed that these towers were the homes of the Exalted and he had expected to find countless invaluable artifacts. It was very disappointing.

“Coral!” Cypher's voice could be heard from the street. Manovan noticed Cypher and a glowing Yuko running towards him. “Didn't expect to see you here.”

“Dito”, Manovan said with a shrug. “There's nothing inside other than what's to be expected in a common vestibule. For the most part.”

Once Cypher and Yuko had arrived, her Anima seemed to fade down. Her eyes were still glowing blue but her body didn't emanate as strong light as it did before. Manovan could feel cold breezes on his skin and he shivered a little. She was a true Dragon-Blooded with a strong Air Aspect. He realized that much. Maybe she had far more talent than she showed.

“Is this the tower you're looking for, Cypher?” Yuko asked.

Manovan didn't know what she was referring to, but he was intrigued to what could have peeked Cypher's curiosity.

“I think so”, he said. “It feels like the one.”

“I've been into several of them now and they all look pretty much the same. Some messier than others. Are they homes to the Exalted?” Manovan tapped on his nose a little, but stopped as soon as he realized that was Cypher's mannerism and he did not want to pick that up.

“Yes and no”, Cypher replied. He pointed to some of the towers surrounding them in the district. “There are too many towers compared to the limited number of Dragon-Blooded that could have lived here at one time. Most Exalted lived in manses as well and these towers are, for the most part, um, powered by a manse that should be in the district's center. The handful of Solars that actually lived here, um, probably lived inside the city manses. I believe these towers housed important mortals as well as worked as offices for some of the city's architects.”

“Which means?”

“It means that these towers could hold very, um, important information about life in the First Age as well as life during the Shogunate.”

Manovan sighed. He had hoped for something shiny but it seemed to be more books and papers. How dull.

“Don't look so disappointed, Coral”, Cypher said with a smile. “We still haven't seen the Temple District, the Factory-Cathedral District, the Market District and the one district I haven't identified yet that is just north of this one. We, um, also have the district with the Makers' graves south of here. I call it the Cemetery Park. Um, I wonder if I lie there somewhere.” Cypher tapped on his nose and seemed to daze away into thought.

“I suppose”, Manovan muttered. He looked around himself. “There's just so much to take in.”

“Cypher!” Yuko said to interrupt his thoughts. She seemed irritated by the rain and her dark-brown hair lied wet against her forehead. However, the rain didn't seem as heavy as just moments ago. Cypher flinched and looked at her with raised brows. “Weren't you looking for something?”

“Well, yes”, he said and pushed himself past Manovan and into the tower. The other two followed him inside.

While Cypher and Yuko took a look around the room, Manovan leaned back against one of the walls. Cypher seemed fixated by the black screen at one of the walls and read the markings on its metallic frame.

He tapped on his nose. “I AM”, he read out loud. “Dunno what that means.” He poked on the machine. “Broken.”

“Look at this”, Yuko said and waved for Cypher to come. She was standing in the middle of the room and was looking at a dimmed plate on the floor. It reminded Manovan of the circular plates they had encountered in the phoenix-shaped manse.

Cypher hurried over to her, kneeled down before the plate and then nodded to Manovan. “Come over here, Coral”, he said. “We're going up.”

Manovan shrugged and walked up to him. Cypher placed his hands on both Yuko's and Manovan's shoulders and then focused his Essence. Manovan could experience a deep suction in his stomach and he barely had time to blink before he stood in another room with his gaze locked out through a portal with a view from where he could see the entire city.

The portal led out to a big balcony overlooking the rest of the city. The balcony had no railing and Manovan was careful not to walk out too close. The rain could have made the stone floor slippery after all. He looked out over the city and noticed some streams of sunlight piercing the dark clouds that were slowly thinning out. The rain wasn't very heavy anymore and he hadn't heard thunders for quite some time. He felt almost like in trance when he watched the beautiful city like taken from a dream. He noticed that it was perfectly symmetrical, not only with its circular wall but with every road and every district. He could see the dome-shaped factory-cathedrals down south and the overgrown burial grounds with the oddly shaped structures that were the tombs. He noticed that the Temple District had some fascinating structures with high pyramid- and sphere-shaped roofs covering many pillars and stairs. He could see the thick jungles surrounding the city and the high mountains surrounding the valley. It was no wonder that this city had been so mysterious and well hidden.

“Is this it?” Yuko asked Cypher back in the room.

“Yes”, Cypher said. “It looks just like in my vision.”

Manovan turned around to see Cypher and Yuko looking at some podium inside the room. On top of the podium was a fist-sized box that glimmered with different colors from what looked like different magical materials.

“What is it?” Yuko asked.

“It's a fate cube”, Cypher answered.

“A what?”

“I don't know”, he said. “But that's, um, what it's called.”

Their conversation peeked Manovan's interest and he walked back into the room. Cypher slowly reached for the fate cube and took it from the podium. Manovan and Yuko intently looked at him as he committed his Essence to the cube. As soon as it glowed up from being charged with Essence, an echoing scream filled the room. Both Yuko and Manovan covered their ears but Cypher seemed unaffected. He held it in his hand and had his eyes closed. When he opened them up, he said: “There will be an attack on a village, um, tomorrow.”

“Huh?” Manovan looked confused. “What are you talking about?”

“I somehow felt it”, Cypher said. “A village in rather close proximity to the city. It will be attacked. Tomorrow.”

“And?”

“We're going to save the villagers. Of course.”


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Thu Sep 09, 2010 3:14 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 37: The boy from the fishing village XIII

Viper woke up next to Glittering Wolf on the morning following the night of the murder. For the first time in a very long time he felt relaxed. He hadn't had any nightmares. Shin Cloud and Marca had died by his razor blade tonight and he felt closer to his goal. Well, his initial goal at least. He was still far from taking on a Dragon-Blooded, that was for sure. But that was also why he embraced the art of assassination. Not even one who is exalted by the Elemental Dragons should be able to see a masterful assassin coming. At least that's what he hoped.

He looked at Glittering Wolf as she slept. Her black hair was spread in tangles over the pillow and her brown skin was blushed by the humid air. The two metal piercings in her bottom lip glimmered like small drops of liquid mercury under the comforting morning sun that stretched its rays inside through the open window.

They used to sleep together, but sleeping was all they did. Viper felt uncomfortable when Glittering Wolf tried to be more intimate with him. He liked kisses but he didn't want certain places to be touched. He wasn't ready for that yet. But he enjoyed her arm around his body when they slept. And her breath against his neck was soothing.

He sat up carefully not to wake her, but it didn't help. She gave a short snore before she opened her eyes and stretched her arms. “Mornin'”, she said with a smile. She placed her hand on Viper's naked back and gently stroke it up and down. He sat still and focused his mind on the touch.

It's quite nice, he thought. He smiled back to her.

“Sorry for waking you up”, he said. “It's still early.”

“When did you get home?” she asked while scratching the sleep from her eyes. She yawned. “I didn't hear you tonight.”

“An hour or two past midnight. Don't worry. I got plenty of sleep.” He smiled to her.

“I was worried.”

“I know.”

She sat up next to him on the bed. He was leaning over the edge and had his back against her, but his head was tilted so their eyes met. He noticed the falling sheet exposing her breasts and he shyly looked away. She giggled and jokingly pushed him on the shoulder. He smiled and answered with a light push of his own.

“May I hug you?” she asked. “I'll be careful.”

He couldn't help but to smile. He knew how that question sounded. He was a little embarrassed. He had no problems with human contact the many times he had been beaten up in training, but something like an intimate hug could hurt him when he wasn't prepared for it. He had been hugged by both Glittering Wolf and his friends many times already. But those had been friendly hugs for the most part. The dangerous ones were the ones of intimate nature. The ones only Glittering Wolf was allowed to give him.

“Of course”, he said. “I want you to.”

She carefully leaned forward and embraced him with her arms. He held his breath when she placed her cheek on his shoulder and when he could feel her naked breasts touch his skin. When he knew that she wouldn't make any sudden movements, he breathed out and relaxed.

“I'm sorry”, he said. “For being the way I am.”

She raised her head and looked into his eyes. He felt that his were round and bewildered but her were determined and sharp. “Don't apologize!” she said. “Never apologize for that!”

“I know”, he muttered. “But it's so embarrassing.”

“You have nothing to be embarrassed for.”

“I know that too.”

“Come here”, she said and carefully pulled him towards her while she leaned back into the bed. He followed her and lied down next to her. His arms around her and her arms around him. He rested his cheek on her shoulder and watched her breasts as they moved up and down with her breathing chest. She smelled like sweet cinnamon. “Can't we just lie down for the rest of the day?”

“I'd like to”, he said. “But you know that I can't. I haven't reported in to Master Dust Spider yet. That is one man I don't want to have on my wrong side.”

“I'm scared of losing you, Viper.”

He sighed and then kissed her on the shoulder. “It's your birthday tomorrow.”

She looked up on the roof and stroke his hair with her one hand, holding him with the other.

“Starting now, I'll be making some decent money”, he continued. “I'll stay home tomorrow. We'll go to Market Row or Cinnabar or wherever you want to go.”

She smiled. “I'd like that.”

They kissed.

“Let's go downstairs for some breakfast.”

Viper walked up to a closet and took out his black training gi. He put it on, then took his black bandana from his night-stand and tied it around his right ankle. He tied a pouch around his sash and placed the murder weapon from tonight inside. He then took his custom-made black ebon dagger with an engraved snake in bluish purple and placed it tightly under the bandana on his ankle before covering it with his pants. Glittering Wolf walked up to a closet of her own to put on some clothes.

Viper walked up to the mirror next to the closet and started removing the stone pearls from his braids. He then released his plaits and tied it with three linear knots. He took a sip of water from a ceramic vase and then turned to watch Glittering Wolf finish.

She was dressed in a white shirt and a black linen skirt. She smiled to him and they walked downstairs together.

One they had prepared some bread and tea for breakfast they sat down at the table in the living room. It didn't take long before they heard quick steps in the stairway and Lotus came running with a heavy book in her arms.

“I finished it!” she almost yelled with excitement. “I read all of it!”

Glittering Wolf put her finger before her lips and made a hushing sound. “People are still sleeping”, she whispered.

“Sorry”, Lotus said and blushed.

“So you can read, Little Lotus?” Viper said with a grin.

“Of course I can, meanie!” she roared before blushing once again when she remembered that she had raised her voice. “You just lost some points, big brother.”

He smirked and drank some tea.

Glittering Wolf gestured for Lotus to come and she sat in her big sister's lap. She was eight years old now but still liked the comfort of Glittering Wolf's lap. Viper couldn't blame her. “How's your writing going?” Glittering Wolf asked.

“Good.”

“Have you told your big brother what you want to be when you grow up?”

Lotus looked at Viper with a smile. “A scholar!” she said.

“Oh”, Viper said and raised his brows. “Well, you are the smartest one in the house. That's for sure.”

She grinned proudly.

“Do you know what I want to be when I grow up?” Viper asked.

She shook her head.

“A king!” he said and flexed his muscles.

All three of them laughed. “Who's going to be your queen?” Lotus asked with round, hopeful eyes.

Viper placed his hand on his chin and pretended to be thinking. “You know what? I'm gonna let you and Glitter battle it out in my arena. The winner gets to be queen and the loser gets to clean the floors.”

“Meh”, Lotus said. “Then Glitter and I are both queens and you clean the floors.”

“That's right”, Glittering Wolf agreed.

Glittering Wolf went to make some breakfast for Lotus and the three of them ate together before Viper went to work. Lotus had no idea what he was working with. She was too young to comprehend the circumstances anyway. The only orphans in the house who knew were Glittering Wolf and Farim. Farim tried to be supportive but even he was worried about losing Viper. Neither he nor Glittering Wolf were afraid of The Ebon Daggers themselves. They were afraid of what could happen to Viper if he was caught by the Nighthammer Iron League or another organization dedicated to keeping order. Wing's execution had gotten to both of them.

However, Viper needed to redeem himself for the part he played in Wing's death.

Viper walked out on the streets of Nighthammer District and started walking south-west towards Nighthammer Pool. It was a beautiful but humid morning with a clear sky. He passed by elders who relaxed on their porches or balconies and children who played on the streets. Once he got closer to the docks, he passed workers and tradesmen as well as some Iron League guards on patrol. A few guards looked at him suspiciously since he was dressed in a black gi, but there were plenty of dojos down at the docks. Seeing someone in training garments wasn't uncommon.

He had been stopped from time to time during his training to explain which dojo he was registered at. Of course The Ebon Daggers had all registered with fake names on several legal snake style dojos they were sponsoring themselves. The Iron League suspected this, but they couldn't prove which ones were the assassins out of the many innocent martial art students. It was rumored that they didn't even try to do something against the assassination guild even if they could. Though murder was prohibited, The Ebon Daggers got many assignments from important members of Nexus' society and they had the resources to sponsor even the Iron League themselves with weapon and training if they so wanted. The Iron League worked more against the cutthroats and didn't know that recruiters from The Ebon Daggers – such as Viper's sifu Dagger – were infiltrating the cutthroats to find young blood.

Viper had overheard some of Dagger's friends within The Ebon Daggers mentioning a rumor that even the Emissary himself and the Council of Entities were approving of their existence within the city as long as they didn't target the wrong people. With fear of the Emissary, many Ebon Daggers declined requests to target people of note. However, some foolish individuals accepted such requests as a sign of rebellion against the government or simply to test their own skills. Few of them survived such attempts. Those who did often got the role of district leader.

Not much was known about the district leaders. Viper didn't even know the name of the leader of the Nighthammer Squad. He had been told that Dust Spider was not the leader. He was more of an advisor to the leader and to some assassins he deemed worthy. Apparently the other districts had advisors of their own. While the leaders were legendary, the advisors were frightening. Viper had been told that he could always decline a mission when it came from the leader. But everyone who had declined or even failed missions from Dust Spider had been murdered or gone missing.

When he walked into the house where he had first met Dust Spider he was greeted by a number of cheers. About a dozen Ebon Daggers were there and they all looked at Viper with hints of respect. “The Throatslitter is what they are calling you”, Dagger called from a room across the hallway. “Just like you wanted.”

Viper looked confused. “So you've heard?”

“The word is on the street already”, Dagger said with a grin. “Two priests murdered in Che-Lu's Theater during a play. Even the Cinnabar Squad is impressed with you. Especially after Skin heard that it was your first kill as an Ebon Dagger.”

Viper blushed a little. “Well, it wasn't official after all.”

“That doesn't matter”, Dagger filled in. “It was professional and it showed guts. I might even be promoted on your expense now since it was I who recruited you.”

“It was nothing”, Viper said with a smirk.

He was interrupted by Dust Spider who walked out into the hallway to greet him. Everyone there silenced and moved aside in respect for the old man. Viper took the razor blade from his pouch and showed it to Dust Spider.

“Keep it”, Dust Spider said. “You'll use it again soon enough.”

“Yes, Master Dust Spider.”

“Two wonderful kills, boy”, he cackled. “You might rival your leader soon enough.”

“I'd like to see that happen”, a soft but determined female voice said from the door behind him.

Viper turned around and noticed a tall, athletic woman with blushed olive-pale skin and hair colored red and yellow like flames. She was dressed in a black hakama, a tight black linen shirt and had black bands wrapped around her arms. On one shoulder was a metal pad that was strapped around her torso with a leather harness. Three throwing knives were attached to the harness. She covered her lower face with a black mask and her eyes were unnaturally bright yellow. Viper had most of his focus on the amulet of red jade with a bright yellow gem she had around her neck. It looked like the type of artifacts the Dragon-Blooded used. Another remarkable item was the seven-sectioned staff with golden alloys which she had tightly strapped in a holster on her belt.

“Dawn”, Dust Spider said with a grin. “Welcome.”

Dagger leaned in close to Viper and whispered: “It's Master Dawn. The leader.”

Viper wasn't listening. He was paralyzed by the sheer pressure of her presence. The atmosphere itself felt like it was burning against his skin. He couldn't move. He was working under a Dragon-Blooded. He felt sweat ran down his forehead and he recoiled when Dawn's eyes met his. They seemed to give a faint glow.

She really was Dragon-Blooded. What was he going to do?


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Fri Sep 24, 2010 11:50 pm

THIS CHAPTER IS OUTDATED!

Chapter 38: Soaring through the sky

“Why should we care about some random village?” Manovan asked. He looked Cypher up and down with his arms crossed. “We're standing in the world's greatest treasure and you want us to pick up and leave to save some strangers?”

“I'm sorry, Cypher, but I agree with Manovan”, Yuko filled in. “We should avoid unnecessary risks. We don't know anything about the village, why it will be attacked and what it will be attacked by.”

“Irrelevant”, Cypher said. Manovan raised his brows in surprise of Cypher's sudden determination. “Innocent lives are at stake. This fate cube was constructed for a reason. I, um, believe that reason was for us Exalted to protect our mortals from harm.”

Our mortals?” Manovan asked.

“Yes, from the former Solars' perspective. They, um, had to keep the people in their domains safe. We should live up to that if we are to ever call ourselves Exalted.”

“And what about the city?”

“Well, um, the city should still be here when we return.”

Manovan took a deep breath. An image appeared within his mind. He could see himself as a child, letting the flames of his burning home embrace the corpses of his parents. What if someone with the powers of a god would have stepped in to save him from a life of torment? What if he could prevent this torment from strangling the humanity from another child's heart, like his torment did to him. “Very well then, Cypher”, he muttered. “But I'm not leaving without something shiny.” He walked past Cypher and Yuko and looked through the shelves and drawers at the walls. He dug past some worthless items; cups, scrolls, quills and figurines. Everything were probably of value but not much were of interest at the moment.

He noticed a golden globe resting on a shelf and he looked at it for a moment before tossing it over to Cypher. “Something for you to figure out.” He then kept digging through the items before he locked his eyes on something that was attached to a rack on a wall. It looked like a harness of sorts. He immediately knew that it was an artifact after noticing traces of blue jade and other magical materials glimmering in the faint sun rays that had managed to penetrate the still thick clouds.

Behind him, Cypher channeled Essence into the orb and it revealed a projected image of Creation. All of it. “Wow”, he said. “I have never seen a map of the world before. So big.”

With the harness embraced in his arms, Manovan turned to find out what Cypher was mumbling about. Cypher crouched down and placed the orb on the floor. It projected all four corners of Creation from its center, like an ethereal plate hovering above the glimmering globe. In it's center was the high Imperial Mountain and under it the Imperial Island.

“The world cannot be this big”, Cypher said to himself. He placed the tip of his finger on the hologram and noticed it reacting to his touch. It zoomed in on the area he had touched and showed it with more detail. When he slid his finger, the map focused on the areas where he let his finger go. When he zoomed back out to show Creation in its entirety, the Imperial Island was like a small bean in the middle of a plate of food. “I understand now”, Cypher continued. “Look at this map. This was, um, how big Creation used to be.”

“Used to be?” Manovan asked.

“Yes, before the Wyld spread its chaos across the world.” He zoomed in on the areas around the great sea surrounding the Realm. “When it reached these borders, the Scarlet Empress fought back the Wyld with, well, the greatest weapons known to Creation.” He gave Yuko a short gaze. “War manses. Their effects were like an explosion with a shock-wave thrusting the chaos back to the borders of today.” He zoomed out even further, but about one-tenth of the original map. “I would assume it is about this size. Probably less.”

“Wow”, Manovan said. “So Chanti and the Lunars are trying to fight back the Wyld even further? The more they fight, the world will grow?”

“The Scarlet Empress”, Yuko said quietly, almost whispering. Manovan could tell that she still held respect for the woman. “As you might have heard already, she has left the throne. When I was joining Peleps Wakde's dragon, my father sent me an infallible messenger, telling me about the news. He told me that the Empress was gone. Temporarily, I hoped, and sent him a reply asking him about it. The answer never came. But later I heard from Peleps Chino that the Empress had mysteriously disappeared.”

“One less imperialist”, Manovan said with a smirk. “Sounds great to me.”

Yuko gave him an angry glare. He shrugged.

“The Empress was the pillar that held the Realm together. Her rule united the dynastic families and it held the Wyld at bay. Despite your personal grudges against the Realm, it has protected Creation from falling into chaos for countless generations. With that pillar gone, the Wyld isn't needed to spread chaos within the government.”

Cypher made a short cough. “Yuko, do you think the Realm's politics are what, um, had Peleps Wakde gather his dragon in the Threshold and search for, well, this city?” Manovan noticed that Cypher had found this city on his artifact map and was looking at the valley and the areas surrounding it.

“I think he did it to strengthen his position within his family”, she said. “But it could also be to strengthen his family's position within the Realm.”

“Found it!” Cypher called out, interrupting their current conversation and surprising them with his high pitch. “Look! I felt with the fate cube that the village should be, um, somewhere around this area.” He was pointing to an area south-east of the valley.

“How far?” Manovan asked.

“Two days by foot.”

“But the attack is tomorrow.”

“I said by foot.”

Cypher let the map disappear and he placed the orb in his bag. When he stood up, he noticed the harness Manovan was holding. He tapped on his nose. Manovan tried to put it on outside his clothes, but he wasn't sure how. It was loose in the front and tight in the back.

“Um, you have it on backwards, Coral”, Cypher said. He nodded to Yuko. “Let's go to the meadows. I need, well, I need your help with something. How's your Essence?”

Manovan took off the harness and tried to put it back on correctly. It felt much better when it wasn't on backwards. He covered it with his backpack holstering his Serpent-Sting Staff.

“What do you mean?” Yuko asked.

“Well, um, I need your help with—“

A mechanical pitch was heard and then the faint buzz of materializing Essence. Something crashed into one of the book cases at the wall and a cacophony of clinking and clunking echoed through the room as a variety of items fell from the shelves to the floor. “Holy Sun”, Manovan said and looked over his shoulders. From the harness on his back had two wings in blue jade and some foreign material spread ten feet to each side. And between each finger of the metal frame materialized Essence into what looked like a blue liquid membrane.

Both Cypher and Yuko took a step back.

“They are wings”, Manovan said and couldn't help but to smile under his black mask.

“Um, Coral”, Cypher said and tapped his nose. “Yuko and I will be going to the meadows outside. Are you coming with us?”

“Yeah, sure”, he said. “I just … Can I fly with this thing?”

“I think so.”

Manovan retracted his wings and walked out to the balcony. The rain was much lighter than before and more of the sun had penetrated the dark clouds. As he looked down from the edge and noticed how small the world was downstairs, he gulped and felt his heart beat faster. It was an old artifact. Maybe it didn't work.

He used his Essence to summon his wings once again. When he saw the graceful wings spread on his right and left-hand side, he felt a surge of confidence. He wanted to soar through the sky like a bird. He jumped off.

Cypher took Yuko's wrist and walked up to the disc at which they had traveled upstairs. He placed his palm against it and they appeared on the bottom floor. Both of them hurried outside and looked up into the sky. Manovan soared like a bird above their heads, circling the tower as he descended from it. The faint thunders were distant and the rain was light. Manovan seemed to navigate almost flawlessly through the air, descending quickly only to tilt his body backwards and gain altitude once again. He had sometimes dreamed about flying as a child but he never thought it to be possible. Now it was. Even though he was only gliding through the air with this artifact, it made him feel like a child once again. When he felt the wind against his skin, he couldn't help but to laugh.

The two sorcerer-engineers gazed at him coming down and clumsily landing on the street they were at. He retracted his wings and smiled widely under his mask. “Can I go again?” he asked.

“We're kind of in a hurry”, Cypher said and tapped his nose.

He sighed. “Very well.” They all started walking back towards the main row. “How are we going to get there in time, anyway?”

“We're going to fly”, Cypher said. “With elementals.”

“So that's what you meant”, Yuko said. “Yes, I only used up some Essence for Food of the Aerial Table this morning. I can summon and command a haruka to carry me, but I won't be able to weave a spell to summon dinner. You don't know Food of the Aerial Table, do you, Cypher?”

He shook his head. “I'll summon elementals for, um, both Coral and myself.” He turned to Manovan. “Can you look for some dinner while we, well, do the summonings?”

“I suppose”, he mumbled. “You mean from here in the city?”

“I'd rather have something fresh than something potentially lethal”, Yuko muttered.

“Well, I didn't ask you, did I?” Manovan replied with a snort. “You either eat what I get or you starve to death. It's your decision.”

She snorted.

They parted once they got back to the palace and gathered their gear. Manovan took the opportunity to drink a sip of the wonderful red wine and he packed down a bottle of rum he had originally transported with the wagon from the day they found Glorious Horizon in a cage. Cypher and Yuko went out to the meadows to start the summonings while Manovan stayed behind to gather water from the many fresh-water streams and ponds in the city. He had never before tasted water as clear and fresh as this. He filled three empty rum bottles with water before he decided to try his luck outside and jogged out along the main row. Around him idled deactivated guardians and he felt safer than before. He could sometimes see active, bulkier models patrolling around, but they weren't of the type that scanned for theft. He assumed that they were designed to keep order and protect the citizens. Though deserted, it sometimes felt like the city was still heavily populated.

He noticed the two sorcerer-engineers shape their summoning spells out on the meadows. The flow of Essence around their bodies moved the high grass like breezes from a storm. Manovan dropped off the bags of water he was carrying on the road and then walked towards the western jungle. Chanti had told him that the animal life was slowly stabilizing and that her tribes of beastmen were taking care of the western jungle. He wondered if they had forgiven him for killing a few of them in the cave at the pass a few days ago.

He passed a few high trees and entered the jungle. He walked carefully. Dangerous plants and creatures could be here and he didn't want to be bitten by something poisonous. He could still faintly see Yuko and Cypher behind himself.

Manovan stopped when he heard some rattling leaves before himself. He could see a hairy figure crouch down behind a thick root and intently look at him. He saw two glimmering eyes surrounded by red and white fur. The beastman had traits similar to a dog or a fox; it was clearly one of Chanti's.

Manovan showed that his hands were empty and took a few slow steps forward towards the beastman. It flinched and then jumped up on top of the root and held a sharp bone-spear with its edge towards him. He stopped.

The beastman was a strong and agile woman. She was a scout.

“My name is Manovan of the Sea”, Manovan said. He didn't take his eyes off the beastman. “I'm Chanti Green-Paw's husband.”

The creature got a bewildered look but didn't remove her spear. She raised her clawed hand and pointed to her forehead. “Show circle”, she said in poor Forest-Tongue.

Manovan stood proudly with stretched back and activated his caste mark. The beastman seemed to relax and lowered her spear. It looked like she made a crooked smile.

“I'm here for two reasons”, Manovan said. “First of all, I want to greet you and thank you for taking care of the jungles. Chanti told me that your tribe is stabilizing the animal life here in the valley. I appreciate that. My friends and myself might move into the city and we want to be friends with you.”

The beastman scratched her furry chin. “Yes”, she said. “Friends with you. Not friends with humans.”

“That's okay. But if humans move into the city I'd like you to refrain from eating them. I'll make sure they stay away from this jungle though.”

The beastman once again scratched her chin. She tilted her head and looked at Manovan. His caste mark still glittered on his forehead.

“My second reason for coming here is to ask you for some help”, he said. “We'll be gone for a few days and I'm looking for some food.”

He could once again notice the crooked smile on the beastman's furry face before she hopped down on the other side of the root. Manovan frowned his forehead and scratched his temple. Only a second or two later, the scout jumped back up on top of the root. This time, she held some kind of dead, headless monkey in a string. She reached forward with the animal in her hand.

“Um, thank you”, Manovan said and grabbed the string that was attached to the monkey. He quickly took a step back when he noticed blood dripping from the animal to his shoes. “I appreciate this.”

“Good bye, Manovan of Sea”, the beastman said with her poor Forest-Tongue and then nodded for Manovan to turn back.

He made a short bow and then walked back out to the meadow where he gutted and cooked the monkey in time for Cypher and Yuko to complete the bindings.

After Yuko had bound a blue-furred haruka and given it its command, she joined Manovan for a quiet and awkward dinner. Cypher took twice Yuko's time since he summoned two elementals – two green-furred ones – and then dried the sweat from his forehead when he was done. The rain seemed to stop in time with Cypher finishing his summonings and the setting sun could bee seen through the thinning clouds.

The three haruka stood fourteen feet tall and one of them, a green one, gave Cypher a hug with its giant, furry arms.

Both Manovan's and Yuko's jaws dropped.

The elemental put Cypher on its shoulder and then hobbled up to the other green one and pushed him on the shoulder. It giggled and pushed him back. The blue one placed its palm over its face and sighed. The green ones constantly spoke in Old Realm with each other and with Cypher.

“I've never seen a haruka with a personality like that before”, Yuko said with a frowned face.

Manovan stood up and stomped out the small fireplace he had used to cook the meat. He noticed that Cypher pointed to him and one of the haruka nodded approvingly. The one who didn't already carry Cypher hobbled up to Manovan and crouched down before him. It leaned forward and Manovan leaned back, trying to avoid breathing in the elemental's clearly visible, smoke-like breath.

“Hello, little one”, the elemental said in fluent Forest-Tongue. “So you're the one who'll mount my back this fine evening?”

“Uh”, Manovan stuttered. “I guess so.”

It gave a sly smirk and then grabbed Manovan and placed him on its back. Confused and slightly intimidated, he grabbed hold of its fur before the bear-like beast took it to the air with one giant leap. It laughed mockingly at Manovan's poor attempts to keep still on its back and somehow, Manovan couldn't help but wonder whether or not these elementals enjoyed being needed by the Solar Exalted. He could see over his shoulder how Yuko mounted her blue haruka and he noticed that it neither speak nor seemed even the slightest amused.

“Hey, little one”, the haruka said as they ascended higher and higher in the air. Manovan enjoyed the view of the beautiful City of Makers from the sky. “Do you like to smoke?”

“Uh”, Manovan stuttered again. “I guess so.”

The haruka moved its hand over its shoulder and showed its giant paw to Manovan. The wind was strong this high up in the air and the wind emanating from the elemental itself only strengthened the breezes in his face. He could hardly see the haruka's paw without having to constantly blink. Though he could see some Essence appear in the paw and materialize into what looked like three glimmering blue liquid drops.

“Nymph tears”, the elemental said. “They are very potent. Take them.”

“Why do you want me to have them?”

The elemental gave a hearty chuckle. “Because I have never been summoned by a Solar Exalted before”, he said. “It's an honor.”

Manovan took the three nymph tears and put them in his item bag. “Thank you”, he said.

“Just don't give them to a mortal. They are a bit … too potent.”

“I understand”, he said and tightened his grip of the elemental's fur.

The winds were really chilly this far up in the sky. The three of them ascended the glimmering peaks and he could see a world spread out around himself. He saw endless jungles and distant mountains. The sun was setting in the west and he felt like he could almost touch the stars above his head. He felt like a god, looking down on Creation from high above. He enjoyed flying. But he wanted to do it himself. He had the Essence glider.

He crouched on the haruka's back and let go of its fur. “Be careful”, it said but he didn't listen.

“I want to try something out”, Manovan said and then jumped off the haruka's back and dived a few dozen feet through the sky. He barely heard Yuko's shriek as she saw him fall. All he could think about what the pleasure of feeling the wind against himself. He noticed how the haruka was quickly diving down to save him, but stopped when he summoned his wings, tilted his back backwards and ascended into the sky, past the amused elemental.

He was flying on his own now. What a feeling.

The haruka was circling around him and it looked impatient. Manovan noticed how Yuko and Cypher quickly passed him by. He realized he couldn't control his speed. All he could do was glide. He was high above ground and the jungle trees below seemed like nothing more than grass stalks. The haruka blew some wind in his back to give him some extra speed but then got too impatient and grabbed him in its hands and placed him on his back again.

“Sorry about that”, Manovan said and retracted his wings.

They soared through the sky while the sun disappeared and the moon covered the world below with its silver light.


Last edited by Manovan Marrowsteel on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Fri Sep 24, 2010 11:54 pm

Lulz.
This just passed 200 pages.
^^
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sat Sep 25, 2010 7:34 am

cool Very Happy

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