Note to Self #1 – No more broad questions in the journal until lack of fate entanglement is confirmed.
When asking disturbing questions in a journal, receiving immediate answers can be unsettling. Receiving immediate answers that appear to confirm your worst fears are unsettling. Receiving immediate answers that not only confirm your fears, but introduce new ones you had not thought to consider is reason to lock the doors and not come out again.
The technique of the Courtier’s Eye reveals support and alliances in a metaphorical fashion. Wealth appears as chests, bursting with treasure. Organizations appear as some person or group of people with trappings that indicate who they are. Allies in the room can appear simply as golden threads connecting the observed to the person they believe they can count on for aid – Sleepy Fen cast out a great net of golden threads, believing everyone in the meeting room, save Locke and Zen, were assets to be used in need. Suto has, unsurprisingly, made explicit, and thus far successful, efforts to obscure the extent of his power and support. Li Zahn attempted to do the same, but was not as successful as Suto.
I may have wished that he had been.
The usual images of wealth appeared behind the merchant prince, as did a great cloak of black fog, like smoke, that swirled over his shoulders and into his ears. Something is whispering to him, and those whispers grant him power not unlike that of a powerful patron. I might have mistaken it for the influence of a Deathlord, but for one minor detail – I saw the Deathlord, or at least a representation I recognized as Walker in Darkness, looming behind Li Zahn with one awful hand on his shoulder.
Something worse than a Deathlord?
I appear to have violated my first note to myself.
Note to Self #2 – Draft specific instructions for the Chrysogona. Instructions should leave some leeway for creativity, but inhibit the capacity for betrayal. Easier if I set the start of the war as the end of the service period.
Suto, who we knew was of a type with us in power and ability, was kind enough to reveal his own patron directly once the mortals were out of the room. While the revelation is useful, first I have to overcome a nearly paralyzing fear. The Ebon Dragon? So Deathlords and Yozi Lords both have their own Exalted and both seem to take a far more active hand in supporting their champions agendas than the Unconquered Sun has taken in ours. The nature of their Exaltations remains a mystery though – How would it even be possible for the Deathlords to forge something designed to affix itself to a living soul? Li Zahn appeared as alive as I am.
The panic inside of me wants to cast off everything I’ve built and focus solely and being ready to do battle with such beings – both of the ones I met radiated power I have only recently come into. But the strategos wins – I know next to nothing of their natures, their experience, or their plans. I cannot defeat an enemy I don’t know. Even on a more rational note, however, the need to improve my sorcery and broaden my knowledge becomes more critical in light of these developments.
The Fair Folk will be marching soon. The Dead will gather to assault us, and have some necrotic Exalted of their own. The forces of hell have their own champions and are far more likely to move on an aggressive timeline than the ever-patient dead. In a world threatened by such things, what do I do?
Note to Self #3 – Write Wedding Vows.
Ah yes, I am getting married.
It has been some time since I was shouted at. My wisdom has been questioned often enough, and I’ve been called arrogant with enough frequency that I must confess it. I was so certain I had a solution all figured out and then I’m standing there guilty of exactly the sort of thinking I’ve berated Jin for. No fool like an old fool. Even now, I fret over the idea that, in the potential centuries ahead of me, she might become a wisp of a memory. And the moment I do, I hear her voice pointing out that we are nothing but an assembly of Todays, and letting today go because it’s a memory tomorrow, or because of some imagined tomorrow 10,000 todays from now, is a cockeyed way of looking at the world.
If nothing else, I owe her my thanks and my support just for pointing out my hypocrisy, however much it may have stung at the moment. There is no charm or spell to make me a good husband. That is my burden and I shall try to live up to it.
Topics for research: Ebon Dragon, Walker in Darkness, the madness of the First Age Exalted.
If existential threats from beyond Creation were not enough, we must now acknowledge a threat from within. Jin may be willing to rationalize his reactions as understandable in the face of betrayal, but I give him more credit than that. He’s uneducated, but he’s not a fool, and yet he was ready and willing to compromise all the work we have done to conceal our natures to stomp one meddling Factor? I have never seen him lose control so utterly, and Elephant Speaker’s stories of the First Age Exalted going mad now resonate with some concern. Perhaps it is some effect that my Sorcerer’s sight could not detect – some corruption Suto unleashed. Perhaps the human mind simply cannot hold the sort of power we have been given. He may protest that he did not mean to kill us, but even if that’s true, I expect he is overestimating my resilience in the event of large, bleeding wounds.
I hope that the wedding and the expedition to Karroth Vlan may achieve something we have not been able to accomplish in the months we have worked together – a degree of cooperation and trust between us. Jin, Kado, and I have not, I think, yet worked at cross purposes, but we have difficulty working together. We don’t trust each other. As Kado so often (and loudly) points out, they cannot sense lies the way I can, so I need to demonstrate my sincerity and openness more directly. On the other hand, if they had not lied to me on our first meeting, I might be more inclined to trust them now – first impressions are hard to overcome.
But overcome them we must. The one advantage we have on Suto and Li Zahn is that, for all appearances, they do not have friends, only acquaintances and minions. Whatever their power, I doubt they could withstand the five of us working together. In the longer term, I would say the same for the Yozis and the Deathlords. After all, something inside tells me we’ve beaten them before.