Sun Tempered, a smith's journal

Whoever owns this doesn't want anyone else being able to get a hold on when it was written, started, or kept unless they know the events in question already. No dates are kept on the pages and entries.

Musical Note: Mirwais- Disco Science
Fifth Entry since coming through the Summer Mountains. We're dropping a load of Food and Rice in Chiaroscuro, and trading up into glass remnants of the First Age. I'm going to admit the swing to Chiaroscuro was my sole contribution to spontaneity on this run. I heard some merchants in a village on the coast say the place was hurting for supplier for some reason. As it turns out, they were right. The wagons of food we brought in went for a near fortune when we met our contact there.

Judging by the shit eating grin on his face it's going to be sold to the locals at an even higher markup.

We're lucky to unload several wagon-loads of farm-goods here. The stuff is -heavy-, dangerous to transport because food is a universal want, and will spoil if you keep it too long without proper treatment. I'm not going to lie: We got lucky that tip was right. Glass items from Chiaroscuro sell well, even in the south, and more importantly we can pick up anything we could ever want to trade in the markets here. There's weapons, mirrors, artistic baubles, and more importantly, a few lines on some 'magical' materials that Paragon's fabled artifact forges crave. If we can secure those we'll do more than break even on that leg of the trip and likely get in and out of the Perfect's city quickly.

There's supposed to be a 'magic' road that runs from Chiaroscuro to Paragon and all the local merchants vouch that, even if the road isn't magic, something's keeping it in good repair. From Paragon it's a hop and a skip to the Lap, and from there south into Gem for the last leg of this. You take all the needs and wants you heard on the trip down and feed them backwards from that point. Find out what from Gem the markets in the Lap can support. Move the goods, see what from the Lap can be transported to Paragon, Paragon to Chiarscuro again. You keep trading your goods and you keep that shipment of Firewands you picked up out of sight and out of mind and you might just make it back to the Nexus with a large profit already in pocket before you even unload the weapons to interested buyers.

I -want- to get in and out of Paragon quickly. The rumors about that place give me the creeps. Thankfully the materials market in Paragon is a known hot-spot and goods will go quickly if we can pick the right ones for the season's slated forging. I do not want to be caught in Paragon with that creepy Perfect on the prowl at any point. I'll have to play stupid caravan guard during that part of the trade run. Don't want to draw attention. Don't want to see too well read, too in the know. People tell caravan guards thing. Guards keep their own social circles away from the trade masters. Discuss things they've seen, done, or heard. Good things to know. You'd be amazed what goes on further to the south according to them. I can't get away with playing dumb too long in there, but I can get away with it long enough. A guy my size isn't expected to have a brain behind the grin.

There's a million caravan guards running in Paragon, and no one tracks them. They -do- keep paperwork on caravan masters though, and anyone else that stays in the Paragon proper. I can send one of my trusted hands in under my name and with my papers and then I can play the 'mouth' to all the people we do business with. The emissary from the caravan with orders from the boss.

I like being involved in my own work.

We need to unload and reload quick there. Send a few wagons back in reverse from Paragon to Nexus with the artifacts they're willing to sell. Spread the profit liability a bit with the wagons. We should make enough here to buy a few local wagons and hands, new horses, and people we won't be afraid about leaving here in the City of Glass again once we came back to this city.

Skin's already crawling at the prospect of going to Paragon though. It'll be a pain to find hands willing to go near that city. Shouldn't be too bad if we make it clear we're not staying long. No one wants to stay long in Paragon.

But that gives us an excuse to idle here in the City of Glass for a while yet while we get new goods for the Paragon run and send our Nexus hired and bonded hands back with other trade goods. This is a sitting remnant of the First Age, like Nexus and Lookshy. It's not in any better SHAPE than Nexus or Lookshy. Completely different scale and purpose. Just as densely populated.

Found a guy in the Undercity who was willing to take me through the crowds to the Field of Gold. Gods above that was a sight. You could cook a pig on that sheet of enchanted golden glass during noon-day.

And there were people -running- on it. I'm pretty sure I saw a charred -corpse- on it as well. Someone lost a wager I wager.

There's a lot of 'artifact' and 'tome' trade in this city that I'm taking heavy advantage of. Some don't know what they've got. Others do. I've got a collection of books growing in the hold that we're reserving for the Firewands on the trip back. Some of them are obvious myths, some might have truth to them. Thing I did learn coming into Chiaroscuro is there's going to be plenty of time to read on the trip to Paragon, then to the Lap, then to Gem, and plenty of time on the way back to boot.

That is, between the bandits, the insane locals, and the old gods of the desert.

But there's things here I could never pry out of the Nexus or Lookshy libraries. The thinking here in the First Age was obviously different than what was there or even in Denadsor. Sheds light in different ways on similar subjects. I still don't have a clue why Denadsor was founded, but Chiaroscuro was obviously meant as a port-city. A giant glass Gem eye in the sand. A real work of art. As a city.

We have -got- to reclaim this kind of glory.

It's right here in front of us and we're using it as a souk. A First Age city used as a massive trading bazaar for the Tri-Khan. Makes part of me sick inside. Makes part of me laugh.

Going out tomorrow. Guide says he can get me into one of the unbroken glass towers. Even if he can't, it'll be worth a trip into that section of the city. Putting a chip of the local enchanted glass here between the pages.

Addendum: Got inside the tower. Got the creeps. The guide ran. I managed to get out with a few scrolls from a cache that I'm not really sure how I found. Felt like I'd been there before. Another life? Another time? I can spend some of the trip translating these down to Old Realm I think and seeing what they've got.

Musical Note: Dead Kennedys- Holiday in Cambodia

Second Entry since entering Paragon. They weren't kidding about that road. Twisting snake of red glass that rolled through the desert lead right up to the doors here, practically. This city is insane. Sorcerers everywhere. The lines of the streets and the buildings are, best I can tell from a day of walking, a giant geomantric setup. North counters south. Wood counters Water. There's also a big fortress in the south of the city that also doubles as the factory for most of the Artifacts they turn out here.

That factory is the main reason were were able to unload so much magical materials so fast at a reliable price here. This place is a pit for jade, moonsilver, starmetal. Everything mystical here sells to the government of the Perfect. I'd love to know what they're turning out here other than those talismans I've seen at the throat of every two-bit noble sorcerer.

All and all this place gives me the creeps. It's technically part of the empire. There's a garrison of Dragon Blooded here which means I have to play it double quiet while I'm within the city. One for the Perfect and two for the Red Bitch.

Which really pisses me off because after some talking, it turns out there's some kind of forbidden city called Dari about forty or fifty miles from Paragon. The locals don't talk about it. The merchants do. Something about a Primordial city? That'd be a new one. Not surprised that no one's living there. People are still squatting on the bones of the First Age cities. The Primordials are even older than that and they were NOT HUMAN. Which makes those ruins really tempting to look at and, at the same time, forbidden. There's smugglers running around the edges trying to sell glowing stone from the place to passing caravans. I told our guys to stay the hell away from it. Hopefully they listen. I'm barely starting to understand what's going on with ME without sticking my dick into a dead Primordial's rotten hole.

I've had a lot of time to read in my room here. No one has fun. No one breaks laws. No one local anyway. The merchant inns are a bit more lively. Since there's no local entertainment there's even apprently an industry to bring IN stuff to entertain the merchants.

I'm steering clear of it. One night, one fight, and my cover and this entire run is blown, though I won't say I'm not itching for something interesting. That's the stupid part of me talking. The same part that got my ass beat down by that Dragonblood more than a decade ago. Not going to finger sister Fate again like that.

So while people walk the streets dressed in black and get things done, I'm up here reading books I picked up in Chiaroscuro. The White and Black treatises. The black's still out of my ken at the moment. The white's like a trainer's book for want to be Emerald Circlists. It's a heavy damn read. But it's got a hook in me and I'm paying attention. I got them in here along with a shipment of thaumaturgical texts that went with the magical materials we sold. They shove a few more parts into the puzzle I was working over in my head before we even crossed the mountains in the City of Glass. This was the kind of stuff that built the First Age. This was the kind of stuff built into the streets here. Purifying the water and turning on those street-lights at nights. This is the key. You know the first thing it tells you? Get ready to make sacrafices. I figgure it's just the cost of doing buisness. In for a penny, in for a pound. I'll see how far into this I can read and puzzle. Maybe rent some library time from someone in city if possible. If I can do it without attracting attention.

Like I said, this place is a sorcerer's paradise.

If you don't mind being shackled to the owner that is.

Which I do. I seen that creepy fucking eyeball on people's palms when traders are shaking on deals. I ain't shaking no one's hand here. Leaving that to my second. He got the texts and the metals unloaded easy. Next thing to pick up is artifacts and manufactured good that the Lap will buy up since this place turns them out like hot buns in a Bakery.

I would kill to get inside that factory-fort in the south end.

But there's no way I'd manage it without killing everyone inside.

Which I'm not about to do.

We're going to head out soon. Soon as we get enough goods to justify the stop and make a profit in the Lap. From there we pick up a ton of food and a Gem-sponsored food contract and we're in the black more than a nexus chimney sweep is.

Good. I don't want to stay here.

Feels like something's watching.

Musical Note: Yoshida Brothers - Kodo

Fourth Day out from Paragon
You know, there's a touch of nobility in me somewhere. I've buried it damn far and I've thrown myself and what I have into being that working man that handling steel entails. Call blacksmithing as noble as you want. You'll still end up with a crushed thumb if you aren't careful and it's hard to ape being noble after a dobbin kicks you square in the black and tackle. There's a reason smiths wear aprons. Heat's only part of it.

I got a proper education in being noble. Soon as I didn't dragon-wise exalt I did the best I could to toss it to the wind. Most of it didn't go. Kept the combat training close to heart. Kept the toughness and the mean that it forced on you because there's no damn way you can survive in Nexus without it. Kept the book learning and the smarts because with those you get -really- dangerous. Just have a gander at Lookshy. At the 7'th legion. Hell, at the Guild.

But I did cut most of the noble ties I had. It's easy to drop people. Not so easy to drop habit. You keep what you need for business. You forget the dance and the twitter of social life. And that makes you -smile-. But you keep the memory in your hands of how to handle an instrument. Where to put your feet when dancing with a person or with a sword. Damn similar those two.

Which leaves me here on top of one of the hooded carts with a shamisen, picking at it and trying to remember where the fingers go and the hands twitch. I remember how it goes and I been lucky with my hands. Havn't crushed or burned them to the point where I lost any quickness in em.

Lucky that.

I don't like being out here in the desert. I ran out of Lookshy. Then I ran out of Nexus quick as I could get a caravan going.

Not what I'd been taught as a noble. Not what I taught myself. And no matter how right it is in the head, part of me wants to be there. Facing it. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing. I have a load of goods and not much else. No access to the 7'th legion's artifact armory. No access to the site in the Deserted city.

In the course of 'getting safe' I've gotten a whole lot of naught. And it's pissing me off. Here I am with a brand and I'm too scared to USE the damned thing.

Patience or cowardice. Same thing to me. Here I am with all of THIS…and flexing it is suicide. Flexing it is what brought it down the first time around.

So does that make this a blessing or a curse?

Lived my entire life without it. Not using it is a problem. WANTING to use it might do something worse than kill me.

Which is why I'm sitting here on top of the wagon. Picking at strings and driving the caravan sentries absolutely batshit.

Can't work. Can't be a hero.

So I can be a damned annoyance.

Because if I don't get rid of this need to be something from the first age I'm likely going to get everyone killed.

So I'm out on the road to the Lap now. Loaded down with mystical goods to trade to fat realm cats, as well as local goods that trade up well with transport to that statue. Also bought some climbing gear. I am going up that damn hill.

Which just leaves me, the caravan, this shamisen I bought off a crooked merchant outside Paragon, and the desert. The sky's azue and endless and -mean-. There's nothing out there except dunes and it's only going to get worse when we turn south towards Gem with goods from the Lap. And nothing to do except pick at the strings and let the crying reel peel off into the deep blue sky into the peaks to the south where the horizon turns shades of red and the peak of the vault of heaven that turns shades of blue so dark it's almost black.

Sky and sand. Makes a man, even one like me, feel small, mortal, and powerless.

Endless heaven to the top of me.

Endless hell down here on earth.

And that really ticks me off. Before the fall we were felling things beyond the gods. We brought the world up. And here we are in the gutter compared to that. And the fact that it was a Solar fault? Even if you discount what the Dragons say, the times before the purge were still fucked up beyond all recognition. Back in the City of Glass I kept getting flashes from another time, another place. None of them were anywhere near sane.

Can't let that happen again. Can't stick my neck out either.

But eventually I'm going to have to. I've run from being a hero. I've run from being what the first age ended as. I know that capacity is in me if I reach for the sun -first-.

And that needs to change.

Musical Note: Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc

Fourteenth day out from Paragon. I knew we were getting into the Lap 's area when we passed the first windmill.

That isn't to say that the desert hadn't bled away into grass or the the blue sky had fallen to meet green instead of gold.

No, the windmills meant there was enough grain here to warrant milling and selling as flour. It's a small distinction but, when you're dealing with a place like the Lap, it's everything. The lap is a rolling mass of fecund land. You know you're into the Lap when you see the windmills. You know you're in an area that relies on the earth and the ground and the fecundity of the soil they're toiling through.

And all this is before you see that mountain.

THAT mountain is everything of the first age made manifest. It's a scale I can't even really get through my skull. We're still hundreds of miles from the place and you can still see it gazing out over the plains, almost a god manifest in scope and breadth. Just being near that thing would inspire people to stay. Pair it with the land and you've got a reason to set down and never move again.

And that's where the Lap fails. Nothing needs to move here. Nothing needs to happen. The Realm doesn't want to move either. The realm's happy with a giant breadbasket that doesn't know exactly how many strings are attached to it's every need and want.

The Lap wants for little. The windmills turn forever hand in hand. The Penitent doesn't care. It's silent and waiting. Lost in a dream of an age past. The windmills might turn forever if the Lap doesn't catch on to what they have going here.

And that worries me a little. The entirety of the Lap is content to sit in the shadows of the Penitent. They'll never wonder what's in there, up there, or WHY it's there.

And that drives me a little crazy. It's why I'll never settle in a place like this. I want all that giant stature represents to come BACK. I can't sit on a windmill and be content. That giant mountain is as good a reminder as the Lost City, Nexus, The City of Glass, or Even Lookshy's 7'th legion remnants.

I'll never sit back here on the land and look at something like that with content. There's something more than this giant grain-barrow has harnessed and someone will eventually need to catch on.

I doubt that person will be from the Lap however, and that also worries me. It's not going to be pleasant when and if the grip of some power closes around this place more than the Realm has.

I'm going up that damn mountain. The Penitent and me need to have a little chat. Even if it doesn't talk back, I get the feeling this is the one place I can get away with screaming every damn frustration I have about the Anathma's failings back at a face that -witnessed- them. The Penitent looks patient enough to take it in stride.

I just hope I am too.

I hope this thing stands forever. Never falls down. Takes it all in stride. It's not it's job to turn this world around.

It's ours.

Gods-damn it. I'm not even there and I'm having conversations with the thing. I can feel it's half lidded eyes a watching, and we're still far far away from it yet. But I'm still taking things away from it. First I need to get my own ass in shape. I've been running away from the power long enough. It's time to go looking for a little bit of it. I'm going to find some of it up there. Just him, me, and that damn book I've been pulling around too afraid to really bite into.

I'm going to bite the hell out of that book once I can get up there.

And they say nothing ever happens in the Lap.

NiN- Demon Seed
Fourth Day in North Leg, and holy hells is this stupid. Been here more than half a week and I haven't been able to stop looking up. We're -early- for the harvest, threshing and milling season which means we're going to be here a while for proper goods that will still be fresh but survive the trip to Gem. Means I have at least 2 to three weeks to explore and climb that mountain. I'm due to join a climbing group later today. Said we'll get into the Arm Forest and camp out there for a few days. I plan on hiring the best guide in the lot of tourist herders to at least get me out to one of the hands, though I'd kill to get into that thing's -head-.

The entire thing is a maggoty ridden corpse of post-first age works, lifts, and tunnels. The entire area down near the feet are nothing but transport tunnels that move up towards lifts. Half of the damn things arn't marked, and nearly none of the side-tunnels are. Iffin I can survive the trip up I'll troll the underbelly of the town here for a tunnel guide.

Just need to romance the huge bastard first before burrowing into it's flesh. Not something the rest of this place did at any rate. Not judging by that slagged out eye. That eye worries me. It tells me there's people outside the 7'th that still have weaponry powerful enough to deface a mountain. I'm going to bug the guides for some history on that on the way up though I'll lay money all signs point back to someone tied to the Realm and the ol'Red Bitch herself.

After the rolls up the mountain side, I've decided I'll snag some local Rotgut and get into the kind of trouble caravan guards are supposed to get into in this town. Anything to keep people from throwing me a cross-eyed look. Someone my size going up the mountain on what's likely a mostly spiritual trek is going to throw up red flags. Might pay the guard to come down -without- me and leave notes where rendezvous with the rest of the caravan with m'leader.

Need t'pack. Going t'need extra hard-tack an water skin fer the second leg of the run up the damn notreallyafuckingmountain. Probly some ropes, pitons, and godsluck to boot.

Living in a shadow like this, they gotta have a few temples somewhere, right?

NiN- God Given

Day Five in the Leg Forest. Something's wrong with this little outing. Most of the people here have a lot of coin and almost no practical woods knowledge. I've been in a caravan for almost four months, and before that almost half a year running the area around the Lost City. I know how to live in a hostile area. These people are soft. Most don't have callouses on their hands. Some have servants -carrying- their packs for them. I'm in the middle of a merchant trek up a mountain shaped like a man. I'm here because I paid lot of money for what I knew was a good guide.

Except I get the feeling this guy isn't the one running the trek. He's edgy. He's twitching. He knows what I know.

Something in this forest is watching us move as we get up the leg and towards the real climb part of this venture.

Day Seven in the Leg Forest We woke up this morning and one of the trade princes was missing. All his stuff is still here. His servant is gone too. HIS stuff is gone, and the servant had all the useful portions of that guy's pack. Fuck.

Day Eight, Leg Flats The trek guide says we're going to cut to a path that runs over the statue's belly and towards the crooks of the arms. I'm calling bullshit here.

Day Nine I was right.
One of the pampered twits mis-stepped and took the short way back down to the Groin. This is some sort of scam. I intend to follow it to the scammer himself and punch my fair share of payback and blood out of them.

Several pages are torn out here. There's enough spattering at the tops and edges of the bound book in the following entries to suggest someone may have been beaten to near-death with the book

Day twelve I was so fucking wrong. The guide got -pushed- off the trek as soon as we got to the Navel. Which left me, the guy who just murdered our fucking guide, and five other fat merchants who were complaining about the heat and the climb. The other five didn't make it, obviously. So I leg it. I figure it's a revenge killing. Honor killing. Maybe a Dynast ordered hit. Fuck me if I'm sticking around for the Dragons that are going to show up to mop up the scene and the assassin. Fuck that in the -ear-, to excuse my Nexian.

But no. Before he's even done with the first one this guy is cackling like crazy and polishing his knife, muttering about it dripping rubys and freeing the gems of life and other-such.

No. What I got here is a Garden variety psycho. I've heard of merchants way on the edge of things dealing with things. I'm not even sure it's -human- now. It's talking wrong. It's moving wrong, and there's an ugly green black light coming off it. No caste mark. Just saying how it's been waiting. Just waiting. Waiting and I can hear it right in my -head- without using my ears, like it was cutting out the middleman.

So here I am halfway up a mountain with what I'm going to -call- a possessed pissed off merchant. Shit.

I took off, because fighting demons isn't my thing. Getting to KNOW what you're fighting, that's another story. Sure, I could squish this guy. Judging from how he offed the guide and the other trekkers, he's not packing anything out of the ordinary knife.

But he's -way- more inclined to use it than anyone, and he's probably crazy to boot. I say probably. He could just be driven. Or not there at all.

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