Scarlet Sky Conspiracy

RY 767 Ascending Water - Nellens Ryo

The Fifth Day of Ascending Water, RY 767

Imperial City, Blessed Isle

Dear Friends,

I have been fending off visits from the Spiral Alumni Society. Ascending Wood is the time of their yearly fundraising drive. The Society has been bugging every student who has ever graced Spiral’s halls. I have given them a donation, but that was not good enough. They want asked me to go door to door to harass other alumni. As if, I do not have enough to do.

Ryo goes through an exhaustive list of the complaints he has with the operations of the Spiral Alumni Society. Members of the Scarlet Sky Conspiracy will see the following letter: 

Titus, I have no idea what was going on. And I thought I had issues with my own Exaltation. My friend you have my sympathy and if you need anyone to vent to, you are always welcome. Yet, your position gives us opportunities that you have not realized. Yes, you will be able to spy on these “Exalted of Maidens” but you also have access to the gods of the Celestial Bureaucracy. Having godly allies will improve our chances of a peaceful transition.

Carmela, many Prefectures have fallen to the way side since the Scarlet Empress vanished. The situation grows dire each day as the Dynast Houses squabble over the Realm’s resources. It is why we need a strong new Empress to take control before there is nothing left of the Scarlet Empire.

Akashan, while I still hold out hope of a peaceful transition, I am glad you are taking the effort to recruit the Scarlet Stone to our cause. I also hope my assistance with your manse bill was useful. Unfortunately, a distant cousin of mine noticed my assistance. I was conned into assisting him with some despicable hunting bill. I think importing animals into the Realm just be killed by bored Dynasts is a waste of resources. I have been trying to slow down the progress of that bill while seeming helpful.

Quelaana, I am distressed, but not surprised, that the Guild has an interest in the Scarlet Throne. However, the Guild’s interest may be to our advantage, if they can be persuaded to support our candidate. We need to find out who the Guild is supporting and what this candidate is offering them.

Aisa, news of your Dance with the Mothers has reached the Imperial City. You may have more suitors and students in the future. I have already spoken with my father in law about offering Zara as a handmaiden. He seemed agreeable, especially since you and Zara already have a correspondence. I do wish to send Zara away from the Imperial City in case Shu and I’s situation deteriorates here.

Some unexpected events happened with dinner with my father-in-law, Ragara Adamo. He sent a messenger ahead to relocate our dinner to my home instead of his. My cook was a bit of a shock for having a Dragonblooded guest, but he managed to put out a respectable spread. Adamo’s offering to the meal was a fine bottle of Lookshian Sake. I never know how he manages to acquire such items, so I spent most of the meal trying to draw out his source. Adamo did not yield his source, but poured out a measure of sake for each of us.

Now, I have not had a drop of alcohol since I became Anathema. At first, I was afraid to lose control to the demon. Later, I realize Alcohol is a tool best used to lower the inhibitions of others. Now, one does not turn fine sake offered by your father-in-law. Over the years, I have learned to master such small manners. If I act as if what I did was perfectly normal, no one will notice the Faux-paus. I thanked Adamo for the cup and set it aside. Adamo drank from his cup and continued the conversation, as I did nothing out of the ordinary.

Zara and Shu were present for the conversation. In Nellens households, we do not shield our children from adult conversation. As we were talking, Shu picked up my cup and drank from it. She spit out the bitter drink, covering the table in spit and sake. I stared dumbstruck at my youngest daughter’s behavior.

Yet, Adamo simply wiped down his side of the table and continued the conversation, as he did before. I made some passing comment about youth and spent the rest of the evening considering the implications of Shu’s actions. The Immaculate Texts say children of Anathema may gain a measure of their power. This thought preyed on my mind all during Saveria’s pregnancy. What was I to say to my wife in such a situation? “Sorry dear, maybe we should consider an extra dose of maiden’s tea instead of having a baby?” Coward I am, I said nothing and hoped this curse would pass Shu by.

After Adamo left, Zara came to me and confessed everything. Both she and Shu were aware I was a Solar. How Zara has been covering for Shu’s behavior. How they have been using Shu’s abilities to make things easier for both of them. Shu spent the entire conversation staring down at her feet. I explained to both my daughters how dangerous this situation was. This Anathema power was not a toy to be played with. I forbid Shu from using her abilities and sent them both to bed. I spent a sleepless night questioning the entirety of my life decisions. I woke up in the morning in a better frame of mind. Though she is only six, Shu is a smart child. She will not endanger her own life.

There is an ink blob here.

I need to learn not to tempt fate. The monk at Shu’s school just arrived at my door, dragging Shu in by her arm. Apparently, she usually spends her lessons on the Immaculate Texts questioning the monk. After a long painful conversation, I sent the monk on her way, with assurances I will talk to Shu.

And talk we did. Shu had been using her abilities to get away with questioning the monk about a great many things. I’m ashamed to say I raised my voice. I tried to impress upon her that there was some wisdom in the Immaculate Text. Shu declared, “I don’t believe in any book that says my papa is a demon.” She stared back at me with a wisdom beyond her six years. “You aren’t a demon, papa. Don’t let them tell you that.”

Shu and I came to a compromise. She will not argue with the monks anymore and play along as a good Immaculate girl. I tried to get her to agree to only use her abilities after I have given her permission. Shu countered with “What if I am in trouble with the monks at school? Then they will come talk to you. You don’t want to talk to monks, right papa?” We are still discussing this arrangement.

And I am not allowed to think I am a demon anymore. I thought I was long past that point, but sometimes it takes a six-year-old girl to uncover the lies you tell yourself.

May your cares grow lighter,

Nellens Ryo
 

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RY 767 Descending Air - Carmela Contarini

Friendos,

So I heard a rumor about some sort of new Realmster project called a Bear Cavalry. As far as I can tell there's literally no reason for it to be a thing (this lot don't really… do cavalry much?) but for some reason the idea of it won't die.

This calls for INVESTIGATIONS. Here's what I know so far…

The rest of the letter exhaustively details the rumored attributes and exploits of said Bear Cavalry. Many of said attributes and exploits are incredibly spurious when they are not outright contradictory; special request is made of the Cheraki addressee on the possibility of meeting this Bear Cavalry with some sort of Penguin Infantry. Members of the Scarlet Sky Conspiracy will see the following:

Well! You lot have sure been busy. Chosen of the Maidens and meetings with heads of houses and freeing slaves and poking at the Imperial Manse and bears oh my!

I spent a lot of time drinking.

Well. That's only half true.

I also grabbed an adorable young dragon and rode him until his legs gave out?

I can hear the sounds of not being impressed. Okay. Fine. If you want to get technical I bought a mercenary company that was a half-step away from outright banditry, found an able lieutenant who literally everyone in the Realm has passed over as not worth the trouble (who was also a half-step away from outright banditry. Let me tell you, the Deliberative would start paying a shit ton more attention to my little corner of the Isle if old legionary veterans started becoming highwaymen to survive). Oh, gained the favor of the magistrate from the prior letter, and the animosity of his nephew (aforementioned adorable young dragon) who apparently wants to be the favorite instead of me. Silly boy thinks it's a competition. I'm going to enjoy breaking him in.

Still, we're approaching a clutch of dragons here together the with core of what might be a legion, given time and money. Does "Legion Magisterial" have a nice ring to it, or does that sound too ominous? I forget what the naming scheme of actual legions is.

Still, whether the force ends up being needed to defend the Imperial Manse or to just parade about and look pretty, rest assured I'll be ready. (Hopefully it's the former; it would take a lot to get my new lieutenant, the venerable Peleps Lili, to look pretty.)

There's a lot to digest in your letters, so I'll probably wind up giving someone the business for keeping secrets from their wife, or not mentioning an entire class of Exalted that can ruin all our plans and probably want to, or for having made friends with underground-people and not even mentioning what they drink, but that'll have to wait. Geno Jin is starting to wake up and I'm going to go for another round just to make sure he understands who's boss.

It's me. I'm boss. Damn I feel good.

Have fun!
Carmela Contarini

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RY 767 - Descending Air - Cathak Titus

Descending Air 22, RY 767

House of Bells, Blessed Isle

All,

This letter apologizes for overloading your with information about Gateway. Of course, as novice, you will grow bored with Titus's letters. Titus begins to explain some basics in Gateway, so you will know what he is talking about next time. Members of the Conspiracy will see the following letter instead:

I should apologize for my last letter. I was an ass and I have no excuse for my actions. I apologize directly to you, Aisa. I meant to jog you to action and went too far. I hope the book will make up for my harsh words. I spent the past few weeks search Creation for a new copy. I found it in a little book store tucked in a corner of Sijan. 

Now, I will explain how I was able to buy a book in Sijan and still make it back to the House of Bells by the afternoon. Aisa thinly veiled accusations of my status as an Exalt are premature. I am still mortal… for now. As there are Exalts of the Sun and Moon, there are Exalts of the Maidens. And I am destined to become one of them.

Despite my great grandfather being Cathak Cainan, I was never expected to become Dragonblooded. My father was a Lost Egg and my mother mortal. To be honest, I was relieved to not have to carry the burden of Dragonblooded. I did not what the fate of Creation in my hands. My family sent me to the Spiral and there I studied Law. I joined the legions not as a soldier but as a Judicial Advocate. Though in my time in the Legions, I find little Justice to be had. Those with power and money get away with murder. Good honest officers are discharged for misfiled paperwork. After the Scarlet Empress disappeared, corruption increased. The antics of Whispering Twilight and his friend are mild compared to what I have seen.

Ryo, you have often asked where I was for the two years I disappeared. I never answered your questions because I did not want to lie to you. Yet, I have discovered that evasion is another form of lie. I did not mean to abuse your trust.

One night, not long after the Empress disappeared, I was in my office studying my caseload for the next day. A mysterious man entered my office. Now, I knew this man. Though I had no clue what his name was, he would often drop by to check up on me as I was growing. I assumed he was a relative of my father. Or worse, a figment of my imagination as no one else I knew ever saw him. The man, who I will refer to as my mentor, would ask how I was doing and how my studies were going. 

And he always brought food. My mentor is obsessed with food or rather with the cooking of food. He would come with a large basket. In the basket, you could find anything from simple rice balls to exotic delicacies I had never heard of. Most of our conversations revolved around food. Rather, he talked and I ate. His obsession lent credence to the idea he was a relative. Relatives feed you. As I grew older, I realized he was lonely. No one would eat his food, which was a crime. My mentor is the best cook I know. It was not until later I realized why no one would trust his food.

That night my mentor sat down and explained his interest in me. I was fated to be Chosen by Saturn. As another Chosen of Endings, he was assigned to watch over me and prepare me for my Exaltation. The original plan was to leave me in my Dynast life for a few more years, but now I was to be taken to Yu-Shan for further training. The disappearance of the Scarlet Empress had spooked our associates. They needed all the help they can get, even from mortals like me. 

Yu-Shan. Who can describe the City of Gods? I remember my first moments in Yu-Shan. It was midnight when we left, yet in Yu-Shan it was high noon. As a Dynast, I lived in the lap of luxury. Yu-Shan made the Imperial City look like a shanty town. Tall buildings of glass and orichalcum gleamed in the light of the Unconquered Sun. We walked through the market and my neck ached from all the exotic products. It was overwhelming.

After the urban heights of downtown Yu-Shan, my mentor’s manse was like a jungle. Behind the high walls was a lush garden. My mentor warned me not to touch any of the plants. He led me to what he called a “cottage”. This cottage was the largest and most lavish building I have ever seen. It rivaled the Cathak house. He fed me, gave me tea, and sent me to bed as if I was a child. I did not expect to sleep, but the tea sent me to a dreamless sleep. 

That first meal was the last time I trustingly shared food with my mentor. For I soon discovered he was an expert poisoner. Though he did keep a separate kitchen garden, the plants in the main garden were deadly. Though he offered many times, I resisted learning the secrets of his trade. He would take my refusal with a smile. “Perhaps next time.” 

I spent the next two years learning the secrets of the Bureau of Destiny. As I learned more, I began to believe I was more suited for a Chosen of Mars, instead of Saturn. I keep such thoughts to myself. Once they thought I was ready, they let me return to my normal life. I was expected to accompany my mentor on his missions. I have grown to dread his arrival. Afterwards I return to the Legions as nothing happened. 

Perhaps I am mad and there is no hidden Exalts of the Maidens. Yet it is a relief to discuss my double life. As destiny is in flux after the disappearance of the Scarlet Empress, it is unknown when I will exalt. Which brings me to the reason why I joined this conspiracy. Creation is going to change and I am not going to sit idle and wait for Saturn to get off her ass and Exalt me. I need to do something now. I could throw my lot with one of the various political groups among my associates, but like my mentor, I do not trust them. I rather put my trust in the members of this Conspiracy. I believe in not Solars or Dragonblooded but in individuals.

As for what I can bring to the conspiracy, despite my status as a mortal, I can send you information about my associates. They will be our biggest obstacle to a Solar Friendly Empress. They are the power behind the Immaculate Order and the Wyld Hunt. I have also done what I could to hide this conspiracy from their prying eyes. 

I also can move around Creation easily. There are Yu-Shan gates all over Creation. For me, the Imperial City is a boat ride away from the House of Bells. I do not like to use this form of transportation often. Such quick travel attracts the wrong type of attention. 

I hope this letter gets to you in one piece. Information about my associates can become garbled. 

Titus

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Ry 767 - Descending Air - Quelaana Ferem #2

Descending Air, 14, Realm year 767
Cherak, North


Dearest Catala, I'm afraid my knowledge of dragon kings is limited. Xiuhcoatl is merely a Cynis Dragon-blooded that's had dealing with Dragon-kings enough to be familiar with their language. Between Xiuhcoatl and Mai I can tell you the basics and some about the culture though. Supposedly Dragon-kings are far more in tune with the cycle of reincarnation and their religion stems from being always able to remember their past lives, Barring a bigger presence in the north than I was expecting I'm told they like to live in the city of the gods and so have more station than most know.
Dragon kings apparently differ in size and structure depending on the direction of creation they live in, I only know of their build in the north which is about 5 feet tall and an enormous wingspan, they seem to be natural scholars as they hoard magitech knowledge if you let them. not sure how true this is but I'm also told these northern dragon-kings have abilities to deal with spirits, their domains, and have super human senses. Mai claims they can shape shift but this feels like anathema propaganda trickling on other lesser liked races personally.

ooc: they can shape shift kinda with the disguise/stealth path.

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RY 767 - Descending Air - Ledaal Catala Akashan

Being the Twelfth Day of Air, Descending, Seven-Hundred and Sixty-Seventh Year of Our Realm
Center of the Known World and Creation's Imperial City, Scarlet Prefecture, the Blessed Isle

A recent indexing of the Ledaal archive uncovered the same text repeated numerous times. Regardless of the apparent function of the antiquity or topic of the work it appears without alteration. Yet to my best efforts it appears to be broken nonsense, perhaps the fragment of a larger work. I have included it in the hopes that you might have more insight into its meaning.

"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum."

The letter then goes on to list possible translations as well as a catalog of the locations of the fragment. Conspirators see the following

It is apparent to me that should the question of the Heart of the Realm be raised with force we must be ready for whatever may come. To that end I have initiated a geomantic survey of the Imperial City as a disguise for an investigation into how hostilities might best be conducted in and from it. I remain committed to a bloodless transition if it is possible, but it may be that we shall be forced to emulate Her Most Highly Exalted Majesty and claim the Defense Grid while our allies hold back an endless tide of foes. It would grieve me deeply if those foes are our own blood, but we must be ready.

Yet it it not only the gaining of the Throne which we must concern ourselves with, but what we shall do with it once it is ours. Friend Ryo's infrastructure bill proved a marvelous opening for one of my most dear plans in that regard as well as furthering my investigation and study of the manse. It was my honor to attend a recent session of the Deliberative and there present a proposal for improving utilization of the geomantic resources of the Realm. I cast no aspersions on my colleges in the House of Well Flavored Aspect, but it is not generally possible to properly cap the most rarefied demesne with a suitable manse. I expect some resistance over this as many very talented architects have produced elegant and frequently beautiful methods to safely remove the excess. (Whispering Twilight, under the twin motivations of greater familiarity with the area and a certain partisan influence, much of the initial round of construction should be taking place in the Dominion. It should represent a great influx of money. I am not certain of your ability to make use of it, but the labor contracts will be fairly generous in the interests of speed. Perhaps you could arrange to guard the sites or to contract those with penal duties to contribute? I offer generalities as I do not know all the specifics of your situation.)

Now please permit me to end on a note of triumph. I recently made contact with the Jadeborn Artisan known as Fulminous Heart, an ancient and renown craftsmen who exceeds even me. We were introduced through another Artisan of my acquaintance who was instrumental in helping me with the food preservation technique. The master would not even speak to me at first, but when I, Prince of the Earth and great in fame, humbled myself and called him teacher he accepted my sincerity. It has always been our great failing as a dynasty that we forsook the Artificer's path in favor of war. While war is necessary, we have dwindled. Where is the great elemental dynamos built by Shogun Nacal that allowed even mortals to wield Daiklaves against the Beast an the Valley Beneath It? Where is our Pharos of Ancalima that drove a lance of bordermarches to the very border of chaos? We once constructed wonders and now we content ourselves in squalor. I would see an end to it!

Please forgive my tangent, I am not entirely myself lately.

In fire, faith, and blood,
Ledaal Catala Akashan

p.s. Friend Quelaana, would you be so kind as to forward any information you might have on the Dragon Kings? I have recently begun a correspondence with the Ledaal expert on the subject and she is proving rather recalcitrant. Given our own trouble with these letters you can imagine the difficulty in negotiating with someone almost literally halfway across creation by sorcerous means. I offered her everything short of a new tower at the Heptogram (and I might have dangled that as the prize for particularly good results if I felt I could offer it) but all I have received is reports on archaeological digs. It is fascinating, and I fear I shall have to learn a new language to fully appreciate it all, but it is almost deliberately not the study of their magic and artifice that I wanted.

p.p.s. I hesitate to include this, but I feel as though the trust of secrecy holds between us while my own family may not be as discrete. For all of you who have mastered sorcery, and especially cousin Aisa, there is a question I would pose to you of a personal nature. I have begun to experience a… stirring in my essence. It is as if I taste lightning with my tongue, a down going and an up coming. By now no doubt you have all heard that I was never the most healthy child, but I wonder if all my medeling might not have left me… unstable. Have you any knowledge of such an affliction?

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Ry 767 - Descending Air - Quelaana Ferem #1

Descending Air, 6, Realm year 767
Cherak, North


Tialli Friends, (dragon-king for greetings)

I’ve been working on a new play inspired by my Uncle Helkar; I was hoping I could get critique from a non-actor. Feel free to skim if it’s too much.

The following is a rough draft of a script for a play about the captain of a naval squadron that’s sent out to find the Fabled Volcanic Island in the middle of the Steam Tides. (Splinters of the wyld pg.12)

I’ve had quite a busy month my compatriots. I’ve finally found the leader of the Stygian Cross gang (Halvor Vreim) and with a heated argument I discovered that he was gang pressed into attempting an assassination by having his son captured and threatened to be sold into Slavery. We agreed he would stop if I saved his son.

Through my contacts I found the warehouse that had dozens of slaves being held prisoner and drugged to be kept docile. The guards didn’t stand a chance; they were so overwhelmed they quickly surrendered after suffering a few casualties. After capturing the Guild personnel station there I killed a few and let the rest go as statement. On a comedic side note the slave master did end up getting the worst wedgie of his life. Turns out all of the slaves were children with most being sent to a Haven run by a fellow dragon, came back with me to the theatre, and a lucky few were returned to their families.

After wards, I learned my Uncle Helkar returned from a tour dealing with some raksha. I decided to visit him and we had a pleasant afternoon drinking and being rambunctious. His weariness of the Realm is obvious, but I feel he will become a great ally in time.

I then had the duty of reporting about Halvor Vreim to the Roseblack. The lieutenant I usually go to went by the name of Tepet Angora and wanted to question the Halvor. Angora wanted to try Halvor in Legion court. Knowing that would be a death sentence I managed to get a plea bargain if Halvor could give us something useful, he did.

Turns out the man responsible for this blackmailing went by an alias of “Xiuhcoatl”. I was lucky enough for Mai, my assistant, to be paranoid about obscure supernaturals and was told this a dragon king name. I ignored Mai's warnings of arctic Pelagials. After some long and incredibly droll investigations we found out there were five people going by that name, seriously, how?! Thank the gods(maidens? Dragons?) his aspect markings gave him away as a Cynis agent or I’d still be questioning the lot of them.

Xiuhcoatl’s arrogance would ultimately be his undoing and I’ve been slowly turning him into a double agent, turns out he’s grown dependent on his decadence and blowing his cover would make him go into a serious withdrawal of the luxuries he’s taken for granted. Be wary, Xiuhcoatl seemed to be acting without direct orders. It wouldn’t be unheard of for other higher ups to not have as much a tight grip on their underlings as we think.

Lastly, when capturing Xiuhcoatl I found a Golden paper crane in his place. I will investigate further upon this. Until then, best of luck in your adventures.

A very fancy signature of “Quelaana Ferem” is written here

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RY 767 - Descending Air - Mnemon Aisa

Dear friends,

Last Marsday was the busiest I have ever known. Not only did V'Neef attend the annual review of her daughter – which I was presiding over – but Mnemon also visited the Heptagram on the very same day! I must say it was an honor to attend to them both, even if it did end with a public dressing down that the students are still discussing in the corridors two weeks later. But I am getting ahead of myself.

((Members of the conspiracy will find the plain content of the letter of great interest, detailing Aisa's exciting day involving two elders. The hidden content adds more details, including the secret meetings, discussions and intentions that accompanied the publicly known events.))

It all began with an invitation. With Ledaal Catala Akashan taking over dealings with V'Neef Bijar and the Imperial Manse project (good luck with that), I turned by attention to the elder of that house, seeking her friendship and eventual alliance. I invited her to attend the annual review of V'Neef Tassily – the cutest little Dragon you have ever seen, you would not believe how adorable she is with her freckles and big brown eyes and sandy blonde hair – which she accepted. Tassily is quite an excellent student, but parents have the option, infrequently exercised though it is, of attending reviews even if the child is doing well. Unusal, but a convenient excuse for me to meet with V'Neef privately.

The night before the review, as I was reviewing one of her public speeches from last year, there was a knock on my door. Perhaps she wished to speak privately beforehand, or perhaps one of my students was having a crisis?

It was Grandmother.

I invited her in – what else does one do with Mnemon smiling on one's doorstep – and asked her business here. She wished me to set up a secret meeting for her with V'Neef, to discuss V'Neef Bijar's progress on the Imperial Manse. I tried to distract her by telling her of the failed attempt with the slaves and then deflect by offering a semi-private meeting instead, but she insisted. Naturally I agreed to do as she wished. I imagine few of you have met my revered ancestor personally, but please believe me when I say I was lucky to get out of a private meeting without raising her suspicions, acting against her as I am.

We spent the remainder of the evening talking over The Girl with Sun in her Eyes - though the original was lost, I retain a near complete memory of the contents, and several partial copies besides (I have not forgotten about you, Titus. Will you answer my questions or not? The new copy of the book given to me does not absolve you). I dare say I impressed her with my knowledge, and she agreed with several of my deductions about the book. Grandmother's approval was an entirely pleasant sensation, regardless of what was coming the next day.
 



Marsday opened with an outdoor demonstration for the younger students, a lesson on elemental associations and interactions which I had to put on as part of my duties. I will not bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that after showing how earth essence reacts with water, I needed a change of clothing before V'Neef Tassily's review – and my private interview with V'Neef herself. On my way to my room, Mnemon Duhalva* stopped to ask me what Mnemon was here for. I have been courting Duhalva's attention recently, so it was a good chance. I reassured her that it had nothing to do with the Heptagram, and arranged for tea later to talk things over before hurrying on my way.

Fortunately the interruption was brief, and I was able to make it to Tassily's review on time and properly dressed without resorting to backup plans. Yes, I had a backup plan to be presentable even if I did not have time to change. As the Mnemon motto says, "Mastery through rigor." After Tassily left, my discussion with V'Neef initially went well. I was forthright about the fact that the Regent will not be around forever, and that I was seeking allies in case Mnemon did something unforgivable. She did not give any solid answers or ideas of her own plans, but I could see she believed my sincerity. It is the first step to an alliance dance, displaying both my vulnerability and my strength.

Things went more poorly when I asked if she wished to have the secret meeting with Mnemon I had been tasked with arranging. She closed up, retreating to polite nothings. I responded that if she did not wish it such a meeting would not occur, and set several things in motion to prevent Mnemon from cornering V'Neef alone at the dance – which would begin in a few minutes – or any time thereafter.
 



After all annual reviews are complete, there is traditionally a dance and a party. I escorted V'Neef there, a social coup I have been seeking for more than two months. Speaking with V'Neef was one part of the reasons I invited her to the Heptagram - being seen speaking with her was another part. Everyone goes when summoned by the leader of a Great House. Only movers and shakers can request a meeting and have elders come to them.

Legitimacy.

To have any hope of succeeding in our plot, I must be taken seriously – and walking into a party with V'Neef, just the two of us busy talking, is worthy of a curious glance or two. Having Mnemon come over to speak with me immediately thereafter is worthy of far more than a glance. Why does Mnemon Aisa rate the attention of two elders, almost as if they were vying for her attention? Those of you on the Blessed Isle will hear the ripples of interest spreading soon, if you have not already. People are starting to take note.

Mnemon asked if I had arranged the private meeting with V'Neef that I had promised her. I responded that V'Neef was far more popular here than I had suspected, and her schedule was full. I had been unable to arrange anything. My hope was to appear as if I had simply failed, rather than intentionally thwarting her. With a subtle glance I attempted to cast the blame on Duhalva. What Grandmother said to me is burned into my mind, so I will simply quote what came next, rather than paraphrase.
 



Mnemon smiled. "Dear Aisa, are you trying to court allies in other houses? Do you not trust me to secure the throne?"

I blinked, then responded smoothly. "Naturally I'm cultivating allies of my own. You're the most worthy contender, but it seemed wrong to antagonize a likely candidate for mother-in-law. She was quite worried when you said you wanted a private meeting with her."

"Mother-in-Law…." Mnemon frowned in the direction of V'neef. Her step-sister was surrounded by students, making conversation and keeping her unavailable to Mnemon's approach. "We will see what the future holds. I am wary of how much trouble V'neef is taking to bind you to her house, granddaughter."

With purposeful steps, Mnemon made her way to V'Neef Iphen, who was busy contemplating the snacks on the refreshment table. I did not follow her. Iphen is a friend, but if my words about marriage had distracted Grandmother, I was not going to stick my neck out any further. I have no intention of marrying him, despite his growing hints in that direction. He could stand being taken down a peg.

Mnemon grilled him about academics. She started easy, attracting attention and building his confidence, then increased the pressure. He is not as smart of he thinks he is. She humiliated Iphen in front of the whole school until he fled the room, then stalked off smiling. V'Neef followed, angry at her. Whispers started. I stayed, chased off a boy who was bothering V'Neef Tassily (have I mentioned how cute she is? Was I really that small when I arrived at the Heptagram?), and attempted to enjoy the rest of the evening. I refused to answer any questions about the elders.
 



To summarize, this month I have opened a dialogue with V'Neef, survived Mnemon's personal attention without being exposed, started spreading my reputation further, and begun to make friends with Mnemon Duhalva. Students will be telling each other tales of this midwinter ball for decades.

Poor Iphen, though. I am not sure he deserved all of that. Most of it, sure, but not all of it.

Yours in society and in subtlety,

— Mnemon Aisa

P.S.

Ryu, do send Zara over for a visit some time. I have been quite enjoying our letters, and would not mind seeing her again in-person. Also, keep an eye on Shu – a few of her antics have been less than pleasant recently, though never in sight of adults. Zara's left bang was not lost in an accident with scissors, but because Shu rubbed honey in it. Please do not tell Zara I shared her secret. She only lied to protect her little sister.

* Aisa doesn't explain who Mnemon Duhalva is in her letter, but anyone with even passing familiarity with the Heptagram or dynastic politics will recognize her as next in line for Dominie of the Heptagram. She's one of the rare Mnemon's who's done well for herself despite estrangement from the family matriarch. Rumor has it that she will certainly not become Dominie if Mnemon takes the throne – if she even survives the event.

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RY 767 Descending Air - Nellens Ryo #2

The Third Day of Descending Air, RY 767
Imperial City, Blessed Isle

Dear Friends,

The end of winter is a cheerless time for our family. In preparation of the spring plantings, my wife has returned to her family’s vineyard in the Pahua Basin. While ours is a political marriage, both Saveria and I have come to an understanding over the years and I find our home empty without her here. The children always miss her while she is gone, yet the educational opportunities in the Imperial City are better suit for the girls than what is available in the rural areas of the Blessed Isle.

Ryo gives his opinions on the various education institutions of the Blessed Isle. The rest of the conspiracy will see the following: 

Aisa and Akashan, I cannot express how grateful I am for your assistant with the slave issue. I have spent many sleepless nights worrying I sentence those poor people to death. I do not know how I could have lived with myself if the worse had occurred.

I believe I owe you an explanation for Titus. I have known Cathak Titus since we met in the Spiral years ago. I was a senior when he was a freshman. We both were working on a mind numbing project to reorganize the filing of the Legion Rolls. He stood out to me because, unlike most unexalted Dynasts, Titus didn’t seem disappointed he didn’t exalt. He seemed to have an understanding of the responsibility of being Dragonblooded and was glad it passed him over. Titus considered following his cousins into the Legions, but decided he could do more in the Thousand Scales. As a member of House Nellens, Exaltation was a slim possibility for me. We kept in correspondence over the years and I consider him my closest friend. Not long after our Empress’ disappearance, I lost touch with Titus. After I moved to the Imperial City, Titus showed up on my doorstep. I was delighted to have my old friend back. Perhaps it is because he knows me so well both professionally and personally, he is the only person who discovered my Exaltation. While he may be tactless and brash, I vouch for Cathak Titus.

While Titus may be my closest friend, we do not agree on all subjects. I, like Aisa, hope to avoid war. War will do nothing but divide us and weaken us. The Realm needs to be strong to defend Creation from its enemies. While Titus believes war is impossible to avoid, I hope the Scarlet Sky Conspiracy achieve do the impossible and enable a peaceful transition of power. I admit Mnemon is a roadblock to this goal, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.

This month, I have the dubious pleasure of sitting in on a session of the Deliberate. I managed to get a seat next to Nellens Pala, a great aunt of mine and one of the few Dragonblooded in House Nellens. Pala was gracious enough to explain to me all the complex procedural details. She seemed to be pleased I am taking an interest in politics. She offered to recommend me for a seat in the Lower House. I turned her down, pleading I wanted to observer the goings on before deciding if I wanted to join this mad house. She laughed and said all of the sane family members always turn her down.

Carmela, news of your Magistrate’s attack has made it to the Imperial City and the Deliberate. All the Deliberate seems to agree “something must be done” with the bandit problem, yet no one agrees on what that “something” is. It seems to me each member of the House is jockeying to get something out of the situation instead of actually fixing the situation. It’s all very frustrating and I mentioned this to Aunt Pala. Unfortunately, a member of house Ledaal overheard me and prompted me to speak in front of the whole upper house of the Deliberate. Pala tried to save me by saying I was not a member of the Deliberate. The woman from House Ledaal wanted to see what a mortal from House Nellens could do. There is protocol for nonmembers to speak, so I had no choice but to defend the honor of my House.

I stand up and take the stage. All the Dragonblooded members of the Upper House of the Deliberate stare at me. I have never been the strongest public speaker and I am doubly terrified at speaking due to my Anathema status. I clear my throat and my mouth is dry. I reach for the glass of water in front of me, but pull back my hand when I remember that is the Speaker’s glass. I do not think he’d appreciate me drinking from it.

I take a deep breath and I speak. As satisfying as it would be, I realize chastising the Deliberate will win me no friends (http://dice.brainclouds.net/Result.aspx?ID=JUMYXED6). Instead I suggest the Magistrate hire mercenaries to take care of the situation. The Deliberate can authorize a budget for this purpose. It would bring funds into the area and increase general employment, which in my opinion is the root cause of banditry. I do not say a budget bill will allow Deliberate members to fund their own pet projects. I’m sure they could figure that out on their own.

As I sit down, I laugh. Pala thinks it is from relief, but actually I realized that I am no better than the rest of the rabble. I turned the situation to my own ends. Carmela, you may want to start recruiting some mercenaries. The demand for mercenaries will soon increase.

As I leave the Deliberate house, I am approached by my old Spiral professor and current father-in-law, Ragara Amado. He was impressed by my performance in the Deliberate and was overjoyed by my suggestion. I could see the gears turning in his head – he owns much property in the Pahua basin and could use this budget request to add some line items for his benefit. I suggest he look into some infrastructure improvements for the area (http://dice.brainclouds.net/Result.aspx?ID=AHAADV47). Better roads would help the defense of the area. He nods and agrees absentmindedly. I’m sure he already thought of the same idea. On an impulse, I invite him over for dinner (ttp://dice.brainclouds.net/Result.aspx?ID=F4AV9BD2). Amado hasn’t seen his grandchildren since Shu was a toddler. Amado agrees and tonight my father-in-law will be dining with us. I will give you details about the dinner in my next letter.

Wish me luck.

Nellens Ryo

PS. Aisa- Zara is delighted that you wish to correspond with her. You should be receiving her first letter shortly. I am also reassured that you have taken an interest in her. I am glad Zara will have someone to trust, if my situation falls apart here.

Carmela – Should you encounter my wife in your goings, please know that she is unaware of my status as a Solar. I would prefer she not know.

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RY 767 Descending Air - Nellens Ryo #1

The First Day of Descending Air, RY 767
Imperial City, Blessed Isle

Titus,

This letter discusses the latest Gateway rankings and how Titus is an idiot if he believes Ledaal Kes will lose the Semifinals. Members of the Scarlet Sky Conspiracy will see the following:

Have you lost your mind!? Do you remember Mnemon Aisa is a powerful sorceress? Why would you aggravate her? Do you want her to turn your blood into acid or whatever sorcerers do for fun? I assumed you didn’t need a reminder, but here it is: You are mortal, Titus. You probably should think twice before advising a Dragonblooded to murder her own grandmother. 

Ryo

PS Also, please don’t call our future Empress “Breadroll Girl”. It’s disrespectful.

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RY 767 Resplendent Air - Mnemon Aisa #2

Dear Cathak Titus,

I wonder now if you are truly a Cathak. While noted for its military accomplishments rather than its subtlety, a scion of such a worthy house would surely not make the elementary mistake of confusing soft words for weakness. I've killed, and will do so again if necessary. I prefer to speak kindly, and I prefer to trust and and to be trustworthy – but I have claws. I smiled and shook a Lunar's hand while someone she trusted drove a knife in her back.

Who are your friends, Titus? Which of them carry knives?

I prefer to believe the best in people – a fatal weakness in a Dynast, my mother always told me.

I trust Nelens Ryu – he has put himself in danger, revealing his nature to all of us. His wife and children are the stake should we fail.
I trust Carmela Contarini – Iselsi may have been the Empress' whipping boy, but there are many who would love to finish the job. Her family is her surity. If we die, they will be dragged down with us.
I trust Ferem Quelaana and Whispering Twilight – while they are not on the Blessed Isle, it would be all to easy for the hand of the Realm to reach out and snuff them, should their nature come to light.


What type of Exalt are you, Titus? What do you wish to gain from our little plot? Who stole my book, and why did they do it?
 



To Carmela and all others who have expressed concern in your latest letters,

I find it difficult to commit certain things to paper. I find them difficult to say aloud even inside my own mind. Forgive me if I say less than I should. It is my fault, I am sure, for assuming we were on the same page merely by the act of calling ourselves a conspiracy rather than an alliance.

The analogy of yeddim circling seems a good one. On one side, my grandmother. On the other side, everyone who would rather see her die than take the throne. There is no figurehead for the second side yet – some brandy about the idea of the Roseblack, but I believe I can step into that role smoothly enough, and more gracefully than she. That is the first step – to build a network of reputation, alliances and favors so that there is no other possible candidate for the opposition than myself.

After that, we will have to kill Mnemon. Immensely powerful, resourceful and wise as she is, she remains human. A knife will work just fine if we can catch her off guard. If Mnemon is gone, there is no second yeddim against which we need butt our heads. Therein lies the key to the puzzle – Mnemon is the only one worthy of the throne, but she is at the same time too hated to claim it.

1. Become worthy.
2. Bring things to the point of confrontation.
3. Matricide.

If step three cannot be done with a knife, it will fall to the sword, and we will have our civil war.

I truly believe that Mnemon is worthy to be Empress, but supporting her leads to the certainty of war, while opposing her gives a chance to avoid it. And thus I do my duty to the Dragons and to Creation. You need not fear my resolve on that front, but please do not ask me to speak so bluntly again. It hurts to bare my breast so.

Yours in honesty and in duty,
Mnemon Aisa

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