Chakravarti, Versha, Ronilda, Drahoslav, Almelon. Many have heard these five names and today few worship them still, save for the monks of the Monastery of Five Paths. These are the names of the Five Grand Sages, students of the previous Clockwork Avatar, Jamphel Yeshe, fathers and mothers of the unholy land of the same name. They lived before the First Age, born in a time before the Reshaping of the World. Children of Asgard they were, and like the Old Gods, they drank of the Well of Wyrd, attaining great power and immortal bodies, just as the gods had. But they were not with the Aesir thereafter, for they saw no wisdom, no kindness in subjugating the other eight realms or calling themselves gods. The five claimed that in drinking of the well, they had been touched by the true divine, and they set out to travel the lands and spread the word. For a thousand years or more it is said, they went from realm to realm, building a great following of acolytes, teaching them the ways of the Great Clockwork, claiming that the Great Wheel, as was its name back then, spoke to them directly inside their souls when they went into their inner worlds and called itself Jamphel Yeshe.
The Silk Sahira has left the port at Saresham this morning, and the clear blue sky and sapphire-like lagoons of the Nyingma1Home to the Monastery of Five Paths, one of the seven Magus Academies of Aqualon.Islands seem to greet me well on my journey to the dark heart of the world. Captain Lakshmana tells me I am a madman for attempting a pilgrimage to Jamphel Yeshe, but to progress as a master of the Monastery of Five Paths, I know in my heart that I have to seek out the sages in whose name our great school was once founded. Lakshmana won't take me all the way to the island of course - he has silk deliveries to make on the Hooper Chain - but I should be able to find a skipper that'll take me to the island of Ainan3Home to Ka Hale Akamai, one of the seven Magus Academies of Aqualon.from there...
When the Reshaping of the World happened, they took refuge in the Great Clockwork and returned to the new world that had been molded out of the Nine Realms. Here they walked the Great Land as they had walked the realms before, teaching their word. When the Ocean Belt to the south was discovered by the Yamato tribes during the second half of the First Age, they sensed a calling from that direction and crossed the Iron Belt with many acolytes, and they told them to follow without fear as they walked across the ocean as if it was solid land.
In time they arrived at a great island that Yamato surveyors had dubbed "Kujira-tô", the whale island. The sages stepped ashore, followed by their acolytes, and they kissed the ground, proclaiming with great joy:
From this day forward, this land shall be known as Jamphel Yeshe, the promised land; the holy land! We will build a great monastery in this place, and all who seek wisdom, all who seek guidance, all who seek their place in the world will be welcome in our arms!
Even on board the swift Silk Sahira, the journey from Saresham to Graanshoof at the tip of the Hooper Chain has taken well over half a month. We did stop by Rastrowel4The large lakes Tarrenvel and Ostrund on the island of Rastrowel are home to an unusual species of jellyfish: the globumeduzoa, also known as pearlhoods in the common vernacular. The pearlhoods spread rapidly when food is available and quickly form strands of tiny nacre granules, which are harvested by the people of Rastrowel as nacre gravel, a prized substance for goldsmiths and alchemists. Rastrowel is also the founding place of the Church of Pure Souls.to sell some silk and buy nacre gravel to resell later. Now that we are at Graanshoof, I am parting with Captain Lakshmana and his esteemed crew; a young Hank and Jordan's employee with his ship has taken me on as a passenger and on-board magus, hoping I will ease the journey, which I will. The destination: a little town on the other side of Ainan (the other side from Ka Hale Akamai, where I hope to find a colleague that can get me to the Pirate Coves of Porasta).Shariputra, First Dan Magus of the Monastery of Five PathsThe Silk Sahira
Never again was there magic on Jamphel Yeshe. Magic was dead. Never again was there a soul saved on Jamphel Yeshe. Souls were dead. No Hope. No Great Clockwork on Jamphel Yeshe. And as the acolytes, overcome with strange melancholy, unable to turn their minds towards optimistic nihilism, the only path to enlightenment left to them, chose to die, one after another, and the evil and downtrodden, smelling a safe hiding hole where no judgement could touch them and no magics could hurt them, went to Jamphel Yeshe, and golden fields of grain turned into green fields of coca and red fields of poppy, and drugs poured out of the island that became a haven for the Baba Yaga, the pirate kings. To this day pilgrims still seek Jamphel Yeshe from time to time, but few survive the pilgrimage. And those that do regret their journey, for there is no deeper meaning at the accursed shores, and the statures of the five sages sit perfectly still, forever keeping their secrets to themselves.Log Entry 3
Two months and change on the sea, with only sparse shore leave! We were caught in three storms and almost sank all three times. Only some exhausting water and wind magic on my part, depending on which ur-soul I had been attuned to at the time, saved us all from drowning and that by the skin of our teeth.
We have reached Ainan, finally, and I have spoken with Wavemaster Lorian at Ka Hale Akamai. He, too, doubts the wisdom of my journey to Jamphel Yeshe, telling me that whatever I seek I will not find it there, but I am adamant. I have come this far, and I will see the journey through!
After a few days of staying at the academy, enjoying their marvelous hospitality and learning about their views on magic and enlightenment, Lorian grants me the escort of two of his most senior students and a special ship that the mages of Ka Hale Akamai steer and propel entirely with wind and water magic, each one of the two crewmen utilizing one of the elements. We set sail tomorrow on the 4th Briestag of Wexling and are expected to reach the Pirate Coves of Porasta in a mere two days. There I will hire myself out to a pirate ship on its way to Jamphel Yeshe. Only under the aegis of a ruthless pirate with a name to himself would I ever dare set foot on the land of poppy and coca, where men and women are sold as cattle and drugs flow out like excrement that poisons the world.Shariputra, First Dan Magus of the Monastery of Five PathsThe beaches of Ainan... a difficult place to leave.
Log Entry 4
The Pirate Coves of Porasta haven't been quite what I expected... though I suppose I did not really know what I expected. It was a rough, dirty place, people gambling, drinking, and killing left and right. And they even killed each other... over me.The Pirate Coves of Porasta.There were two captains that wanted my services for the journey to Jamphel Yeshe. A magus with my credentials is a powerful asset to have for a ship, especially one that might have to tussle with others. In the end, the crew of Captain Costaverde Salamanca the First won out, and I am on their ship now. The Santa Sarrana is a swift and sturdy ship, though it could use a good scrubbing. Seeing as I am not too keen on doing the job myself, I am, however, reluctant to bring it up. A strange man travels with them. He has the white hair of a blighter, and they ask him to sing shanties. When he does, they are strange somehow. Beautiful to the ear but as if he was singing with many voices and an ancient power in his melodies. I speak with him from time to time, and he tells me strange tales of the world. The strangest seems to relate to the Birth of Balsibart, the tale of a little girl on Jamphel Yeshe, told as if he had heard the story from her directly or even as if he had been that girl, as strange as this may sound.
His story sticks with me, and I lay awake at night often. Jamphel Yeshe scares me now, and I am beginning to grow wary of my journey. And yet, we are moving closer to the island every day now...Shariputra, First Dan Magus of the Monastery of Five PathsThe Santa Sarrana.
Log Entry 5
I jumped overboard. During my final talk with the white-haired man I learned the truth: it was him. The real Balsibart, on his way for a little home visit. And yes, the story he had told me was from his... childhood... I cannot fathom how, cannot fathom what he is. But the moment I discovered it, I jumped and swam and never looked back. A couple of fishers picked me up a day later. Only magic allowed me to survive this long. I am writing from their little boat as we head back Ainan-way. They live on a small island of the group called Gêsi. I have turned my back on Jamphel Yeshe, just like the rest of the world. I will never set foot on that accursed island. The story Balsibart told me will haunt me for the rest of my life, for the vivid narration of the accursed spielmann brought the images and feelings of despair all too close to my inner eye...Shariputra, First Dan Magus of the Monastery of Five PathsThe Cobalt Loon, the small fishing vessel that picked Shariputra up.
The Birth of Balsibart
Many decades ago, in the city of Kagharpyur on Jamphel Yeshe
Jamphel Yeshe. Jamphel Yeshe. Dīghā jāgarato ratti dīghaṃ santassa yojanaṃ dīgho bālānaṃ saṃsāro saddhammaṃ avijānataṃ.1Long is the night for a wakeful; long is a yojana for a tired.
Long is the Samsara for the fools who do not know the true Dharma.And yet they linger in Jamphel Yeshe: the wakeful, the weary, the ever born. Long is their short life to them, for the night is dark to them, the road is steep, the light is far from their sight, and their eyes are ever drawn to the ground as they bow before misery, their master.Today the girl will die.No?Maybe today…No?But today…no… life moves along; ever so slowly, rotting, like the thirsty in the desert sun. The waves quake endlessly against the bay of the island, here where the harbor of the city lies, and the city behind it, past the old monastery.Ships come and go. Only the people who live here, they stay. The girl knows no law, no government, no parents, no siblings. The world is a frightful place with many arms to beat her down, growing out of every nook and cranny. She wants to curl up and die, every day, but she can’t, her instinct is all she has, all she ever knew, and it tells her to survive. She tells it that she does not want to, that she wants to sleep and never wake up, but it makes her stand up and walk anyways. She steals the rotten food that is laid out in the corner streets, but often she is caught and beaten.Even though it is never too cold, the caustic winds chill her to the bone in the night. She does not cry, she does not know how to, does not know what sadness is, does not know what pain is anymore, she just lives, hollow; just an automaton, kept alive by its prime directive: to keep itself alive. She wants to die, but she is too frightened of the nothingness. In her heart she knows that no god waits for her. There is no god on Jamphel Yeshe. The Clockwork ticks not past its shores.She has nothing but her life, how can she give up the only thing that is hers? Others have taken anything she ever possessed, and one day they will take this from her too. She longs for this day every day. This is Jamphel Yeshe, where the living are dead and the dead are living, where the soiled are clean and the clean are soiled, where the winds blow warm and the cold is all around.And all the civilized, the technocrats, the mages, the Yamato folk, the neighboring island nations: they know the light of day; they are the chosen, who have bonded together to form a mighty whole, safe and sound under their Great Clockwork. And all who did not fit, they drifted off across the Corsic Ocean, where they were swallowed whole at Aashanahin Bay, and here they struggled against each other until the walls were red, until the streets were red.Wide fields of crimson poppy, of green coca, and of nightshade, flowering all over the island. During harvest they would come and pick the lost off the streets and force the milk into them until they wanted nothing but it; then they made them pick the leaves and the seeds, and gave them only if they worked hard. Once the season passed, they were thrown back on the street, craving the milk, but there was none left for them, and they would writhe in horrible poverty. The girl had lain behind shabby houses and brushes herself, shaking and vomiting, freezing and burning. She had to hide herself as much as she could, for the men were terrible beasts that would touch her in frightening ways and beat her if she made noises, and the women were broken and never lived long, even if they were picked up and sold; perhaps especially then.The girl knows so little of the world, and her ears are deaf to the wind and the waves and the chatter of the birds, and her eyes are blind to the plants and the animals and the rocky cliffs and the wide blue ocean. Only the sky holds her fancy from time to time. She will stare up at the impenetrable blue ceiling that veils it during day and at the towering clouds that seem so far removed from the filth: they are white and pure like nothing she has ever seen on the ground, and birds will fly high amongst them. If only the girl had wings, she could fly with them and escape Jamphel Yeshe, but people have no wings nor can they grow them, for if they could, all the beaten and broken would fly off this island and be forever gone.No, there is only the ground and the strange invisible force that pulls her firmly towards it, even when she jumps as hard as she can. In the night, the ceiling goes away and a black emptiness opens up above her, filled with so many flickers of light, like lanterns in the distance. Is there a great city in the sky, just like there is on the ground? Perhaps, if she could make the sky and the ground switch places somehow, she could live up there with the lights, and Jamphel Yeshe would be the sky, horrible to look at, but so far away, so distant and insignificant…Perhaps today, perhaps she will die today…no… there is a next day, always, always a next day. Year in, year out, the days pass, eternally slowly.But in the distance something is coming now. It is far, far away. But day after day it comes closer to the girl. It is something she has long forgotten, something she wants to remember. Something like her name. Did she ever have such a thing? Was she even a person? She had nothing and would never have anything, entitled to nothing, free of ambition, of hope, of all the things she imagined must exist somewhere in the world. But she only ponders from time to time because the days are long and so are the nights, and there is nothing to do but survive, nothing but survive. It comes closer, every day. Perhaps it is her death, the thing she is sensing? She thinks she can almost hear it, a distant sound, coming from the bowels of the outside, the other, the places that were not here, that were beyond the island, beyond the jaws of the bay.But the days pass, and nothing happens; the girl survives. Again, again, day, night, day, night, weeks pass by and months, and always she can feel it coming closer; until one day, one final day, the last day of them all, the day. On this day there is a strange ship floating into the harbor. The sun has already sunk, and the last red gleam slowly vanishes as the sky grows dark. In the harbor the ship lies calmly, it is much larger than all the others, and it is not made of wooden planks but of cold, blank metal, metal like knifes, cutting into the water, yet never sinking.The girl watches it with dull curiosity. The sensation is so unused that she has almost forgotten it; after all nothing ever changes in Jamphel Yeshe, what could there be to be curious about. Nothing; nothing, except for this strange ship – so she watches. The strange sensation has vanished, and in its place there is tension, so strong she can almost taste it. The tension that comes when one is surrounded by absolute silence, for what had rung in her ears for so long was now quiet. But just for a moment, just a tiny fragment of time, the blink of an eye, the flash of lightning; and it lasts forever.Then the world is no longer what it has been before. The hinted sensation becomes reality, and it washes over her in endless waves as a booming sound erupts from the metal ship and sweeps over the island, waking every man, woman, and animal. The sound is like nothing the girl has ever perceived in nature, and it vibrates, changes, again and again, forming melody, harmony; a wailing sets in that makes her hair stand on end. Her fragile little mind stands on edge as this new sensation washes over her, again and again, and the wailing diverges into voices that seem not human at all and yet sing words she can hear more clearly than any words ever spoken to here:Streetlamps shining into our rooms,Glow and flicker,And they trigger,A response from our artificial moon.Blue and black is the sky,And black is the sky.And our cityIs electricity,Is electricity,Blue in our veins.And it is only the beginning. As the music overshadows her entire world in an ethereal blur of emotion and cyclopean imagery, the voices sing of a strange city and things that are far outside her realm of comprehension. But at the same time she can understand their wailing better than anything she has ever heard, for it is her own wailing; it is her voice, mirrored back at her! The voices sing of her suffering, there can be no question, and as she hears them sing, she throws her head back and screams at the black sky above her for the first time in ages. She screams and screams, until the voices slowly fade and the music as well, and she weeps bitter tears at her loss, the first tears she has ever wept. And when she looks back to the ship, it is gone, and so is the city and the sky.