Monday 22 January 2018

Exalted - Growing Up Realm pt 1 - Joining House Cathak

I have my notebook! Seeing as I hadn't managed to write any more of the "from memory", I've switched to writing properly... I've left the Derren's Ford to Thorns section as that was basically fine. There are a few details to add: our mother's name is Shimi, our father Yoon. Our siblings are Mei, Song, Han and Yee; Han was originally Lan, but at some point we forgot and switched it to Han so I've gone with Han from the start for the retelling (similarly, there's a reference to House Ledaal in this section; it says Peleps in my notes, but it became Ledaal as the story progressed). Mei's husband is Tien. Captain Ling's husband, Hwang, is a merchant, and her brother, Kwan, is in the 22nd Regiment, which is the same as Song. We were born in Ascending Fire 740.

We'd thought Thorns was enormous, but it had nothing on the island of the Realm. The House Cathak estate alone was near the size of Thorns!

As we travelled there, our Uncle explained our father had been Laughing Blade of House Cathak and our mother Spring's First Song of House Ledaal, but they ran away when Mummy was pregnant with Mei - they wanted to escape the war and politics and because they wanted to raise us as a family. If they'd stayed, it would have been expected of them to use servants for that. 

We did each have a servant, now; Mi-Yung and Jia. Uncle Chow still made sure to look after us as much as he could.

He showed us a trophy room, with Daddy's other sword, even bigger than the one Kito dragged around, and Mummy's bracers. A stone was set in one, glowing, so Uncle knew Mummy was still alive. I now know it was a hearthstone, and the glow showed it was still attuned to her. There was a painting there, too, of Mummy and Daddy in a battle. It was masterful, but frightened us: clearly them, but not as we knew them. Not loving parents, but ruthless warriors.

We loved the estate. There was a huge oak tree where we built a new tree fort, bigger and stronger than the one in Derren's Ford, and the view from the roof of the house was beautiful. It felt like we could see everything when we sat up there - we could see to the Imperial Manse, though, and particularly the 'Sword of Creation', which Uncle explained to us belonged to the Empress and helped bring peace to the Realm, a gift from the Dragons.

Uncle Chow spent most of the first month teaching us the names of the other Houses and how they stood in relation to each other, and etiquette, and diplomatic speech, and things like that, and the basics of fighting, with lots of drilling in stances and how to fall safely. I liked archery better. He then asked Hak - the same Hak who'd rescued us from the wolf on our 8th birthday - to take us to see "the Sage".

The Sage was a mysterious old hermit who lived in a cave on the Imperial Mountain. All Dynast children were taken to him, though we were going at a younger age than most. Hak took us by cloud, then sent us into the cave alone.

It was filled with strange items, propped up against the walls in disarray. A roll of dusty carpet, or tapestry, or something. A picture frame, face to the wall, filthy but with a sheen of gold poking through. Similar treasures. The hunched, wizened and wrinkled old man ushered us to sit at the battered table and made us tea in chipped cups. As we sipped at it, he walked towards a door - each step straightening a little, filling out a little, until it was a tall young man with golden hair who opened the door and led us through. The room started spinning, spinning us all the way to the Sun, to a large room, circular and golden. He blessed us in the name of the "Day Star", and everything went black - and we were back at the table, holding our tea, and he was an old man again. We didn't really understand what had happened, and it feels kind hazy, but from that day on I felt ... stronger. Like I was more in the world. Like everything was brighter and more alive.

We found learning to fight a lot easier, not getting hurt as easily and recovering faster when we were. Hak was our teacher, and a good teacher, but something in that tea woke us up.

It wasn't just fighting we learnt over the year we spent on the estate. History, geography, diplomacy, mathematics, literature; a crash course in Realm education. And it wasn't just education that passed our time. I drew and painted. We both wrote to Mei and especially Captain Ling a lot. We played in our treehouse and aruond the grounds with whichever members of the household we could talk into joining us. Uncle Chow had the boat we'd left Derren's Ford brought over, and we played in that on the lake. Towards the end of the year, Song visited. He hugged us and swung us in the air, and let us explore the boat he worked on (much bigger than ours).

To be honest, it was a very happy time for us.  

On our 9th birthday, we were taken to meet the Scarlet Empress. We were impressed by her, and her huge throne of jade dragons, but found the visit confusing. She explained our Uncle was really our Grandfather - that he'd pretended to be our father's brother to give him more freedom: the younger-brother-as-heir would have more freedom than a son-as-heir. She was likely the only one who knew; she and Grandfather were old, and much of what they could remember had been lost from records in the confusion of history. More, the real reason Mummy and Daddy had left was that our father was supposed to have married her daughter, Mnemon of House Mnemon. When he didn't, the scandal was hushed up. We talked about the Dragons, too, and she told us we would be Chosen, like our parents and Song had been, and like Mei, Han and Yee would be (assuming they were alive - there was still no news of them).

We were due to start school at the Cloister of Wisdom a week later. The Empress took charge of us for that week.

No comments:

Post a Comment