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FY 768

The Azure Pheonix Ascendant, Chosen of the Unconquered Sun, stared into his own eye.

The orichalcum prosthetic stared back, unblinking.

After a moments consideration, he began to dismantle it. Something still wasn't working.

The eye allowed him to see, after a fashion, but only in a very crude way. The edges blurred together, it sometimes missed things, and it had trouble with insufficient light. In short, it was no better than the original.

The Pheonix finished separating the components, and considered the task before him. Then, drawing on his enourmous reserves of energy, he closed his eyes, concentrated, and tweaked the world. Reexamining the device, he traced the essence flows. Light transducer, essence inverter, reintegrating phase modulator, neural coupling, and… widget. A large chunk of the eye had no discernable purpose, which disturbed the Pheonix. After another hard look, he sighed and set it aside for another night. Tune the basic function first, then add bells and whistles later.

Maybe the problem was in the essence inverter. He prepared to break it down. After a short search, he found a shotglass and scoured it with essence until it glowed white hot. The first time he'd opened the inverter, he'd been very lucky, and the pure liquified air inside had fallen in a puddle into the bowl of soup he'd just finished. Fortunately, he'd been able to burn off the impurities and get everything working again, but it had been a heart-stopping moment.

He finished pouring off the air and began a minute examination of the three-jade matrix floating in the liquid in front of him, looking like nothing more than a hairball spat up by some stray cat. Something wasn't quite rght. A lot of things weren't right. If everything was right, he'd still be happily working away at the labs in Lookshy, instead of holed up above a tavern doing delicate magitech repairs with a dragons-damned knife and fork!

He pushed that thought away. Regret lead only to wasted time.

A closer examination of the matrix revealed the problem: an infintesimal break in the middle of one of the strands of the matrix. The Pheonix scowled. He needed a microwelder, about three trained assistants to expose the break, elementally pure water to float it in for repairs and a large tub of ice to keep any of the other strands from melting while he reconnected the break.

He sighed again. Lookshy had made everything so easy.

After explaining his needs to the bartender at least three too many times, The pheonix reentered the room with a pitcher of water, a pewter tankard and a bottle of strong spirits. After a quick pull from the bottle, he used the contents to thoroughly clean the tankard, then mixed the remainder with water from the pitcher. Hopefully this would work. Digging quickly through his pack produced a metal fishhook. After a quick prayer to the dragons, he carefully transfered the essence inverter to float in the tankard.

Then, Azure Pheonix took a deep breath, set his back against reality, and pushed. It didn't need to last very long, but he had to convice the water in the cup that it was entirely pure, the essence inverter that it wanted to flow back together, and all it needed was a little help, the spirits and pewter that they needed to whisk the heat away. The fishhook was hardest of all. He had to convince the tip of it to turn hotter than molten steel, then cool off just as quickly. Muttering another prayer, he picked up the fishook, deftly threaded it through the tangled mass of the inverter, touched the tip to the break, and held his breath. Te whole thing glowed briefly, then subsided. Afterwards, his minute examination revealed no flaws, so the Pheonix began to reassemble the inverter.

Several minutes later, he popped the reassembled eye back in and swore. There was no change.

Stifling his frustration, he began to take it apart again. He had no time for anger, or for frustration. They were a waste of time.

FY 776

The First Limit Break

The Azure Pheonix stared at the slowly crystalizing hearthstone underneath the Adamant Order's newest Seed. Of course, everything he'd done had been correct. It had been more than correct; it had been neccesary. Even so, he felt a twinge of regret now, thinking back. At the time though, he'd felt so certain, had been sustained by an invincible confidence. Now, he wondered.

The Adamant Order had sent a seeker here just five months previously. He'd been well received, and had made some headway with spreading the faith to the locals. His initial report suggested that a more permanent mission could be established within the next few years, possibly even a Seed. His second report confirmed his progress in the first, but also described how he'd sent a pair of brigands packing after they attempted to pick a fight with several locals. There was no third report.

The Pheonix had been visiting the area at the time, and had offered to investigate on hearing about the situation. He'd expected to drop by and find the road out, but the seeker in good health, or something similar. He had most certainly not expected to find the dismembered body of the seeker lying outside mission he'd built, nor the locals calmly going about their business. Apparantly, he learned after asking around, the brigands had come back with friends. After subduing the seeker, one of the original two had killed him slowly while the other had preached an impromptu sermon on the impotence of the seeker's religion, challenging heaven to strike him down. He had then instructed them to leave the body there, as a reminder of the futility of opposing the Chun-Ho Gang, extorted whatever he could from the locals, then left.

The Pheonix listened calmly to the story, then got directions as near as possible to the brigands' camp. He had found it without much trouble, then methodically killed about a dozen of them, saving only the original two. Those, he had handed to Alvuea, and simply asked her to deal with them. She had gotten a rather chilling grin at that point, then disappeared for two days. When she came back, she proudly presented a pair of unpleasantly barbed soulsteel daggers.

Then he had raised the Seed, Meditating for two weeks in the middle of the nearby demesne (seekers' missions were not chosen at random). When he was done, it was a normal looking Seed, except that the statues would have looked strikingly familiar to anyone who had known the bandits.

None of the locals had come near it yet, though all now professed to be devout believers. Ah well. He sighed heavily and stood. He would sent a message to the nearest Branch; staff for the new Seed would come soon. In the meantime, he could leave the manse and continue his travels, and hope to put the whole thing behind him. He briefly considered what to do with the daggers, before deciding to enshrine them in Nascent Glory's armory. LEaving them here would be appropriate, but somehow, it didn't seem safe.

FY 780

The Second Limit Break

The Azure Pheonix relaxed. He could feel the comfortable cold certainty cushioning him, reassuring him that yes, this was a good idea.

It wasn't neccesary yet, of course, but someday, someone might wrest control of the lap from him, and that day…

The Azure Pheonix Ascendant was going to be very well prepared for that day. It wasn't that he minded the deliberative using it, not at all. It wasn't even especially inconvenient. And getting more advice on his projects was never a bad thing; it helped catch mistakes before they happened.

But yesterday, Wren had made noises about the Lap being too powerful to be in any one exalt's control. It wasn't anything new, of course, and Pheonix had soothed her, and reassured her that of course the Lap was under the deliberatives control, and so on, and so forth. Something had been different this time though, and the Pheonix had worried. Instead of simply refocusing his energies on whatever project was at thand, this time he'd decided to ensure his continued involvement with the Lap.

Several years ago, Alvuea had mentioned in passing an element native to Malfeas that was inimical to the elements of creation, like an especially potent acid. After some reasearch, and several nights' summonings, the Pheonix had procured several dozen vials of the substance, and developed a method for containing it (Actually, in an uncharacteristic moment of whimsy, he had tried buttered toast. It had worked better than his experiments, and he quickly arived at buttering the inside of glass vials. It worked, as long as the butter didn't freeze or burn off. Not much danger of either, in the south). He'd even come up with a way to destroy the vials from Nascent Glory, though the machine involved was too bulky to move conveniently.

He finished placing the last set of vials, then closed the panel they hid behind, stood and stretched. Now, if he destryed the vials remotely, the acid would eat through key components. The security system would go aggressive (he smirked inwardly at whoever had actually named the full-on setting “Hot Lasery Death”), and the controls would disconnect. The Hearthstones would slowly decay over the course of several months, and none of the controls would respond. In addition, several important dragon lines in several far off locations would probably start moving around. He wasn't exactly sure how that would play out, since it depended heavily on where the acid ate through first. In short, pry the Lap away from him, and the Pheonix could wreak havoc upon it, though slowly.

Not that he ever expected to use it, and in fact he might someday welcome the chance to rid himself of the responsibility of managing the Lap.

In the meantime, it was nice to have options.