Session 23: The Celestial City
Passing through the gate along a white-lit path, the circle (less Red Lion) found themselves emerging in a grand terminal decorated in gold, silver, and adamant. Within were a trio of enormous golden lion statues blocking the exit, an adamant gate through which bright light trickled. Before they could do much more than assess their surroundings, the golden “statues” came to life and challenged them. When they explained that they had come through the Calibration Gate with visitors’ passes issued by Five Days Darkness, the lions just sighed and tried to turn them back anyway. Yu-Shan was no place for mortal tourists, even those favored by “the outcast.”
Finally, Gideon flared his anima banner and declared that the Solar Exalted had returned to Heaven—and suddenly, the celestial lions were much more helpful. The circle was escorted from the terminal station onto a great platform that looked out onto Yu-Shan, the Celestial City. Filled with golden pagodas, silver towers, crystal spires, and all manner of strange beings, the city was like nothing on Creation. None of them had ever seen anything so majestic. The lion suggested that they find a guide, and they were quickly able to engage the services of a pattern spider called #1130 to help them find their way around.
After discovering that hiring a flying vessel would cost them money, a few inquiries to #1130 led them to a small shrine to the banking gods where they were told that they could withdraw funds if they still had any remaining in Yu-Shan’s many prayer banks. A quick check revealed that all of them had some degree of funds—and that Venomous Spur was downright wealthy, since she had an active cult back in Creation. Their confusion was abated when they were told that money in Heaven was made of condensed prayers. When they withdrew the funds, they found that the “money” was actually gold foil wrapped around an edible substance; a quick bite revealed that it was delicious on its own, regardless of any worth. Another quick check revealed that Red Lion’s account was actually overdrawn slightly; it was all too easy for Ven to imagine him withdrawing everything from his account and eating it all.
While they withdrew their funds, they were harassed by an elephant-headed god and some of his compatriots. They insisted that they were local street deities and that passing through “their turf” warranted a little prayer. Prism and Gideon saw through their dialogue immediately to what was really going on: a shakedown. Prism snarled that they were attempting to meddle in the affairs of the Solar Exalted, and unfurled the wrappings from his daiklave—the God-Slicing Shard of Radiance. Unimpressed by the blade, they were somewhat more cowed by Snapdragon name-dropping her sifu: Sunder Redhood, the Nexus god of murder. Now knowing what they faced, the thug-gods were less focused on continuing their scam and quickly withdrew.
Armed now with a ready supply of money and a guide, the circle was more prepared to face the challenges of Yu-Shan—or so they thought. They rented a barque for the day, but eschewed a pilot since Ven had experience working with magitech devices. Flying through the skies of Heaven was a beautiful and peaceful experience. As they took in the scenery, they debated their next course of action.
Ven was looking forward to investigating the Bureau of Nature in the hopes of finding the legendary leak that sometimes aided Lunars; she was also secretly hoping to investigate the records of mortal reincarnations to find what had become of her husband’s soul, though she did not mention this. Prism of Truth was insistent on “rooting out the corruption in Heaven,” starting with the Sidereals, though the rest of the circle viewed that more as a long-term goal than a statement of intent. Snapdragon had little interest in a place like this, though she was inwardly hoping for another chance at Oberen. Gideon himself was fascinated by how things might have gotten so bad in Heaven that gods were reduced to little more than thugs, extorting worship from travelers.
While they were flying, they asked #1130 quite a few questions before stumbling onto restricted information and receiving a warning that they should land and wait for the authorities. Rather than doing so, Ven panicked and ran; she was convinced that speaking to the authorities would be tantamount to turning themselves over to the Sidereals. As the barque flew, it was rapidly joined in the sky by pursuing clouds, winged creatures, and various other flying vehicles. Ven grew more desperate, even throwing poor #1130 out of the barque, as she realized that she couldn’t outrun their pursuers. Finally, their barque was forced down.
Before the circle could be arrested for anything, a blue-robed woman with glasses stepped off a nearby flying cloud and approached the pursuit force’s chief. She was quickly able to work out an arrangement for him to back off and allow the circle to go about their business. After a few deft legal maneuvers, the heroes were once again in the clear. When they asked who she was, she replied that her name was Sankara Holtz—and that she was their self-appointed lawyer! Ven started to say that they didn’t need a lawyer, her natural distrust of the Sidereals coming through, but the rest of the circle pointed out that they might have just gotten in serious trouble without her help, so she deserved to be heard out. She had also brought back #1130, who didn’t appear to carry a grudge for Ven tossing her out of a flying vehicle.
Sankara first asked if Red Lion was with them. When they answered in the negative, she was relieved; as it turned out, Red Lion had a warrant out for his arrest. She explained that when he discharged the Dawn’s First Light cannon into the Dome of the Sky during the destruction of the Zarrith Manse, it had caused major damage that took weeks to repair. While “vandalism” didn’t sound like a serious charge, it was apparently worthy of a death sentence if Red Lion were found guilty. There were a slew of lesser charges as well, including impeding a servant of Heaven in his official duties. Sankara recommended that they seek out allies while she prepared a defense. The fact that Red Lion was technically guilty would make it harder, but not necessarily impossible. After gathering a little more information about the situation, they decided that their best chance of finding a friendly face in Yu-Shan was to approach Lytek, the God of Exaltation.
The offices of the Bureau of Heaven were vast, expansive, and almost mind-boggling in size and complexity. This was clearly the center of a vital, thriving bureaucracy and a seat of divine power and authority. In contrast, the offices of Lytek, God of Exaltation, were run-down, shabby, and ill-kept. The only staff present seemed to be Lytek’s secretary, an officious-looking deity who looked something like a humanoid meerkat wearing glasses and a robe. After discussing the nature of their visit, they were ushered into Lytek’s inner sanctum, where they found the one they sought—passed out on his desk, an empty bottle of celestial wine next to his hand.
Though it took a little time and effort to wake him up, in the end he greeted them warmly, and not with a small number of tears. He examined each of them in turn, seeming to see beneath their skin to their very souls, and commented on how well they were doing… except for Snapdragon and Blazer, who seemed to disturb him. He admitted that at least some of Snapdragon’s personality problems might be his fault, since he was responsible for pruning the memories off of Exaltations between incarnations, and often chose to not remove all of them. Blazer was intrigued by the idea, but Lytek told him that he was only doing his best to help them all remember things that he thought would be important. It didn’t always work out, since it was more art than science…
Lytek lamented the disappearance of Autochthon, who would have known far more about all of it than he did. The circle managed to realize that Lytek was essentially a mechanic who had been promoted into a position of authority, and pledged to repay his friendship with as much aid as they could offer. Even Snapdragon and Blazer agreed that he was just doing his best, which was more than they could say for most of the gods they had met. They stayed with Lytek well into the night, chatting about the history of the First Age and catching up on many things that they had not previously known about their origins and powers.
They decided to settle in at Lytek’s and wait for their wayward Dawn Caste to catch up to them. By now, it must be morning in Creation, and Five Days Darkness would be gone with the rising sun. When he caught up to them, all hell would surely break loose, so it was time to get some rest while they could. Lytek informed them that Prism’s previous incarnations owned a mansion in the central district of Yu-Shan. A quick barque ride brought them to Prism’s “humble” home—an enormous mansion inlaid with precious metals and filled with essence-forged servants. Prism wondered what sort of person his previous incarnation must have been to revel in such decadence… but it was a place to sleep for the night.