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Exalted: Shards of Hope - Fiction: Serendipity (Complete)

Travis Kincaid

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Callum stopped and looked around, something felt odd, something similar to the cave. An odd name, manse, he thought to himself. Sometimes the memories of his solar essence provided him with useful knowledge but more often than not they only compelled him to find and destroy the wicked, avenge his family and village on any person or monster that would attack the helpless.

Behind him he heard a soft whine, he looked back and Eilein was staring at him, clearly curious why he had stopped but also worried. She could sense his sadness and more often than not the memories of his solar essence led to memories of his lost life and then to sadness. He smiled at her to reassure her that he was fine. She quickly perked up her ears springing up and her tongue lolling out in that goofy wolf smile. Callum shook his head, in many ways the young she-wolf reminded him of his daughter, especially in her demeanor. She could go from serious to playful in an instant, it hadn’t taken him long to name her after his child.

He continued on, twilight was wrapping it dark velvety arms about the forest and Callum was hoping to catch something, anything, for dinner. While he could live off the forest alone Eilein didn’t eat her vegetables, again much like his lost daughter. At that thought he chuckled, it was pretty silly thinking a wolf would make a meal of vegetables. Well I’m not going to catch anything standing the dark, he thought as he got moving again, And Eilein isn’t going to catch much for another few months at the least.

Half an hour later he was padding quietly through the dark, his bow notched and ready, after a small boar. It would be more than enough for the two of them for at least a day, maybe longer. Up ahead a light flared and the boar, startled, bounded off into the bush.

Caught flat-footed Callum could not continue and the prey was lost, “Damn,” he said quietly. Eilein padded up behind him and whined, “Yes, I’m hungry too. Hopefully the snares caught a rabbit for you.” At the mention of rabbit Eilein perked up, she loved rabbits and Callum had laid more than a few snares out for them as a back for when he could not take down a small deer or a boar.

Looking back toward the direction that the light was Callum found that he could make out a faint light still remaining. It silhouetted what looked like a structure, Strange, nobody lives anywhere near here. Moving as quietly as possible, with Eilein a few steps behind him, Callum moved toward the light, curious what it was he had stumbled upon. He reached out and poured essence into his anima, wrapping it around him and cloaking his presence with it, for a brief moment a wolf’s head shown above his own then faded to darkness as he moved forward once more.

Ahead he now saw a ruined building, and it appeared to be just one of many, possibly an entire town or city left here and abandoned since the first age. He crept into the building and picked his way amongst the shattered stone and rotted wood. Soon he found himself looking into the courtyard nestled within the grasp of the crumbling villa. The area was cleared and within a small fire produced the light he had seen from the forest. Sitting near the fire was a young woman of perhaps twenty and an older man. They were conversing quietly and the old man appeared to be teaching the woman something. Callum watched for a time and then the woman rose. Facing the man she began to make strange gestures while incanting words in a tongue unknown to him. Suddenly a golden circle inscribed with strange symbols and sigils appeared above her in the air and burst into bright light.

Startled Callum took a step back and slipped on a piece of loose stone. He landed hard and a grunt escaped him. The woman, startled, turned and looked in his direction. She was greeted with the sight of a man, dressed in buckskin, sitting on his rump. His head was wrapped in brown and green strips of cloth only his eyes showing. He had an axe at his side and a bow and quiver on his back. Despite being wrapped in leather the end of the bow shone in the light and betrayed their orichalcum material. Behind him a wolf, small and clearly and adolescent, crouched.

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"You have power enough, but you lack the necessary finesse," Sao-Si complained from where he sat by the cookfire. "Is this what I spent so much of my time teaching you in that confounded library? It is not enough to have a powerful mind...you must have an agile mind. Your consciousness must flow not like water, but like sunlight itself. Spreading so fast, that to any observer it seems you have always been there. That is how fast Essence moves, and you must keep pace if you are to master it."

Mei-Ying bit her lip to stifle her reply. It wasn't polite, and would only earn another bruise on her scalp. Sao-Si, for all his looks, moved like a viper when sufficiently motivated.

Is it worth it?

The opening of the gates. Harrowing. Excruciating. Still recent enough that she remembered it all too clearly. Initiation to sorceror exacted a price, paid up front. The price of seeing what no one else could see, of doing what only the gods could do. Every weakness had to be cast in a stark, unforgiving light, then burned away. Was it worth it?

Sao-Si was eying her shrewdly, and Mei-Ying realized that once again, he knew what she was thinking. Not via charms or sorcery or tricks of magic...but because he had once stood where she did now, and he had wondered as she did.

I can't go back. Even if I wanted to. Like the Scholar of Yish, I have plucked out one eye, and placed a diamond where it was. I can refuse to look through the diamond...but I can't get my old eye back. Holding back avails me nothing except denying me my due for what I have done.

She closed her eyes, and for a moment all was calm. Mei-Ying had the face of an angel, smooth and round with a pert nose and full rosebud lips. She was a little darker in complexion than a true child of the Blessed Isle, but the colorful robe with its broad sash belt and lack of slits to let her legs move was common to the heart of the Realm. Her hair was a waterfall of black silk, cascading back over her neck and shoulders to stop midway down her back. The kimono hid much else of her that the eye might wish to see, though even it could not completely hide the alluring shape within it.


Mei-Ying opened her eyes, and deep in the black of her pupils, a golden fire burned. The light of Essence, the lifeblood of Creation. She had learned to harness it for simple magically-enhanced acts...now she called on it's full fury, filling herself until she could take no more. Essence roared out of her into golden spokes that radiated from the mark on her forehead; a mark of a golden circle, the top half of which was solid, the bottom half hollow. Branches stemmed off the spokes, dimming slightly into blue and violet strands that began stretching to create a circle, as yellow and red filaments streamed into strange sigils ringing the inside edge of that circle. Standing there, surging with power, Mei-Ying felt what Sao-Si had said. It was a wave, a mighty tsunami, moving with breathtaking speed. But she could ride on that wave, and use its infinite force and power as she saw fit.

The Old Realm words came unbidden to her lips, as her long fingers traced in the air runes that burned in their wake. To command the elements. To shape the very underpinnings of Creation. To...

Who is that?

Her sling was in her hands almost before she realized it. The man was roughly garbed. A hunter, or trapper perhaps. Certainly not a scion of the Realm come to find their wayward librarian's assistant. He was terribly scarred, burned over most of his face.

"Straying a little far from your village, don't you think?" Mei-Ying asked coolly as she fitted a bullet into the sling's cup. "Curiosity can be enlightening...but it has risks as well. Who are you?" Around her, the wheel of colored light turned, and burned.

Behind her, she could hear Sao-Si getting to his feet, but for now he stayed back...no doubt wanting to see how she handled this.

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Callum sat, he realized that his wrap had fallen, exposing the lower half of his face and showing the scars that he bore. He quickly covered it, tucking the wrap into itself. A wry grin spread over his lips, concealed by the wrap, as she addressed him as a commoner, Yes, just another common hunter who got lost, nothing special here.

Not bothering to rise, hardly any reason to give them cause to attack, he bowed his head, "I am sorry, I was out hunting, hoping to catch something for my dinner, mine and my beast's. I saw the light of your campfire and ... well nobody has lived in these ruins for many a year, not since before my great-grandsire." His voice was low and sounded like gravel rolled in a great urn, despite this however his accent was clear enough. He had little exposure to the people of this region and could not yet duplicate their accent, if she was able to pick up on that she would see through his lie.

"I am sorry," he said as he lifted his empty hands, “I will go, I am sorry.” He did his best to sound like a frightened commoner as he attempted to rise while showing that his weapons were no threat to them.

He looked them both over. The man was old and had the appearance of one who was wise beyond even his considerable years. The woman … the woman was the picture of youth and beauty. Callum was reminded of his wife, when they first met, he had been able to stare in rapture at her for hours. The gown she wore allowed Callum to appreciate the shape of her body, and yet it was modest in a way that spoke of an uncommon upbringing. For a moment he felt like a young man again, it was hard not to do so when confronted by one such as she, and yet as he rose he reflected on what he had just seen; she was Exalted of the Unconquered Sun. His memory informed him that she was a member of the twilight caste. She was, like Callum himself, an enemy to the realm. Surely the old man must be allied with her, he thought, Might they will be friendly?

Standing now he spoke once more his voice even as he looked the young woman in the eyes, “I should go, I have disturbed you and invaded upon your privacy, I am sorry.”

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Conscious of Sao-Si beside her, Mei-Ying...hesitated. She knew, knew, that the appropriate response right now was to simply strike. The orichalcum sling in her hands would put a bullet through his brain as if it were nothing. There would be no pain, no suffering...and no chance of him returning home to babble about the witch woman in the old temple he'd stumbled across. No chance of word getting back to the Realm that Anathema were practicing unclean sorceries in the woods near the Empire.

But she didn't. Was it pity? Maybe, but also something else. Something about this man was off...he was saying the right words, doing the right things, but it seemed to her that the fear was only skin deep. Where were the bulging eyes, the sheen of sweat, the stammering and other signs of panic? His voice sounded oddly familiar too, though she was sure she'd never heard him before...

He talks like me.

Her own eyes widened. She almost hadn't realized it. She hadn't spent much time socializing with natives around here, and listening to herself speaking Forest-tongue, she'd gotten used to her Realm accent. But he had it too.

She thought fast. This could be bad, but she couldn't just attack. He could be dragon-blooded. That would explain his apparent lack of fear, though it was odd to see one of the Blood garbed like a common hunter and playing the part of one. The elite of the Realm marched where they would, and took pride in people quailing before them. She'd never known them to employ subtlety.

"Wait," she said. Maybe it was best to just lay things on the table. She didn't think he could stop her from escaping with Sao-Si. Not now.

"I'm Mei-Ying, formerly of the Blessed Isle. You're also of the Realm, and I think you know who, and what, I am. Are you leaving now to bring more? How many? What numbers would you bring to strike me down?"

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Callum stood, relaxed as possible while remaining poised to flee or fight, his arms hung by his sides and he deliberately witheld from drawing either bow or axe. He blinked as she made her name and origin known, Clearly she feels the same connection, whatever I flet earlier must have led me here ...

Spending a single mote of essence Callum forces his caste mark to glow. As he does so he peels back the wrapping from his forehead, revealing a shining golden circle embossed on his flesh. "Do not fear me, I too am exalted of the Unconquered Sun. Earlier I was out hunting for dinner and I felt something … something odd, I cannot describe it. It was similar feelings which drew me here from the Haltan Republic. I speak the language of the realm but I was never a citizen, not in my mind or my heart.”

Callum replaces the wrap on his forehead the sigil shows through muted now but still obvious through the light wrapping. He steps foreward towards the fire and offers a short bow, bending at the waist. “My name is Callum Uallas, I am sorry to have disturbed you but I suspect that my fall was not my doing, but instead the providence of fate. Until a few months ago I had never strayed more than fifty miles from my town, we now stand more than two thousand miles from there. I was guided, compelled, by memories not my own and yet clearly mine, to this region.”

Callum turns and beckons to the wolf. Eilein sits on her haunches and returns a single bark, I don’t think so papa, they’re smell funny. Callum rolls his eyes and excuses himself as he crouches and retrieves a piece of dry meat from the pouch at his belt. He holds it up so the young wolf can see. Eilein barks again, then reluctantly comes forward and takes the jerky. She lays down and begins to chew on the dried meat though keeping a wary eye on the two strangers.

“This is Eilein, she is still young and apparently a little shy. I found her in a cave a few months ago. Her mother had been shot and was dead. I saved her and have been raising her as best I can. Again I do not believe it was happenstance that I found her, she is large for a she-wolf of her age and she has bonded to me in ways that I think only possible by way of magic.”

Callum moves to a sitting position and removes a handful more of the dried meat from his pouch. Tossing another piece to the wolf he offers some to Mei-Ying and the old man before biting into a piece himself. “I believe that once my solar essence called this region home. My past self may even have lived in this city, though I think it was not his home, merely a place to live and work. And you? What draws you here this night? Your own memories or something else?” Callum watches Mei-Ying and the old man as he sits, his wrap now partially off so that he can eat. He can see in their eyes the disgust, pity, and curiosity as they view his scars. Why have I been drawn here at this time? Surely to meet this young woman and her … father?

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The older man frowned slightly when Callum revealed his caste mark and pulled a small rolled up slip of paper out of his tunic to squint at, then replaces it.

(I should point out that Sao-Si isn't a withered old man either. He looks to be in his 40's maybe...Sidereal Exalted are just as slow to age as Solars :))

Startled, Mei-Ying looks at Callum with shock, then turns her head to look at her companion, who nods and motions towards Callum. For a moment she seems at a loss for words. "I've been here for some time now," she explains. "I...Sao-Si sent me here, from the Blessed Isle. To escape the Hunt. This is Sao-Si."

The man nods and spreads his palms as he bows. "It is good to see you are well, Pillar of Heaven."

"He is my teacher," Mei-Ying explains, when it seems Sao won't be saying anything more. "So, you see...it wasn't fate that brought me..."

"On the contrary, Mei-Ying," Sao-Si interrupts firmly. "Do you think it any less fated if it happens through my hands? Fate makes tools of us all, and none more than I. Where others see random happenstance, you must learn to see the eddies of destiny. For while most threads in the pattern of Creation are but muted colors of little consequence, the Chosen shine brightly, and all that is hangs on the choices you make, and the path you follow. Very little that happens in your presence, or because of your actions, will ever be mere coincidence."

Mei-Ying clears her throat, blushing a bit at the lecture. "Callum, please join us at the fire. We've food and drink, if you're hungry. Either of you. Perhaps we can exchange stories, though mine is not lengthy, I will warn you."

Sao-Si snorts at that. "It was lengthy for me. I suppose this means tonight's lesson is done?"

She gives him a scandalized look. "Sao! We have guests. Of course it means..." With a sigh she looks back at Callum. "I am sorry...we're not used to visitors. Our social graces have atrophied." She pauses and adds, "Significantly. You are welcome here."

Even Sao-Si has the grace to look apologetic. "Yes, of course. Forgive me, Child of the Sun. I wasn't expecting you quite this soon, and I feel a bit foolish. Come and sit with us."

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Expecting me? This man knew I would be here? Callum inclined his head in thanks as he made himself more comfortable. Eilein moved up on his left and put her head in his lap alternately staring up at him and out at the two others.

Callum sat quiet for a bit before speaking up, "You expected me? Are you too a ... 'Child of the Sun'? Isn't that what you called me? Truly this feels as though a fluke and yet the chances are too remote for me to believe it to be so. Please tell me what you know."

Callum accepted a waterskin from the young woman and did his best not to stare. He set the skin aside for a moment and retrieved a section of oiled leather. Digging a small hole in the ground he lined the hole with a the leather before pouring some of the water out into the makeshift bowl. Eilein moved to drink and Callum took his own drink from the skin before passing it back. "My thanks for your hospitality," he said, "Would that I could return the favor to you."

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"It wouldn't be very hospitable if it were given with the expectation of return payment," Mei-Ying points out with a smile. "It's not exactly a feast, but we try to limit our appearances in towns, to avoid curiosity."

Sao-Si scowls at the fire. "I misspoke. It's far more complicated than I made it sound. It didn't have to be you, and it didn't have to be now...in fact I'd hoped to have more time. But the skein waits for no one."

He looks up at Callum. "I'm like you in some ways...different in others. We are alike in that we have been called to a higher duty, and that we answer only to the gods and fate. I'm afraid that'll have to do for now."

Mei-Ying pours herself some water into a wooden mug and sips. "If it helps any, you now know as much about him as I do," she quips, giving Sao a playful nudge. "Except that, for all his sour manners, he has a kind heart, and a trustworthy nature."

"Bah! Don't talk to me of kind hearts," he grumps. "If this man had been what you feared, and quicker on his toes, we'd be fleeing this place right now. Everything would be a mess."

"But he wasn't, and everything isn't," she points out calmly. "Maybe my kind heart is also a tool of fate?"

For a moment Sao-Si regards her through narrowed eyes...then he starts to chuckle...then laugh. "Well done, Mei...well done. Ahh...if you'll excuse me, I have something to attend to." He stands up and ambles off behind some buildings.

Mei-Ying gives Callum a rather self-pleased, radiant smile that, with the crown of light orbiting her head, gives her all the appearance of some benevolent goddess...which is perhaps not so far from the truth of her. "Forgive me for prying, but you seemed to say that you were guided here by memories? Sao-Si has warned me that I might experience memories that weren't my own, but it hasn't happened yet. What was it like?"

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Callum sighs, "For me it was in many ways a relief. Sometimes they came as dreams, given the circumstances of my exaltation those dreams were a welcome replacement for the nightmares I would have had otherwise. Mostly though little bits of knowledge just pop into my head. Something will feel familiar or odd. I'd come to a crossroads and know which direction to go."

Callum produces a small sack of dried fruits and forest nuts, offering them to Mei-Ying before taking a small handfull. He chews thoughtfully, almost slowly as though biding time to continue. "As soon as I saw this place I was not suprised that it was here though I had no idea of its existance mere minutes before. You will know when it happens. Something that you shouldn't expect will seem normal, or a discovery will seem more like finding something you had put down recently.

"I'm sorry it's difficult to explain... If I may be so bold what is your story? How did you come to be in this place? How was it that you were called to the service of the Sun?"

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She accepts Callum's offering gratefully and says, "I was raised in Pangu, by Sao-Si. He was curator of the Imperial Archive Library, where they keep copies of the most important documents, like land grants and censuses and maps and so on. I was his assistant, but he also taught me things that were against the Immaculate Philosophy, of the time before the Realm, and of the beings he called the Exalted, that the Realm calls Anathema. I didn't know it at the time, but he was preparing me for what was to come."

Mei-Ying falls silent for a moment, chewing deliberately and swallowing. Then she continues.

"Somehow, word got out that there were forbidden writings being hidden at the archive, and an inspector came, with his guards. He found the scrolls and books Sao-Si had been using to teach me...I'm not sure how. I wasn't upstairs when they came. I came running when I smelled the smoke." She stops again, and beneath the mask of calm, Callum can see very real sadness, and anger, reflected in her eyes as she looks away.

"His men were holding Sao-Si, and he was setting fire to a pile of these books...this knowledge that the Realm deemed must never be learned. There was no time to think or consider consequences. I ran...leaped into the fire itself and started hurling the books out...the fire got hotter and hotter, and brighter and brighter..."

"And suddenly I realized I wasn't in the library anymore. I was surrounded by flames hot enough to destroy a world, yet they didn't burn me. Light so bright it would melt the eyes from my head, but I could see. And a voice that I could feel in my bones, that...seemed to come FROM my bones."

She shakes her head.

"When I came back to myself, the inspector was ordering his guards to kill me...so I killed them. It was...startlingly easy. Sao-Si killed the inspector as he was about to reach the door. It was confusing...he seemed so proud as he led me away, though a concealed door... He was talking about the sun and...well, it took me until later to piece it together. He pushed some things into my arms, and shoved me into a...device of some kind. Everything went black, and awful. Imagine a black so deep and cold that it's...alive somehow. Trying to push itself into you, to make you like it is..."

Mei-Ying's eyes grow distant, and she shivers. Only for a moment though.

"Then I was here. He'd given me some supplies and a note that explained things in very basic detail, and...my sling and armor. A month later, he arrived here, and began to teach me anew, not just of history and the lore of the heavens, but of the magic of essence, which dwarfs any other learning."

Abruptly she stops and looks embarrassed. "I've been self-indulgent. I apologize. I've never had a chance to actually talk to anyone about it who wasn't there for it. What of you, Callum? Or...if it's painful to remember, you don't have to."

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"You should be so fortunate that you walked through fire and emerged unburned," Callum unwraps his head fully, "I was not so fortunate."

For the first time Mei-Ying sees the true extent of Callum's disfigurement. The left side of his head shows the scarring of terrible burns. The skin itself is paler and alternately drawn tight or sagging loose, as though his skin were wax that had been pushed as it cooled. She saw for the first time that his head was bald save a topknot of deep brown hair which appeared to cascade down behind him. A small chin-beard was braided and tied off as well. Despite the ruin of the fire scars Mei-Ying was able to see that at one time Callum had been quite handsome. There were lines of smiles and laughter at his eyes and mouth that betrayed the sadness of his eyes. At one point he had been supremely happy.

Looking into his green eyes, in part to avoid the ruin of his scars Mei-Ying saw a great sadness lurking deep in Callum's soul. Covering that sadness like oil on water was a righteous anger that hardened him and his heart. Had this part of him ruled his actions Mei-Ying wondered if she and Sao-Si wouldn't be sporting arrows from their bodies.

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Mei-Ying couldn't hide the momentary flinch on seeing him this close, and this fully. She looked into his eyes for a moment, steeling herself, then returned her attention to his mutilated face, forcing back her emotions as if he were merely another picture in one of the books she'd read on the human body and surgeries.

"Such scars," she murmurs, actually reaching out to touch his cheek. "The fire must have been terrible indeed. Paper doesn't burn nearly this hot..." Realizing Callum's self-consciousness, she pulls herself from her horrified fascination and bows her head apologetically.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. If it pleases you, please go on."

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Callum raises a hand assuaging any guilt, “It is alright, perhaps I should have kept myself hidden but if the Unconquered Sun intends us to travel together, as I suspect Sao-Si could confirm, you should know me.” He sighs again and begins to rub Eilein’s side and her head bringing a wolf grin to her face.

“Until some six months ago I was a different man,” he begins as he replaces much of the wrap, “I was married and a father, twin sons and a daughter. My wife was the complement to my soul and I was happy.

“One night though it was taken from me. My village was attacked at least I assume that was the case. I awoke to my home on fire the smoke was thick and I was both blinded and choked by it. I told my wife to get outside to get help and I went to get the children. I know not if she escaped. As I went to gather my children the roof collapsed. The burning wood and thatch pinned me to the floor and I was consumed. I too was visited by the Unconquered Sun. He told me that I would be given the power to avenge my family through my deeds, that I would become a protector of those who could not protect themselves.

“Bandits, thieves, barbarians, and others. They would be my quarry, and I would hunt them like the beasts they were. When I came to I was in the stream near the village. The whole village was nothing but charred ruin, burned entirely to the ground. I fled into the forest. My entire life was ashes, burnt to a cinder …my daughter … the light of my life … she was not even three years old … she did not deserve to die …”

Callum stops, tears visible as he puts his head in his hands. After a moment he composes himself and continues. “When I next gained awareness I was riding in the back of a cart. A merchant’s caravan had found me and tended my wounds. I would have died had they not and yet I did not consider it a fortunate turn of events, I knew that this was intended for me. That I would be … tempered … by the fire.

“After that I wandered, lead away from the burnt ruins of my life by my own grief, led here by the inescapable memories of my solar essence. Four months ago I found a cave and Eilein here. I named her after my daughter, in part because she reminds me of her, and in part to be sure that I never forget my family.”

Callum stops, his eyes are filled with tears and sorrow.

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This time Mei's hand does find Callum's face...just a gentle touch, and she withdraws it.

"I am very sorry for your loss," she says quietly. "Sao-Si is the only family I have ever known, and while it has been lonely at times, I have never known the sort of pain you have. I'm not sure I can even imagine what it must be like. You must be very strong, to bear such a burden unbowed, and to keep your sense of purpose through it all."

"Let's not dwell too long on the past though. Not when the future seems so much brighter. What are your plans, Callum?"

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"Plans? I must confess I have none. I suppose that eventually I will grow restless. Eilein will likely follow me 'till the end of my days now so I will wander and do what good I can. I am no soldier but I can deal with the enemies of the people in my own way. And my skill at natural medicine was renowned, not only my my own town but in the nearest other settlements as well. Perhaps I will be able to heal my own heart by service to others ... to the Sun."

Callum stops and looks at Mei-Ying, he felt as though he had known her for years. Perhaps just sharing their secrets was enough to form that kind of bond. "And you? What would you do with your new power?"

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"Not TOO new," she chuckles. "I've been here for nearly half a year now. Initiation is not something that can be rushed...but yes. I plan to found an academy. An institution of free learning, with no limitations on who may study, or what may be studied. Dedicated not only to storing knowledge, but to spreading it. Resurrecting it. Making it live in the hearts and minds of..."

Seeming to realize her description was swiftly approaching 'rant' territory, Mei-Ying stopped herself, a little abashed. "You get the idea. It's something I feel very strongly about."

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Callum nods, "A noble goal and yet I get the impression that the Realm would hardly permit such a place to exist. This, or course, is aside from the usual considerations of location and expenses. The richest man in my village had but three books."

Callum lays down and stares up into the sky, "Would that had such a definite goal. I fear that my work may never cease."

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Callum, still lying on his back looking to the stars, nods, "And I hope you too get your heart's desire. In the mean time we will do what we must. Sao-Si clearly believes our destinies are linked." Callum rolls up onto his side and looks at Mei, "In that I am grateful, perhaps we will help each other reach our goals together. I think I would enjoy teaching”

Callum looks across the fire, “Your mentor has been gone for some time, should we be concerned?”

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She laughs and shakes her head.

"I'm sure the main reason he left was to let us talk in peace. He's probably lurking somewhere outside of firelight, watching with satisfaction."

"That or he's gone to town to get more supplies."

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