In the remote Zuriban Hills in the land of Yakai, there is a temple called the Gadiato, built to contain a mysterious relic from the distant past. A complex construction of stone and brass clockwork, graven with mystic runes, no mortal knew its function. They knew only that it was important, and so monks protected it dearly, until one day its true function would be revealed. Wukong was one such monk, but he was no pious soul. He had such little interest in serving in the Gadiato that to convince him to join, he was awarded the title of ‘Sun’, or, ‘great sage’. To the rest of the monks, it was a mocking symbol of his arrogance, but Wukong believed his title wholeheartedly. He was given a diadem and staff as badges of his office, and he loudly extolled his own wisdom and virtue.
One day, the prideful Sun Wukong was offended by the presence of a fire monkey, whom he believed was stealing from the monastery. When he spotted it, he struck it down with an arrow, even though his faith preached tolerance and kindness to all creatures. It was no ordinary firemonkey however, but a shapeshifting Fae, a trickster spirit from the primordial wilds. The spirit of the dying Fae lashed out and attached itself to the soul of Wukong. A mental and physical struggle ensued, and Wukong was transformed into a simian Skinwalker. Unlike in the case of most Skinwalkers, who largely retain their personality after transforming, the soul of the Fae wormed its way deep into Wukong’s psyche, causing him to acquire its capriciousness and whimsy, and granting him great beastly strength. Worse, the Fae cursed Wukong, binding his gaudy diadem to his flesh so it could not be removed, and binding his body to the Gadiato, so he could never leave. When he realized this, he raged and despaired.
Sun Wukong stewed in his anger, until a mysterious pilgrim arrived and came to him. When they were alone, she cast off her humble robes and revealed a glorious light – it was the Arbiter herself. She told Wukong that she knew of his plight, and that his fate was richly deserved, for he was a blowhard and a hypocrite. Nonetheless, she offered him a chance for redemption: her power was sufficient to nullify the curse, as long as he remained in her presence, allowing him to leave the temple. She proposed he join her on a journey of penitence. Sceptical at the appearance of a legendary immortal, Wukong demanded proof of the Arbiter’s power. In response, she approached the ancient stone relic of the Gadiato. At her touch, its runes glowed and the mechanical device levitated before her. It followed her like a dog on a leash, and she explained that she intended to return the relic to its rightful owners. Convinced, Wukong agreed to serve as the Arbiter’s bodyguard. He was desperate to lift his curse and, on a deeper level, he felt the first inklings that the Arbiter was right and he had to atone for his lifetime of pomposity and vanity.
Their journey, through Yakai, the Mistwood and into the Cloudspire Mountains toward the realm of the Skyiron Dwarves, is an epic tale unto itself. Across fields and pastures, hills and forests, lakes and rivers, Sun Wukong protected the Arbiter from Mikage Demonspawn, twisted Fae, monstrous creatures, bandits, cutthroats, and natural disasters. He spoke much with her as they travelled and slowly, his nature softened with humility and grace. In turn, she enjoyed his mischievous humour. At last, he realized the error of his ways.
After arriving in the Skyiron Dominion, the Arbiter presented the relic to a consortium of Dwarven sages, and at last revealed its purpose: it was an enchanted codex, containing within the wisdom of ancient Dwarves who built the Arbiter’s Tower and aided her in doing Lumaya’s work combatting the Darkness long ago. Re-learning their ancient history, the Dwarves realized that they had been wrong to isolate themselves from the rest of Teleria. This revelation contributed greatly to their involvement in the nascent Nyresan Union.
As for Sun Wukong, the Arbiter revealed to him that the journey had been a test – she could have lifted his curse all along. But Wukong did not resent her. Rather, he praised her works and rejected his past sins, and with that, the curse of the diadem was broken. Though it was no longer supernaturally attached, he vowed to wear it forever more, as a reminder to never return to his old ways. The great sage now knew wisdom and journeyed back to the Gadiato, determined to spread his teachings to all who would listen, never letting go of the playfulness that won him the Arbiter’s affection.