25 Resplendent Fire: Finally, the day has come. Having passed from the Glorious Academy and completed the Thirty Thousand Correct Actions, I have taken my place as one of the Knights of the Golden Chrysanthemum. I knelt before the Perfect Circle and received my induction into the order, as the Grand Templar pinned my badge of office upon my lapel. I had never stood in their presence before — they are more magnificent than I had imagined. Ymir astonished me most of all — the paintings cannot do justice to the presence she holds in person. As I placed my hand upon the Night seal and swore myself to uphold the Deliberative, I could feel her eyes burning into me, both examining me and pre-emptively judging me, should I fail in my duties.
No sooner was the ceremony over than I was brought to the Chrysanthemum to begin duties. As is traditional, I was placed amongst a sphere of more experienced comrades. Just barely my senior, delightful Amira first welcomed me and led me to my new quarters. After just moments, I was led to a sumptuous meeting room, where I met my other new colleagues. Light of Mornings is a serious-looking woman, but greeted me warmly enough. From the back of the room, the other two broke off a slightly heated discussion to welcome me. Seven Leaping Herons seems cagey; he's perhaps a little too friendly. I don't know what to make of Qian Mian; he was quiet and brusque, like his kind so often are. It seems that he is the leader of our sphere, with Herons his lieutenant. I hope to serve him well.
They told me that we would begin work first thing in the morning. I am breathless at the prospect.
17 Descending Air: It has been almost four months since my service to the Chrysanthemum began. Already I have seen wonders I could never have dreamed, before. In the Academy, they tell us of the worlds, of the wonders of Creation, but to see them myself is truly magnificent. When I first viewed the Soulfont I could barely contain myself. Herons tells me that what I have seen thus far is insignificant compared to the wonders that await me. I do not know how such a thing could even be.
Our primary duty has been on the borders of Malfeas, watching for strains or cracks from within. I am told this sphere has had an illustrious history in protecting Meru against the strikes of the demon lords; my predecessor Iakshim perished in the line of such duty. I hope that we can honor his memory properly.
As I have done my duty, I have come to know my superiors far better. Qian Mian and Herons argue almost constantly, but lead us well nonetheless. Herons has a knack for finding just the right time and right action to solve a problem, even for a Chosen of the Stars. Qian Mian allows his subordinates vast room to follow our own instincts but when he decides on a course of action it is firm and final. Our sphere has gone above and beyond our duties at his constant insistence; I wonder if he seeks out greater promotions.
I have dealt little with the Grand Templar; his duties keep him distant from the Fivescore Fellowship often, and my position does not often grant me reason to demand his limited attention. However, I have found myself in a surprising situation. Some of our work has fallen into a realm that Ymir herself held interest in, and she selected me to serve as liasion from our sphere. At first I could barely stand to meet with her, she frightened me so; but as I have worked with her, my respect has only increased. She is a deeply driven leader, and remarkable at her duties. In her inquiries into our interactions with demonic cult activity, she has displayed a quickness of mind that astonishes me. I hope my performance has been satisfactory — she is not someone I would wish to disappoint.
My greatest joy has been Amira. We have grown close, in these short months. She is a delight and a wonder; I thank the Maidens every day that fate has wound us together.
7 Resplendent Earth: My sphere's latest work has left me greatly uneasy. I was surprised enough to see Qian Mian and Herons in agreement — but to hear them say that they believed something was amiss within the Perfect Circle itself? Now I find myself in the undesirable task of trying to watch those we have always been instructed to follow — and whose skills render my own insignificant in comparison.
Who could it be? Surely not Rosada, the great warrior; not after the sacrifices he has made to drive the dead and the fair ones from our world. Could it be Kiriath? He seems boastful and certain — but he has cause to be. But no one else is so pious in their worship of the Incarna. Perhaps Askaru — he is so frequently away, perhaps he plans something untoward…. I should raise the topic when next I speak to Ymir. Her abilities are truly without peer. If such a problem exists, surely she has surmised its existence and already works to combat it….
How can I do this? Even this secret diary may convey my traitorous thoughts to one who will end me for them. Perhaps I had best burn this entry and begin again.
Only my travels to the outer worlds, of all my current duties, give me comfort. The breeze that blows through the branches of the Wasirranu eases my worry and allows me to forget this burden, for a time. There, Amira and I can forget ourselves for just a moment and truly be.
18 Descending Fire: How could I have been so foolish? My own childish beliefs blinded me to the truth, and we have paid dearly for it. I write this in hospital as the wounds of my body heal, though I do not know how those of my soul shall do.
I responded to the call at once — the villain, in our very own Orrery chamber! When I rounded the corner and stared into Ymir’s eyes, I felt my heart pause and my throat empty. The look she returned was not those I had seen before, those glances that showed me a concerned and dedicated servant of a greater cause, a kindred spirit. This was not even a look of rage, of hatred. No, those eyes glared at me, cold and empty to the world. I was not prepared for such a horrible sight. I was unable to take even the slightest action before she was upon me, ebon blade already soaked in blood, and she struck me down. I awoke here three days later, a great scar upon my chest to remind me of the encounter. Did she spare me out of some slight affection for me, from our meetings? I cannot imagine it. Yet she must have spared me — for I cannot imagine Ymir missing a killing strike.
They tell me that she was the First and Forsaken Lion, even while she sat on the Circle. How could she have deceived all of us for so long? And worse, what does this mean for the Realm? If our greatest enemies sit not beyond our borders but within our grandest halls by our most revered masters, how can our grand empire be maintained?
29 Descending Wood: I have witnessed terrible things. Once, I was a child in the city of Kaleshaptra; I played in its streets, knew its neighborhoods by name. Those days are long gone now, but I held fond memories of them. But now I shall remember only one thing: the streets running red with blood, the faces of men hung on the walls and animated in a mockery of life, the bodies of children stretched into unholy pagodas, or sewn about the roots of dark trees. Not just one being of evil sat on the Circle. Kiriath has revealed himself as the most base of creatures, murdering beyond the capacity of imagination. And he was not alone.
Our sphere responded to the event, as so many did, and the situation disintegrated almost instantly. Qian Mian went to investigate the matter and did not return. We pressed on into the swamp, but it seemed to have a mind of its own, greater than us; the earth itself struck at us, and dark creatures arose from its depths to rend our flesh. Herons and Light of Mornings were separated from us. We fought through the horrors that surrounded us, but they were too many, and Amira — my dear, sweet Amira — fell to them.
I do not know how I survived, myself, but somehow I dragged myself, poisoned and bleeding, to a clearing in the swamp. The deceiver stood within my sight, eyes aglow, a black cloud whirling around him, as he laughed and laughed, though he did not see me. I despaired, and was certain that I would die there, my soul torn asunder from my fragile body, when I saw another rise up to confront him. I recognized Rosada immediately, though he looked far from how I had last seen him, as if a pallor of death sat upon his shoulders. He strode up to Kiriath, who held up a black sword — one I knew only too well — to keep him at a distance. An argument broke out, as the two screamed at each other. It shocked me — the two were conspirators. My faith was shattered, as I saw two more of the Perfect Circle exposed as fiends and villains.
The argument grew more heated, and Kiriath must have decided that he had had enough, for with no warning he plunged the black blade into Rosada’s chest, and I saw something, a flicker of golden light, flow into the blade. As the Dawn slumped to the ground, the deceiver laughed yet louder, for what seemed like an age. The last thing I saw was Kiriath turn, as if surprised, and a brilliant golden light flash from one corner of my eye; then I fell into darkness.
Now, I have been brought to an emergency council of the highest-ranking Knights. In between sessions, I am not allowed to leave a heavily guarded cell deep within the Chrysanthemum. I am afraid for what might be yet to come.
15 Ascendant Air: At one time I would have argued valiantly, but Qian Mian is right: there is only one option. The Seals are too important to be left in the hands of the Deliberative. The empire has been told that they have been brought to the Manse for safekeeping, after the horrific events that have transpired all too frequently of late. But we cannot trust the Sun-touched to hold them any longer. A dark miasma infects their ranks and renders them untrustworthy without our constant vigilance.
I have been chosen to serve the Knights in this matter. Of all our kind, I have been chosen to bear the Twilight Seal away, to hide it where none might find. I fear this task may be a death sentence — there are dark forces at work, and they will be actively seeking my burden. More darkly, I fear that this task is given to me because of what I have seen — my knowledge may be too much to trust to one such as I. But I must serve my lieges, and the great Empire we protect. I go off into the night, and may the Maidens watch over me as I do.