(Previously on Exalted: Kado observed a group of monks of the Immaculate Order approaching Cot. He also encountered a “troubleshooter-for-hire” in the person of Jin, whom Kado hired to help deal with the monks. Upon arriving in Cot, the monks encountered Jin, but the villagers were hiding. Kado, watching from the tower, loosed an arrow at the monks and battle was joined. In the end, all but one of the monks were slain.)
Shan Tzu was taking tea with Uot Van and discussing what they knew of Nathir when he heard the disturbance. He went outside to see a wiry stranger in lamellar armor standing and talking with Kado. Kado and Jin explained the altercation with the monks: Kado explained how he had encountered the monks, and Jin explained that he expected payment. Kado explained how a fight had broken out with the monks, and Jin explained that he expected payment. Finally, both men explained that several of the monks were dead, though Jin did mention that he expected payment. Shan said that the monks had been expected and should not have been killed, which provoked a small philosophical discussion between Jin and Shan. Jin then introduced himself as a troubleshooter, who had heard that the area was being menaced by Fair Folk. As if on cue, a knight of prodigious size and enclosing armor rode out of the woods, demanding to fight the village’s champion or he would ravage the community. Jin, all nobility of purpose, stated that he would fight on behalf of the village. Shan replied that if anyone was currently the village’s champion, it was him, prompting a small snort from Jin at the unarmed and unarmored old man. Shan declared that the Unconquered Sun had given him charge over these people and invoked essence in order to manifest his caste sigil, which produced a strange reaction – the knight replaced his weapon and bowed. The knight, a Fair Folk calling himself Errant Knight, declared that he was a worshiper of the Unconquered Sun, and, as such, would obey and follow Shan as one of the Unconquered Sun’s chosen lords, even as his own lord, Jin, was. Shan invited Jin and Errant Knight to come join them in the tower of Jade, which Kado questioned – these men were clearly of uncertain provenance and morals. But the old priest persisted and they all journeyed to the tower.
Jin took in the wonders of the tower, most delighted with the cuisine. Jin attempted to explain his career, periodically undermined by his trusty knight. When the subject returned to payment, Kado objected that he had hired the man to help defend the village, not to kill the priests. Jin replied that the town was well-defended if the priests were dead. As they continued discussing, Jin asked after the provenance of the tower and the obligations attached to it. Shan offered simply to show him, which once again had Kado wisely pointing out that the man had been dancing around the truth incessantly since his arrival, but the old priest persisted once more. The group journeyed down the fantastically long staircase in the depths beneath the village.
The three, along with Errant Knight, came to the great wooden door, carved with the images of several Incarna. A small struggle of wills erupted over who would open the door and who was capable of opening the door. Kado cut through this rhetorical merry-go-round by opening the door, after which Jin opened it himself to demonstrate that he could. Errant Knight declared that felt profoundly uncomfortable at the thought of passing through that threshold and would remain at the door. The three Solar Exalted entered the chamber of the great mechanism. Jin, still wary as a good caravan guard would be, asked after the obligations of such a fantastic array of magical technology. Shan spoke of bringing righteousness back to Creation, to which Kado added the acquisition of vast wealth. When Jin asked where the Solars intended to start this plan, Shan mentioned Nathir. Jin asked to return to the tower, and to all that food, in order to discuss matters. Using a dizzying array of fruit, wine, and rice, Jin gave the other two Exalted an overview of the labyrinthine political situation in Nathir. The 13 ruling families, the council of 100, and the ministerial positions, all with influence from the Guild and the Gods pulling in various directions.
Shan Tzu proposed a plan: Jin and Kado would leave for Nathir first and enter the city to gather information. Kado would pose as a young man looking for mercenary work, and Jin needed no excuse to go to Nathir, as he resided there. To this Jin added that he would present Kado as the previously undiscovered God-blooded child of the god of mercenaries. Shan would arrive a day later with the surviving monk and proclaim the word of the Unconquered Sun, allowing a variety of vantages to see what ripples emerged from such a thrown pebble. Jin proclaimed such an action fraught with peril at best, a suicide mission at worst: Kado’s true nature was likely to be discovered, and the Sang family, devout members of the Immaculate faith, would likely fall upon Shan as an Anathema, if others didn’t strike him down as simply an obstacle to their plans. Shan said that Kado’s discovery was planned for and that the Night Caste’s skills could extricate him from peril, allowing him to rejoin Shan and for their enemies to think that the Anathema’s “spy” had been discovered, protecting Jin’s cover. He also said that he would not lie about his purpose or keep the word of the Unconquered Sun to himself, as that was a violation of the charge he was given by the Lord of Heaven. Jin still considered it folly, but saw that disaster, should it fall, need not fall on him, so he agreed to participate. Kado, who had never been more than a night’s ranging from Cot in his life, was unsure of this strange turn into intrigue that his life was taking, but declared that he trusted Shan and would go along as well.
Preparations were made in the evening and morning for departure. Shan Tzu walked Tri Thayin back to her hut and pointed out to her the futility of her gesture, the failure of the Immaculates, and the fact that the “Fell Powers” she feared were now returning her unharmed to her family. Jin outlined for the young monk, Ca Van Dam, that his future capacity to speak depended on his agreement to not raise an alarm and to spin a story to the Immaculate temple in Nathir of the Fair Folk assaulting the monks. Further, Jin required the monk’s promise that he would never mention Jin’s or Kado’s role in the attack. The monk agreed and Jin sealed the promise with the power of Heaven itself, explaining to the monk that fate would consign him to a fiery doom should he break faith. In the morning, Jin and Kado left for Nathir while Shan and Ca laid the slain monks to rest, Shan invoking the power of his appointed office to consume the bodies and dispatch their souls to heaven. Awed by this display, Ca converted on the spot to the faith of the Unconquered Sun.
Jin explained the play to his men on the road to Nathir and then attempted to get some sense of what young Kado’s capabilities were, as well as try and prepare the young man for some of the trials that lay ahead. It was discovered that, while Kado was a keen hunter and peerless archer, he had not, in fact, ever killed a man. Moreover, he had no training with blades of any sort, although he was possessed of a practically preternatural physical dexterity. Jin provided the huntsman with a sword and said training would be forthcoming. Upon arrival in Nathir, Kado spent most of his time gawking at the sights and sounds of the city. Jin got them to a cobbler, where he acquired a fine set of boots for Kado. From there it was off to visit the barracks of the Gray Knives, a mercenary outfit. Jin spun a fantastic tale of discovering this young lad, who was just the spitting image of the god of mercenaries and oh, would you take a look at those boots and the lad was an incredible shot, if not yet particularly experienced with a sword. The captain of the Knives, Hong, said she wanted to see the boy shoot and took him to the training ground, where targets were scattered about. Jin identified three targets. Kado drew his longbow and, in a supernatural display of grace and accuracy, put arrows through the bullseyes of each target in the time it would have taken a trained soldier to loose but one shaft. Both the amazing marksmanship and the clearly magical power of the young man impressed Hong and secured the veracity of Jin’s story. Kado was hired and Hong offered Jin a finder’s fee. Jin swapped the offered coin (likely with some small regret) for an introduction and meeting with House An, who patronized the Gray Knives and were devout worshipers of the mercenary god.
Leaving Kado for a rousing bout of training and professional hazing, Jin set out to discover what had changed in his absence, as elections had only just been held. Chasing his way up the informational food chain, the new ground truth could have been worse, but that probably would have involved the Wyld Hunt. The new Minister of Peace, overseeing the city’s constabulary, was Gai Sang of the devout Immaculate family. The Bahn family, alchemists and herbalists who had a talent for poisons, has accrued the Ministries of Trade, Tax, and Works. The Ministry of War had fallen to the Laq family, who specialized in production of military technology. Finally, the Bahn family were at odds with the Minh family, who were one of the few families in town to support Exalts and God-blooded. The Minh, for their part, had secured the Princeship for the current term. Jin raced back to the hall of the Gray Knives and the two Exalted outfitted Kado’s familiar, Kit, with a message for Shan to apprise him of the changes to the situation. Kit delivered the message to the priest, who thanked the fox and sent him back to his master.
Shan Tzu and Ca Van Dam entered the city late that evening. They first went to the temple of Yuva Navu, the god of health and well-being recommended by Uon Vat as potentially amenable to supporting the Exalted in the face of a public dispute. There they met La Thee, a priestess of Yuva Navu and were permitted to pray. Shan’s prayer was answered by Sagacious Balm, a functionary of the god, and Shan declared that the Solar Exalted were intending to begin the reestablishment of the Creation-Ruling Mandate and that the god of health was expected to support the chosen rulers of creation in this endeavor, with some intimations that prayers would be directed to the Unconquered Sun himself regarding the performance or lack thereof of gods called upon. Leaving Ca at the temple, Shan went to the Immaculate Monastery, where he presented the effects of the dead priests to the acolyte that came to greet him. When asked what had happened to the monks, Shan replied that he did not see. Shan also asked that the acolyte communicate the following to the monks inside: The Unconquered Sun had turned his face back to creation, and the lies of the Order had been uncovered. Rather hopelessly confused, the acolyte took the news, the effects, and the message back into the monastery. Neither the acolyte nor the priest noticed Jin nonchalantly observing the proceedings. Only a few hours later, some Immaculate monks came to the temple of Yuva Navu and inquired further as to what had happened, and Shan repeated what he had told the acolyte Jin (no relation). The monks departed and the evening passed.
The following week saw the laying of foundations. Shan went from temple to temple, praying to the various gods of the city with the same message that he had passed to Yuva Navu, with varying degrees of efficacy. Jin went in for some religion in his own particular idiom, bribing the god of mercenaries to support the story of Kado’s parentage. As for Kado, the huntsman explored the city, learning his new terrain as a good hunter does. Armed with knowledge and opportunity, the Exalted planned to meet and discuss next steps. Here we paused.