(The following takes place during the journey from Champoor to Ydanna)
“You walk a dangerous path young Feather, to leave Champoor, I cannot follow you, I cannot guide you in the steps that you must take to reclaim what was stolen from me…from us.”
He could hear the soft but angry words of his mentor echoing in his head even now. He stared up at the ceiling of the tent unable to sleep. It had been nearly a month since the fight with Kagada Shar, nearly a month since they saved Champoor, the whole of the Dreaming Sea, maybe even all of Creation, it was hard to tell.
So much had happened in such a short time, meeting his circle mates, discovering that there was a world worth saving beyond the edges of Silver Shade’s tomb. Now they were heading for parts unknown, at least parts of the world he had never known. He tried to remember a life before the tomb, before Silver Shade’s lessons. There wasn’t much, a hazy blur of memories, training as a courtesan, traveling from city to city across the South, strange places and even stranger masters.
He did not hate the Guild for his enslavement, nor did he hold any ill will toward his long forgotten parents, whoever they were, whatever they were. The color of his skin was clear reminder enough that at least one of his parents was not all human. Without the choices they made, without the circumstances that led the Guild to Champoor he would not have met his circle, his friends, T’Dara, Ebai, Jin-La, Fading Ember, or any of the others. Perhaps he would not have even lifted The Feather’s of Heaven and felt the touch of the Unconquered Sun.
If the stories of his mentor were true, if fate was woven upon the great loom and The Maidens watched and the Incarna maneuvered within their games what role did he play? In the Gateway game that was his life was he merely a simple soldier, destined to move along the field at the whim of others? Was he a Hero, carving a path toward victory for his side? Or was he an Exalt, something more, something that would change the rules of the game entirely?
“How do you know the words of that Rat are true?” His mentor has asked, his cold voice making the words cut. “Do you truly trust that gutter trash, it is beneath you, You are a chosen of the Unconquered Sun, a King amongst the Gods, that Rat should grovel at your feet not feed you bits of information like a fish on a line.”
“He holds much power Uncle, and he is not toying with me, the whole of Champoor knows what my circle and I are capable of, what I am capable of. He fears me, they all fear me. I do not think that I can return to my quiet search after that fight.” He had used the familial term of affection for the ancient ghost in the hopes that he could calm his mentor from the cold fury that was burning within him, but that was not to be the case, he knew ghosts were not perfect reflections of who they once were, they were changed. The siren call of Lethe was an unending pull upon the dead, they had to have something to anchor them to creation, and one of Silver Shade’s strongest anchor’s was his ancient hatred of the God’s who betrayed him so long ago.
“I am not your Uncle child, I am one of the last remaining of the great Silver host, one of the last of the true Lunar exalts, I was once a ruler in my own right, instead I am trapped here in this prison of spirit a pale reflection of what I once was, and do you know why little Feather, do you know what caused my downfall, our downfall.”
“Yes sifu,” He replied, letting this drama play out as it always did.
“Because of sycophantic wastes of Starmetal and essence like that Rat scum who calls itself a King. If you go on this foolish quest, know I will not be able to follow you. You will be on your own, without my guidance.”
“I know sifu, you have taught me well, I am prepared.”
“Creation is dangerous, Gods, men, exalts, demons, beasts that you can only imagine and creatures that will enchant you with but a single breath. All of them will want something from you, all of them will use you for their own goals. You must stay upon the path I have laid out for you. You must heed the words I have taught you.”
“Yes sifu.” He replied by rote but in his heart a question burned, if the Creation only desired to use him for their own ends, then to what end did the Silver Shade use him?
Sleep would not be coming, not for a while, closing his eyes still brought visions of the monster to the fore. That great beast looming over he and his circle. Ancient eyes in a withered face watching from the shadows sipping tea. If not for his circle… best not to continue that line of thought.
He exited his tent the light wrap around his waist the only covering he needed in the heat of the southern jungle night. Fading Ember sat beside a circle of her namesake. He motioned her to her own tent indicating without speaking that he would take this portion of the watch.
As the last light of the coals cast shadows around their small camp He let the sounds of the jungle wash over him. The Fahr Fara had indicated that some of the artifacts stolen from Silver Shade’s temple had surfaced, they were sold to a merchant heading for the city of Ydanna and beyond that ports unknown. Dropping into a ready stance he began moving through katas, letting his mind relax and his consciousness observe the night around him while his body flowed through the motions of death.
The words that came unbidden to his mind at the moment of his exaltation filled him once again.
There are no principles within the art of ending.
To encompass but one is to be a Master.
To encompass all; one subsumes death itself.
The way of the world is not death, but life, there is no end, only the circle and the cycle.
Every breath taken is an end, every beat of the heart an end, killing is nothing, only a beginning.
One’s steps must always be sure, on air, on water, on earth and on fire, ones feet must never falter but be the root upon which the tree of your Will grows.
To draw your weapon is to fail.
One must learn to cut without a blade and to kill without death.
There is no weapon greater than the one currently in your hand.
One must refine Will into the purest of weapons.
The blade of Will made manifest can cut destiny itself.
To slay destiny is to be free.
His body moved through the motions with grace and ease, there was no hesitation, no thought to the actions, they simply were. He had not drawn forth his weapon since the day Kagada Shar fell, the Mantra, whatever it was, would be his guiding principle. To long had he relied upon a tool, he would focus his Will into a weapon, it would become his blade.
As he continued the Kattas he could feel his Will begin to slice through the leaves of trees, could hear it as it separated the air around him. It was in that moment, on the cusp of something more that he sensed eyes watching from the Jungle.
The moment was lost, but the eyes remained, he could see them glinting in the last remaining glow of the embers. Large and luminous they watched him from the shadows of a branch. Pale green jewels glowing in the darkened night. In a breath they were gone, no sound preceded their passing, not even a sense of movement, only the idea that there in the shadows something had been, and now it was not.
Unbidden he followed, something guiding him along a path he could not see through the brush, his steps making no sound upon the leaves until finally he reached the shores of the Dreaming Sea. There was no moon in the sky, Luna’s light hidden away. The stars of Heaven shimmered in the vault of heaven but they cast little light upon the shore.
Feather merely closed his eyes standing there upon the banks and listened again allowing his mind to still. He could feel something, an ache in the pit of his stomach, a twinge at the base of his spine, an energy in the air that played along his exposed skin.
Moments passed by as Dawn slowly encroached upon the South, he could feel that building too; an almost imperceptible weight gathering at the back of his mind. Finally the silence of the jungle was broken. “You are patient, the last of your kind I met was not so.” A soft female voice whispered from the shadows around him.
Still Feather remained quiet and unmoving, allowing his unseen watcher to speak. “Quiet too, a unique trait, or perhaps you cannot speak. You bear the markings of a slave hidden among the feathers, and the scars of a warrior, perhaps your tongue was taken, a pity.”
A slight smile cracks the facade of Feather’s demeanor but he continues to remain silent. “At least you understand my words. I would know who you are, who your companions are, you travel through my lands but I do not know you. You bear the stink of the city and the Shadows, but I do not think you her minions. Speak now lest I grow weary of this game.”
“I am a traveler, as are my companions, we seek nothing more than to continue on our way O mysterious emerald eyed voice within the darkness. We mean no ill will or intent and will move on again once morning comes. I am known as 7th Feather of Heaven’s Blade, I would know your name as well.”
“You give your name to freely traveler, names are things of power, you may call me Emerald for now it is a fitting word. You and yours are no merer travelers either, I watched your dance, you practice The Way, though a bit in-elegantly. Tell me truly and I will eat you last.”
“I would look upon your face then Emerald of the shadows, so that I might see my death in your eyes.”
“A poet as well, a shame,I suppose I shall grace you with the privilege of gazing upon me.” He could feel the gathering of essence to his left and prepared for the attack but it did not come, instead a young woman stepped from the shadows into the pale light of the stars. Her skin was the deep brown of tree bark, her hair tightly braided atop her head was indiscernible in the weak light. She was nearly as tall as he was, wearing simple animal hide clothing she seemed to melt from the darkness of the jungle into the small clearing of the beach.
As he looked upon her Feather felt a connection, something deep and inexplicable hidden behind those luminous green eyes. At that moment as she stepped in front of him the first rays of dawn creeped up above the edge of creation and his caste mark flared into life upon his brow.
In response, as if called by his own, an empty silver halo flickered into being upon the brow of the woman before him. Her eyes grew wide, a mixture of confusion, pain, and anger dancing across her face. With a hiss she bounded back into the jungle, her form twisting into that of a silvery grey feline before she was lost to the shadows of the trees.
“Well, that’s probably not good.” Feather stated to no one in particular before shrugging and returning to camp.
He would swear as they continued their journey on to Ydanna that every now and again he would catch a pair of luminous green eyes watching him.