Editorial Note: This week’s title works both in- and out-of-character, as our august Storyteller declared that we were totally going to Karroth Vlan today. And then things happened…
On the 26th of Descending Wood, Li Zhan, a Guild Merchant Prince specializing in dealing with the Dead, met with Jin in his Ministry offices on behalf of the Guild Factor, Sleepy Fen. Li Zahn requested, at Sleepy Fen’s urging, if he could accompany the Nathir Embassy to Karroth Vlan. Jin asked why Kalanthes was insufficient Guild representation for this endeavor, and Li Zahn indicated that the merchant faction of the Guild’s infrastructure wanted to ensure that their own interests were represented, as well as seeking opportunities for profit that they would be happy to share with Jin, should any present themselves. Jin voiced concerns about the need to provide additional security and declared that for Sleepy Fen to send a subordinate to make this request was insulting, and if Sleepy Fen wanted such a thing, he should come ask himself. Li Zahn apologized and promised to convey the message back to his superior. Before the day was out, a meeting with Sleepy Fen was scheduled for the next day.
On the 27th of Descending Wood, Sleepy Fen came to call on Jin, who had arranged to be joined by Kalanthes (who, as always, brought his trusted bodyguard), Locke, Unfettered Horizon, and Suto, Jin’s designated Guild sponsor. Sleepy Fen, for his part, brought Li Zahn along. The first part of the meeting was taken up by small talk and sizing up the many interlocutors. Jin’s keen social eye picked out a variety of intriguing power relationships and concerns. Sleepy Fen was markedly uncomfortable with the subject of the Dead. Additionally, Jin, who had cunningly arranged the room to help with his surreptitious observations, saw that Li Zahn and Suto were eyeing each other with a surprising level of antipathy. Kalanthes spoke with Li Zahn as one scholar to another, about how best to arrange a possible exchange of information regarding sorcery and necromancy. But Kalanthes’s Courtier’s Eye Technique revealed a terrible secret: Li Zahn’s backing and resources included the support of the Walker in Darkness, the Deathlord who was the power behind the throne in Karroth Vlan. Moreover, his sorcerer’s sight showed that both Suto (whom the Circle well knew about) and Zahn (whom the Circle knew nothing about) were powerful supernatural beings. Still reeling from this shock, Kalanthes got another one when Zahn used a version of a charm he had seen Jin use before to assess the room himself, though the Essence was strange, with a dark taint of death, though Zahn himself seemed as alive as anyone.
In the business part of the meeting, Jin adamantly resisted adding Zahn to the Embassy team, declaring that he could not guarantee Zahn’s safety. When Sleepy Fen offered to provide additional security personnel, Jin declared that such an act would only complicate matters needlessly and make diplomatic work that much harder. Realizing that Jin was intent on refusing him, Sleepy Fen declared that the Guild may take steps to send their own delegation. When Jin accused Sleepy Fen of acting against the wishes of the Ministry of Emergencies, Sleepy Fen accepted this with a shrug. The meeting broke off, with Kalanthes taking the opportunity to appraise Sleepy Fen with Courtier’s Eye and get a sense of the reach and power of the Factor.
After Sleepy Fen departed, Jin turned to Suto, his Guild sponsor and strident rival, asking him for assistance in stopping Sleepy Fen from interfering in the Embassy project. Suto seemed to demur, until Jin committed to a full social engagement, insisting that Suto assist him and Jin would consider himself to be in Suto’s debt if he did so. Suto asked if Jin meant that and Jin said yes, putting his hand on the merchant prince’s shoulder and invoking a powerful social charm combo to compel Suto to do his bidding. Suto replied with something no one was expecting: the merchant prince erupted in a baleful green aura of power, his totemic symbol a gaping maw mask of green fire and Suto, now revealed as some unknown form of Exalted, sanctified the agreement (That Suto would stop Sleepy Fen and Jin would be in Suto’s debt) with a power remarkably like Jin’s caste power, ensuring that the party that broke the arrangement would fall victim to a powerful curse.
Frustrated and now backed into a magically-empowered corner, Jin’s virtues rang out in his mind and his Conviction finally drove him over the brink, triggering his Limit condition of Deliberate Cruelty. Heedless of secrecy now, Jin, who had only barely caused a glimmer of his caste mark, now allowed his aura to manifest as he attempted to terrify his nemesis with his holy power. The psychic assault was brutal and Suto only managed to swallow his terror with a tremendous expenditure of Willpower. Fully in the thrall of the Great Curse (though no one was aware of this, or even that such a thing existed or was possible), Jin turned to deal with Sleepy Fen himself, headed for the door with cruelty first on his mind. Kalanthes stepped in front of the door to try and prevent the raging Jin from exposing himself or harming the Factor. Jin, undeterred, set to drive the sorcerer aside. When it became clear that only violence would resolve the impasse, battle was joined.
Jin was a wild whirlwind of furious swings of his moonsilver daiklaive. Kalanthes, attempted to keep himself alive, while Locke and Zen, carefully moderating their swings to battle, but not cut, Jin, attempted to subdue the mercenary. Locke summoned ice to freeze Jin’s legs and then his sword, while Zen strategically parried deadly blows away from Kalanthes and dazzled Jin with a shower of sparks from their blades crashing. Though Jin swung with the intention of not just injuring, but leaving painful scars, his exuberance inhibited his ability to strike true, and the combined efforts of the Zenith and the Dragon-Blood gave Kalanthes the opportunity to coordinate an attack that drove Jin into a spin that left him bound in an armlock. Now helpless against further assault, Jin found himself rapidly beaten into unconsciousness.
Suto clapped smugly as the circle, now with several totemic auras flared, was forced to subdue one of their own. Kalanthes acquired rope and they bound Jin to prevent him from doing further harm. Locke and Kalanthes sparred verbally for a brief period with Suto, arguing over the nature of good and evil, even as Locke, very sure of her own sense of right and wrong, desperately wanted to end the argument with the edge of her daiklaive. No further violence was in the offing this day, however, and as the auras began to fade, the party bound up Jin in one bag, and his arms and armor in another, spiriting the unconscious warrior to the basement of Kalanthes’s compound for safekeeping.
It took the best part of the morning and into the early afternoon before Jin’s fury had receded. Kalanthes, Locke, and Zen asked him for an explanation and Jin retorted with accusations that the others had turned against him. They argued in a circle over this for a brief period before Kalanthes asked Locke and Zen to wait outside, and then untied Jin. The two men talked briefly about Jin’s decision-making process, with Kalanthes trying to get Jin to consider why he had been suddenly willing to put the identity he had been so carefully protecting at risk. Jin, never one to indulge in pointless self-reflection, agreed to think about it, though he did not see the point.
Attempting to mend fences, Kalanthes brought everyone together for lunch and made an announcement: his attempt to break off his engagement had met with failure and not only was he now getting married, he needed to do so before departing for Karroth Vlan. He asked Jin to both organize things and to serve as his best man, which took the mercenary, so recently having assaulted Kalanthes with violent intent, aback. He also asked Locke to preside over the ceremony and to arrange for the attendance and blessing of whichever members of the Spirit Courts she could persuade. Turned to new purpose, Locke and Jin began immediately conspiring to achieve their ends.
Their first stop was back to the Ministry offices and up to the top, where the temple of Happy Taro resided. The City God of Nathir appeared immediately, still petrified of Locke’s zealotry and spirit-damaging powers. Jin and Locke began speaking with Happy Taro about the wedding and its importance and the necessity of as many members of the local court attending as could be arranged. Happy Taro was, as is his way, happy to oblige. The pair then visited Muy, head of the Salt Council, and arranged for the many salt gods to also be in attendance.
And here we paused.