Gaia's Sorrow

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Rask, Mar 12, 2011.

  1. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Gaia's Sorrow

    All came from Her

    All will return to Her

    Mother to all

    Her first children she brought forth,

    The sea of potential

    The stone that supports all

    The flame who heats the forge

    The seed that shadows life

    The forgotten breath who no longer has a name

    Existence did they birth

    Creation they carved for Her

    From sea to seed

    From fire to breath

    around the stone they built all

    Her love for them knew no bounds,

    for the gift they wrought for Her

    but surely as life was sprung from nothing,

    did nothingness give birth to life

    And the darkness they cast,

    fell on the first

    So the mother knew sorrow

    Turning to Her second children,

    they cast down the first

    But only at the cost of breaking the name of breath,

    was this victory allowed

    Only through more of Her sorrow,

    was Creation saved from unmaking


    The Anathema​

    The great Celestine of the Sun cast its morning glow on the majesty of the Imperial City. The capital of the Realm and center of Creation spread to a bursting level, barely contained in its thick and towering walls of granite. The city's structures rose higher and higher for the lack of space, with each trying to outdo the other in an opulent game to cast rival generations of architecture into obscurity. A full third of this metropolis was taken up by the Imperial Palace, the axis of the axis, location of the Scarlet Throne, the seat of the savior of Creation and mother to the modern world, the eternal Empress. However, it was common knowledge that the grand monarch was gone. Dead or merely watching from the shadows, the Empress no longer reigned; and her descendants, the eleven great houses of the Dynasty, poorly attempted to fill her void within the emanse wings of the edifice - each a palace onto themselves.

    Even in the labyrinth streets of the capital's main market, the Empyrean Bazaar, where the heavens were often choked by the city's skyline, the bastion of the Scarlet Empire was still visible. Kylene was awed by its make-up of sacred Jade and other rare and precious materials. The child had been born in the Imperial City, able to see the palace everyday from her family's store of leather bags and holders, and she still found it stunning. She wondered what it would be like to be one of the Dynasts, to have the blood of the Elemental Dragons coursing through her veins, able to call on the power of Creation's five elements. She had seen their glowing animas when the Legions went on parade. Their highborn officers let their inner power shine in hues of fiery red, deep sea black, stormy blue, arboreal emerald, and marble white. Their armor and weapons of Jade matched their corresponding element. Kylene was simply marveled by their beauty and might, wishing she was one, and not just a citizen, not just a daughter of a leather worker.

    "I see you like the Palace child." A gentle, feminine voice interrupted her view-taking.

    Kylene swung around, taken back by the presence of a female monk. The clergywoman was dressed in the humble robes of the Immaculate Order, her head shaved to stubble, holding a simple staff. The most striking thing about the monk, was her gray eyes, very light, almost white. Minding her manners, Kylene cast down her sight, bowing to the Immaculate.

    "Raise your eyes child." She requested, and Kylene obeyed. "I've seen you looking at the Imperial Palace for nearly a Sun-Movement, what awes you so?"

    Without thinking, she answered truthfully. "I love the Palace, it's so beautiful, like the Dragon Blooded. I wish I was one, so I could live there." Her eyes went wide with her admitted sin; it was not a mortals place to yearn for what is not theirs, but to accept their station and live that life to the fullest. "Oh, I didn't mean it...I'm happy as a leather worker's daughter. Please don't tell my mom what I said, please..."

    The monk laughed. "Don't fret child. I see you realize your mistake." She patted Kylene on her head of long ebony hair.

    The child smiled. "Oh, thank you, Immaculate One. I know I should accept my life's role, and if I do, I'll be reborn into a higher station, and eventually into one of the Exalted."

    "Yes indeed. You are a wise child. What's your name?"

    "Kylene."

    "My name is Ivory Eye. And you said you were a leather worker's daughter, correct?"

    "Yes. I'll be a leather worker just like my mom, and her mom before her and so on. We make the best leather bags, even the legions buy from us. I remember when I was real small, a slave of House...House Mnemon came and bought a satchel from us too!"

    Ivory Eye smiled, it was a very comforting and trusting smile. "That sounds like something to be very proud of Kylene. You should be very glad of that, many would wish to be where you are, like you wish to be of the Chosen."

    Kylene glanced down into the dirty street of the Bazaar, hiding her shame. "I know...My mom says so too. She even warns me if I keep wishing, an Anathema will come and eat my soul, like in all those stories everyone's talking about." She looked back up at the Immaculate, fear replacing her guilt. From her parents table, to passing customers and other merchants, their were tales and rumors of the Sun-demons; people were always afraid of the Anathema coming, but it was like they were everywhere now, more then old scary stories. "I heard about this one Anathema, who goes around, summoning a big spear from thin air to kill people; and then there's this other Anathema, who took over this hunter from Thorns...and did you hear about the Dynast's daughter who was even possessed..."

    Ivory Eye silenced the child. She looked very concerned, but tried to bury it with another of her smiles. "Yes Kylene, there are many stories of the Anathema these days, but you are at the center of the Realm, you are safe here."

    "But what about the Dynast's daughter, and the Anathema that appeared when my grandmother was my age, the one the Empress killed herself? What if one comes here, how would I know?" The child's voice filled ever more with panic.

    The monk leaned down on one knee, taking Kylene's shoulder. "You can tell an Anathema by their glow, a golden mockery of the blessed Dragon Blooded's own anima."

    "Don't they have marks on their head too?'

    "Yes, see I told you, you were wise Kylene. Do you know what they are?"

    Kylene shook her head no.

    "That's okay." Ivory Eye replied. "I will tell you. The Anathema have five castes, each with a purpose of enslavement they used to terrorize our ancestors. They are all circles, the first is a ring surrounded by spokes, looking like Sunrays. They glow like a bloody dawn, and they are the Forsaken, the Anathema's arch warriors and enforcers. Then there are those whose ring is full, a solid disk, ridiculing the Sun's zenith. They would look down on us, preaching a false faith, so they are the Blasphemous. The third caste were the Unclean, who made pacts with fell things that dwell in twilight's shadows. Their mark is half filled ring. And the Wretched, they really showed their falsehood, for no being of the Sun would dwell in the night like these Anathema; they could control the shadows, stalking those who would even whisper against the demon's rule, and even innocents. And the final manifestation of these foul beings are those represented by that unholy joining of the Sun and Moon."

    "The eclipses?" Kylene had seen them, the first one appearing when she was very young. No one living had viewed one before, the Moon blocking the Sun's light, it created much terror and riots. She remembered hiding with her family in their cellar, everyone afraid.

    The monk continued. "Yes, these ones are called the Deceivers, and their ring has a dot within, shaped like that twisting of the celestial pathways, like they twisted their words to enslave mortals and spirits alike with unfair oaths, killing those who refused. Those are the five castes of the demons who once ruled Creation."

    Kylene then happily exclaimed, "until the Immaculate Dragons came, and lead the Dragon Blooded to overthrow them, right."

    Ivory Eye patted her head again. "Yes, the avatars of the Elemental Dragons, who lead the true champions of Creation against these mockeries. They were no match against the might of all five Dragons united. Even their mates, the Moon-beasts abandoned them."

    Kylene remembered the Moon-beasts, another kind of Anathema, who falsely claimed power from the Moon instead of the Sun. They lived at the edge lands, where Creation bordered the chaos of the Wyld, dwelling with twisted savages and their own beastfolk offspring.

    The Immaculate went on with her teaching. "And the Dragon Blooded slew them all, showed the falsehood of their god, and brought liberty for all humanity. Sometimes they try and return, like in the stories you hear, but they are known for the vile beings they are and slain."

    The child bit her lip, still afraid. "But there's so many stories of them now, and the Empress is gone."

    "I know Kylene. But the Empress might be watching, she has disappeared before, to test her subjects faith. And the rest of the Dynasty remains." Her words grew hollow though, as if she was trying to believe them. "The Empress was never alone in her struggles, even without her, we still have the rest of the Exalted to protect us."

    "So you really think she will return," hope filling her, "like when the Contagion came and killed almost everyone, and the Fae invaded from the Wyld? She'll return and beat back the Anathema?" It was the story of the Realm, after the great plague destroyed the Shogunate of the Old Realm, the Empress united the surviving Dragon Blooded to form the Scarlet Empire.

    Ivory Eye grew a little sad. "I hope, I really do."

    The pair were disturbed as Kylene's mother called for her. The Immaculate told her to go off then, with the Dragons' blessings, telling her not to be afraid. Despite her kind face and trusting smile, and even as young as she was, Kylene could see Ivory Eye wasn't convinced of her own words.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2011
  2. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Book 1: Rekindled Flames

    Wind Fire

    The pile grew and grew as more treasure was offered. Silver dinars from a hundred nations spilled from bags, chests, or just lied in heaps. Mingled amongst this were countless pieces of gold jewelry, decorated with cut gems and diamonds of all shapes and sizes. Then there were statuettes of bronze, jars of rare spices, pelts of exotic beasts, blades crafted from Chiaroscuros's supernaturally strong glass, and even a few pieces of actual Jade poking out here and there.

    The yearly tribute of the Three Fires Tribes was set before their liege, the ageless Perfect. He sat upon a cushioned, mahogany throne, lined with cool Blue Jade. He was a man of average height, appearing to be in the prime of his life, olive skinned, with honey blonde hair done up in an extravagant style the rich overlords of the cities preferred. The Perfect adorned himself in robes of spun gold and silver colored silk, encrusted with pearls and precious stones. In his left hand he gripped his golden staff, a gold so pure, it appeared as if smelted from sunlight; engravings of runes covered its length, in some unknowable language, and decorated with oddly colored diamonds. Its swirling hook-like head held a pearl, nearly the size of a man's face.

    Beyond the ruler, sharing the cloth covered stage, were two child servants, holding white banners with a golden eye sigil - the eternally open symbols of Paragon, the Perfect's city, reflecting the lord's own immortal eyes. An array of other assistants accompanied the banner holders, along with the most senior of the colorfully garbed magistrates. A greater number of the Paragonese elite guard also stood watch. These 'Immortals', in their gold uniforms, covered by protective scalemail, kept a keen eye at the procession before them.

    Delivering the bounty before the stage were the nomads themselves. The warriors of the Mejairs, Hahjabs, and Ekhebas took turns bringing forth more of their yearly tithe, to the man who bound them to his rule. They marched in the tribute from their desert home to the grid-shaped metropolis. The path to the Perfect lead one past the drab, simple stone buildings of the poor - reflecting the only shade the underclass were allowed to wear - and onward through the green-black basalt structures of more important buildings and abodes of the city's privileged. It ended at the wide, central mosaic covered plaza, where the gathering took place.

    The current presenters were the Hahjabs, donned predominantly in cloth of browns and reds. Their brother nomads had already delivered their payment for survival. Of this tribe, Wind Fire stepped forth with his Uncle, Silent Eye, leading the finely bred horses of the Erwani. The sleek and beautiful animals were captured by the young nomad himself, earning Wind Fire a scar on his left thigh for the deed. He gazed up to his 'lord', a thought that disgusted him.

    A century ago, the Three Fires were a free people, a powerful alliance of desert tribes that all Southerners feared and respected. They even enjoyed the patronage of one of the Night Eye's Children. The daughter of the Moon was said to be of both mare and human blood, but now her stories were forbidden. The Three Fires were brought low by the Paragonese, with the aid of the far away Realm, who ruled Creation through puppets like the Perfect. The tribes were harried, defeated, and their divine patron slain. The survivors were faced with two choices: be sold to the Realm's slave pens, or bow and forever swear allegiance to the Perfect.

    The oath was more then simple words, but a mystic binding. Wind Fire glanced down at his palm, gazing at the scarlet marking of an open eye. All citizens received the mark upon swearing obedience to the autocrat, while grasping the Perfect's staff, making one beholden for life. It was said that all one's senses, even your own thoughts, became his. Defiance only lead to a quick death, and Wind Fire had seen the mark's power over that as well. The memory of his dead friend, Sun Blade, was still strong in the young warrior's mind.

    The nomad himself had just reached the end of his adolescence over the Earth Season. He was built like a sinewy lion, carved that way by the harsh Southlands of Creation. Wind Fire was draped in typical garb of his people - dark pantaloons, with leather boots, and a gray tunic, further covered by a burnt brown, hooded robe, which fit loosely around him. His thick auburn mane of almost kinky hair was bound in many shoulder-length dread-locks, pulled back by a leather strap and covered by a maroon turban. Long hair, an oddity in the South, especially amongst the nomadic nations, was prized amongst the Hahjabs. On his subtlety heart shaped face he possessed a thin scar on each of his full cheeks of dusky flesh, marking him as a blooded adult. They were joined by other ritual scarification and tattoos, telling of his family lineage and marks of protection. Around his neck, like all members of the Three Fires wore, was an amulet; it was a small bronze circle, etched with markings of the spirits associated with his birth.

    The nephew and uncle pulled the valued horses toward the front of the stage, where two servants took them. The tribe's Beyik, also at the foot of the structure, went on to introduce the former mounts of the Erwani, listing off their qualities. The Perfect looked like stone, neither appreciative or unimpressed. The ruler's lack of reaction offended Wind Fire; here he had risked his life and suffered injury to fetch the animals, only to have them tossed to a man who cared not. He stood his ground, gazing up at the Perfect, locking his large expressive eyes onto the autocrat's ancient orbs. The Beyik noticed, trailing off as he turned to the confrontation. The attention of the magistrates and Immortals was also drawn, but all were too shocked to so much as utter a whisper.

    Let the tyrant read my true feelings for him, Wind Fire thought. He tried to imagine or even feel if the Perfect was truly inside his mind.

    Silent Eye put a rough, calloused hand on Wind Fire's shoulder. "What are you doing?" The near ebony skinned man said in their language, with concern and anger.

    The Beyik shot his warrior a baleful glance as his teeth tightened.

    Wind Fire broke off the stare-down and left, shrugging off his older relative. Silent Eye went after his nephew. "Fire, what madness has possessed you!"

    "To Malfeas with this!" Wind Fire spat, continuing off into the crowd of his tribesmen. They parted for him, shocked at his display. He ignored them, they were all cowards in his anger blinded eyes.

    "Fire!" His uncle demanded. "Where are you going!"

    Wind Fire did not answer, marching off down the main road, to leave what he considered a temple to his imprisonment.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  3. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Tonauac​

    The Sun set on the horizon, casting the heavens in hues of oranges, yellows, and reds as the blanket of night gradually shrouded the heavens. The inhabitants of Brass were relived as another sweltering day of the dying Fire Season was ending. The dusty, cramped city was soon coming alive, for the Brassite 'day' began at evening, especially in the hot times at the finality of the year. The adobe and stone homes emptied to do business, work, and socialize.

    In the wealthier districts of the city, Tonauac could clearly see the great central fortress, which gave Brass its name. It was a strange, darkly structure, appearing to be made of a green tinged brass; said to have been built from the metals pulled from Malfeas itself, at the behest of the long fallen Shogunate. Tonauac studied the harsh edges of the ziggurat shaped monument, with spiky protrusions and extravagant surface carvings of the Great Elemental Dragons. The guardians of Creation looked more savage and menacing then in any depiction Tonauac had viewed before, appearing ready to ravage, then to safeguard.

    He returned his dark eyes to the small courtyard of the minor dayia's home. It was centered around a small, three tiered fountain, in a space lined with well cared for plants, growing blooming, honey scented flowers. The floor was cool tile, designed with paths of dark blue, which branched like a cross from the fountain. They lay alongside a sky blue shade of tile, which made up the main field. On the edges of the path, gold calligraphy was painted - all prayers to the spirits for fortune and blessings to the household. Tonauac could also see from the armed guards, who walked along the wall's battlements, the dayia relied on more then just the graces of the little gods.

    The noble emerged, followed by several servants. Trajos of the Helkem family was a skinny man, almost lanky with long arms and large sandal covered feet. He was close to the color of the surrounding night, with a shaved head and well trimmed, squared goatee. He dressed in tailored silk robes of unblemished white, trimmed by sky blue, and donned a shiny gold chain necklace, which ended in a square cut ruby. The servants, wearing simple cloths, in addition to their owner's brand upon their neck, set up a table and laid a map atop that. Another slave, a young woman, held up an oil lamp to shed light on the vicinity.

    As this occurred, Trajos smiled. "Greetings, welcome to my home." He went to the four madjai, shaking each one's hand. When he came to Tonauac, he glanced down to the stub of a pinky finger. "And I presume you're the infamous Tonauac Four-Fingers." He did his best to pronounce his Lapish name.

    Tonauac was a massive man, standing at least a head taller then anyone else in the room. His bare arms, adorned in simple leather bracers, rippled with muscle, colored a deep tan. He was also thick necked and strong jawed, with a broad nose and a mop of curly brunette hair, streaked through with a more golden brown. It was up in its usual position of a short topknot and further supported by a faded red headband. He dressed in a simple, midnight blue, sleeveless shirt and russet trousers, tucked into his well used traveling boots. Around his waist was also tied a sash of the same material as his headband, and hanging from his neck was a choker of turquoise and silver beads that ended with a small white sea shell. The feature of his hand, the dayia spoke of, was the missing digit on each appendage; it was a sign of Tonauac's voluntary exile from his home city of Lap, on the distant coast of the Southlands. They gave the madjai his title.

    "Yeah, that's me." Tonauac answered the noble. He wasn't fond of the addition to his name, but it was part of his reputation, which madjai sought to nurture.

    "I've heard much about your exploits." Trajos went on, looking at them all. "All of you…which of course brings us to the task at hand."

    He lead the madjai to the table. Tonauac stood across from Trajos, and to his right was Far Foot. The wiry man, olive in complexion, had shaggy white curls and dressed in sturdy clothing - good for the road, like his nomadic ilk, the Tamazuks of the eastern sands, preferred. On the left of Tonauac, were Xerekah and Usah, both native Brassites. The closer to Tonauac, Xerekah, was a young madjai fresh off the farms to the north. His black curls were closely cropped, and his body was fit and healthy from a lifetime in the fields. But he still carried himself like the amateur he clearly was. The last madjai, Usah, was also a well built man, an ex-soldier from the Brassite Warhost, approaching the end of his fourth decade of life. His thinning hair was shaved to the skin, with a thin mustache that spread into a long goatee, which he currently stroked.

    The map below marked the Flame Road region, a frontier dominated by Brass. The road was only surpassed by the Diamond Road to the west in importance to Southern trade, both connecting the edge lands to the rest of Creation. The road spread up from an arm of the Wyld-tainted Sun's Sea - an ocean of silt - and onto the blasted Gritland, ascending into the Dust Hills and Scoured Peak Mountains. Within this range, Brass rested on a wide plateau, which guarded the Anjala Valley. This agricultural vale was also sheltered by the northerly Heaven Touched Mountains. The source of life for the region was also well marked on the map; running out of the madness that ate at Creation, was the Prism River, wetting the parched land.

    Trajos spread his hands over the map. "Now, as you already know, I've been having problems with stolen merchandise." He pointed to part of the trade route that ran through the Dust Hills. "A caravan carrying some slaves of mine were taken from me here. The raiders carried them off into the hills. It was those damn inbred Dusters, I want my property back, in addition to those bastards' heads."

    Tonauac rubbed his chin. "Why don't you send your sworn swords?"

    "I need…" Trajos thought of the words. "Need more craftier agents. You know those filthy hill folk would only scatter to the Scoured Peaks at the first sight of my men."

    Situations of the like were exactly what the madjai were sent in for. They were the trouble-shooters and bounty hunters of Brass. They were the closest thing to a 'police force' the city had, aside from the ruling class's sworn clans of warriors, suiting its mercenary like character. They were also a neutral presence to keep order for the royal family, as the dayias were prone to feuding.

    Usah joined in. "Sounds fine, but do you have anything else to go on?"

    "Yes." Trajos continued to explain. "The leader of these bandits is named Gust, a constant troublemaker on the trail towns and mines. I have a guide though, he can take you to the hovel he calls a home."

    Tonauac saw a problem, one he'd seen several times before, especially with the folk of the Dust Hills. "I've heard of Gust, the guy's a hero to the Dusters. What's to say he doesn't get tipped off before we even step out the gates?"

    "I knew you would ask that." Trajos answered. "You see, he doesn't know I've located him, he thinks he's safe there. I have my men harassing other villages too, so I'm sure the little wretch is sitting back, believing he has it over me."

    Tonauac looked to his fellows. Usah shook his head, liking it, while Xerekah appeared eager as any naive kid to spill some blood for coin. Far Foot gazed over the map, before turning to his partners. "Sounds doable." His words were heavily accented by his people's own tongue.

    Trajos flashed his brilliant smile again. "Excellent, I'd like you to depart as soon as possible." The dayia clapped his hands and another servant entered the courtyard, carrying a leather sack that jingled with coin. "Here's your down payment to buy whatever you need."

    The bag was set on the table, flopping open to reveal the sum within. The brown copper coins gleamed in the lamp light, marked with the symbol of the Realm's Imperial Treasury on one side and a stylized portrait of the now vanished Empress on the other. A few handfuls of silver dinars, with Brass's fortress heraldry stamped on them, stuck out here and there as well. Tonauac couldn't help but crack a smile, being paid in the Realm's currency, even with their declining economy (which of course was dragging everyone's economy down with it), was far more valuable then just local silver.

    "We'll head out tomorrow." Tonauac stated to the dayia, reaching to take hold of the collective bounty.

    He was surprised when Usah grasped the pouch first. The large madjai gave his partner a sharp look. It was Tonauac who was tapped for the job and gathered the talent, by tradition, it was his right.

    Usah retracted his hand. "Sorry Tona, I wasn't thinking."

    He could tell Usah wasn't sincere. The older Madjai came highly recommended though. Sure, he had something of a cold reputation, but Madjai didn't do nice work. Tonauac let his eyes drift away, picking up the heavy sack with the ease brought by his great strength.

    "We'll have your property back to you, dayia." Tonauac promised.

    Trajos smiled, hiding any concern over the display he witnessed. "I have every faith in you. Now let's seal our bargain with tea."
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  4. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Jalah​

    Incense drifted through the hall, teasing the nose with sweet soothing smells; it was thought the aroma cleansed the mind and pleased the spirits of higher thought. The grand chamber was lit by orbs of captured sunlight, which hung from branch like chandlers, in addition to the oil lamps in every corner. They exposed the beautiful and intricate frescoes painted along the walls. The artwork told of the glory of Chibala and its ruling mystic order, who placated the hunger of the Great Dragons to keep Creation stable. Jalah gazed upon the ornamentations, amused at the Thresholders absurd take on the Immaculate teachings. The elites themselves were gathered in a great throng, at the ball thrown for Jalah's mistress.

    The Shotol, as they called themselves, were dressed in silk robes of gossamer like colors, which shinned with inlaid diamonds, sparkling like the stars they honored. Their largely dark hair was pulled up in topknots, from their purposely flattened foreheads. She also caught flashes of the tiny gem slivers they glued to their teeth, joining the already impressive array of jewelry, brooches, and amulets they decorated themselves in. Also mingling about were the high ranking members of Chibala's bureaucracy, running the more tedious aspects of the city-state. They were made up of the Shotol's offspring and their descendants, whose stars and talent didn't dictate a place in the elite order of mystics. They were clothed in plainer silks with less jewelry, but still possessed the bejeweled teeth and skull alterations.

    Aside from the band of panpipe players and guitarists, the rest of the Chibalans were slaves. Not really Chibalans per say, as far as Jalah understood the laws of the barbarians, for no citizen of the nation could be held as such. The servants wore a simple white cloth, that left their arms exposed, bound by cord belts, carrying the looks of other Southern people and even other folk from farther reaches of Creation. They also bore none of the raised bump tattoos that Jalah assumed were symbols of citizenship as well. The solemn lot moved to and fro, passing out drinks, food, or attending whatever needs their owners saw fit.

    "Jalah." The voice of her mistress called her.

    She broke off her observations immediately to answer the call of Mnemon Kelohay. Her mistress was a tall, finally sculpted woman, with pale skin and dark hair like one from across the Inland Sea to the Blessed Isle of the Realm. Her hair fell in three braids - two descending the side of her skull, and the third centered at the rear of her head. Each was wrapped in silver lace. Actual metal silver also hung from her ears, delicate chains lowered to specs of diamonds, along with another chain of the material that graced her neck. Kelohay was dressed in a purple wrap skirt, and a tight low cut black top, separated by an unblemished white waist sash, whose tied ends nearly touched the floor. Covering this was a thin silk robe of the same shade as her skirt. The sleeves were decorated with small, horizontal slits, ending with white stylized dragons that curled around the cuffs. If anyone looked close enough at her ivory skin, they could see it was touched by soft grays, a telltale sign she carried the blood of the Elemental Dragons in her veins. Kelohay was one of the Exalted, flowing with the essence of the Earth itself. Her kind were the rulers of Creation, the overlords of the Realm and all her tributaries of the Threshold.

    "Yes mistress." Jalah said, bowing to the woman who owned her.

    The servant herself was also of the folk who hailed from Creation's center - light skinned with black hair, which would have fell just past her shoulder if it wasn't pinned tightly up in a bun. She was a very thin girl, with only a slight curve to her figure. Her face was high cheekboned and possessed almond shaped, emerald eyes. She dressed identical to the other three personal servants who accompanied Kelohay, in sleek black dresses, under a white silk robe. They also wore a collar of ribbon, which connected to a small, polished white stone, engraved with the symbol of her Dragon Blooded mistress. Jalah's apparel might have measured close to the standards of the Chibalan privileged, but she held as much status as the other slaves in the room.

    Alongside Kelohay, was the Dragon Blooded's cousin, Tefel, one of the Realm's advisers to Chibala. He bore a similar complexion to his relative, but his gray touch was fainter from lesser breeding. His short hair was spiked up, above his fine, chiseled features, spoiled only by an unevenness on the right side of his jaw. Before they departed the Imperial City for the Southlands, Jalah overheard her mistress laugh about his disfigurement with another member of her House; Tefel had apparently mouthed off to a high ranking officer in the Legions as a child. The lowborn Dragon Blooded had shattered the brat's jaw. The now grown adviser was dressed in a white yukata, with a chestnut waist sash. On each pant leg of his outfit, a yellow mountain had been embroidered. At his side was his own personal slave, an elderly man of the light haired Northern folk. He also had his bodyguard present, a Realm born brute of a woman, with a sword held in a finely ornamented sheath.

    Kelohay reached up to twirl her necklace, like she always did, revealing the White Jade bracer beneath her sleeve. It was carved to resemble a coiling dragon that wrapped around her wrist. "You see that man over there?"

    Jalah turned to where her mistress motioned, to see another Shotol arrive. He was a younger member of the order, but carried himself with an arrogant manner, as if he sat on the high council itself. His red streaked topknot made his head look like a pear from their skull shaping. Trailing his dragging, blue hued robes, was a small train of slaves - bare-chested women, which drew disapproval from his fellows.

    Jalah returned her attention to her mistress, who continued her instructions. "That's who I need to speak to, his name is Capahual. Can you manage to bring him to me?"

    Jalah nodded.

    "Good, and you remember their title right?"

    "Yes mistress." Jalah replied, speaking the term for 'Learned One', in their dialect of Flame Tongue. She was made to learn the language in detail upon news of their trip to the region. She'd always been a fast and skilled linguist.

    The servant then went about her task, skillfully and silently maneuvering through the crowd. When she reached her target, Jalah politely bowed and spoke in the Southern language. "Greetings, Learned One. My mistress, Mnemon Kelohay, would like to speak with you."

    He shook his head in compliance, but would waste no words on a slave, even one who belonged to the Chosen. Jalah guided the Shotol over to the waiting Dragon Blooded, across the hall. It was at that moment a fellow servant of Kelohay, Opal, appeared from around some laughing bureaucrats. The sight of the woman, with blue hair and golden skin of the Western islands, made Jalah frown.

    "Let me take this, Jalah." She said in their mutual language of High Realm.

    Jalah gave Opal a severe gaze, but bowed before Capahual, and stepped aside. The Shotol showed confusion, which Opal alieved in sloppy Flame Tongue, asking him to follow her instead.

    As they continued, Jalah sneered at the other slave. It was because of her she had lost the favor of their mistress, who thought Jalah as incompetent. Opal discovered her secret studies of Kelohay's lore, learning the minor arts of mortal magics. Like the Shotol, she could manipulate essence in the most minute ways; unlike the foolish Thresholders, she knew their petty thaumaturgies were nothing compared to the might of the reality altering sorcery her mistress commanded. The magics were still very useful, especially with her increasing aptitude over cursing. Jalah pulled the token of clay from her robe. She had baked a hair of Opal's in the talisman, marked with symbols of fortune and grace.

    Stroking the token in her fingers brought a smile to the servant's face. Now she would pay back every time Opal made her fake clumsiness, hand over tasks, and other humiliations for her silence. She took firm hold of the mystic charged ceramic piece and cracked it in half, letting the curse unfold onto its unsuspecting victim. As Opal lead Capahual before the Dragon Blooded, the slave tripped. She gasped loudly, stumbling into a Chibalan slave. The Chibalan lost his grip on the wine pitcher he carried, sending its contents flying all over the young Shotol. The outraged mystic roared, as the rest of the attendees turned to the disturbance. Jalah had to will herself not to laugh.

    She proceeded to hurry over to the scene, as the band even came to an abrupt halt. Kelohay and Tafel had already descended on Capahual to apologize, while Jalah stood forward.

    Their mistress glared at Opal with fiery confusion. "What are you doing!"

    Opal was stunned, trying to stutter out an explanation.

    Kelohay growled, noticing her other servant. "I sent you Jalah. What is Opal doing leading him!"

    Jalah answered with all her acting skill. "Why mistress, Opal said you changed your mind and you wanted her to do it."

    Opal's face twisted, but was cut off by the Exalt. "I did no such thing." The Dragon Blooded was barely in check of her emotions. "Go now, back to your quarters." She said with all the coldness of stone.

    Opal stood. Disgraced publicly, she could do nothing but look evilly at Jalah. She knew Opal could utter not a word about her knowledge. If she would, the rival servant wouldn't be believed, seen only as desperate for revenge. Jalah smirked at her former tormentor, who departed with barely concealed rage.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  5. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Ryana​

    The needle was plucked again from the small pot of burning embers, lying in the center of the shadowed chamber. It was dipped in indigo fluid, simmering upon contact, before it was applied to Ryana's back. She looked away, as the pain of the tattooing continued, focusing on the darkness beyond in the enclosed space, only illuminated by candle light.

    On the floor of the underground chamber, sat the elites of the Bisha'a Blades. They rested on plush pillows, all men, in the loose and expensive silk their stolen wealth afforded them. Most were middle aged or older. Another, not of their rank, joined them. Sahar was the man who was Ryana's teacher and sponsor; he was also something of a father to her, with the absence of her own. He looked pleased, despite the stoic face demanded of the ceremony. He too was a man approaching the end of his younger days, with a graying anchor cut beard and mustache, growing from leathery, tan skin. Sahar's short, receding hair was covered by a black, yellow flecked turban, and garbed in more simple clothing compared to his elder brothers.

    With a few more hand pricks the artist withdrew and wiped Ryana's new tattoo of a setting sun, resting between her shoulder blades. It joined the other stylized images on her coppery flesh, made up of raised bumps and swirls. They symbolized her deeds and standing - from the flight of butterflies on her rear left shoulder, the circling dragons that bit their tales on each of her upper arms, to the big cats that rose off each side of her exposed breasts.

    Ryana remained in her cross-legged position, not allowed to so much as flinch. She was an athletic young woman, possessing a curvy dancer's frame. On her face rose high, wide cheeks and rather almond-shaped eyes, the color of hazel. Her long, silky midnight hair was bound up in a braided ponytail; tucking her loose bangs behind her ears, which were pierced with small, spiraling hoops of gold. With the tattoo complete, she relaxed her muscles, letting out a low sigh through her wide, round nose.

    The Malek of the Bisha'a then rose, crossing the rug covered floor to her. He was a slender man, with taunt, brown skin, and an angular nose. Like many Southern men, he allowed only the hair of his face to grow, taking shape into a well trimmed gray growth, coming off his chin. A row of tiny golden hoops traveled down his ears, along with a rope necklace of the same precious metal, which ended in a round obol of Red Jade - etched with the Blade's setting sun heraldry. He let his silk robe drop, the sleeveless tunic beneath left his arms of skin art bare. The Malek stood above her, adjusting his leather belt, holding several large knives.

    "Rise." He ordered in a raspy voice.

    Ryana did as she was ordered, coming to the Malek's nose.

    "You are now marked by Kemu." He continued. "Our forgotten patron, who will see the kufar's reign end like the setting sun. Through our hands, our faith, and blood, we will make this pass and have our revenge." He locked his steel gray eyes onto hers. "Do you know what is demanded of a true Blade of Bisha'a?"

    Ryana swallowed, and began her carefully memorized oath. "I forsake all before the Bisha'a, and make them my blood and brothers. I shall always hold their trust and be silent, and take the whip in one's place if needed. I will amend any split in the blood through convocation, always abide and support its decisions; for we shall have justice where the kufar have none. I stand above their vices and will honor my debts and not lose reason with alcohol. Above all, I renounce all ways of the kufar. Never bowing to them, always deviant. May my soul fall to Malfeas for any betrayal."

    The Malek closed his eyes in satisfaction. "Now burn your oath with flame upon your tongue." He reached to the knife that was also plunged into the pot of embers, heated to a glowing red. "Lick this blade and show truth to your words."

    Ryana gazed at the searing weapon and clenched her fists as she leaned forward. She quickly dragged her tongue across the instrument, before second thoughts had a chance to deter her. The pain truly burned into her, closing her eyes tightly to bare it, going stiff as she swallowed her misery; she even tried desperately to soothe her tongue in her mouth's own spittle. Ryana could not show any weakness in the ritual, failure meant her throat would be slit by the very same weapon she just licked.

    Then a cry rose from the rest of the Bisha'a. "To Kemu's glory, we offer you this new blade to your vengeance." With that statement, Ryana breathed easy. She had passed and was now a true Blade.

    "Congratulations Ryana." The Malek cracked a smile.

    She bowed her head, pleased that she'd finally been able to join the true ranks of Chiaroscuro's most powerful criminal organization. The Bisha'a claimed descent from one of the petty gangs that ruled the City of Glass, in the time before the nomadic Delzhan had conquered it. They talked of always fighting the invading kufar, to overthrow them for the now defunct city-god, Kemu, who was chased to the deepest parts of the ruined Old City. Ryana knew it was mostly rhetoric; the Blades had long become an institution of Chiaroscuro's underworld. With all the pomp and circumstance over, she could practice her craft without paying tithe to the Bisha'a, along with getting an even cut of any collaborative work. The thief also wouldn't be their fodder either.

    With a clap of the Malek's hands, servants entered with goblets and flasks of wine. The scantly clad women who served were little better then prostitutes. Ryana gazed at them with sympathy and contempt, refusing long ago to ever be put in such a servile and disgraceful position; a fate most women of the South were thrust into. Her ascension into the Blades would assure she never would. Though she wasn't the first woman to join their ranks, Ryana was the only one in living memory to attain such.

    As they handed out refreshments, Ryana quickly went about dressing herself. She pulled on her tight camisole and a maroon colored, medium sleeved shirt, with a somewhat low V-neck - it fitted well to her to her frame. Both her top and dim blue pantaloons had minor needlework, rounding the cuffs and collar of her clothing. Over this, the thief tied a dark purple waist-sash and donned a pitch, cowled tunic that opened in the front; she tied the lower tips of the garment together, pulling it tighter around her. Ryana finished by clasping on her clay-bead necklace. It ended with a circlet of silver, connected to reclined crescent of turquoise, marked by the star of her birth.

    Once finished, Ryana joined her mentor, who sat near the Malek with a waiting seat. Sahar smiled. "That wine will cool your tongue."

    "Yeah", she said with doubt, muffled with pain.

    A servant handed each of them a goblet, while the next pored dark wine into them. Ryana gazed at the fluid with reluctance, before finally drinking. It took every once of her will to keep from spitting it up. Sahar let out a quick chuckle at her wide eyes.

    The Malek was also amused. "Hah, you truly have strength girl." Then he pulled up a scroll case from behind his perch. "That's why I know this will pose no problem, so soon."

    Ryana took the case, opening it, within were some papyrus scrolls. As she glanced them over, she saw the outlines of a mansion belonging to one of the wealthy merchant lords of the Creation-spanning Guild. It also possessed detailed notes on guard patrols, entrances, and the location of something called the 'prize'.

    "So what's this prize?" She asked with her sore tongue.

    "A potent dreamstone, a large one too." The lord of the Bisha'a described. "The size of two fists, or so I've heard. What's most amazing about it, I'm told, is it can take memories and store them, hiding secrets that wouldn't be safe even in your own mind."

    "Sounds like a story from the First Age." Ryana unintentionally mocked. Sahar nudged her.

    The Malek went on, with only a hint of annoyance in his voice. "Well, whether it's true or not, it's very valuable and quite the prize we cannot pass. So take these notes and study, because this must be done tomorrow night, before it's moved again."

    "Tomorrow!" Ryana was taken back, ignoring her pain. She even viewed Sahar balk. "We need more time to …"

    "There is no time." The Malek interrupted. "Everything you'll need is in those notes. A servant prepared those and he will aid you in getting in. Afterward, I want him dead. The Guild cannot even suspect it was the Bisha'a, understand?"

    Ryana and Sahar shook their heads in compliance.

    The Malek raised his goblet. "Good, now let's continue celebrating your initiation."
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  6. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Dawn
    Wind Fire's namesake blew in from the sea, descending on the camp of the Hahjabs. It was located near the twin rivers, which were shaped to surround the coastal city. At the edge of the encampment, his simple, crème colored tent was perched. The nomad's dwelling was open to the fading evening, gazing onto the lands afar from Paragon, where he witnessed the settled people's fields. He hoped for a quick return to the scrublands and sand further away, to his home. As the northwestern wind made his small fire dance, he joined his younger brother, Storm, in a silent prayer of thanks to the spirits for the blessed, soothing breeze.

    His brother was just entering puberty, still short, but growing more and more into the body of a man. He wore a white tunic, tanned pantaloons, and a short maroon robe that was still far to big for him. His own auburn hair was also dread-locked and loosely tied back into a tail, blowing about in the gust. He was currently occupied with keeping the chicken, they bought earlier, roasting evenly over the spit.

    "Is it done yet?" Wind Fire asked his youngest sibling. "It smells good, you're getting better…unlike the last time."

    "It wasn't that burnt." Storm defended himself.

    Wind Fire glanced up from fetching his new arrows. "I've tasted ashes with more flavor, Storm."

    Storm dismissed him with a groan.

    "Hey." A visitor announced. The brothers turned to see their oldest sibling, Topaz.

    The sister approached, possessing the same features as her brothers. She was somewhat lanky, with her curls bound tightly into thin, bead covered locks, which clicked and clacked in the breeze. Her dusty brown dress was a single piece, trimmed in white and red embroidery. She was also adorned with several beaded necklaces, including the mandatory birth talisman. Her ears were also pierced by three large hoop earrings a piece, and below her eyes were a row of small tattooed marks, three on each side; both these ornamentations signified the six virtues of a married woman. As Topaz walked, she struggled to keep on her maroon shawl, marked with white and yellow stripes on each end, while simultaneously grasping onto a small, steaming brass pot.

    When Topaz reached the foot of the tent, she glanced at her youngest brother. "Storm, you know Uncle is looking for you. If he caught you around this fool, he'd break his bow over your back."

    Wind Fire rolled his eyes as he finished another arrow.

    Storm protested. "I won't be ashamed of my own brother, no matter how stupid he acts."

    Wind Fire looked up at his family. "You both realize I'm right here."

    Topaz faced him, ignoring his remark. "Would you like some coffee, it's fresh?"

    Wind Fire's nose caught the alluring aroma of the black liquid. "Yes, please, I'm fresh out."

    Topaz nodded, and set the pot near the fire, before entering his small tent. She rummaged about, shifting through his clothes and pillows, finally coming to the small chest he kept near the pole. "Look at this mess. You need a wife. A man wasn't meant to live in his own tent."

    The male nomad groaned, going back to his task.

    Topaz emerged with several porcelain cups with running horses painted on them. They were some of the few possessions he inherited from his dead parents. Their father purchased the cups as a gift for their mother . She would die soon after, giving birth to Storm. Their male parent would join her barely a year later, falling in a raid on a caravan of the Perfect's trading rival, Brass. That's all the Three Fires were to the tyrant, a proxy force in his wars of dominance over Far Southern trade. His fear of the man cultivated into hatred as he grew older, understanding how his father didn't die to provide sustenance or to protect his people, but to make the Perfect's pockets fatter.

    Topaz pored a cup for each. As Wind Fire took his, he asked his sister. "So why are you up so early?"

    "I could ask the same of you?" She responded, and motioned her head off into the gradually bluing horizon. "I was up helping Simhata get ready for the hunt. The Beyik asked him to come along, with the other leaders of the tribes, to go look for game in the vedlt to the east of here."

    "Your husband, hah." Wind Fire mocked. "Storm hunts better then him."

    "I know", Topaz continued. "You'd be on those hunts, if you'd keep your mouth shut. I don't know what's wrong with you brother, especially with yesterday. Are you trying to end up like Sun Blade?"

    Wind Fire heard enough. "Would you stop lecturing me! Am I suppose to be a coward to that bastard. I was raised to bow to no man, unless he earned it. And you want me to kneel for the one who sends our father to his death, or murders men who simply want to have enough to heal their sick mother!"

    Topaz roared back. "He held back the Perfect's tithe. Look, his mother died anyways, and a fine son died with her!"

    "Would Sun Blade have been a fine son if he hadn't of hid those dinars? Would he have!"

    "Silence Fire, you're going to get yourself killed too. He knows your thoughts, all of ours!" Topaz argued, full of rage and concern. "Do you know I nearly died when I heard what you did? I thought I'd come and find your body, twisted like his in your lonely tent. What has this stubbornness brought you? You get chased from our uncle's tent and no family will offer you a daughter. Look at yourself, are you happy being all alone like this? Are you!"

    Topaz was silent after her speech, rubbing her stress strewn face. Storm even looked at his brother with worried eyes. Wind Fire couldn't help but feel shame. Maybe I am letting my pride get in the way…but he couldn't forget Sun Blade's body, laying crumpled in what appeared to be unbearable agony. His eye mark closed, along with his life. He couldn't overlook the uncaring man on a throne, propped up by his people's blood.

    Before anymore could be said, they were disturbed by the approaching clanking of metal and a horse snort. The siblings went out to see a small contingent of common Paragonese soldiers, in their gray buff jackets, leading a mounted magistrate. They all recognized the chubby, balding noble as Cisnero, the man put in charge of affairs dealing with the Three Fires tribes. Wind Fire stood at their coming with defiance, knowing they'd finally come for him. His sister and brother gave him a weary expression.

    The Paragonese came to a halt, just before them. Cisnero gazed down at Topaz with eager eyes. "That's her." He said to the soldiers.

    To the siblings' surprise, the armsmen took hold of her and began to bind her wrists. "What have I done?" Topaz yelled.

    Wind Fire and Storm rushed to stop them. The older brother launched a fist into one soldier's face, aiming just below his nose-guard to crack his teeth. Storm tried to shove aside another, but was quickly defeated as the guardsman smashed the blunt end of his spear into the young nomad's stomach, followed by another strike across his jaw. Wind Fire darted at his brother's attacker, struggling to rip the spear from the Paragonese's hands. But something hard collided into the back of his skull, dropping the warrior to his knees. He struggled to stand, peering around to see a third soldier holding a club above him, which he used again to knock Wind Fire flat to the dirt. The one, the Hahjab originally punched, started the stomping, followed by the other two armsmen, who included Storm in their beating. Topaz screamed for them to stop, but was pulled along by the other pair of soldiers. All the while, Cisnereo laughed.

    More of the tribe emerged from their tents to witness the assault, only to stall at the sight of the abuse. Cisnero stared at them, then to the brothers, who were left curling in bloody pain on the earth. "By the word of the Perfect, I've been granted this woman." He spoke directly to Wind Fire. "For your trespass against our eternal lord, your sister will suffer. Consider yourself warned and lucky to live, you cur."

    His uncle and aunt emerged from the gathering crowd, looking horrified as Topaz was lead away. Their aunt rushed to Cisnero, grabbing his sandaled foot, begging for him to reconsider. She was answered with a kick to the face. "Away from me, bitch!"

    Silent Eye was ready to pounce, but was met with spear points. He relaxed, looking utterly defeated, only helping his wife to her feet.

    Wind Fire recovered enough of his strength to stand, and could not abide. Ignoring his gashes and bruises, he moved with outrage to his pile of arrows, snapping several up, along with his bow. His uncle saw this and screamed for his nephew to stop. As the Paragonese turned, the sky lit up with the color of dawn and Wind Fire let his projectile fly. However, another followed that, and another. Before he could bat an eye, his hand was empty, and most of the violators lied wounded or dead. Cisnero was even caught in the barrage, laying still with an arrow sticking out of his eye socket.

    Wind Fire paused after his attack, noticing none of the bystanders could take their eyes off him. Even the one remaining soldier paid no heed to his fallen comrades. Glancing down to his hands, the young warrior realized it was not only the new day that illuminated the camp, but himself. The same golden light, mixing with hues of the reborn Sun, radiated off his entire body. The brilliant aura formed into a fiery titan, with simmering talons, roaring with the rage that had just consumed him. The nomad felt something break, a link to his very being snapped like a rope pulled too taunt. At the other end, he could feel confusion and anger, before it completely faded from his mind. On his palm, he witnessed the scarlet eye of his enslavement fade like evaporating water.

    The throng of bystanders grew as the rest of the camp emptied their tents to see what was occurring. The newcomers either joined the rest of the awestruck spectators, or fled in uncontrollable terror. Silent Eye, holding his wife, was amazed as everyone else, along with Topaz and Storm. Wind Fire was just as baffled. The last Paragonese soldier, pale with fright, muttered. "Oh by the Perfect, an Anathema!" He broke off too, dropping his spear.

    His next decision was made by the sounds of more soldiers coming, spotting several riders heading toward them. "We need to go!" He yelled to his sister.

    Topaz nodded, as she regained some of her wits; concern seemed to make her forget her brother glowed like the Sun.

    Storm was already ahead of them, pulling along Wind Fire's horse and scimitar. "I'm coming too."

    "No!" Wind Fire protested.

    Storm mounted the animal. "No time, I'm coming. I don't care what happened to you, you're still my blood."

    The older nomad cursed, pushing Topaz forward to get on the horse too.

    At that instant, two soldiers rode forth, leveling their lances at the shining one. Wind Fire roared at them, with his aura mimicking, causing the Paragonese to panic as their horses bucked and fled. With them gone, the now Anathema or whatever he'd become, jumped onto the dead magistrate's mount and turned to flee.

    Before galloping off, he stopped by his uncle and aunt. "I'm sorry."

    "Just go, nephew." Silent Eye replied, barely swallowing his fear. "Go!"

    Wind Fire prodded the animal into a full run. He caught up with his siblings, who were already clear of the camp and into farm fields beyond.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  7. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Zenith​

    The Sun beat down hard on the rocky landscape, with all the power of the last day of the season. Here and there, small fields of brown scrub and cacti dotted the rolling landscape of the Dust Hills. Between two rises, a tiny hamlet rose, a collection of simple, clay brick shacks, with straw roofs, all centered around a well. A flimsy, stacked stone wall surrounded the isolated community, but the troupe of madjai went through enough pitfalls, snares, and other traps to slow more obvious invaders. The four laid flat against a hill, in the shadow of a wind sculpted boulder, coming to the hovel by noon, after a several day hike from Brass. Their horses were tied farther away, in the bleakest cranny they could find; they hoped, concealed there, none of the roving herders would chance across them.

    The observing madjai were all decked out for combat. Tonauac was wrapped in his olive-green shaded buff jacket, with his hands coated in steel fighting gauntlets. Strapped across his back was his long and massive falchion, and at his hips, his most prized possessions - the bronze adorned flame pieces he affectionately called the 'twins'. Usah also wore a buff jacket, and a pot helm, with a neck guard of chain covering his bald head. He also carried a flame piece, in addition to the straight sword sheathed at his waist. Far Foot preferred a flexible chain shirt; while Xerakah could only afford a simple, undecorated breast plate, joined by a round shield slung on his back. The Tamazuk armed himself with the bow and saber of his people; the youngest madjai wielded a hand axe and a thick headed club.

    Their guide was a typical Duster. He was a skinny, undernourished young man, but hardened by a life in the hills. He wore a simple, thin tunic and patched over trousers, with sandals guarding his feet and their conical straw hats doing the same for his head. He pointed at the village, whispering to the madjai. "There's Gust, that one."

    Tonauac studied the scene, seeing several people, including some children prancing about. "Which one?"

    "The one without a hat." The guide answered.

    Tonauac spotted his quarry. The Duster bandit was a dusky man, approaching his middle years, possessing a thick, golden brown beard and mustache. The rest of his kinky hair was sheared close to his scalp like most folk of inner South. Gust laughed as a little boy ran to his arms. A woman followed, which Tonauac presumed was his wife, emerging from one of the homes to kiss Gust on the cheek. A bite of guilt stung the giant madjai's conscious, these people just wanna be left in peace, but those bastards in Brass just won't let 'em.

    He pushed such thoughts aside and spoke to his comrades. "Okay, let's get ready, we all know the plan."

    Xerekah looked up at the high Sun. "Tona, are you sure we shouldn't wait till night?"

    "Tomorrow Calibration starts, do you really want to risk it?" He answered his more inexperienced colleague.

    Xerekah said nothing. Everyone knew to plan anything other then revelry, and even that at times, was doomed to come undone on the last moonless nights of the year. Calibration marked the time when all Creation's laws were loose.

    "Good, let's go." Tonauac commanded.

    Tonauac, Xerekah, and Usah started their descent of the hill. Far Foot remained, notching an arrow to cover them. As one woman turned to the oncoming attackers, the white haired archer let his shaft fly, striking her in the shoulder. Her scream warned the rest of the inhabitants, but the former nomad shot off arrow after arrow. He brought another man down and grazed Gust's shoulder. The result was panic settling over the hamlet, the Dusters fleeing for shelter.

    While this transpired, the trio reached the wall. Tonauac immediately removed a gourd that ended with a wick, along with a flint stone from his armor's pockets. He set the fire dust filled object along the wall, and struck its fuse until it lit. The madjai quickly retreated, taking cover as the gourd exploded, collapsing a gaping hole in the Duster's defense.

    When the smoke and grit dissipated, the madjai stood, each drawing their weapons. "Ahlat, grant us victory for this bloodshed!" Tonauac cried for a battlecry and to gain the favor of the Southern war god. His blood pumped with anticipation for the coming battle.

    They rushed into the village, met at first by no one. But as the three came close to the well, a man charged out with a spear. Tonauac raised one of his twins, the one called 'Ruby', and pulled the trigger. The muzzle discharged a gout of flame that consumed the Duster. The man went wild, dropping his spear as his flesh was devoured by fire.

    With that, the rest of the village's defenders erupted forth. The madjai fell back a few steps, from the half dozen men and women who carried crude, stolen, or improvised weapons. Far Foot managed to drop two with his onslaught of arrows, including Gust. Meanwhile Usah and Tonauac engulfed another Duster each with sparked fire dust from their flame pieces. The last three were now the ones in retreat.

    The madjai advanced with their blades ready. Two survivors halted to help Gust, who nursed a shaft in his gut.

    "Okay, put…" Tonauac was about to force a surrender on the pair, but was interrupted when Usah rushed forth, bringing his sword through the neck of the male defender, and swung around to hack down on the female one. Tonauac intercepted the strike with his own sword. "What the hell are you doing!" The big madjai demanded.

    Usah looked angrily at his fellow. "Finishing this, you oaf!"

    "Look at her neck, she's Trajos's property." The giant had noticed her brand. "And they would have surrendered too, you idiot!"

    The two madjai glared at each other, but were cut short when Far Foot and their guide entered the scene. Usah withdrew his weapon as the new arrivals looked on with curiosity. Even with him backing off, Tonauac had to fight the urge to deck the ex-soldier; but he didn't feel like risking his throat being slit, while he slept.

    Gust then spat up. "Curse on you dogs, that's all you are."

    Xerekah kicked the bandit leader hard in his side. "Shut up!"

    Tonauac forced the woman to the ground. "Search house to house for the others." He motioned for the guide. "Keep an eye out for the herders, I'm sure they're on their way now."

    The hired enforcers went about their task, invading each home, dragging out the adults and children who were marked with Trajos's brand, dumped on the ground to be bound and gagged by Xerekah. All but one of the eight was recovered, who lied dead from the earlier battle - the body of Gust's wife still burned from Tonauac's flame piece. The giant tried to shove down his returning conscious by thinking of the coin they'd lose from covering her lost. Despite this mental game, his guilt taunted him over and over. Slavery rather disgusted Tonauac. He understood its use for punishing crimes, and to extant debts, but seeing rather powerless people dragged off turned his stomach.

    Gust himself, gave the giant a wrathful eye, until the boy he held before was tied up. "No!", he struggled out, attempting to stand before Usah collided his boot into the Duster's jaw.

    The man rolled over in pain, spitting up teeth. Usah circled the Duster, bringing his sword to his throat. "Should I complete our other task, or is that too much Tona?"

    "Kiss my ass." Tonauac sneered back, reloading the other 'twin', Flare.

    "Just do it", Gust exclaimed, "kill me and take our children to be sold to your pimps."

    An old woman ran out, whose daughter tried to stop her. "Please, if you have any mercy, they were going to be sold to brothels, even the children. I know even in that pit of a city, children aren't sold as such. Please!"

    The elder spoke the truth about child slavery. One could get away with much in Brass, as long as the trade wasn't disrupted and proper due was given to the authorities. However, the selling of children to be sex-chattel was something even the dayias agreed was too far. It was death to peddle in such a vile trade, even if they were meant for other cities. Of course, the right amount of Jade, in the right hands, could always direct the law's eyes elsewhere.

    Usah groaned, and with a quick turn, buried his sword in the old woman's gut. Everyone gasped at the cruelty, the woman's daughter wailed in sorrow. This was too much for Tonauac, who slammed his metal coated fist into Usah's helmeted head. The ex-soldier collapsed from the force of the blow.

    The giant brought his own sword to the fallen madjai's throat. "Why did you do that, you heartless bastard!"

    Usah growled. "She's lying! And I'm heartless, well you have no stomach you four fingered outlander! Probably why you were kicked out of your home city."

    Tonauac kicked Usah, in the same manner as the he'd done to Gust. "I left of my own accord, you piece of shit."

    Far Foot hurried between the pair. "Tona, calm down, what's done is done. Let's leave before the herders come. We have what we came for."

    Tonauac looked to his partner. He wasn't sure what to believe, the old one could have been lying, but his gut was ringing bells. More so, he'd finally had enough of ripping families apart to fill the dayias' purses; whether it was true or not, it was all the excuse his conscious needed. "No…I knew there was something about this job that stunk."

    The other madjai balked, except for Usah, who laughed. "You're weak."

    Gust spoke again. "It's true, he took them out of retaliation, that pig Trajos…" He was pale from the blood loss. "That's why we had to hide up here…"

    Far Foot kicked the Duster again, but Tonauac shoved the Tamazuk back. "leave him!"

    Far Foot snarled. "Do you realize what will happen if we don't, do you Tona! If Trajos doesn't hire someone else to knock us off, our reputations will be ruined. No, we take these slaves back, along with this Duster's head."

    Far Foot went for his saber, pausing as Tonauac raised a flame piece. Xerekah appeared confused, while Usah rose with his own weapon ready.

    "Xerekah." Usah began. "Think on this, you're young, do you want this to ruin your…"

    Tonauac interrupted him. "Shut up!", then switched to the farm boy, "Xerekah, this isn't right and you know it!"

    Xerekah glanced to the sky, beating down with all its fury. He returned his eyes to Tonauac and raised his axe. "Sorry Tona."

    Gust then grabbed onto Far Foot's knee, distracting him. Tonauac took advantage, sweeping a kick into Far Foot's other leg joint, simultaneously twirling around to blast Xerekah. The young enforcer, now a bonfire, charged at his killer, forcing Tonauac to fend him off with his gauntlets. Just as he threw the dying youth off him, the giant felt a slicing pain in his knee, collapsing him as well. Tonauac glanced to Usah, who pulled the tip of his sword from the giant's leg.

    "In some ways, I'm glad of this." Usah taunted. "More Jade for me and the prize of besting you, Four-Fingers. I'll get a hundred jobs for this."

    Far Foot also recovered. "You're a fool Tona."

    Tonauac glanced to the heavens, as Usah brought up his blade. He felt more outrage then fear that a man like Usah was going to end his life. At least he could say he'd done the right thing, hoping that counted when he went off to his next life. However, he felt something strange. The Sun no longer sapped him, but seemed to renew his strength. The brilliant rays burning away his injuries. The sword descended, and without thinking, Tonauac caught the weapon with his steel coated hands and rose. The other madjai shrank in fear before the newly arisen man. Even the bound Dusters huddled together at his sight. Tonauac looked to himself, discovering he glowed like the light in the sky, a mighty beacon of golden flame swirled around him.

    Usah muttered out the name of Brass's city-god.

    Far Foot was speechless.

    Tonauac didn't look a gift horse in the mouth, and pulled Usah forward by his captured blade, right into a punch with every once of strength he could muster. The former soldier's neck snapped as his chin collided with the gauntlet. And in the flash of a breath, Tonauac followed by spinning on his heel, rearing up the back of his boot at the stunned Tamuzak. The white haired man went down like a sack of bricks. The giant finished him off by bringing his opposite foot down on Far Foot's skull. A satisfying crunch ended his life as well.

    Done with his former partners, Tonauac looked around, letting the bizarreness of the situation finally envelope him. What's going on? Why am I glowing…It then dawned on him what he had become.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  8. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Twilight​

    From her ear pressed against the wood door, Jalah heard her mistress laugh. "I have to admit, I was furious, but it masked my laughter well. I was glad to see that pompous pig get spilled on."

    "As were a good many of the Shotol. Capahual is not looked highly upon. But he has the power to do as he pleases, as you saw at his entrance." Tefel joined Kelohay in amusement.

    Kelohay replied. "Indeed, these Southerners are backwards, and the women so pathetic to let themselves be paraded around by a fop like him."

    "Well I'd keep those thoughts to yourself." Tefel cautioned. "We'll need his extra maize to secure the region."

    Kelohay sounded annoyed. "You don't think I know that Tefel. I swear, that blow you took as a child robbed you of more then your looks."

    "I just learned to be more cautious, cousin. A lesson we all need to win the throne." He said politely, though he was obviously offended. "He works with us more out of his own advantage then out of fear anymore."

    Jalah thought on the Dragon Blooded's words. Ever since the Empress vanished five years ago, Creation had not been the same. The Realm once held nearly all the world in its grasp, with its eternal monarch on the Scarlet Throne. But with her darkly absence, rumors flew of the tributaries breaking their tithes, some even outright rebelling. Graver stories told of the dead piercing the shroud of the Underworld, to feed their hunger on the living lands; along with the insane Fair Folk, raiding deeper into Creation from the chaos of the Wyld. Before her departure from the Blessed Isle, she even heard whispers from an Immaculate monk, saying the Anathema walked openly again - the shinning demons who glowed like false Suns. They were cast down by the Children of the Elemental Dragons at the end of the First Age, saving Creation from their deprivations. If any of these were true, you couldn't tell from the actions of the Dynastic Houses of the Exalted. The Dragon Blooded schemed and plotted against each other, jockeying for the empty throne. Even in Chibala, her mistress's House worked to cast down the Satrap of House Nellens, who Tefel advised for. Another power game to get a little more edge in the coming civil war.

    Syla then whispered a warning to her fellow slave. "Jalah, Kelohay we'll have you whipped like Opal, if she caught you eves dropping." She was a tall, stretched woman, with pale tan skin and dark hair touched by green. She told Jalah her kin were savages, captured from the Great Forest that grew at the Eastern end of Creation. "Your curiosity's going to catch up with you someday."

    It already has, Jalah mumbled in her thoughts. "I'm sorry if I like to know what's going on, Syla."

    "Well don't say I didn't warn…" Syla said back, but was halted when Jalah hurried from the door.

    Both servants rushed back to their duties with their mistress entering. She was wearing a plain black, sleeveless gown, with a chain belt made up of silver links, where a short sword hung from. Crossing her chest was the strap of her fine, black leather satchel. Kelohay's hair was thrust up in a pinned bun, and from her neck, hung the jewel she always donned when performing her sorceress craft. It was a multi-hued gem the size of an eye, rough cut and covered in the etched script of a language Jalah had never viewed elsewhere. Kelohay fingered with its thin steel chain, turning back to Tefel. "Let me do what I came for, before Calibration is fully upon us."

    "Then let the Dragons shine on you cousin." Tefel bowed and departed.

    Kelohay returned her eyes to the chamber. It was a rather large room, but far from the most spacious of areas that Tefel's keep offered. Being beneath the earth gave it a cool dampness; a much needed respite from the last burning day of the Fire Season. This was somewhat spoiled by the heat of the wall torches. Jalah and Syla, adorned in camisoles and loose pants, had worked much of the day for the sorcery their mistress intended to cast. Starting at a central position on the floor, arched out lines of calligraphy, which traveled up the walls and ceiling. All painstakingly painted to perfection in each of Creation's directions. They met again at the roof of the room, where a symbol of the central pillar of Earth bore down on the empty spot, from which the calligraphy originally branched. In between each of the lines, painted on the walls, were power sigils. The four marks were large and flowing, formed from the script of the long fallen Old Realm of the First Age. All along the floor's edge was a perimeter of candles - black and red wax, melted together with more Old Realm characters carved into them.

    Kelohay inspected everything, watching Jalah finish the last power sigil and Syla lay out more candles. "Good Jalah, your marking is excellent. I see you're finally proving again to be the gifted girl I bought. "

    Jalah bowed. "Thank you mistress."

    "Too bad Heaven decided to not give your soul to one of the Chosen. You would have made a skilled sorceress, I think."

    Jalah bowed again. If you only knew. She thought on her limited mortal thaumaturgy, but she often dreamed of what Kelohay spoke of. To be free and openly powerful, not a servant at the world's mercy. For all her learning and skill, she was no different then an ignorant peasant working under a task master's whip in the fields. She was at least thankful to work with her mistress again, with Opal's disgrace. It gave her a taste of the might and importance she wished she possessed.

    The Dragon Blooded's expression went sour at Syla's work. "Syla look at this." She knelt down to the candle she just set. "You need to pay attention, the markings are facing the wrong way. Everything needs to be right, this isn't a parlor trick you idiot, and it goes doubly so on Calibration's eve."

    The shamed Syla also leaned low. "I'm so sorry, mistress."

    "Remember your task next time, or I'll make better use of you as a gift to a little god." Kelohay threatened, with a somewhat jesting tone.

    Syla remained stoically bowed, but Jalah noticed a shudder of fear. They once had an older sister, who initially trained them all, until age began to claim her memory. Kelohay fed her to a spirit she needed a favor from, with only a brief sense of grief. "I'll miss the old woman, a good loyal servant. I'll pray for her ascendance in her next incarnation." Was all she said with the matter done.

    Jalah returned from the flashback, as Kelohay instructed the pair to begin. "The Sun is getting low in the sky." She removed a thick heavy tome from her satchel. In its pages were the secrets of true sorcery, which not even her servants were allowed to read. Jalah had longed to explore its contents, hoping that it might be a myth that only the Dragon's Children could harness its mysteries.

    Kelohay stepped toward the central space, flipping through the pages of her tome. "Jalah, bring me the paint."

    Jalah did as she was ordered, while Syla finished lining the room with candles, completing the encirclement at the door. Done with their tasks, the servants stood back in silence, awaiting new instructions.

    Their mistress stopped at a page, going over its drawings and words. When finished, she shut the book and leaned on one knee. Kelohay dabbed the brush in the crimson paint and began to cover the gap with an intricate circle, filled with interwoven lettering and drawings. At its completion, the Dragon Blooded stood, calling out to the heavens in the tongue of the previous age. The raw essence of Creation tingled as it began to gather, causing a white glow to ever so faintly illuminate the sorceress.

    She returned her book to her satchel and called on Jalah. "Take this and help Syla light the candles."

    The servants did as they were told, while Kelohay continued the ritual. As she called on the energy necessary for the spell, her anima sprang to life - a white marble illumination rose off the Chosen. Her jeweled necklace also filled with a jubilation of the myriad of colors it was composed of. Time's passage pored into Sun movements as Kelohay ran off the courtesies to the Directions and the Celestial Courts of the little gods, to bid her request for a summoning. When she bypassed that step, her anima flared more into iconic shapes of mountains, uncoiling into a serpentine dragon, which melted back into raw light. The painted markings also shined brightly with the ritual reaching its conclusion.

    Her last chant ended with the candles and torches' flames erupting into many streams, poring into the central circle. The collecting inferno swirled like liquid trapped in an invisible globe, until it took form into a canine with fur of fire, ember eyes, and obsidian fangs.

    The elemental being barked out words. "Why do you summon a hound of Initi of the Burning Fields."

    Kelohay spoke. "To call on him to do his purpose, burn the fields of Chibala. Feed on their ashes and drink their smoke."

    The beast-spirit growled. "Why should Initi do this, blood of the Earth?"

    The a battle of wills began, to keep the elemental bound to Kelohay. The markings flared more, almost to a blinding level. Jalah and Syla averted their eyes, while heat off the beast wafted forth, testing the seals, leaving the slaves and master blanketed in perspiration. It was for naught, as the hound of fire snarled and yielded; the heat and illumination lessened with its submission.

    Kelohay smiled. "So Hound of Initi, will you serve in this task, lead your pack forth to feast off the maize and squash of the Chibalans? Make them believe the gods have cursed them this Calibration?"

    "Your wish will be done, Dragon's Child." The beast barked, and the hound became a sphere of flame again, smothering itself. Foot prints of soot were its only leavings.

    Kelohay sighed deeply, her anima lessened to a soft aura. She headed toward the door, removing her necklace. "Jalah, take my necklace and book to my storage." Her attention went to Syla, "accompany me to my room. I need a bath to clean off this sweat."

    "Yes mistress." The servants bowed, replying in unison.

    "Then send for Chasma and Opal to clean up." She said in final to Jalah, leaving with Syla.

    Jalah was after them, departing the now lightless chamber, with only a hint of the energies unleashed remaining. She closed the door, but paused in the narrow basement hall, watching Kelohay and Syla turn a corner to the steps.

    Once her mistress was out of sight, the temptation rose. Just a peak, and with that said, Jalah gave in, cracking open the book and skimming through the knowledge it contained. It spoke of the structure of reality itself, made up of the swirling essence that collected into the elemental poles, which formed Creation. It said to master reality itself, one needed to harness the basic groundwork of these elements. This made sense to Jalah, but how one went about this mastering was causing her confusion. She read on, trying to understand its wisdom.

    The servant was completely absorbed, flipping through the chapters, analyzing the depictions, and going over the structure of several spells. Her hopes vainly rose, wanting to grasp her mistress's power. If she could, she'd escape being nothing more then a slave, cast away to feed a spirit or demon's graces. Her wish clouded her mind with wild fantasies of freedom, even dreaming of going home to the dying city of Nishimo - where her spying on a bandit gang lead to her capture as a child. She always wondered what happened to her family. Do they still weep for me? Wouldn't they be surprised if I returned with the power of the Dragons.

    Her mind then drifted into an image of a beautiful tower, carved right out of the rock by the seashore. She heard the waves crashing against the jagged coast, actually hearing them from within the structure. Her thoughts flashed to a room filled with bitter incense, as her eyes went over a book similar to Kelohay's. A woman with hair of thick golden curls and the dark skin of a Southerner, called her attention. She looked up at…my instructor….who glowed with a brilliant, but filmy white and gold light...

    The vision faded from her sight with a gasp, not sure what she just witnessed. Not even sure how much time had passed, she glanced around, finding the room glowed with the light of the setting Sun. What's this, there's no windows down here? She looked for the source, only to discover the light originated off herself. Jalah was surrounded with an aura of bright gold, which reached into many hues of reds, deepening to blues. The light floated with fleeting power symbols and swirling storms that crackled eerie lightning, before fading back into raw color. At that moment, she could feel intense power poring into her being, like when her mistress summoned the elemental.

    Frightened, Jalah fled the hall for the chamber. Is this what happens if a mortal unlocks sorcery? Jalah was utterly aghast at the situation, her inner light brightening the pitch room. The servant looked toward the chamber's far wall, opposite of the door and could feel the Sun set, its rays reaching over the horizon, pulling night over Creation. With this revelation, Jalah balked. Oh no, I've become an Anathema, possessed by the mad spirits of the Sun. Oh by the Dragons, no! The servant went into a near panic, she needed to do something before her mind was taken. Jalah squeezed onto the jewel of Kelohay's necklace, feeling its strange warmth, and realized she needed to escape at once.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  9. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Night​

    Luna cast her silvery light on the City of Glass, aptly named with its ancient towers of colored glass stretching hundreds of feet into the heavens. The buildings had long been abandoned, many broken and cracked from the centuries, spilling there unnaturally strong substance onto the vermilion streets - also composed of the same material. In the shadow of these structures, Chiaroscuro of the Second Age was built. From the broken fragments, along with stone and mortar dragged from the hills, did the new inhabitants construct their homes, such as the dome topped, limestone mansion that Ryana currently studied. It joined other wealthy abodes, a few blocks from the city's Grand Bazaar, where the wealthiest of traders and craftsmen had carved out an enclave for themselves.

    The two Blades hurried for the shadows of the spike tipped wall and knelt, scanning the silent streets. They were now garbed in black clothing, their faces veiled, readying their climbing claws. Ryana looked to the sky and kissed the luck charm that joined her other amulet, then made sure both were tucked out of the way, beneath her top.

    "I still say this job's suicide, Sahar." She whispered. "One day of planning and on the eve of Calibration for Plentimon's sake", calling on the god of gambling, "they couldn't refuse me membership any longer, so they mean to get rid of me this way."

    Sahar scoffed. "What is it this time, the fact you're a woman, or you're Delzhan?"

    "You know it's both. You became a full Blade at what, sixteen? I'm almost twenty…And besides, I'm only half Delzhan."

    "Like any of it matters Ryana. Hell, even the Malek has some kufar in him. Most woman don't have your skill either, so consider yourself fortunate, you're a Blade now."

    Ryana sneered. "Most men don't have my skill, including most of those on the conclave."

    Sahar stared straight at his former student. "Let's just get this over with." He also removed a necklace, marked with his horoscope, and kissed it in a gesture for luck.

    Ryana sighed. He has no idea…Sahar had always been supportive of her, but like any man, he took his acknowledged merit and respect for granted. Despite her accomplishments, Ryana had to always prove herself twice as much. She put such thoughts aside however, she needed to focus if this mission was to succeed.

    The two robbers went to work, ascending the stone barrier. They quickly and stealthfully reached the top, dropping into the extensive garden that covered the courtyard below, rolling as they hit the ground from the ten arm-length descent. In a bush of roses, the Bisha'a watched the pair of bored guards at the wall's gates, protected by gray buff jackets, with yellow trim. The men grumbled about not being able to play dice with their new mandate of protecting the dreamstone. Something in Ryana's gut whispered for her to kill them, two less to factor into an equation of the job going awry. She ignored the urge, knowing Sahar would never go along with it, considering it sloppy .

    The pair crept through the gardens, keeping low as possible as they moved toward a bell shaped window. Ryana reached for the glass covering, and as their informant promised in his notes, it was unlocked. She went in first, slipping through the opening like an eel; remaining low in the lamp lit halls, she kept watch from the darkness between the flickering lights. Sahar was right behind her, closing the window as he slid in too.

    Even in the dimness, the lavishness of the mansion could be seen. Passing under a high arched ceiling, they witnessed in every corner a half-column, carved with intricate, rolling wave like sculptures at the capital and base. A frieze, which Ryana guessed was the story of the owners lineage, played out atop the passing walls. While her soft booted feet touched posh carpeting, with hypnotizing, geometric patterns. The thief was glad for the floor covering, muffling their steps even more.

    The Bisha'a prowlers followed the hall to the spacious main room, where the carpet gave way to a massive rug with similar aesthetics. More plants lined the walls, their leaves reaching up to the huge tapestries, honoring, through beautifully sown calligraphy, the Guilder's most prestigious ancestors. Comfortable furniture and a few small sculptures completed the décor. On Ryana's left, was the fireplace and family shrine - a carving to the household spirit and niches for the urns of dead relatives sat above the dying night flame. To her right, and around the corner, was a triple arched entryway to a double staircase, which would take one to the upper wings of the merchant lord and his family's private quarters. It also lead to another guarded room, where more misinformed thieves would assume the dreamstone to be hidden.

    Ryana's ear then caught the sound of a sandaled foot step. She gave a silent warning to her new brother, and both melted back into the pitch of the hallway. Each readied a knife from the many concealed blades on their person.

    Entering from the hall, on the opposite side of the staircase, was a man in his mid-thirties. His scarlet hair a mess from sleep, and his mahogany skin was warmed from a smock and robe. He glanced about with a fearful expression, illuminated by the candle he carried. Both of the skilled skulkers quietly snuck out from their cover, keeping just out of his light as they circled him. Ryana figured he was probably the servant - reminding her why she hated the short notice of the mission, given no proper time to stake out their target.

    Sahar spoke softly. "Do not move."

    The man froze, his knees shaking as his nervous eyes darted back and forth. Ryana positioned herself just behind him, ready to end his life with a quick jab of her weapon.

    Her mentor went on, still beyond the man's vision in the shadows. "Who are you?"

    "I-I-I'm Dovus…" He stammered. "Are you with…"

    Ryana whispered to the identified servant. "Do not even say our name."

    He jumped, so startled he nearly dropped his candle holder.

    Sahar was at his side. "Be quiet", then gave his former student a crossed look. She only rolled her eyes in reply, unseen in the blackness. Sahar returned his attention to Dovus. "So, you said it was warded, do you have the pass?"

    The servant collected himself. "Yes…" Gulping, he retrieved a simple polished stone from his pocket, engraved with a symbol of protection, "And I can tell you, this wasn't easy to sneak from…"

    Ryana grabbed his shoulder and pressed. "Shhhh."

    The thieves proceeded to their task. With the aid of Dovus, they rolled up the rug, clearing the floor-covering nearly halfway, exposing the stone tile beneath. Toward the center, was a tile etched with what Ryana presumed was a warding sigil. Dovus warned them away. "Do not go near it."

    The Blades held back as the treasonous slave knelt down and touched his stone to the center of the symbol. "Okay."

    Ryana was somewhat disappointed, expecting some kind of reaction, like glowing lights and such as in stories of magic. However, it was definitely for the best in not attracting unwanted attention.

    She moved in with Sahar to lift the slab. A brief struggle later, the Blades managed to remove the floor piece, revealing a small chest, which the pair both lifted to free. Sahar studied the lock, then pulled his picks from a side pocket and began working at getting through the final obstacle. A moment later, a huge, brilliant green gem lay before their eyes, and it was indeed as large as the Malek had heard. Sahar glanced up to his partner, both smiling through their eyes.

    Dovus spoke up. "So where's my reward, and the name of the ship I'm suppose to take?"

    The female Bisha'a figured the slave was promised freedom to the land of his choosing, probably the Blessed Isle, where the Guild held little influence. The Malek never told her of his agreement with him, only to offer him the sharp end of her blade. She felt a tinge of guilt at the dupes fate, but if she didn't, she would be the one under a dagger. So Ryana slid free a knife, she hid in a bracer. Dovus, by chance, turned to her just as the weapon was unsheathed.

    "You bastards!" He screamed. "Help!" Dovus cried as he motioned to shove his killer back.

    Ryana snapped a kick to his groin, silencing his cries for help with pain. She followed with her original intentions, burying the knife in his throat, quickly twisting before pulling it free. Just as he hit the floor, she could already hear the rushing footsteps of the upstairs guards, as well as the other internal pair, who slept until their shift. At this point, she wished she had listened to her gut and slew the outside watchers. We could have just made a run for the gate then, damn it!

    Sahar gripped the dreamstone, loosing his own blade. "We can reach the window, hurry!"

    Ryana could sense the guards about to enter the room, when she felt something erupt inside her. The shadows themselves moved about the robber, wrapping around her like a blanket. She didn't understand what was happening, but some instinct told her to grab Sahar and fall back deeper into the dim. Her former teacher tried to struggle, not aware what was going on either, though soon went stiff as the four guards fully entered. They gazed about with their weapons, clearly not seeing the thieves as they investigated the scene. One sentinel, still in his night clothes, went to Dovus, announcing he was dead. Then the front door burst open and the gate guardians joined them.

    "Search the grounds, they might still be here!" The kneeling guard told his fellows, before turning to the Guilder, who observed with alarm at the top of the stairs. He went to his employer, while the other armsmen scattered to search.

    Ryana noticed they left the door wide open, and nudged Sahar along toward their escape route. She had no comprehension of what was occurring, but whatever shroud was concealing them, continued to hold as they snuck right out the main entrance and back over the walls beyond.

    The young Bisha'a kept moving, her only desire was to put as much distance between them and the merchant lord's home as possible. The pair slid through the narrow passes between the rich homes, avoiding the streets as much as possible, until they came just before the workshops and stands of the Bazaar. Here they had hidden plain clothes, to slip unnoticed into the great market place.

    Just as they came upon their cache, Sahar stalled. "What the hell happened back there?" He was absolutely bewildered.

    Ryana turned to answer him. "I don't know…" Her voice drifted off, seeing a look of horror on her mentor's face. "What…"

    She became aware of a glow, realizing a faint purple and gold light emanated from her body. Ryana grabbed a larger and cleaner knife from her waist, and saw her forehead was marked by a golden hued ring. "By Kemu…what is this…?"

    "…Anathema…oh by the…you're…"Sahar was too terrified to speak coherently.

    "No!" Ryana gasped.

    "You're marked though…", Sahar panicked. "I have to…I have to get away!" His fearful voice grew.

    Ryana had to shut him up, there had to be another explanation. She watched Sahar turn to flee, and her own fright took control of her limbs. Before she even realized it, the thief launched the knife in her hands at her fellow Bisha'a. The weapon flew true, striking him square in the back. His wide-eyed former student hurried to him, cradling Sahar, as he bled out and babbled his dying words. She told him to hold on, but in less then a breath, the life forever drained from his eyes.

    The thief fell to her rear, Sahar still in her embrace. She held the man who had been her teacher, her sponsor, and a father to her. A man she'd just murdered. Ryana let tears fall for the first time in years, while her anima continued to shine.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  10. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Vengeance​

    The horses came to a stop, the animals breathing hard from their jaunt across the plantations of Paragon. Wind Fire dismounted, heading over to the nearly dry stream nestled in the low hills of the vedltland around them. They'd been running for Sun movements to escape, but he had yet to detect even a hint of pursuit. Maybe they're frightened of me, he said to himself, thinking on how he'd become…I don't even want to say it.

    Wind Fire put the thoughts aside, noticing his sister still struggling with her bonds. He pulled a knife from his belt. "Topaz, let me."

    She brought her hands over, but paused, wide eyed once she took full view of the young warrior.

    "I'm not going to hurt you…whatever's happened to me…" He attempted to calm her, cutting her hands free.

    Topaz interrupted him. "I know…I know brother…but your still…still glowing." She struggled out.

    The nomad was still surrounded by a very faint illumination from the explosion of power at his tribe's campsite. He noticed Topaz, and even Storm couldn't take their eyes off the mark emanating from his forehead. "What does it look like?"

    Storm answered first. "Like a small Sun, with lines, like sunrays."

    "The mark of the Forsaken." Topaz went onto describe, naming one of the five caste's of the Anathema.

    Wind Fire faced away from his siblings and took a view of the surrounding landscape. He came to take a quick glance at the Sun, seeing the blazing celestial object beginning its long descent from midday. Why have you cursed me? Then again you freed me. He didn't know what to make of this, taught like any child of the hideous demons the Anathema were. How they once held all of Creation like the Perfect held his people in bondage, and their mad spirits returning to possess innocent folk to reap mayhem and destruction out of revenge for their usurpation. Yet Wind Fire had no murderous urges, only fear and concern flowed through his veins, primarily over the fates of his brother and sister.

    It was then he heard the thundering hoofs of an army of horses, causing the siblings to jump in their saddles with alarm. Wind Fire could tell they were coming from the other end of the stream. He was stunned, not knowing how they could have found them; he took care once they cleared the fields to keep away from any arteries of travel. They'd have no idea even what length of the stream we'd be on. Then the nomad saw the scarlet outline of the eye on his sister's hand. Damn it! Why didn't I think of this, realizing the Perfect had been tracking them through his connection to them.

    A plan formed in his mind and he began to cut off strips of his robe. "Hurry, blindfold yourselves!"

    "What?" Topaz was taken back.

    "Just do it."

    She raised up her palm, and become conscious of what her brother had. "Oh Fire…you must leave us."

    "No!" Wind Fire fiercely refused, beckoning them to take the strips.

    His siblings submitted and blindfolded themselves, followed by Wind Fire taking their mount's reigns. As he did so, he saw his pursuers, coming over the far slopes, recognizing not only the cavalry of the Paragonese, but the colors of the Three Fires. He felt a slight stab of betrayal, but scolded himself, knowing they had little choice. Besides, I'm a monster now.

    Wind Fire wasted no more time, taking flight with his relatives in tow. The nomad hoped the animals could take one more race, charging to a location only he knew of; he just had to clear the harriers first and they'd be safe there. Just as his desire for speed entered his mind, the aura around him flared up. The Hahjab was about to curse himself, for his anima making a more obvious target of themselves, when he felt a jump of speed from his mount. The landscape became a blur, while their hunters faded more and more into the distance. Wind Fire found himself thanking the Sun, not knowing who else to praise.

    Feeling safe he clearly outpaced his pursuit, he reared the horses to come around the army. He continued south to a small wateringhole he discovered last Fire Season, on his usual lonely hunts. He figured with Topaz and Storm blinded, the Perfect would have no idea where to find them. By the time the last rays of the day, and the year for that matter, reached over the horizon, they had arrived.

    Storm questioned. "Where are we?", brushing aside the tall, desiccated brown grass from his face.

    "You know for a thousand times Storm, he can't tell you." Topaz chided him this time.

    "Well, we're here now." Wind Fire stopped the horse from their slow trot in the sea of towering pasture, looking upon the puddle left from the searing heat of the season.

    Topaz and Storm removed their blindfolds, joining their brother in dismounting and letting their rides eagerly feast on the remnants of water.

    Wind Fire took one sight of the Moonless sky of Calibration, knowing the Perfect's forces wouldn't dare continue their hunt. "I won't say how long we're staying, for obvious reasons, but you two should sleep."

    "Yeah, let's see the Perfect find us now." Storm cockily declared, taking an eye to his mark. "Whoa, it's gone."

    "What?" Wind Fire and Topaz both stated.

    The older brother took hold of his hand, while Topaz viewed her own. To Wind Fire's horror, he witnessed not a vanished eye, but a shut one. "Oh by the gods, no!"

    Both his siblings clinched in pain, collapsing as waves of agony struck their bodies.

    Wind Fire watched in emotional ache, not able to do a thing to save them. "Topaz, Storm!"

    His siblings cried out too, wailing as they convulsed. Wind Fire fell to his knees with tears of frustration raining down, taking hold of his baby brother and elder sister. He squeezed onto them as their bodies grew ever still and cries faded to dying gasps. When they ceased, the nomad knew they were gone.

    "Damn you!" Wind Fire shouted with every once of fury, still clutching his siblings. "I swear I'll kill you! Hear me, by all the gods and all my ancestors, even the Yozis…I'll be the one that crushes the life out of you Perfect…I SWEAR IT!"

    Wind Fire held the lifeless bodies of Topaz and Storm all night, grieving for them while cursing the Perfect and all of Paragon. He didn't move until he again felt the Sun rise.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  11. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Justice​

    Smoke wafted up high from the funeral fires. Tonauac knelt before the pyres, which were the bodies of his former partners, and sent them off to their ancestors with prayers of enlightenment for their next reincarnation. He decided to do the services himself, being the least he could do to make up for their assault. Even though some of the Dusters, and himself in regards to Usah, wanted to leave the bodies to the scavengers, he wanted none of their ghosts haunting his back. The madjai even dragged out the Duster guide to the fires, to unburden the hill folk further; the traitor was promptly chased down and stoned to death after Tonauac 'finished' his partners.

    Done with his final blessings, he looked up to see not a setting Sun over the Dust Hills, but an altar. It was carved of what appeared to be crystal or glass, covered in arcane hieroglyphs, which slowly began to make sense to him. The carvings were dedicated to his celestial patron, who shined his light on all of Creation. Atop the altar was a familiar man, oak skinned with long flowing emerald hair. He was dressed in a funeral shroud of silver and gold thread, connected by white silk. He was this man's friend, a member of his Circle for centuries...He reached out with hands that weren't his own and called upon the might the greatest of Gods had invested into his being. Upon touching his fallen companion, the mortal remains burst into flames, and with a devotion, sent his fellow onto the halls of the Unconquered Sun...

    The vision faded, drifting away like the smoke off the slain madjai. It took Tonauac a moment to recover from it, which felt like some long lost memory, but obviously not his own. He gazed at his hands, still surrounded by a slowly dying golden aura. Is this how it begins, how the Anathema's spirit eats my mind? Tonauac still felt like himself, no wish to kill or conquer, like in the tales told to scare him as a child.

    The giant then heard the approach of another, turning to face Gust. The Duster leader leaned heavy on a makeshift cane, clutching his bandaged stomach. He possessed a pained face, of both physical and emotional wounds.

    "I called you, Anathema." Gust stated. "Lost in prayer?"

    "Yeah..." Tonauac replied. Not only confusion over his vision kept his tongue, but the shame over his actions against the man and his people.

    Gust drew closer. "You're lucky I'd never kill a man in prayer...or one whose life I owe to."

    Tonauac glanced away. For too long he'd choked his conscious, telling himself he needed to be cruel as the world. In the past Sun Movements he'd come to realize that he was no more then a tool of corruption and oppression, of the same liking as he sought to escape when he left Lap years before. There, in his home city, a meritocracy supposedly existed, where all citizens labored to earn their positions. No matter they born to rich or poor, all children of Lap worked from the bottom up. Or so they say, seeing his father practically break his spine and rise to nothing more in the quarries, while the sons and daughters of the elite soon found shortcuts and quick advancement to a better life. Tonauac refused to live a lie, rejecting the contract of service, he left his birthplace behind, along with his severed fingers into exile. With these thoughts, a contradiction arose - are Ananthema suppose to have such thoughts? I figured I was going to turn into a demon at any moment?

    Gust stood next to the man who once hunted him, taking in the same view of the second to last Sunset of the year. "I can see you want to apologize. Save your words, they can't bring back my wife or any of my people you and your ilk killed."

    "I know." Tonauac replied, freeing his guilt from the chamber he'd locked it away in.

    "I'm surprised such feelings come from a Blasphemer, like yourself."

    "Blasphemer?"

    "Your mark." The Duster pointed to the brilliant disk, still shining from his forehead. "Your kind were divided into five castes. Your's spread the lies and worship of the false Sun God, hence blasphemer...if the tales are true."

    Tonauac pondered on Gust's words for moment. "Well I feel no urge to preach of some unknown god."

    Gust reluctantly smiled. "Another fact that makes me question the stories I was reared with..." He paused. "However, I know some other stories. Old ones that paint a different light, at least on your patron."

    The madjai stood silent, ready to listen to the Duster's wisdom.

    Gust started his narration. "They say there was a time, so long ago barely anyone remembers, when the Yozis of Malfeas ruled Creation, and our people, all of humanity, were their slaves. The demons' abuses were so grave, their servants, the Gods, could not abide. So they lead humanity in revolt, at the behest of the Unconquered Sun. He put some of his power into us mortals, making your kind, the Solars."

    With the last sentence leaving Gust's lips, something again stirred in Tonauac's mind. He looked through the eyes of another man, gazing upon a blooded army. Many were ordinary men and women, of all the skins of Creation. Amongst the host a great number glowed with the elemental fury of the Dragon Blooded; while a smaller force of bestial warriors shimmered with the colors of Luna; and another set illuminated such as himself. They were all armed with weapons of awe - blades and armor of Jade and materials of the purest gold and silver he had ever laid his eyes upon. Some of the soldiers rode high within the fabled Warstriders, massive suits of armor that towered past the heights of trees and smaller buildings. He stepped atop a rocky outcropping, overlooking this legion right out of myth, on a wasteland of a battlefield. Beyond, he could see storm clouds gather, but they moved far too quickly; growing closer, he witnessed not clouds, but a thousand, maybe millions of winged horrors. His anima flared to its absolute brilliance, and he cried the name of his god before leaping down to join his army's charge...

    "Hey madjai!" Gust called to him, snapping his fingers before his eyes.

    Tonauac blinked, shocked at the vividness of his sight. "Sorry..."

    "I'd say something's wrong with you, but we already know that."

    "I don't know...I think I saw...remembered what you just said."

    "Or the other stories are true and the Sun spirit's claiming your soul." Gust stepped away, back toward his village. "Well, either way Anathema, you need to leave and never return. As long as you do, I'll keep silent if the Wyld Hunt sniffs this way. With that, my debt to you is paid."

    With Gust leaving, Tonauac was quiet. He thought on what he'd done, the visions he had, and what he'd become. Then the giant had an epiphany. "Gust, wait!"

    The Duster returned his attention to him.

    "If I'd become a monster, I'd of killed you before...I choose to believe the other story." He glanced to the descending sun. "Like this Unconquered Sun, I won't serve another to put innocents under the whips of tyrants and pimps", turning back to the hill folk leader, "I swear Gust, I'll make Trajos answer for his own crimes." Along with all those who think they're above justice, because of their privilege, he vowed more to the Sun, then himself. He wasn't sure if he could believe in this forgotten Sun-god, but he liked the idea of Gust's story, and tossing a prayer the deity's way couldn't hurt.

    His speech done, Tonauac gathered his gear and took to his mount, setting off for Brass to follow his convictions once again.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  12. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Freedom​

    Once the ink was dry, Jalah rolled up the parchment and dropped the forged pass into a scroll case. With that task done, and much to her relief, she was ready to depart. The servant checked the heavy robe she pulled from Tefel's closet, making sure her lit aura was concealed beneath the stifling garment. Jalah had worried the anima would continue being a beacon, but it had begun to fade to a soft radiance as she calmed down; the newborn Anathema then left the subterranean chamber to make a hasty escape.

    Jalah entered the hall of the keep, from Tefel's personal study, and caught a view from an open window. It revealed the courtyard below, where revelry raged forth. She spied the male Dragon Blooded diplomat, drinking heavily with his Thresholder friends, while prostitutes of both genders provided more carnal entertainments. No doubt they're celebrating the ruin I just helped deliver on this backwater. This was probably the first time she was thankful for Calibration. Then again I'm Anathema now, why wouldn't another dark force be helpful for another.

    The servant pulled the hood of her cloak further down, covering the half-filled circle upon her brow, continuing on toward the exit of the rich home. She reached for the curved brass handle of the door when she heard Opal behind her.

    "Jalah." Her hated sister spoke with amusement. "Is that you?"

    Jalah reared around as Opal stepped toward her, she carried herself with pained movements from her lashing. "So where are you going?" She looked her over with snide eyes. "I was yelled at again by Kelohay, seeing I wasn't cleaning up after the summoning."

    Jalah bit her lip, and Opal drew nearer.

    "Is that our mistress's tome as well?" Opal's giddiness rose, eying the satchel hanging off Jalah's shoulder. "Wow Jalah, to think, I thought I would have to suffer under your thumb until I could find a way up on you. You'll be lucky if you aren't outright executed for this."

    Jalah finally spoke. "Opal, wait…"

    "Oh, you want to deal again?" She chuckled before growing severe. "How about you take these scars off my back, you bitch!"

    She reached out to grab the runaway, but Jalah beat her to the punch, spinning out of the way of the lurch. Jalah, by some instinct, twirled around on her heal, bringing the satchel down on the rear of Opal's skull, knocking her rival flat on the floor. Shocked, she fell to the fellow servant's side and saw she bled from cracking her head against the tile, but still breathed.

    Jalah took a quick view of her surroundings, to make sure she was alone. But calmed herself, realizing any sound from the struggle would have been muffled by the shouts and music outside. The runaway then returned her attention to Opal, I should just leave you here. She knew however, if Opal was discovered or woke up, her escape could be noticed before Jalah was sufficiently away. So she dragged the prone servant to a couch in a nearby room, and retrieved a dagger she also stole from Tefel. Shortening the end of the oversized robe, she used the strips to bound and gag Opal.

    The sight of her thrust up rival brought a low laugh to Jalah. "Just as you should be."

    Her tracks covered, the runaway servant made sure the robe still masked her and made her way out to the gardens, which decorated the path to the double-doored gate. As she reached the final barrier to her freedom, waterfalls of sweat pored down her brow, nervous from her flight and boiling under the thick cloth. Jalah desperately wanted to wipe her face clean, but knew any disturbance to her shroud could expose her. The guards ahead paid her little notice, busy celebrating privately with a bottle - that immediately went behind one of the sentinels' backs when they became aware of her approach.

    "Hello, miss." One of the guardians greeted with apprehension, bowing politely.

    She reached for her pass, while trying to keep her body steady. She could just imagine the call of alarm going off if someone discovered Opal; or the leveling of their spears, if they noticed a hint of the luster coming off her body.

    "Forget it." The guard waved away the scroll. "Just hurry back, it's Calibration after all." Giving her desiring smile.

    Jalah forced herself to smirk back, then passed through to the streets of Chibala. She couldn't help but really smirk at this point, I'm out…by my ancestors…I'm free. She forced herself to focus however, heading away from the keep in the small neighborhood that housed the representatives of the Realm, knowing she still had to get out of the city. So the runaway continued on, barely able to hold her desire to rip the robe off her body. Jalah made her way to the docks, one of the few places she knew how to transverse to, being curious of the route on their initial journey to Tefel's home. Her pass easily worked to breach the inner wall of the elite's domain and out into the bazaar beyond. The salty smell of the ocean grew stronger with each step, and she shook with excitement; but her heart also fluttered with fear of possible capture. Though the stalls and shops were largely closed, the streets were alive with the common folks' festivities. Jalah slipped through with the practiced ease of a slave wishing to remain unnoticed. Jalah couldn't help but to cynically think, celebrate tonight, because tomorrow you starve.

    The runaway blinked and suddenly found herself on a balcony, overlooking a marvelous metropolis - whose streets circled through the blocks, branching out like spokes on a wheel, surrounded by buildings that looked to have been raised and carved from one solid slab of marble. She turned her back from the view, leaning her body against the rail and supporting herself with an oak colored hand. Her eyes fell upon a lithe woman, with shoulder length, ruby hair, around a gold casted face. The annoyed looking visitor, who Jalah somehow knew was a friend, made several cold comments about the necessity of putting down the leaders of a riot. She, or whoever she was, argued back about starvation driving the mortal mob and cursed her friend's compliance. The argument grew more heated until Jalah faced away from the woman, returning to the city. It was then she detected an attack, snapping around to see her friend leap, anima blazing. Jalah responded with her own Sun gifted might...

    When she came to, Jalah was standing in a defensive posture in the middle of the street, the revelers avoiding her with weary eyes. She collected herself, ignoring the gawkers as she fled to the docks, determined to not let this Anathema's spirit overpower her soul.

    Amongst the docks, the runaway set out to find a craft, one small enough she could feel confident about piloting. Jalah stepped over passed out sailors, scanning about until she discovered a small fishing vessel. The runaway spied about for any onlookers and went about unhooking the minuscule vessel. Thanking the Dragons for her good fortune, she went about a quick study of the boat, then struggled to guide her vehicle of escape into the waters of the Inland Sea.

    As Chibala drifted more into her periphery, Jalah witnessed her mistress's handiwork. Columns of smoke billowed off the horizon, while panicked soldiers moved along the city's walls. She put aside the guilt over her involvement, knowing the chaos in the aftermath of the burning was a perfect screen for her flight. Jalah let her hood fall and closed her eyes as the sea breeze brushed the sweat from her face, opening them again to the moonless sky. I guess being a demon isn't so bad after all.

    The former servant then reached for the choker at her neck, tearing free the etched stone of Kelohay. She gave it a final look and let the symbol of her bondage fall into the sea, replacing the adornment with the rainbow colored crystal she'd swiped from the Dragon Blooded. I'm free…and I have the power to keep it, she mentally proclaimed, twirling the chain of the amulet like Kelohay did, feeling the warmth of its potency within.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  13. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Redemption​

    Ryana observed the pitch of night take on the soft blue of the last day of the year, as the body of Sahar was reduced largely to ash. She finally raised herself from the knelt position she'd rested in, praying for his soul's forgiveness, and rubbed away dried tears for the second time that night. The previous wiping had occurred when she broke into the shop of a carpet-weaver; needing to focus, she cleared her eyes and retrieved a cover for her mentor's body. The thief then hurried away from the bazaar, and into the stain glass ruins of the Old City, where she wept a second time at the hasty funeral conducted for him.

    The Bisha'a retrieved a stark white clay urn, she'd also stolen, and began to gather up the burnt leavings of Sahar. I know Sahar, your youngest should be doing this…but I guess I'll do. She hollowly laughed to herself, knowing the man barely knew his actual children, simply sending money to his estranged wife.

    As Ryana placed handful after handful within the urn, she reminisced of her other father's funeral. She solemnly watched, in the best dress her family's meager resources could afford, her male parent being reduced to smoky dust. Though his sendoff was a simple affair, the Chiaroscuroan city guard had pooled enough Jade to give a descent funeral for one of their own. Aside from this, and a few dinars the Master of the Guard gave out of sympathy, his family was left to fend for themselves. So much for a man who'd given his life fighting off a hungry ghost.

    It wouldn't be too long after her little brother had gathered their parent into his own urn (since her baby sister was still an infant), that fate would bring her to Sahar and the Blades. Ryana's family was reduced to risking the ruins, gathering fragments of the glass that had fallen from the aged towers of the Old City - haunted by the dead from the Great Contagion, which had wiped the life from the First Age ruin - amongst other things left behind in the apocalypse that nearly ended Creation. Ryana watched as her widowed mother was cheated out of the material's true value, haggling with the merchants who'd purchase the colored glass. Why respect a women, especially one without a husband?

    Seeing her mother disrespected, Ryana figured she didn't have to respect them. She at first snatched fruit and bread to help feed her siblings and crippled grandfather. The child-thief worked her way up to pick pocketing, even slipping off with the purse of the merchant that frequently belittled her mom. Her parent had discovered her crime, and Ryana paid for it with the worst lashing of her life. But her mother kept the silver anyways. This deed did have the effect of getting Sahar's attention; unknown to Ryana at the time, he had observed her while browsing the wares of another stand. Her second father would make himself known after she was spotted stealing a roast pheasant. The cornered girl was expecting to lose her hand when the Bisha'a stepped in, scaring off the vendor.

    "You saved my life old man…" Ryana choked out, finished with amassing his remains. "Go to your ancestors Sahar, I'll take care of your family now."

    With her final blessing spoken, Ryana departed the small balcony, on one of the lower levels of an ocean blue tower. She leaped out, landing on the deck below, and dropped to the glass coated street. She'd quickly discovered an increased athleticism on her journey to the secluded local. It reminded her of the other tragedy of the fading night, that she was now one of the Anathema. The Blade didn't know what to make of her new state, already thinking of the murder she committed, first crime as the monster I am now. Then again, her throbbing guilt made her wonder if she truly was becoming a demon queen. Other then her increased prowess and the lingering energy that radiated off her, she felt no difference.

    On her way to Sahar's wife, she came close to her family's dwelling, at the edge of the two Chiaroscuros, entering the neighborhood of near dilapidated homes, hobbled together from stone and clay. Each of their two stories housed a family. Ryana ascended a low spire of white and violet glass, with a half missing top, overlooking where she'd grown into a woman. Climbing the rise had always been a source of pride, being the only child to ever reach its top, out showing the grumbling boys who wouldn't admit to her superior skill. Her present ascent to the top didn't even phase Ryana, scaling it like a spider from the well memorized footholds.

    Aloft, the Bisha'a had a perfect view of her family rising with the new day. In one window, her brother, Eagle, aided their grandfather from his bed. Through the next opening, Ryana observed her mom and little sister, Jasmine, preparing breakfast, before another hunt for their livelihood in the ruins. Despite their poverty her heart ached for her old life; since she'd been thrown out years ago, all she wanted to do was go home sometimes. If Mom would only take my Jade, they could move out of this hole. Honest fool. She immediately silenced her mind, knowing her mother only wanted a daughter she could be proud of, not a murdering thief and assassin. Ryana also knew legitimate success would only come to one of her gender through marriage, and her family had nothing to offer to get a suitor of any substantial means. And now that I'm an Anathema, my prospects will only increase, she bitterly joked.

    Pondering on her new status, Ryana thought deeply on what to do next. She was tempted to flee the city, if only to preserve her own life; if discovered, she only had the Wyld Hunt of the Dragon Blooded to look forward too. She could also transform into the beast, whose stories terrified her at her bedside. "If your not good, an Anathema will take your soul", her mother would warn her when she was small. Ryana could be putting all her kin in peril. But another path emerged to her attention, I could stay. With just some of the powers she wielded that night almost any prize was in her grasp. With this idea becoming more appealing, a faint ambition she had once returned. Thinking when she was younger of just stealing enough to strike it rich and move her family to some place far away. Reaching adulthood, Ryana realized what a fantasy that was, especially as she become more involved with the Blades. Now that I'm in, there's no way out but by death.

    Giving it one more turn in her head, Ryana made her decision. I'll save my family from this, I have too, for their honor and my own, and for Sahar. I'll use this curse for something good.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  14. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    I added an addition to the first post, a sort of in-universe introduction to some of the basics of the Exalted world. Hope it helps clear up any confusion for those not familiar with the setting. I'm trying to write it more assuming no one knows anything about it.:)
     
  15. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Book 2: Bound Beyond Time

    Bright Hawk​

    The wind blew all around her, swirling about in a chaotic mess. Then a lash literally cut her dark-skinned cheek. Blood trickled down on her armor of metallic sunlight, until the wound sealed itself. The wind was becoming glass before her very eyes and would have shredded her if she were mortal; it only broke or pricked at her essence hardened frame.

    "The Wyld's taint has grown strong." Her companion said, howling over the unnatural storm, as he shifted from a silvery saluki into his battle form. He now stood nearly eight arms tall, an amalgamation of canine and man - lean, but firm with muscle beneath his robes and turban of silver and shadowy thread, protected in layers of moon-rays pounded into chain. "The beast can't be far."

    "You never know in the Wyld. We could travel for a tail's length in the waste to find it only touches a few arms of Creation." She replied as she removed her shimmering bow. The arching weapon was shaped like two stylized hawks gripping the riser, their wings spread up to form most of the bow's limbs.

    "Then let's…" The hound-man grew quiet, snarling as he swung around.

    She joined the beastman, as a cry like a thousand tons of crashing glass consumed the night. With an arrow notched, she gazed at the horror - ten arms at the shoulder, three times as long, and a body of bone and razor sharp crystal shaped into some kind of lizard-beast.

    She charged her shaft with her divine might; while her companion snatched out his huge, twin curved-blades, made of the same substance as his armor. He leaped high in the air to pounce, his daiklaves a spinning dervish. She let loose her powered arrow, aiming for what she hoped was its eye…


    )"(​

    Wind Fire let the bolt fly, shooting off harmlessly into the dim. The young Hahjab gazed out into the darkness. The rocky ground of the mountain pass was below him. No desert of crystal, or gusts of glass, or Wyld twisted monsters. There was just the cold, lonely peaks rising all about him. He let his weapon, a normal composite bow of horn and wood, drop to the ground. He joined it, collapsing to his knees, not even noticing the pain.

    He had no idea what was happening to him. His mind flooded with visions for days, maybe weeks. Cities rose as high as the clouds, with chariots that flew on winds alone. He witnessed palaces of such beauty he wept, and battles…against fiends that shattered mountains, commanding legions of terrors spawned from pure nightmare, and of such numbers, they blotted out the skies…Wind Fire closed his eyes in a feeble attempt to force them out. By all the gods he knew, even the Immaculate Dragons, he prayed for deliverance.

    The nomad made his way back to his own camp, his 'memories' had taken him over a mile away. Once he returned he dropped onto his robe, that doubled as a bedroll. He hadn't a clue where he was headed, driven ever onward by whatever force possessed him. His two companions sat beside the dead fire, each in leather bags, the ashy remains of his siblings. He didn't remember much after they were slain by the Perfect's witchcraft, as the alien visions took forefront. He'd awaken from their grasp on horseback with his sister and brother's bodies bound tightly on Cisnero's mount. When the horse died, he burned their remains and cooked the animal.

    As the pyre of his dearest died, another flame burned his skin, except he was in the body of a woman. Her veins ran hot with betrayal, as she and her fellows tried to escape a massive barred chamber of Jade, consumed by golden flame. She managed to breech the gates with a desperate leap, shocked to see on the other side a massive assembly of Dragon-Blooded. Her disloyal soldiers, ready in their strongest armor and armed with their deadliest weapons, rushed forth. Their animas glowed with the five elements of Creation, and a battle that ended an age erupted…

    )"(​

    The days rolled on. Some inner magic of his new state was the only thing sustaining him. His clothes were beginning to fray, his rations dismally low, and his beloved ride, Northern Breeze, was on her last leg. Wind Fire didn't know how much more he could take of this. He lived in two minds, which pushed him ever forward to some destination that felt familiar. He rested when he could, pondering on what he'd become.

    He knew he was Anathema, one of the Sun demons cast down by the Exalted Dragon Blooded in the time before. His sister had named his caste, one of the Forsaken. Its mark had glowed from his forehead - a brand composed of a ring, surrounded by lines, like rays that emanated off the celestial light. From what he could remember they were the warriors of the fallen beings, abandoned, betrayed or something by the other castes to fight the Dragon's children. The nomad didn't know what to think of this, being possessed more and more by the memories that weren't his own. He figured he must be losing his soul, soon the Anathema would take hold of him and he would be no more. However, why would he be given such power to fight his enslavers, why were the memories filled with battles against demons and the Fae, protecting mortal folk…

    )"(​

    In an enclosed dusty valley, the structure rose out of the sheer side of the mountain. Two pillars, carved to resemble the Unconquered Sun and Luna, held up the relief carving of the Battle of Glass Sands - where she and her lover slew the crystal beast, avenging a dozen massacred villages.

    She turned to him, then in the shape of a man, with detail catching, moon-colored eyes. "This was the spot we fled to, after the fight where we began our love." She took hold of his wiry body. "I discovered it was an unknown demanse and had this built by my friends in the Earth Court."

    "It's beautiful my love." He took her in his arms and they kissed. "Now we have an abode for our feelings to be free."

    "Yes…but I wish we could be free in the open."

    "You know that's impossible…my wife would never let me go. And you two are circlemates as well."

    "I know, but you know she cares for her pleasures more than either of us. She sends you out like a dog to police her domain…"

    He interrupted. "It could lead to more trouble, Radiance…and things are already troubled as it is."

    She lowered her eyes, but he took her chin and drew his face in for another deep kiss…


    )"(​

    Wind Fire gazed upon the buried site, a mudslide nearly obliterating the entrance. He loosely tied Northern Breeze to a cactus, so if he didn't return she could escape. The nomad then proceeded wearily toward the manse, feeling the flow of Creation's energies condensing into this one spot, focused through the arcane structure. He squatted down and motioned his way inside the tiny ruin of an entrance, letting the torch he assembled out of his bow and a robe strip, reveal the path. He made out a tunnel, and casting aside his doubts, continued onward.

    After crawling through the collapsed portion, he emerged into a hall with a curved ceiling, covered in pictographs and the flowing script of some long forgotten language. It ended in a small circular room, centered around a pillar of solid diamond or crystal, with more etchings of the archaic writing. The nomad peered around the column, seeing another doorway leading into the consuming pitch of a much larger space.

    He moved his torch about, trying to uncover the layout with his meager light. Motion caught his ear, metal scraped against stone, coming closer with every breath. Wind Fire went for his scimitar, taking a defensive stance while attempting to get a view with his torch, stretching his senses further out. It was then he caught a glint of something metallic, but as soon as it touched the edge of his vision, a blur of something swiped at him. His hand twirled to parry the attack, mixed with his own skill and some supernatural instinct. Metal clanged and with another strange urging, he shoved down what ever hit his sword, and with a half-spin, reared up a kick. The nomad's boot collided into something hard, but it seemed to bend in, almost liquefying, absorbing the blow. The kick still sent whatever his assailant was flying back half an arm or so, onto its back. Wind Fire then leaped at it, raising his scimitar up for a concluding chop, discarding his torch in assurance of a strike. To his surprise, his opponent wasn't as prone as he thought, feeling a rush of movement before his blade struck the hard floor of the manse.

    The nomad reared around, breathing hard from annoyance and fear at not knowing what he faced, in addition to his agitation at being dragged by his visions to this ruin. He desired light, and with that wish, Wind Fire found himself bursting into illumination. His anima returned, glowing with the hues of dawn, banishing his attacker's cover. A square cut room was exposed, leading off to three other exits, with a column stairwell of the same translucent crystal at its core. Each doorway also possessed smaller half-pillars of the diamond substance, on either side; and more relief carvings, dedicated to spirits or such, bedecked the otherwise smooth, solid walls. A variety of rotted and broken structures were scattered about on the stone tiled floor, which Wind Fire assumed had once been furniture.

    Movement scurried behind the central stairs. He turned to meet it as it came up from his rear. What resembled a complete suit of plate armor charged from behind the bend, only to slam to a total halt at the sight of the shinning nomad. Getting a better look, Wind Fire witnessed no eye holes on its sheer, polished face. Its limbs seemed far too thin to hold natural human arms, moving almost like fluid, with no sense of joints, ending in long, gleaming, dagger sized talons. The armor relaxed into straight, soldierly position.

    Then, to his amazement, the face plate rippled like water as a mouth formed. "Lawgiver, you have returned."

    Wind Fire kept his sword ready. "What?"

    "I have completed my task." It continued. "I have guarded Bright Hawk and this manse until your incarnation's return, as ordered. Your bow is below, in the Heartstone Chamber." The talking armor's mouth then shimmered, returning to the silvery mirror it was before. It's head dropped as if it fell asleep standing.

    Wind Fire went cautiously to it, studying the creature. What in Malfeas is this thing? He even jabbed at its face with the tip of his scimitar, disappointed when it didn't ripple, just making the ding of metal striking metal. It wouldn't respond in anyway, even when shoved. The once moving suit of armor just stood silent, like a statue.

    The nomad backed away, not sure what to do, pondering over its final message. What is Bright Hawk? He decided to explore further; maybe he would discover at least a few answers to the strangeness that now ruled his life. Wind Fire took to the stairs, descending the ghostly steps into the abyss below. At the bottom was another door, marked by the same half-columns as in the main space. Entering, he had his blade ready for further trouble. Within a minor room was a pedestal of carved crystal, holding a small smoky diamond. Beyond this was a statue that emerged from an apse in the wall, a marble shaping of a stern woman, bearing the features of one from the Deep South. Her hair was braided, held back in a high pony tail, wearing etched representations of a toga, covered by intricately decorated granite armor. A symbol of the brilliant Sun rose off her breastplate, while in her hand was a bow, constructed of a bright, somewhat gold looking material. It was forged to resemble two hawks, the limbs carved into the animal's wings, holding a wire draw string. It was possibly the most beautiful weapon he'd ever seen, and the one from my vision…

    )"(​

    She knelt in her red and gold robes, gazing upon the faces of her circle. She had only known them for the past few years, since her exaltation, but they had grown to be her new family. And this feeling was only enhanced by her past self's memories of their millenia of companionship.

    The oldest of them, who had seen the early days of the Realm, held out the power bow of the Unconquered Sun's chosen material. "Take this my sister, for it was yours in another life, returned to you so you may honor its legacy." The caramel skinned women spoke, whose thick, golden curls fell well past her waist. She was clad in a dress of threaded Orichalum, and Blue and White Jade.

    "Thank you Isharia." She said, rising to become a full member of her circle.

    The rest of the Solars gathered around with words and grasps of congratulations. An older, somewhat stout man, gave her a hug; his dusky skin was just lighter then hers, with his thin, cinnamon hair sheared close to his scalp. Next to him, a lanky man, the color of bark off a tree and possessing a long emerald mane, shook her hand. And the next youngest Exalted, a women of a gold complexion and medium ruby locks, simply bowed to her, in her rather aloof manner.

    She held the essence powered weapon, letting it bond with her once again.


    )"(​

    Wind Fire held Bright Hawk in his hand, as his sight returned to himself. He could feel the power of the bow melding with his own spirit. Knowing the weapon was his, he felt whole again. Studying the bow, the Hahjab noticed an etching above the handle, where the top hawk-sculpture's beak opened wide. His attention was then drawn to the precious stone, atop the pedestal. Wind Fire reached for that as well, instantly connecting with the knot of power that made up the manse, letting it flow into him as well. By that strange familiar instinct, which drove him this far, he attached the diamond to Bright Hawk. In the blink of an eye, he swore he felt the bindings that held his body thicken and harden.

    The nomad, Chosen of this Unconquered Sun, surged with might, and he knew exactly what he was going to direct it toward. Burning with sworn vengeance against the Perfect, he departed, his own memories of Topaz and Storm fanned his rage higher and brighter. You will have your justice, all our people will.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  16. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Trials
    The rain continued to fall, the light drizzle soaked her robe and into her garments below. This is not what Jalah expected in her journey through the Southlands. Sure, she was glad for having no want for water, her waterskin full of the life giving liquid; but all her life she'd heard of the land's searing, baked landscape, drained to Creation's sandy and rocky bones. The Realm-born youth had received a taste of this when she first arrived, in the twilight of the Flame Season, but never expected her discomfort to come from the constant dampness of the South's Air Season. With little choice but to carry on, Jalah followed near the shoreline, just far enough inland to keep the Inland Sea out of sight, but still close enough to taste its salty spray.

    Jalah had been doing her best to navigate her way through this foreign corner of Creation, walking the dry, but green scrublands. Despite the weather, the Sun was still hot enough to paint her light skin with a touch of olive, but she was wise enough to keep her body covered in the robe, even when the rain cleared. With a crack of thunder, Jalah saw no sunlight would be gifted to her that day, witnessing a storm quickly rolling in from the sea. She took refuge under small hedge of long leafed trees, she heard the locals refer to as 'gum trees'. She tied her robe amongst the branches, and took further cover by squeezing what she could of herself in a burrow. Undistracted by simply putting one foot in front of the other, the rumbles in her belly were heard again, along with the screaming sores on her feet. Jalah might have been a slave, but being a personal assistant to one of the Princes of the Earth allowed her to live without most wants. Daring to miss prepared food and plush bedding, Jalah pulled the last bit of the stale flat bread she bought in a coastal village, where she abandoned the fishing boat that carried her into freedom.

    The former servant decided to focus on something else, pulling out her book. Reading again the arcane text of how Creation was pooled together from the various elements of Earth, Air, Wood, Fire, and Water. To harness the power of these elements, a sorcerer could repool it into what she or he desired. But how in Malfeas do you accomplish this, ugh! Her frustration boiled. Jalah had gone over it and over it when ever she dared to catch a breath, but the power still eluded her. She'd heard the stories how her 'kind' had channeled some of the most unholiest of magics, surely this meant she could call on the power of Creation as well. Her eyes raised to sky once again, drawn by the lightning that danced across the heavens.

    )"(​

    He couldn't help but find her beauty exquisite, absolutely alluring. Even with her body wrapped in traveling robes, still of the finest silks, it was hard for him to keep his eyes off her for long. She turned to him, the lips of her caramel skinned face forming into that sly smile of hers, fully exposed with her cascade of golden curls bound into a long braid and partially concealed by a gauzy shawl.

    She pointed to the rumbling sky. "Do you feel it, the raw essence at its core, shaping it into the form it currently holds?"

    "I...I'm not sure. I can see its power." He replied, shifting uncomfortably on his Simhata. The lion-horse, largely resembling a massive equine, but the animal's hoofs were more claw like, and the face was very much of a great cat's cast. They were the mounts of the Chosen, still not believing he was riding one, just as much as him being exalted by the Unconquered Sun.

    She closed her eyes, stinging him, for he knew he disappointed her. "No Soar, that is not what I meant. Any mortal, any beast for that matter can see its power. I need you to feel it, to touch its very structure." She urged her own Simhata onward through the rocky landscape, along the road of glass that cut right through it. "I want you to follow the storm, study its make up, see the way its essence links and connects with the other elements of Creation."


    )"(​

    Recovering from the vision, Jalah rubbed her face. The memories or whatever they were would strike at random, but for once she saw a connection with her current predicament. I guess this wasn't the first time I've had trouble trodding this path. Jalah closed her book and simply observed the tumultuous clouds, trying to see how it interacted with the other elements, how it churned the water, wetted the earth and vegetation, and no doubt singed them with its lightning, sparking fire. With night falling, the storm drifted away, following the path of the coast. So the runaway collected her things and went after it like the man in her vision.

    While she walked, Jalah thought on a minor point of her 'memory'. It struck her odd the man thought he was Exalted. She had been raised to believe only the Dragon Blooded were Exalted, chosen by fate and their bloodlines, which lead back to the Elemental Dragons themselves. And who is this Unconquered Sun? She tended to think it might be the name of some Yozi, one of the great infernal lords of Malfeas, but she didn't feel like a 'Chosen' of such a vile monster. Jalah still felt like herself. Well I have no idea why this god chose me, but I can't say I'm sorry, even with her hungry stomach, aching muscles, and blistered feet. For the first time since she was a child, she was free, not living on the whims of her mistress. Well, thank you, Unconquered Sun, thank you for giving me the power to never be a slave again. I can offer you that prayer at least. And if she was indeed a Chosen of this deity, Jalah doubted she would have been exalted to die of hunger in the wilderness.

    A sign of the Unconquered Sun's grace, at least how Jalah amusingly saw it, manifested itself in the form of a caravan. Just around a shrub covered hill, lied the camp of a small grouping of Chibalan merchants, taking shelter in tents, while their bound and nervous llamas were left out to suffer the rain and thunder. The former slave approached, spotting wisps of smoke emerging from flaps atop the tents, eager for the possibility of a cooked meal in a dry, warm setting.

    A dog announced her presence with threatening barks, alerting the caravan. A sword carrying guard emerged, swarthy skinned like most Southerners, with his dirty blonde hair pulled back in a topknot, wearing the stripped, wool ponchos that Jalah noticed were popular amongst the common people of the region. He challenged her, but relaxed once she dropped her hood. "It's some girl, and she's all by herself." He informed the others, watching wearily from their tents. He returned his attention to Jalah. "What are you doing out here by yourself, girl?"

    These people are so backwards. On the Blessed Isle, women were shown their proper place, respected as the gender that gave birth to the future generations and the wisdom that came with such power, unlike the easily replaceable and violently ineffective males. In the South, it was a sharp opposite, with men dominating all, their female partners treated little better then breeding stock and maids. How did the women down here allow this to happen, given the barbarians were beholden to the Realm, their nations swearing allegiance to an empress. As far as Jalah was concerned, this piece of the Threshold was perhaps the most ignorant and foolish of all four directions of Creation.

    None the less, she decided to play the part. "I'm lost and I've run out of food."

    With those words spoken she was heartedly welcomed into the camp. The former slave was given a warm place, right in front of the meager cooking fire within the central tent, then handed a bowl of their simmering stew and a full loaf of flat bread. Jalah tore into them, as the merchants said the lucky spirits of the Air Season's rains delivered her to them. She had to hide her contempt of such 'blessings', knowing in the Threshold the people freely worshiped the little gods; unless one was an Immaculate monk, it was forbidden on the Blessed Isle to placate the spirits, only the Dragons themselves deserved veneration. The spirits were to keep Creation functioning, not worshiped, a lesson forgotten in these hinterlands. I wonder how the Unconquered Sun feels about this. She thought, plunging a piece of stew soaked bread into her mouth.

    "This is a dangerous place, very wild, there isn't a village for many days travel." One of the merchants, the youngest, proclaimed.

    "I know." Jalah replied. "I just passed through the one north of here. Could you point me to the next one?"

    "You aren't a Southerner." Another, with very curly, almost kinky hair, studied her. "Where you from and why you traveling alone?"

    Jalah paused, trying to summon some plausible lie. "I'm from the East, and my ship sunk." She took another bite of her bread, trying to recall a destination; the former slave remembered a city she'd seen on a map. "I was headed to Jolcomba."

    "I'm sorry to hear that, the sea spirits can be so cruel." The final merchant, the oldest, his wispy goatee colored gray, said sympathetically. He took a copper amulet from around his neck, kissing it. "Jolcomba is over a Moon's turning away by foot. But we're headed south, you could join us that far. Were you the only survivor?"

    Jalah called upon her glummest face as she sadly nodded yes.

    The curly haired man scooped out a portion of the stew with his bread. "Yes, you should join us then. The road can be very dangerous, especially for a lonely woman." She noticed a lustly gleam in his eye. "It would be more then an honor, an obligation to see you at least partially there."

    It was tempting to accept their offer, even with the curly haired merchant's not-so-noble intentions. She moved her mouth to say she'd join them, when a crack of thunder deafened them all, followed by a wet gust of wind that blew open the tent. Jalah caught a glimpse of outside, seeing the starlight poking through the clouds, knowing the storm was moving along once again. She didn't know why, but she knew she needed to keep pace with the violent weather. So the runaway refused, no matter their insistence, even making up customs from her imaginary, Eastern homeland about excepting offers from strange men. To her delight, they wouldn't let her leave without gifting her with another loaf of bread and some preserved goat meat. A sweet smile and a dinar also earned Jalah the youngest merchant's flint stone. No more cold, fireless nights for me.

    The storm continued south, eventually taking her off the road and into the increasingly rough hills, growing steeper as the mountains rose closer. With the Moon beginning to set, the mountains and coastline became almost as one, and Jalah came upon a tower. The ruined, half-broken building stretched out of the rocky shore, in the shadows of some fairly steep cliffs, waves of the sea crashing against them. Looking on the tower, a recollection dawned on her, remembering she saw it in her first vision, when the Anathema claimed her. No, when I was exalted...

    )"(​

    "This is all yours, your inheritance from your previous incarnation." She said to him, pushing a braid of her golden curls behind her shoulder.

    "Walking Night...right?" He asked her, gazing about the study, filled with tomes on various subjects, ranging from treatises on the area's spirits to histories of the Near South's economy, and of course a fine collection of sorcerous knowledge.

    "Yes." She said with a hint of sadness.

    "I'm sorry..."

    "There's nothing to apologize about. It was indeed a tragedy, his soul returned to the cycle too soon. But such is life, and he lives on in you. One day our places may be exchanged, teaching whoever shall inherit my divinity."

    Her words pleased him, but made him blush. He tried to hide his reddening face, embarrassed.

    She gently lifted his jaw. "You're very sweet. Don't loose that. Walking Night was much too aloof, much too rigid. But I swear you Twilights all get that way, ever striving for understanding and knowledge."

    "I won't, I promise." He'd do anything for her. He wanted to take her hand, but knew it would be inappropriate. She was married after all, and her husband was not a man he wanted to anger.

    "Good." She let him go. "But we have much to go over, and I fear you won't have the leisurely pace of my learnings. I tell you, times are growing dark and you will need your strength."


    )"(​

    Jalah heard the woman's words echo in her subconscious, finding herself within a broken room, strewn with debris and collapsed masonry. Wondering how she'd gotten in her present place, the former slave realized she must have gone into the building when possessed by her memories. Jalah pondered on the exchange between the man and woman, the man had been exalted like her, and was called a 'Twilight'. She remembered the stories of how the Anathema were divided into castes, but couldn't recall their names, but knew none were benignly named such things as Twilight. It must be what my caste is truly called.

    In the time she was consumed by her visions, the storm had passed her by. What remained of the structure still dripped with water, but it was better then sleeping outside again. So Jalah gathered a heap of the roots, vines, and moss from the tower's walls to assemble something that could fuel a fire, spending a good amount of time and effort to get them to catch aflame. She knew it wouldn't last long, and snuggled close enough to absorb its meager heat, falling almost instantly into slumber.

    )"(​

    The path from his tower lead to the stairway, carved right from the rock of the cliff face by enslaved demons. It lead to a cave far above, giving one a grand view of the lapping waves of the Inland Sea, crashing against the rocky and lightly vegetated coast. It was his favorite little bit of Creation, his private abode to conduct his research, or to simply escape from the tedious affairs of state and marvel at the beauty of the world.

    On a dark night of a new moon, the cave served a different purpose. The well sculpted and smooth walls were covered with sigils and protective wards, chiseled right into the rock. They focused the essence, trapping it within the extravagant design of the summoning circle, fixed into the floor of the deepest room of the cavern. The only light came off the caster himself, his anima blaring brightly in the colors of a Sunset. Sweat dripped from his brow, uttering the last words of the Moon Movements long chant. The incantation finished, all the summoned essence bled from his body and burst through the walls of Creation, drilling into the cosmic prison of Malfeas. The energy reached out, grasping the demon he named, pulling her from the abyssal pit she claimed as her personal domain.

    Her frigid presence filled the room. She could be said to be shaped like a naked, young adolescent female; her skin was a sheet white, contrasting her tendrils of shadowy hair, which floated and drifted out like ink pored into water. Her eyes were also a dead give away of her foul nature, far too large to be natural, and solid obsidian orbs - sucking in every detail of anyone they had the misfortune of falling on, boring into the most private places of one's mind. Ashikirei, Drinker of Secrets. No mortal being, spirit, or even Exalted were exempt from her sickening and intruding glare.

    She challenged him, pushing at his might, attempting to slither past the wards; but the summoner willed her down, mentally slapped her into submission. "What do you want of me Sun-Child?" The demon demanded in a noxious, grating voice.

    "Ashikirei, I want to know what my sister is up to. I want you to drink her secrets and deliver them to me and only me! When I am satisfied with what I know, you shall be free to return to your prison." He replied with a cold, commanding tone, full of revulsion for the being he summoned.


    )"(​

    Jalah awoke from the dream, dim sunlight reaching through the many holes of the ruin. The former slave sat up and stretched, her body stiff as ever from her uncomfortable bedding, but she'd grown use to it. Peering out of an absent portion of the ceiling, she spied what appeared to be a cave, high up in the cliff face. That's the same one from my dream. And with that thought, she hurried outside.

    Under a lightly overcast sky, Jalah discovered the same steps from her memory, cracked and eroded with age, but still usable. She ascended them as fast as she dared, careful not to slip on their slick and unreliable surface. Reaching the cave, Jalah hesitated for a moment before its dark depths, but her yearning to explore pushed her foot foreword. Only arms in, the darkness ate her sight, but her desire for light called on her inner jubilation again, freezing from the surprise of the soft golden glow surrounding her.

    The aura revealed the same smooth innards, and stepping deeper she came upon a chest. Its metal frame corroded completely to rust, while the wooden body was decayed. Her curiosity again tossed caution to the wind, kneeling to open it; the lock was gone, as well as any strength in its hinges, breaking once lifted. In contrast to the container, gleaming unblemished chain lied within. Jalah lifted the fine shirt of mail, appearing to be smelted from sunlight. It felt familiar, like an old friend. "Your name is Sun Scales.", somehow recalling the title of the armor.

    The cave went onward, and Jalah followed its course, tugging along Sun Scales. The walls of the cavern widened, growing into a room. However, despite her luminescence, it failed to penetrate the pitch about her. It also grew increasingly chill, so much so, Jalah pulled her robe tighter around her. Then she remembered what her past self had summoned, feeling the very same polluting presence. Oh by the Dragons...It was all she could coherently think before an iron vice gripped her throat and shoved her to floor. A ghastly pale girl pressed her body atop hers, wickedly smiling as her shadowy hair wrapped around the former slave's limbs. The demon's solid black eyes looked directly into her own, feeling them violate her mind. Jalah screamed.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  17. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    The Raid​

    Everything was burnt, from the fields to the homes, including the beasts and the village folk. For the latter, their bodies were horribly mutilated, suffering horrendous tortures before they were given to the flames. He'd seen horrors such as this before, witness to battles at the edge of Creation, seeing soldiers slaughtered as such to expand the Realm into the madness of the Wyld. But this was not the consequence of touching the churning, endless chaos of the Fae. This was all deliberate, purposeful in the defilement of life.

    "Their tracks go into the mountains." A feminine voice surprised him. He turned to see his circlemate, her gold colored face like stone, while her short locks of tied back, ruby hair fluttered in the wind. "I'd say they were heavily armed, given the weight of their foot prints, but their departing marks are much lighter. They were speeded away by some sorcery, warded as well."

    "So, you have no idea who they might be?" He questioned.

    "Well, their leader rode a demon, an agatae." She pointed to a patch of disturbed and long dried mud. "I saw its tracks where it landed; and I'm familiar with their bite, it's all over some of the victims."

    He thought on a plan of attack. "Can you follow them?"

    "Of course." For a moment, he swore her cold eyes almost rolled at him.

    "Good, do this. I'll have the Lunars scout the rest of the area in case they try something, and I'll be behind you with the rest of our force." His face then filled with righteous wrath. "These bastards will burn for this, I swear it by Sun and Moon, and all five Maidens!"


    )"(​

    Tonauac snapped awake from the dream, sucking down breath as he realized he was not in the ruins of some village, but in a bed, gazing up at the thatch ceiling of the adobe room. He flung off the rough covers, moving his naked and massively muscled body toward the window, pushing aside the sun bleached drapery to gaze out at the new day. Outside stretched the town of Kerhama, with its dirt roads and clusters of clay brick dwellings, a few structures in stone, such as the thick walled temple-hold at the community's center. It was one of the larger town's in the Anjala Valley - the greenest piece of land anyone could hope to find this far in the South. The mountains that surrounded the land were clearly visible along the horizon, from the towering Heaven Touched range to the north, with their actual snow caps, which flowed fresh water into the valley; and to the west rose the smaller and more foreboding Scoured Peaks, aptly named for their baked and lifeless heights. The same mountains from my dream, except the Scoured were just as white tipped as the Heaven Touched.

    "Tona." Yutero called him, his voice full of sleep. The wiry, bronze skinned man stirred from beneath the covers. His kinky blonde hair was braided against his scalp like a Brassite woman's. "Up so soon, why don't you come back to bed?"

    The giant turned to the prostitute and smiled, rubbing his chin. Yutero was long a friend, paying him more out of intimate feelings then for trade; he could easily have him for free, but Yutero needed the coin. Tonauac forced even more dinars then usual on him, since he shacked up with the prostitute for the past week. The madjai felt the need to skip town after giving his former employer a taste of justice, leaving Brass after cleansing the dayia's manor with fire. He was sure no one knew it was him, doing the deed under the cover of Calibration's last moonless night, but just in case he kept a low profile.

    "My feet have need to be used. I'll fetch us some breakfast." The madjai told him, and donned his clothing to leave.

    He finished putting his hair up in a topknot as he stepped into the main room of Kerhama's inn and tavern. Mostly other travelers sat on the rugged floors, grouped around tables, eating the establishment's breakfast of tea and sweet canjeero bread. For a small community in the hinterlands it received many guests from the caravans that traveled the nearby Flame Road. Most of the patrons either ignored him or tried to hide their looks, a few politely smiled. They all knew who he was, especially when they first came to see his missing pinky - the mark of his exile and giver of his title 'Four-Fingers'. Before being chosen, he spent years earning a reputation and fame many madjai would sell their souls for; now, it was a inescapable curse, especially if his deed in Brass became known. I'll find out soon enough, if my 'brothers' arrive for the price on my head.

    He went over to the counter, ready to ask for his own breakfast, when his ears picked up a scream. No one else in the tavern seem to notice, but as Tonauac focused his hearing, he heard further disturbances: galloping hoofs, the twang of arrows, even the crackle of flames, and of course further cries. At this point the sounds alerted the other patrons, and he rushed to the door. Outside, the attackers were announced by fleeing townsfolk and a flight of flaming arrows, before the mounted bandits themselves burst into view. The madjai went for his 'twins', but he'd left them back at Yutero's room. Cursing his stupidity, he took a subtle battle stance, for he trained his own body into a weapon as well.

    Tonauac sprang at the closest one, catching his sword arm as the bandit swung, and with a twist, pulled him from his horse and yanked the sabre from the man's hand. The Madjai continued to turn on his heels, hacking the blade deeply into another rider's side. The man fell dead from his mount. Tonauac faced the rest, over half a dozen, and roared as he slashed the air with his stolen, bloody weapon. He felt a charge of power and the bandits all met his eyes.

    )"(​

    He slashed a man down, his daiklave, Divinity's Wrath, broke through the common steel of his lamellar and mail, biting through flesh and bone. He reared his armored Simhata around, readying his large straightedged sword - the color of sunlight, with a flame shaped core of Red Jade, extending down into the hilt where the fire sculpting spread out to form the crossguard. With one swing of his blade, he knocked aside several quarrels from from a pair of crossbowmen. Catching his thoughts, his mount leaped at the assailants, rending one with her claw-hoofs, while crushing the second man's head in her maw. Leaving their corpses, he rode atop the rocky outcropping in the valley, where they'd over taken the raiders.

    Below, his force of elite Terrestrial warriors, burning with the colors of the five elements, returned the favor the well armed raiders had done to the village. If it wasn't for their own Dragon Blooded leaders and summoned infernal muscle, they would have already been crushed. They fought stubbornly on, trapped, for his circlemate and the Lunars guarded the other passage out the valley. He would send all their souls screaming back to their masters in Malfeas.

    He let loose his anima, letting the golden divine light of his patron announce the charm that scoured and scattered the demons. Then he bellowed. "Flee you cowards, flee before the retribution of the Unconquered!" His words carried more magic of his station, driving fear into mortal and Exalted foe alike, sending them fleeing after the horrors they let loose to besmirch Creation.


    )"(​

    After screaming the words, Tonauac saw not demon worshipers take flight, but bandits in common clothing and scavenged armor. His mind back in Kerhama, he saw the townsfolk either fighting the flames, tending the wounded, or snatching up there own spears and clubs to give chase to the attackers.

    His eyes caught several young children and their mother grieving over a dead man, struck in the throat by an arrow. The madjai had seen plenty of such scenes in course of his life, but since the Duster village, he couldn't close his heart to it any longer, the casing of flint he built over it was cracked and crumbling. Then he remembered the bandit he pulled from the horse, seeing him trying to slip away. Tonauac tripped him and put the point of the sabre to his throat.

    "Mercy, mercy." The bandit begged.

    The giant yanked the man up by his cloak, bringing their faces close. "Tell me where you bastards hide away and I'll give you chance to try and escape." The bandit was speechless, so Tonauac growled deeper. "Tell me! It's the best chance you're gonna get, or I'll just turn you over right now."

    The bandit muttered out a location - some hills, past Kerhama's fields, near the banks of the Prism River. "I'll take you there myself, please, anything."

    The madjai tossed him down, he wanted nothing more from the murderer. The bandit glanced around, still unnoticed, and fled. Tonauac figured he wouldn't make it far, but he cared nothing for the man's fate. Dropping the sabre, he rushed back to the inn.

    As he entered Yeturo's room, the prostitute asked. "What happened, I heard screaming?" Tonauac filled him in as he grabbed his gear. "What are you doing?"

    Throwing on his buff jacket, Tonauac answered. "I'm going after them."

    "Did the town elders hire you already?"

    "No."

    Before Yeturo could question further, the madjai was out the door, tightening the straps of his fighting gauntlets and adjusting the huge falchion he had hanging from his back. He hurried to the stables, retrieved his horse, and sped after his querry.

    He came upon the hills, full of oddly colored scrub and strangely shaped, stunted trees. The source of the vegetations' oddity flowed just beyond it, from the waters of the Prism, shifting in colors like a rainbow. It was said to be a legacy of the great Fae Invasion, in the wake of the Contagion, which nearly unmade Creation and ended the Old Realm. It was the perfect location for a hideout, being the river was rightly considered cursed, its spirit driven mad by the Wyld corruption.

    He left his mount behind and swept in as quietly as possible. Tonauac could make out movement, but desired more information before he stepped in closer. With his desire, his senses expanded and the giant could make out less then a dozen men, scrambling to unmake their camp in the gully between the rises. He readied his flame pieces and whispered a prayer to both the god of war, Ahlat, and the Unconquered Sun, then rose to attack.

    Creeping closer, Tonauac rushed down a hill and dispatched the first bandit with a mighty blow of his steel coated fist, smashing his face into ruin. While the raiders were still surprised, he manage to drop another pair, launching a jaw shattering spin kick, and rearing up on the other with a blast of Flare. It was a risky shot, but he felt the tingle of energy as the Solar's inner magic guided his aim, leaving the bandit a bonfire that scattered the gang's horses as he ran frightfully about. The madjai charged another, who managed to draw his sword. Tonauac knocked a blow aside with one gauntlet and smashed down his other armored fist onto his head, feeling the man's skull and teeth crack. The bandit crashed to the dirt, completely stunned, while two of his compatriots launched their own charge. Tonauac didn't wait, freeing his falchion, he rushed into the dance of steel. Some instinct took over the Sun Chosen, and right before they were in arms length, he leaped up, kicking out both his feet into the surprised raiders' chests. Tonauac landed on his back, but the strange intuition moved his body into a quick roll, leaving him on his feet and ready to pounce.

    While the two he kicked over struggled to recover, a bandit coming close to the madjai's size entered the fray. Their steel kissed several times, until they locked their swords, challenging each others' strength to see who would be pushed back first. Tonauac broke, deliberately dropping his blade, spinning right around his huge opponent, firing Ruby at another bandit who was notching an arrow. Exposing himself with that attack, the large raider managed to get good hack at Tonauac's shoulder. It sheered through his buff jacket and into his flesh. Grinding his teeth from both pain and anger, the madjai snatched his opponent's sword arm, yanking it down and spinning on his heels, he sailed his elbow right into the bandit's face. The hulking man nearly collapsed, grabbing his bloody mess of a nose; this gave Tonauac a chance to yank free his assailant's own blade, burying the sabre deep into his gut.

    The rest fled, including the pair he drop kicked, either on feet or any horse they managed to grab. Tonauac decided to let them go, justice was done as far as he was concerned. He delivered mercy blows to the big bandit, and the one whose skull he cracked clean open; then he set their bodies aflame, whispering a prayer for their souls. Binding his wound with a rag he found, he closed in on the last living bandit, whose nose and teeth he shattered at the opening of the fight. Tonauac bound his wrists, and forced him up to be delivered back to the townsfolk of Kerhama.

    "Pthease." He gargled, spitting up blood and teeth.

    "Shut up." Tonauac Cooley ordered.

    "I can pay you."

    "You can pay me in your blood, when they hang your ass."

    The bandit fell to his knees. "No, I'm not justh some bandith you idioth. I'm a sworn sthword to Dayia Shebith."

    Tonauac pulled him up. "I take it you left out, you use to be."

    "No, we were only dithguising ourselves, all of us stherve him." He proclaimed to the madjai's annoyance. "We're punithing that pig, Aryamani!"

    Tonauac spun him around. "Even if this is true, you're punishing the dayia of this place by trying to burn a town down, disguised as damn bandits!"

    His growing voice unnerved the bandit-soldier into silence. The fire of his temper was stroked, and Tonauac grabbed the man by his throat, pinching his metal coated fingers harder and harder into his dusky flesh.

    )"(​

    "Where is she!" He yelled at the raider.

    The wounded woman, with flaming red hair and scarlet touched skin, gazed up at him, eyes wide with terror. She and her ilk turned out to be more then just Yozi worshiping bandits, but soldiers of a sister, a fellow Solar. The thought of her treason sickened him beyond anything he'd ever felt. When she did not answer, he slapped the spent Terrestrial, splattering more of her blood to the dirt.

    "You will tell me!" His anima flared with his anger, mimicking the flames that sprouted up the length of Divinity's Wrath. He snatched out the traitor's arm, and in a blink of an eye, severed the limb clean. The Dragon Blooded howled in pain. "Tell me!"

    A clawed and silver furred hand grabbed his shoulder. "You're going to kill her!"

    He shrugged him off, facing the Lunar in his hybrid form of human and animal - a hound-man swaddled in silvery chain and dark cloths, with twin curving daiklaves hanging from their scabbards on his back. "I don't care, Tamuz!"

    "You should Scour, if we ever want to find her!" He literally growled back.

    "Pakina." He called to his circlemate. "She's yours to get the answers out of."

    She walked over to the grimacing Terrestrial. The Solar's face showed no pleasure at the task she was going to undertake, but he knew she would not flinch from it. She forced her up, dragging the Dragon Blooded away to where she forced answers out of the others.


    )"(​

    Tonauac came to, realizing his captive was nearly unconscious. He dropped the bandit, who choked and fought to breathe. The madjai blinked, recovering from the sudden flashback. What he saw quite frankly disturbed him, but he had no time to ponder over some memory of eons past.

    He gazed down on the disguised soldier. "So if you're speaking the truth, you won't mind bringing me to your lord, huh?"
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  18. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    First Step
    Ryana approached the shattered ruins of Chiaroscuro's Old City. The glass towers of the First Age reached up to the night shrouded heavens, where their heights hadn't been broken by calamity and time. The section she gazed upon had a darker cast to it, the brilliant colors of the structures were muted, and she could feel the wrongness of it all. Still, Ryana kissed her charm necklace and stepped over the carved line, filled with salt, leaving the lands of the living, entering the Shadowlands of the dead. Since she was a child, the Blade had been warned to not to cross those areas marked off by the salt. They'd been filled by the great Kha-Khan, when he lead the Delzhan horde to conquer the city. The Heaven sent warlord meant to make Chiaroscuro into the most prized possession of the empire he carved out; and he didn't want the restless dead, which infested the City of Glass like maggots in a rancid corpse, to spoil its resurrection.

    The young woman crept along the cracked streets, which would have been vermilion in Creation, but was more of a blood red in the Underworld. The Bisha'a dressed herself appropriately, all in black, including the leather of her belt that held her many knives, and the bracers where the blades of her tiger claws extended from. She also shrouded her face beneath a wrapping of cloth, exposing only a slit for her hazel eyes.

    Heading several blocks deeper, keeping her back to the walls and never lingering far from a shadow, Ryana came upon her targets. Around a corner stalked what looked to be a man and a woman, but their skin was decayed, pulled taunt against visibly withered muscle and blackened bone. The green tinge to their necrotic flesh marked their deaths coming from the Great Contagion. Dying horribly, bodies left to rot without burial, their souls arose full of outrage and madness, striking out at anything living. They were hungry ghosts.

    Ryana called on the magics of the Anathema that she now was, it made her unnoticeable to the ghosts, coming about them on the rear. She readied her tiger claws and pounced, leaping at the male like a great cat, slashing her claws through the maddened soul. Her blow carried with it more of her power, ripping the creature nearly in half. He fell, disintegrating into smoke. The female roared, rearing her bloody jaws around to take a bite at Ryana. She hopped back, landing on all fours, ready to leap again. And the Blade did, launching an up-swinging kick into the ghost's jaw, using the momentum to fully flip her body in mid air, landing back in her original position. Before the spirit could recover, Ryana flew at her again, rending open her chest with both claws. Like her partner, she collapsed into quickly departing wisps.

    Her ear picked up running steps, turning just in time to see another hungry ghost rushing at her. He howled with a half rotted face, reaching for Ryana with his fleshless fingers. Even with her training and skill, she never would have been able to avoid the charge, but again her powers saved her, propelling her twisting dodge with uncanny speed. With the ghost passing her, the Blade tripped the frenzied spirit, dropped a knee into his back, and drove her blades into his skull. The body dissipated, drifting off like the rest to where ever their remains lied, ready to reform whole at the next Sunset. Ryana was sure this was the second time she dispatched the last one.

    Hearing more foot steps, she did a running jump onto a half-broken balcony of a nearby tower. She made sure the room, with only the barest of remains from whatever furniture adorned it once, was empty. The thief dared a peek back outside, spotting more hungry ghosts hunting for the source of the disturbance, swelling to over a dozen. Reclining into the darkness, she rested, meditating while her body refilled itself with the energy she expended in the fight. Maybe she would tryout her powers on more of the ghosts, once they scattered again, or just wait until the sun rose and cross back into the living lands; Ryana wasn't sure if it was true or not, but she'd heard if you left a Shadowland at night - where Creation and the Underworld intertwined - one would travel into the realm of the dead. Trying to decide, she closed her eyes...

    )"(​

    The sun beat hot near the lands singed by the Elemental Pole of Fire, leaving it nothing but sand and rock. She couldn't remember the last time she saw anything living, whether beast or vegetation. But she needed no food or water, letting her essence sustain her body.

    She found it beautiful out in the wilds, a lonely respite from all the complications of the Realm, from the politics, from the troubles. She had only the gods, with their celestial representations in the heavens, to give her company. Here she would find the peace she craved.

    She let the movement of the Kata take over her limbs, emptying her mind of all but the fluid stances, strikes, and flips of the styles she mastered over the centuries of her exaltation. Her hands forming into claws, slashing the air in the manner of her favored Tiger Style. She would need her skill for the forth coming task, a personal form of flagellation, to redeem herself in the eyes of the Unconquered Sun.


    )"(​

    Ryana opened her eyes to the empty room, except it was now lit by the pale sunlight that manged to squeeze into the gloom of the Shadowland. The Blade found herself in a combat stance, fingers formed into an imitation of talons like in her vision. What in Malfeas am I doing?

    She relaxed her body and rubbed her eyes to recover from the vividness of it. Ever since the Anathema spirit had entered her heart, these sights of another time and another life struck her. Awake or asleep they would come, sometimes acting them out, other occasions she'd find herself in strange locations. Thankfully, Ryana had not drawn any attention to herself. But she sought out answers, consulting savants and sneaking into libraries to uncover what she could on 'her kind'. Unfortunately, her hunt bore few fruits. Most learnings of Anathema were lost like a great deal of knowledge on the First Age, and what little there was, was often confined to the language of the Old Realm, of which Ryana was illiterate in. Then there was the censorship efforts enacted by the Immacultes to consider. All she could say with any reliability was the Anathema called themselves Solars, Chosen of some Sun god; and they called her caste Night, the Hidden Suns and Daggers of Heaven. It contradicted very much the stories whispered to scare her as a child, or the teachings of the Immaculate monks, who would call her one of the Wretched. But Ryana did not whither and die upon Sunrise, or feel the call of the Yozis, or wish to stalk and kill innocents, even when she was overcome by the visions. And if these crimes were committed by these other lives she saw through, there was no sign of it there either. From rumor though, the Bisha'a learned she was not the only one, but a flooding of Anathema stories were uttered from many a lip in the years since the disappearance of the Scarlet Empress. Thankfully, my name isn't in one of them, and by the gods' graces it'll remain that way.

    Ryana grabbed her hemp shoulder bag, and exchanged her blacks for some street clothes (which were still largely dark in color), also hiding her tiger claws within. Then she called on her anima, but instead of it blazing with all its glory, it wrapped around her, making her melt into the shadows. Shrouded, she slipped back into Creation, releasing her anima once she was a safe distance away. Whatever one might say about her being an Anathema or Solar or whatever, the thief couldn't deny how it increased her already impressive talents a hundred fold.

    As the season's rains drizzled again, the Blade made her way through the edge neighborhoods, labyrinths of slums that pressed and mingled amongst the Old City. These were Ryana's stomping grounds growing up in the City of Glass. She peered out from the hood of her open tunic, passing the hovels of two to three story buildings, divided into apartments and store fronts, next to shacks of scavenged stone and brick. The lucky and usually wealthier managed a home in the lower and accessible levels of the glass towers; but the 'upper class' were universally the crime lords of the city. Other Blades, and their gangs of toughs, child thieves, and prostitutes all gave her gestures of greeting. The scant few shop keepers and the common edger - who made their living as laborers elsewhere in the city, or scrounged the ruins for bits of glass - glanced away fearfully from Ryana.

    She turned a corner, coming to her own tenement, climbing the outside, adobe steps to the top story. Her two-room apartment was simply furnished, with even her bed just a hammock aside the window. Most of her ill gotten Jade went into her pantry, where she retrieved a loaf of pita bread and a wedge of cheese, adding the rest of her grapes to the breakfast. Ryana next lit the charcoal in her brazier stove, aside her bedding, to boil water for tea.

    Before sitting down to eat, the Blade went to her altar. It was her other main investment, especially since she became an Anathema. It lied on a low table of polished wood, covered by a cloth with embroidered images of the five Elemental Dragons, each biting the others' tail in a circle. Within this stitched image was a palm-sized ceramic sculpting of the household spirit, a small knife for Kemu, and representations of her ancestors. These took the form of the two halves of her family. Her mother's Delzhan ancestors were symbolized by a turquoise carving of a horse; a wooden lemur's head was for her father's people - his amulet, cut from the trees of his homeland in the Eastern direction of Creation. She also added a small pouch of Sahar's ashes to pray over. For all of them, Ryana made an offering of food and incense, setting both aflame with a stick from her stove. All the gods, my ancestors, I make this offering to you, to keep my mind free of any taint, to allow me to use these powers for the good of your living descendants. I know its a meager offering, but I will make more, many more worthy of your glory, she prayed.

    )"(​

    The land was nothing but baked rock, fresh obsidian and cracked earth, simmering with Creation's blood, boiling just below the surface. These were lands freshly won by the Realm from the the Third Arching Flame Campaign; she remembered the battles fifty years past, fighting side by side with her circle in that brutal two decade war. Here they still sat, barely cleansed of the Wyld's taint.

    Their neglect stirred her own fire. She'd fought hard for them. Her reasoning had little to do with her duty to the Deliberative, but to avenge her husband. The marriage to Avalu, had been largely ceremonial, but she'd grown close to the Lunar over the centuries. Battle partners. He'd died by Fae trickery in the Second Arching Flame Campaign, and she avenged him a hundred times over; her mind recalling vividly of infiltrations into the fortress-domains of the Formless Ones, felling the creatures before thousands died in sieges against air of acidic smoke, rivers of flame, and titans of melted gems - and those were the most comprehensible of the insanity that assaulted them.

    The Unconquered Sun beat heavily upon her as she dropped to her knees. The obsidian shards shattered against her gold colored skin, and felt nothing against the ember hot earth beneath. She prayed to him, to the one who exalted her, broke the chains of her mortal life, and made her a champion of Creation. She had wasted her gifts, abused them; and at that moment she asked for forgiveness, begged for the strength to atone for her trespass.

    Her essence soaked senses detected movement, and she spun around to face a spirit - formed into the shape of a giant scorpion, with a body of glowing hot plates, dripping magma from its obsidian spiked stinger. The guardian spirit radiated aggressiveness, sending it out with several lightning fast strikes and jabs with its pincers. She danced around all the blows, finally leaping back to create some distance, and let her anima flare.

    "I'm Chosen of the Sun, back down!" She commanded to the little god.

    Its words sounded like flaming hot metal being dipped in water. "Fae trick, off my land!"

    Its nature was obviously warped from its lonely vigil, and probably a bit Wyld-touched too. She drew her pair of Sky-Cutters - curved blades that resembled scimitar sized kukuris, gradually widening from a simple handle - and let the Orichalcum in 'The Wings of Retribution' shine in her patron's brilliance...


    )"(​

    The vision cleared, but part of it played out in reality, as the Blade heard a soft footstep behind her, coming from her sleeping room. Without thinking, her fingers plucked a knife from her belt and sent it soaring through the sheet that separated the two spaces of her quarters. The intruder gave off a pained curse, before he revealed himself as the Malek of the Bisha'a.

    "Now I know never to disturb you at prayer." The head of her order nursed his grazed shoulder.

    Ryana stood straight and bowed her head. "I'm sorry, Malek."

    "I'll live. Good strike, I'm lucky your aim was off." He smiled, but his gray eyes hid a little fear and annoyance.

    Lucky I was reliving another life, or that blade would have been in your heart...like Sahar...She looked away, putting out her incense to hide the sadness that bit at her heart. "Would you like some tea?"

    He politely agreed, and the two criminals sat on pillows around her low serving-table, sipping tea, sharing bread, cheese, and grapes.

    "So what do I owe the honor of you gracing my home?" The female Bisha'a began.

    He swallowed a grape. "To give you my personal condolences for Sahar. I know the job was rushed..."

    "No...I understand." Part of Ryana did blame the Malek for the all the tragedies of that night, but in the end it was just a way to cop out for her own crime. "Thanks for coming to tell me this...but I think you have a lot more to say."

    She was no fool. Sahar was a good Blade, but he wasn't special enough to warrant this kind of attention. It was only a matter of time for a Blade to be killed or captured, their ashes, if they could be recovered, entombed in the Great Well of Kemu's honored, beneath the streets of Chiaroscuro. The darkened chamber was where she placed Sahar's bodily remains, on a niche in in the wall amongst countless other brothers and sisters who'd fallen in the service of the Bisha'a. She'd received all her sympathies there, from the common membership to the conclave. So why are you here?

    The head Blade chuckled. "You're always straight to the point, girl." Sahar had said he didn't care much that. The Malek demanded obedience, but he wasn't uncordial or heavy handed; though he considered Ryana 'disrespectful', which all went back to her lack of a member between her legs. At least he supported me becoming a full Blade. "I have a task for you."

    Ryana nodded, drinking her hot beverage, and the Malek continued. "You heard of Behnam Orkhan?"

    "Yeah...he's my clan's khan's cousin." The younger blade answered. Her mother's people, despite divisions of clan and tribe, were all intermarried. Tens of thousands could claim to be nobles in Chiaroscuro alone, varied in their degrees of shared blood with the Tri-Khan of all Delzhan. Ryana wouldn't be surprised if she had some in her own veins, not that it mattered in alleviating her family's poverty.

    The Malek's eyebrow raised, lowering his tea. "You're clan?"

    "Old habit, you know my mother's blood means nothing to me." Her statement rang true for the most part. Her Delzhan parent was largely disowned by her clan for running off with an outlander. Even after he'd joined the city guard and took in his father-in-law, who was maimed in a duel, the marriage was never accepted. In law, Ryana might qualify for a Delzhan, but in practice she and her siblings were little better then outcasts. "The Bisha'a are my clan now."

    "Good. But it's still helpful you know something of the inner workings of the kufar, it'll make this job go much faster and smoother." He took another sip of tea before explaining, "I need the orkhan's favor, and his lover will be the leverage. And unlike the last job, you'll have plenty of time to research your target, the rest of this Luna's Turning in fact. You'll get one full share of the ransom as well."

    So that's why you picked me, oh well. "Sounds good, it's an honor, Malek." Ryana smiled with her agreement. A full share from a noble's ransom would further her goals considerably. The first step, Dad. Your sacrifice won't be in vain, and we won't need those kufar bastard's acceptance.

    )"(​

    "These are their names, Pakina." Her circlemate said to her, brushing aside a lock of her golden curls.

    The slave, his skin and hair sheet white from the cursed bloodline bred by another Solar sister, handed over the parchment containing the list of targets. She took it, glancing them over, committing them to memory with ease.

    "These are the traitors, the ones who disrupted the order." She sat on her throne of Jade and the Unconquered's chosen material, in a chamber of diamond, overlooking the whole of a city. Just beyond the horizon, the ground dropped into the vastness of the sky. "An example must be made, they all must know to never challenge the gods, that the unrighteous and those who offer them succor are never safe!"

    "It will done Isharia." She said coldly, calling on a flicker of essence to reduce the parchment to ash, leaving the cinders behind to begin her mission.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  19. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Scarlet Whisper​

    Fatima gazed out the window, peering up to the sky to see the odd celestial event. The Moon had crossed over the Sun, casting a shadow over Creation. She'd seen these 'eclipses' before, several occurring in the past five years. Since the Empress vanished, announcing our era of uncertainty, Fatima thought, leaving herself a mental reminder to save those words for a poem.

    The young woman returned her attention to her room. She stood slightly below average height, just a finger-length or so, with skinny limbs, and a pale complexion, colored by freckled cheeks. Her light skin was a legacy of her ancestors from the North. The Rauors were descendants of slaves who escaped to Paragon, reaching the Perfect to swear allegiance and be forever beyond the slaver's chains.

    "Fatima, here." Naomi handed her the gauzy, azure head scarf. The olive skinned servant was a woman of Fatima's age, a few years past twenty. Her black hair was smoothed back into a braid, descending down her back, covered by the drab gray dress of a commoner. "And you shouldn't let your eyes linger on that evil sight, my lady."

    "I agree." Her sister Anisa, added. The adolescent resembled her elder sister very much, same skintone and bright red hair. She had her locks cut to her shoulder, the bangs swept to the side of her face, and numerous small braids, decorated with glass beads, strung about its length. She was dressed in a ruby stola, the trim yellow and white. Anisa headed toward the door. "Well come on Fatima, we've kept everyone long enough, and I'm anxious to see your play."

    Fatima gave her sister a severe look.

    Anisa smiled. "Oh yes, it was actually the mysterious Scarlet Whisper", finishing with a giggle.

    Her sister was the only one who knew Fatima's secret (Naomi also knew, but was sworn to secrecy, with the power of the Perfect's mark ensuring she would always obey a magistrate). Despite her skill, especially after her years being educated at the Ministry of Art's academy, Fatima desired none of the fame that came with scripting plays and penning poetry. Her motivation was the pure joy of creating. The poet also intensely disliked the shallowness and vanity games of Paragon's salons. They were all backbiting vultures, who shouted false praises and whispered jealous poisons. Becoming the Scarlet Whisper was her outlet, to release her art to the city at large without joining the snobbish dance of the art scene - and this enigmatic author was making quite a name for his or herself. As far as everyone else was concerned, Fatima was just a newly minted graduate, who worked a minor position at the Ministry of Arts.

    Fatima shook her head at Anisa, and turned back for one more look at the sky. She felt no foulness from the joining of the heavenly bodies, but was drawn to it, finding it quite splendid. For some reason though, she was reminded of the Anathema that had appeared amongst the nomad-citizens, just prior to Calibration. Now that was an ill event, for an ill time. The thought of the demon made her think maybe Anisa and Naomi were right about the eclipse.

    She left the window of her sizeable and finely decorated sleeping space, standing from her polished writing desk - etched with prayers for the spirits of creativity, and strewn with pages of her work. The magistrate made a headband out of the scarf, tying up her own medium cut of hair. It matched her stola, decorated with white trim. Then she wrapped an icy blue shawl around her, warming her arms in the cool weather of the season.

    Down a flight of stairs, in the marble and basalt home, the sisters entered the central hall, where their parents and other siblings waited around the family altar.

    "There's my missing daughters." Their father greeted with amusement. It was from him they inherited their pale skin and fiery hair, except his own had gone silver with age, grown long enough to pull back into a brief, oiled ponytail. The solidly built landowner and bureaucrat for the Ministry of Agriculture was dressed in robes of blue and red. "I swear that private room I gave you, swallows you up some days."

    "Yeah, I don't understand why you two took so long", bratty Galene, the youngest sister, just beginning to grow into a woman's body, declared, "especially you Fatima, all you care about is writing. I'm surprised your makeup isn't smeared with ink." She smoothed her yellow stola, head held arrogantly high, surrounded by her long hair of ribbon curls.

    "Quiet, Galene." Anisa chided her younger sister. "You should be following your eldest sister's example, minding your studies instead of the attention of boys, or you'll lose your color."

    Anisa referred to the dress code of Paragon's classes - the common citizens were to wear gray, with only the magistrates allowed color in their attire. However, the position of the elites was not hereditary, only earned through passing the Perfect's rigorous examinations; and though a magistrate's children were given leave to dress as their parents, it was not guaranteed once they came of age - and Galene's time of testing would be coming this year. The Rauors had earned their positions, part of Paragon's promise to its citizens, a rarity in the Age of Sorrows.

    The youngest child, little Philo, not even a decade old, tugged at Galene's hair. "Yeah, leave Fatima alone!" His shaggy hair was oiled out of his face, and wore robes of his size, similar to his male parent.

    The two youngest siblings began a shouting match that was ended by their mother. "Enough!" She demanded loudly. It was from her, Fatima received her own slight frame and her big, penetrating, fawn eyes. The resemblance ended there, the female parent's skin was the common tan of the Southern coast, and her thick hair a wavy dark blonde - which was bound up in a bun and braids, supported by a wrapping of gold ribbon. Her clothing consisted of white robes, sewn about with gold thread calligraphy - the dress of a Perfect's priest. The outfit was completed by the golden orb about her neck, pressed with the eternal eye of their nation and ruler. "Brothers and sisters should not talk to each other this way, especially you Galene. Apologize to your sister at once."

    After Galene said she was sorry to Fatima, her mother faced the younger magistrate. "Though for all the time you do spend at that writing desk of yours, we've yet to see one of your works. You need to open yourself up, the Perfect knows what's in your heart, my sweet, why not open it to the whole of Paragon?"

    The poet had to lower her eyes to hide the mischievousness that filled them; shrugging as she glanced to Anisa, who hinted a smile at her.

    Their father added. "Yes, Fatima will live with her heart open eventually." His gaze fell on her, silently saying it wasn't a suggestion, before finishing, "we should get going, we're going to be late."

    The Rauors departed their home, taking a carriage to Paragon's amphitheater. The half-moon shaped structure rose high on the edge of the central magistrate district and the merchant district. The day's show was suppose to have been quite a draw, and a treat. The priests had assured attendees the skies would remain clear of rain for the outdoor show, plus a famous troupe of performers, the Bahata, had come. Fatima was eager to see the play, since she was the one who wrote it; she'd sold it, under her pen name, to the troupe's leader, Haropen, in hopes to spread her works afar. It was the dream of any playwright for their works to live beyond them, become immortal classics performed far from their homes. Sadly, the eclipse had spoiled the debut, leaving large gaps in the theater's seating.

    Taking their seats at forefront, in the canvas covered sections of plush benches, Fatima's oldest brother approached. Livian was in his officer's uniform - consisting of an pitch colored, knee length cassock and white pants. This was joined with a balteus at his waist, decorated with Paragon's symbol. He was built like his father, but the only one of Rauor children to inherit the darker complexion and yellow hair of their mother - which he let grow shaggy, and spiked it up in a style popular with youthful male magistrates.

    Livian greeted his kin, taking a seat aside his elder sister. "So Fatima, still trying to write that masterpiece? I was wondering what the delay was."

    "Leave her be." Anisa came to her defense.

    "I'm trying to encourage her Anisa." He shot back, then refaced Fatima. "From what little I saw of that play of yours, you could have won the Calibration Contest, it was quite hilarious, sister."

    How little you know, brother.
    She had won the annual competition the Perfect held, to come up with the best comedy that mocked Paragon's ruler. Scarlet Whisper was pronounced the winner, and a letter from the man himself was quietly sent to her, telling Fatima her secret was safe with him. The correspondence included a commission for a poem to describe the glories and superiority of their city. A request she gladly undertook, hoping to have it read to him by the month's end. I can't believe he loved it, and wants more. I'm blessed.

    "Maybe this year, Livian." She said, again avoiding a gaze to hide her own amusement.

    Anisa shooed him off. "You should go entertain your bride-to-be."

    Livian rolled his eyes, and left his sisters to exchange pleasantries with their parents, talking of his up coming marriage with a daughter of the Mathius family. The poet took a glance at the other magistrates, who sat down the row. Her parents were also negotiating her own betrothal to their oldest son, seeing the dark haired man with their blood's round and full face smiling at her. She politely returned it, and quickly looked away. Fatima had little interest him, a rising minister in finance, who bored her with his talk of counting Jade and silver.

    Anisa disrupted her melancholy over her future marriage. "It's a good thing Livian was called out to help guard against that Anathema, or he'd of seen your play."

    "I know." She whispered back with much relief.

    Livian started his way back to the Mathiuses, pausing to give Fatima a humorous expression. "I'll tell Kalthun you send your warmest regards."

    She glared at her brother, while Anisa shoved him off with a curse.

    Music sprang to life from the chorus at the edge of the stone tiled stage, calling the crowd's attention. Haropen stepped out, a fat man from the lands of Varang, brown skinned with dark brunette hair strung up in a topknot, adorned with beads and feathers. He wore fancy clothes, with strange designs and color coordinations that marked his caste, which Varagians rigidly organized their society into.

    With his foreign accented speech, he announced. "Good people of Paragon, the most virtuous of cities, the most hospitable of nations, I humbly welcome you to our performance." He pointed to the sky. "I know some would call this an evil sigh, this joining of the Sun and Moon, but I would call it a test of our faith. So let us make our offering to Belit, and begin your entertainment!"

    Haropen stepped over to the small, bronze statue of the Southern spirit of entertainment, positioned at the center of the chorus space. 'The Dancer of Flames', with her mane of feather strewn hair and flowing wrap dress, was given fire, struck from the combustibles in the iron bowl below her depiction. A song of prayer was taken up by the chorus, asking Belit to bless their performance, dedicating it to her. Fatima gave her own silent devotion to the spirit, hoping her play was as well liked as her Calibration one.

    The song dying down, Haropen spoke again. "And now I present you with a new piece, a tragedy born of love, the tale of Lonely Voice and Zibaru."

    The young magistrate couldn't hide her smile, with the title of her play said aloud. It was an adaption of an old Northern story, told to her by her grandmother. It was about a young shepherd, lonely and sad with the death of his family from starvation. He only had his lovely voice, which awoke an ice spirit of the mountains. The spirit fell in love with the shepherd's songs, and began an affair with the mortal, heating her heart and keeping the snows tolerable that winter. This angered his village's shaman, who felt the boy would usurp his position, and had him stoned to death. The ice spirit, angered and saddened, buried the village forever in ice. The survivors had to relocate, becoming Fatima's ancestors. As for the spirit and the body of the boy, the little god took his dying breath and had it sing his song over and over upon the wind that blew through the grounds of the deserted village, becoming the Singing Hills. Fatima changed it to a Southern shepherd, who fell in love with the mad spirit of the Prism River of Brassite lands, drowning the offending village instead; so the Paragonese writer not only moved its local, but twisted it into anti-Brassite propaganda. She hoped this would please the audience of her fellow citizens, maybe even reach the ears of the Perfect.

    "It is a play by my own hand." The leader of the Bahata's words knocked the wind from Fatima's lungs. "An offering to the great and noble people of Paragon, to show what jackals the folk of Brass are."

    Her shock quickly flared into outrage, failing to go unnoticed to Anisa. "Oh, Fatima..."

    "I...I know. I'll be back" She stood, drawing questions from her parents. She dismissed their curiosities by lying about paying a visit to the Mathiuses. After insisting Anisa stay, the poet headed off, slipping around to get back stage. That whore's son has some explaining to do! Fatima thought about the man who stole her work, grinding her teeth, fighting back tears.

    A guard blocked her way to the back of the two story, castle-like stage. The Varangian was of the typical muscular type demanded of a sentinel, long cinnamon curls bound out of his face, dressed in red and black, with a cudgel tucked into his striped white and crimson waist sash. "This is for performers only."

    Fatima let her gaze stab into him. "Tell Haropen, the Scarlet Whisper wishes to see him."

    "Why should I bother?"

    "Because I'll cry rape if you don't."

    Snorting with irritation, the guard complied. A short wait later, he returned to escort her within. Past the readying performers, who undertook final practices of their dance moves and lines, throwing on their costumes and hunting down props, was Haropen's private quarters. He waited in a small room, simply furnished for the use of visitors such as himself.

    "Let me guess, your upset I claimed your play." The head of the Bahata said with boredom.

    "That describes the least of what I'm feeling, you outlander thief!" Fatima snapped back.

    The Varagian smiled. "Prove it girl. And let's not forget your real identity will be exposed in the process." He shrugged, stepping close enough to smell a spicy meal off his breath. "I don't have a clue or a care why you hide yourself, but I'm sure you want to keep whispers being said about who you really are."

    Fatima meant to only think it, but the words escaped her mouth. "You insolent bastard!" She also couldn't believe how she slapped him across his chubby face.

    His expression filling with terror was also quite a surprise, in addition to the guard backing into a corner while soiling his pants. She then noticed the room was suddenly brighter, like a window at high sun was somehow flung open. Fatima didn't care, she was filled with a righteousness she never felt before, glad this thief, this vermin crawled at her wrath. "I demand you swear right now, to speak of your sin. Go the stage and confess it all, you worm!"

    "Oh by the gods, I'll do anything!" Haropen pleaded, falling on his knees. "Please, just don't take my soul."

    Something in her made her thrust her hand forward, Fatima's voice filled with long remembered words, but somehow not her own. "Swear to do this bidding by the power of the Unconquered Sun."

    He took her hand, even kissing it, vowing to do as she commanded for his life. The strange light flared brighter, and some sense returned to Fatima. Seeing the Varangian still touching his lips to her fingers, made her pull back. "What in Malfeas..."

    Fatima then caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror, seeing the brilliance originated off her. And most shocking, was the brand of light on her forehead, a small golden disk surrounded by a ring. It can't be, by the Perfect, it can't be...
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  20. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    This would seem like spam too me as you've posted an entire story
    No one will read it in this form
     
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