Sol Invictus destined Solars for many things, sleep was not one of them. An all too close crash of boulders was followed by an Air Elemental’s banshee warning call. Soon everyone was groggily rousing from their short nap. All except for Raksi, whose Resistance and Integrity charms extended even to getting a good night’s rest.
“Akaris, come quickly!” one elemental shouted before being batted aside by the spiked tail of a huge quadruped lizard. The girl riding on the lizard’s back giggled frantically. “This is so much fun! Let’s do this every night, sister!” The great beast swung its tail through a building and it crumbled to the ground, prompting more laughter from the pair.
Both of the girls looked like they were still of schooling age. They were dressed in overly dramatic black garb. The only distinguished feature was that one had blonde hair, and the other black. “The Sisters Grimm rise again!” cried the black. She stood up on the back of her giant lizard and pointed drammatically. “We are immortal! Attack!” Droves of war ghosts and hungry ghosts surged past the girls, penetrating the building and flooding into the Manse Villa courtyard. The sparse citizens of New Meru were being pulled out of their homes and impaled on spectral blades.
“Sister!” blonde called out. “I found the best corpse in the old Genesis Lab! It’s an octopus, made out of octopus-es. Totally better than magma kraken.” The ichorous black mass rose up under the power of necromancy and flowed forward, pulling itself into the streets in lurches. The other sister agreed “definitely better than magma kraken.”
Pyrrhus rolled from his pallet at the first crash of rock and tea-kettle shriek of furious air elemental, pulling his swords from the stand beside his bed. Angelline bolted out of bed like a startled cat, rushing to the pallet that held their nearly three-year-old son – Aelius was already starting up a wail fit to rival the air elemental’s, and other children were following his example, all across the manse.
Trusting to his wife’s competence with the non-combatants, Pyr summoned his Arbiter armor as he ran barefoot down the corridor towards the sounds of commotion. There was no time to don his scale armor, but Pyr had relied on his Arbiter armor for most of his life; it would not fail him now. Essence washed down his limbs and solidified into a golden second skin, nearly as substantial as his red jade scale.
A war-ghost barred his way, hacking at him with a jagged ancient sword. Pyrrhus gave a flick of his sword, his anima flaring down its length, and sent the unholy creature shrieking away, a rent in its form spilling dark essence like blood. Ah, so this was what came against them tonight?
He let his essence rise, filling his anima to overflowing with the infinite well of Sol Invictus’ holy light. The faintest suggestion of a beaked head rose over his own, and the Manse hummed in response to his brilliant aura – Sunlight pooled outwards until he stood in a pillar of meridian light. The Manse’s automatic defenses began kicking in; dropping gates of Holy Essence to block off areas, sliding defense turrets into view from behind polished amber bubbles.
Thank you, Angelline, Pyr breathed, knowing his wife had gone straight to the Hearthroom and begun coordinating defenses as one of the individuals Pyrrhus had authorized the Manse to obey. Pyr slid to a halt in the Manse’s foyer, assessing the scene before him.
The black-haired Sister was closest to him, trundling onward on her massive reanimated reptile. Black cosmetics, impractical black clothing, melodrama theatrics? She’d been taken in by a juvenile death cult, clearly. But now she had the power to back it up and not the sense Sol Invictus gave a newborn mouse.
Pyrrhus strode down the middle of the street towards her, hardly inconspicuous as he blazed like the Sun at Zenith, sending creatures of darkness shrinking away from him in all directions. He settled his bare feet in a solid stance and leveled a sword at her and her monsters.
“Cease your destruction, child. You came into my city, terrorized and murdered people under my protection, and now you must answer for it. This is your only warning. Cease your violence, remove yourself and your minions from this place, repent and amend your ways – or face judgment by my blade.” Essence made his words reverberate with truth as his stance and voice invoked the Meditation on Judgment: the highest kata of his Arbiter arts.
“Repent? Ha! Silly little Solar! You don’t scare me, I have the power of DEATH at my command! I returned from the Abyss and it Chose me! I am daughter of the Mistress! Bring your blade, if you can!” The Sister stood and flung out a hand towards Pyrrhus, coalescing a crackling sphere of viscous green Essence.
“As you wish, my Lady.” Pyrrhus dodged, coming up beside the beast – a slash sent it groaning to its knees, tendons snapped like gitar strings. With such a stepping stone Pyr surged upwards.
“Mercy was offered you, and mercy refused. Have now what mercy would have spared you.” The weight of his words shattered into golden shards, falling through the young Sister and pinning her to her mount. The death essence riddling her flesh writhed and shrieked at this intrusion of Light, adding its voice to her own. Pyrrhus reversed his blades and stabbed downward – a short quick thrust ended her hysterical laughter in a gurgle of congealing ichor.
“One day, someone will take me up on the offer of repentance and I will die of the shock,” he muttered to himself, sliding down the blood-streaked flank of the thrashing corpse. He murmured a word and touched it – the beast went up in a pyre, utterly consumed in the fires of his Zenith anima.
Swift jumped out of bed at what, he did not know. He looked around his room but it was bare. Then he heard it. The clamor of battle. No. The slaughter of innocents.
“This is so much fun! Let’s do this every night, sister!”
He scowled, more at himself than the clearly insane… little girl? His head hurt and he was not as sober as he would like to be for a battle. There was another crash.
“The Sisters Grimm rise again!” There was a pause. “We are immortal! Attack!”
As Swift hastily donned his armor and weapons, he heard the first little girl again. “Sister! I found the best corpse in the old Genesis Lab! It’s an octopus, made out of octopus-es. Totally better than magma kraken.”
He could feel the characteristic panic rise within him. He remembered Willow’s creature of war and he could see this thing tearing through house after house of innocents. His hands trembled with anger. “I won’t let that happen.” He said.
No sooner that the words left his lips did he hear the second girl’s voice chime up. "Definitely better than magma kraken.”
His anger flared again, this time supported by his caste mark and a wave of essence. He felt his jade Sky-Cutter and war-boomerang resting on his back, and his two chakrams, one on each thigh. He knew their exact weight, their effective distance, and every charm to enhance their power. He could feel his motes draining away, like stretching his muscles before a run.
And so he ran. Through his doorway, down the hall, and into the front room, where he saw Pyrrhus standing as a commander would stand before his army. His skin shone with the light of the Unconquered Sun and in his hands were two red jade daiklave. In that moment Swift was uncertain if all the Meridian Isles Solars could take him down. “I’m glad you’re on our side.” He said as he walked up to stand next to him.
The scene before him was that of his deepest fears, too close for comfort was a writhing mass of dead flesh rampaging through the streets. He could see a blonde girl sticking out of its head and he could only assume this was the one who had spoken about an octopus. Between her and Swift there were hordes of undead breaking open doors and slaughtering the inhabitants. People were running away from the one sister and right into the path of the second, who was riding a giant lizard and closing in on the manse.
Pyrrhus saw her too, and he strode confidently forward. Okay, Swift thought, one down, one and dozens of undead to go. He ran out toward the other sister, his caste mark burning bright and his anima lion following close behind. The blonde noticed him, which wasn’t surprising considering the maelstrom of words in the shape of a lion behind him.
“Oh look!” She said, eyes wild and teeth flashing in a mad smile. “It’s a cute little Deceiver! Aww, who’s an adorable solar?” She giggled. “Attack my unending horde! Swarm that pathetic excuse for an exalt!”
At her call the undead host between them formed up in the middle of the street and charged. She let out another shrill laugh, throwing her head back, and continued her war-path to the manse.
Swift saw the army approaching him and smiled. He stopped and let them close the distance as he calmly pulled out his two war-boomerangs.
“Enemies of Sol Invictus, hear my words and despair, for they are the last you will hear. I am Warrick Colson, Crowned Sun and Resplendent Emissary of the Meridian Isles.” His right hand twitched and he was now holding a chakram.
“With the authority of my title I demand you leave this place!” The army was almost upon him “You are not welcome here!”
He spun around and threw both weapons at the wave of enemies. As soon as they left his hands, both weapons multiplied and filled the entire street. The wave of chakrams hit first, followed closely by the wave of war-boomerangs. Body parts spilled onto the streets and the few remaining undead turned to run away. It was then that his first boomerang found them. He strode forward and picked up his chakram and boomerangs. It was now time for the baby death knight to die.
Akaris lay awake, dread washing over her. How was the city infiltrated so easily…We had better defenses than this! The earth outside groaned amidst cries in the night. There was certainly more than one horror unleashed upon New Meru.
“My lady,” a voice startled her. It was a now-materialized Serelle, one of her most trusted advisers. “Assailants from the City of Night have brought death to the city.” she said, her voice still the sound of a crystal echo.
City of Night. Of course. How could she have been that naive to think that Mistress of Bloody Charities had been pacified. She was in charge of monitoring the ley lines. She could have picked up this impending attack had she not been so…
“My Lady,” Serelle interrupted her thoughts, “I know what you are thinking – it’s not your fault. We all…”
“Not my fault?!” Akaris interrupted back, pushing herself out of bed. “I have these ley lines memorized! I should have sensed necrotic energies passing the border and I didn’t.” She walked over to the vanity, too ashamed to look up. Her head hung over the bowl of washing water, a dim reflection of the Luna’s light dancing on the rippling surface. How could she have grown so complacent with Mistress right. on. their. DOORSTEP!
A wave of frustration washed over her as she pounded her fist on the table, splashing some water out of the bowl. She almost shed a tear, but a visage drew itself on the now calming water. It was of Israya, one of her water elemental advisers, before the merciless grin of the Blonde sister. A flash of necrotic energy shot through the elemental, dissipating her into a cloud of green mist amidst a scream of agony.
Grief turned to rage as Akaris turned around, Serelle still standing calmly in the middle of the room. The balcony doors were already open, as if the elemental knew where she was headed. Akaris embraced the elemental, shivering with a vast range of emotion surging through her.
“Thank you once more, friend.” She said before turning towards the door, grabbing the Ending of Days on her way out. In true Air Dragon form, distance and surface were worries of the past. She sprung into the night, calling all children of the water to her. Israya’s death would be avenged a thousand fold…
A shrill giggle pierced the night amidst screams and thunder. “Mistress was so right! I could just drink all this terror until I die!” Blonde laughed, watching as her ichor-kraken smashed two supporting pillars of a nearby building. “Oh wait! I can’t!” Another shrill giggle echoed into the streets, but this time it was more muted than before. A perfect sphere of mist created a shell around her, reflecting her silver-blood anima.
“Oh please, Mistress told us to expect some resistance, but clouds?! A ha hahahahahaha!! No wonder we made it in so easy!”
The dopplered sound of a heavenly chorus sung itself past Blonde at deadly speed; a golden chakram lodged itself into the skull of the ichor-kraken. Blonde turned just in time to see a second one sing past and lodge itself in the beast’s head before exploding in golden light. The golden outline of its carcass collapsed in on itself before vanishing into nothing.
Akaris flew out of the mist, calling the Ending of Days back to her, creating another brief heavenly chorus.
“How dare you take away my toy!” Blonde stared up at the Solar, who stood as if one foot were resting on an invisible post. “You don’t think we’d be let loose in the city without some gifts from the Mistress, do you?!” More giggling erupted.
“You fool.” Akaris interrupted her with a thunderous voice that echoed within the mist-shell. “You know little of what games you play, and even less of the rules.”
“Listen, bitch.” Blonde’s laughter was replaced with a wickedly confident grin. “I make my own rules, and in my game I win…not you.” She pulled out a green glowing heart from her satchel and shattered it as though it were weak glass. Blood mixed with green mist as she lifted up her hand, kissing it before blowing the mist at Akaris.
Why did Mistress’s chosen always have to be so obnoxious?
One brings mist against an Air Dragon master. Touching. Akaris knew this was magic she did not want touching her, even if she was confident she could route it. With the mudra of the Spoken Wind gestured, Akaris blew at the mist, creating a swirling green tempest that stood between her and the Abyssal. This isn’t enough.
Mudra of the Charged Storm. The entire shell of mist began coursing with electric energy. Blonde looked around, half frightened, half struggling to keep her composure. Hurricane from Tempest Method.
“Should you remember something after today,” Akaris said, making one forced palm gesture towards the swirling green mist, giving her the control she wanted of its position, “…know that New Meru is not a playground.” One more forceful palm thrust pushed the miasmic cloud over Blonde, evoking panicked coughs and screams. “Your Mistress has stepped over the line…" Shape Celestial Circle Sorcery.
“No!” <cough> “You’ll never…” <hacking> “ah hahah ha” <bloodied> “You’ll never be safe,” <cough> “here!” <gasps>
“…and by extension, so have you.” Akaris stepped towards the swirling green cloud, parting it as if she were air itself. At the core, Blonde was gasping and reaching out, almost enjoying the experience of suffocation. Her eyes flashed from green to red to black – clearly the effects of whatever sorcery was woven into the mist. Akaris almost felt sorry for her.
But not sorry enough. Cast Celestial Circle Sorcery. The Solar took Israya’s black-jade heart and held it forward with one hand. The other made the gesture of Breathless Air, and slowly Blonde’s life-force drifted into the mists. With a final thrust of the black-jade into the Abyssal’s heart, a flash of energy engulfed her, transmuting her body into a statue of pure black jade and burning away the green mist.
Dozens of lesser water elementals from the mist shell swarmed towards the statue, permeating its surface, as if they knew exactly what they should do. It worked! Akaris thought, exhausted to the core. It actually worked!. It wasn’t her ultimate goal, but it was one more step in the right direction. Kind of Mistress to give me a research assistant.
Slowly the statue came to life, and the once fallen Israya now lay on the ground, clearly unconscious.
“Come, we must get her to the fount if she is to live!”
Zaela dragged herself groggily through the Manse, still half-asleep and wrapped in a fog of disjointed, unnerving dreams hovering just under her skin. People were rushing past her, and once a barred gate of golden Essence dropped down behind her, securing the sleeping quarters she’d just come from.
In the foyer of the Manse, several Dragonblooded stood guard – two in military style armor, three in the odd variant of Immaculate Monk robes she’d seen earlier, but all were armed and wary, essence beginning to manifest into elemental auras. She went and stood next to the armored Fire-Aspect, shivering. “What is going on? I heard shrieks – I thought it was a dream but…?”
“The Mistress of Bloody Charities – the Deathlord in charge of a Shadowland City on the far side of the mountain – has sent her undead horde to attack us. The Sun Chosen and some of my kin have gone out to battle them,” he replied, eyes warily scanning the streets.
“The.. Undead? Like ghosts? Zombies?” Zaela’s caste mark begin to glitter dangerously on her forehead. Her Second Breath had been at the end of a nephrack’s sword, and those unnatural creatures were forever a source of anger and anxiety.
“That and often worse.” The guard pointed to a burning hulk a block away. “That was a zombie Thorn Lizard, until Lama Pyrrhus set it ablaze by his anima.”
“Oh?” Zaela stared out at city, noting the three pillars of sunlight moving through the darkened ruins. “Well. I suppose I should go help out. Please, excuse me.”
She turned and strode back into the Manse, stopping in the massive plant-filled courtyard. “Raksi?” She called into the jungle. “Are you in here?”
“I am now.” The eldest Lunar sauntered in, smoothing the last traces of jaguar and sleep from her features. “I take it our arrival has not gone unnoticed by the enemies of Meru.”
“No. A force of the undead has arrived.”
Raksi perked up, grinning ferally – for a moment, looking like her old crazy self. “Oh, lovely! I was needing to work out some energy. I’ll just go help, shall I?” Without waiting for an answer, she shifted to some unnameable Wyld creature – an amalgamation of fangs, claws, and wings – and flowed out the top of the dome, presumably in the direction of the carnage.
Zaela shook her head and, heading back to the streets with a reassuring smile to the Dragonbloods, began drawing on her essence. Looped about one wrist was a delicate looking piece of knotted jewelry – which was no jewelry at all. She began picking at the beads between the decorative knots, and soon it fell apart into a handful of them. As she passed the burning pyre of the thorn lizard, she stopped and dripped essence on the knots, then tossed a few into the flames.
“Come, Need Fires, and devour the creatures of darkness in this city!” she cried, kindling her own anima to match her Circlemates. An eruption of tropical birds spiraled around her in the pillar of her sunlight.
The pyre flared and split into six individual spheres of fire, white veins crossing their surfaces and phantom faces floating in their depths. We have come in answer to your summons, Zenith Chosen. We BURN! Screeching in glee, they zipped off down the streets, leaving trails of fire in their wake. A war-ghost fell into their path and they converged on it. It fell, twitching, into a burning heap, and two more Need Fires sparked from its flames and joined their fellows.
Zaela smiled and hastened towards the encroaching sounds of battle, setting corpses ablaze and summoning more Need Fires as she went.
The battle barely lasted until the rising of the Crow.
Raksi flowed over the ruins of the city hunting prey in her chimeric battle form. But she soon felt the essence of the mountain reaching inside of her and slowing her wyld energies. Not more than three miles outside of the city of Meru lay a river of pure Earth essence which calcified any Wyld energies in the area. This was not a good place to be a Fae Folk. “Time to change tactics…” she decided.
She descended upon a large group of ghosts and shifted into an Ifrit fire elemental as she went. When she got close enough to make eye contact she realized this was a crowd that she knew full well. These were the former citizens of Meru as she knew them just before the Usurpation. She paused for a moment while memories came flooding back to her. The shade of an athletic young man bit onto her arm and caught his face on fire in the process. She regarded the young man with a grin. “I never liked you anyways.”
Raksi fueled her emotional maelstrom into a dagger and a whip of Fire essence. She exploded into the crowd of undead, bouncing from one impaled target to another.
“This is for calling me fat!” Two ghosts turned back into ash.
“And this is for all the things you thought I couldn’t hear!”
“And this is for giving me an A- on my spell.” Raksi’s whip sent a head flying through the air.
“This is for being an incompetent obstructionist jerk,” she gripped the shoulders of a hunched form and bisected him top to bottom with a kick.
Soon the ruined intersection was littered with the smoking remains of ectoplasm. The shouts of war had finally stopped. Raksi stood alone looking out over the slopes of Mount Meru to the rest of Creation. Need Fires rose up from the city all around her. In the far East, the first glimmers of the Daystar began to grow. She dropped her weapons and they evaporated into mist. “That was sooo much better than talking to a therapist."