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

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Manovan Marrowsteel


Number of posts : 319
Age : 31
Location : Sweden
Registration date : 2008-11-10

PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Mon Sep 27, 2010 10:34 pm


Chapter 39: Heroes

They flew for hours. The evening became night and the night welcomed the Unconquered Sun who walked his way across heaven. It hadn't been easy to rest on the back of a haruka at mountain-height in the sky. Manovan had spent the darkest hours of the night in amazement. Even though he had not been able to see the ground through the night's black cloak, he had witnessed Luna's silver glow reflect its light on the glimmering peaks. He had seen fires and lights from distant towns and villages. It had looked like glowing stars both above and below. Sometimes, he didn't know what was up and what was down. The sights had truly been divine.

When the sun's beams trickled forth through the night and lit up the grassy meadows and the high jungle crowns, the three Exalted could witness smoke coming from a village below.

“It has begun!” Cypher called from his elemental. “Take us down, please! I hope we're not too late.”

They descended to a meadow just north of the village. The closer they got, the more clearly they could see the burning homes and the fleeing villagers. Cypher started running towards the village as soon as he had landed. Manovan noticed Cypher's hands reshaping themselves into sharp wooden claws.

If what's attacking the village won't scare the villagers enough, those claws sure will, Manovan thought before he drew two throwing knives and ran after Cypher.

Yuko jogged after them while opening a tome she had had hanging in a chain from her belt. The three haruka transformed into small tornadoes which slowly faded away.

They could hear the screams of the villagers clearer and clearer as they approached. Manovan swiftly moved past Cypher, him being more agile and dressed more properly for battle. It was a small village and he quickly moved past some fleeing villagers. One of the villagers, a young woman, almost fell backwards noticing the young Exalted running towards the square.

“Don't be afraid”, Manovan said to the woman. “We're here to help you. What's happening here?”

The woman's bottom lip shivered and tears ran from her brown eyes. “He is dead!” she screamed. “My husband is dead! The village is—”

She was interrupted by an echoing roar. A man shouted in panic as he moved backwards over the square followed by a man – or something – on horse-back. The villager tried to fend off the intruder with a poorly crafted sword but it was obvious to Manovan that the man wasn't trained in combat. He had probably found the sword and used it for the first time in his life.

Manovan recoiled when he saw the man on horse-back. It wasn't a man as much as it was somewhat of a hybrid between animal, plant and human. It was dressed in furs and cloths common to the barbarian tribes of the eastern jungles. However, this … monster couldn't be human. It had four eyes instead of two, sharp tusks stuck out from its mouth and it had decorated its body through scarification and tribal tattoos. Moss were growing in its hair and on its shoulders. Manovan had never seen anything this ugly.

He took a step back. Houses burned like bonfires around him and the sound of the crunching flames were drowned in screams of agony, sorrow and fear. The attackers roared and laughed as they rode and ran through the streets of the village, cutting people down with swords, piercing them with spears and crushing them with hammers.

Manovan ground his teeth and then threw his knife towards the monster on the horse, hitting it in its forehead. It fell dead to the ground without a sound and its horse ran off uncontrolled. The man with the sword looked over his shoulder and saw Manovan walk up to the body to retrieve his knife. He mumbled a thank you drowned in fear and gratitude and then ran out to the meadows together with other fleeing villagers.

Cypher came up to Manovan and flinched when he saw the dead thing on the ground. The fires from the houses had spread and started to roast the corpses on the ground. The smell of burning meat was carried by the wind.

“Disgusting, isn't it?” Manovan said and nodded to the corpse. “What is it?”

“It's a Wyld barbarian.” Cypher was looking over his shoulders, afraid of being attacked.

“Listen, Cypher”, Manovan said. “You're no fighter. Neither is Yuko. I don't know much about magic and stuff but I assume spells are big and destructive. That Peleps sorcerer-guy from the dragon cast one on me once. Cracked plenty of ribs.”

“Um, what are you saying?”

“I saw some burning barns in the outskirts of the village. Why don't you and Yuko protect the villagers in the meadows at those barns? Make sure the people are calm and cast whatever you can cast on those barbarians when they come at you. I take care of things here in the village.”

Cypher nodded and ran back out to the meadows. Manovan thought he imagined a moment of profound silence when he was left alone, even though the screams from the slaughter still echoed through the village. He took a deep breath and listened. He tried not only to listen with his ears but with his soul.

Thu-thump. Thu-thump. Thu-thump. It was his own heart, beating slower and slower the more he focused. The burning homes and the dead women and children around the square reminded him too much of that dreadful day when he was five years old. But now he had the strength to fight back.

He heard someone move behind the house next to him. Another Wyld barbarian sneaked towards him from behind. He could hear two more slowly approaching him from the front. He couldn't see them but he felt their presence. He heard their every move. They had seen him easily kill the one on horse-back. He assumed that they were surprised by the fact that someone had actually successfully fought back in this defenseless village.

He drew two more throwing knives from his holsters. He could feel his Essence flowing through his body and soul, sharpening his poisonous weapons with glimmering energy. Using his Essence to empower his attacks was child's play. Using it to achieve perfection was part of his routine.

With a few fluid movements, he threw two knives to his front. He jumped up into the air to gain momentum which he used to throw another knife towards the target hiding at his right-hand side before he turned his body mid-air to finally throw at the one behind.

When he landed on the ground, the four Wyld barbarians landed with him. Each with a knife to its head. From his own head glittered his circular caste mark. The circle symbolized the night – the time of day where the Unconquered Sun couldn't reach the world with its light and the Night Caste Exalted had to spread its light in its stead. He could see the mark's glittering light in his periphery.

With his senses perfectly sharpened, he looked for more barbarians to kill while picking up the throwing knives from the ones he had just murdered.

He heard some screams and hurried further along the road. There were a few buildings there still not touched by the fire. A young girl was crouching next to her parents who lied in pieces on the street. She was screaming while holding tight grips of her dead mother's dress. The girl's own dress was soiled with blood.

A dozen Wyld barbarians approached her. Four of them on horse-back drew rusty blades and one of them aimed to cut at the girl. Manovan gave them a grim look and threw the four knives in his hands at them simultaneously. The four of them fell from their horses and wouldn't stand up again.

He drew his two remaining throwing knives as he dashed towards the eight remaining barbarians. He made one throw and then another one. One of the knives buried its blade in one barbarian's chest while the other knife, charged with Essence, pierced another barbarian's skull and continued out on the other side. His glittering caste mark now glowed brightly.

Being out of knives, Manovan drew his Serpent-Sting Staff from his backpack. He swung the seven sections around his body as he leaped over the little girl into the crowd of monstrous barbarians. He took the stance of an angered cobra, head back and knees bent. Just like his old sifu Dagger had once taught him. Though now the form was perfected as he covered himself in a shroud of glowing Essence. He thrust his staff forward like the bite of a serpent, pulled it back to give it momentum around his back and then thrust it towards a second target.

They tried to hit him but he slithered away from their attacks. He swung the Serpent-String Staff like a whip at the targets in front of him, forcing them to move back and be reluctant to approach him to attack. He turned to the girl behind him, but all she would see was a man glowing in gold and white. “Run!” he called, but she was paralyzed by the sight.

One of the Wyld barbarians had the courage to rush towards him with its rusty sword. He could barely see the cut coming in his periphery before he felt an ache over his left cheek. Blood ran down his cheek and neck and he could taste its iron-taste in his mouth. His black mask was cut open and fell from his injured face.

Manovan gave the attacker an angry glare with his glowing eyes. Essence started to already stitch his wound together when he grabbed hold of two of the staff's sections and placed another section over the attacker's neck, locked it in position as he rolled over the barbarian and tossed it over his back towards the remaining targets. He spat some blood to the ground and then ran up to two of his opponents with one section of the staff in each hand. He thrust the pointy edges into his opponents' stomachs, slithered between them like a snake and then hit a third barbarian in the face with his elbow. His bodily glow had now burst out into a burning, celestial bonfire of Essence in white and gold and his facial features muted by the thick, cloaking shroud.

One barbarian remained before him and it seemed to have lost all of its morale. The tattooed and scarred monstrosity with sharp horns and hair of grass stepped back from Manovan, one step at the time. Its frightened eyes were round like globes.

Manovan whipped some blood off his staff before he folded it and sheathed it in his backpack while walking towards the remaining barbarian with determined steps. He reached for the being's neck, grabbed it and lifted.

“You think I'm scary now?” he said with a grin, but his victim couldn't even see a face.

He channeled some more Essence so that he could reach the final stage of his aura. The brilliant bonfire that covered his body shot beams into the air as he grinned at his opponent. The beams twisted and twirled around themselves before taking the form of an eight-headed snake, reaching higher than the jungle trees. This eight-headed hydra of pure golden Essence bore its fangs to every Wyld barbarian that could witness it.

The one in Manovan's grip shook from fear as it witnessed the great totem of the Solar Exalted's celestial shard. Manovan pressed his fingers together and crushed the barbarian's throat before dropping its dead body to the ground. The eight-headed snake that was emanating from his soul shard was hissing from high up in the sky, slithering in circles around the area where he stood and scared the barbarians to flee the village.

He turned to the scared little girl who looked up at him with big eyes filled with tears. She was probably too young to comprehend it, but she was looking directly at the stuff of legend. She couldn't be much older than five or six years but she would remember this sight forever.

“Run to the villagers at the barns”, Manovan said to her and pointed in the general direction.

Her grip of her mother's dress tightened. “Bu-but mommy and daddy?”

“They died to protect you. They would want you to be safe. Go to the barns.”

Her bottom lip shivered and she let go of her mother's dress. Manovan followed her with his eyes as she hurried along the street towards the meadows from which he had come. When she was outside his line of sight, he took her parents' corpses from the ground and tossed them into the fires. He could hear that the Wyld barbarians were gone. He could focus on cleaning up this mess while Cypher and Yuko gathered the villagers somewhere safe.

This village was tainted by death. The best thing would probably be to let the fires spread to the remaining houses and burn everything – and every corpse – to ashes.

He sighed deeply. So many lost lives. So many broken bonds.

Manovan took one of the nymph tears from his bag and placed it in a leaf he found on the ground. When he rolled the leaf around the tear, it's surface popped and a thick liquid spread through the roll. He walked up to the closest fire and lit it up, inhaled and exhaled. He could see the world shift around him and different realities intertwine. He could see the spirits of the world mourn the deaths of the villagers in a hazy dimension of a world sharing space with the one he called his own.

He could be hallucinating it all.

Whispering Rainbow Cypher had turned back to keep the villagers safe after Manovan had told him to. He nodded to Ledaal Yuko who had been in his rear. Though unable to comprehend why, he noticed that many of the villagers screamed and fled as soon as they saw him. Yuko, on the other hand, was far less frightening to them. She had neither showed her Anima nor any spells.

“People!” Cypher shouted. “Gather at the barns!”

No one listened to him. As soon as he opened his mouth, villagers screamed, cried and fled. There were probably a dozen of them running along the street he was at and more were already on the meadows outside.

“It's your claws!” Yuko called to him.

Cypher looked down and noticed his wooden claws. He suddenly realized why he looked menacing to the villagers. The barbarians' Wyld taints looked similar to how his spell had shaped his hands.

A Wyld barbarian came running out from the corner of a house and Cypher was quick to thrust his claws into the barbarian's face, knocking it to the ground and cracking its skull. A few villagers noticed that he had killed an attacker and didn't panic as much as before – though they were still clearly afraid of him.

He had read some books about human psychology. He understood that it wasn't easy interacting with people in a state of panic. What he could do was to try to reduce that state of panic and have the people calm down. The best way to do that was probably to keep fighting barbarians and prove to them that they could feel safe in his presence.

Yuko grabbed the arm of an old man with a bleeding leg and helped him to safety at the barns.

“Cypher!” she called. “Let me help the people. You make sure those … things don't come close to the survivors.”

He nodded and then attacked another Wyld barbarian that was chasing some villagers down the street. He hit at him with his claws, missed the first and second time but hit the third. Manovan had told him that he was no fighter but he begged to differ. He had killed two barbarians already. He could do this.

While Cypher was holding the barbarians at bay, Yuko led the men uphill and gestured to some villagers to gather at the barns. The man was gazing at her clothes and at the spell book hanging from her belt.

“Thank you for helping us”, he said. “But who are you?”

“We're friends”, she said.

“Your accent. Your skin color. Your clothes.” The man tried to force a smile. “You're a Dynast, aren't you?”

“Honestly”, she said. “I'm not sure who I am anymore.”

“Are you Dragon-Blooded?”

She gave him a short gaze, surprised that the old man was so upfront with her.

“I'm grateful someone like you has come to save us.”

“Don't mention it”, she said. “But save your thanks for Cypher. It was his idea to come here.”

“Cypher? Is that the boy with the claws?”

She nodded.

“Is he Dragon-Blooded too?”

Yuko wasn't sure how to respond to that. Cypher was an Anathema in the eyes of the Immaculate Order. Even though that philosophy wasn't very spread out in these regions of the Scavenger Lands, she wasn't sure if it would be wise of her to be honest with people about Cypher and Manovan? “He's something else”, she said. “But save your questions for later. We must make sure everyone is safe. Cypher and Manovan are holding off the attackers at the village but they may come from another direction. Stay with me until my friends return.”

“Yes, you're right”, the man said. “What's your name? I am Lucas.”

“Ledaal Yuko.”

“Thank you, Ledaal Yuko. I speak for the entire village when I say that. We're in your debt.”

“Like I said: save your thanks for Cypher.”

More and more people gathered at the barns. They were waiting intently and watching their burnings homes. Many of them were crying. Others tried to be strong and supportive. Cypher was fighting some Wyld barbarians close to the village and, to the villagers amazement, his body glowed like the sun.

Suddenly, beams of light shot up through the air and an enormous eight-headed snake in white and golden light appeared from the center of the village. The glowing beast hissed with its many tongues and its eyes glowed like burning stars. The remaining Wyld barbarians pointed to the being and yelled before they fled the village into the jungles.

Yuko's jaw dropped and she placed her palm before her mouth. She had witnessed a Solar Exalted's Anima banner only once and that was when Peleps Meego was battling it out with that pathfinder Crystal Bow. Crystal Bow's totem had been a gracious bird. She had to admit, this eight-headed snake seemed more menacing with its many mouths and sharp eyes.

“What in the gods' name is that?” Lucas stuttered with a voice drowned in the fear of the other villagers.

“That … that is Manovan of the Sea”, Yuko said. Her eyes was locked at the great totem of the Solar Exalted. Even the glowing Cypher stepped back to watch the celestial display. He was himself far from reaching that stage of his own Anima. He had only used up the Essence he needed to battle the barbarians with his wooden claws.

“I can't believe it”, Lucas said. “Gods have come to our rescue.”

Last edited by Manovan Marrowsteel on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Manovan Marrowsteel


Number of posts : 319
Age : 31
Location : Sweden
Registration date : 2008-11-10

PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:25 pm


Chapter 40: The boy from the fishing village XIV

Viper suddenly felt claustrophobic. He couldn't breath. Many eyes were on him, but the sharpest ones were Dawn's. His leader. A Dragon-Blooded. Was she going to kill him? Did he have to kill her? Could he do it? What would happen if he tried and failed?

He turned to Dagger. “I should go to the dojo and get some training.”

“You're not going anywhere”, Dawn said. “I have an assignment for you. For you too, Dagger. Come with me.”

She walked passed Viper and Dagger in the hallway and continued through a side-door leading to the cellar stairway. Viper felt some of her hair touch his cheek when she walked by. It felt like they were on fire and he had to massage his aching skin.

Dagger walked after Dawn to the stairs, then turned only to notice Viper standing quietly in the hallway. “Are you coming?” he asked.

Snap out of it, Viper, he thought to himself. He nodded to Dagger and followed them downstairs. It was a dark stairway illuminated by some candles on the walls. Their flickering lights gave the cellar a gloomy atmosphere. Downstairs were chemical tables, lockers and cages with mostly snakes, frogs and insects.

“For how long have you been training him now?” Dawn asked while she walked into the cellar. The three of them were there alone. She sat down on a chair next to a table with chemical equipment and leaned back. She took an empty vial from the table and opened it up. Suddenly, a coral snake came crawling up along her arm towards the vial where it released a dose of venom. Viper took a step back to avoid the snake.

“Should be about eight months or so”, Dagger said.

“Not even a year then?”

“He's a quick learner. He managed to pick up the basics for snake style almost as quickly as Lucid Dreamer. But he had earlier experiences with martial arts. Viper had not.”

Viper hadn't heard of this Lucid Dreamer before. He knew that Dagger had recruited two more assassins during his time as a recruiter. Maybe Lucid Dreamer was one of them. He looked at the Dragon-Blooded. She didn't look at him. She didn't seem to think much of him. The only Dragon-Blooded he had seen before had murdered his family. Could this one be different? He calmed his fists.

“Who is Lucid Dreamer?” he asked. He noticed that his voice wasn't as stuttering as he had imagined it would be. He didn't want to seem like a coward.

“He's a recruit I found two years ago”, Dagger explained. “Most recruits take about one to two years to get the strength and confidence needed to handle snake style in action. You did it in about five months. Lucid Dreamer in four. One year later, he was promoted leader of the Nexus Squad.”

“Is he that strong?”

Dawn couldn't help but to chuckle. Viper couldn't see her mouth because of her black mask but he noticed on her eyes that she was smirking. “I like this one, Dagger”, she said. “So innocent and cute.”

Dagger gave a sly smirk.

“What? What did I say?” Viper scratched his head.

“Well”, Dagger said. “The leader of the Sentinel Hill Squad completed his initial training in only one month. His mother is supposedly a spirit so that makes him God-Blooded.”

“And it took me one day to become leader of this squad”, Dawn said proudly as she leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs. “Ten days later, I had that training in the bag too.”

“Not that you needed it”, Dagger said with a smirk.

“Well, I wanted to see what the fuss was about.”

Viper didn't know how to respond. He suddenly felt very weak again. This woman could do in ten days what took him several months. And she was already their leader when she initiated her training. That was surreal.

“Viper, there's a reason the Nighthammer Squad is the biggest squad in Nexus. While all the other squads have only one district, we're in charge of both Nighthammer Pool and Nighthammer District. It's all because of Master Dawn. She is a Child of Hesiesh, the Elemental Dragon of Fire. Us humans are merely insects compared to her strength.”

“Enough about that”, she said. “How's his precision?”

“I would say better than the average Ebon Dagger, Master Dawn. He can even use his weaker hand with decent precision.”

“Poison brewing?”

“He's getting there.”

“Social training?”

“He knows how to deal with the upper class better than most of us. He could be an asset to the Bastion Squad. I suggest we make a deal with Master Mist to lend him as a consult.”

She leaned back again and rested her chin in her hand. She gave Viper a short gaze. He was standing idly behind Dagger. He had tightened his fists again and he felt tremblings throughout his body. All he could think about was what Dagger had said about Dawn's strength. How could he get revenge on the Peleps if he was merely an insect?

“He might not be ready for that yet. The boy is trembling in my presence.”

“Viper?” Dagger asked and looked him up and down. “You seem off today.”

“Uh”, he said and tightened his fists. “I can't be an insect.”

He felt Dagger's hand on his shoulder. “What are you talking about?”

He shook off Dagger's hand. “I must be stronger than her!” He drew the dagger from his ankle with one quick motion. Dagger took a surprised step back and went for his own weapon. Dawn tilted her head and looked at Viper who rushed towards her with his dagger in his hand, dedicating to cutting her down.

She raised her hand and grabbed his wrist, still while leaning back calmly in the chair. “This boy is unstable, Dagger”, she said. “Get rid of him.”

“Uh.” Dagger wasn't sure how to react. “Viper, what the hell are you doing? He's never done something like this before, Master Dawn.”

“She's a fucking Dynast!” Viper roared and tried to punch her with his other hand, but it was blocked as easily as his first attack. “I have to kill her!” He tried to pull himself loose but her grip was tight and it felt like he was stuck in a burning stove. He screamed.

She let go off his unarmed hand and grabbed his throat, got up from her chair and almost flew with him through the room until he crushed with his back into the opposing wall. She pressed him towards it and leaned in to his ear. “You must have realized by now that you are in fact an insect to me, boy”, she whispered. “But I'm merciful and I will let you explain your actions to me.”

“Master Dawn?” Dagger said. He still held his dagger in a firm grip.

Viper ground his teeth to endure the pain of feeling her burning-hot skin against his. He was absolutely terrified. He tried to say something and she softened her grip around his neck.

“Dynasts killed my parents! They weren't provoked! No one fought back! But they burned my village! Took my siblings!” Viper felt tears run down his eyes. “I was only five. I had to bury my parents and I was only five!”

He noticed Dawn raising her eye brows. She looked over her shoulder and nodded to Dagger who was looking both confused and surprised. “Leave us”, she ordered him.

He seemed a bit reluctant at first but then hurried up the stairs and closed the door behind him.

Dawn let go of Viper's neck and he fell to the floor. “Damn it”, he muttered and hit the back of his head against the wall. He did it again. “I'm pathetic!”

She knelt down before him and placed her hand on his knee. “Who did this to your village?”

He did all he could to avoid eye contact. He tried to cover his tear-filled cheeks with his hand. He dried them and his eyes got irritated and swollen. He hadn't cried since that night he met Glittering Wolf after escaping from Bastion. He felt so pathetic. Tear-Eyed Viper. That was his name.

“Peleps Wakde.”

“Peleps Wakde?” she said. She stood up, grabbed his wrist and helped him to his feet. “I've heard of his name but that's about all I know. Viper, I am Dragon-Blooded. But I am not a Dynast.”

He gave her a confused look.

“I left the Realm ten years ago. I'm an outcast. What they would do to me if they found me is ten times worse what happened to your parents.”

Viper dried the tears from his eyes. “You left the Realm? Why?”

“I have my reason”, she said and placed her hand on his shoulder. He wasn't afraid of her anymore. Her overpowering presence suddenly felt warming and comforting. Could there actually be a Dragon-Blooded that wasn't bad? “I was born into the Cathak family but I threw that name away when I became an outcast. My current name – Dawn – symbolizes hope. A new beginning.” She placed her hand on the seven-sectioned staff in the holster on her side. “I carry this Serpent-Sting Staff as a symbol of my hatred for the Realm. It has alloys in orichalcum, an ancient material forbidden since the Shogunate. This material is a symbol of one of the ancient Anathema.” Their eyes met. “I want to kill Dynasts with this weapon to show them that there is still something out there that can threaten the Realm.”

Viper looked at the golden weapon, he looked at her and then he looked at the floor. “How do I kill a Dragon-Blooded?” he asked. “How can I kill someone like Peleps Wakde?”

He could see that she smiled with her eyes and she walked back towards the stairway. “There are two ways for insects to kill you”, she said. “They can either be very poisonous or they can come in swarms. Take tomorrow off, Viper. Come back the day after for your first assignment.”

She walked up the stairs. He stood still in the cellar for a moment to breath. There was much to take in. He had learned two important lessons. The first lesson was that he needed to control his impulses. The second lesson was that there were Dragon-Blooded out there who chose to walk different paths to that of the Realm. At least there was one. He suddenly felt very glad that his leader was Dawn.

But the first thing he had to do was to apologize to Dagger for his behavior.

Last edited by Manovan Marrowsteel on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Manovan Marrowsteel


Number of posts : 319
Age : 31
Location : Sweden
Registration date : 2008-11-10

PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:47 pm


Chapter 41: City of Dreams

Chanti Green-Paw looked up on the rising sun. She just felt something strong from her wedding band. It had made a spark of Essence and had her experience the feeling of a comforting Anima in its highest stage. Her husband had just reached that stage. But why?

She nodded to Glorious Horizon who sat in a pile of blood with chunks of raw meat in his hands. Blood were dripping from his mouth and he looked satisfied. “Are you done, child?”

He nodded with a grin.

Around them stood not just Omar and Blackhorn, but about a hundred beastmen with different traits from cat and dog. They were bathing in blood and meat. Some of them fed on the remaining corpses. Omar was leaning over his moonsilver daiklave and scratched his black fur with one hand. He didn't look very amused by their situation.

“This was just the first wave, Chanti”, he muttered. “The Wyld barbarians are fleeing from something. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?”

“Fair Folk”, she said.

He nodded.

“I think Manovan and the others have encountered the Wyld barbarians as well. The tribes have gotten too far into Melekin.” Chanti took a deep sigh and then patted Horizon on the head. He gave her a goofy grin with blood-stained teeth. Her tattoos begun to glow and she transformed from her human form to her angry beast form. Her red and white hair floated gracefully in the wind. “Horizon and I will stay for the next wave before we return to the City of Makers. I'll leave my tribes here with you and Blackhorn.”

“Do you want us to advance towards the raksha?”

“No”, she said. “Let them consume the capital city. It will buy you enough time to put up iron traps to keep them from the valley. My tribes will keep their eyes on the raksha's movements.”

“Understood”, Omar said and pulled his daiklave from the bloody ground.

Manovan of the Sea was tossing corpses into fires. All the time while being followed and looked at by the weirdest creatures. Some of them were shaped abnormally while others were transparent and ghostly. He thought he could see the spirits of the smallest teapots cry as their little sanctums ignited in the burning houses. It was difficult handling the corpses with these weird visions, since some of the corpses seemed to still consist of small wisps of living essence. Whatever the nymph tear had done, it was freaking him out.

When he had gotten rid of the worst-looking corpses and made sure that no Wyld barbarians remained in the village, he walked out to the meadows and to the others. His totemic aura had faded and only a glittering caste mark remained. What he encountered at the meadows confused him more than the spirits that surrounded him. He was met by a cheering crowd. There had to be about a hundred survivors.

Ledaal Yuko was taking care of some of the most severely wounded and Whispering Rainbow Cypher tried to gather the people. “Um”, he said loudly and coughed. “We are here because, um ...”

Manovan placed his hand on his shoulder. “Not much of a public speaker, are you?” He stepped out before Cypher and looked over the crowd. They all looked at him with big, round eyes of amazement and wonder. They had witnessed a miracle today. Three strangers had saved them from a band of monsters that not only a village of people could fight against. But these … divinities had saved them in minutes.

“My name is Manovan of the Sea and this is Whispering Rainbow Cypher”, he said. “We are Exalted with the celestial powers of the Unconquered Sun.” He pointed to Yuko. “She is Yuko, our comrade. It was fate that led us to your aid. We answered to your prayers and followed your screams for help.” He let his caste mark glow more brightly to add to the emotional effect. “When I look at you who survived, I see brave hearts and eyes full of hope. I see men, women and children with dreams that reach far beyond the borders of this village. A home is not a village but a place in your heart. A place of comfort. My friends and I have traveled far but we have finally found a home of our own.” He pointed towards the Glimmering Peaks to the north-west. “We cleansed the Cursed City within that valley and unlocked a City of Dreams. Your village may have burned today but we can offer you a new life – a new home – in that city.”

“Did you lift the curse of the Empty City?” an old man gasped.

Manovan nodded with a self-confident smile. “Indeed, we did. We opened up a safe haven for everyone who needs one. It's a city of great wonders where everything is poetry and dreams can become reality. We have restored life to the valley and to the areas surrounding it. Even your jungles here will flourish in no time.”

The people were looking at each other. Most of them were speechless.

“If you want to come with us is up to you”, Manovan continued. “But know that you are welcome to help us build a sanctuary within that valley where everyone can live a life of wealth and happiness.” He paused for a moment to breath some air. He could still feel the smell of burned meat in the air. “But wealth and happiness doesn't come cheap. We will need your help to make that city into the haven it can be. You will be the first mortals in centuries to walk into that city and what you will witness is that of legend. It will be up to you – the people – to make that city flourish with new life. Follow us and reach your dreams or remain here and rebuild your village, knowing that the Wyld barbarians may one day return. The choice is yours to make.”

He let his caste mark fade away and he looked quietly out over the crowd. The people were looking at each other and they were looking at him. They were fully enchanted by his words, by his glorious appearance and by his celestial prowess.

“Wasn't that a bit, um, too much?” Whispering Rainbow Cypher whispered.

Manovan looked at him with a smirk. “I don't know what you're talking about. It was all true, wasn't it?”

Cypher tapped on his nose. “Well, I suppose so, but ...”

“Are you saying I should have held the speech without, you know, divine intervention?”

Cypher raised his brows. Manovan smirked to him and stepped into the crowd. He had indeed used a Charm to merge Essence with his words. It was not like he manipulated anyone after all. Maybe he had just helped with their sense of wonder. But under these circumstances, would he really have needed to? He did it only to ensure himself that he could not fail to earn their trust and to make them listen to him with unbreakable focus. And of course, he did it because he could.

An old man with an injured leg – the same one who had asked him a question earlier – came up to Manovan and bowed as gracefully as he could despite his injuries. “Honored Manovan of the Sea”, he said. “All of us have decided to follow you to the City of Dreams. But the villagers need some time to gather what they can from the ruins and say farewell to their friends and family who died in the attack.”

“Fair enough”, Manovan said. “And who are you?”

“My name is Lucas of Harps, honored … Excuse me, but how do you want to be addressed?”

“My role is to be the mayor of the City of Dreams.” He turned to Cypher and Yuko. “Unless someone objects.”

Cypher looked confused. “Um, well, it was I who—“

“Your social skills are limited, Master Cypher – Call him Master Cypher, Lucas – and I'm sure you'll want to spend more time running your factory-cathedrals or whatever than you want to spend signing papers and having political discussions.”

Cypher shrugged. “Well, I suppose ...”

Manovan smirked.

“I have been schooled in politics since birth”, Yuko filled in.

“Well, we're not interested in any Realm politics here, dear Yuko”, Manovan said. “Also, Cypher told me about your condition.”

“My condition?”

“Yes, your … mental condition.”

She blushed and ground her teeth. Manovan turned to Lucas with a smile. “Call her Master Yuko.”

“I understand, Mayor Manovan”, Lucas said with a bow. “Sadly, our chief died in the attack. The political decisions were done by Rubia, Harm, Gorg and myself. Rubia, however, fell to a monster's sword. I have been studying old scriptures coming from the Empty City myself. I've never been inside the valley because of the curse, but I have, like my father before me, dedicated my life to studying the histories and myths about the place. I am intrigued and very much honored to be able to study it first-hand.”

“Then you can honor yourself with a position in the city council, Lucas”, Manovan said. “If you have direct questions about the city, you should speak with Cypher. I'm not very … conversant with that history myself.”

“I will do that. Thank you, Mayor Manovan.”

Manovan nodded and smiled. Being respected and addressed with a formal title felt good. He had expected more objections from Cypher and Yuko when taking the role of mayor, but he supposed that he was the only one who could actually do the job. He didn't have much political experience but he surely had social skills. He could always let a council make the decisions while he was the face and the man in charge. He gave Yuko a quick gaze and noticed that she did her best to ignore him. Referring to her dementia had been necessary after all. He thought that she could possibly have been even more offended if he had told her that he didn't want a Dragon-Blooded to hold a position higher than his own – and that she ought to know her position as a servant.

Yes, that wouldn't have been popular.

The trip home was longer then expected. The group of about a hundred people were only as strong as its weakest link – and there were many who were slowed and tired by their injuries. Manovan could feel that people were hopeful despite the traumatic event. His speech had motivated them and he was almost worshiped as a god, despite the fact that it was Yuko who had treated their injuries and Cypher who had taken the three of them there to save the villagers in the first place. Manovan enjoyed the situation. Not only because these people followed him, but because he had gotten the entire City of Makers – though now the City of Dreams – as his loot. He knew that following Cypher here was his destiny. He had realized it already in Yuro.

Lucas asked him many questions during the journey home.

“How long have you been in the city?”

“About a week.”

“How did you break the curse?”

“Ask Cypher.”

“Who is the god of the city?”

“Don't know … or, well, we haven't offered it to anyone yet.”

Even though Manovan couldn't answer most of the man's questions, he realized some important topics he had to take care of when coming back to the city.

First of all, he had to get together with the council to come up with a decree on how to run the city. According to Lucas, the best way to manage a city with a high population was through the use of guilds. He suggested that they should speak with people in neighboring villages and let them know about the city's existence. By attracting more people to join in founding the city, they could let different spokesmen of various guilds together form a council with the required skills to discuss and decide everything needed to run a city. He also suggested that they should have early discussions about how to handle the city's economics and relations with other towns and villages in Melekin. It could be wise to send an ambassador over to the capital city to let the king know about the new city.

They talked about much and Manovan mostly nodded and agreed. He realized that he didn't have much to say when it came to politics. He could only trust the old man's experience in running his village. Manovan may have been the man in charge but Lucas was the one with the initiatives. He couldn't help but to enjoy the company of the old man.

“You ought to know something of importance since you will be given a role of note within the city, Lucas”, Manovan said at one point. “All of the city's scriptures are in Old Realm so you might have to work with Cypher and Yuko if you need to—“

“I both speak and write Old Realm, Mayor Manovan”, Lucas said with a proud smile. “In this country, there are many ancient texts originating from the Cursed City. I have studied such texts since I was a child. I learned the language through those records.”

“Well then”, Manovan said and raised his brows. “Maybe you can teach me Old Realm at some point. I have been relying too much on Cypher lately.”

“It would be an honor, mayor.”

Chanti Green-Paw could see the charred ruins of a burned village from the sky. She had given Glorious Horizon a bird-like form through the use of one of her Charms and he was flying quite sloppily. It was too soon for him to take a flight form for himself. He had to master both stages of his totemic form first. He was a fast learner – all Exalted were – but he didn't have much wits and most of her wisdom went into one ear only to exit through the other.

But he had developed. He would soon be ready to protect her husband when she would be battling the Wyld.

They circled the ruins for a while and she could clearly see traces of Wyld barbarians as well as faint traces of the three Exalted who had saved the villagers. She could sense that they had wasted too much Essence in one spot. Hopefully, they hadn't gotten the wrong kinds of attention. With her millenniums of experience, she knew there were more than enough reasons to be careful with one's actions – especially for someone newly Exalted. Sometimes it was better to leave mortal settlements to the hands of fate instead of taking every opportunity for divine intervention.

Manovan had been sloppy. She could see the movements of at least a dozen Wyld barbarians in the jungles around the meadows. Her eyes were far sharper than an eagle's. Nothing could hide from her. She did a mental sigh before she made a screech which almost had the sky tremble around her. Birds started screeching from the jungle crowns before they attacked the Wyld barbarians to pick them to pieces.

She knew it wouldn't be the last time she would have to clean up those children's mess.

She and Horizon continued to fly towards the Glimmering Peaks. Eventually, they could see the surviving villagers slowly marching through the jungles. Chanti saw Manovan walking in the lead, talking to some mortal men and women. Cypher and that Dragon-Blooded woman were there as well. The fact that they obviously had showed their abilities to those humans troubled her, but at least they were safe.

It was up to them to make their own decisions and learn from their own mistakes. She wouldn't interfere unless she had to.

They continued towards the valley and reached it three days before the marching crowd. Chanti took Horizon to the western jungles to train him in the sacred hunts together with her tribes. She felt the western jungle was her domain in the valley. She had no connection to the City of Makers. She had never even been to the city during the First Age. She didn't want to accidentally set off a trap by spending time in there without company.

It was better to let that boy Cypher spend some more time in there since he seemed to have some connection to the city through his shard.

The crowd's reactions were loud and many when they came through the pass and could witness the amazing city in the utopian valley. The perfectly symmetrical city with its great towers looked almost surreal and the many statues overlooking the cobble street passing through the meadows looked like something from poetry. People expressed their awe for what they witnessed. They couldn't imagine that something like this had been hidden inside this valley all their lives. Were they actually going to live in that city? The thought was almost impossible to process.

“Is it like you imagined it to be, Lucas?” Manovan asked when they were overlooking the city in the distance.

“It's … so much more”, he stuttered.

Manovan smiled. “Keep in mind when we enter the city that we haven't explored everything there yet. Let your people know that they should be careful entering random buildings and they should absolutely not steal anything. Cypher have deactivated the guardians but some might still react.”

“What are the guardians exactly? I have read that word in many of the old texts but I never found the definition.”

“I think you ought to see for yourself. Some things simply can't be explained with words.” Manovan scratched his head. “Try not to intimidate them though. They do look a little scary. You might need to warn your people that they should refrain from acting out when seeing them. They will be all over the place. But don't worry. They aren't that bad as long as you follow their rules.”

“And what are their rules?”

“Good question.”

Lucas gave Manovan a bewildered look.

“Oh, I almost forgot”, Manovan said and looked at Lucas with a grin. “The western jungles are restricted. If you decide to send out some hunters or chop down some trees, it would be wise to go to the eastern jungles. If you want to live, that is.”

Lucas flinched and raised his gray brows. “What is in the western jungles?”

“A few tribes of beastmen”, Manovan said and scratched his nose.

“Beastmen!?” Lucas yelled, but suddenly calmed himself when he noticed that he had attracted the attention of others. “Did you say beastmen?”

“Their influence is important to bring balance back to the valley. There haven't been any animals in these areas because of the curse and the lack of animals has affected the plant life. We gave the western jungles to the beastmen to have them import animals needed to restore balance and make the jungles flourish.”

“But they raid villages and eat humans!”

“So I've heard. But I've ordered these tribes not to. They are good to us if we are good to them. And you are good to them by staying away from the western jungles. If you, for some reason, would need something from that side of the valley, I am the one to come to. Not Cypher. Not Yuko. Only I am allowed entrance to those jungles. I and a few selected individuals such as Glorious Horizon and Chanti Green-Paw. Understood?”

“Chanti Green-Paw”, the man mumbled. “The name sounds familiar. Isn't she the bestial queen from the myths? The one with legions of feral creatures who consume entire nations?”

“It sure sounds like her”, Manovan said with a hearty chuckle. “But she is also my wife.”

Lucas entire body twitched and he looked at Manovan with eyes that didn't know if they should express fear or wonder. Something they did express was confusion.

Manovan placed his hand on the man's shoulder. “Are you getting cold feet, Lucas?” he asked. “They say there is a spark of truth to every myth. However, a spark is far from the full truth. She may be a bestial queen – I can give you that – but she wouldn't eat your people. At least not today.”

“I believe you, Mayor Manovan”, Lucas said with a light stutter. “And I trust you with my life.”

Manovan smiled. “That is all I ask of you”, he said. “Let us continue walking. Your people may rest when we get to the city.”

Last edited by Manovan Marrowsteel on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Manovan Marrowsteel


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sun Oct 03, 2010 8:01 pm

A little character art:

Manovan and Chanti

Young Viper

Manovan murdering Dragon-Blooded

Bomchikawowow (don't judge me)

Glittering Wolf

Chanti in furry form
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Manovan Marrowsteel


Number of posts : 319
Age : 31
Location : Sweden
Registration date : 2008-11-10

PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Thu Oct 07, 2010 2:14 am


Chapter 42: The God of the City

The crowd followed Manovan into the City of Dreams. They expressed their amazement, their wonder and their fascination for everything around them with wows, round eyes, dropped jaws and extensive body language. Many of them had never left the region surrounding their village before and even though there were many myths about what was hidden within the Cursed Valley, they could never in their wildest dreams imagine something like this.

Some people shrieked when they encountered a walking automaton steward and some children broke out into big grins of wonder when one of the slimmer types of the armed guardians turned its head towards them. Lucas was ecstatic. “So these are the guardians?” he said, more to himself than to Manovan. “How is something like this possible? It must be magic. Yes, it must be magic.”

Suddenly the crowd came to a halt when Manovan spotted Chanti Green-Paw resting on top of the foot of a tall, hibernating guardian with both her legs and her arms crossed. She was dressed in a short leather skirt with colorful bird-feathers and fringes of horse-hair and she covered her bosom with a matching top. Next to her lied a bag she used to carry in her belt. Her long, red hair was straight with the exception of her one, silver-white lock hanging from her fringe. She looked at Manovan with her intense nut-brown eyes.

Manovan walked up to her. The crowd idled a few yards behind him. “Hello, Chanti”, he said. “I assume you need an explanation for this.”

“Not really”, she replied with a snort. “You saved them from pillaging Wyld barbarians. As long as you know how to handle the situation from here on.”

Lucas dared taking a step towards them and he greeted Chanti with a bow. “You must be Chanti Green-Paw”, he said. “We are eternally grateful to your husband for saving us and giving us a new home here in the City of Dreams.”

She didn't even acknowledge him. Her eyes were still focused on Manovan and she tilted her head. “Can I speak to you privately?” she asked.

“Of course.” He turned to Lucas and whispered in his ear. “Don't worry about it. You did good. Tell Yuko to lead you towards the central square. She'll get you settled in somewhere.”

“Thank you, Mayor Manovan”, he whispered back. “She is not like I pictured her. The myths mentioned a bestial queen but she has beauty I didn't know existed in this world or beyond.”

Manovan smiled and placed his hand on his shoulder as a simple gesture of acknowledgment. He then turned to Chanti, took her hand and helped her to her feet. They stepped aside as the crowd continued along the main row without them.

“A bestial queen?” Chanti asked and raised her eyebrows.

“You have good ears.”

“You have no idea”, she said with a smirk.

Manovan tapped on his nose. “Lucas is a good guy. I will need his competence if I'm going to turn this into a living city.”

“So that's what you're up to?” she muttered and gave him a kiss on the lips. “I'm not judging you. But are you sure you want to do that with this city?”

“What do you mean?”

She shrugged. “As far as I know, this city is the only city in Creation which is in a state almost as good as it was during the First Age. When word gets out that the curse has been lifted, explorers and scavengers will be the least of your problems. Expect someone powerful to come and claim it from you.”

“I haven't really thought about that”, he said. “But I feel very safe with you here.”

“Flattering”, she said and rolled her eyes. “Listen carefully, my love. My circle is here because the Wyld is strong in Melekin. The Wyld barbarians you encountered is a result of that. I am here to make sure the Wyld doesn't spread any further. When it's safe for my tribes to live in these jungles, I will move on to the next place.”

“When is that?”


“That's unfortunate”, Manovan said. “I have decided to take this valley as my own.”

“We all have our paths to take”, Chanti said and stroke him gently over the cheek. “Stay here and manage your people. It might help you mature. My tribes will protect the valley until you can protect it yourself.”

He couldn't help but to smile. “You remind me of someone, Chanti”, he said. “Someone I loved in my mortal life. You try to push me into the world while at the same time holding me close and protected. Just like she did.”

“That's because you're an infant”, she said with a smirk.

Manovan wasn't sure what to say. He could clearly feel his celestial bond with Chanti. But there were still feelings for Glittering Wolf in his heart. It would take him more than a human lifetime to shake those away. He just knew it.

Chanti embraced him in her arms and he felt her breath in his ear. “And that's why you need to grow up”, she whispered. “I'm not telling you to forget your humanity but to reach out for your divinity. You have no idea how strong you once were. How strong all of the Solars were. Even gods trembled in your presence.”

He smiled. “I'd like to experience that.”

They kissed.

“Speaking of gods”, Manovan said and reached for something in his bag. He took out his hearthstone and showed it to Chanti. “Do you know what this is?”

“Don't be a fool”, she said and leaned back against the facade to the building they were standing next to. She moved her silver fringe from her face with the palm of her hand. “I have a few of them myself.”

“Well”, Manovan said and scratched his head. “When I committed myself to the manse, I realized what the power of this stone is. If I would use an artifact to harness the power of this stone, I could talk to demons, elementals and even to gods as if they were equal to or even subservient to me.”


“I was talking to Lucas about offering this city to a god. According to Cypher, not even spirits could handle the miasma so there should be an open spot. I want to pray to one and offer it this city as its sanctum.”


“But I don't really know how.”

She smiled and then reached for something in her own bag. She held up a glittering necklace in moonsilver with an empty hearthstone socket. She placed it around his neck and he begun to commit his Essence to it. “Go to Mother Chak-Nah, the chieftain of my Silver-Tail Fox Tribe”, she said. “She will help you commune with someone celestial. Don't give the city to a terrestrial god. Their weak Essence can't handle a city of this magnitude. Especially not if it is to tap into the manses.”

“Thank you, Chanti”, Manovan said. When the necklace was harmonized with his Essence, he placed his hearthstone in its socket and watched it shape itself to fit the stone. Even though he couldn't physically feel the difference, he could feel it spiritually. The stone was like a small beacon of power harmonized with his Essence. The artifact he wielded it with was the connection between the stone and his soul. He felt ready to make a deal with a god. He wasn't nervous at all.

“One thing though”, Chanti said before she let Manovan leave. “When you are talking to a celestial god. Don't insult it. Your Essence is still too weak and your presence could be an insult in itself. Let Mother Chak-Nah initiate the conversation.”

“But she's a beastman”, Manovan muttered. “She should have an Essence far weaker than my own.”

“She is my child”, Chanti said. “And she will connect with a god who has my trust. Wait for her to introduce you if you want the god to listen. That stone of yours – the Jewel of the Celestial Mandarin – is about irrelevant in the eyes of a celestial god.”

Manovan gulped. “Thank you for the boost in confidence”, he said and turned to leave. Before he left, he turned and gave her a big smile. “You're staying for the night, right?”

At first she raised one of her eyebrows and frowned her forehead, but then she smirked. “We'll see.”

He was pleased with that answer.

“Um, what are we supposed to do with all these people?” Cypher whispered to Yuko. They had all gathered at the central square between the pyramid manse and the palace. All the time, something new amazed the people. The idling guardians were one thing the children never got tired of and the walking stewards managed to scare someone new every time they showed up.

“We should find them somewhere to stay”, Yuko replied. “There are thousands of empty houses in this city.”

“Well, some of them could be trapped or, um, have dangerous devices.”

“Are you saying we should let them stay in the palace?”

“Um, I doubt Coral would like that.” Cypher tapped on his nose. “We could go to the north-eastern district. I, um, am sure it's the living district. Every district in this city seems to, you know, have a function connected to a manse. The area around this square and along the road, um, to the northern and southern gates are connected to the central manses here. I believe the features and functions of the buildings here are directly connected to those sources of power.”

“Cypher”, Yuko said and rolled her eyes.

“And, um, the tower district we were at a few days ago were most likely, um, connected to a district manse that would help with academical research and, you know, working flight docks. The factory-cathedrals and the temples should both, um, work in the same way.”


“Which means that there should be a district left, um, for, you know, living, breathing mortals who needed—“


“Um, yes?”

“Go to the factory-cathedrals”, Yuko ordered with slim, tired eyes. “You're getting weird and overly talkative again. You should let me take care of the people and go study an ancient tome or build something. I can see your body shaking like an addict's.”

“Can I really?”

She nodded.

He showed a goofy grin and then danced away towards the Factory-Cathedral District. Left were Yuko with a hundred villagers. Next to her stood Lucas of Harps and scratched his forehead while looking at Cypher hopping away in joy. Lucas was pretty much the spokesperson for the villagers who had chosen to be subjected to the exalts still. Gorg and Harm had had lengthy conversations with both Manovan and Yuko during the journey, but they had done so more out of obligation than of their own free will. They had tried to have conversations with Cypher, but even the easiest of topics turned too complicated for them to comprehend.

“I mean no offense but Master Cypher is a peculiar man”, Lucas said to Yuko and nodded in the direction Cypher was going. “What's his story?”

“I don't know”, she replied shortly. “There's always something new and weird about that boy. The only thing I know is that his mind works in mysterious ways.” And that he has either great guts or is totally clueless, she added in her thoughts, thinking about how he successfully deceived the sorcerer-engineers for almost two weeks during the dragon's march.

Lucas smiled. “What is yours?”

“Story, you mean?”

He nodded.

She pondered the question for a moment. Her story was that of failure. First in the eyes of her father and second in the eyes of the Ledaal family. If not in the eyes of the entire Realm, considering her new partnership with anathema. She was expected to be gone for a few years together with Peleps Wakde's dragon. The dragon that had been killed during the time she was locked in time within that strange phoenix statue. And considering what the stars showed these days, she had probably been declared dead since some time now.

Or no, that couldn't be the case. Knowing her family, they had eyes and ears everywhere. Even, somehow, in times that had yet to come. They knew that she was alive. At least some of them should know about it. The question was whether or not they cared.

“I'm sorry, Lucas”, she said. “My story is not much for the ear.”

“I understand if you don't want to share with someone of my status”, he said. “It was rude of me to ask.”

She gave him a quick look and contemplated whether or not she should say: “yes, it was indeed rude”, but she decided not to. Instead, she turned to the crowd. “Follow me, everyone. I'll find you someplace to settle in.”

Whispering Rainbow Cypher stood before a great arch with a sign saying: FACTORY-CATHEDRALS in Old Realm. At each side of the arch stood a twenty foot guardian of the slimmer models but with far greater weaponry and armory than the bulkier ones. They were active, as indicated by the white glow coming from their eye sockets. They looked like animated armors in green jade with joints in orichalcum and starmetal. It must have taken at least four talents of jade to have enough material for each of the two guardians. In addition to their intimidating appearance, they had Twilight Caste markings engraved on their foreheads.

Cypher looked at them for a moment before he took a deep breath and then walked between them to get through the arch. He didn't get far before two grand goremauls blocked his path and he noticed four glowing eyes intently watching him.

He took a step back. “What, um, are your directives?” he stuttered in Old Realm.

“Restrict entrance to factory-cathedrals”, they said, both at the same time, with deep mechanical voices.

“Who is allowed entrance?”

“Factory-cathedrals are restricted to anyone but … sorcerer-engineers … engineers … engineering disciples.”

Cypher tapped on his nose. “I'm a sorcerer-engineer.”

They were quiet for a moment before they both said: “Name: Whispering Rainbow Cypher. Not registered as sorcerer-engineer in records. Not permitted entrance.”

“Are there any exceptions?”

“Temporary entrance is permitted through Seal of Authority … To Twilight Caste … To No Moon Caste … To …” The guardians were quiet for a second. “Last entry is missing from record.”

Cypher tapped on his nose again and then lit up the caste mark on his forehead.

“Caste confirmed”, the guardians said. “Entrance permitted.” They removed the goremauls from blocking the entrance and he walked through.

As soon as he passed through the arch he was met by a desolate area of stone, metal and various crystals. He was surrounded by high, flat facades of towers – though not as high as those in in the tower district or the one connected to the palace – and giant domes. He could spot at least three different levels of roads and bridges and he was on the bottom one, shaded by the bridges above. This area was about completely free from plant-life and the only leaves he could see were the ones on the ground that had been carried by the wind. A few dim lights emanated from crystal spheres and pipes to lit up the shaded lower level. The stone and metal streets of the lowest level were flat and wide and he assumed that it was to be able to use vehicles to travel with materials to the factory-cathedrals and to transport constructions from them.

He could see the top of a giant dome further inside the district. It's sheer size and location made him assume it was the district's central manse. It was probably from there every factory-cathedral got its power. It's great walls seemed to have warm, red lights and Cypher could almost feel a warm pressure emanating from the dome, almost like that from a great forge. Was the manse of the fire aspect? He could only assume.

The district was great and he felt embraced by a feeling of pride and honor for knowing that he was the first person to step into Creation's greatest place for construction and design since the Dragon-Blooded ruled this city during the Shogunate. It was finally time to put the factory-cathedrals back in the hands of a Twilight Solar – just like the original intention with them was. Getting them up and running would be difficult and it would take time. But he was Exalted. He had plenty of time. And the thought of what he could accomplish with these was astonishing. Maybe he could one day rival the great Kal Bax himself.

Yes, Coral could handle the politics. This was where Cypher belonged.

Manovan of the Sea was just about to enter the western jungles when he spotted Glorious Horizon walking towards him with his naked upper body soiled in the blood of various creatures. The blood-drenched man was, despite his goofy smile, someone Manovan was happy that he knew. If he had seen this man, who had almost five feet between both shoulders and was drenched with blood, without knowing him … well, let's just say that being a Solar Exalted wouldn't have prevented him from having chills down his spine. What he saw was a beast. A man that could snap the neck of a bull … with one hand. Thank the Unconquered Sun – and thank Luna, he assumed – that Horizon was a good guy.

“Wow”, Manovan said and frowned his face. “You seem to have had a lot of fun.”

Horizon grinned and Manovan could see chunks of raw meat stuck between his teeth. So Lunars didn't cook their meat? Or was this just Horizon's habit? Whatever it was, it was disgusting.

“Hello”, Horizon said and a drop of blood ran down his chin. He licked it up and swallowed.

“How was … the training with Chanti?”

“Tough!” he said and walked up to Manovan who had to tilt his head backwards until it hurt to be able to look the man in his eyes when they stood next to each other. “She is a stubborn woman. Don't make her angry. She would eat you.”

Manovan broke out a grin. “Thanks for the tip.”

“Seriously”, Horizon said and his eyes were dead serious. “She would eat you.”

Manovan gulped a little. “I'm sure she would.”

“She would turn into something with big teeth and she would bite right through your chest and swallow you whole. She would swallow you whole! And you would sit in there in her stomach and think: 'Hey! I shouldn't have made her angry!' But it would be too late by then.”

Manovan patted him on the shoulder but he had lost his grin. “Well”, he said and almost stuttered on his words. “I wouldn't be able to sit in her stomach if she bites through my chest.”

Horizon gave him a confused look and scratched his head.

“Listen, friend”, Manovan said. “I'm going to Mother Chak-Na to perform a prayer. Do you know her?”

He nodded.

“Good. Maybe you can lead me to her camp?” He was interrupted for a second by a black bull who was grazing the grass next to him. It was the one remaining bull from their first trip to this valley. Manovan smiled. “I heard some gods accept blood sacrifices.”

“I'm not going to be the blood sacrifice, am I?” Horizon asked and scratched his head.

“Of course not. But maybe you can help me get this bull to the Silver-Tail Fox Tribe's camp?” He nodded to Horizon. “You should be able to drag it through the jungle with those muscle mountains of yours, shouldn't you?” Manovan was wondering exactly how strong a Lunar could be and Glorious Horizon seemed bigger every time he saw him. He was interested to see if he could do something humanly impossible like dragging a heavy bull through thick jungle terrain.

“Okay”, Horizon said and walked up to the bull and gave it a slap on the head. The slap itself didn't look hard but it sure sounded like it was. The bull fell dead to the grass and Horizon easily picked it up and held it over his shoulder.

Manovan wasn't sure what expression to show. He had not expected this much. This … man killed a strong bull with an open-handed slap and then carried it on his shoulder. And he wasn't even sweating. He was smiling. Manovan knew that Horizon could easily kill him with that sloppy slap if he wanted to.

I suppose Chanti isn't the only Lunar I don't want to make angry, he thought.

They walked through the jungles for quite some time before Manovan could see the first traces of beastmen camps. A few beastmen scouts with silver-tailed fox traits stepped aside from their path to let them pass. Even if they didn't know Manovan by his appearance, they respected Horizon enough to carefully be out of his way. They passed some totems and weak wooden structures outside an underground cave. Dead animals, herbs and fruit hanged on strings around the primitive camp. In the middle of the camp was a quiet bonfire.

“Horizon, child”, a woman's voice said in Forest-Tongue. “Are you back so soon?”

Manovan noticed the one who spoke was an old beastman with silver-tail fox traits. It confused him that her voice had sounded so human. She was dressed similar to the old beastman they had encountered in the cave before they first met Chanti and her friends. She was dressed in skin and had a wooden staff with markings Manovan couldn't read.

The bestial woman finally noticed Manovan behind Horizon's massive body. “A human? No, you are the one Great Mother Chanti told me about.” She walked up to Manovan and sniffed the air before him. He was about two heads taller than her. He noticed that she was blind on both eyes.

“My name is Manovan of the Sea”, he said and embraced her furry hand with his. It felt weird that a hand with such sharp claws could hold such a gentle grip. He noticed that the woman was weak and her body fragile. “You must be Mother Chak-Na.”

“You have a good scent, young Solar”, the beastman said with a crooked smile. “If I could see, I'm sure I would see a strong, manly face with beautiful skin. I have dreamed about meeting the Great Mother's soulmate. I'm sure you are her perfect match.”

“Then you would be the first to call my face manly, Mother Chak-Na”, Manovan said with a smile. “I was gifted with a man's body but with a woman's face.”

“It pleases me that you call it a gift.”

“It has helped me in times of need.”

A loud thump was heard next to them where Horizon dropped the bull and stretched his arms and shoulders. Mother Chak-Na turned to him with a confused expression. “Horizon, child”, she said. “Did you bring food with you?”

“Blood sacrifice!” he said with a grin.

“Blood sacrifice?” she asked and turned her blind eyes back to Manovan. “Tell me why you have come, young Solar.”

“I need your help finding a celestial god to take my city as its sanctum. Do this for me and I will be in your depth.”

It looked like the beastman looked around herself even though her eyes couldn't see. She seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. “Of course we will help you with your prayer, young Solar”, she said. “But we don't want anything in return. You are our Great Mother's soulmate. We do everything you ask of us. Even if it costs us our lives.” She turned to Horizon. “But Horizon, young child. A blood sacrifice requires a living animal. Yours is already dead.”

Horizon scratched his head. “Uh, well, I brought food then.”

She smiled and turned back to Manovan. “A ceremony like this is a long process. Do you have something of value that can be offered during the ritual to help gaining the god's attention?”

“Something of value?” He dug through his bags and found the jade mina he had gotten from Cypher back in Yuro. “What about this?”

Mother Chak-Na placed her hand on the mina and closed her blind eyes. “It has value, that is for sure”, she said. “If the gods will accept it, I do not know. Place it in the bonfire.”

Manovan walked up to the calm bonfire and dropped the mina onto the wood. He stepped back and watched Mother Chak-Na initiate the ceremony. They lit up the bonfire and hundreds of beastmen danced around it to the sounds of drums and hymns in a language Manovan had never heard. More valuables were offered in the bonfire as the ceremony progressed and Manovan understood that everything were of great value. There were items and artifacts ancient to these jungles that were tossed into the flames.

Hours passed and the sun was setting in the far west. Many invaluable objects had been offered in the great bonfire but the beastmen seemed happy to offer them to the gods. When Manovan was starting to feel a little dry-eyed from the long ceremony, Mother Chak-Na nodded to him.

“Now for the last offering”, she said and handed Manovan a sharp dagger. “Give some of your celestial blood to the flames.”

He looked at the dagger and he looked at his hand. He then walked up to the bonfire and cut the palm of his hand with the sharp blade. He held it before the flames and pressed as much blood as he could from his hand. He then stepped back and stopped the blood-flow with his sheer willpower alone.

Mother Chak-Na stepped before the bonfire. She spoke loudly and in Forest-Tongue. “Halar, the Quill of Truth. Maroo, the Voice of the Trees. Shalrina, the Daimyo of Faces. I call the three of you in the name of Chanti Green-Paw, Lunar Exalted of the No Moon Caste and in the name of her soulmate, Manovan of the Sea, Solar Exalted of the Night Caste.”

As she uttered those words, the yellow flames turned blue and the atmosphere suddenly felt more humid. The leaves in the jungle trees rattled in a wind that couldn't be felt on the skin. She nodded to Manovan as a gesture for him to continue.

“Great Gods”, he said and could feel his purple hearthstone lit up even brighter. It raised his confidence a little. “My name is Manovan of the Sea and I am a Solar Exalted of the Night Caste. I am here to make an offer of great value.”

“And what can a newly born Solar have to offer?” a deep and echoing voice asked from the blue flames. Manovan thought he could see the figure of a bearded old man dressed in a beautiful robe within the flames. “Oh, I had hoped to see Chanti's pretty face. Where is she?”

“She is watching us from the sky, Halar”, another voice said from the flames. Even though this voice was easy to understand, it sounded like breezes through leaves and creaking trunks. “She obviously doesn't want to talk with us.”

“Oh? And why can that be?”

“Most likely because of her boon to me”, a female voice said from the flames. “Can you hurry up and give us the offer, Nightbringer? I have a shop waiting.”

“Great Gods”, Manovan continued. Their great pressure gave him some stomach ache but he could pull through. His hearthstone would help him. “I have a city without a god. A city greater than what any terrestrial's limited Essence can handle. You may know this city as Denandsor, or the City of Makers. My friends and I have lifted the curse and we wonder if a god such as three of you would be interested in having it as its sanctum.”

“The City of Makers, you say?” Halar, the Quill of Truth, said. “That is indeed something. Ah, I can imagine a new age of great research and design.”

“Was that all this was about?” Shalrina, the Daimyo of Faces, asked with a forced chuckle. “I understand its value but I have no interest in it.”

“Are you sure about that, Shalrina?” Halar asked honestly, like his name. “Are you truly satisfied with your tiny sanctum in Nexus?”

“I am, yes”, she said. “Nightbringer, I decline your offer but be sure to remind Chanti about our boon.”

Her presence faded.

“I too decline your offer, Manovan of the Sea”, Maroo, the Voice of the Trees, said with his whispering, creaking voice. “My sanctums are the trees and the wind carried through their leaves.”

“I would lie if I told you I wasn't interested”, Halar said when the second god's presence had faded away. “But lying goes against my nature. It was a long time ago I spoke with a Solar Exalted and I am enjoying this conversation, despite your celestial youth. The balls in Yu-Shan are rarely entertaining in this age of sorrows.” The god took a moment of silence and all that was heard were the sound that had returned to the wind and the crunching flames that still consumed the offerings they had given to these gods. “But I must let you know, as it is my nature to not leave useful information unsaid, that there is a restless god in Yu-Shan who was once very much familiar with the City of Makers.”

“Who is that god?”

“Her name is Hera, the Will of Fire”, the god said. “I will pass the offerings and the Essence given to me over to her in order to help you get her attention. But remember that she has no connection to your mate and she has been restless for centuries. I can not guarantee a pleasant conversation. Farewell.”

“Farewell and thank you, Halar, the Quill of Truth”, Manovan said as he felt the last remaining presence fade away. He looked at the blue flames and took a deep breath, preparing himself to speak to a new god. “Great Hera, the Will of Fire. My name is Manovan of the Sea and I am a Solar Exalted of the Night Caste. I am praying to you to let you know that the curse on Denandsor has been lifted and I would like you to take it as your sanctum.”

A strong breeze swept in through the trees and killed the blue flames. Manovan could feel a presence similar to that of the previous gods, but it was far stronger and he could barely breath. He felt his heart beat faster in his chest. He thought he could see a pair of eyes within the smoke that remained from the bonfire.

“What are the conditions?” a strong, female voice asked.

Manovan gulped. The mere pitch of the god's voice felt like it could shatter his will like glass. “The entire city will be your sanctum and you may tap into all of its manses as you wish. There will also be a temple in your name within the city's Temple District where priests will give daily offerings.”

The eyes became clearer within the smoke and it felt like they could see right through him. “And what do you want in return?”

“In return I want you to protect the city”, Manovan said. “Even if it's only by giving the people some traces of your celestial nature – willpower, valor and morale.”

The eyes looked at him for a moment. They were sharp and didn't blink. “I accept your offer.”

The strong presence faded away and Manovan took a deep breath. He had probably never taken such a deep sigh of relief before in his life. This had been intense. He was so thankful that he had the hearthstone, even if it had only helped by a little.

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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sun Oct 10, 2010 2:35 pm


Chapter 43: The boy from the fishing village XV

Viper knelt down next to a water barrel outside the hideout. His stomach was aching and he was throwing up his breakfast on the street. It wasn't aching because of a stomach bug. It was aching because of shame. He had shamed himself and he had shamed his sifu. And he had done so on his very first day as an Ebon Dagger. Master Dawn had forgiven him for his attempt to murder her, but he couldn't shake off the suspicious looks he had gotten from the other assassins when he had left the cellar and gone upstairs. They didn't know what the deal was but they had heard the ruckus downstairs and seen a shaken up Dagger come up with trembling lips. Dagger had given him the coldest look and he had been too ashamed for his actions to dare apologizing to him.

He had walked outside and now he was throwing up. He didn't even hear the footsteps behind him.

“Viper!” It was Dagger's voice.

Viper looked up on Dagger with dry, red eyes and traces of puke on his chin and cheeks. The first thing he saw was the punch hitting him in the face. He lost his balance and fell to the ground. Blood ran from his nose. He didn't dry it off. He looked at Dagger who glared at him with eyes full of anger and shame.

“You have shamed me before the leader, Viper!” he said and walked up to Dagger who still lied with his back to the ground. Dagger stepped over him with one foot on each side of his body. He crouched down and grabbed his jacket with one hand while he tightened the other into a fist. “I can't believe she forgave you that easily. She ordered me not to pursue you but I'm going to break that order.”

He punched him again and Viper hit the back of his head to the ground. He felt a surge of pain go through his skull and the blood that had been running from his nose now started flowing. His eyes got teary. Not because he couldn't endure the pain but out of reflex.

“I ought to kill you, Viper.” Dagger tightened another fist and was just about to punch when he noticed Viper slowly and shakily raising his hand in a protective gesture. Viper felt weak and defenseless. He was too shaken up to fight back. Dagger sighed. “I can't believe it. You tried to kill the leader but then when you got back up from the cellar, she looked at you like you were her favorite. I mean, what the fuck, Viper?” He lowered his fist and grabbed Viper's jacket with both hands. He shook him up and down. “Why didn't you tell me, Viper!? I thought your time in Bastion was your share of trauma! Why didn't you tell me about your village!?”

Viper's skull was aching with intense pain and Dagger shaking him intensified the pain with a heavy pressure to his nose. In addition to that, he could barely breath with Dagger crouching over his body. He coughed up some blood and Dagger stopped shaking him. Instead he stepped back, grabbed Viper's arm and pulled him up. Viper felt dizzy with blood still running from his nose. He tried to dry it off with the gi jacket but it didn't stop the flow. He leaned back and sighed. The blood was warm but felt cold with the even warmer air.

“I have left my past behind”, he said.

“Apparently not”, Dagger muttered and knelt down before Viper. He took off his bandana and tied it around Viper's head to stop the flow from his nose.

Viper looked at the scar on Dagger's forehead. “Scars”, he mumbled, but wasn't sure how to continue the sentence.

“We all have our share of scars, Viper”, Dagger muttered. “I too lost my parents when I was just a boy. What makes us strong is how we move on. How we handle ourselves afterward.”

Viper tilted his head and looked at his sifu.

“But you just broke one important rule of being an Ebon Dagger”, Dagger continued. “That is self-control. Scars are only markings to remind you of your past. They don't open up. Your past isn't a scar. It's a bleeding wound. You are still weak.”

Viper sighed. He knew that Dagger was right. He couldn't lose control again. “I'm sorry”, he said.

“Sorry won't cut it”, Dagger said shortly with eyes sharp and face stern. “You'll have to make up for it. Starting now. You and I are going to train today. And then you're going to succeed on your first mission on the day after tomorrow.”

Viper nodded.

“If anything like today happens again, you will be the one with a slit throat. Do you understand?”

He nodded again.

“Good”, Dagger said with a smirk. “Now, get up.”

They spent the rest of the day training snake style katas and practicing meditation in one of the dojos. Students came and students left. Most of them were random boys and girls who had no idea what kinds of students were mixed in with them. This was all the illusion of a normal dojo. When the assassins and the Ebon Dagger apprentices had their real training, they did so either in closed rooms or when the dojo were closed for the night. Viper and Dagger trained openly for most of the day. He had to take it easy anyway because of the injuries to his face.

Once the night's darkness cloaked Nexus' streets, Viper and Dagger sat on the dojo's roof eating rice-balls and looking out over the dark alleys of Nighthammer. There were sounds coming from the docks where dockworkers loaded and unloaded supplies to and from ships and worked on repairing flooded areas. A buzzing sound came from above their heads where they could witness an impressive flying vehicle coming from Sentinel Hill, probably after having picked up some important ambassador from Lookshy. The first time Viper had seen those flying vehicles, he hadn't believed his eyes. He couldn't say that he was used to them now either, after having seen at least a dozen of them. The fact that humans could fly amazed him. He wondered how Nexus looked from high above.

Viper had spent most of the day having Dawn in his mind. If Viper of today could talk to Viper of yesterday, they would be arguing over whether or not someone like Dawn could be trusted. She was Dragon-Blooded but there were more to her than that. He understood that being Dragon-Blooded wasn't the issue. The issue were the dynasts of the Peleps family and those loyal to them. If he followed Dawn obediently, then maybe she could help him achieve his goal.

“Dagger”, Viper said. “How did Dawn become the leader of the Nighthammer Squad?”

Dagger gave him a quick look and smiled. “It was amazing”, he said. “She just walked into the hideout and demanded to speak with our leader. None of us had ever seen her before. We tried to fight her but she defeated us all without even injuring us. She used the Dragons' powers – created flames from thin air and moved faster than humanly possible. I've never seen anything like it.” He couldn't hold back a short chuckle. “When she had managed to draw out the leader, she spoke to him before all of us. She told him that she was going to prove herself to them all. Her abilities had already proved to me that she was beyond human, but she wanted to prove herself further. To make us trust her.”

“What did she do?”

“There were about a dozen imperial ships docked here at the Pool that day. Merchants, diplomats and soldiers from the Realm. Even a handful of Dragon-Blooded, pimped out in all colors jade. She killed them all and burned the ships.”

Viper's jaw dropped. “You're kidding!? She took out a dozen imperial ships by herself?”

“Within minutes.”

“That really is … beyond human.”

Dagger smiled. “Later that night, our leader stepped down. He called her master and bowed before her. It was really something.”

Viper couldn't believe it. Dawn had burned down a dozen imperial ships and even killed a handful of Dragon-Blooded. She was not only a fearsome assassin but truly an enemy of the Realm. His respect for her grew and grew. He wanted to serve her. He had to learn from her. He wanted to become like her.

“Tell me, Viper”, Dagger said. “What do you remember about your family?”

Viper leered at Dagger, surprised by the question, but Dagger still looked out over the alleys. Gray ashes begun to slowly fall from the sky and cover the street like a thin layer of dust. “Well”, he said. “I remember the incident like it was yesterday. But the rest is vague. I was young.”

Dagger didn't say anything.

“There's one thing I can see though”, Viper continued. “I can see my brother and my sister on the swing-sets. They are smiling and waving to me. I can see my father coming home from a fishing trip, being greeted by a hug from my mother. They are all smiling.” Viper couldn't resist smiling himself. “But I don't think it's a genuine memory. I think I have created it.”

“Hold onto it”, Dagger muttered. “I don't have memories like that because my family never smiled. Only once did I see my mother smile. She hid me under the bed to protect me from my father. My father stabbed her with his sword and then let himself fall on its edge. I was hiding under the bed, biting my own arm not to scream. The last thing my mother did before she died was looking at me with a smile. I couldn't understand why.”

Viper looked at Dagger and didn't know what to say. He searched for the proper response in his mind but couldn't find any. It was Dagger who broke the silence.

“But now I understand”, he said. “Her smile was supposed to tell me something. She was supposed to tell me to continue living. And here I am, risking my life every day as an Ebon Dagger. Taking others' who probably don't deserve it.”

“So why do you do it?” Viper asked.

“My target is my own fear. But fear isn't easy to kill. I joined to constantly surpass myself. To perfect myself.” He finished his rice-ball and leaned back on the roof, looking up on the stars above. “Showing the tough guy act is part of the job. Acting is easy. When I was younger, killing was easy too. But since I begun training you – take this neither as an insult or a compliment – I have started to question whether or not this is the right path for me. I often feel this pain in my stomach whenever I kill someone.”

Viper leaned back too and looked at the stars above. It was said that every star represented a god. “So what are you going to do about it?” As he said those words he could see a lonely star fall from its place in heaven. A god had died.

“I'm going to keep doing my job”, Dagger said. “I'm an Ebon Dagger. There is no way out.”

“But if you talk to Master Dawn, I'm sure she'll let you be a full-time instructor and recruiter instead of having to do assignments.”

“No”, he said. “That would make me look weak to the others. And Dust Spider already knows. He's giving me even more assignments to punish me for it. And sometimes he requires the most despicable of deeds.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well”, Dagger said with a slight stutter. “He's a psychopath. He wants brutal, gruesome kills. Or creative, as he calls them.”

Viper had realized the first time he met Dust Spider that he was a psychopath. He was not just the sadistic kind but the one that seemed to draw true pleasure from the act of ending life itself, like murder itself was the meaning of his existence. And yet he couldn't feel any kind of regret or even hesitation for murder, even when the victim would be innocent and be suffering greatly.

“Then stop accepting missions from him”, Viper tried to explain. “Don't let him lure you in.”

“You know already … If you don't do what Dust Spider tells you to – exactly like he tells you to – you will most likely end up dead. I have seen it before. Fine assassins gone missing or ending up dead. I'm sure it's another Ebon Dagger who kills them on orders from Dust Spider. They are too scared to decline him so they kill their own comrades without hesitation.” Dagger sighed. “Like you did with Rak.”

Viper hadn't really been thinking about the time when he killed Rak the other day. It was first now he realized that he had done it so easily. The boy had been an Ebon Dagger and Dust Spider had asked for his tongue. Why did he rip out his tongue? What would that prove? It didn't really felt like he was himself at the time. Like he had gotten an impulse to kill after his discussion with Dust Spider. Like the mere request itself had gotten him longing for murder.

“It was my final test”, Viper muttered. “I had to do it to join.”

Dagger didn't say anything. He rested his head on the palms of his hands.

“Why don't you move in with me and the orphans?” Viper asked. “We got plenty of room. Milo, our oldest, found a job at a farmstead outside the city and the kids would like someone to fill his spot.”

“I have a house”, Dagger said.

“Where you live alone, yes.” Viper sat up and looked at Dagger who tried to avoid eye contact. “If you move in with me, you would have a family. Try it at least.”

“Maybe. No promises.”

Viper smiled. “Good”, he said. “But tomorrow you'll join Glittering Wolf and myself for a trip to Cinnabar. It's her birthday.”

“I can't”, Dagger mumbled. “And it's not because she's totally hot and would dump you for me if I came along. It's because I have an assignment. This time from the leader.”

“What kind of assignment?”

“Can't really tell … but it involves infiltrating the Iron League.”

“Seriously? That's quite hardcore. Who's the target?”

“Not target. Targets. Five of them. All officers.” Dagger sat up again and stretched his arms and legs. He let his legs hang over the roof edge.

“Who'd call for such an assignment?” Viper asked. “And the Iron League too. Must be some rich slave merchant or something trying to get a market going despite the law against slavery. Are you sure it's smart to accept?”

Dagger sighed. “Damn it, Viper! You know I can't tell you. But no … it's a valid assignment. This is a long-runner though. I'll tell you more about it when you grow in rank.”

“So all I have to do is grow then?” Viper asked with a smirk.

Viper woke up early the following morning after having gone to bed late because of the long fight he had with Glittering Wolf about his damaged nose. He knew that she was worried about him, but the nose would heal in no time. It wasn't broken. He woke up just after the markets had opened for the day and small beams of light illuminated the small bedroom. He didn't want to wake her up. She would sleep for at least two or three more hours.

Viper couldn't help but to look at her when she slept. She was so beautiful. And now she was eighteen years old. He suddenly felt very young. There were two months to go before he turned sixteen. He knew that his relationship with Glittering Wolf was special but he couldn't help but to think about what if she actually dumped him for Dagger. He was one year older than her and he could beat Viper to a pulp if he wanted to. He had done so yesterday.

What if she saw Viper as a little brother more than a lover? He had never slept with her after all and she knew that she might have to wait years before he could actually do it. He was too … messed up. He could, for her sake, let her go out with other guys. But it would hurt him if she did.

He shook off the thought. It was time to prepare for her birthday. It was time to use his Ebon Dagger skills for other means than assassination. He would need absolute stealth. This was training!

He slowly and carefully sneaked out from the bedroom where he was met by two big, round, hopeful, brown eyes staring at him with sheer joy and anticipation. “Good morning, big brother!” Lotus said, loudly and happily, and in Viper's mind it sounded like a cacophony of clinking metal pots accompanying an earthquake and erupting volcano. So much for stealth.

He quickly covered her mouth with the palm of his hand and whispered: “Don't wake her, little loudmouth.”

She nodded quietly and he removed his hand. She had a big grin on her face.

“I'm giving you a top secret mission, Lotus”, Viper said with a smile. “Can you do that?”

She nodded.

“Wake up your brothers and sisters – quietly – and gather them in the living room.”

She showed the biggest grin and then ran clumsily away through the corridors. Viper went downstairs and started to clean the room and the kitchen while he waited for the others. Within ten minutes, everyone but Glittering Wolf were there.

There were Mint, a fifteen year old girl who had lived with them for the last year. She had been orphaned since three years back and was still stealing food and money from time to time. She had long, dark-brown hair and green eyes. She looked more tired than most this morning since she was one of those who were out late during the nights and usually slept into late afternoon. Apparently she had been prostituting herself to older guys for drugs in the years before she joined the family. The first months had been tough, but nowadays she seemed very thankful to Glittering Wolf for giving her this home. She was still taking drugs from time to time, but she didn't seem to use any extreme methods to attaining them anymore.

One of the older guys who were there was Rume. He was one year older than Glittering Wolf and had been living with them for three years. He had always been a good guy who had never been in a fight and never stolen anything. He was working in the shop Vinegar Well up the street but chose to stay here with the family even though he could afford a cheap place to live. His biggest enjoyment in life seemed to be taking care of the kids, teaching them morale values and how to read and write.

Farim was there, obviously. He was one year older than Viper and was one of those who had been living there the longest. He joined Viper, Glittering Wolf and Wing shortly after they came to Nexus. He was a good guy who took care of his siblings and who liked to help at home. But he had his bad habits too. He tended to pickpocket and steal at the markets and bet money on street fights. At least he brought in some good amounts of silver bits.

Most of the older teens had been leaving the home as soon as they found jobs and a few had even left to try their luck away from Nexus. Most people moved in, stayed shortly and then left. There were only a few who were loyal and looked at the family as a real family. One of those were Saya, a thirteen year old girl who had a big crush on Rume. She followed him around all the time and even came down to Vinegar Well when he was working there. He enjoyed it to some extent but it got annoying the older she got. Farim used to joke about it, saying it was puberty. They had all seen it before with new girls chasing the older guys. Boys were more shy about what they felt about the girls in the house. One boy, High Leaf, had declared his love for Mint a few months ago and she replied by slapping him in the face and kicking him in the balls. Nowadays, he stayed away from her as much as he could, even though she had tried to apologize more than once.

Viper had never been followed by any girls other than little Lotus. But she was young and followed him around more out of admiration than out of love. He used to be away most of the days, either training with Dagger or having done dirty deeds with the cutthroats. Because he mostly came home only to sleep, few of the newer kids knew him very well. They still respected him because he was Glittering Wolf's boyfriend and they saw him as the mysterious leader whom they respected but knew little about. He enjoyed it to some extent.

Apart from the teens, there were five kids about Lotus' age and younger. They all came from damaged families or from suffering some traumatic event. But still they played together and showed this happy exterior Viper could only dream about. Maybe it was this new sense of comfort they had with this family that helped them cope with their losses? Chin and Chan were two eight year old twins who had been living with them for three months now. They dreamed about becoming pirates, but Viper doubted they knew what pirates really did. Bealin was a five year old who had been left on their doorstep last year by her sick mother. Everyone called her Bean and she was a quiet little girl. Then there were Max and Violet, the siblings. They used to play with Lotus and were almost as smart as her.

Now when Viper was looking at all of his siblings, he realized how much he cared for them. The fact that they were everything to Glittering Wolf meant that they were everything to him as well.

“Listen up, everyone”, Viper said before the crowd of orphans. “Today is Glittering Wolf's birthday and we are going to make her the biggest cake this house has ever seen. Understood?”

Last edited by Manovan Marrowsteel on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sun Oct 17, 2010 12:13 am


Chapter 44: Founding a city

Manovan woke up shortly after dawn by the comfortable sensation of Chanti's warm breath against his neck. She breathed heavily, still exploring the realms of her dreams. He turned around so his eyes met her sleeping face. She had always been so full of power. She had seemed so strong to him. But as she slept, Manovan noticed that she looked just like a woman in her early twenties – though far more beautiful than any girl he had ever witnessed. The Glittering Wolf he remembered had been beautiful too, but she had been human. Chanti transcended humanity and went far beyond. He wasn't sure how much it was her actual appearance that attracted him to her. She had no features that weren't perfect in his eyes but he noticed that she radiated some kind of supernatural attraction that was closest compared to warm beams of light.

He looked at how the refreshing morning light caught her light-brown skin and how its smoothness reflected some of that light like the finest porcelain. He carefully stroke her chin with his index finger. He enjoyed its softness and it's natural warmth. He let his finger slowly slide down to just below her chin to which he gave support as he kissed her.

He couldn't help but to notice the scent of her breath which was that of cinnamon, his favorite spice. He wondered if that scent was her natural or if her celestial beauty made him imagine his favorite scent as he kissed her only to increase his attraction to her. Glittering Wolf used to smell of cinnamon too – but that was because it was a cheap spice in Nexus which she used for most of her cooking. It was her scent and that was why he liked it. He had never seen Chanti eat or even carried cinnamon before. Did he want to think about Glittering Wolf when kissing Chanti? He carefully leaned in for another kiss. Yes, the scent was too perfect.

She sighed deeply in her sleep and Manovan thought he could hear a faint moan as she exhaled. Some of her perfectly clean, red strands of hair fell down over her cheek and he carefully moved them back with the palm of his hand. Even her hair had caught some of the sun's warmth as they were illuminated by the morning rays. He looked at her silver-white lock and wondered why it was of a different color. It wasn't colored by her, he knew that much. He thought he had recognized similar traits, though not as hair locks, with the other Lunars. Omar had a strong silver-white glitter in his eyes and Horizon had some silver-white spots on the skin between his shoulder blades. He hadn't gotten a too good look at Blackhorn to make out any traits on him. Manovan touched the lock. It looked good.

Shortly after he touched the lock, he noticed how she slowly opened her eyes. He thought that he could see traces of oval cat-like pupils over a moonsilver iris widening out as the silver-color iris became nut-brown. When she had fully opened her eyes, the eyes were like normal. She smiled to him and was just about to open her mouth to say something when she suddenly sat up in the bed and sniffed the air around her. She tilted her head backwards and raised her nose like a dog sniffing in the air.

“You're such an animal”, Manovan mumbled and stretched his arms and legs. He noticed that her moonsilver tattoos made a faint glitter and her caste mark appeared on her forehead. “Is something wrong?”

“Probably not”, she said and gave him a reassuring smile before she moved her sheets aside and stepped out from the bed. “I just caught something strange with the scent of Horizon's sweat. Like if something is troubling him.”

Manovan turned to the side and rested his head on the palm of his right hand as he watched Chanti's naked body from behind. He watched her patterns of moonsilver tattoos that were widely spread over her body. There were mostly curved tribal tattoos that didn't seem to mean anything, but with a few exceptions of markings that followed specific patterns – though he couldn't make out what they portrayed. He remembered that Cypher had told him that the Lunars used tattoos to protect themselves from the Wyld's chaotic shaping effects. If he would step into the Wyld like Chanti could do, he could have his body and mind reshaped and he could be killed by chaos alone. Wait a minute? Did she say “the scent of his sweat”?

“The scent of his … sweat?” Manovan asked with a pitch that was somewhere between surprise and indifference. It was something new, that was for sure, but nothing with Chanti could really surprise him anymore. “Isn't he in the jungles … miles away?”

She stepped into her leather skirt and pulled it over her hips where she tied it with a belt. She turned to him and he couldn't keep his eyes off her naked breasts. He had never seen any being more perfectly shaped and he doubted he ever would.

“Yes? What about it?” she asked and then reached for her one remaining garment to cover her breasts before she went out.

Manovan shrugged. “Nothing. It's just a remarkable sense of smell.”

She smiled.

“But that's not all that is remarkable about you”, Manovan continued. “I'm sure Horizon is fine. Why don't you come back to bed?”

She leaned in over the bed to give him a kiss on the lips. “I should go”, she said and smiled before she leaned back. “I'm proud of you for how you handled the gods yesterday. But today you should focus on the villagers you brought here. If you are to be their leader, you must start practicing to become a good one. More mortals will show up sooner than you think.”

“I know”, he said and leaned back on the big, fluffy pillow with the back of his head rested on the palms of his hands. “I must tell them about Hera – and have them choose a temple for her at once. She might be impatient.”

“I can't promise I'll be back today”, she said. “I have lingered here for too long already.”

“Just come back soon”, Manovan said with a smile. “I want to get to know my soul-mate.”

“You will”, she said. “But you and I have time on our hands. I wish I could say the same about the approaching Wyld.”

She transformed herself into an owl and flew out through the open window. Manovan remained in the bed for some time, thinking about Chanti and about his meeting with the gods. He was looking up at the painted ceiling. It looked like the painting portrayed the Elemental Dragon of Fire. It was probably done at the time the Dragon-Blooded daimyo ruled this city after the Solars had been wiped out. It was a beautiful painting with colors intact despite the many years that had passed. But this was his palace now. Maybe he should think about new motives?

He focused on sensing the Sun's presence in heaven and decided that it could be wise to get up. He looked through the deep closets for clothes that had survived the centuries in good condition and, to his surprise, he found plenty of them. One set of clothes that attracted him were the short, red yukata with fitting, black pants. The yukata had embroidery of black dragons and symbols that reminded him of old realm but clearly wasn't. Maybe it was an old form of high realm. He didn't know but assumed the garment was from the Shogunate. He put it on and tied the yukata together with a black sash. He also found a pair of matching sandals.

Manovan walked up to a mirror and looked at himself wearing these old clothes. They looked fresh, like they were made of threads of materials that didn't deteriorate with time. Maybe red and black jade? It wasn't an artifact though. He realized that much. His moonsilver necklace with its glowing, violet hearthstone and his orichalcum bracer were clearly visible when wearing these clothes. This was his city. He had no reason to hide who he was anymore. He looked like a daimyo. Now he would act like one too.

He took a nice bone comb he had found in a drawer and combed his long, black strands of hair before the mirror. There was a water fountain just next to it. He tasted the fresh water and then splashed some in his face and hair. He dried it off with his hand and combed his hair until it was all clean and shiny. He had to settle without soaps and perfumes. He felt respectable anyway. He decided to let his hair fall down to just between his shoulder blades.

He noticed his black snake bag lying on the floor next to his bed. He picked it up and realized it was empty. “Come here, Dawn”, he said and tied the bag to his sash. Shortly thereafter, his coral snake slithered out from under the bed and up his leg towards the bag. “Can't go anywhere without you now, can I?”

Before he left, he put on the harness for the Essence glider and his black backpack holstering his serpent-sting staff. He left his item bag, his throwing knives and his poisons back in the bedroom, grabbed the half-empty bottle of that special wine which he had shared with Chanti when in bed and then headed out through the corridor to the office. He took a few sips along the way. It tasted too good to pass up.

The big tome lied open on the desk in the office. He remembered that they had cleared it from the desk after they used it a few days ago. He walked up to the table and closed the giant tome, took a sip from the wine and then placed the bottle on the table. He heard three knocks on the door behind him and opened the second later.

“Manovan”, Yuko said. “I saw you come in here.”

“You're up early.”

“So are you.” She took a few steps into the office but chose not to approach him. He turned to look at her and their eyes met. She had lifted her hair with a comb and her robe looked clean. It was rather respectable. “The people have settled in at a square just north-east of here. Twenty minutes by foot. We found an administration building where Lucas, Gorg and Harm have gone to work. They are waiting for you.”

“I'll be right there.”

“You look good in those clothes by the way”, she said but avoided eye contact as she did so. Manovan noticed that she had seemed reluctant to say it at first but maybe she wanted to make peace between the two. He thought about giving in to it. If he looked at it from her perspective, she had given up a lot for his and Cypher's sake. Master Dawn had taught him that there were Dragon-Blooded who followed paths different to the Realm's. The state of Lookshy was one proof of that. She was another. He had enjoyed their little conflict because he had, for the first time in his life, felt in a position of power compared to a Dragon-Blooded. But maybe it was time to put that act to the side. She was trustworthy after all.

“Thank you”, he said. “I found some robes too if you want a change of clothes.”

He immediately noticed that she raised her eyebrows, surprised by his comment. “Um”, she said. “Thank you. I'd like that.”

“You've done good, Yuko”, he said. “I assume you're the one who registered the villagers.” He nodded towards the tome.

“You were gone for hours yesterday so I took the liberty to use the office.” She scratched her forehead. “But there's something you should know.”

Manovan crossed his arms and leaned back to the desk. “Yeah?”

“We lost a life yesterday”, she muttered. “A young man. His name was Han Sprout.”

Manovan tilted his head. “How?”

“Some of the buildings seem to have traps. He walked into one and was melted by a beam of light just as he stepped through the door. There were some children witnessing the event. They are scared.” She pouted her lips and looked down at the floor. “We had a memorial in your absence last night but maybe you should say a few words to calm the people.”

“Have you had Cypher look at the building?”

“He has still not come back from the Factory-Cathedral District. I sent a man over there to fetch him last night but the man couldn't get past the guardians. I doubt he's dead but I can't help but to be worried.”

“You're a sorcerer-engineer, aren't you? What are your thoughts on the traps?”

She shrugged. “I doubt this city is within anyone's but Cypher's expertise. We have marked the house with a red x. I suggest we do the same to all trapped buildings until we can properly deactivate them. Though finding out which one's are trapped are difficult without trying to set them off. A few buildings are safe to use but most of the people slept outdoors on the square.”

Manovan nodded and then stood up from the desk and walked up to her. “Lead me to that square”, he said.

They walked out from the palace to the central square outside. The sun was shining brightly and the sky was clear. Manovan noticed that the city sounded different to the first days here. He could hear mosquitoes, crickets and birds. More and more life came back to the valley.

Yuko pointed to a building opposite to the palace from across the square. Despite being a large five floor building, it looked tiny in comparison to the palace with its enormous tower. “That building is clear. I've taken the top floor as my quarters.”

He gave the building a short gaze and then smiled to Yuko. “So where is that square?”

“It's in what we call the Living District”, she said as she led him towards it. “The people are hungry though. I could feed some of them through Food of the Aerial Table, but I've drained my Essence. Can they send out some people to hunt in the jungles?”

“Of course”, Manovan said. “As long as they stick to the eastern ones. You already know why.”

“Yes, about that. How did it go with the prayer?”

Manovan grabbed his violet hearthstone in a fist and thought about the intense conversations he had with the celestial gods the previous night. “I offered the city to Hera, the Will of Fire, a celestial god who had experiences with the city in the First Age. I suggest you take some priests – or people who can take the role of priests – to the Temple District and give her a temple today. I promised her daily offerings and prayers.”

“Hera, the Will of Fire”, she repeated. “Yes, I can do that.”

They continued to the square where tired and hungry people suddenly got up on their feet and greeted their mayor with graceful bows. It was a beautiful square with a five-layered fountain in its center with thin water streams running out from it like rays from a sun. Surrounding the square were three- to five-floored buildings in polished white stone. One building standing out was a five-floored building with a big sign in old realm above its porch. From the door came Lucas of Harps to greet the mayor.

“Mayor Manovan of the Sea”, he said and bowed before Manovan. “We have decided to use this building to archive our meeting reports.”

“According to the sign, it was used to as an administrative center for the living quarters surrounding this square”, Yuko filled in and pointed to the sign above the porch.

“We could use the three of you exalted ones for our first meeting”, Lucas said.

“Momentarily”, Manovan said with a smile. “First of all … People! May I have your attention, please?” He walked up to the fountain and stepped up on the edge of its first level so that they would more clearly see him across the square. The people gathered around him and more people showed up from nearby houses that were seemingly clear of traps.

Manovan thought for a moment if he should use Essence to help with his speech but decided not to. To them, he had a radiating enough presence to have them listening to his words. “I know you've had a rough first day. You have left your homes because of a tragedy and you came to a new home greeted by another tragedy. A young man died yesterday and it has affected all of you. But remember to have hope. I have summoned a god to look out for you. Her name is Hera, the Will of Fire, and she will grant your heart comfort even in the darkest of times. All she asks for in return are your prayers and your gratitude.” He noticed his hearthstone make a faint sparkle and he continued. “If you want to be a priest in Hera's name, go with Master Yuko to the Temple District and choose a temple that you think will be the best representation of Hera as this city's god. The city itself will be her sanctum but that temple will be her altar. Give her daily prayers and offerings and she will grant her will to you when in doubt and her fire to you when in darkness. As a Priest of Hera, you will radiate valor and strong will while I, as a representative of He who is Unconquered, shall radiate the brightness of the Sun upon you.” As he said the last sentence, he made his caste mark glitter as a reminder to the people of what he was and what he had done to save them from the Wyld barbarians a few days ago.

The speech seemed to have worked. His presence alone were probably enough to calm the villagers. About a dozen men and women walked up to Yuko and offered themselves to help finding a temple for the city god.

Manovan nodded to her. “Come back here in two hours”, he said. “If you run into Cypher, make sure he shows up as well. Can't you sorcerers send messages or something?”

“I already told you that I've drained my Essence”, she said. “But I'm sure he'll show up.”

“Whispering Rainbow Cypher”, a metallic voice said in old realm. “Whispering Rainbow Cypher. Whispering Rainbow Cypher.”

Cypher scratched the sleep from his eyes. His face was sore. Had he been sleeping with his face on this panel? He was sitting in a chair before an ancient panel inside the giant dome that was the center of the Factory-Cathedral District. It looked like some system of magitech and clockwork where the panel controlled a big crystal screen as well as the machinery of this Fire Aspected manse. He hadn't managed to get into the system. It was probably broken. The crystal screen had lit up at one point and introduced itself by saying “I AM” before it broke down again. He remembered those words from the crystal screen he found inside one of the towers.

The manse was hot and humid and he could hear the mechanical sounds of machines at work under his feet. He assumed the heat came from underground but he hadn't found a way down there. Figuring out these systems would take long. He knew that much. He could probably hijack individual factory-cathedrals but he didn't have any blueprint plates that fitted the machines. There should be some plates archived somewhere in this district, but without access to this manse, he would have to look for them manually. How troublesome.

“Whispering Rainbow Cypher”, the mechanical voice said.

He turned around and noticed an automaton shaped like a human with about the size of himself. Its mechanical chassis was smooth and perfectly clean, but it had some dents along the neck and chest. It was probably bugged in some way.

“Yes?” Cypher said.

“How can I be of service, Whispering Rainbow Cypher?”

Cypher understood that the automaton knew his name because he was registered in the tome in the palace. There had to be some connection between it and the oldest, sleeker automatons so that they would be able to identify individuals and help them with their needs. He tapped on his nose. “Um, how do I gain access to the manse's systems?”

The automaton looked at him with its lifeless eyes but didn't respond.

“Well”, Cypher said. “Then, um, where do I find the plates for the factory-cathedrals?”

“Blueprints are located in Plate Archives.”

“How do I, um, access the Plate Archives?”

The automaton didn't respond. Cypher looked at it for a moment and then sighed. He assumed that he had to repair the systems itself to get it to work, but that wouldn't be easy without any experiences of the systems themselves. If he had actually been one of the Solars constructing this system in the first place, then why couldn't he remember how to use it now? Could it be that the Unconquered Sun didn't want him to or was it because the memories were still too vague to be accessed?

He leaned forward and sighed, tapped on his nose and then leaned back. How long had he been here? An hour? A day? He focused his Essence to feel the Sun's placement in the sky and noticed that he had been here a day. He knew he ought to go back to Manovan and Yuko to figure out what's going on with the rest of the city.

He had to do something practical. If he couldn't figure this out, then he had to work with something else.

“Read it up to me”, Manovan said and leaned back in the creaky chair and crossed his arms. Lucas sat with a quill in his hand and a couple of papers on the table and they both glanced at Gorg who stood before Manovan across the oval table.

Gorg was a chubby old coot with a bald head and a trimmed, gray beard. He looked tired with dark rings circling his bloodshot eyes but Manovan could tell by looking at him that he enjoyed crafting the foundations of what was to come, even if it deprived him of a proper night's rest. He was holding up a parchment from which he read in forest-tongue: “This is the first decree of the City of Dreams, located in the Solar Valley.” Manovan smirked as Gorg spoke “Solar Valley” and felt proud of the name, which had sprung from none other than himself. “We welcome you who follow the virtues of the Unconquered Sun. If you are compassionate and brave with great conviction but strong temperance, then you are welcome to make this city as your home.”

“Stop”, Manovan said and rested his chin in the palm of his hand. “I'm not sure I like those sentences. In a world with a widely spread Immaculate Philosophy, it would be unwise to add the virtues of the Unconquered Sun into the decree itself. What we should do is … work it into the text somehow.”

“Could you elaborate, Mayor Manovan?” Gorg asked and gave the parchment to Harm who sat next to him at the table. Next to Gorg, Harm looked starved with a fragile frame. He quickly finished braiding the long hair with his swift, skinny hands, grabbed the parchment and put it before him on the table. Manovan and Harm exchanged glances. The man's face was wrinkled with long years gone by. He raked through his thick gray beard and dipped his quill in the inkwell and waited for his mayor to tell him what to fix.

“We welcome you who are … peaceful and ambitious”, Manovan said. “Effective but simple and it covers two of the virtues.” He leaned forward and rested his arms on the table. “Look, it was your idea to bring the Unconquered Sun into it all. I am grateful to him for the powers he has given me but I'm not the kind of man who risks attracting the Realm by spreading the word that we have children of the Sun living here.”

“Yes, Mayor Manovan”, Harm said and scribbled something on the parchment.

“Read the rest of it.”

He gave the parchment to Gorg who looked at it and read: “The City of Dreams needs you who want to help forming a city of greatness. But to form a city, we need workers, scholars and soldiers as well as youths who can take apprenticeship with them. Unprovoked harassment and murder will get you exiled. Property is yours if you have been given it, traded it or worked for it. Stealing and unlawfully using others' property will have you either pay for it or be exiled.”

“I have a question”, Lucas said without taking his eyes off his papers. “With all these estates and valuables around, how do we know who it belongs to? I mean, we're alone with all this property but no owners.”

“It's a bit complicated at the moment”, Manovan said and scratched his chin. “Even though Cypher deactivated many of the guardians, we are not sure if we can take all the remaining property without triggering some active ones. In addition, there are property we can't identify that might be dangerous. What I suggest – and you should write this down – is that we catalog property and distribute it when we have identified it and know it safe.”

“That's quite an undertaking, mayor.”

“Better to be safe than sorry, Lucas”, Manovan said with a smile. “Would you continue, Gorg?”

“Taking and owning slaves is forbidden within the Solar Valley”, Gorg continued. “If you, as an outsider, bring slaves on a temporary visit to the City of Dreams, the slaves will not be taken from you but they will be treated equally to free human beings. If you, as a slave owner, permanently become a citizen of the City of Dreams, your slaves will be freed from your ownership and must be payed for their work like free men and women.”

Adding that law was obvious to Manovan. The three elders had argued against it at first but they had never been slaves themselves. They didn't know how it felt to have one's freedom stripped. But his word was stronger than theirs and they dared not argue against him.

“Speaking of payment”, Lucas said. “Any suggestions on how to get an economy starting?”

Manovan shrugged.

“I suggest we start trading with wares and services”, Harm said. “Until we have enough jade and silver to make it go around. We need to open trade with other villages soon but it won't be easy with neither money nor wares for export.”

“I understand that money is an issue”, Manovan filled in. “But maybe Cypher can get those factory-cathedrals to produce something for export. And this valley should be able to grow whatever we need in no time with those artifacts underground.”

“What artifacts, mayor?” Lucas asked.

“Well, apparently there are artifacts buried under the meadows and jungles that speed up plant growth. If we start working the meadows, we should be able to harvest in no time.”

“That's amazing. If we send someone to Sen'i and tell them about this city, then we can grow cotton in the meadows for export.”


“Yes, it's a village three days south from here. They make a living making cloth with cotton as their specialty.”

The conversation came to a halt when they noticed Cypher standing at the entrance, tapping on his nose and looking at them with his big, round eyes. “Hello”, he said and helped himself in.

“You've been gone since yesterday”, Manovan muttered.

“Ah, yes”, he said and sat down at the table. “I lost track of time. Um, much work is needed still on the factory-cathedrals.” He looked around himself and seemed to have found a sudden interest in all the book cases along the walls. “Oh, what are all those scriptures in here?”

“We haven't had time to read them yet, Master Cypher”, Lucas said.

“Cypher, do you still have that map you found in the tower?” Manovan asked.

“Yes. Why?”

“Can you show them the area around this valley?”

Cypher tapped on his nose and then looked through his bag for the orb. He found it, placed it on the table and activated it. The three mortals all flinched when the map of Creation appeared in the air above the orb. Cypher let his fingers move and slide over it and he had zoomed in to the valley within moments.

“Lucas, could you show us where that cotton village is?” Manovan asked.

“That … that is ...” Lucas got up from his chair and leaned in closer to the map. “That's the valley right there.” He smiled. “And where our village used to be. Was that all of Creation we saw before Master Cypher ...”

“No”, Manovan said. “Apparently it's smaller today. The Wyld ate it up. Just like they are currently trying to do with your country here.”

Lucas gave Manovan a confused look.

“Don't worry about it. Chanti is fighting it back. Could you please show us that village now?”

“Ah, yes, I'm sorry”, Lucas said and moved his index finger closer to the map. He gave Cypher a bewildered look. Both Gorg and Harm came closer to watch the display.

“Slowly slide over it with your finger”, Cypher explained.

Lucas nodded and slid his finger towards himself and the map followed with its focus southwards. “There!” he said and pointed to an area on what looked like an open field even in the times of when this map was created. “Many of the villages in Melekin are dedicated to some kind of specialty. While Sen'i produce cloth and work with textiles, we have Fo'ji close to the iron mine to the west where they specialize in metal craft. Of course, not every village and town is like that. It was the king's idea to focus a knowledge in one area. Since this is a small country, he wanted it to excel in certain fields and by having one village focus on one thing, it wouldn't be distracted into mediocrity.”

“Where does the royal family live?” Manovan asked. “I would like to speak with them.”

“They live in Ro'yaru, the capital city”, Lucas said and slid his finger further east and showed an area that was dangerously close to where Chanti had told Manovan that she was fighting the Wyld. “But I don't think it's wise to send someone there. We got words about two weeks ago that the military is fighting those tribes of Wyld barbarians from one direction and tribes of beastmen from another.”

“Beastmen, you say?”

“Yes. Well, they don't know that Chanti Green-Paw is sending the beastmen there to fight a common enemy.”

Manovan wasn't so sure that she sent them there only for the Wyld. Knowing her strength and age, he assumed she would work towards her goals whether there were mortals there or not. She would probably have her beastmen eat right through that city if she thought it was in the way.

“I'll just ask her to check up on them some day”, he said and leaned back in the chair. It could be wise to check up on some of the villages in case there were more Wyld barbarians out there. “I would like to take a couple of villagers with me and go to Sen'i. Preferably today.” He placed his hand on Lucas' shoulder and let Essence wrap around his tongue. “Lucas, you're coming with.”

“Yes, mayor”, Lucas instantly replied.

Manovan knew that he didn't need to use the Hypnotic Tongue Technique to have him obediently follow his orders. He had first used it on Cypher that time in the armory when it had him work intently on subduing the guardians. He kind of wanted to test it out on a mortal once and the request had been harmless. He had to be careful though. A Charm like this could easily be addictive.

He nodded to Gorg and Harm. “Enlighten Yuko about what we have discussed and have her help you finish the decree.”

They nodded.

“Cypher”, he continued. “Ask Yuko about the trapped buildings before you go back to doing whatever you are doing. A man died yesterday.”

He stood up from the chair and nodded to Lucas that they better get going. He couldn't help but to smile. Being in this kind of position was truly a pleasure. He hadn't been giving people orders since Nexus.

Last edited by Manovan Marrowsteel on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sun Oct 17, 2010 11:21 am

really loving how the story is progressing. Smile

and just realised i never commented on the pictures....really love Chanti Very Happy

"We are the ones that want to choose; always want to play but you never want to lose."
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sun Oct 17, 2010 10:00 pm

Vypra wrote:
really loving how the story is progressing. Smile

and just realised i never commented on the pictures....really love Chanti Very Happy
Heh, are you referring to the furry pic? Smile
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Mon Oct 25, 2010 11:38 pm


Chapter 45: Calling Lookshy

Manovan of the Sea was met by the admired gazes of his people who were out on the square outside the administration building. A few of them had put up tents next to the fountain, afraid of entering any buildings because of yesterday's incident. They had made themselves comfortable on the square and reminded their mayor more of a group of beggars than of a proud people. “I need three people who can handle themselves in combat”, he said and waited for a response.

“I know how to swing a sword”, a husky man said and stood up from having leaned over the fountain and drunk from its water. He was able-bodied, that was for sure, and he looked at his mayor with granite-colored eyes over a bulbous nose and a big grin. He wasn't the most pleasing man to gaze upon, but that was irrelevant. He looked like a man who could beat people up. He combed his straggling carrot-shaded hair with his bulky hand. “My name is Thor, mayor.”

“My brother and I served in the army, Mayor Manovan”, another man said from a balcony of one of the safe buildings around the square. He didn't look younger than thirty years old but had a scar across his nose and a short, trimmed beard covering a dirty face. Next to him stood a man with a similar appearance but without the scar and without the beard. It had to be his brother. “We fought in the war against Injir.”

“I don't need you for a war”, Manovan said and expressed a smile of delight. “Lucas and myself will be traveling to Sen'i and we need armed men to protect us along the way.”

“Do you want us to protect you, mayor?” the man on the balcony asked and he couldn't help but to grin by the mere thought. Manovan noticed that he lacked both middle teeth like a young child who was beginning to lose the baby teeth. “You are a god. How can we possibly—“

“I may have godly powers but I am still only one man”, Manovan interrupted him. “I am not the only one on this trip. Lucas will be with me. And I will need one more. Someone who is good with words and can speak for the city.”

“I didn't mean to offend, my lord”, the man said. “We will gladly assist you on the journey. If you're looking for someone who's good with words you ought to speak to Bildan who should be at the square with the crystal orb.” The man pointed to a street leading southwards.

Manovan looked at the street and nodded. He hadn't heard about a square with a crystal orb before. Most of the crystal orbs he had encountered had been used to illuminate dark rooms but he didn't rule out that there could be ones with other purposes.

“Be ready”, he said to the men and nodded to Lucas to follow him.

They walked along the road until they entered a smaller square surrounded by similar houses. A few tents had been placed around this square and about a dozen people were here. A few men and women sat in an open tent and smoked from a pipe while a handful of kids ran around and played in the area. In the middle of the square was an open pavilion with a shimmering crystal orb, about as big as a water melon, resting on a podium. Once the people noticed Manovan, they quickly got up on their feet and greeted him with respectful bows.

“I am looking for Bildan”, Manovan said, though his gaze was focused on the orb.

A young man with straight coffee-shaded hair reaching down to his shoulder-blades stepped out from the small crowd and bowed. He was holding a small notepad in one hand and a lead pencil in another, but still bowed more gracefully than most of the other villagers. Manovan looked at the young man. He was dressed in a crimson-red cotton shirt and matching pants tied with a sash in orange linen. They were simple clothes but the red and orange matched the man's hazel skin and copper eyes. The man was about as tall as Manovan himself and his facial features were quite similar with high cheekbones and curved lips.

Manovan instantly liked the young man. Not only was he beautiful but he reminded him of himself. “Are you Bildan?” he asked.

“Yes, Mayor Manovan”, the man said but avoided eye contact.

“I've been told that you are good with words.”

“I don't know, mayor”, Bildan said and lowered his face. He gave his notepad and his pencil a quick gaze. “People keep saying that but I'm nothing compared to the poets of Inbun.”

Manovan gave Lucas a quick gaze. “Inbun?” he asked with raised eyebrows.

“It's a small village just west of Sen'i”, Lucas explained. “They have the only academy outside of Ro'yaru.”

Manovan nodded and looked at Bildan from top to bottom. Their eyes met for a moment and the young man blushed. His self-esteem didn't seem to be the best, but he would have to do for now. He surely had the looks and the sense of fashion needed to give a good impression. All he had to do was to straighten out his back a little to show a more proud posture and dare sharing eye contact, even with someone of Manovan's status.

“I don't care who you compare yourself to”, Manovan said. “I'm making you my herald.”

Bildan took a surprised step back and gasped. “Herald? What ... what do you mean?”

“It means that you will be my closest servant”, Manovan continued. “And I'm not referring to the kind of servant who will run around like an errand boy. Your duties will be strictly political. You will travel to neighboring towns and nations to speak for the City of Dreams and you will be greeting visitors of high status to make sure they get a good impression of us. Would the royal family come here from Ro'yaru, you will be the one to greet them and make sure they are comfortable.”

The young man tilted his head and tried to speak but only managed to stutter and smack his tongue. Manovan frowned his forehead. He understood that stuttering and smacking wasn't what he would describe as being good with words. He might as well let the boy get a moment to process the idea of being his herald before he said anything more.

The people listening to the conversation were as quiet as Bildan, but it didn't take long before he managed to loosen up his locked tongue and speak. “Thank you, my lord. I am honored. However, I'm not sure I am deserving of such a position.”

“You'll be”, Manovan said with a friendly smile as he walked up to the young man. He placed his arm around his back and led him towards Lucas. “I'll be going with you to Sen'i today. If you follow me, you will get your confidence up in no time.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

“And this is a position that will have you bathe in wine and luxury”, Manovan whispered with a smirk. “Every boy would want to be you and every girl would spread her legs for you.”

Bildan blushed a little and then gave a nervous look over his shoulder. Manovan followed his eyes and noticed that he looked at a young woman around their own age. She was sitting next to a water barrel with a firm grip around a filled cup. She was looking intently at the two of them, as fascinated by Manovan as she was curious about what he wanted with Bildan. So she was the girl of his dreams? An eighteen or nineteen year old with curly raven-black hair and eyes as deep blue as the great ocean itself.

Manovan smiled. “Only interested in one girl, I see.”

“Her name is Reva”, Bildan said and couldn't help but to smile. “She's my muse. But I've been too shy to ask her out. Her father doesn't think much of me.”

Manovan gave a short chuckle. “As my herald, not thinking much of you would be a direct insult to me. Just stand proud and show her that enchanting smile of yours. If she doesn't fall for you then, we ought to question her sanity.”

Bildan nodded and smiled. “Thank you, my lord”, he said once again.

“Lucas!” Manovan nodded to the elder. “How many horses did you bring with you from the village?”

“About eight or nine, mayor”, Lucas said.

“Take six horses with you to the southern gate. Make sure the men from the square come as well. We'll be there shortly.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I'm going to give my herald a matching set of clothes. And—” He gave the shimmering crystal orb a short gaze. “I should check if that orb is safe to be around.” He took Lucas' hand as a gesture for him to leave and then placed his hand on Bildan's shoulder. “Stay back.”

He walked up to the pavilion and to the crystal orb. He wondered what it could be and why it was placed in the middle of a square in the Living District. He carefully placed his hands to the smooth surface that felt almost like liquid to his touch. People's eyes were on him but he didn't care. He let some Essence flow into the orb through the palms of his hands. The sun's strong light faded away and all he could see was pitch-black darkness.

But within that darkness appeared a faint source of light. Manovan couldn't move. He could only follow the light with his eyes as it approached. He noticed the figure of a middle-aged man with long, white hair and bloodshot eyes. The man was dressed in beautiful purple robes and he held a blazing orb in the palm of one hand and an open book in the other.

“Who are you?” Manovan asked and the man almost recoiled by the sudden sound.

He turned his head to Manovan and couldn't help but to frown his forehead and raise his eyebrows. Manovan felt small in comparison to the man, like if he was looking up at him from the floor. The man slowly crouched down towards Manovan who noticed that he wore Lookshy's crest on his purple robe. If the man was from Lookshy, then maybe forest-tongue was the wrong language to use.

“Are you from Lookshy?” Manovan asked, this time in riverspeak.

The man gave his crest a quick gaze before he placed his book in a bag tied to his belt and reached for Manovan with his hand. As the man stood up, it felt like the young Solar followed him up from the floor. It was almost like he grew in size or was lifted by the man.

“And you are?” the man asked in riverspeak.

Manovan wasn't sure what was going on. Had he traveled to Lookshy or was there a man from Lookshy here in the City of Dreams? He focused on releasing himself from the orb by cutting his flow of Essence to it. Lookshy was the last state, except from the Realm, that he wanted to have on his back.

He could once again feel the liquid surface against his palms and he realized he was back in the square. He looked around himself and noticed that people were staring at him. He gazed intently back at a Bildan who stood a few steps beside him. “What did you see?” he asked.

“I'm not sure”, Bildan stuttered. “Your eyes went blank when you touched the orb. And … you spoke.”

“Did you see an old man?”

He shook his head.

Manovan took a sigh of relief. Maybe there was no man from Lookshy here after all. He couldn't afford to get their attention. At least not when the city was in such a young state. They could simply take it from him if they wanted to. He looked out over the crowd. “Approaching this orb is strictly forbidden!” he yelled. “You may live in this square but do not touch the orb!”

The people gave each other bewildered looks but seemed to have understood the message. He nodded to Bildan and they walked together towards the palace at the central square. Manovan informed the young herald about the decree and about what he could and could not say when speaking about the city. Once they could see the central square from the road, they encountered an exhausted Ledaal Yuko together with one of the priests as a follower.

She waved to Manovan from afar. “I'm sorry for being late”, she called. “Did you have the meeting already?”

“We had”, Manovan said. “Gorg and Harm will enlighten you. I will leave the city for a few days.”

“Where to?” she asked while nodding approvingly.

“Sen'i. Possibly Inbun. Villages in close proximity to the valley.” He smiled to her. However, the smile was more to prove himself to Bildan than it was to acknowledge Yuko. “You might have understood this already but it's up to you to take care of the city while I'm gone. I can't trust Cypher with it since it's impossible to break him out of his shell of social awkwardness.” He noticed she couldn't help but to smile as she recognized his point. “I trust you not to start spewing any dynastic nonsense though.”

She rolled her eyes, not at all surprised by his sly comment. She tilted her head and smirked to him. “No need to hurry back home, mayor”, she said with a sarcastic tone.

He snorted and then nodded to Bildan that it was time to keep going. Bildan bowed gracefully as a farewell to Yuko and she responded with a polite nod. As they entered the gardens of the central square, passed some idling guardians and approached the entrance of the palace, Bildan was looking at everything around him.

“I will never get used to this place”, he said. “It's beyond the words of poetry.”

“The city itself is poetry, don't you agree?” Manovan replied and walked up the stairs to the gate. He pulled them open and revealed the great vestibule with its majestic display of animated paintings overlooking them from the ceiling.

Bildan looked at the ceiling above and tried to follow the great battle it portrayed. Heroes who radiated golden light fought otherworldly creatures and behemoths as big as mountains. “It is”, he said. “What does it say?”

Manovan looked up. He didn't know what battle it portrayed but he recognized the Solar heroes. It was hard to imagine that there had been creatures like those behemoths in the world. The battle had to be symbolical, like a testament to the powers of the Solar Exalted. If the old Solar Prince had used this ceiling to impress his servants and mortals, then maybe he could use it for the same.

“Those blazing heroes represent Cypher and myself, children of the Unconquered Sun”, Manovan explained and pointed to one of the animated heroes who drew a sword that emanated strong light. “A long time ago, we had created a utopia in Creation. There were countless cities across the world that looked similar to this one. Unfortunately, now only ruins remain.”

“Why? What happened?” Bildan looked at Manovan with big eyes, waiting impatiently for an answer.

His mayor could do nothing more than frown his forehead. “I'm not really the one to ask”, he said. “Cypher is the historian of the two of us. What I do know is that the Solar Exalted were betrayed by their trusted servants who craved the power they had. You have heard of the Shogunate, haven't you?”

He nodded. “Master Lucas told me many years ago. The Shogunate was a military era where the world was ruled by daimyos. According to Lucas, one of those daimyos ruled over this city and was the one who summoned the curse to prevent it from falling in the hands of an overwhelming army.”

Manovan raised his eyebrows. That was more than he knew about the cause of the miasma. It could very well be true since parts of the city had looked like a battle field when they first came here. “The Shogunate was formed by those who overran us in the First Age. But they lacked the power to control – and protect – the world themselves. The Realm of today is what remains of their attempt to take over. In order to make sure we don't reclaim the world from their iron fists, they formed the Immaculate Philosophy as a ways of manipulating the public into seeing us as something dangerous – or anathema, as they call us.”

“Are you saying the Dragon-Blooded used to be your servants but betrayed you to take over the world? That's horrible.”

Manovan gave him an approving smile. “Indeed it is, Bildan”, he said.

“Is that why you and Master Yuko doesn't seem to get along?”

Manovan scratched his head. “She knows her place”, he muttered. He placed his hands on Bildan's shoulders and looked deeply into his eyes. “But don't worry. If we can – through goodness – show our light and will to make the world a better place, then maybe we can have the Realm accept us without any blood being spilled.”

That sounded so cheesy, he thought to himself. He had sworn since the tragic day fourteen years ago that he would spill much dynastic blood when the opportunity would come and he was reluctant to breaking that promise to himself. However, it was much too soon to be speaking about war with a people who couldn't even defend themselves against something as simple as Wyld barbarians.

He gave Bildan a compassionate smile and then led him upstairs to the bedroom. He sat him down on a stool next to the mirror and then looked through the closets after something that looked good but he didn't want for himself. He found a white robe with old realm pictograms in bronze and crimson. He held it up to Bildan. “What do you think?” he asked.

“I'm grateful, my lord, but it's too much a gift.”

“Nonsense”, Manovan said with a smile. “Try it on.”

He gave the robe to Bildan and then leaned back to the closet door and crossed his arms. He watched Bildan change into the robe but evaded with his eyes as the man stripped naked. He didn't look away because he was shy but out of a sudden respect for his fearsome wife. Manovan knew very well that the male form could attract him. He had seduced many men in his days as an assassin, though most of the time it was while posing as a woman. There was a time when he could do whatever would work to get close to his targets. Though he wasn't sure if it were those acts themselves that had shaped his fascination for both male and female forms. It was probably something that had always been with him.

He couldn't say he wasn't attracted to Bildan. But he could say that he was not going to pursue it. His bond to Chanti was strong and it grew stronger with every day. And he had not only transcended mortality but transcended the need for mortal companionship. Chanti was all he needed and he longed for her already. As a Solar Exalted, he was now too good to let himself be attracted to a mortal. At least he liked to think of himself as too good for it.

Bildan posed before the mirror and seemed to like the robe. “Thank you, my lord”, he said.

Manovan nodded in agreement. “Shaped like a mortal but dressed like a god”, he said. “Now you are ready to represent the City of Dreams.”

Bildan grinned with all his teeth and Manovan could see how his posture was much more valiant and proud than before. Giving him the robe seemed to have been enough to give the man some self-confidence.

“If only the king himself would be as kind as you, my lord”, Bildan said while looking at the invaluable robe he wore. “If only you were king. Someone like you could turn this country around. I know it.”

Manovan couldn't help but to smile.

Whispering Rainbow Cypher was happily strolling down the road to the square with the crystal orb. As soon as he noticed it, he found a sudden interest to investigate it further. An orb was always a good sign. The orb was said to be the ultimate shape, representing completion and perfection. A shimmering orb in the middle of a square could only be a good sign. It was located there to be of use. He couldn't wait to find out how.

As he approached the orb, one of the square's inhabitants called out to him. “Master Cypher”, the man called. “Mayor Manovan said that the orb was forbidden.”

Cypher didn't acknowledge the man. If something was forbidden then it was only more reason to investigate it further. He had just deactivated a trap in a building Yuko had marked with a red cross. The security systems in these estates were simple dealings after all. All needed to deactivate such systems were understanding of magical materials and Essence flow as well as a basic understanding of architecture and First Age technology.

He touched the orb and investigated the liquid surface. It was smooth and reminded him of the central mind unit in the armory. However, this one was much simpler than that. He could feel some traces of starmetal within the crystal shell. This artifact wasn't trapped. He understood that much.

He let some motes of Essence flow through his hands to the orb. The sounds from the square faded away and he noticed that his eyes gazed upon something else than the orb he was at. It looked like he was in the middle of a round mahogany table surrounded by men and women dressed in white and purple robes. They all raised their eyebrows when they noticed him on the table. He felt small and he couldn't move.

“That's not the same man as I saw before”, a middle-aged man with long, white hair said to the other people at the table. He spoke in high realm, the language of the Realm, but his crest was that of Lookshy.

“Um, excuse me”, Cypher said in high realm. He understood what the orb was. It was a communication device connected to a simple artifact. Somewhere in the world – most likely in Lookshy – a projected image of himself appeared as a hologram from a small device that was directly connected to this orb. It was probably placed in the square for representatives of the people to have direct communication with those who led the city if they were on trips away from home. The device had most like ended up in Lookshy somehow.

The people at the table all frowned their foreheads and looked at Cypher. “Who are you?” one of them asked. It was a second middle-aged man with a fragile frame and short, steel-gray hair. He looked at Cypher with slim, brown eyes framed in by a stern face.

“My name is, um, Whispering Rainbow Cypher?” Cypher said. He wanted to tap on his nose but he couldn't move. “And who are you?”

The men and women gave each other quick looks. The old man then leaned forward over the table and rested his chin in his palm. “We are sorcerer-engineers of Lookshy”, he said. “I believe you have activated one of our artifacts. Where are you currently?”

“Um, in the City of Makers”, he said.

The sorcerer-engineers gave each other bewildered looks and the man raised his eyebrows. “The City of Makers?” he said. “I've heard that city is cursed. Isn't that true?”

“My friends and myself, um, lifted the curse”, he said. He really wanted to tap on his nose.

“You lifted the curse?”


“And how many are you?”

“Um”, he said. “We are three. Oh wait, we're more than a hundred now, I think.”

“More than a hundred?” the man tilted his head and looked at an old woman next to him. She looked back at him and shrugged. The man scratched his forehead and then grabbed a quill in his hand and dipped it in an inkwell. He let it rest over a blank piece of parchment. “Where exactly is the city?”

“Um, in Melekin”, Cypher continued. He suddenly realized that he had just told strangers about the location of the city. Was that a good idea? Somewhere deep inside his mind, he could feel a throbbing ache telling him that he had just done something stupid.

“We'd like to know more about you, Whispering Rainbow Cypher”, the old sorcerer-engineer said. “We'll send a diplomat to you. Expect our visit in a week or two.”

Cypher wasn't sure how to react or respond. He released his flow of Essence to the orb and reappeared in the pavilion on the square. The shimmering orb was still shimmering before him. He had just told Lookshy where they were and that the city's curse was lifted. He was certain that Manovan would not approve of this.

Last edited by Manovan Marrowsteel on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:46 pm

I'm currently working on re-doing all of the chapters. I have to take care of some plot holes and inconsistencies (as well as some poor language). I've edited Prologue, Chapter 1: The boy from the fishing village, Chapter 2: The nameless figure and more to come, though slowly. Unfortunately my document got corrupted at 274 pages so I had to look for backups. It all worked out in the end but it scared me.
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sat Nov 06, 2010 1:04 am


Chapter 46: The boy from the fishing village XVI

“Open your gift”, Viper said with a smile as he nodded to the small package he had placed on the table. He had been smiling a lot today. Since it was Glittering Wolf's birthday, it felt like none of his troubles could bother him. He wanted to spend time with her, as he had promised. The present he had bought for her was packaged in a small box of varnished black jungle oak. He hoped she would like it.

She was full from eating much of the whipped cream and cinnamon cake the other orphans had baked for her. They weren't very skilled in the kitchen but it was still the best tasting cake she had ever had. At least that's what she had told Viper during their little morning feast. They were all sitting around the long table – Viper sat next to Glittering Wolf, surrounded by the youngest of the children: Lotus, Bean, Chin, Chan, Max and Violet. The teenagers were there as well; Mint sat together with Saya and High Leaf while Farim had gone to clean the kitchen. Rume hadn't been able to join for the feast since he had to open up Vinegar Well for the day but he had left a common bottle of white wine as a gift for Glittering Wolf before he left.

Glittering Wolf gently touched the smooth varnished surface of the dark box and investigated it with her eyes, curious to find out what hid inside. She gave Viper a quick look and smiled before she slowly opened the box. Inside were five rings in glittering silver, all with sharp pins. They were resting on a maroon-red sheet of thin silk. She dropped her jaw.

“Are these in silver?” she asked. “I mean, in real silver?”

Viper nodded with a smile.

She quickly removed one of her earrings, placed it on the table and took a ring from the box. She let the pin pierce the tiny hole in her ear lobe and closed the pin to the ring's lock. She gently touched the smooth silver surface. She looked at Viper and grinned. “I love it”, she said and kissed him on the lips. He could taste the cream and cinnamon cake on her shapely lips. “But they must have cost a fortune.”

“I've been saving up for some time”, he said. “You deserve more.”

She smiled and kissed him again. Then she kissed him on the cheek and on the nose, forgetting that his nose was still aching from yesterday's incident with Dagger. He ignored the quick surge of pain to not have her worry about him.

Glittering Wolf removed her other earring and put on another of the rings. She looked at the box and suddenly stopped. “There are five of them”, she said and gave Viper a bewildered gaze. She carefully touched the two metal rings in her bottom lip. “I only have four piercings.”

“Well”, he said. “You've been saying that you wanted to pierce your eyebrow. I bought another one in case you wanted to do it today.”

She exposed all of her teeth with a big grin.

“Though I can't imagine how you'd want to”, he continued. “It must be painful. Piercing my ears was painful enough.”

“You cried like a baby”, she said with a smirk.

“I was eight years old and you didn't even sterilize the needle”, Viper tried to explain himself.

Saya giggled a few seats next to him. He gave her a frowned look and pondered whether or not to point his tongue at her but decided to go with pouting his bottom lip. Her giggle turned into laughter. The laughter passed on to Lotus and the children. Viper noticed Mint leaning back in her chair with an amused smile.

“That's what happens when you give a sharp object to a ten year old”, Glittering Wolf said with a smile. She gave Viper round eyes full of excitement. “Can we do my eyebrow now?”

“Sure”, he said. “If you want to start out your birthday with a moment of pain. Crazy woman.”

She pouted her tongue at him.

“I'll get the kit”, he muttered and stood up from the table. The kit referred to a small bag with needles, alcohol and cotton pads. Glittering Wolf's love for facial piercings had rubbed off on many of the other teenagers who lived, or had lived, with them over the years. While almost all the orphans had cheap jewelry in their ears, only a few of them dared piercing their lips like Glittering Wolf had done. Mint was one of those teenagers. She also had a fake ruby in her nose which matched the ruby-red lines she had colored her otherwise black hair with. Viper did have pierced ears but he rarely wore jewelry in them. It tended to get in the way when he was training.

He gave Glittering Wolf a kiss on the top of her head when he passed by and was then met by Farim's brown eyes at the doorway leading into the kitchen. The boy nodded for him to come over.

Farim was a head higher than Viper and looked like the stronger of the two. However, he always lost in the fake brawls they had from time to time when playing around with the kids. Though Farim was not a slouch. He was an amateur street fighter and he brought in some serious cash by betting on fights.

“Can I have a word with you?” Farim asked as his brother walked up to him at the kitchen entrance.

Viper nodded and followed him into the kitchen. It was a small room with alabaster-white wooden walls. You could clearly tell that the room had previously been part of a storage due to the cracks in the walls and floor. One exception was the wall overlooking the living room which had been put up by the orphans when they moved in a few years ago. On the bench next to an open barrel of water was a pile of dishes. The cinnamon scent was strong in here and Viper felt that he could relax. He leaned back against the wall and raised his eyebrows. “Is something wrong?” he asked.

“Well”, Farim muttered and scratched his chin. He was trying to save up for a beard but only had an indication of it as of yet. The stubble itched on his face and he seemed to enjoy how it felt against his fingertips. “Nice nose, by the way.”

Viper gently touched his injured nose. He could feel the blood pulsing within the swelling. “Thanks”, he said with a sarcastic tone. “I'm trying out a new look.”

“It suits you”, Farim said with a smile.

“Like looking into a mirror, isn't it?”

Farim took a deep sigh and leaned back against the bench with the dishes. He got a little whipped cream on the palm of his hand and he dried it off against the wood. “I can't come with you to Cinnabar today”, he muttered. His otherwise stern face got slightly blushed and he locked his gaze on a stain on the floor.

“How come?”

“Well”, he said and clicked his tongue a few times. He gave Viper a quick gaze. “Not the best moment to tell you this but you're barely home nowadays. I got a job. A legal one.”

Viper tilted his head. “Isn't that good news?”

“Yes and no. I mean, the fact that I have a job is good news. The bad news is that it's not in town. I need to leave Nexus. Today.”

Viper frowned his forehead and looked at Farim from top to bottom. It didn't look like he was lying. “Why haven't you told me before? Do the others know?”

“No, they don't know”, he muttered. “It all came up out of nowhere. I didn't know about it before yesterday.”

Viper sighed. “So, where is it?” he asked. “Is it on the fields outside?”

“Good Harbor.”

“Good Harbor!?” Viper bellowed, but silenced as he realized that his voice could be heard outside the kitchen. He lowered his voice. “But that's so far. I mean … it took Glitter and myself years to get from there to here when we were kids.”

“I know”, he mumbled. “Should I say no? I mean, if you need me here I will stay for sure.”

“What is the job?”

He gave a forced smile. “I was chatting with a Guild merchant a few weeks back. I showed him I was good with numbers and all. You know, because of my betting. Didn't tell him what I bet on, though.” He made a slight chuckle. “To get to the point … he told me back then that he would see with his superiors in the Guild if he could hire an apprentice. I didn't want to give you false hopes in case I wouldn't get the job, so I kept it a secret. Now he told me that he had to catch an urgent ship to Good Harbor and he wants me to come with.”

Viper flickered with his eyes a little bit and felt his heart skip a beat. Had a strange man told Farim that he wanted to take him away from Nexus as an apprentice? Could he really trust such a man? What if he was some pervert or slave dealer? Viper felt week in his knees.

“Are you sure it's, you know … not some kind of … you know ...”

Farim made a quick frown but then opened his mouth in surprise as he realized what Viper was referring to. “No, absolutely not”, he stuttered. “I mean … shit, well, no, the guy is reliable. I've seen his work. He has a full crew too. It's the real deal.”

Viper felt the strength come back to his knees and he could breath more easily. “That's good”, he said.

“I mean”, Farim continued and scratched his head. “You must think of me as some kind of traitor or something for even considering leaving. I just felt, you know, that maybe I could start over and do something decent with my life. Get a job and a family and just … forget things. Well, not you of course. But, you know … things.”

Viper walked up to his friend – his brother – and embraced him tightly. “You don't need to explain yourself, brother”, he said. “I'm happy for you. I really am.” He let him go and took a step back. “But you must tell the others.”

Farim sighed deeply and then nodded. Viper gave him a friendly push on the shoulder and then reached for the piercing kit in one of the kitchen drawers. He lit up a candle with some tinder they kept in the kitchen and then carried both the flickering candle and the kit with him to the living room where the others were chuckling and chatting as Glittering Wolf received presents from the others. Farim followed him to the table.

“Look what Mint gave me”, Glittering Wolf said and held up a transparent bottle with a strange red liquid. The bottle was tied with a crimson ribbon.

“What is it?” Viper asked with a smile as he sat down next to her.

“It's hair dye.”

“Just like mine”, Mint filled in.

“You'll look like a completely different person after today, Glitter”, Viper said and kissed her on the cheek. He gave Farim a quick nod and the boy weighed his feet from one to the other as he cleared his throat. He scratched his head and then said something that caused mixed feelings among the orphans.

Viper knew that Glittering Wolf had said good bye to many more orphans than he had over the years and that all of those good byes were sad and happy at the same time. The troublemakers of the streets would finally grow up and do something with their lives. It was never easy to lose a family member – even though they moved on to better lives.

It was afternoon when the orphans took farewell of Farim at the Nexus Pool – the northern one of the city docks. They were all waving to the swift brig carrying the Guild's neutral crest on which Farim had boarded. It was first when Viper had seen the merchant ship that he had been able to breath easily. He now knew that his brother had really been hired by the global trade organization called the Guild and he knew that he would most likely live a wealthy and healthy life. The ship had enough defenses to fight off common pirates and the crew looked experienced and reliable. And trading meant money. Lots of money.

Glittering Wolf had now red lines in her otherwise straight, black hair and she couldn't keep her fingers off the new silver ring in her sore eyebrow. She had complained a little about the pain as she had had troubles keeping still when Viper pierced her, but she seemed happy with it nonetheless. Her eyes were now wet from tears due to Farim's departure.

“Do you think we'll ever see him again?” she asked and carefully leaned her cheek on Viper's shoulder. They were sitting on a bench on the docks, gazing upon the ship traveling north-west along the Yellow River. Everyone but Rume and Mint were there. Rume had said farewell to Farim at Vinegar Well and Mint had said that there was something she had to do. Viper trusted that it wasn't something illegal.

“I hope so”, he answered. “It's not that far if you go by the river. Maybe we can go there together one day.”

She gave a little smile but then sighed deeply. “I don't think I'll ever leave Nexus”, she muttered.

Viper gave her a bewildered leer. “What makes you say that?”

“Because of the kids”, she said. “They need someone to take care of them.”

Viper was quiet for a moment, unsure how to respond. “I understand”, he then mumbled and scratched his forehead. His own ambitions would eventually force him away from Nexus. He had told Glittering Wolf that. But then again, he could not leave her. Would the right thing be to leave his dreams of revenge behind and run an orphanage with Glittering Wolf here in Nexus? He knew that it was her dream. But could he live her dream and not his own? He looked at his girlfriend and noticed her bloodshot eyes. She had been crying on her birthday. He couldn't allow that.

“Hey”, he said to the orphans. “Let's go to Cinnabar. I'll buy all of you the biggest grilled salmon skewers in Creation.”

“Cinnabar is awesome!” High Leaf bellowed with his mouth full of salmon. He was looking at everything at once, impressed by the great stairways and pillars of the many art buildings. They were sitting at the terrace of a busy restaurant at one of Cinnabar's many market lanes. The scent of curry was strong in this district and Viper could even smell the mild vanilla-flavored smoke coming from a water pipe at a neighboring table.

Viper chewed on some salmon and leaned forward to High Leaf, grinned at him and pointed to one great building reaching over the shops surrounding the street they were at. The building was surrounded by stone pillars holding up a framework with a heavy dome. He knew that High Leaf had wanted to go to Cinnabar for some time now and he had overheard quite a few boring details about the district in his days among the upper class. Maybe those details could interest someone with a more artistic approach to life. “That's a museum”, he said. “Did you know that those pillars are actually tilted inwards so that the building will have the perfect perspective from all angles? If you stand next to one of the pillars, you can see that it's weirdly shaped.” He swallowed the food he had in his mouth and smiled. “Quite an illusion, don't you agree? Since it looks perfectly straight from here, I mean.”

“Why did they build it like that?”

Viper shrugged. “Because they could, I guess. And this district is all about art.”

“I don't really understand art”, High Leaf said. “But this place is amazing.”

“I know you're good with the pencil, Leaf”, Viper said and leaned back in the chair. He drank a sip of wine from his glass and then smiled to his little brother. “Maybe you will have your own gallery here someday.”

“Yeah, right”, the boy muttered with a questioning pitch. He smiled and ate more of his salmon without taking his eyes off the impressive buildings.

Viper smiled too and drank some more wine. He could see Glittering Wolf in his periphery. She was leaning discretely towards him. He leered at her and noticed that her eyes looked nervous.

“Viper”, she whispered. “There's a boy staring at us. From across the street.”

Viper looked over and immediately noticed the familiar face of a twelve year old boy with azure hair shining brightly like if it was wet. His eyes were like two sapphires staring intently at him. He carried an ebon bandana on his forehead and his stern, dark face looked sweaty and cold. It was the same boy who had led him to Skin the other night. He had remembered back then that he couldn't read the boy. He had no idea what he was thinking but his intense stare was unnerving.

“That bandana”, Glittering Wolf whispered. “Do you know him?”

“Kind of”, Viper muttered. “I better go talk to him.”

“Just be careful. I don't like his eyes.”

Viper smiled. “He's just a boy.”

He excused himself from the table and crossed the busy street to meet up with the boy who was leaning back against a wall with his arms crossed. The young assassin followed Viper with his sharp eyes and still refused to give away even the slightest hint of what was on his mind. Even Viper, the most promising recruit of Nighthammer and about three years older than that boy, was unnerved by his eyes and his blue hair. Was everyone in the Cinnabar Squad as cold as this boy and his master?

The boy didn't say a word as Viper walked up to him. He looked at him from top to bottom and gave the orphans at the restaurant a quick look.

Viper leaned in close to his ear. “I don't know what your problem is but I don't like it”, he whispered. “I would love it if you could stop staring at us.”

The boy forced a smile that made Viper even more unnerved. He could clearly see how fake it was. The boy didn't even try to hide that fact. “Your name was Viper, wasn't it?” the boy asked. “You're famous now.”

“So? Do you want an autograph?”

“No”, the boy said. “Just curious. Are those your friends?”

“None of your business, little boy.”

The boy tilted his head and raised his eyebrows. He lost his fake smile and just looked at Viper for a moment. “Are you sure you should speak to me like that?” he said. “You're in our district.”

“I'm off duty today so I couldn't care less if this is your district or not, little boy”, Viper said with a slight hiss. He stared at the boy with intense eyes. He had to prove himself. He couldn't let a twelve year old mock him like that.

“I should tell Master Skin that you said that”, the boy replied with a snort.

“Why don't you tell daddy too when you're at it?”

“Oh, you wouldn't like that”, the boy said with a smirk. This one was real. Viper could feel it.

“Yeah?” Viper grabbed the boy's collar. He could feel the boy's calmness through the shirt. But the boy didn't seem calm because of a lack of emotion. This wasn't a Dust Spider. The boy seemed calm because of headstrong self-confidence. Viper didn't even intimidate him the slightest. This realization made Viper grind his teeth.

“Don't touch me”, the boy said. “I might have to kill you. I would get away with it.”

“I don't think you can.”

The boy grinned. “Look over your shoulder”, he said and nodded to something on the street.

While still holding the boy's collar, Viper looked over his shoulder. All he could see were people eating and drinking at the restaurant's terrace. Others were walking the street or protecting themselves from the strong sun by cooling off in the shadows.

“Do you see the man who is about to drink from that carafe of water?”

Viper noticed a husky man sitting on the ground in the shadow next to the terrace. He dried some sweat of his bald head and was gulping down refreshing water from a glass carafe.

“Now. Look”, the boy said as Viper begun to feel something strange about the boy. It felt like drops of water ran down his clothes even though it wasn't raining. He noticed the husky man drop the carafe and gag. His face turned red and then blue and he tried to puke but couldn't. People around him were yelling chaotically, someone slapped his backside but they couldn't get the water out of his lungs. Viper lost his grip of the twelve year old. He gave the boy a confused look and noticed that his blue eyes were shining faintly and water ran along his skin like if he had been bathing.

“Get it now?” the boy asked with a grin. “My father is a river god and I have inherited this power from him. I made that man drown in the water he was drinking.”

Viper frowned his face and looked across the street. Someone was confirming that the man had indeed died. Viper ground his teeth even more and gave the boy a hateful glare.

“You killed an innocent man”, Viper hissed.

“Just be glad that it wasn't you”, the boy said, emanating self-confidence with a big grin. “But I guess I can't kill a celebrity.”

Viper was angry. This boy was a twelve year old brat and was far more powerful than him. The boy's youth had indeed surprised him when they first met. Now he knew that the boy possessed strength despite his age. He wondered what Skin was doing to his subordinates to have them this messed up and cold-blooded. Did he want to know? He wasn't sure how to react to this. It was against the rules for an Ebon Dagger to murder someone who wasn't a subject – unless they would get in the way of a mission or if they would witness an assassin at work. He could report this to Master Dawn and have her talk with Skin about it. But how would that portray him?

“You have proved yourself, kid”, Viper muttered and stepped back from the boy. “Stare as much as you want but if you pull that trick on any of my friends, I don't care if you're the son of a puddle god or whatever.”

“You've got guts after all. Or are you not scared of dying?”

Viper was angry but not afraid. Sure, the boy had enough power to kill him easily but he had also said that he wasn't going to. And he trusted Master Dawn to make sure that wouldn't happen. This boy could be nothing compared to her after all. At least if he was still below Skin in the ranking. “Why would I be scared?” Viper asked. “You're just an immature child who borrowed daddy's sword.”

The boy smirked.

“Viper!” Glittering Wolf yelled from across the street. There had been a loud ruckus at the dead man next to the terrace and the orphans seemed scared. Viper ground his teeth. Why couldn't he give her even one day without any worries?

“What's your name, kid?” Viper asked.

“Son of the Weeping Eyes.”

“Weeping Eyes?” Viper couldn't help but to smirk at that name. It felt a bit … too much.

“Well, I like to make people cry”, the blue-haired boy said. “Maybe I'll see your tears one day.”

Viper heard Glittering Wolf yell his name again. He gave Son of the Weeping Eyes one last gaze before he walked back across the street and took the orphans home – away from this place. He felt bested by a twelve year old. He had to become stronger. He couldn't let himself be intimidated by someone younger than him – even if that someone was god-blooded.

Even the power over water had to be useless against a knife in the back of the neck. He had no plans on killing the boy. But he had to show presence of being able to. Otherwise, he would never become the best assassin in Nexus.

Last edited by Manovan Marrowsteel on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Manovan Marrowsteel


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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sat Nov 13, 2010 11:45 pm


Chapter 47: The enchanting mayor

“Cypher, can you explain to me again why we are out here?” Yuko asked with an irritated frown framing in her sapphire eyes. The warmth from the burning sun and the highly humid air made being in the jungles almost an infernal experience. She was still dressed in her ordinary robe since Manovan had had too much of a hurry leaving town the other day despite his promise to give her something more fancy to wear. With access to both his office and his bedroom, she could fetch some garments for herself if she wanted to, but she had been raised to be polite to the powerful. The fact that she now viewed Cypher's hired bodyguard as someone in power was ironic in a sense. However, now she stood here, lifting her robe to keep it from being stained by the dirty ground and staring intently at the young Twilight who was digging around the dirt with his bare hands, not having a care in the world about the dirt and sweat on his hands, clothes and face.

He tilted his head and gave her a goofy smile. “I told you already”, he said. “I am, um, looking to figure out how the growth stimulators are, um, stimulating growth.”

She placed the palm of her hand over her face and sighed. “You're looking for growth stimulators – whatever that is”, she muttered, more to herself than to Cypher. “And why exactly did you drag me with you?”

“Um”, he said and tapped on his nose with a dirty finger. “I thought you, um … wanted to study them.”

“I don't”, she muttered and pointed with her finger in the general direction she assumed the city was. “There are a hundred humans in there – scared and confused.”

“Um … yes?”

“Why do you think they are there?”

Cypher leaned back and tapped on his nose. He gave the shining sun a quick gaze and then looked at Yuko with a bewildered frown. “Because Coral asked them to come with us.”

Yuko sighed and crouched down before Cypher. She looked him deeply in the eyes. “You are so intelligent that it's scary but yet you can't comprehend simple human behavior.” He couldn't help but to blush and she gave him a tired smile. “The people didn't follow us here because Manovan told them that they could. They followed us here for the same reason a cult follow a leader. Promises. Religious devotion. You see, the moment we saved their village, we were heroes. But the moment Manovan and yourself showed them your Anima and told them that you were the Sun's chosen, their appreciation and admiration turned into dogmatic devotion.”

He tapped on his nose again. “Um … yes, I suppose.”

“When the villagers saw your Anima and listened to Manovan's speech, they witnessed what had only been told in legends. They experienced their own mortal lives be given a higher meaning. They saw themselves become entwined with the celestial, something outside their understanding of nature. My point is that they are following us because of what we are. What we can do. Our powers give them hope. We have an obligation to them now. They are relying on us to show them their way and they will follow us obediently.”

Cypher tapped on his nose. “Um, I understand”, he muttered. “Or, well, what are you saying, exactly?”

“I'm saying that there are a hundred confused individuals who need our support. They are lost without us now. Especially in an extremely dangerous city such as Denandsor.” She sighed. “My point is that you dragged me out here for something completely unnecessary and I would like to go back now to make sure that the people have a safe environment to live in.”

Cypher tapped on his nose and clumsily tried to stand up. He seemed slightly speechless, but then tapped on his nose once more and smiled. “But the growth stimulators are, um, beneficial to the people since they will stimulate any future plantation they grow in the valley.”

“Yes, they are beneficial”, Yuko said. She spoke slowly and articulated to be as clear as possible. “But there is no need for us to study how they work. The fact that they do is good enough.”

She felt like she spoke to a child. Then again, Cypher's mind worked in mysterious ways. His lack of social understanding could be dangerous if not guided correctly. She knew he had his heart in the right place. He really wanted to help. But there were too much going on in his mind for him to be able to focus on what would actually be the wisest decision for that particular moment.

“How are the factory-cathedrals going?” she continued.

“I managed to, um, hijack an individual factory-cathedral”, Cypher replied instantly. “They work but they lack, um, you know, plates … blueprints to make them work. There are, you know, materials and, um … tools and forges for making more materials and tools. I've been trying to access the manse but it's locking me out, um, as if implemented with a security system especially dedicated to, you know, making sure that the Makers themselves … um, wouldn't access their own cathedrals. It is, um, plausibly a result of the daimyo's final actions to prevent the city from one day once again fall in the hands of, you know, Solars.”

Yuko rested her forehead on her fingertips and tried to process what Cypher had said. She took his broken sentences and tried to make something coherent from them. She then looked at him. “If you try to find some – what did you call it? – plates to program one single factory-cathedral, we can still get a sizable production going. But I will need your help making buildings and items safe for the people. Do you know the spell Infallible Messenger?”

He tapped on his nose. “Well, I, um, memorized the principles from my spell book ... but I, well, haven't actually practiced it.”

“Then practice it”, she ordered him. “I will send you one when I need you for something.”

Cypher and Yuko eventually decided to walk back through the jungle and towards the meadows. The sunset was just around the corner and they were both hungry. Yuko had so much to do that it had given her a headache thinking about it. She thought Cypher was the one supposed to have a lot to do, but he was strolling around minding his own business a little too much. When he wasn't up to something unnecessary to calm his own curiosity, like he had been here in the jungle, he was isolating himself in the Factory-Cathedral District, trying to access the manse's systems.

And speaking about minding one's own business, Yuko noticed Cypher suddenly leaving their path to investigate an enormous plant attached to a jungle oak like a parasite with long, thorny roots. It had crimson-red petals as big as Glorious Horizon if not even bigger. Cypher couldn't help but to touch the petal's smooth surface with the palm of his hand.

“Cypher”, Yuko said from a few yards behind. “That looks dangerous.”

“I have, um, never seen a flower … quite like this one before.”

“The more reason not to play with it.”

“Maybe you're right”, he said and turned to her.

Yuko raised her eyebrows and frowned her forehead when she noticed the flower petals slowly opening up behind Cypher. “Cypher”, she said with a nervous look and was just about to point at the thing behind him. From within the petals came multiple stamens, attaching themselves to Cypher's limbs and torso like living vines. He shrieked but was suddenly dragged by the flower into the petals' acid-filled cell.

Cypher's clothes were the first thing to melt by the strong organic acid. His protective Anima could shield his body from some of the damage but he could feel his skin tear apart within seconds. His hair vanished and he prayed to the Unconquered Sun for his eyelids to remain attached to his face. Once he managed to tear himself out through the crimson-red petals, he reminded more of a naked, skinless walking dead than of a proud Twilight Solar.

“You were right”, he said and fainted.

Chanti Green-Paw removed her silver lock from her red- and white-furred face with the palm of her clawed hand. She stood taller and more muscular than before because of her battle form – the hybrid transformation between her human form and her totemic red-furred fox form. She kept her chin high and watched Omar and Blackhorn with intense eyes. Both Omar and Blackhorn were also in their battle forms; Blackhorn resting with his back against a maroon jungle trunk and Omar leaning over his grand moonsilver daiklave which reflected the image of all of their dreams from its glimmering, liquid-like surface. However, the dreams of ancient exalted were almost chaotically complex for one foreign to the mindset of those who see the lifespan of men like men see the months of a calender.

Blackhorn was the youngest of the three as he was already on his fifth reincarnation, with the latest one as recent as two centuries ago. Omar was last reborn during the late Shogunate which gave him about a millennium of experience. However, not even Omar could compare to Chanti who's shard had never been recycled by the Loom of Fate since the Primordials themselves fell to the Solars' illustrious charms. She had walked in Creation and the Wyld for thousands of years, contemplating the Usurpation and the increased threat of the devouring Wyld and its raksha masters. She had contemplated the reign of the Shogunate and later the rise of the Scarlet Empress and her influence over the dynastic families. She had led countless wars against countless armies. Most would lose their sanity after less. However, Chanti had come to only one conclusion that had empowered her motivation and had her retain her sanity during all this time. She knew that there was merely one threat to the order of things; that threat was the Wyld. Whoever reigned over Creation was irrelevant as long as the raksha kept invading its borders, eating the dreams of its mortals and manipulating the kings and queens of the mortal courts.

Chaos was the enemy. That was the only truth.

Or at least it was simpler said than done. Details of the ancient reign of the Solars had begun to fade away from her memories. The history was clouded in a daze of uncertainty. She remembered the Usurpation as if it was yesterday but she had troubles remembering the utopia it followed. She could clearly remember the graceful raven-black hair of her Solar mate and his determined emerald eyes gazing lovingly into her's. Those eyes weren't emerald anymore. Had they ever been?

All had happened so fast. For one who witnessed lifespans of men as something as quick and trivial as breezes through leaves, it was bewildering to even consider what had happened in such a short time. The Jade Prison had been breached and the trapped Solar souls had returned to once again exalt mortals into celestial avatars of unconquered perfection. Her own Solar mate walked the world again – far weaker and far more reckless than his former self – and she wasn't sure how to react to this sudden change. She had missed him for so long yet all that was on her mind was her deep hatred for the never-ending chaos that kept devouring the one balanced thing in existence.

How would this change affect her?

“How did it go?” she asked while looking at Omar and Blackhorn.

“The raksha retreated back into the Wyld”, Omar muttered. “But they will be back.”

“How did the battle affect the land?”

“Only human towns and settlements were scarred. Thousands of mortals lost their lives, but nature remains in balance.”

Chanti took a deep breath and then sighed. “Then all is well”, she said. “And Ro'yaru?”

“The capital city is in ruins”, Omar said and sheeted his sword on his back. “The royal family managed to escape and is currently on the road to a nearby town. I strictly ordered the tribes to avoid attacking their convoy to not interfere too much with the humans' politics.”

Chanti's eyes suddenly got even sharper. “This time must be different, Omar”, she said. “Have the tribes attack the convoy and consume the royal family. Make sure no one survives.”

Omar got a confused expression on his face, which was shaped like a black panther's. “Excuse me?” he said.

“With the royal family dead, the people will lose their hope”, she said with a smile. “And where do you think the people will turn to seek out new hope?”

He raised his eyebrows. “Oh”, he said and then smiled.

“But don't tell my husband about our part in this. He is still too young.”

“You truly are amazing, my lord”, Lucas said as the group rode uphill, away from the jungles and over the dry savannas of Melekin's south. They witnessed mountains in the distance with their tops cloaked by pale, fluffy clouds. Behind them glimmered the peaks of the mountains hiding the Solar Valley and the spectacular city they came from. “It has only been two days and yet you can speak simple phrases with ease.”

The old man was referring to the forgotten language of old realm which he had been verbally teaching his mayor while on horseback. Thor and the two brothers hadn't been very talkative. They had done their jobs as protective escorts but there had been nothing to protect them from, other than the sharp talons of an angered eagle. Bildan rode closely by Manovan's side and their conversations usually had a surprisingly casual tone, despite their great differences in both the terrestrial and celestial hierarchies of things.

“Very simple though”, Manovan said. “You good mentor are.” He said the latter in old realm, though very poorly.

The old man gave a thankful smile.

“Of course he is amazing”, Bildan filled in. “He is our mayor after all.”

“You're flattering me”, Manovan said with a smile.

“May I ask you something personal, my lord?” Bildan asked. He blushed a little and evaded direct eye contact.

Manovan didn't reply but looked at Bildan, awaiting his continuation. How could he know if the young man was allowed to ask something personal if he didn't know the nature of the subject?

“You have told us that you and Cypher were once mortals like us, but were then blessed with celestial exaltation by the Unconquered Sun.” Bildan scratched his head and looked at his mayor. The young Night Caste looked back at his herald and waited for him to get to the point. He had indeed told them that during the journey. He had wanted them to understand that even though he was a demigod, he could sympathize with human emotion. His herald continued: “I am curious to know how it felt at the moment of exaltation. When you first realized that you had been given this gift – had you anticipated it or was it shocking? I apologize if it is too personal.”

Manovan forced a smile at first but then dropped the facade. “You don't have to apologize for your curiosity, Bildan”, he said with a deep sigh. “The fact is that – even though my exaltation is a great gift – I first experienced it as a curse.” He noticed both Bildan's and Lucas' confused and curious expressions in his periphery. He had no intentions of telling them about the details of his exaltation. It was a moment of his life that he had so many times hoped to forget. “Exaltation can be compared to dying and being born anew. Even though reincarnation symbolizes hope and harmony, death itself symbolizes conclusion, or loss. Once I took my second breath, I gained a higher existence and a far greater destiny. But at the same time, it was not a simple task – even for me – to break my bond with the restrictions of a mortal man.”

A restriction? he thought to himself. Was that all she was after all?

“My lord!” Ran, the oldest of the two brothers, called from the top of the hill. “We have arrived to Sen'i.”

Manovan led his horse uphill and watched a small village surrounded by great cotton fields appear on the other side of the great hill. The village looked safe as it was at least a week away from where Chanti had told him that the closest battle front with the Wyld had been. The village was also protected from the dangers of the jungles, since its cotton fields were surrounded by great savannas stretching at least a day by horse-back before the closest jungle. Dangerous beasts could indeed attack travelers on the savanna – the group had seen a pack of hyenas on their way there – but with the exception of this great hill, the landscape was flat. Even beasts could be spotted in time by the farmers working in the fields. They had probably already spotted the six strangers on the hill.

They ended their conversation and rode downhill. “Remember this, Bildan”, Manovan said as they approached. A few farmers were looking up from the plantations they were at, wiping the sweat from their foreheads and shrugging to each other as they expected no visitors. “The words of choice must bring forth the beauty of the City of Dreams – not the nature of its leadership.”

“I understand”, Bildan answered.

Once they had passed a few houses and buildings and were approaching the small square framed in by what was most of the village, Manovan climbed off his horse's back and led it by the rope he had used as bridle. A chubby middle-aged woman with a dark tan and a tangled carrot-shaded hair came out from what could very well be the town hall, as it was the largest building with two floors in alabaster clay reinforced by wooden framework. She wiped her hands with a piece of stained cloth and smiled when she noticed Lucas' wrinkled visage.

“If it isn't Lucas of Harps!” she said as she put the cloth in her black leather belt and opened her arms to welcome the frail figure with an embrace.

Lucas let go of his horse's bridle and walked up to greet his friend. “Hello, Miriam”, he said.

Once they hugged, Miriam noticed Manovan idling by his horse and she raised her eyebrows. She was looking at a man who looked to be in his late teens, but was wearing jewelry in silver and gold and garments that her little village could only dream about tailoring. That his jewelry were in fact artifacts in moonsilver and orichalcum was irrelevant at the moment. He smiled.

“You forgot to mention that you had friends in the village, Lucas”, Manovan said.

“Who is this boy?” Miriam asked Lucas as their hug ended. “He looks fancier than the king himself.”

“His name is Manovan of the Sea”, Lucas said.

Manovan stepped forward and greeted Miriam by gently placing her chubby hand in his. “I am the mayor of the City of Dreams”, he said while looking into her round steel-gray eyes. “I've heard great things about your village.”

She blushed a little and forced a more proper posture. “Well, thank you”, she said. “My name is Miriam. Only Miriam. I'm running this village together with my sister Mill.” She turned her head to the building she came from. “Mill! We have visitors!”

“I can see you are doing a remarkable job, Miriam”, Manovan said. “I understand you are producing not only for Melekin but also for abroad. What types of cloth are we talking about?”

She gave a hearty chuckle. “It's not every day I get to talk about my work with a handsome young man like yourself, Manovan of the Sea. Apart from all the cotton, we are also growing flax and hemp. And of course mulberry for the silkworms.”

Another woman, almost as chubby as Miriam, but a few years younger hurried out from the town hall and showed a sparkling smile to the six visitors. “My name is Mill”, she said and curtsied clumsily. “It's a pleasure to meet you. Oh, is that Lucas? Still young and healthy, I see.”

“Was that sarcasm, Mill?” Lucas muttered.

“Manovan of the Sea here has shown interest in our cloth”, Miriam explained. “He is the mayor of a city. I'm sorry for forgetting its name. Was it the City of Dreams?”

“Indeed it was”, Manovan said.

“Oh”, Mill gasped. “What a beautiful name! Where is it?”

Manovan pointed to the Glimmering Peaks with his right hand. His orichalcum bracer was shining brightly under the strong sunlight. “Within that valley”, he said.

Not only Miriam and Mill but a few other spectators silenced as they understood where the young stranger was pointing to. There was a moment of profound silence before Miriam stuttered: “Are you saying—“

“I have cleansed the Cursed City”, he said. “And I'm asking you to plant seeds in the great meadows of the Solar Valley and grow your cloth as citizens of the City of Dreams. I'm not asking all of you to pick up and leave. I only want to extend your production and – of course – give protection to your people.”

Both Miriam and Mill were speechless. They looked at each other and they looked at Lucas. The old man shrugged and smiled. “It's true”, he said. “The curse is no more. I have been to the city and it's beyond words.”

“You have been to the city?” Miriam stuttered. “It has been a lifelong dream of yours.”

“Thanks to Mayor Manovan and his comrades, that dream is now reality.”

“So what do you say?” Manovan filled in. “Is there any interest among the villagers – and among you – to let some of your people move to the City of Dreams? You will see that you can grow much more rapidly within the Solar Valley than you can out here. You will be able to harvest every month.”

“Every month? That is impossible.”

“Miriam, dear”, Lucas said. “I urge you to listen to Mayor Manovan. He is a hero who saved our village from an attack.”

She gasped and put her palm before her mouth. “Did you get attacked? What happened?”

“Barbarians, tainted by the Wyld”, Lucas said. “We lost the village and many people died.”

“Oh, Lucas dear, no – no.” Miriam's eyes were filled with tears and Mill locked her gaze on the dirty ground. The carrot-headed woman suddenly turned her eyes to Manovan who frowned his forehead, not sure what reaction to anticipate. She put her arms around him and pressed his body against her's. Despite his supernatural strength and stamina, he almost felt squashed by her massive form. “Thank you. Thank you so much for helping them.”

Manovan wasn't sure how to respond. “Um, no problem”, he said. “But to get to the matter at hand—“

“Please, stay for dinner.”

Manovan gave Bildan a quick look and thought he could see a faint smirk on his herald's face. Hopefully he didn't view this conversation as him showing him how to speak for the city. It seemed like he would recruit some citizens from this village as well as getting a friendly connection to the village itself, but he couldn't say that he had succeeded in the way he had imagined. He had imagined him speaking before a crowd of people, all gazing upon him with round eyes glimmering of total admiration, and then being able to smile to Bildan and tell him that that was how to speak for the city. He had imagined something similar to the time he had spoken before the villagers after he saved them from the Wyld barbarians. However, he had used charms back then.

But then again, this seemed to be working too.

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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Mon Nov 22, 2010 1:09 am


Chapter 48: The village of poets

Manovan felt like he was one with the water. He was lying in a round wooden tub, bathing in water warm enough to blush his skin and perfumed with the petals of the pink lion's heart flower which grew in the savanna. The petals spread a sweet scent in the small room where the villagers had prepared this bath for him. Sen'i had no inn but they had a few guest rooms in what they called the village hall where he and the others had spent night. Even though he had woken up an hour before dawn, a girl had been up to greet him with a tasty breakfast of newly baked bread and salted meat. She had then prepared this bath for him by boiling the water in what reminded him of a stone oven and then used a pump to get the heated water through a pipe and to the tub. It was a simple luxury, but he enjoyed it.

He was now watching the sun rise through a small window framed in by the alabaster clay of the guest room's inner facade. He lowered his head under the surface and held his breath. He enjoyed the sensation for a moment before he went back up to breath. His wet hair felt heavy against his neck and back, but he didn't mind.

He heard two short knocks on the door before it was slowly opened by the same girl who had given him breakfast and prepared this bath for him. She was a young woman of eighteen years with a petite frame and shy posture. Her raven-black hair was long and lifted with metal pins and white bands. She was dressed in a crimson-red linen dress which revealed plenty of her smooth, brown skin, but Manovan felt no sexual attraction to her nor any particular interest in looking at what she had chosen to reveal. But he liked her dress. It was truly a testament to the skill of the village's tailors.

“Do you enjoy your bath, sir?” Her voice was calm and sweet.

“Very much”, he replied with a satisfied smile. “Thank you.”

He leered at her and noticed her coming in from the entrance, taking a low wooden chair which stood next to a wall and place it on the floor just behind him. She sat down on the chair and grabbed a glass bottle filled with a transparent pink liquid from a round table standing next to the tub.

“What are you doing?” he asked and looked down on the water to make sure it didn't reveal anything personal. The flower petals covered his naked body.

“It's for the hair”, she said.

“I mean … I didn't expect you to come in.”

She was quiet for a moment and then giggled. Manovan leaned back to leer at her and noticed she was blushing. “I'm so sorry”, she said. “Miriam asked me to tend to you. I suppose I should have asked first. Do you want me to leave?”

He took a deep sigh and then smiled. He was an honored guests in their eyes and they tried so hard to please him. He understood that she didn't have anything else in mind than to provide a nice bath and clean him up. The polite thing was probably to accept.

“No, it's okay”, he said. “You surprised me. That's all.”

She smiled and opened up the bottle, held some of the liquid in her hand and begun to massage it into his hair. He enjoyed the sensation of her fingers massaging his scalp and the cold liquid foaming up in his hair and running down his neck. The girl then wiped the foam from her hands with a towel and grabbed a wooden mug from the table. With the mug in hand, she stretched over his shoulder towards the water and Manovan followed it with her gaze. He noticed that to reach for the water, she had to lean towards him and he felt her breath against the back of his neck. He couldn't help but to think that she was discretely trying to seduce him.

What is the limit? he thought. At what point should I be ashamed of the situation? At what point would Chanti murder me? He wasn't sure. He could still be misunderstanding the girl's intentions. Maybe this was just the routine of cleaning one's hair. Maybe she hadn't intentionally breathed on his neck.

“Lean forward”, she said and gently pushed him on his back with her hand right between his shoulder blades. He let himself be leaned forward and felt the water slowly pouring down on his hair from the wooden mug. She filled it again and poured, then stroke his hair backwards with her hand. “There we go.” She placed the wooden mug on the table and went for a comb in bone.

Manovan leaned back and followed her every move with his eyes. All she had done was cleaned his hair. Maybe it was his own male desires that had him over-thinking things. Maybe it was a latent desire to actually have the girl seduce him that had caused these paranoid thoughts. She gently combed his hair backwards and he once again enjoyed the sensation of his scalp being massaged with the combing.

“Are the others up yet?” he asked the girl.

“Yes, I think so”, she said and placed the comb on the table. She went for a sponge and once again leaned forward to reach the water. She dipped the sponge and then leaned back to pour some of the pink liquid on it. “Arms to the side.”

He took his arms up from the water and placed them on the side of the tub. She pressed the sponge to have the liquid foam and then gently scrubbed his shoulders, neck, chest and arms. Once again, all he could think about was the pleasant sensation of being massaged.

“What's your name?” he asked once she started to scrub his back.

“Livi”, she said and dipped the sponge in the water, pressed out some foam and then dipped it again. She placed it on the table and dried her hands with her towel. “What do you want to do about the down-parts?”

“Excuse me?”

“Do you want to take care of it yourself? If not, you must step out from the tub so that the perfume won't wash away.”

“I … I think I'll take care of that part myself.”

She smiled and then gestured to the table. “You have a towel over there and some clean clothes on the bench over there.” She pointed to a wooden bench next to a wall where he could see a set of linen clothes with the same color red as the young woman's dress. They were simple clothes without any embroidery and added aesthetics, but he could still see that they were skillfully tailored. “You may take the clothes even if you'll use your own. They are a gift.”

“Thank you.”

“Just ask me if there is anything you need”, she said and then stood up from the chair and walked to the door. Before she left, she turned her head towards him and gave him a pretty smile. It was a smile which confused him even more. Maybe it was a tease as if to say that she had clearly noticed his shy behavior and that she had found it rather cute.

He sighed deeply.

About half an hour later, Manovan was gently patting the head of his chestnut-haired horse while waiting for Lucas, the last one of the group to come out from the village hall. They had decided the previous day to travel west to Inbun at dawn. That way, they could be there before noon if luck was on their side. Manovan had not much interest in the village itself. Apart from Sen'i, it didn't produce anything else than artists and poets. It could very well be a waste of time. However, Bildan had suggested to visit the village in case any of the villagers there would want to open up an academy in the City of Dreams. According to Bildan, an academy where they could teach people to read and write was given in what was hopefully going to become a great city.

They had had lengthy discussions with the villagers the previous night. Manovan hadn't tried to enchant the villagers with charms. He didn't want his people's loyalty to be unnatural. Instead, he had explained to them about the approaching Wyld and that his motivation with the city was to found a safe haven for anyone, not just melekinians. He had also told them that the reason why he had shown interest in Sen'i Village was because of their own city's lack of economy. With some cloth plantations within the valley, they ought to become the most productive cloth exporters in the Scavenger Lands. Of course, they had plenty of invaluable items they could sell. But it would take long before those were properly identified and he didn't want to sell anything that could prove to be useful or too dangerous.

The villagers had agreed that Miriam and a crew of twelve people would travel to the city to find out what needed to be done there. Mill was going to take care of Sen'i in her older sister's absence. They had been talking about sometimes switching off so that the two sisters could both run the industry here in the village and in the Solar Valley. They had seemed very ecstatic about it. It was only two days by horse-back anyway. Another two-days with carriages of materials. They could work something out. Miriam seemed impatient to go as soon as she could. Unfortunately, she needed one full day to prepare herself for the journey and to finish off any unfinished work she had in Sen'i. Manovan had agreed to leave Thor here in the village so that he could guide the tailors and farmers who had decided to go to the City of Dreams.

When Lucas came out from the village hall, he was wearing a similar set of clothes they had given to Manovan. However, the young Solar wore his own clothes. He could smell the perfume from all the way to the porch. Lucas was yawning a little and got a kiss on his wrinkled cheek by Miriam before he limped down the porch and to the street where Manovan and the two brothers were waiting for him with his horse. The horses had been saddled with fine leather for a very cheap price.

Manovan couldn't help but to raise his eyebrows when Lucas came to greet him. “Fell asleep in the tub?” he asked with a sly smirk.

“Something like that”, the old man muttered and grabbed his horse's bridle. He carefully sat up on the saddle and waved to Miriam. “I suppose I'll see you in the City of Dreams in a few days then.”

She smiled and waved. “Be careful, my dear friend.”

Once they had left the square and was riding west from the village and to the savanna, Manovan turned to give Lucas another sly smirk. “So? You and Miriam?”

Lucas frowned his wrinkled forehead and blushed. “What gave you that idea? She must be at least thirty years younger.”

“So you're that old?”

“Twenty years younger then.”

“So?” Manovan said with a smile. “That's nothing compared to Chanti and myself. I don't even know how many thousands of years old that woman is. All I know is that I'm practically a fetus compared to her – both in maturity and in strength.”

Lucas raised his gray eyebrows and gave his mayor a quick gaze. “I've read the stories about her”, he said. “I don't know how much of them are actually true, but they speak of someone very powerful. I don't think you need to worry about your differences in age and strength, my dear lord. I may be a wrinkled old coot, but I recognize love when I see it. That's what I saw in her eyes when we first arrived to the city.”

Manovan leered at Lucas as they rode and he couldn't help but to smile.

“And it's a great honor to have her fighting the Wyld here in Melekin”, the old man continued. “I know our country is in good hands. She is protecting us from the chaos and you are bringing us all together. I see a bright future.”

“You're a good man, Lucas of Harps.”

Cypher woke up with a shriek. He must have blacked out. The last thing he could remember was … He noticed bandages tightly wrapped around his body, leaving only a thin strip open for his eyes to be able to see. He was sore but not in pain. The bandages themselves were soiled with blood dried brown. Whoever had bandaged him must have had a lot to work with.

Where was he? He could see the inside of a room with clean walls of polished white stone. He wasn't in a bed but on a thick mattress which had been recently placed on the floor. He didn't recognize the building. Neither did he recognize the woman he startled enough with his awakening that she dropped a cup of water on the floor. She looked to be in her mid thirties with curly black hair reaching down her neck. She had some indications of tired wrinkles around her eyes, but other than that she had maintained her youth well. Even though Cypher was just a teenager, he recognized her as moderately attractive.

“You should rest, Master Cypher”, the woman said and crouched down to pick up the broken ceramic pieces. She looked up and raised her eyebrows as Cypher hadn't moved an inch. “Aren't you in pain?”

Cypher gave his bandages a confused look. “No”, he said. He could remember the acid burning his body and his skin melting during a short moment of agonizing torture that he would like to believe not even the demons of Malfeas could inflict. His skin was sore and it felt stretched, like if his skin was forced on him like a clothing a size too small, but he was not in pain. He could manage this slight annoyance. “I, um, must have … body-mended, um ...” He tried to tear the bandages from his arms to have a look at his injuries.

The woman quickly got on her feet and hurried towards him. “No”, she called and tried to reach out to stop his hands. “You shouldn't do that.”

Torn bandages fell from his arms. Cypher raised his eyebrows and the woman shrieked with shock. They both noticed that his arms were perfectly fine. His skin looked as pale as it always had, though slightly blushed. The woman scratched her forehead and carefully analyzed his arms.

“That's amazing”, she stuttered. “It must have grown back in just the few hours since I last changed your bandages.”

Cypher carefully sat up in the mattress and started to unwrap the bandages from his legs and head. “I heal quickly”, he said and showed her a goofy smile as soon as his mouth was exposed from taking off the bandages. “Funny story ... but I fractured about every bone in my body last week … and, um, was perfectly fine again after, well, only two days.”

The woman covered her mouth with the palm of her hand to hide a gasp.

“Well, you see”, Cypher continued, not at all aware of the fact that his speech regained its usual annoying pitch and that he had lost the woman's focus already. “I, um, mend my body through a charm which, um, spreads the Essence flow to the injured parts of my body. This speeds up, um … my healing process. It's a, um, form of basic regeneration. I have even learned how to, you know, maintain the mending while, um, not being conscious. It's, well, to guarantee a speedy recovery.” He tapped on his nose and then made an agonized hiss as he noticed that his nose was the only part of his body that was still truly aching. “Coral can do it too.”

“Who is Coral?” she stuttered.

“Um? Don't you know who Coral is?”

“He's referring to Manovan of the Sea”, a friendly female voice said from the entrance to the room.

Cypher tilted his head and could see Yuko looking back at him. She was dressed in an ancient robe which he had never seen before. He could identify its shining violet color as coming from the petals of the sacred mist flower which he knew only to grow in moist diamond caves here in the east. He had studied flowers like that a few months ago after Crystal Bow – whom he hoped was alive somewhere today – had brought some to Yuro after a scavenge hunt in an old temple ruin at the border of Melekin. It was said that the flower was used by alchemists to make clarity potions; clarity referring to that of the mind. It was not a foreign idea that Yuko had chosen that robe to be able to focus more clearly due to her damaged brain.

The woman welcomed Yuko with a polite bow and stepped aside to give her room to greet Cypher. Yuko acknowledged the woman's greeting with a nod. It was a custom by the Dragon-Blooded of the Realm not to greet mere mortals before the mortals greeted them. And when the mortals would greet the Dragon-Blooded, they would politely acknowledge their greeting with either a nod or a bow. It was important that the acknowledgment wasn't more proper than the mortal's own greeting, unless the circumstance was that the mortal was a very important member of a dynastic family or a mentor of some kind for the Dragon-Blooded. Most Dragon-Blooded, however, didn't greet non-dynastic mortals at all under any circumstances because of pride. Yuko had proved to be different in that respect. Even the first time she met with Cypher in the dragon's hawser, she had been very polite to him.

“How are you feeling, Cypher?”


“What you did was very stupid.”

“I, um, realized that.”

“You look … interesting without hair.”

Cypher hadn't realized it yet. He carefully stroke a sore, bald head with his palms. His hair was gone! His beautiful – though slightly messy, dusty, smelly and tangled – black hair was gone! He could feel that even his eyebrows were gone. It seemed the body-mending didn't regrow hair at the rate it had regrown his skin. How unfortunate.

“Anyway, I brought you some clothes”, Yuko said and finally stepped into the room. She unfolded a glimmering white robe with green old realm pictograms before him. “I thought this one would be the most fitting, considering how reckless you are.” She made a sly smirk.

Cypher tapped once again on his nose and instantly regretted it as he felt pulses of pain surge through it. He wasn't sure why Yuko made that sly smirk but he understood that it had something to do with the robe she was giving him. He couldn't identify the glimmering white cloth but he instantly recognized the pictograms as being sown with green jade. It seemed to have some kind of magitechnological property.

“An artifact?” he asked.

“I took it from Manovan's closet. I hope he doesn't mind since it doesn't really suit him anyway.” She tossed it over to him at the mattress. He instantly took the robe and felt the soft cloth. “That robe has a remarkable property. It will instantly clean itself whenever it gets dirty and it will instantly repair itself whenever it gets torn. Since the only thing that remained intact after your little bath yesterday was your pendant, I thought this robe could come in handy.”

Cypher suddenly got a sad look in his eyes and he locked his gaze on her feet. “So my robe is gone?” he asked.

“Yes”, Yuko said and scratched her head. “Why the sad look? It was just that ugly robe I gave you during the marsh. It was dirty and torn.”

“It's not the robe”, he muttered. “Um, you see … inside that robe was, well, I found a letter from Kal Bax in, um, the Tome of the Makers. It was, um, a reply he had sent to the Makers … responding to, um, his invitation to design a guardian.” He slowly moved his hand to tap on his nose but regretted it in time. “It was the only thing I had from him. It was, you know, precious.”

Yuko looked at him for a moment. Her sly smirk was gone and she frowned her forehead. “So?” she said, which clearly surprised Cypher. He looked up at her, expecting an explanation. “I mean, it was just a letter. You probably have the guardian itself here somewhere.”

The thought made him smile. He nodded to her. “You are right. I, um … I should go look for it.”

“Later”, she said. “You have work to do at the Living District. A few more security systems has proved to be active. Fortunately, no one has died today, but you should deactivate them as soon as possible. We need to get a safe house for every family before the next storm.”

Cypher pouted his lip in disappointment but then nodded to her.

“And another thing”, she continued. “Could you explain to me why the villagers are talking about a forbidden crystal orb and the fact that both you and Manovan have played with it?”

“Oh”, he said and tapped on his nose again. The pain surged through his nose like usually and he instantly damned himself for forgetting it. “Well, that is, um, a communication device connected to, um, an artifact in … well, in Lookshy.”

“In Lookshy!?” she yelled with frowned face and wide eyes. “Good thing to keep it forbidden then. We can't have them on our toes.”

“Well, about that ...”

“You didn't …?”

“Um ...”

“Tell me you didn't!”

“Well, I ...”

“You're a bastard, Cypher.”

Inbun was bigger than Sen'i, but it seemed far less active. The village was located on a hill with stairs in wood and stone ascending the different levels of the village until the very top. Only a couple of buildings had more than two floors. One of them was a tower made by stone and alabaster clay which was located in the middle of the hill. Manovan wasn't sure if tower was the right word to use since the building wasn't higher than six floors. However, compared to the other of Inbun's buildings, it felt like a tower in comparison.

As soon as the group approached the village, Bildan had pointed to that tower. “That's the academy”, he said. “The only one outside of Ro'yaru.”

Manovan frowned his face when gazing upon the tower. When talking about an academy, he had been picturing a campus of buildings taking up as much space as one of the temples in the Temple District, if not more. This building couldn't house more than a hundred students. However, seeing this village didn't seem to have a higher population than about five hundred people, it was still a very big part of the population.

“Who's in charge of the village?” Manovan asked.

“I'm not sure”, Bildan replied. “I heard they have a new headmaster, but I haven't heard anything good about the man.”

“And why is that?”

“Well, what I've heard comes from one tongue and I'm not sure how trustworthy that person is when it comes to speaking the truth. He told me that the new headmaster was a former accountant in Ro'yaru but had been relocated here because of a rumor that he was trying to deceit the trading guild in the capital city by taking money from their vault and faking their documentation to make it seem like it had never been there to begin with.”

“So he's a criminal?”

“That's what I heard but the man was never declared guilty. The money couldn't be found and they couldn't connect him to the deed. The king decided to relocate him here to avoid conflict with the trading guild as best he could.”

Manovan scratched his chin and then jumped off his horse. He noticed the others doing the same. “Lucas”, he said. “You take the brothers and the horses with you to a nearby stable. Bildan and I will take a look at the academy and hopefully get to speak to the headmaster.”

“Shouldn't we be with you, mayor?” Ran asked as he patted his horse on the head. Ramol, the younger brother, nodded with his brother's words.

“No need”, Manovan said with a forced smile. “We want to make a good impression. Your swords can give the wrong idea.”

“I understand, my lord”, Ran muttered. “But we'll be close-by.”

The mayor acknowledged his mortal guard with a nod and then gestured to Bildan to follow him. As they ascended the stairways towards the academy, he explained to the young herald that he was going to let him initiate the conversations. He explained that the idea was not to convert the entire village to become obedient followers, but to create a spark of interest in moving the academy or at least parts of it to his city. The art in the City of Dreams ought to be convincing enough to have poets wanting to be schooled there.

The village truly was quiet. They could spot a few young men and women make out and giggle in some shaded alleys and a teenager was smoking some potent herbs on top of a roof while looking at the clouds. They could barely find anyone over thirty years old and the few older villagers they spotted either relaxed with tea and some board game or was giving condescending looks to the lazy youths.

“This is an interesting village”, Manovan said to Bildan as they were approaching the tower. “Where are all the old people? The workers? All I see are people resting or enjoying themselves.”

“Yes, Inbun is known to be quite lazy”, Bildan said with a smile. “One out of every three or four person is either a scholar, a poet or an artist. Since this village is the only place outside the capital city where people appreciate these kinds of things, it is like a place of pilgrimage for artists.” He made a short chuckle. “The working villagers usually frown upon all the artists and students, but what can they do? Inbun can pretty much run entirely on the money from the academy fees. They don't need to trade and the land is good enough to feed the entire village.”

Manovan wasn't sure what to feel about that. He couldn't blame the old folks anymore for giving the youths condescending looks. Sure, the village seemed to flourish from the academy fees alone, but he was certain that people wouldn't complain too much if he had people pilgrimage to his own city instead. It was far more impressive after all.

They ascended the last set of stairs and came to an enchanting garden with a great water fountain which sprayed water in geometrical symbols that seemingly broke the laws of nature. Manovan knew that this was merely an illusion but it still reminded him of something that could very well come from his own city. There were dozens of people enjoying themselves on the garden. They were reading, writing, singing and chatting. None of them were older than thirty years old. Students on a break, perhaps.

“Bildan? Is that you?” a young man said and hurried up to the two of them. The man looked like he was twenty years old at most. He was paler than what was normal in this part of the world with his blushed olive-colored skin and long, golden locks. His eyes were shaped like round, dim sapphires and they were framed in by a face that was almost as attractive as Bildan's. “Nice robe. You look fancier than usually.”

“Nice to see you, Juliandra”, Bildan said with a friendly smile. “Must have been two years now.”

“Feels like ten”, Juliandra said with a chuckle.

Juliandra? Manovan thought. He recognized the name from somewhere but he couldn't place it. Did he know someone by that name? No, that wasn't it.

“This is Manovan of the Sea”, Bildan said and gestured with his hand to the Solar. “I am here as his herald. He is the mayor of a city called the City of Dreams.” He gave a short chuckle. “But you know it better as the Empty City, don't you?”

Juliandra raised his golden eyebrows and looked at Manovan from top to bottom. “I'm without words”, he said. “I suppose the City of Makers isn't that empty anymore then. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to see it with my own eyes.”

“You are the first melekinian I've heard referring to the city as the City of Makers”, Manovan filled in.

“Well, it's from an ancient legend”, Juliandra said with a chuckle. “There's an old legend about my great, great, great and so on grandfather and how he was once a hero of the City of Makers who risked everything for one forbidden love. It's a cliche love story of the boy-meets-girl-but-the-girl-belongs-to-the-wrong-family-kind. I doubt there's much truth to it.”

“And yet you brag about it all the time”, Bildan muttered.

A fragment popped up in Manovan's mind. He could recall Cypher mentioning something of a love story when in the office sometime last week. Was it then he had heard the name Juliandra?

“That hero you mentioned. Did he by any chance share your name?”

“Ah”, the young man expressed with sheer delight. “You have heard the story then?”

“I've heard it mentioned”, Manovan said and scratched his head. “Did the story mention anything about any specific … traits that this hero had?”

“Absolutely!” Juliandra almost bellowed with excitement. He seemed truly ecstatic about the fact that someone had shown interest in what was obviously his favorite story. “That's the most important part. He was, and I quote the legend as I first heard it from my father, a man with a body like a prism as the sun's golden rays reflected through his frame. Shaped like an illustrious bonfire of celestial strength and wisdom, he marched upon his enemies with only words as his weapon. The words he uttered shaped the very fabric of nature itself, like poetry took physical form. Something like that.”

“Golden rays?” Manovan leered at Bildan and noticed that the young man couldn't hold back a giggle. Even though his herald had most likely heard that quote countless times, it seemed like it was first now he connected the words to something he had actually witnessed himself.

It seemed there was some truth to that story after all.

Last edited by Manovan Marrowsteel on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Mon Nov 22, 2010 5:41 am

The story has now turned 300 pages. I think that's time for celebration. ^^
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:32 pm


Chapter 49: The boy from the fishing village XVII

The small bedroom was only illuminated by the faint moonlight trickling through the closed violet curtains. Viper had a stern look on his face and he couldn't tell whether or not his relaxed eyes showed indifference or a killer's calm. He was wiping blood from his ebon dagger. This had been his tenth kill in one month. He couldn't have imagined that Master Dawn and Dust Spider would work him to the bone already on his first month as an assassin.

Before him were two adults – a man and a woman – dead and mutilated with their open eyes as empty as the gaping holes in their chests. Their bloody hearts lied comfortably in a woolen sack tied to Viper's sash. He had never questioned why the client wanted the targets' hearts. He knew that the woman was the client's wife and that she lied dead here tonight because of her intimate, yet forbidden, relationship with the man next to her. Had they deserved to die? Probably not.

But a job was a job. And he wasn't hired to ask questions but to make sure the targets died.

He sheeted his ebon dagger, moved the curtains aside and carefully climbed out the window. He was met by a cool but fresh breeze carrying a salty scent from the Yellow River. It was a good calm night.

“That was quick”, a gentle and mellow voice whispered from beside him. “For one who has never dug through a ribcage with a dagger before.”

Viper only leered at the girl. Her name was Garrote – though he found that name to have more of a masculine touch – and she was his partner now with Dagger gone infiltrating the Nighthammer Iron League. The girl was only a year older than him but much more experienced. She wasn't of Dagger's caliber and Viper himself could probably take her in a one-on-one. However, the girl had killed more than him. She had already been a full member since six months before he joined. Her skin was as dark as his but she had a short, straggling haircut colored white. Even though her voice was gentle and sweet, she spoke like a tomboy and had probably been raised around boys. Viper had noticed that she despised the connection people made between virtue and femininity. She wanted to – and she had – proven that determination and aggression made her no less of a woman.

“I can't say it was pleasant”, Viper muttered, thinking about the hearts in his bag.

“I know what you mean”, Garrote replied with a short smile. “I was never good with tokens myself.”

Tokens was the term used when describing something an assassin had to bring back to prove the deed. Fortunately, tokens were rare and only claimed under two circumstances. One was when they were ordered to dispose of a body and they still had to prove that they had done the deed. The second circumstance was like tonight's: the client wanted something from the target. This time it had been the hearts of the wife who had betrayed him and her secret lover. Guts were rare tokens though. Most clients asked for something like a ring or a necklace.

Unless it was Dust Spider. He could ask the assassins for tokens like a brain or a sack of intestines. Not because he needed tokens like that, but because he found it enjoyable to watch a poor Ebon Dagger cross the border to the extreme and come back a changed person. There were some rumors floating around about what Dust Spider was asking from Dagger nowadays and it was never pleasant. Most of the deeds seemed so despicable that Viper was certain that the other Ebon Daggers made them up as a game. But he wasn't sure if that was the case. He remembered Dagger telling him about Dust Spider wanting to punish him that night when they sat on the roof of the dojo. Viper had noticed true fear in Dagger's eyes, almost like a silent cry for help.

“How long do you think they'll make me keep this up?” Viper asked Garrote as they descended the house facade and disappeared into the dark alleys of Nighthammer District. “Ten kills in a month and the targets get less and less despicable and more and more human.”

“Yeah, I recognize that pattern”, Garrote said with a hearty chuckle. “It will end soon. They do this with every recruit. I went through it too.”

“But why?”

“Well, they want to make sure you learn how to kill without hesitation and without questioning why. They start out by having you kill murderers, criminals or assassins gone rogue because you can distance yourself from them emotionally. But since our job is to kill on demand, all our targets aren't bad. Most Ebon Daggers must be taught to be emotionless when it comes to killing the innocent for money. They teach you that through experience.”

Viper scratched his neck and sighed. “Well, I knew it would come to that”, he muttered. “But I didn't join to hesitate. All I care about is to sometimes have a few days off to train so that I can kill more efficiently when at work.”

“Say that to Master Dawn”, Garrote said before she swiftly climbed up another house facade to get to its wooden roof three floors up. Viper looked up at her from the street below. She was short and agile like a spider monkey, and it looked comical with her tight, black sleeveless shirt together with her overly wide hakama with a body as skinny as her's. When he watched her climb the wall, he immediately knew that she was more agile than he was. She could probably outrun him in a roof-top race, but he didn't feel like competing tonight.

He climbed up after her and glanced shortly at the illuminating crescent moon and the many coruscating stars. The sky was clear from clouds and it was almost like the sky-dome itself was within reach with his bare hands. He wanted to climb even higher.

“I heard about your … incident with Master Dawn on your first day”, Garrote said. She sat on the side of the roof with her legs resting in the air, meeting his gaze with her as he climbed past. “Did you really fight her in the poison cellar?”

Viper snorted and stretched his limbs. “I don't know about fight, but I sure got my ass handed to me.” He stepped back and prepared himself for jumping across the alley below to grab a balcony railing which he could use to get up to an even higher roof.

“What happened?”

“None of your business.”

She frowned her face and then sighed. She watched him jump over to the balcony, step on the railing and jump from it up to grab the railing of the balcony above. She stood up, stepped back and ran-up to follow him to the next roof. Once Viper was up on the other roof, he crouched down to help her with the final step. She frowned her forehead and snorted to him, ignored his open hand and dragged herself up.

“You're not very popular among the others”, she said and leered at him. “You know that, right?”

“I didn't join a popularity contest.”

“No, but you would have failed if you did.”

He took a deep sigh and looked at her with his charcoal eyes calm and careless. He noticed she curved her ample lips and dimples formed in a sly smirk. He didn't know what her point was but every remark about him felt like a provocation. He knew that she was a good assassin and she had enough confidence to be open and honest about it. He couldn't say he despised her and it was nothing too personal with these questions to put him off, but there was something about tonight which made him react a little too emotionally. Maybe it was the fact that he had just carved open a pair of chests and stolen their hearts. It hadn't been too difficult to pull off, but the more he thought about it, the more it bothered him that he hadn't actually hesitated.

“You really do want to elaborate why, don't you?” he muttered and frowned his face.

“It's not really a secret.”

“I'm neither blind nor deaf, Garrote”, Viper said and scratched his head. “You don't like the fact that I'm better than most of you after only one month.”

Her eyes widened in surprise and she burst into laughter. “Better than most of us? Where did that come from?”

Viper hadn't anticipated that reaction. Her laughter felt genuine. He couldn't hold back a blush and he looked out over Nighthammer and the distant factories at the Pool. Some windows were lit up like stars in the otherwise shaded district and metal against metal could be heard echoing from the docks.

“Listen, Viper”, Garrote said. “People doesn't dislike you because they are jealous. They dislike you because you're arrogant and still managed to ensnare both Dagger and Master Dawn like you were something special.”

“Sounds like jealousy to me.”

“And that sounds like arrogance to me.”

“Think whatever you want”, Viper said as he leered at her in his periphery. “I need to report in.”

“You do that”, she muttered back. “I'll be home. In bed. Sleeping.”

He gave her a condescending smirk. “Don't let the bed bugs bite”, he said and then dashed forward across the roof and jumped over to the next one. He continued running, climbing and jumping his way to Nighthammer Pool and to the hideout, enjoying the salty breezes against his skin along the way. He wished Dagger would come back from his mission so that he could get some competent company. And some tougher missions.

Dust Spider's hideout was more quiet than it was on normal nights. It was during the nights when the Ebon Daggers were most active after all. That's when they could move around unnoticed from what little law there was in this city of wealth, poverty and corrupted merchants who pulled the strings of life and death. Viper didn't know much about Nexus' politics, but he knew of the ghostly Emissary with his mysterious white cloak and his silver mask. He knew about the Council of Entities and how they gathered in secret meetings in Sentinel's Hill to discuss the courses of the city. Corruption was everywhere and with a city as big as this, corruption, political neutrality and grand scale trade was what had given the city its name: Nexus.

He had heard rumors that Nexus was the city in Creation with most murders even years before he joined the Ebon Daggers. Once he joined, he learned that one out of five murders were said to be made by a hired assassin like himself. He didn't know if the statistics were true but he learned of a new depth in the city's corruption. Did they not have to fear the Emissary and the Council of Entities because most of their clients were corrupted merchants like those who were the center for this haven of all kinds of trade and businesses? Was organizations such as the Nighthammer Iron League really helpful for keeping order and if not, what would be the point for Dagger to infiltrate them?

Viper had learned that it was best to stay out of political discussions and simply live life as he had intended it: accept mission, kill target, claim bounty. At least until he found out more about the despicable adults who had placed him here to begin with. Or at least his revenge against them for their own deeds against him was what had placed him here. Dust Spider had told him that he was “researching the subjects” to find out when would be good opportunities to slit their throats. Maybe it was time to follow up.

He nodded to the three guards watching over the entrance to the hideout and they nodded back to him. He went through the door and into a faintly illuminated hallway connected to three other doors. One led down to the poison cellar, one led into Dust Spider's private quarters and one led into the meeting hall which were by itself connected to a kitchen and a stairway leading upstairs. It was a simple wooden house they had made into their hideout. But he doubted it was their only one. He knew about some of the dojos they used for snake style martial arts and how they sometimes had armories hidden within them. That way it was easier to explain to the law why the tools for murder were there; they were just another part of the dojo.

No one was in the hallway to greet him but he could hear some voices from the meeting hall. He ignored them and walked straight up to Dust Spider's quarters and knocked on the door. “Master Dust Spider”, he said. “Viper reporting in. And requesting a meeting.”

It was quiet for a short moment before the lock clicked and the door slowly slid open. An Ebon Dagger in his late teens walked out and gave Viper a condescending gaze with bloodshot eyes clearly painted with black eyeliner. Viper had painted his as well, but the color was much more distinct on the pale face that was this later teen's. Viper had seen him before, but he didn't know his name. Neither did he care about it.

“So you're back already, young Viper?” Dust Spider cackled from within the room. He slid a drawer shut next to his crunching fireplace and then turned back to greet the young assassin with his usual cold eyes framed in by an overly skinny and wrinkled face.

“Why is the place so quiet?” Viper asked and helped himself into the room. He dropped the woolen bag on the old sadist's wooden table and stood still to wait for Dust Spider's response. He knew that the man was ruthless, but he had yet seen much of that himself. Most of it came from other Ebon Daggers. He felt the chills though. Dust Spider broke the atmosphere with true sadistic joy, even without uttering a word.

“That is the token, I assume?” the old man hissed and walked up to the table. He slowly opened the bag and smirked when he noticed the hearts. Viper couldn't help but notice that Dust Spider still wore those bandages on his right hand and arm and they were dripping blood just like they did the first time they met, and every day they had met since. Yet he moved even his bandaged hand without difficulties. He didn't look to be in pain.

“Shouldn't you have a doctor take a look at that?” Viper asked and nodded to the bandages.

“Look at what?” he asked and then noticed the blood dripping from his hand. He smirked. “No, don't worry about that.”

“Are you sure? You've had it since I joined.”

“Well, what a kind, gentle soul you are, young Viper”, Dust Spider said and Viper could feel the sarcasm in the man's words. “I've had this much longer than a month. I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about this. Well, maybe cut off the arm but what would be the fun in that?”

The old man looked at him like if he anticipated something. Viper wasn't sure whether or not it was his turn to speak.

“You didn't answer my question”, Dust Spider continued.

“Eh, what question?” Viper asked with a frown.

“What would be the fun … in me cutting off my arm?” he clearly articulated each word and then smirked as he waited for the reply.

“I don't understand ...”

“You see ... without an arm I can't tear you apart for asking stupid questions and for not using any honorifics when addressing me.” He slowly raised his bleeding arm in a quiet gesture as if to slap the boy, but then lowered it again. “I guess I could use my left one. Pity, since I'm right-handed.”

Viper was a little taken aback by Dust Spider's threat. He hadn't anticipated that since the man spoke so calmly. He wasn't sure how to react. He didn't want to anger the man and he had to avoid intimidating him further.

“I apologize, Master Dust Spider”, he said. “Could you please tell me why the hideout is so quiet tonight?” He silently damned himself. That last question had sounded like a statement. What if Dust Spider dug out something insulting from it and turned it against him?

“You know not to ask questions”, Dust Spider cackled and pulled out a chair from the table. He gestured for Viper to sit down on the chair. The old adviser then crouched down before his open fireplace to load it with a few more pieces of dry wood. The crunching flames immediately begun to devour the wood.

Viper quietly sat down on the chair. He could feel Dust Spider focus on him in his periphery.

“Ask the question you really want to ask, Viper”, Dust Spider said. “I have no interest in idle chatter.”

Viper felt his heart beat faster and he leaned back in the chair with his legs crossed to try to relax. He scratched the back of his head with his right hand and thumbed his thigh with his left. “I want to kill the next one, Master Dust Spider”, he said. “There are seven men still alive. The wait is tormenting.”

Dust Spider slowly stood up from the fireplace and walked up to Viper. He leaned forward and looked Viper in the eyes. His bandaged right hand gave support to Viper's face so that he would not evade the eye contact. Viper could feel the blood from the bandage wet his chin.

“Explain that pain to me, Viper”, the old man cackled with a smile. “You do so well hiding it but I can see some of it in your eyes. I would like to know exactly how that pain would express itself if it could.”

“You would see that by the result of my next murder”, Viper muttered. “Tell me how to kill the next one. You must have something.”

Dust Spider stepped back to one of his drawers. “One thing at the time, my boy”, he said and opened it. “You are being sent to Cinnabar to work as a consult. You will be working directly under Skin for tomorrow night.”

“What!?” Viper bellowed. He ground his teeth when he heard the name Skin. That district leader was almost as psychotic as Dust Spider himself. He was a cold-blooded killer and a rapist. He was a cutthroat at most and far from suited to lead an organization such as the Ebon Daggers.

When Dust Spider turned around from the drawer, Viper could see a razor in his hand. It was the same razor he had used to kill Shin Cloud and Marca a month ago.

“It would be in your best interest … to work as a consult in Cinnabar.”

Viper's eyes widened and his lips formed a surprised o. “Yes, Master Dust Spider”, he said and smiled.

Last edited by Manovan Marrowsteel on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Mon Dec 20, 2010 1:57 pm


Chapter 50: Stewards and bureaucrats

“The beauty of City of Dreams is truly beyond the comprehension of even the deepest poet”, Bildan explained to a crowd of about a hundred people. Most were students at the academy but even scholars and other villagers seemed to have showed interest in what the young man had to say. All of them had heard many of the legends and rumors about the Cursed City which had been hidden within the valley for countless generations. But never had someone spoken about it in such detail. Never had the spectators tried to picture the city itself from the words of one of their own.

Manovan leaned back against a palm tree a few yards away from the crowd. He had his arms crossed and listened to his herald. It impressed him that Bildan had successfully attracted this many people to listen to what he had to say, and yet he was a simple human who could not wield Essence to enchant his words. Maybe it was the fact that Bildan was a melekinian and had some friends among the students that made his speech such a success. It might have given him credibility.

Juliandra was the first of the poets who managed to break free from Bildan's speech. He showed a great deal of interest in Manovan, even though his friend's stories should have interested him a great deal. Juliandra was after all a direct descendant to one of the Solar Exalted who had lived in the city.

“May I ask you a question, sir?” the young man asked Manovan who was gazing upon his disciple with a proud smile.


“Could a handful of people really lift a curse like this? Or is there more to you than meets the eye?”

Manovan raised his eyebrows and looked at Juliandra from top to bottom. The man was like a child – ecstatic, but trying hard not to show it. “Do the legends mention the curse being lifted?” he asked.

Juliandra shook his head. “Not any legend I have read.”

“But they speak of who might have crafted the curse in the first place?”

“There aren't many rumors about its origin. Only about why it was used. Some speak of the daimyo cursing the city due to an invasion from another daimyo. Other rumors speak of a great chaotic contagion which forced the daimyo to use the curse as a last effort to keep it at bay.”

“Interesting”, Manovan said with a short mumble. “What do you believe?”

Juliandra rolled his eyes a little and scratched the back of his head. “I'm not sure”, he muttered. “I believe the curse was crafted long before the Shogunate. If there is any truth to the legend about my ancestor, then I want to believe that only someone with that kind of power could craft something as powerful as the curse.”

“Do you believe it was your ancestor who created it?”

Juliandra couldn't help but to smile and he shook his head. “No, it wasn't him. There are more legendary names than the one my parents blessed me with. The legends speak of a great prince called Tle, the Stone Sculptor. He was apparently a god with the shape of a man who was said to have founded the city and all other ruins there is to find in Melekin.”

“Was this … Stone Sculptor also described as a prism reflecting the rays of the crimson sun?”

“I can't remember the exact words he was described with”, Juliandra said. “But there was something about the Stone Sculptor having inherited the wits of Autochton himself, though I'm not sure who or what Autochton is.”

“Beats me”, Manovan said and then smiled. “Well, you asked me before if there was more to me than meets the eye. The answer is—“

“Oh no”, Juliandra interrupted. Manovan noticed the young man's eyes widen as he anticipated something bad would soon happen. “It's Headmaster Charles.”

Manovan turned his head and watched a wrinkled old man strut down along the hill towards the crowd. With him were two rugged men, wearing sheeted swords and obsidian leather that almost too obviously indicated that the men were thugs and proud of it. Headmaster Charles wore a robe in black and crimson which was a size too big as he had to hold it up not to trip on its cloth due to his determined steps. The man was furious.

“What in the king's name is going on here?” the headmaster growled as he approached the crowd.

Manovan noticed that Bildan was a little taken aback by the angered village head but his anxiety was soothed by a comforting nod coming from his mayor. The young Solar gently placed his hand on Juliandra's shoulder and smiled. “Don't worry about your headmaster”, he said. “I will have a conversation with him.”

“Good luck with that. You will need it.”

Manovan gave a hearty chuckle and walked past the young poet towards the man who was blushing with rage. He raised his chin and made a graceful bow as he walked, gesturing with his hand like he was gently touching the air itself. He showed an enchanting smile to the fretful headmaster who replied by frowning his face with a sly hiss. Both of his thugs placed their hands on the handles of their swords and intently watched the stranger.

“You must be Headmaster Charles”, Manovan said. “It's a pleasure to finally meet you.”

“Stay back!” one of the thugs yelled and drew his sword while he nodded to the other one as a gesture to do the same.

Manovan made a silent chuckle as he simply grabbed the backside of the sword hand of one of the thugs while he stepped between the men. He raised the hand that held the thug's and locked it together with the other man's sword hand, holding them both in position while he raised his one free hand to politely greet the headmaster. The old man recoiled as he had not anticipated his bodyguards to be this useless.

“Having your thugs attack is not an acceptable way of greeting a guest”, Manovan said with a smile. He channeled Essence from within and had it harmonize with his every word, having them shroud irresistible commands that no mortal should be able to ignore. “You should be more polite.”

The bewildered old man stared into Manovan's eyes but soon seemed to breath more calmly. His eyes widened and he blushed once again. “My goodness”, he said. “Jaron! Helm! Lower your weapons! This is not how we greet a visitor.”

Manovan gave a sly smirk.

All that remained of the royal convoy were wrecked hawsers around piles of blood and bone. Beastmen with traits of both ferocious dogs and cats were crouching over the remains and eating what little human meat there was left.

Chanti Green-Paw walked to the mess that remained of this battle field with the grace of a king's stewardess but with the red- and white-furred feral traits that was her form in battle. She stopped next to a straight sword which was sticking out from the bloody dirt. Its blade was still sharp despite being covered in blood that, unfortunately, was not human. She grabbed its handle with her clawed hand and pulled the sword from the ground. She slowly moved its edge towards her feline face and sniffed the dark blood that was dripping from it.

“Feeling regrets, Chanti?” Omar watched her from behind. Like her, he was in his battle form, dressed in his articulated plate armor of glimmering moonsilver with its surface reminding of liquid under Luna's light. When Chanti tilted her head to leer at him, she noticed his oval panther eyes showing determination and cool. “Eight of your children died by the humans' blades.”

“They gave their lives for a greater good”, she muttered and channeled Essence into the sword in her hand. She could feel the wood, leather and metal that was the weapon take the shape of liquid and run down her fingers to the ground. Within moments, the sword was forever gone.

“Are you sure he's up for the job?” Omar asked. “He's only a child.”

“There is no better way to mature”, Chanti said and leaned down to take another item from the ground. It was a royal crown with a golden frame holding a blood-red ruby. She tossed it over to Omar who caught it with his black-furred hand.

He looked at the crown and frowned his cat-like face.

“Take a human form, my brother”, Chanti said. “Let the people know that their king and his heirs has died. Tell them that the convoy was intercepted by fair folk and the man who held this kingdom together was devoured by the Wyld.”

“You can be so ruthless, Chanti”, Omar said, but he couldn't hold back a smile.

“Let the people know that there is no one left to take up the crown. The people themselves must choose who shall be their new king.” Her tattoos glistened shortly as she transformed into her human frame. She formed her shapely lips into a smirk. “Well, at least make it seem like it is their own choice.”

She looked at the blood on her hand. It was all that remained from the sword that had killed one of her children. She sniffed the palm of her hand and then licked the blood from her fingers.

“I appreciate the hospitality”, Manovan of the Sea said with a sly smirk as Headmaster Charles poured steaming hot green tea into a white ceramic cup. He knew from the smell alone that this was a good tea. It carried the scent of citrus and walnut and it looked rather creamy and welcoming.

“Yes, I'm sorry about my guards' behavior”, Charles said and filled his own cup, then sat down on a chair on the opposite side of the table. They were in a living room with combined working space in a house not much bigger than the room itself. It was a simple house constructed with clay stabilized with a wooden framework, similar to most of the other houses in Melekin. Charles scratched his bulbous nose and his wrinkled skin seemed rather blushed. “I'm not usually this polite to strangers. But since you pointed it out, it got me thinking. Maybe it's time for a change.”

“I'm glad to hear that”, Manovan said. “I would like to apologize for having my herald interrupt the studies. I should have sent you a letter first, letting you know that we were coming. I hope you're not insulted.”

“Not at all”, Charles said and blew carefully on his tea to make it cooler. “I'm sure you have good intentions.”

Manovan leaned back in the creaking wooden chair with the cup in his hand and gazed upon Charles like an artist would gaze upon his creation. He had totally turned this man's personality around with his hypnotic charm. He knew that his charm wasn't flawless. A command that would completely go against the target's beliefs would not necessarily work. It all depended on how strong-willed the target was. This Charles was either weak-willed or not too bad of a person in general. The fact that this charm had worked so well on him could very well be because the headmaster willingly showed an arrogant exterior to be respected as an authority figure. It was still too early to make any conclusions.

“About my intentions”, Manovan said and took a sip of the tea. It was a very good and sweet tea. “I am interested in relocating your academy to my city. Do you think that would be possible?”

“Hardly”, the old man chuckled. “Relocating the academy would be the end of this village.” He shrugged. “On the other hand, the villagers are so lazy it might very well be a good thing.”

“I get the impression that you're not very … pleased with your position as headmaster. Doesn't this both make you head of the academy and head of the village?”

Charles leaned back and chuckled, then snorted and scratched his wrinkled forehead. “I don't know a thing about what the academy teaches. I used to be a respected accountant in Ro'yaru. I worked for the royal family. This is just the result of … certain misunderstandings.”

“Such as?”

“Well, I had a disagreement with the trading guild. It's a long story.”

“I'm sure it's an interesting one”, Manovan said and executed a perfectly fake but seemingly honest smile. “I heard this bizarre rumor that you had stolen money from the trading guild.”

Charles tilted his head and frowned his forehead. He seemed surprised and clearly annoyed by the topic. He placed his steaming cup on the table and crossed his arms. “There was a disagreement. The guild lost some money. I ended up winning some. However, the paperwork was all legit. What I did was all within my authority.”

“But the trading guild didn't think so, I assume.”

“Well, that's their loss, isn't it?”

Manovan crossed his arms and looked at the man. There was something both repulsive and fascinating about the man. He was a grumpy old coot, that was for sure, but he also seemed like a genius if he could manipulate the system in his own favor. It could be a very dangerous talent to have. But it could also be a very useful one.

And it could be up to three days before the charm's effect would wear off and the man would be his grumpy old self again.

“How do you feel about becoming one of the wealthiest humans in Creation, Charles?” Manovan asked with a raised chin emanating confidence and pride.

Charles frowned his nose and looked at the young Solar with curiosity, but with little trust.

“Well, one of the wealthiest might be an exaggeration”, Manovan continued. “You'd have to work for the actual wealth. But the possibility remains. I would like you to become a citizen of my City of Dreams and become the head of my banking guild. I'm confident you can make a strong economy from what we have. The city is already invaluable and we could very well already be the most attractive city in Creation. But with your help we can also become the most influential. You would be the man steering the wheels of our economy. Your name will be known world-wide.”

The headmaster opened his mouth to speak but didn't seem to know what to say. Manovan waited impatiently for a reply. If he could get the man to work for the good of his city until the effect of his charm would wear off, he could either discard him later or try to use the same charm again to maintain the hypnotic effect.

“You seem surprised”, Manovan said and took a sip of tea. “Well, the offer doesn't come without a cost. You would become very wealthy and influential but you wouldn't be able to do entirely as you please. If you would steal money from the city and take off, you wouldn't last a day. But I'm sure you wouldn't do something like that.”

Manovan noticed some wetness on the man's forehead and he seemed to hide a gulp. “I'm not a thief”, he then said and tried to soothe his feelings with a sip of tea.

“Of course not”, Manovan said.

“But I don't think a friendly stranger like you would lie to me”, Charles continued. “I'd be honored to work with your banking guild. As long as you can promise me that I will never have to set my foot inside an academy with incompetent human beings ever again.”

“Very well”, Manovan said and stood up from his chair, leaving the remaining tea behind. “I trust you to handle the proper documentation to have both yourself and the academy relocated to my city without angering Ro'yaru. When can I expect you?”

Charles stood up as a polite gesture and took Manovan's hand. “Well, I can probably speed it up a little. Maybe a week.”

“I look forward to our future cooperation”, the young Solar said with a polite and graceful bow.

When escorted out of the building, he could barely hide how pleased he was with the situation. All he had to do was talk about the City of Dreams and the legends about it had people wanting to live there. A few more weeks and the towns and villages around the valley would feel empty. He wasn't sure what it took to run a city with the potential to have thousands of people, but he wanted to experience it. He had to make sure it happened smoothly though. His existence and the fact that the curse was lifted would surely reach the capital city soon.

Maybe the king would want the city for himself? He wasn't sure he could handle a royal army.

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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:39 am

Chapter 1 to 6 have been massively edited, updated and rewritten.
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Sat Jun 25, 2011 3:58 pm

I know this forum is dead since long but I wanted to post a piece of art I got illustrating this story.

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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:46 pm

That's a great picture!

and a timely post as i'm working on reviving the forum as a place for the old SSL rp crowd to hang out and catch up with each other if they so desire Smile

"We are the ones that want to choose; always want to play but you never want to lose."
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PostSubject: Re: [Exalted Story] The fisherman's son (not WoW)   Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:07 pm

Oh, that's awesome.

Even though I haven't played the game since December I'm eager to have some place to keep writing this story (and have it read). I'm currently rewriting all the chapters though. But if you want to subscribe to them, you can check out the latest version on http://EkorrenHJ.deviantart.com
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