The Fifth Path (11/30)

Nabua’s Journal Entry for Iyar 6th

Getting close to solving old man’s riddle. Reached capital few days ago. Been able to stud more when not whole day walking. Too much walking to get here. Liked riding camel better. Mountains hard to climb. Very steep. Pretty at the top though. Few different things happened while walking. Saw second Huang. This one gold. Very rare. Read about in journal of first wanderer. Not sure if should believe in luck of bird. Assuming yes seems dumb. Assuming no seems dumb too. Reserve judgment. Also ran into soldiers. Had to prove Baal child is Baal. Good thing have crown. Baal been sick for while and not act like Baal. Woman act more like it. Almost called her Baal Anatu. Glad she helping with decisions now. Less work for me. Has good judgment. Seems more confident. Her flame has grown. Not sure why. Maybe old man help her. Maybe stepping up while Baal child is sick. Good thing either way. Afraid would have to lead if Baal could not. Hate leading. Nothing interesting after soldiers. Walking down mountain. Never saw bandits. Too bad. Or not. Glad not get stabbed again. Think I am better from that finally. No visions in days.

City very large. Lots of red. Same devices to measure money. Funky hats. Funky hairstyles. Darker colored clothes. Longer sticks to eat food with. More red. So much bureaucracy. Have to go to many different buildings. Each building has own staff. Each staff has own paperwork. Carry one paper from one building over to other building. Then fill out new form in order to turn in first form. Then take third paper fill it out and take it over to another building. This place is mad. Old man tells me that heaven is like this too. Even if you are good person you can get bad reward if you fill out wrong form or there is problem with paperwork. Says to always be careful and double check all forms. Could not live here if this is common. Need to be careful not to die here either based on their heaven. Bel religion is simple. Only two gods and one monster. Hishtu even easier only two gods and no monster. Xexan has two hundred seventy eight main gods and goddesses. Then it has eight thousand or more sub gods. Then more than a million angels and demons working for the sub gods. Some people memorize all of them here. Guide says he knows the name of every one. Not sure if messing with me. I guess memorizing stuff is not so hard. Just a lot of work. If life after death affected by memorizing names guess I would do it.

After forms filled out we entered palace. Impressively large. Many rooms. Constructed in pretty way. Was told palace built in spiritual way. Each door and staircase has meaning in relation to one another. If had floor plan could read a story. Seems plausible. Many doors and staircases make no sense otherwise. Managed to sneak away and explore a bit while others talked to bureaucrats. Found two staircases in one room. Each leads to a hallway on the next floor which loops around to other staircase. That part of the floor connected to nothing but one room twice. Must be a self referential part of story or something. Tried to talk to servants in Xexan. Got laughed at. Thought I was getting better. Maybe not. Find out later servants have no tongues. Laughing because try to talk not because talking bad. Made me feel better. And worse cause tongues being cut out is creepy. Guess it works for politics but seems wrong. Wonder at servants level in class structure. High because working with palace or low because servants that can not talk? Ask old man but get nothing but riddles. Says it depends on who you are that class is not a strict line. Servant has power over guards. Guards have power over bureaucrats. Bureaucrats have power over servant. Maybe will make a chart. Tried a few times but not enough info yet.

Rejoin companions when finished with bureaucrats. Get to meet king. Is a kid. Does not laugh at my Xexan. Become friends. Get little time to talk. Meet with council of eight. Leaders till king grows up. Ask later how many kings live long enough to grow up. More than thought. Still kinda low. Mostly become puppet kings for one or two of council of eight. All eight dressed all in red. Must be color of kingdom or something. Can make cool looking stuff with different shades of red. One of council ladies has bow in her hair that was wrapped to look like Huang. One man has hat taller than head. Mostly old. Two are young. Try and watch faces. Have no idea whats going on with faces. Always been bad with them. Try and listen to Xexan hear if translation different then original. Kind of hard. Use more formal type of Xexan. Not been able to study that. Book has info from peasant Xexan only. Able to understand some. Council uses many allegories. Guide translates meaning and not story. Makes sense. Must search for book of allegories. Be very useful to understand Xexan.

Talk takes long time. Would be bored if not learning Xexan from it. Discussions of culture. Talks of trading between nations. Talks of shared vision for future. Council wants to send group to learn in homeland. Sounds like good idea. At home many would reject. Here Baal child considers though. If wants actual trade and not just piece of paper then is only good move. Not sure true land really wants trade though. Bel expects rejection of outside culture. Rulers make agreements when traveling for Awakening but mostly fluff. Little real trade of goods or culture. Main purpose for Baal to see the outworld and not like it. Cause to continue with isolationist policies. If one thing good about Uras then real interest in outlands is that. Actually trying to connect homeland and learn new things. Still Baal but not the worst one. Gives hope for homeland. Still deciding if return or stay in outlands. Long time to decide still. Many months left.

Talking ends at last. More talking next day. Invited to dinner with young council people. Are a couple. Try talking Xexan with them at dinner. Are patient and willing to talk. Learn lots. Young couple from common origins. Man is born son of merchant. Woman is born on streets. Fall in love. Man good at money and organizing. Woman good at plans and inventions. Together make tons of money. Own ten percent of whole cities property. Basically bought there way to council. About half of council rich from making money. Other half born into wealth. Divides council. Those born in think others not good enough to be on council. Those that made money think the inheritors are not smart enough to be on council. Real shift in recent years though. Until young couple joined council most number of working rich was two. Always inheritors much more powerful. Now even. Kind of. One of four working rich is both. Started with tons of money. Made even more. Tends to play both sides off the other. Is bird bow lady.

Food is wonderful. Many many types of chicken. Each with different sauce. All are wonderful. Also many new vegetables never had before. Some parts very spicy. Accidentally eat raw spice and almost spit it out. Nose feels much cleaner now. After dinner we walk back to room. Get attacked by assassin servant. Anatu takes her out. Learn about not tongue thing. Decide to hold assassin hostage. Glad did not get stabbed. Sleep.

Wake up. Talk to Anatu about meeting. Hoping she will set up but is busy. After setting time have time to explore more. Cautious around servants now. Always looking for hidden knives. Do not get stabbed. Find more weird stairs. Find room filled with maps. Read maps till time for meeting.

Meeting about finding sender of assassin. Many schemes. Need ally on council. Money makers more likely to want trade. Inheritors more likely to want to kill new things. Young couple knew location better for assassin though. Decide to try and form alliance with third money maker. Negotiations might take more than two days. Remind group of Eric waiting. Send runner with message for him. Tell him we will be later than expected. Hope he is alright. My job in plan is discover info about each of the council members. Try to find who might want us dead. Seems fun. Head out to start research.

Tricky to find people to ask. People in palace might be spies. People outside not always patient enough to talk to. Find bar. Barkeep knows everyone. Likes to talk. Even knows bit of Hashim. Learn much from him. Compile basic info. Have to always be general. Appearance means all my questions will be known to anyone who wants to know what I want to know. Gotta do some tricky info warfare stuff. Ask questions that make people think I want to know one thing while actually learning what I want to learn. Lots of fun. Spend day following leads. Meet up with companions at night.

Learn about another assassin. Again targeting Uras. This one got away. Not servant this time. Tell companion what learned. Focus on important people. Guy we want to befriend works as a debt printer. Makes the negative money for the land. Government pays for coins then gives out as taxes on citizens. Confused as how government buys things if it never collects money only gives out negative money. Answer kinda clever. Prints negative money and positive money at same time. Total money supply stays same. No inflation. Then gives out negative money to citizens and keeps positive money to use for stuff. Bureaucracy means that citizens have to collect their negative money at regular intervals or be unable to do basically anything. Everyone has a card that is updated and used for everything. Beautiful in terrible way. Maybe could handle bureaucracy if done in clever way.

Other important people on list. Tall hat man inherited control of clothing and jewelry making groups. Fears foreign clothes and jewelry will cost him money. Another inheritor is church leader. Church is reason why kingdom isolationist. Could hate us on principal. All others would make money from more trade. If motive from others it is not monetary. More plans. My job same but with focus on two with motive. Before sleep Anatu calls me into room. Assassin servant still there. Needs me to tell the servant some things. Takes some work but able to translate. Seems like Anatu and assassin are friends now. Weird. Sleep.

Next day lots of work. Find out early in day that all in palace have public records about money transactions with government to stop corruption. Spend all day in room filled with charts and numbers looking for patterns. Very obvious many servants being paid by many bureaucrats and council members. Funny that corruption so overt. Hard part is figuring out who is bribing who. Can see who is being bribed. Can even see who is doing bribing with a bit more work. Transactions have dates though. With enough data can figure it out. Spend all day. Make friends with bureaucrat in charge of the data. Impressed by how long I spend there. Helps me figure some stuff out. Knows a few tricks I do not. Have many connections between different people at end of day. Only problem is that I know no ones names except council of eight. I know names of who is paying who but I do not know who these people are. Take info to guide. He will figure out on next day. Sleep. Dream of numbers.

Wake up. Set meeting time. Explore a little. Find room filled with bugs. Creepy. Must ask about. Write.

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