Iterator of Ordained Practices stood – utterly still – on a hill top some two or three hundred yards from the training ground, concealed within the auspices of his essence cloak. Halos of emerald light flashed from the figure central to the scene below, and the Alchemical studied the patterns of essence they projected against the soldier’s surroundings, analyzing.
Primordial exaltation shard. 2.0.1 Pattern Version, Wood Variant. Unique identifier T2477 iteration 67.
Some evidence of tampering – Pattern Version outside established range (1.0.0, 2.0.0).
At his core, around his primary essence reservoir, jade lenses shifted into place, recalibrating his own anima along similar lines. Allowing a trickle of essence to suffuse his form, cementing his disguise, he disengaged his stealth systems, and trod down the hill at a casual but not leisurely pace. As he approached the young man and his cadre of troops, he formalized his legend.
Kafun, lost egg, had marked his target well. A bastard, born of low circumstances in the Lap twenty years past and unexpectedly blessed with exaltation after the death of his mother, he related quite naturally to V’neef Sedrus, eldest adopted son of that great house. They shared much in the way of origins, different though their circumstances were.
In his brash, brusque junior, Sedrus was known to say, he saw many of the traits he himself had once possessed, and supposed that underneath lay similar potential.
So, the rising star of the Realm’s merchant navy took Kafun into the shade of his leaves, and Kafun, brilliant and ever calculating, sought to make himself useful. He expected no friendship there. He wanted none. He was solitary by nature – singular – and evinced only the desire for a well defined place in life where he might do well by his allies.
Sedrus was only too happy to supply it, having learned long since that great men live and die by their associates. Over ten years, Kafun had gone from underling to equerry to protégé. In that time, he had shown no great aptitude for his power – the blood of Sextes Jylis was clearly not strong in him – but he had proven himself more capable than any hundred men in every other pursuit.
In time, they fought together as sworn brothers. Facing Esara, ascendant goddess of waves, who had laid waste to the coast above Chiroscuro, and obstructed the rightful progress of trade. Against Dedroth, the necromancer, a ghost whose unholy power stole the bones from a hundred marines of the realm, and turned their corpses against their exalted masters. And many others.
Together they had faced numerous perils and in time Sedrus petitioned his family to formalize their bond of brotherhood, and adopt him into the house itself. Though he protested himself unworthy, it was an honor Kafun, the parentless boy from the fringe could not pass up, and so he became V’neef Kafun, adopted son of V’neef Sedrus’ third sister, V’neef Sira, dynast of the Realm.
Iterator of Ordained Practices reflected on his success as he passed through the darkness of a long abandoned manufactory beneath the city of Chiroscuro. It had been six years since he had last seen Sedrus. They had had a falling out – carefully engineered, so as not to deal irreparable harm – after Sedrus’s admiralty of the merchant navy had shackled him to a desk, precluding the useful adventures for which Iterator-come-Kafun had found him so useful.
The intervening years had found him at large in the south, a not-quite exile, bereft of the patronage of his sponsor in noble life, but neither disowned nor dispossessed.
The situation suited his needs well, giving him free reign to move about the world pursuing his own hidden agendas, while placing him in a position resume his relations on the blessed isle, should the need arise. The cover was, very occasionally, a bother however, such as in this case. Given the modern relationship between the dragon blooded and their celestial counterparts, he expected the rendezvous he was currently pursuing to prove problematic at best.
He harbored no ill will towards the anathema – and anathema they were to the Realm’s standards of the term, he had observed them under essence sight as they traversed the city above, and recorded both unique identifiers: L117, iteration 23, and S061, iteration 4 – but it seemed likely that they would respond poorly to his assumed identity. Less poorly, he calculated, than to his actual identity however. They were inexperienced, and lacked the foundational knowledge necessary to understand his origins, even if they could be trusted not to act unwisely with the information.
He passed through a low arch, ducking his head, and paused, examining the walls and floor. The fluid, living essence pattern was fading quickly, but it remained distinctive – blood. A single streak of it trailed down the hall, from a smallish pool just on the other side of the archway, leading away towards the market. He was no tracker, but it had to be fresh. I remained wet, even where spread thin.
He walked forward, eyes fixed on the space ahead, as his armor unfolded from beneath his skin, sliding out with a muted racket of metal-on-metal clicks. He eased his essence into the suit, powering the complex magitech workings crafted into its every joint and surface. Its material was not sovereign against all attacks, but it had served him well in the past. Concealment made for superior protection.
As he stepped into the relatively open area of the market proper – an abandoned rail car station which had never seen the vehicular traffic for which it was architected – Iterator was little more than a blur in the air. The scene was carnage, but he focused on his sense of purpose, and only the inefficiency moved him. It would be years – decades, most likely – before the market place could be restored to its ordained function, and the ramifications for the city would be far reaching, if subtle.
The alchemical picked his way through the human wreckage, attempting to discern the course of events, but ultimately met with little success. Many skills though he possessed, tracking was not among them. He saw no sign of the individuals he was meant to meet, which meant that either they had come and gone – perhaps in peaces – or they had not yet arrived. As he considered which was more likely, a sound beyond the closed door opposite him suggested the later…