Julian’s Journal, Entry Seven
I’ve been glad enough to have a Crucian archer on our side, but apparently there are drawbacks which were not evident at first. It seems that elements of the Crucibal military want Jerrick dead. And they’re not to be taken lightly. We were lucky – in particular, Jerrick was lucky – to survive their ambush. It’s not certain that we’ll survive the next one. Still, mortal danger seems to be an integral part of my new life. If I had really wanted a quiet life, I could have stayed in Lower Ballarian, perhaps married Hara. But I wanted opportunity, and I was willing to accept risk for it. I got more of either than I had expected. At any rate, the Brotherhood Circle is part of my life now, and a vital advantage. So I suppose I’ll have to get used to a Crucian death sentence.
I accompanied Paki to his dinner with a Tarrenheim scholar, and I’m glad I did. Although he was unwilling to speak directly, he indirectly confirmed my suspicion that Liam Woodsworth had survived. More than that, he hinted at how we could find him. He also warned us about how manipulative the man can be.
He also had some interesting things to say in response to my questions about political ideology. I have been thinking a great deal about political ideology because it seems to me that the only way we can forge a stable alliance between Crucibal, Atrocida and the Palatine Empire is to offer a compelling vision of reunification. Our scholar friend pointed out that the three must once have been united by a common ideology, but the exact nature of it is lost to history. The prophecy hinted that the key to this riddle may lie in Crucibal. That’s a problem – see “Crucian death sentence” above. Still, I’ve been researching and meditating on the problem. Once we figure out the right approach, we still need to pitch it. Perhaps we can attach it to Paki’s religion – its theology might be flexible enough to accommodate a more specific political ideology.
We did find Woodsworth. As it turns out, the man is a diviner of extraordinary skill. I respect a man of vision, and a man who is willing to think practically about the future. Woodsworth has already considered becoming president of Atrocida, and his concerns are ethical and practical rather than the result of laziness or timidity. In particular, he is concerned about his opposite number – a master opportunist so unpredictable that even Woodsworth’s most powerful divinations cannot reveal his identity or guess at his actions, and only hint at his very existence. We’ve reached a possible understanding for the future – when Woodsworth figures out the identity of his enemy, we will assassinate the enemy and assist Woodsworth’s coup d’etat. Then, as the new head of state, Woodsworth will pursue a defense and foreign policy agenda designed to deal with the threat about which the gods warned us. I feel more than a little presumptuous plotting the fate of nations like this, but this is the task that the gods laid on us. It’s a task in which my own rational intellect must sync perfectly with Paki’s faith and extraordinary intuition, with Tianna serving to keep us both grounded. Since the circle ritual, I have increasingly sensed how the personalities and abilities of the others balance and complete my own.
When I first saw Adamston, I decided that I liked Atrocida. I questioned this impression when I saw the decadence of Pandemonium and the inequality of Crag City. But Del Yorris confirmed my first impression. Each city has a distinct character, and Del Yorris is a city that works. Civil services do a good job at protecting the public health and safety, but there’s still plenty of opportunity for the entrepreneur. I liked the city so much that I decided to begin here implementing a plan which I’ve been mulling over for a while.
When I was helpless and destitute, the people of Lower Ballarian took me in, protected me, and provided for me. In gratitude, I employed my considerable abilities to protect their prosperity. The mirror of the gods helped me to see this more clearly. I have learned two lessons. One, my aristocratic upbringing had partially blinded me to the worth of people of lower birth. Two, there must be other people of ability who find themselves in desperate straits. People in exile, in hiding, in prison, in desperate poverty, who could accomplish extraordinary things given even a small chance. That’s what Atrocida is all about, at its best, but too often people don’t get that chance. But those people are an undervalued resource, and identifying an undervalued resource is how a man gains true wealth.
So my project is to identify clever people of no social status and get them to work for me. It often costs little to get a poor man out of prison. If he’s the sort who returns loyalty for generosity, then I’ve made an excellent investment. Of course, not every such investment will pay off; many will be incapable of much gratitude, and even of the grateful, some will lack the sort of resourcefulness I’m looking for. But the person who proves both loyal and resourceful will be an asset of tremendous value. I can slowly build an intelligence network. It might not be as quick as Liam’s divinations, but I will also be able to act through it. This is a long-term project, of course, which will take years to mature, unless I have some extraordinary luck. But I could have agents in every city, providing me with intelligence and acting on my behalf. I could provide them with income, education, and credentials to reach positions of greater access. I don’t want to be a politician – I want to be the man whom the politicians have to talk to before they do anything.
I’ve already encountered a person of extraordinary ability in Del Yorris – the gnome inventor Ezekiel “8-bit” Skyboom. He’s invented a working airship! What a ride! He needs a patron, and we need him. The others, excessively worried by the constant threat of crashing or falling to our deaths, don’t fully see 8-bit’s potential. But he can offer us mobility that very few can match, a (relatively) stable platform for action. If Ballarian is going to invade, we will need an air force. And he can get us to the Isle of Light and Darkness.
The airship crashed, but it was not a design flaw. A giant, sheathed in heavy armor carved with the runes of Winter, smashed it by calling down an immense icicle from the heavens. It seems likely that this giant is a sentinel, stationed atop a mountain specifically to keep anyone from approaching the Isle. Someone has secrets here – secrets they’re willing to kill to protect. We’re going to find out what they are.