On the 9th of Ascending Wood, Locke set out on a introductory tour through several of the major gods of the city and region. First, she visited the temple of Duong Giao, the god of the eastern road. Praying at his temple, the impressiveness of her incense and the power of her prayer summoned the god himself for a discussion. Locke asked what sort of service could be done to prove that she and her Circle were allies worth having. Duong Giap requested new trade along the eastern road, as well as some plans to improve and beautify it. Next, Locke traveled outside the city to the sacred caves, in which dwell the god of the quarries, Ahn Lan Chong. Making the same offer to the granite form of the god, Locke is charged to increase the usage of the god’s stone in the region by 20%. Returning to town, she visited the dockside caverns that were the home of the Salt Council, headed by the chief Salt God, Muy. Muy, of course, was already a courteous and eager servant and absolutely pleasant after Locke had mentioned her relationship to the Solar Circle. Locked asked that the Salt Gods proclaim that she had their support at the local Spirit Court, and that they keep a quiet eye on the activities of Happy Taro. Finally, she paid a visit to Happy Taro himself, taking a somewhat different tack in making an impression on Nathir’s primary city god. Drawing her daiklaive, she slammed it to the floor of his temple, which occupies the upper regions of the city’s primary government building, and proclaimed herself not only a prophet of the Unconquered Sun, but a mighty warrior (carefully omitting the word “Exalted”). Happy Taro, a rotund and endless cheerful man, said he had no fear of demons, as they were bound in a variety of ways. Locke replied that she could defend the city from the dead and the fair folk, with magics that could destroy spirits eternally, making her pledge a less-than-subtle threat against those who would cross her. Happy Taro received the message loud and clear and asked what he could possibly do on behalf of such a mighty warrior. Locke asked him to bless the efforts of the Minister of Emergencies, which he rapidly declared he was happy to do thrice over. [Net result of this: Jin’s new ministry and position is now permanent. Any action undertaken in his official capacity receives +1 die.]
Locke, Sarnai, and Kalanthes each started training each other – Sarnai taught Locke some of the elements of deportment and making a positive impression (Charisma). Locke put Sarnai through a series of endurance exercises (Stamina), and Kalanthes taught Sarnai the fundamentals of business and of navigating the city’s bureaucracy (Bureaucracy). The forces of Lookshy received their direct commander, Gherin Kita, and plans were made to receive her at the compound and get to know her as soon as the Minister of Emergencies could clear his schedule.
Kalanthes started a pair of projects to further the Circle’s aims. First, he commissioned the construction of the Great Vaneha Road, to be considered a part of the Eastern Road, and running along the shores of the southeastern river, from the “ruins” of Kraytak, through Nathir, to Golden Spire and even further. He directed that the road be built with great slabs of stone from Nathir’s quarries, and that a side road from it run from the shoreline directly to his compound. Secondly, he gathered together the experts from the Guild of Red Iron and the Sorcerer-Engineers of Lookshy’s deployed Dragon to begin work on Jin’s great Harbor Chain. They eventually developed an alloy of orichalcum, white jade, red jade, and steel that would prove, no pun intended, anathema to the dead and those infused with the power of the dead [Net result – the metal does aggravated damage to any creature infused with Necrotic Essence].
Sarnai and Kalanthes engaged on an extended research project to discover just what the Sidereal Exalted were up to within the bounds of Stone Root Province. They began by researching regional history, searching out evidence of ripples in the river of events where the stone thrown to do so was unclear, contradictory, or simply missing. Armed with this general sense of where Sidereals might have appeared, Sarnai, aided by Kalanthes, made a direct investigation of the events and people touched by these ripples, focusing on the Immaculate Order as a known pawn of the Sidereal Exalted. They were able to determine that a Sidereal ran down and killed either a Solar or Lunar Exalted in this region some six years ago, and that, over the last two years, a Sidereal, probably Elephant Speaker, had roamed the region extensively, making various events happen or not happen.
It was as they were showing this rather extensive conspiracy map to Locke, some six weeks after they began, that Elephant Speaker returned, somewhat dismayed that anyone had been able to track down the activities of those hidden by fate itself. Nevertheless, she proved good as her word, presenting Kalanthes with a copy of the spell, Private Plaza of Downcast Eyes, and the Circle with documentation establishing that Gherin Kita was, in fact, a direct descendent of the last Shogun. In gratitude for her efforts, Kalanthes hatched a plot to try and reveal the Solar Circle to the Sidereals of the Gold Faction in a way that would take the pressure off of her to keep them a secret, and possibly give the Circle some more freedom to maneuver, as well as a few more friends in Heaven. Elephant Speaker had previously explained the existence of the Cult of the Illuminated, as well as the intention of the Gold Faction to use Solars as proxy rulers, in the same manner as the Bronze Faction uses the Dragon-Blooded. Kalanthes proposed that they attempt to arrange events so that some Gold Faction Sidereals “discover” the Solar Circle and the grateful Solars accept their aid, not letting on that they know how the Sidereals see them. Elephant Speaker endorsed this plan and agreed to help, but stated that, in order to arrange Fate to support this outcome, the Circle would A) need to come up with actions that would cause their Animas to flare to totemic levels, and B) be ready to deploy a plan that triggered these actions on very short notice. The battle with the undead of Karroth Vlan seemed to provide an ideal stage for this, but Elephant Speaker could not guarantee that she could manipulate fate to that particular event. Finally, Kalanthes asked that Elephant Speaker tutor him in the martial arts.
Having reached the date of 16 Resplendent Wood, here we paused.