Soot Extended Downtime 1
Shortly after the events of Interested Parties, Soot traveled northwest, sensing the taint of the underworld in the remains of a small village about a week away from Nexus. He took with him the Mother, bound and hobbled, tied to the saddle of a horse. Remembering the horror she had unleashed upon his neighborhood, Soot did very little to keep her comfortable, giving her bread and water once a day, and refraining from any conversation. They reached the ruined hamlet at nightfall, skirting the packs of hungry ghosts which roamed it unsated. They crossed the boundary, taking just one step forward, and then one step back, entering the underworld.
Native though he now was, Soot had no understanding of Creation’s dark mirror. It was here that he ungagged the the Mother, and told her his deal. She would guide him to his new master, and in return she would begin a life in service to the same being. The alternative was Soot finding some way to destroy the Mother in a permanent fashion. The Mother had little choice but to agree.
So, they traveled through the underworld. It’s denizens, recognizing the pair as more than was worth hunting, gave them a wide berth. Once, the Mother tried to escape, using a divination as cover to summon a powerful ghost to attack Soot while she fled. Soot dispatched the ghost, and hunted her down. When she tried to battle him, he beat her unconscious. When she awoke, he informed her that she had no more chances. If she did not obey him completely, he would hurl her into oblivion.
The rest of the journey was uneventful, except for one moment. The Mother’s divinations showed a path that led into a cave lined with fangs, which breathed a wet, putrid air. The walls were soft and warm, and deeper in pieces of black ore were scattered around a chasm which oozed as though the earth were bleeding from an infected wound. They had entered the Labyrinth.
Here, the Mother had some power over Soot, for he was truly lost, and the denizens of the maddened nightmares of the Neverborn had little care for Soot’s new status. The Mother summoned a pair of ghosts to act as their guides, and they whispered amongst themselves as Soot was distracted by distant moans and wails. Time passed differently, and Soot had no idea how far they were traveling. Once, they had to spend an entire week in hiding as a centipede hundreds of miles long scurried beneath them, a second set of legs tearing at the walls of the Labyrinth and pulling fleshy pieces into its thousand mouths as it rushed by. Another time, soulsteel chains sprang out of the walls to restrain them. When they finally forced their way through, Soot noticed a set of black manacles attached loosely to his ankle, and with great effort removed them and stashed them in his pack. Finally, though, they exited the Labyrinth, and traveled only a little farther to his master’s door.
In Creation, only five days had passed.
Soot did not know what to expect as he entered this black citadel. Ghosts were spread throughout it, working on strange projects, and pyre flame hissed and spat in censers, providing the only illumination. An endless line of workers streamed in and out of the citadel, bringing raw materials and leaving with little more than their sanity, sometimes not even that.
They all made way for him as he passed, clearly expecting him. The Mother received confused glances, but they were both guided to the center of the citadel, a vast hall with a pit in the very center which howled silently, felt only through the bones. Above the pit was an array of strange instruments, lenses, beakers, mirrors and things unrecognizable. His ghostly guide left quickly, and Soot could see wisps of its corpus being pulled towards the abyss. Soot walked in, dragging the Mother behind him, and finally met his master.
She was not physically imposing, shorter than Soot. Her hair was tied back in a bun, and she wore a jeweler’s monocle. Her clothing was spun from soulsteel threads as fine as silk, and she wore gloves emblazoned with ancient runes. When Soot walked in, she looked up from her work, reducing pyre flame to a purer form using the energies of oblivion, and smiled in welcome.
Soot walked up to her, and presented the Mother as a gift, one which pleasantly surprised his master, for reasons he was unaware of. She introduced herself as the Chattri, and gave Soot his exalted title, the Soot Eyed Guardian. The Chattri then informed Soot that his journey was far from finished, and conjured an ivory staircase spiraling down into the pit toward oblivion. His true master was deep within.
Soot descended alone, and rose alone, different. Ready.
The Chattri informed Soot what she expected of him. She had little time to watch his movements in detail, and as her first Abyssal, she wanted to see what Soot was capable of when acting alone. She told him to return to Nexus, and seek out three figures from his former life.
The first, and most important, she stressed, was the Kid. The Chattri told Soot the story of the Kid’s life before Soot found him in Nexus. The Kid was of noble blood, even royal, by the standards of a culture with royalty. He was destined, the Chattri had foreseen, to have great power and influence over the Haslanti League, a rapidly growing nation far to the north. The Chattri wished for the Kid to fulfill his destiny, and she wanted Soot, in the process, to teach the Kid of the underworld, and the importance of ancestors, and respecting and even revering the dead. She had little interest in rule for herself, but instead wanted a powerful ally in Creation, to give her access to rare resources, and to provide support for her agents.
Soot was glad that he would see the Kid again, but felt a rumble of disapproval from Oblivion.
His other mission involved two of his former companions, now exalted to the Sun and Jupiter, respectively. Again, the Chattri desired flexible, powerful allies whom she could call on when needed, and the raw power of the lawgivers combined with the vast knowledge of the viziers seemed perfect resources to cultivate. She simply required Soot to ensure that they traveled with him, strengthening the bond that had formed in their mortal lives.
And so Soot returned to Nexus, guided by a ghost much more tractable than the Mother. They avoided the Labyrinth, for the Neverborn were restless. Upon his return, a mere three and a half months later despite the many thousands of miles he traveled, Soot first looked for the Kid in his old neighborhood. Instead, he found a place filled with violence, with vicious gangs having moved in, and the Guild leaning on the residents, taking what little they earned. Soot was unhappy with this, but was bound by Oblivion to not protect the living. So instead, he killed the members of this new regime. All of them.
When Soot was done, Spitjack of all people stepped forward to fill the new vacuum, and Soot’s name began to be whispered amongst the gutter rats of Nexus, invoked in compacts, and warded against before any major illegal venture.
Then Soot found the Kid, and watched him for some time from a distance, trying to decide what exactly to do.