Gaia's Sorrow

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

  1. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    How is this spam, the point of this subforum is to post stories and read them? And what do you mean by no one will read it in this form? Did you mean forum?
     
  2. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Reunion​

    His flurry of arrows flew farther and truer then Wind Fire could ever imagine, felling the small patrol of mounted Paragonese soldiers, using the same magic he killed Cisnero and his men with. Only one of the four managed to get his horse sped up before a shaft pierced his back. Riding up to him, he slit the dying soldier's throat, a youth himself no older then the nomad. And though he'd rather piss on their remains, with the memory of Topaz and Storm still strong in his mind, he laid them out respectfully to keep their ghosts from rising, half-mumbling a prayer for their souls.

    His brief funeral rite complete, Wind Fire finished his business with them by stripping their horses of their saddles, letting the animals run wild, hoping they'd find their way to his people to be claimed as strays. He also took a uniform from one of the dead, pulling on his shirt of chainmail and helmet; he concealed his own gear in a saddle bag, taking care to wrap Bright Hawk in his robe, knowing such a weapon would give him away faster then his tribal markings or accent.

    Wind Fire continued his grim and determined journey to Paragon, already penetrating the patrols of the Three Fires in the hinterlands and onto the second layer of the Perfect's own military, reaching the fields and villas of the plantations. He was sure the disguise of a cavalryman would at least get him to the gates of the the tyrant's mansion, and his powers would complete his mission. Wind Fire had no care if he didn't come out of this alive, just as long the Perfect's blood was on his hands before going off to his ancestors.

    Taking in a view of the heavens, he hoped the eclipse, or whatever one called the joining of the Night Eye to the descending Sun, was sign of fortune. I once thought being a Forsaken was a curse, so maybe this eclipse will aid me as well. When he arrived at the gates, he could at least say the celestial union shadowed his face to the guards.

    "I have a message for the Perfect." Wind Fire faked his best Paragonese accent to the greeting sentinel; he knew it was atrocious, but it wasn't out of the ordinary to hear a foreign ring to a citizen's tongue. Creation had no lack of fools who sold their souls to the ageless tyrant for the illusion of safety.

    The guard's eyes bulged at the importance of the supposed message, and moved aside to let him pass. Prodding Northern Breeze to ride on, the nomad only reached a few arms inside before an authority filled voice cried out. "Close the gates at once!"

    Wind Fire turned to see an older officer ride up, dressed for battle and leading a force of equally armed infantry. He called for all but a pair of the soldiers to follow him at once, including the Hahjab.

    "But I have to deliver..." Wind Fire tried to argue.

    "Forget that!" The clean shaven commander snapped. "I have orders directly from the senior command for this, your with me, so move it."

    With a low growl, the nomad went along, planning on sneaking off at the first opportunity. He figured whatever was going on might play to his advantage as well. Though his heart froze when he heard whispers from the men, discussing rumors of an Anathema. How'd they know I was coming?

    Wind Fire slowed his horse, hoping to back off from the contingent, when another soldier quietly corrected. "No you idiot, it's not that nomad dog, but another one, if you can believe it."

    "Horseshit!" A man with a broken nose proclaimed too loudly, returning to a hush tone. "How can there be two Anathema, it has to be that nomad."

    They argued until an officer turned back, ordering silence.

    Wind Fire couldn't believe his ears. Another of my 'kind'...It was a strange thought to him, one he never truly pondered over. It makes sense, especially with all the rumors and my own memories, but I never expected another to be possessed...or Chosen here. The nomad's mind returned to his plaguing flashbacks, which finally went silent after reclaiming Bright Hawk. Whether they were demons or a champions (and he was very much leaning toward the later), he didn't want to leave a 'comrade' to the Paragonese's mercy; but he also knew this was truly the best distraction he could hope for. Then again, there was no way he could slip away without arousing questions. He was along for the ride, willingly or not. I'm sure I can slip away once the fighting starts. I'll plant a few arrows in their backs for my 'kin', and then I'm onto my own task. Wind Fire's commitment was sealed with a reminisce of his siblings dying in his arms, Cisnero kicking his aunt in her face, and Sun Blade's crumpled body.

    As the Commons District gave way to the the Market, which was still largely of simple stone construction, they came upon a military unit that told Wind Fire the rumors he heard were most likely true. A ten man talon of Paragon's elite approached, donned in breastplates or lamellar of White Jade, many armed with weapons of a mystical make - rigorously trained to awaken their inner spirit, allowing them to use armaments of such blessed materials. Their leader was a well muscled woman known as Deep Pearl.

    Female soldiers were almost unheard of. Like much of the Southlands, Paragonese women tended home and hearth; and though this role extended into the city's arts, spiritual life, and administration, traveling professions and soldiering were still largely left to the men. But Deep Pearl was an exception, since she carried the blood of the Dragons in her veins. Her thick mane of green-blue curls were bound tightly into two waist length braids, and where her own shirt of Jade chainmail wasn't covering her brown skin, one could make out the faint touch of the same marine color. The Dragon Blooded further donned a sleeveless, black robe with gold trim, and armed herself with a thin, sabre like Daiklave of Blue and Red Jade; a small jewel, inserted in the crossguard of her blade, also caught the Nomad's eye, shinning a blue-black. Though Deep Pearl wasn't of the high born bloodlines of the Blessed Isle, she was still as deadly as any warrior of the Realm, and an extreme complication to Wind Fire's plan.

    The sight of the Immortals brought more whispers from the common soldiers. One saying it must definitely be an Anathema with Deep Pearl present. The Exalt shot her vision at them. "Silence, there will be no more talk of the Sun-demons. And by the Perfect's command you are not to discuss this with anyone, not even amongst yourselves." The ageless ruler's mark would ensure those orders would cost the life of any violators.

    The procession marched on in silence, only broken to command gawkers to go and remain at home. At their destination, more of the city's military was there to greet them, helping evacuate the large marble and basalt structure. The eclipse had ended, with the sky falling into twilight as Night Eye rose higher, triggering the essence powered street lamps - a work of magic that still amazed the warrior.

    A leathery skinned man with a well trimmed beard of gray, rode up to Deep Pearl. Wind Fire knew him as one Paragon's top Strategos, Darsus Hyrum, the Lion's Blade of Paragon. The pair talked quietly amongst themselves, probably planning out the strategy. The Strategos then yelled to the newly arrived troops. "You will join the others and form a perimeter around the theater, follow me."

    Wind Fire remained in the shadow of a building, gradually slipping into an alley as the column of Paragonese marched by. He dismounted, retrieved his wrapped up power bow, and left Northern Breeze behind with a gentle pat. Watching the Immortals enter the amphitheater, the Hahjab wasn't sure how exactly he was going to get inside, being it was completely surrounded at that point. The only thing he could think of was to use his disguise again. Wind Fire waited until the elite soldiers entered, then crossed over to the rest, bypassing the line, speaking, "I have a message for the Immortals, let me through."

    A stout Talonlord stopped him. "What message, I have strict orders that no one but the Immortals is to enter, or be let out?"

    He hesitated, but tried a lie. "It's from the Strategos. I need to hurry."

    The Talonlord looked him over, then waved him through. Wind Fire ran through the double doors of one of the entrances. He found himself in a curving, interior hall, with Moon and starlight marking passages that lead out to the seating areas. The walls were all decorated with frescos and wall sculptures of some of the more popular stories and myths of the city.

    He carefully made his way outside, witnessing Deep Pearl cross the chorus space to the stage, where a man dressed like a Varangian cowered. The Dragon Blooded ordered him to come forth.

    "Please, I'm not the demon, she's inside, she cursed me..." He pleaded, before the Exalt commanded him to shut up and flee outside. He complied, but headed straight toward Wind Fire.

    The nomad tried quietly backing off, but he was still too slow too avoid the Varangian's eye. He paused. "I told the others, she's down there."

    Wind Fire was about to nod and send the startled man on his way, when Deep Pearl's voice boomed. "Who are you talking to?"

    He gritted his teeth, and pushed the Varangian aside, unfurling Bright Hawk. "I have a message from the Hahjabs!" Leaping out into the stands, he unleashed his anima. Like when he was first erupted with power, his radiant aura formed into a fiery, monstrous titan that caused his assailants to halt. The fear of his blazing self either froze the Immortals or caused them to flee.

    Announced by a roar from his anima, Wind Fire let an arrow fly at the the awestruck Dragon Blooded. His Sun-gifted might soaked into the projectile, making the snap shot descend like a long and carefully aimed arrow, darting straight for her eye. But Deep Pearl wasn't as taken by his blazing entrance as her mortal comrades, slashing her daiklave through the shaft.

    Deep Pearl's own anima of the deepest blue, wrapped around her like the rush of waves. She raised her blade to the glowing nomad, her luster's elemental nature spread around the daiklave, and she cried, "Paragon Triumphs, you demon spawn!" Then the Exalt leaped for him.

    Bounding up the stands, Wind Fire let loose more arrows at her. Like his first shot, the Dragon Blooded hacked all but one aside, but she somehow even dodged that arrow, her body flowed around it at the last breath. Reaching the nomad, she reared up her elementally charged blade. All Wind Fire could do was raise Bright Hawk to parry, bracing his body at the force of the impact. He aimed a kick for her gut, planning on momentarily stunning her, so he could jump back to notch another arrow or free his scimitar. Deep Pearl caught his strike with her free hand, twisting his limb as her fingers bit into his muscles. It only mildly hurt, thanks to the heartstone hardening his body, and the Dragon Blooded tossed him back.

    Surprised by her being the one to free him, Wind Fire tried to leap himself further, but his legs wouldn't cooperate. He felt disorientated when he tried, even when he attempted to ascend or descend into the stands. Bewildered, the Hahjab looked to his smiling opponent, who drew back her weapon for a jab.

    "Stop!" A feminine voice cried. Wind Fire turned his sight to a young woman in a blue stola with bound up red hair, emerging from the backstage. She glowed such as himself, surrounded by a flickering, golden halo. The anima coalesced into a crowned sun with what appeared to be the Eye of Paragon in its center. "There's no need for this bloodshed. Please, both of you, lower your weapons."

    The fellow Chosen's statement was more then a simple request, but carried some kind of convincing power. Wind Fire felt she was right, the fighting was indeed unnecessary, and let his muscles go limp.

    )"(​

    It was a strange sight, everything was made of flame. From the ground, to the waters, even clouds and sky were all somehow composed of fire, a mutli-colored inferno, as if a rainbow or a prism in sunlight somehow burned their colors.

    Despite this searing landscape, she stood unaffected, protected by a shielding of essence that kept her body as rigid as it would be in Creation, no matter the fact they stood on the edge-lands of the Wyld. Beside her, her circlemate was guarded by the same charm. She had her long curls bound tightly in many braids and further tied back, while she encased herself in a light armoring of Orichalum plate, containing the glittering gems of several manses worth of heartstones. Her hand rubbed against another mystically charged stone, held in the hilt of one of her short, ivory handled, short daiklaves.

    "Radiance." She called to her. "Be on guard, I know they're going to try and trick us in breaking the peace."

    "I know, this armistice was just a ploy. We should keep pushing." She said fiercely back.

    A voice like crackling flames, mixed with the growls of a lion, interrupted them. "Talk like that will break the peace." The flames sprouted a red skinned humanoid of indiscriminate gender, feline featured, with a mane of crimson hair that was textured more like fur. The Fae cloaked itself in robes of wispy, smoke colored faces that screamed for mercy. "I ask for an envoy, and you send this butcher to us." Glaring at her with intense hatred.

    Her circlemate's eyes narrowed. "Don't ever speak ill of my sister, raksha, or I'll listen to her words, instead of yours. So speak now, what are your terms..."


    )"(​

    The vision passed, and the nomad still stood in the theater's stands, where Deep Pearl too had lowered her weapon in submission to the other Sun Chosen. The red haired woman stepped toward him, their eyes locked, strangers somehow recognizing each other, as if they were long lost friends reuniting.

    Looking unsure, she requested. "Come with me."

    Wind Fire couldn't help but want to, even if he wasn't charmed.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  3. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Sacrifices​

    Jalah didn't know what was worse: her breath being choked from her, being unable to move with the tendrils of hair pinning her, or the demon's abyssal gaze. It felt like maggots digging through her skull or a knife capable of cutting into her very soul. All her thoughts, all her feelings were naked before the monster on top of her. She couldn't even scream anymore.

    "You!" The demon cried in a noxious voice, then let off a howl of laughter that felt like nails being driven into Jalah's ears; her words were in the language of the Old Realm, taking Jalah a moment to understand a tongue she rarely heard outside of a ritualized form. "Fate smiles on me, to have you walk into here. Do you know how long you kept me trapped here?" Her voice darkened, going more pitch then the cavern. "Now you will be the one I keep here. I'll make you crawl and eat your own filth, make you watch the cursed burning light of your god rise and fall so many times from this cave, you'll cut your own eyes out to escape it!"

    The demon's words frightened the runaway slave. Even though she was going dizzy, her lungs burning for air, the thought of the fate, the pale skinned creature had for her, struck a fear she didn't realize terrified her so. No! I'll never be a slave again! Her proclamation shouted through her mind, and something heard it. A jubilation of colors burst from her chest, adding to the blaze of her own Sunset colored aura. This light actually scattered the pitch of the demon's presence, sending the mockery of a child to scream her own pains, freeing Jalah as she fled to one of the remaining shadows.

    Jalah immediately crawled away as well, leaving the space for the cave's hall. Sucking in the air her body demanded, the former servant faced the demon, who hissed at her from her darkly refuge. Jalah recalled from her vision the foul being's name, Ashikirei. The Drinker of Secrets studied her back, but couldn't raise her eyes from the rainbow hue about her chest. Glancing down, she saw the crystal she stole from Kelohay.

    Grasping the gem, Jalah felt its warm essence, fingering the symbols carved into it - unlike any script she'd ever witnessed, knowing for certain it wasn't Old Realm. She wondered at its power to drive the demon back, only seeing her former mistress use it to add more essence to her spells, knowing it was a family heirloom from the Shogunate era. Whatever extra powers it had, it was keeping Ashikirei back, and Jalah decided to use this to leave.

    Stepping away, the demon cried. "No, please!" The desperation in her voice made the runaway pause. "Don't leave."

    Jalah couldn't believe the creature. "You want me to stay. Why, so you can try and make me your slave again?" She put her back to the demon.

    "I can teach you sorcery." Ashikirei's statement halted her again, but willed herself not to turn back.

    She's a demon, she's lying. Jalah thought.

    "I saw into your heart, Jalah." Ashikirei saying her name disturbed her. "I know you want the power of your mistress, Mnemon Kelohay." The demon let off a low chuckle. "Speaking of that, so is it true Sun-Child, the Terrestrials rule Creation, those insects actually overthrew you mighty Solars?" Her last statement was pure mockery, but it triggered something in Jalah...

    )"(​

    He was confused, the doors to the great Jade chamber were slammed shut. Only a few others noticed, from the grand ball thrown for all the Solars. Only one other of his arguing circlemates saw this as well, the ruby haired woman.

    Then the chamber exploded into searing, golden flames. They rolled over the rulers of Creation, burning their clothing, burning their flesh. Even his ancient teacher screamed in pain, her locks of gold consumed by the fire of that color. He was completely devoured, seeing his hand melt away in the inferno, falling to his knees in utter and complete agony, wondering who would dare attack them, who was foolish enough to launch an assault against the Princes of the Earth...

    ...His leaping circlemate answered his questions, the black skinned woman slammed through one of the doors...but she was knocked back, the massive axe-blade of a Jade grimcleaver was buried in her chest. Its Terrestrial wielder, glowing with the white aura of the Earth Dragon, wrenched it out of his sister; but she grabbed his weapon and throat, forcing the betrayer to his knees. More of the lesser Exalted followed however, battling their lords...

    He didn't understand why their own soldiers would do this...but his question went unanswered, the last of his life fueling the fire...


    )"(​

    Ashikirei's ridicule brought Jalah back from the vista of her previous life's death. "So let me get this straight, the Terrestrials convinced themselves they were the lords of Creation, the liberators of you pathetic humans. Very rich, like worms claiming to be rulers of the shit they feed off. And you believed it."

    "Silence!" Jalah commanded, full of righteousness from her past incarnation's betrayal.

    "Oh don't feel bad Sun-child", the demon went on, "My masters felt the same when the Celestines overthrew them. Vilified and blamed, when left to rot in a prison of their own flesh, done by ungrateful subordinates who didn't appreciate what their creators did for them. You truly have my sympathies."

    Jalah knew the history well, at least what was told by the preachers of the Immaculate Order. Creation was once ruled by the Yozis, holding it all in bondage, until the Elemental Dragons sealed them off from existence. But the tale of how the lords of Malfeas slithered in the Anathema, disguising their infernal essence in the form Sun and Moonlight, fooling hapless mortals into worshiping them, she knew was misinformed. No, outright lies. She was no demon, she was still the same woman she was before she cracked open her former mistress's book, before she was exalted. Yes, I am a Chosen of the Sun, as the Dragon Blooded are the Chosen of the Dragons.

    "Yes, Sun-Child," the true demon said with continued amusement, "it was that treasonous and self-righteous bastard you call the Unconquered Sun who lead the revolt against the true masters of Creation, not the Dragons. Ooooh, how the world's changed since I was trapped here. I had an inkling, whispers of little gods, seeing the thoughts of the idiot humans who tried to pick this place's bones. But I couldn't believe it, not until I drank your secrets."

    "Shut up!" The Solar shouted. She didn't dare stare Ashikirei in her own eyes, but looking at her, she wondered if she should even entertain the creature's offer. Jalah needed the help, but even the lowly slave, she use to be, knew the denizens of Malfeas could never be trusted. So she decided to cut to the point. "If you teach me, I'll free you, and only after. Understand?"

    The Drinker of Secrets bowed. "I'll only need one thing from you."

    "What?" Jalah could hear Kelohay's unrelenting voice, when she dealt with her own summoned demons, echoing in her own. "I'm giving you freedom, and you want more. No. Our deal is simple, you teach me, then you can go. Nothing more, nothing less."

    The Exalt could see the impatient anger shake her body, despite the half smile on the being's face. "I will need blood. Mortal blood to fuel my spells", she shrugged, "I do not have the essence of Creation itself at my disposal, Jalah."

    "Don't ever say my name again. And what do you mean?"

    "I mean what I quite clearly said, mortal blood. Find me some, and we can begin."

    Jalah couldn't believe what she wanted. Did the monster really expect her to go out and drag some hapless people back here to be murdered by this thing? Was she Kelohay now, like when she fed her helpless 'older sister' to the spirit? "No. I'm wasting my time here."

    "Who will teach you then?" Ashikirei coldly stated. "Will you wander about, trying to rip secrets from your book? Crawl back to your mistress? If what I drank from you is true, you are alone, Jalah. I am your only option if you wish to recapture what was once yours. What is a few short lived lives compared to what you could do for a thousand more, after we finish. To die for your progression is their fate, it is the most glorious thing these little, pathetic humans could hope to aspire to. You know I'm right, I read your heart. If you never want to be a slave again, then be reality's master."

    She didn't know how to respond. Dragons damn her, she's right, Jalah sadly agreed. The Solar had read her stolen tome cover to cover and was no closer then before she was chosen. She also pondered on why the storm had lead her here, was it a sign? Dragons...Unconquered Sun...ugh, is this what I'm suppose to do?

    "And where am I suppose to find some mortals, let alone get them to follow me here?" Jalah said with as much distaste as her tongue could summon.

    Ashikirei grinned again. "Well, there were those men you chanced upon before coming here." To Jalah's wide, surprised eyes, the demon answered. "Remember, I drank your memories Sun-Child. Was it the other night you came to their camp? I can't be sure, what's a night or day to me."

    "Fine." Jalah whispered mechanically; shocked to hear the word escape her lips, like her mind sat aside and let some cold part of her heart take control.

    The Exalt came upon the merchants later that night, beneath yet another sky, bursting rain - feeling like the heavens both wept and pissed on her for even considering the demon's offer. They took you in, fed you...You really are an Anathema. Her conscious plagued her every step, but Ashikirei's argument kept her feet moving. "What is a few short lived lives compared to what you could do for a thousand more...If you never want to be a slave again, then be reality's master."

    Just like before, their dog warned them, followed by the guard. "It's that Eastern girl again."

    Sitting a second time at their fire, Jalah politely took their offered meal, but only picked at this time. The older, gray haired merchant spoke. "I see you changed your mind. I'm glad to see this."

    "Yes, very wise." The curly haired one smiled, giving her his lusty eye again.

    Jalah swallowed with closed eyes, then began her lie. "Actually, I came back because I need more then your companionship. I...I found a place, an ancient place, and this was there." She exposed the golden chainmail from her satchel, sending the merchants into awe. "There's more stuff like this back there...and I could use your help."

    The youngest merchant took hold of Sun Scales, examining it. "I've never seen a gold like this before...it's beautiful." He turned to his fellows. "This alone is a Shotol's fortune, we need to go back with her."

    "Where was this place?" The curly haired one's lust was now for the armor.

    "A tower", She answered, "by the sea."

    The eldest merchant rubbed his goatee. "I think I know of this place, a cursed ruin from the First Age. My own father spoke of it in his time, told me never to snoop there. Haunted by the Anathemas' ghosts."

    Jalah's conscious and desire warred in her heart, wanting to encourage the other mens' greed, or to heed the old man's warning. She simply remained silent, trying to hide her shame.

    "She came back just fine. I'm going." The youngest merchant's avarice dismissed the elder. The curly haired man voiced his agreement with his younger colleague, and it was decided they would go at Sun up.

    Jalah spent the rest of the night forcing down her urges to dissuade them, or to even flee into the night.

    )"(​

    "You found it up here?" The younger merchant said with eyes full of Jade, leading the way inside for his companions. They'd left the guard down at the tower with the llamas and dog, she hoped he would flee instead of trying to save his wards.

    "Yeah", Jalah weakly replied.

    "You seem oftly sullen for the prize you found?" The old merchant looked the runaway in the eye.

    "I'm just a little scarred." She forced a smile.

    The other two merchants bungled right into the chamber containing Ashikirei. "Why is it so damn dark here?" The curly haired man mumbled. He was going to say more, but the demon finally revealed herself.

    "Thank you Jalah." The pale skinned creature said with glee, lashing out her shadowy hair to ensnare the screaming merchants.

    The eldest reared around to the Solar, reaching for the short sword at his belt. "You treasonous slut!"

    He struck faster then Jalah would have guessed, her hand receiving a hack that would have severed half her fingers; but she felt a burst of essence speed through her body, and the blade didn't even blemish her flesh. The merchant stepped back confused, accidentally entering Ashkirei's range, her hair wrapping around his throat and face.

    Tears poring down her cheeks, Jalah whispered after him, "I'm so sorry."

    The Exalt closed her eyes as the Drinker of Souls lived up to her name, hearing the merchants making their sobbing pleas, followed by their dying screams. When it was silent, Jalah looked to see pale, withered husks. The corpses' expressions frozen in terror and pain. Peering at their remains, it saddened her that she never even learned their names.

    "Agh, it's been too long since I've fed." The demon wore a sickeningly pleased face.

    "I thought you needed their blood?" Jalah question.

    Ashikirei giggled. "No, I needed their minds. It's been a few centuries...I think...since I've fed from more then a passing bird. So now that my fun's over, shall we begin?"

    "Then why'd you tell me you needed their blood to do your spells?"

    "Because Sun-Child, I figured you'd never believe me if I said I needed their minds."

    "So you never needed their blood to teach me?"

    "No. You truly are clueless, and completely failing at living up to the one you were before."

    She cursed the child-looking monster, slipping into her first language of Low Realm, she let an out-pore of angry words escape her tongue. Ashikirei just looked bored, simply asking, "are you done yet?"

    Jalah ignored the demon's mind-reading eyes, boring her own furious ones into their devouring pitch. You can see what I want to do with you, you little bitch!

    Ashikrei responded with a long laugh. "Now that your finished with your temper tantrum, let's start with the simple truth of sorcery, it's channeling essence through will alone, which of course is much more difficult then it sounds..."

    The demon would continue on, teaching Jalah insights and displaying demonstrations to see the raw essence that made up Creation, and how to will it into other shapes. The Drinker of Souls would bring to life the shadows around her, which formed into hideous silhouettes of beasts, howling and gnawing at the mystical bindings of the imprisoning chamber. The lessons went well into two days, the Exalt eager to learn, and even more eager to be done with Ashikirei.

    "If you're so sure you want to be done with me, go out and study that storm." The infernal creature swatted at her student when their eyes accidentally met, echoing a teaching in a different life. "Try and see the essence flowing through it, shaping and fixing it to reality."

    The sharp wind and cold rain of the storm was heaven compared to the soul-ache Jalah felt around Ashikirei. The turbulent weather nearly masked the setting Sun. Agh, twilight...maybe it's a good sign. Once again she analyzed the storm, observing how the various elements interacted with each other. Closing her eyes, she next tried to feel all their essence, touching at the raw energy of existence...feeling how it all pooled together, connected to all, even her, just as the demon and the Book of Elemental Calling told her.

    Thunder boomed, drawing Jalah back to the storm, followed by the heavens flashing with lightning. The electrical arch raced down, crashing into the caves mouth. The Solar managed to jump back, landing on her hands and feet, seeing flames where she stood just a breath before - except she saw more then fire, but into the spirit of its composition. With a move of her hands she made the fire move. Stepping closer, her anima a beacon once again, she continued to experiment at commanding the flames, making them flow upward, swirl, and dance. Jalah couldn't hold in her joyous laughter, realizing she could now channel her will through the essence. She commanded sorcery.

    "Yes." Ashikirei disrupted her delight. "You can now be reality's master instead of its slave. That's what you were thinking right? Well I've completed my part of the bargain, now it's yours, free me." Her voice full of hope and longing.

    Annoyed, the servant-no-more faced the Drinker of Souls, letting her read her mind one last time.

    "No, I taught you...Noooooooooo!" Ashikirei howled, falling into curses and threats.

    The newly christened sorceress retrieved her belongings and left the demon. "Maybe in another thousand years, whoever I'm reborn into will let you out." She gave the monster a final sneer and descended the slick steps from the cave, thinking this was the small measure of justice she could give to the merchants she fooled and helped murder. Still, Ashikirei was right. Their deaths were probably the most important thing they could have accomplished in their lives, pleased with the justification that their sacrifice enabled her to wield the power of her former mistress, the power of Creation itself.
     
  4. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Hidden Crimes​

    A branch of the Prism flowed outward, clean and pristine, free of the Wyld's taint; from these uncorrupted waters did the farmers of the Anjala draw the life giving liquid to irrigate their fields. Ironically, they were also the source of much death, as the streams and creeks weren't enough for everyone, the main cause of conflict between the ruling families. The waterway before Tonauac, swollen from Air's rains, marked the border between the Dayias Shebit and Aryamani. Gazing at the ford, he could only imagine how many had died in the skirmishes between them and their ancestors.

    "Can you unthie me now, we'll be on my dayia's own lands?" The bandit-soldier, the madjai learned was named Quick Stride, pleaded through his mouth of broken and missing teeth. As they had been, on their nearly two day journey, his wrists were bound behind his back, while another length of rope linked his ankles together beneath his horse, keeping him firmly aloft. Other then requests to be freed of his bonds and guidance to his lord's domain, the sworn sword had remained tight lipped.

    "No." Tonauac replied dismissively.

    The giant trotted forward on his own animal, approaching the crossing's shrine. It was a post, driven into the earth, covered in glyphs and prayers to the Prism's little god, Zibaru. The largest print read: "Blood for blood. I bleed for your life, bleed a bit for me in return". It spoke of tole demanded by the spirit, a drop of blood to transverse her waters.

    Tonauac went to retrieve this payment from the cut on his arm. Why prick a finger, when he already had a gash ready? When he unwrapped his wound, he found it completely healed. No wonder it slipped my mind to check it today, marveling at yet another of his gifts. When asked about it by his captive, Tonauac told him to shut up, and retrieved a knife to piece a finger tip, letting a single drop of his blood fall into the stream. Then he muttered a prayer to Zibaru, and proceeded to splash through, pulling along Quick Stride.

    They reached the small Kasbah by nightfall, its stone looking black against the silvery light of the nearly full Moon. The fortress was largely a sturdy keep, walled off, with the resident dayia's sworn swords watching their approach from the battlements of the scarred and repaired over defenses - proud markings of any rural Brassite lord, to show off his survival against his enemies. Gazing up at the torch lit soldiers, lightly armored, wearing their dayia's colors in their turban wrapped helmets, Tonauac dismounted.

    "Brothers...", Quick Stride tried to announce, but was silenced when Tonauac sliced his legs free and pushed him rudely from the horse.

    Then the madjai spoke to the guards. "Tell Dayia Shebit I have one of his men. I've come to return him."

    Tonauac wanted to get this over with, too full of wrath. He had always been rather blunt and bold, but never so since he was chosen. The giant was sorely tempted to rip open the arched gates and slay anyone who dared to hinder his path to delivering justice to the dayia, especially as he remembered the family crying over their husband and father back in Kerhama.

    The guards gathered, whispering. Tonauac stretched his senses, hearing them argue about what to do, having orders to deny any of the volunteers who went forth to deliver their liege's revenge. Revenge? What could those townsfolk have done to him to warrant his revenge? Cowardly bastard!

    He yelled up to sworn swords, "I know he was disguising himself as a bandit, so let me speak to Shebit."

    "Who are you?" The oldest of the swords demanded, his beard streaked with gray, and a deep scar traveled down the right side of his face. "And what madness has possessed you to summon my dayia as if he were a servant!"

    He answered, "I am Tonauac Four-Fingers, madjai in service of the kandake's justice." He spoke formally of the duty he vowed to undertake for Brass's ruler, when he actually meant for the higher sense of humanity he figured the Unconquered Sun represented. He further lied, "and I'm willing help your dayia see his justice served."

    His name sunk into the guards, who made more urgent hushes amongst themselves, not realizing the madjai could hear every word. The older guard decided to inform their lord, sending a sword off.

    The scarred soldier looked back down at Tonauac. "We'll let the dayia decide, wait there." his last statement carried a clear threat, backed by the other guards readying their bows.

    The giant glanced down to Quick Stride. "So, you went under orders of Shebit, even though you knew you couldn't return?"

    "How'd you know thath?" The soldier-bandit paused, while struggling to sit up.

    Tonauac nodded toward the other soldiers. "I have good hearing."

    After managing to get himself in a seated position, Quick Stride clairified. "I wasn't ordered, I voluntheered."

    "I would have said you were brave", the madjai crossed his arms, "if you weren't slaughtering villagers and didn't beg to be brought back here the moment came to answer for your crimes."

    Looking down, the sworn sword confessed, "yes, I admith when you capthured me, I failed my vows...buth for all your thalk of justhice madjai, you should at leasth hear my dayia's cause."

    "I'm sure I will." He was certain he'd hear all sorts of justifications for what amounted to another round in a generational grudge over who controlled this particular branch of Zibaru's river.

    The older guard again called to Tonauac. "Dayia Shebit will meet with you Four-Fingers." The madjai could hear him quietly tell his men to still keep their bows ready.

    The thick double doors parted, revealing the dayia, standing where the brief entrance tunnel and the courtyard met, flanked by two of his sworn swords, along with a lantern carrying slave. Shebit was a short, stout man, who still carried himself in a strong and sturdy manner, despite the white-gray of his goatee and mustache. He was covered in simple sleeping robes, his shaved head bare; but a large dagger was displayed prominently in a waist tie.

    "Four Fingers." The dayia seemed to taste his title in his mouth, trying to decide if he liked the flavor of him. "I've heard of you. They say you delivered the head of the Shadow Scorpion to the kandake herself."

    Tonauac smiled. The bounty on that infamous bandit leader, who was indeed a mystic of some potency, had propelled him to one of the most famous of Brass's enforcers. "No, I was granted the honor of meeting her, but I actually gave the bandit's head to her warlord."

    "I've also heard you were dead," Shebit's words surprised him, "died going after some dusters. They say those hill devils even cursed your employer, with his home burning down around him. So am I meeting a ghost?" His last sentence carried some amusement.

    "No, I'm no ghost Dayia." The madjai replied as he stepped closer, humored at the tale. "But..."

    Quick Stride interrupted, dropping to his knees between them. "My lord, I'm sorry for leading him here. Ith was weakthness and fear, buth I thoughth he mighth be able tho helpth us. None the less I offer you my life for my failure."

    Surprised and admittedly impressed by the soldier's actions, Tonauac still saw the perfect distraction, especially as he was momentarily forgotten by the angry dayia. Just as Shebit begin to scold his failed sword, Tonauac flung himself over Quick Stride, right at one of the bodyguards, slamming his gauntlet covered fist into the man's face. The giant followed by launching a spin kick that took both the noble and his remaining guard down. He felt two arrow thuds hit his back, but strangely no pain. Notching it off to his buff jacket's protection, he drew one of his twins, putting the flame piece to Shebit's bleeding face. He made sure to angle his body just right, exposing to the archers where his weapon was aimed.

    "Make one more move, and you'll be explaining to the rest of your lord's family your failure!" He yelled to them.

    The scarred sword barked back. "I'll make sure to show them your tortured corpse first!"

    "All of you hold!" Shebit ordered, not taking his eyes off the flame piece.

    Tonauac grimaced at the dayia. "So Shebit, what's your reason for sending off your swords to butcher Kerhama, huh? Aryamani's own men too much for you now? You damn dayias and your feuds."

    "Waith!' Quick Stride cried, stumbling toward them. "We were tho avenge his sons." He fell to his knees. "Aryamani murdered them."

    Tonauac eyed the soldier skeptically. "So you're trying to tell me the people of Kerhama killed them?"

    Shebit explained. "No...Aryamani killed them." His eyes closed, clenching his teeth in rage and sorrow before continuing. "My oldest, Mkhai, went as guest. We were trying to end our long fight, as the kandake wanted of us." The madjai knew of what the dayia was discussing; Brass's ruler wanted to end much of the petty infighting, an effort to present a more united front with the growing troubles in the face of the Empress's disappearance and Paragon's increasing aggression. "But he murdered him, and claimed my son was the one who insulted his home and drew his blade first. I tell you Four-Fingers, Mkhai was sincere in our efforts. It was Aryamani who wanted to continue blooding me, him and his fathers before him always wanted my family's lands." Tears actually fell from the man's eyes. "And my other child would not be counciled. He rode off with some of my men to avenge Mhkai. I found their bodies staked along the river."

    "That still doesn't explain your cowardice." Tonauac sneered. His finger was ready to pull Ruby's trigger, then unleash all his divine might on the Kasbah.

    Shebit clenched his fists. "I had to make that pig suffer! I went to the kandake herself, demanding justice. This went beyond a just a simple feud. But she refused, siding with Aryamani, forbidding me to act at all, telling me she would send her Warhost to punish me, me! Of course the kandake would side with Aryamani, he's a richer dayia, more traders go to him, his lands grow more bread, and he of course has more sworn swords to help against the Perfect...I couldn't let him get away with it, he had to suffer! Where's my justice, I ask you?"

    Tonauac kept his weapon aimed at the noble, thinking over his story. It was indeed a tragedy, but he couldn't forget all the people killed and injured who had nothing to do with this crime. "Still, what did the Kerhamans have to do with this, except having the misfortune of being born under Aryamani's rule? You punish the wrong ones, Shebit. Where's their justice now? I saw a family lose their husband and father, would you let one of his sons come here for justice?"

    Shame flooded the dayia's eyes, casting them away from the giant's judging own. "...You're right...but..."

    "But nothing!" The madjai roared. "If you truly had honor you'd go to Kerhama, confess your crime and beg for forgiveness, earn it by helping them rebuild what damages you did."

    The dayia was stunned. His men on the battlements laughed.

    Tonauac spun his gaze to them, letting his power bleed through his words. "Quiet!" All the swords cringed. Refacing Shebit, he proclaimed, "Since it would be impossible to for you to see justice done against Aryamani, I'll do it myself."

    "How?" Shebit balked. "I've even been forbidden from hiring madjai, and you're just one man."

    "I don't need money, pay me by helping Kerhama." Was all he said, withdrawing Ruby and walking away.

    As soon as he stepped from the dayia, an archer loosed another arrow. Without thinking, Tonauac caught it. The amazed soldiers paused again at the giant. He dropped the shaft and continued on his way. He heard the older sword call to Shebit, asking for permission to go after the madjai, but the noble ordered him to stay.

    However, Quick Stride came running after him. "Pthlease, leth me come."

    Tonauac stopped from mounting his horse, just eying him with a raised eyebrow.

    "You spthoke thrue Four-Fingers, we were wrong atthacking that thown...Plthease, leth me redeem myself. I can also pthrethend to be your pthrisoner."

    "No. If you want to redeem yourself, help your dayia make amends to Kerhama, and if he doesn't, do it yourself."

    Tonauac swung himself into his saddle, ignoring Quick Stride's further pleas as he trotted off. He was genuinely taken by the man's desire to make reparations, but he'll only get himself killed coming along...or try and kill me if he finds out what I really am.

    )"(​

    Tonauac took in the heavens, seeing the eclipse and all five Maiden Stars shinning on the kasbah of Aryamani, rising off a high, rocky hill. Before, he would have taken this new phenomenon of the Sun and Moon joining as a foul sign, but now he recognized it as a blessing - 'remembering' some words of a past life, "the gods shine united today, for all of Creation".

    I'm going to need all their help, the madjai thought, dismounting. Even being a Solar and all the power that came with it - including the recently discovered one, when he removed the arrows from his armor, finding they pierced his protection but failed to so much as mark his skin - he felt he was still walking into a hopeless situation. Aryamani's fortress was much larger, and twice as defended. Tonauac knelt and clasped his hands together, bowing as he prayed to his patron. Hear me Unconquered, I have much to make up for, for all the crimes I committed. I do not know you well, but I believe you are a just god, and that I am your Chosen. If I am your instrument, to avenge Shebit's sons, and end this man's bloodlust and greed, guide me into victory, even if it means my life. Returning to his feet, he patted his horse's snout and left the animal behind.

    Tonauac could say he had one advantage, that he had worked for the dayia before, The first time was when he was just an apprentice, barely a year past his self-exile. The other time was after he was on his own, but still a whelp, just another member of a team sent to hunt down an escaped group of slaves, who murdered one of Aryamani's sworn swords; the noble's own men were too busy fighting other dayias to waste time on fetching runaways. He remembered they were to return only their heads...letting out his guilt for killing the begging servant boy...telling himself then, he would have died anyway from the slash the madjai had given him. I'll make it up to you too, he said to himself, sadly realizing he didn't even remember the kid's name.

    To the giant enforcer's relief, a telling of his name earned him entrance. The guards had heard rumors he was in Kerhama, and figured he'd come to see if Aryamani would hire him to hunt down the bandits. It wasn't long before Tonauac found himself in audience hall, presented by slaves with wine and fruit, politely consuming the drink while awaiting the dayia.

    He was studying the tapestries, the crimson and storm blue of the Negus family, when Aryamani entered the small hall, emerging from behind the curtain backdrop of his throne. The noble was very tall, rising nearly to Tonauac's brow, and thin, his features sharp enough to cut by. He wore robes of his family's colors, including a bejeweled turban of blue. "Tonauac," he warmly greeted. "I am graced to have such a man in my lands, when such a terrible crime has been done to my people."

    The madjai forced a smile, handing his half emptied goblet back to the female slave. He doesn't even remember me serving him before, hmph.

    "I would be delighted to hire you." He descended the dais, taking a handful of figs from a slave. "It will be a relief, since my own swords have failed to find these bastards, who've already burned out two of my farms before daring such a strike on Kerhama." He gave disappointed glances to the four guards who silently occupied the room as well - two at the door, and two at the foot of the throne's dais.

    Tonauac nodded, working out a battle plan in his head to take them all down, and remembering how many soldiers he passed on the route to the hall.

    The dayia then surprised him. "To make your job even easier Four-Fingers, you don't mind me calling you that, do you? Well my men captured one of them." With a snap of his fingers, two more swords entered, dragging in an even more battered Quick Stride.

    All of Plentimon's rotten luck, he cursed as Shebit's soldier was dropped to the stone floor. He tried to not look the madjai in the eye.

    "We found him snooping around shortly before you arrived." Aryamani went on. "He confessed right away. Even though the sky is evil tonight, I would say this is providence. Don't you agree?"

    Quick Stride willed a grin to the giant, then launched a fist into one of his minder's manhood. Aryamani stepped back, as the rest of his sworn swords rushed in to detain the prisoner. You fool, Tonuac thought of Quick Stride, as he rammed an elbow into one of the door guards, then slid out his foot to trip the other. The madjai followed up by drawing his twins, using his inner magic to feel the flow of energy between himself, his weapons, and the two swords closing in from the throne. In the space of breath he saw the best possibilities at aiming his flame pieces true and striking, then acted on them, blazing the ignited firedust forth, consuming them both.

    One of the guards, who dragged Quick Stride in, had his scimitar out and charged Tonauac. The giant readied to knock the attack aside with his fighting gauntlets, but Quick Stride grabbed the man. Tonauac yelled for the soldier-bandit to halt, but the sworn sword knocked his hands away and sliced open the man's chest.

    )"(​

    He saw another of his Terrestrials go down, the leader of his elite force, a loyal soldier for two centuries, from a line that served him for generations. Her Jade armor was broken like glass as the infernal daiklave ripped open her chest and stomach, her life extinguished like her fiery anima. And though she hadn't died in vain, with the huge blade of her dire spear impaling the traitor's demonic locust of a mount, his rage burned hotter then the flames of Divinity's Wrath.

    The traitor managed to leap off her agatae, as the demon's corpse sailed into the depths of the canyon below, landing on the cliff just below him. She was once a Solar, a sister Zenith such as himself; the woman with short spiky hair had sold her soul to the Yozis, trading the Unconquered Sun for the mocking green light of Malfeas. Her weapon and armor even reflected this treason, forged from the abhorrent materials of the demon realm.

    "You abomination!" He roared, taking a battle stance with his blade. "I will cleanse your taint from our father's eye!"

    He leaped, just as she did. Their weapons met, striking and blocking a dozen times before their weight carried them back to the earth. She landed along the canyon's wall, pushing herself back at him. He let her come, slashing loose a ball of his daiklave's essence charged fire, sending it like a racing comet at her. She tried to slice through it, but the scattered embers still wracked her body. She howled, collapsing at his feet with little finesse.

    He raised his blade. "Send your master my regards, you demon whore, and let your essence go onto one more worthy!" Then hacked down to end her sickening existence...


    )"(​

    When the vision cleared, two more of Aryamani's sworn swords were dead, hacked down by the bloody falchion in his hands. The dayia himself cowered on his knees, his open mouth unable to utter a sound. The soldier he tripped earlier, dropped his sword and fled. The Solar realized his anima surrounded him with a soft glow, flaring brighter when his eyes fell upon the corpse of Quick Stride.

    A furry like he never felt overcame him, seeing this man who sought to redeem himself, sacrificing himself, lying dead at his feet. This anger immediately fell upon the dayia, and without a thought he took the man's head off. It was all a blur of killing after that. Raging through the kasbah, Tonauac slaughtered anyone who had the misfortune of getting in his way, anyone who was unlucky enough to have vowed their blades to Aryamani. Death and fire filled him, and quickly filled the fortress as well.

    When he came to, Tonauac found himself approaching his horse, splattered with blood of his own and those he killed. Behind him, the kasbah was in flames, with survivors fleeing into the night. What in Malfeas did I do?
     
  5. Rask

    Rask New Member

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    Complications​

    The tunnel stretched onward, a seemingly eternal pathway into the lightless depths of Chiaroscuro's undercity. From the meager illumination of the mystically charged glowstone around her neck, Ryana could make out the ancient construction - tunnels of smooth stone, ribbed with crystalline rings every hundred arms or so. It was all aged and cracked, showing hints of mosaics, relief sculptures, and rune etchings along its length; the particular section she journeyed down was also flooded with seawater. Paddling her small, slim boat along, the Blade had heard these tunnels once provided some kind of magical transportation in the First Age. She'd even seen the wreckage of one these vehicles, links of rounded containers that could hold dozens apiece. Until the Solar visions allowed her a peek into the previous era, it was hard for her to really picture the largely rotted contraptions of steel and wood being able to move. It truly was the Age of Wonders.

    As the tunnel gradually turned, Ryana finally saw her destination, starlight poking through the gloom ahead. She guided her craft to the collapsed wall, where the sea of Chiaroscuro's harbor spilled in. The hole was disguised by an overhanging dock, joined with rubble and rotted planks of wood. After dousing her glowstone with a good wrapping of pitch cloth, she gently moved the obstacles aside with her oar, and struggled out of the undercity.

    From beneath the dock, the Blade had an excellent vantage of the night shrouded harbor of the Southlands' largest city. It was crammed with ships from across Creation, echoed by the sounds of every direction's language from the sailors who manned them. But the harbor's true marvel was the titanic breakwalls that guarded it. They spread out far into the Inland Sea, rising higher then all but the tallest of ships, their azure glass vaguely shaped like a gigantic crab's claws. In their open pincers, the Blade spied the towering lighthouses. The Bright Eyes, as they were called, blazed brilliantly, able to be seen for tail-lengths out into the sea.

    Ryana tied her transport to a leg of the dock, then double checked all her gear - from her knives to the rope and strip of linen she was going to use to bind and gag her victim. Then the Blade masked her face with another wrap of black cloth, and called on her gifts. Before, she would have spent some time running and ducking between the shadows, slowly moving toward her target. Even in a place as crowded as the harbor, it was surprising how easy it was to avoid attention. Most of the sailors were drunk as time became measured in Moon-movements, and the guards who weren't as well, were too busy keeping an eye on the rowdy seafolk then paying attention to the shadows. The day's earlier eclipse would have also helped, motivating most to stay indoors that evening. But the Bisha'a had to barely consider these factors any longer, her inner power seemed to make her completely unnoticeable. Ryana was still careful to keep out of sight, but she could hurry by, literally stepping right behind people, remaining undetected. The gift would prove even more useful when she made her way back with the orkhan's mistress, which was always the hard part with kidnapping jobs.

    It wasn't long before she arrived at the home of the noble's lover. It wasn't very large, two rooms, but the wealth of its resident could be seen by the house's largely wood construction and glass windows. Looking down on it from her perch atop of the neighboring tavern, where she had studied her victims comings and goings for the past week, Ryana again thought of the Jade the prostitute made. But why stay in the harbor? You could be a royal concubine, live in a keep or even one of the towers. Whatever the prostitute's reasons, they didn't concern the Blade, aside from making the crime easier.

    She dropped quietly from the tavern's roof, hitting the street with a role, right up to one of the home's windows. Ryana slipped a knife between the opening's seems, and popped it open. When she made a visit the previous night, the Blade made sure to unlock it before departing. Creeping in, she moved with careful memorization through the nicely furnished home, with fancy rugs, porcelain knickknacks, and an intricate altar. I'm surprised she hasn't been robbed living here, look at all this, she wondered, she must think Wadju personally keeps an eye on her, seeing the harbor's spirit honored prominently on her personal place of worship.

    Her bedroom was separated by strings of beads, that Ryana carefully parted. She remembered how gracefully the prostitute had done so for her, guiding her to the plush bed of satin sheets, joined by the hide of a lion for the cold nights of Air. Currently she slept on that bed, slumbering peacefully, completely unaware. Her naked body was that of a man, and anyone unfamiliar with Delzhan customs would assume that was her gender. But she was a dereth - one who takes up the role of the opposite sex, for even the gods could make mistakes when reincarnating souls. She appeared at the end of her twenties, with a slender body, a well sculpted face free of any facial hair, surrounded by a head of long, dark waves, tinged with green. Ryana found her beautiful, and the way she used her body pleasuring the Bisha'a was a heavenly night she would never forget. Just like they all promised.

    When trying to track down who Behnam Orkhan's mysterious mistress was, Ryana had asked around, daring to show her face to her Delzhan relatives, even paying a respectful visit to her mother's khan. Not all her kin shunned her, particularly a cousin around her age, Nayeet. From her husband, Ryana would learn much of the 'Harbor's Harlot', named Tide's Song. "My uncle likes to see her at times, but of course we're not suppose to talk about that, since he works as a bodyguard for the khan. It would be quite a scandal if known", he would tell the Blade. Not that seeing a dereth was bad. In the eyes of the Delzhan, Tide's Song was a woman; it just wouldn't sit well with the bodyguard's wife, who was kin to the khan. And all who would speak of the dereth prostitute, agreed she was legend in bed. It was unnecessary, but Ryana decided to pay her a visit, get the layout in a friendly, unsuspicious manner. Aside from finding out she had no customers the night she chose to strike, the Blade received some carnal fun. Ryana wasn't into her own gender, but the dereth still had a man's 'sword' after all.

    All this business with the dereth reminded Ryana of her mother's fears she would 'take up the gray', as becoming a dereth was called - since they donned a gray sash to announce their soul's true gender. Though she would like to have the acknowledgment of her skill, which was a given of a male, she was comfortable being a woman. Oh Mom, why should I have take up the gray to get the respect I deserve, it's total bullshit. Ryana would also never have been considered membership in the Blades, following such a kufar practice. The Bisha'a despised the dereth, decrying them as proof of the Delzhan's savagery.

    Shoving aside her guilt for the crime she was going to commit, Ryana moved in, planning on simply knocking her out. Tide's Song won't even know until were a tails deep in the undercity. The kidnapper slammed her fist into the prostitute's temple, but the force of the blow wasn't enough, her deep black eyes popped open, swimming with shock instead of the alluring grasp the Bisha'a knew the other night. Still, Tide Song collapsed out of her bed, completely dazed. Ryana groaned and readied a kick to her chin, this bitch is tougher then she looks. Just before she landed her second attack, the dereth let out a strange cry, sounding like like some kind of marine animal. The odd noise was ended with the Blade's foot, sending the criminal rushing to thrust her victim up, thoroughly annoyed at the possibility of attracting attention.

    Tying the knot that bound Tide's Song's ankles, Ryana felt cool liquid splash into her leg. Glancing down, she saw water rolling across the floor, spilling in from the living room. She jumped up as more pooled into the home, wondering what witchery was this. When the water suddenly sprang a tentacle at her, which Ryana narrowly avoided by leaping on the bed. The same tentacle lashed at her new position, calling for the Blade to summon her magic to dodge, propelling her body through the room's doorway as the limb of liquid shattered the bed. Landing with a splashing role, Ryana's hands reached for a knife apiece, taking a defensive stance.

    The tentacle didn't follow, but the water throughout the house collected together, forming into a humanoid shape that took on more solidity with every breath. Its final form was of a tall, smooth bodied, blue skinned woman, with wet, seaweed like hair, and blue-black chitin, resembling a crab's, spread like scantily clad armor across her frame. The spirit's eyes were the same as Tide's Song, an enchanting abyss. It dawned on Ryana that Wadju stood before her, and the dereth was her god-blooded child. You've got to be kidding me, but it all made sense, the 'Crab Mother' of Chiaroscuro was known for her motherly wants - for according to stories, her duty to protect the harbor also brought out her desire to sire children to parent as well. Many mates were lured into the little god's arms by her hypnotizing gaze.

    Wadju sniffed the air. "I can smell you Exalt. So you Terrestrial worms take my lover away...now my son! This is not the Blessed Isle, and I do not answer to your fake religion's petty delusions of a god's role!" Her Chitin bracers grew over her hands, sprouting into mammoth pincers.

    Why does she think I'm a Dragon Blood? Ryana was bewildered, but she had no time or care to ponder what the spirit was going on about. She let her blades fly, but some of her inner power leached into them, and to the kidnapper's amazement, her weapons sparked with golden light, breaking into dozens of jubilant duplicates. They shot through Wadju like hot pokers, sending the little god howling in agony. Ryana took advantage of her fortune by diving over the spirit, calling on more of her might to launch herself further and with more grace, back into the bedroom to retrieve her target.

    Again, the Blade's plan didn't go as she envisioned it, feeling one of Wadju's claws rip off a chunk of flesh. Ryana collided hard into the floor, willing a week roll to land on her feet, grimacing as the pain of her wound sent out waves of torment from her back. Forcing down her injuries, she moved her hands to a kata of the Tiger style from her First Age memories, filling her fingers with unnatural strength. Ryana then sprang at her opponent, blocking one of Wadju's pincers, and shattering the other with a rake of her hand. The Blade followed by quickly spinning around, rearing her other appendage to tear into Wadju, but missed as the little god barely ducked in time.

    Ryana snarled, bracing herself for the harbor god's counter, while thinking of her own next move. However, Wadju stepped back, wearing a stunned expression. "Prince of the Earth?"

    "What!" Ryana snapped, again confused at her using the Dragon Blooded's title. It was then she noticed her forehead glowed, meaning her caste mark was visible. Oh great...but the Dragon Blooded don't have marks, is this spirit an idiot?

    "It's been a long time since I've had the pleasure of a Solar's company." Wadju tried to speak politely, but her voice was soaked with amazement and pain.

    "Then why are you confusing me with a Dragon Blood, I'm not a Prince of the Earth?" Ryana's words still carried some edge. Not only was she worried about failing her mission, but having her secret exposed. She wanted to get the spirit talking so she could figure a way out of the dilemma.

    "I can see your essence, but not your flavor." Wadju weakly laughed. "And the Terrestrials stole that title from your kind. I'm not surprised you're confused, with all the lies they tell mortals. I'm pleased you haven't been struck down by the Wyld Hunt yet. I've been hearing all sorts of stories about the Sun's children returning, and I so wanted to meet one of you." She smiled, her eyes drawing her in as her child's had.

    Ryana averted her hazels. "Stop it!"

    Wadju sighed with annoyance. "Fine", turning to her many wounds, watching her watery blood hit the floor, evaporating instantly into sparkles of pure spiritual power. "Then what do want with my son, or daughter as your mortal kin would consider him now?"

    The Solar was taken back by all the spirit's revelations, but her attention was called back to Tide's Song, seeing the dereth stir, becoming aware of her bindings and the presence of his mother and kidnapper. "I need her."

    "I can see, but why should I let you have him?"

    Ryana responded with a growl, readying to continue combat.

    Wadju held up her remaining pincer. "Let's see if we can come to an accord, Solar. I have a use for you, and if you do this, you can have him with no further trouble from me."

    Tide's Song mumbled out an objection, stifled from her gag.

    Ryana ignored the god-blood. "What's to keep me from just taking her?"

    The dereth's mother ignored her child too. "What's to keep me from whispering in the right ears an Anathema's in the city?"

    The Blade sighed this time, relaxing her body.

    "I'll take that as you're willing to listen." The harbor god giggled. "One of those fools, an Immaculate, dared to cross me, taking my lover, a cute, chubby trader from the Blessed Isle. The monk scolded me as if I was a mortal child, he even struck me." Her anger was barely held in check, her voice grew like storm tossed waves. "This is not the Isle, and I'm not some cowed god from there. I am Wadju, the Crab Mother of Chiaroscuro!"

    "And what", Ryana asked with a bit of hesitation, "you want me to take this monk out?"

    "No..." Wadju grinned evilly. "I want him to suffer a humiliation equal to the one he made me suffer. Bring me his precious chakram, losing it will disgrace that worm utterly."

    )"(​

    They came upon the obelisk, formed from White Jade. It was an anchor for reality, raised to safeguard the new piece of Creation, and block the Wyld just beyond it - seeing the volatile, baked earth give way less then a few hundred arms out, cracking and breaking off in an inferno of rainbow hued fire, surrounding distant islands of obsidian, touching a sky of solid smoke.

    "Why would you go there?" The guardian spirit hissed, twitching its claws. The little god, who she named Stinging Flame, had come to its senses after forcing it into submission. Only a season past, she would have slayed it without a care, but she needed to force down those urges. It was why she had come to Creation's edge.

    "I need to cleanse myself." She answered. "For too long I've killed without care, just did as I was told, been a tool for my sister and my circle...Even the Deliberative, I let use me. I was exalted to fight for Creation, my past incarnations threw down the Primordials and built the Realm to protect this, and I've pissed on that legacy...I'm done with them and their nonsense." She gazed out into the Wyld. "There I will find a true enemy, something worthy to prove myself to the gods."

    With that said, she left the company of the spirit, and stepped past the obelisk...

    )"(​

    Ryana's mind cleared of the memory, annoyed at its distraction. She dreaded if they'd forever plague her, especially at ill opportune moments, like the one that hit me before the Malek left. Kemu shadow me, that was embarrassing. The Bisha'a almost dared to curse the Sun-god, but thought it would be best not to anger her supposed patron. I think Plentimon pisses on me enough.

    She focused on her task, overlooking the jubilant splendor of the Aweryer - the Delzhan word for 'Heaven's Seat', the district of still functional towers, abode of Chiaroscuro's elite. West of the harbor they rose, overlooking the sea from a raised cliff face, just above the 'left claw' of the breakwalls. All showed cracks and other wear, with only four completely intact; but unlike the ruins of the Old City proper, these structures shined with a soft luster of their glass's hue. Brightening upon nightfall, Ryana was told they drank the day's sunlight and used it to illuminate the interior for its occupants. A similar function kept lamps shining in the streets with no need of mundane combustibles, with rumors of running water and some kind of sorcery that kept the streets cleaned on their own. Of course, many of the towers had Second Age buildings rising in their shadows, free standing or additions. They completely paled before the previous age's splendor. Moving toward the Aweryer, she couldn't help but feel forborne at her task ahead, paralleling somewhat with her First Age vision.

    Though no walls separated the wealthy neighborhood from the rest of the City of Glass, the Blade still had to transverse the streets with stealth. Unlike in most other districts, the city guard was quite serious about keeping the peace; those soldiers loyal to the Tri-Khan himself, the ruler of Chiaroscuro and the Delzhan Khaganate, patrolled about in pairs, while the men of the lesser khans and merchant lords kept a serious eye from the keeps and towers' battlements. Still, it wasn't as if the Aweryer was under siege, bringing about a complacency within the sentinels, easily taken advantage of by Ryana.

    Her destination was one of the intact towers, used to house the representatives of the Scarlet Empire. Technically speaking, the Delzhan Khaganate was not a tributary of the Realm, but a close ally; the Empress had other issues to deal with, then trying to cow the Ka-Khan when he united the Delzhan tribes to forge an empire. Still, to show proper respect to their 'allies' the reddish-purple tower was granted to the Blessed Isle's representatives. The citadel itself was wide at the base, topped by an obelisk-like rise, shooting over sixty stories high. Hanging from the top of the base was a great banner, decorated with the encircled, five pointed star heraldry of the Dragon Blooded ruled empire - symbolizing the Elemental Dragons and their respective poles, united to form Creation. A granite wall surrounded the exterior, stylistic dragons carved into its surface, granting hints of a garden courtyard beyond.

    Ryana's sojourn did allow her advanced healing to kick in. She was still pained from Wadju's pincer, but the wound was reduced to some ugly, scabbed over gashes, which only mildly irritated her. Most importantly, the respite granted her time to recover some of her inner power; the Blade was going to need it all if she was going to survive this mission. Ironic, I have to break into the place I need to be avoiding the most, Ryana mentally moaned, lifting her body from the shadow of a neighboring tower. This so sucks.

    The Solar had already wrapped her aura about her body, making herself all but invisible, while summoning more of her magic to clear the wall in a single bound. Hiding behind one of the garden's larger bonsai trees, she observed the guards at the front gates - dressed in scarlet colored buff jackets, further reinforced with breastplates marked by the Realm's symbol. The male and female legionaries softly laughed at some joke as they nonchalantly leaned on their spears, beneath the light of Sun-capturing lanterns. It was so odd to see a woman dressed as a soldier, hard for Ryana to imagine all the stories of how things were 'upside down' on the Blessed Isle, women ruling men. Too bad it isn't that way in the South, I'd be on the damn conclave, maybe even the malek.

    The thought of taking over the Bisha'a had occurred to her during her preparations for the kidnapping, wondering why she was still taking orders when she was superior to any other Blade. Thinking she could perhaps do something more effective with it, or at least enrich herself faster to get her family out of poverty. But they'd never follow a woman, especially an Anathema. Ryana figured she'd probably expose herself in any coup attempt, and most likely enrage Kemu. No, I just need to keep my head low, and get the Jade I need to put all this behind me. Simple. However, the feeling to do something grander with her gifts was nagging at her.

    Descending the front steps came the change in guard, and the moment Ryana had been waiting for. She hurried up the stairs, past the row of statuesque pillars that guarded the entryway, and followed the relieved soldiers through the sliding glass doors. The Blade could see the bottom story had been converted for the use of the Immaculate Order. A curving, inner wall of stone had been added, with the Five Dragons carved into a ring on the portion facing her. Before the symbol of Creation's guardians, the Blade sprang at the legionaries, surprising the male with a kick to the jaw. The blow knock his pot helm off, and sent the soldier unconscious to the floor. Before the female could so much as scream, Ryana had her slammed against the stone barrier, a knife to her throat. She shhhed the cowering soldier, who gasped before the shadowy figure the Solar's anima turned the thief into.

    "Do you know who Azon is?" Ryana asked with as much menace as she could summon.

    "The m-m-monk?" The legionnaire stuttered.

    "Yes, where does he sleep?"

    "U-u-upstairs with the r-rest."

    The Bisha'a demanded she lead her there, then tied the guard's hands with a strip of the thief's already torn clothing. The legionnaire guided her down the passage created by the inner wall, following its bend. It took them past several doorways, one on each side. The opening in the inner wall lead deeper into the temple's heart, where the shrines to the Immaculate Dragons lied; each was guarded by a pair of half-columns, made of marble matching the element's colors. The righthand ones exposed rooms of the tower's original architecture. The space by the Fire Gate was lined with wracks of weapons, appearing to be a dojo; a comfortable room with a fountain and sitting cushions was at Water's; and a bare meditation room at Earth's. All were indeed lowly lit from the structure's Sun-soaked glass.

    The legionnaire took Ryana to a sliding door of white glass, automatically opening at their presence, exposing a small, windowless room. The Blade had heard of these moving spaces, said to cart people up and down the emanse height of the towers. In the Old City ruins, she'd run across some inert and broken examples of these 'lifts'. Hesitant she entered, the door shutting behind them.

    The captive announced something in the language of the Blessed Isle and the room shifted and rose. Suspicious, Ryana pressed the blade to her chin. "What did you say!"

    "I just said to take us to the second floor!" She blabbered in Flame Tongue.

    Their ascent was ended and the door slid open again. Done with the guard, Ryana slugged her across her jaw; though tempted to kill her, a thought of Sahar made her heed her conscious. Leaving the prone guard behind, she entered the halls of the floor, only faintly illuminated, and divided into a number of apartments, centered around an open space. The far wall was consumed by a huge arching window, exposing the courtyard-garden below.

    With no way to know which room the Dragon Blooded slept in, the Blade went about quietly peering into each one, looking for some evidence of the Exalted monk. The large apartments, probably lavish homes in the First Age, were split into separate quarters, four Immaculates apiece slumbering away. Creeping inside a corner unit, near the wall-window, she came across her first Dragon Blooded - a middle aged woman, moonlight from her window revealing the ever so light touch of pale blue to her skin. Obviously not him, she moved on to the dwelling's next room, finally spying a man with a scar traveling over his left eye and into his cheek. His skin also carried a blue touch, but much more obvious in showing him as a child of the Air Dragon. Wadju called him Ledaal Azon. On his simple mattress, stuffed with straw, the Dragon's Chosen stretched out his well honed body. His only furnishings were a floor desk, topped with ink and prayer strips, aside a humble chest.

    Knowing it could only be in the chest, Ryana lifted open the container, seeing her prize lying on top of some spare robes. The chakram of Blue Jade was a beautiful weapon, adorned by two faint carvings of dragons, wrapping around clouds and lightning bolts. The inner part of the ringed blade contained etchings of Old Realm. Lightning's Descent, the Crab Mother had called it. Not wasting anymore time, the thief took the weapon, along with one of the monk's sashes and wrapped it securely.

    That's when she heard cries of Realm-speech, ringing about the outside halls. I shouldn't have left that guard in the lift, damn it! As Azon shot up, Ryana sprang toward the room's window, dropping into the garden below. Rolling to break her plummet, the Blade glanced back up, seeing the Dragon Blood scanning about, leaning halfway out the window. Azon readied to jump out too, leaving Ryana frozen. If she moved, he might see her, even with her concealment, but if she remained, it was only a matter of time before her magic gave way and then her discovery. Suddenly, a black feathered raiton swooped down from the night sky. The huge, three arm wide wing span of the avian flapped in the face of the Immaculate. Seeing her chance, the Blade made haste, clearing the wall again with a charm, hightailing it out of the Aweryer.

    Ryana couldn't help but smirk, and give praise for the twist of fate that sent the carrion bird her way. I promise you the biggest and fattest goat I can find Kemu, and even you, whatever your name is, Sun-god. Just please let me get Tide's Song to the Malek, so I can be done with this.
     
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