Exalted: The Silver and Gold Amidst the Green (SI)

Magic, monsters, and a bit of antiquated technology.
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Exalted: The Silver and Gold Amidst the Green (SI)

Post by Wyldwraith » Sun Feb 04, 2018 10:23 pm


"I know you're planning to withdraw your protection from the Republic, Revered Elders. You want to know if, after all of your efforts, Halta can survive without your support. What I don't know is why you both requested my presence here today. I thought I'd made my position abundantly clear. I'm willing to remain uninvolved in this testing period of yours. Right up to the point that Halta is in actual, imminent danger of being destroyed. If it comes to that, I will try to maintain my cover as simply an unusually powerful child of one of the great cat divinities. Just as I will exhaust every other effective alternative before revealing myself as one of Luna's Exalted. Yet I reiterate my willingness to reveal myself in the event that worst comes to worst. Nothing but death will stop me from preventing the land of my birth from coming to ruin. Lady Luna took me as one of her Chosen knowing what was in my heart. The Thousand Streams may go on forever for you, but my concern as a Steward is this one single Stream not running dry. You know all this though. Have you bid me come so that one of you can Challenge and then, having effortlessly defeated me, offer to return my life to me in exchange for a pledge of noninterference? If you have, you'll break this impasse we've arrived at only by slaying me. I would not dishonor myself or our Lady by purchasing my life at the cost of forswearing my stewardship. Still, I do not delude myself. You have the power to remove me as a contaminant from your experiment. So..." Davion trailed off expectantly.

"Ssspoken like a brave Full Moon warrior. Calm yourself Davion. As you say, our Fickle Lady Exalted you from among the Haltans. I have not grown arrogant enough to gainsssay Luna. At least not yet, at any rate. You've done well for yourself, and done much in service to your people. A master dissembler is, however, one thing you are not. If you wished to keep your new weapon a secret, using it to slay one of the Behemoths belonging to the Stone Forest's raksha Queen Yseult was not the best tack to take. Now, may I see this First Age wonder of yours?" Silver Python asked, the still-lovely ancient Lunar asked with a knowing smile.

Nodding in assent, Davion summoned the ancient dire lance he'd borne in more than one life to his hands from where it rested in Elsewhere. Fighting off a possessive reluctance to let go of the spear, he passed it to his elder.

A low, lyrically appreciative murmur came from Silver Python as she intently studied the ancient weapon in long-fingered hands touched here and there with graceful whorled patches of tiny silver scales. "The Piercing Thorn of Manifold Life Banes. I never thought to see its like again. Do you know it's provenance?" Silver Python asked in a tone as curious as it was...wistful?

"No, a vision lead me to a tomb located in a ruined outpost within the Wyld's Middlemarches. I gleaned some highly suspect fragments of information from conversation with the tomb's chief guardian. A great three-headed hound that spoke only in rhyme. Once I attuned the Thorn, I started seeing flashes of the Thorn being wielded in different times and places. The longest and most coherent of these flashes gave me reason to believe I was seeing the one who bore my Exaltation then fighting, before ultimately falling trying to hold back the Fair Folk of the so-called Balorian Crusade. That warrior's valiant and vehement denial of despair, even in the face of the Fae's inexhaustible hordes...Experiencing that brought tears to my eyes. I understand you did great deeds in defense of Creation yourself at that time, Revered Elder. I know your time is exceedingly precious, but it would mean a great deal to me if you would deign to share what you know of the Piercing Thorn of Manifold Life Banes history. What you know of my history" Davion answered in a respectful yet intense tone. There was an undertone of plea in his strong voice. As much as his pride would allow.

Silver Python studied him for a moment. "Old enough to know we old ones empathize the most with the ache to know our past selves then. Where do the years go? It seems like only yesterday that you were a confused and overwhelmed pup. Only yesterday that Rain and I were negotiating with that irritable rascal, The Last Hunter of Xaal to train you. Very well. If you can wrest this pricelessly deadly work of art from the insidious madness and lethal environs of the Middlemarches, I can tell the story. Have a seat warrior, and make yourself comfortable. The tale you've requested is a long one." As she passed the ancient Dire Lance back to him, Davion took a long look at the weapon he was just beginning to appreciate was just as heavy with history as it was forged moonsilver and impossible sorcerous materials.

The spear's ninety-two inch haft was solid Moonsilver, covered in exquisitely etchings and bas-reliefs of winding; thorn-covered vines. Hidden among the vines and thorns were countless tiny, yet absolutely perfect representations of every venomous and poisonous animal and plant he knew of, and vastly more he did not. The vines seemed to continue their inexorable circular twining as the light played off the Moonsilver carvings and etchings. By the same token, some of the depicted creatures and plants vanished whenever he blinked, or his gaze momentarily left the haft. Only for new plants and animals to take their place, though they appeared as if they'd been there all along. Unlike a boar-spear, the dire lance had no blocking bar below the spearhead, and what a wicked spearhead it was. Four razor-sharp edges arrayed like the pyramid-point of a broadhead arrow, but considerably more elongated. Each blade-edge was broad enough to possess its own filligreed fuller. The four individual blades cut back to join the haft as two joined and seamless pyramids. With a thought, and mote of Essence spent the spearhead would be permeated with one of many possible baneful substances of Davion's choice. Another thought could clean all toxins from the lance's blades just as easily. The haft's butt cap perfectly balanced the weapon somehow, and served as a second less-lethal striking surface. The weapon was the work of geniuses at the height of their craft. Its secrets, its amazing seemingly feather-light responsiveness in his hands...the mere sight of its artistry. All of it took the warrior's breath away. Especially the sheer rightness Davion had felt ever since attuning it. Like recovering a limb he hadn't even known he was missing until that very moment. With a silent reluctant sight, he sent the Thorn back into Elsewhere once more. Then scrambled over to the most comfortable of the futons and took a seat facing the elder Lunar, giving Silver Python his undivided attention.

From the moment Silver Python began, Davion was utterly enthralled by the tale. It was his story, after all.
Last edited by Wyldwraith on Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:09 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Exalted: The Silver and Gold Amidst the Green (SI)

Post by Wyldwraith » Tue Feb 06, 2018 8:42 am

Chapter 1: Days Gone By

"Your name was Kyzin. Your Solar mate was the sorceress-queen Glennaela of the Luminous Sunset, who ruled a great Principality far to the East of Halta's northeastern border. Glennaela designed and oversaw the development of new models of reality engines and Jade Obelisks used by the forces of the Solar Deliberative to push back the Wyld and expand Creation. It was said few among the Solars understood the perils posed by the Wyld as Glennaela did. Certainly none hated the Unfettered Chaos more, but if there was a reason for that hatred, I never heard it. You were centuries older than me then, so Kyzin and I were not social intimates. We met a few times, but what I knew of Kyzin Shadow of the Sunset I knew by way of reputation and what I was told by others" Silver Python began, her tone having become strangely formal.

"Kyzin was a great warrior, known for valuing economy of force and results above all during his military career. He gave up that career without a backward glance after a small cell of Raksha -worshipping Dragon-Blooded came fairly close to assassinating Glennaela. I know he blamed himself a great deal for not being there when his wife and mate was injured during the attempt on her life. Some of the younger Lunars in the military mockingly called him Glennaela's Shadow for giving up a promising career in the halls of power to become a mere bodyguard and head of his wife's security detail. Kyzin never answered those who mocked him behind his back. That wasn't his way apparently. He simply turned the slights into a badge of honor and loyalty. Making the Shadow of the Sunset the title he formally answered to. Kyzin was never the prickly sort about aspersions cast against him, I remember. He saved his rage for those who crossed Glennaela. Which more than one of my contemporaries, more than a few Dragon-Blooded, and even a few Solars discovered to their pain.

Glennaela I never met, but it was said the attempt on her life had...changed her. She disappeared from the public eye for at least five years shortly thereafter. Something I probably wouldn't have noticed. Except for the fact that I was on...intimate terms with one of her former apprentices. Another No Moon Caste Lunar considerably older than me, and possessed of a growing reputation as a powerful sorcerer. He disappeared at the same time as Glennaela. Before he departed, Azric told me only that he and some of Glennaela's other former apprentices had been called on to repay the debt of her tutelage. When my lover reappeared five years later, he was haggard and depleted. It was obvious he'd been pushed to his limits again and again over a long period of time. All he would say about where he'd been, or what he'd been doing is they'd been to the Five Elemental Poles and deep into the Wyld. That they'd been building something intended for Kyzin. My lover also stated, and I quote He felt great pity for anyone who faced the Shadow of the Sunset bearing the deadly masterwork they'd brought into being Silver Python continued. She favored Davion with a significant look that made him belatedly realize she was talking about the Thorn.

Seeing he comprehended, she continued the tale, saying "I didn't actually see the Thorn until after the Great Massacre the Sidereals made of the great Calibration Feast in the capitol city with their Dragon-Blooded minions. Nearly two of the three hundred Solar Exalted died there. Along with over a hundred of our kind. Slain defending their Solar mates to their last breaths. Gleannaela had grown exceedingly paranoid however. She no longer trusted anyone but Kyzin, I know that much. Her paranoia proved justified, but more importantly had spurred her to devise a method of escape. Kyzin and Glennaela were among the meager twenty who slipped from the thrice-damned Sidereals' murderous clutches in Meru. By then, I'd found Rain and we were on the run ourselves. Naturally, we headed East with the intent of losing our hunters deep in the forests" she related, genuine anger entering her voice for the first time that Davion could recall.

"It was pure chance that made Rain and I witnesses to Kyzin and Glennaela's last stand. Please understand, Rain had only Exalted twenty years prior. Had I tried to intervene, I would have perished alongside Kyzin and Glennaela. Rain would have died very shortly thereafter. I made my choice, and I've had to live with it. Maybe now you understand why I find the notion of slaying you simply to avoid contamination of Halta's testing...unpalatable, to say the least. In any case, a host of Dragon-Blooded lead by five Sidereals brought Kyzin and Glennaela to bay. Your sorceress-queen was obviously exhausted, or she would have obliterated the would-be assassins en masse. Still, even witnessing the dregs of her power being unleashed was awe-inspiring. Flash-frozen, burnt to fine ash, or twisted inside out, over two thousand Dragon-Bloods and one of their Sidereal masters were destroyed before the host could even close to arrow-range. Kyzin had summoned every animal for dozens of miles to fight on their behalf. As the battle moved to close-quarters, that's when I first saw the Piercing Thorn of Manifold Life Banes as Kyzin called it to his hand" the elder Lunar described, a tremor of remembered horror visibly running through her.

"Kyzin was nothing but a blur once he engaged. At first I didn't understand why the bodies of those he struck were still intact. I knew he had the power required to rend and splatter Dragon-Blood bodies, but within moments I had my answer. Every foe he so much as scratched with the Thorn fell within moments. As you know, Exalts have a substantial natural resistance to many poisons and diseases. To the point that poison is almost useless against many even moderately powerful Exalts. Beyond that, there are a substantial number of Charms that can burn poisons from the bodies of those who wield them. The Dragon-Blooded I could understand having some difficulty, since many of them were young. It was when Kyzin squared off with two of the Sidereals, and blatantly began ignoring the first to feel the bite of the Thorn that I began to comprehend the magnitude of the weapon. For one, it was obvious it was afflicting different targets with different toxins over the course of the battle. Some died screaming, while other simply stiffened and collapsed in silence. It was hard to see fine details from my perch and through the haze of the mystical dome the Sidereals had emplaced over the area, but I saw that Sidereal go down in convulsions despite everything his comrades could do for him. I understood then the Thorn was no simple artifact. Wielding it, Kyzin was like a reaper scything wheat. Glennaela slaughtered Dragon-Blooded by the hundreds using various means at the same time...but the pair became separated when the surviving Sidereals suddenly teleported between them. One of them threw something that struck her. There was a blinding flash, and the ground beneath my scales even a mile distant bucked and heaved. When the light died, Glennaela and the Sidereal, as well as dozens of nearby Dragon-Blooded were gone. All that remained where they'd been was a towering column of raging violet flame that shattered the dome and ultimately expanded to consume everything in its path for a hundred feet in all directions" the beautiful lithe woman somberly explained, the subtle detachment that was a deep and omnipresent part of her nature vanished. Just long enough for her to utter her next statement.

"Like all serpents, pythons do not hear like most creatures. We're far more sensitive to vibrations that touch our bodies than vibrations...sounds that reach our rudimentary ears. Nevertheless, I heard Kyzin's leonine roar of anguish, rage and indescribable loss as clearly as if I'd been standing beside him in my present shape. I felt-heard it through my serpentine coils far more clearly as the very ground convulsed with the force of it. There, near the eastern edge of Creation, hundreds of great oaks and tall pines simply exploded or toppled from the force of it. Grief and madness twined inextricably in that roar as it went on and on and on. At first, the two surviving Sidereals were able to shield the five hundred or so Dragon-Blooded who remained. Still roaring, Khyzin hurled the Thorn clear through one of them. The Dragon-Blooded, all but the hundred or so nearest the last Sidereal, began clutching their heads. Tearing at their ears, one by one they collapsed" Silver Python's voice growing more intense as she described the ancient tragedy.

"Then the Jade Obelisk a mile to the East shattered. A mighty warding device Glennaela had herself helped design. Creation was once ringed with such Obelisks. An impenetrable fence of powerful sorcery that kept the Wyld completely at bay. When the Jade Obelisk shattered, it was like throwing an immense stone into the ocean of the Wyld. A huge wave of the Deep Wyld swept over the battlefield. It receded quickly due to the many still-intact Obelisks, but by then nothing except items made from the magical metals remained. Glennaela's equipment had disappeared in the blast that took her life, but I spotted the Thorn. Taking the form of a great strix-owl, I dove down to the battlefield and carried it off. I ended up holding it in trust for most of a century. Until I met Jacik Ice-Fury, Kyzin's inheritor" she related, smiling momentarily over something she didn't share with him. The elder Lunar's smile vanished like quicksilver a moment later. Replaced by an emotionless mask Davion had wit enough to recognize as cover for feelings Silver Python didn't want to share.

"I apologize. I told you I'd tell you about the Thorn. Tell you about yourself, but the time surrounding the Great Contagion and the subsequent invasion of Creation by the so-called Fair Folk hosts is more painful to recollect than I thought it would be after all this time. Jacik was one of the Swords of Luna. Not even they could stem the onslaught of the Raksha though. Jacik was one of the first Full Moons with any true power to admit this. Instead of continuing to try to meet the soul-eaters in pitched battle, he and his troops fell back and harried their flanks. He did everything he could to slow the invasion here in the East, but eventually he and a few remaining young Lunars and beastmen soldiers found themselves outflanked and surrounded when one of the Unshaped Raksha turned the local geography to madness. He fell with all his troops, not far from where the City-State of Great Forks now stands. So many Lunars died during the Balorian Crusade, I honestly lost track of the Exaltations of many slain friends and respected peers at that time. It wasn't until you began receiving lessons in the White Reaper martial arts style from one of our Lady's servants two hundred years ago that I became sure of who you'd been. How your ancient weapon ended up in a tomb in the Middlemarches, I honestly cannot say. If my suspicions are correct about what the coming days hold for you, I'm sure you'll find it a great aid" Silver Python finished, her enigmatic ending to the story begging a question be asked.

Davion couldn't resist. He knew he should, but curiosity had always been both a great strength and great weakness of his. "What suspicions?" he finally asked.

"There is a reborn Solar in the capitol. A very beautiful, very dedicated healer and occult scholar. One of the Twilight caste, like Glennaela. She believes no one beyond her immediate family knows her secret. She's wrong. I had the Linowan spy disposed of, but the birds that nest nearby tell me the spy released several courier-mospids before my agents reached him. Rain's avian allies only managed to down three of the five. One was winging due southwest for the Linowan capitol. The other continued onward. My modest talent for sorcery revealed to me it was received at the Realm Garrison in Greyfalls. The Immaculate Order has more than a few assets in that Realm tributary. After the destruction of House Tepet's Legions by the Bull of the North, the Realm will do whatever it can to deny him another Solar sorceress. As Halta remains allied to the Bull at present, you can guess what conclusions they've drawn about our Haltan-born Solar. Rain and I cannot risk revealing Halta is the result of Lunar social engineering. We can do nothing to help the girl. At least nothing overt. You know as well as I the Last Hunter of Xaal will not bestir himself beyond his manse. The Queen's new husband is but a pup, and undoubtedly disinclined to leave her side in any case. Leaving only you to see she does not stand alone when the Wyld Hunt arrives. Of course it's your choice. What do you owe the Lawgivers?" Silver Python answered, not the least bit subtle as she set the hook in his jaw.

"Now the sudden altruistic recounting of events from my past lives makes sense. Though you could have just asked me directly to act as the young lady's protector. Sometimes I wonder if much of the subtle maneuvering you Revered Elders so often engage in is simply a matter of ingrained habit. After all, when have I ever refused to aid a young Exalt when called upon?" Davion alternately observed and asked. His tone making his exasperation obvious. The elder Lunar's dry chuckle only exacerbated his frustration with the convoluted manner common to those elder Exalts he'd encountered. Once Silver Python gave him the necessary information, he turned on his heel and left the palatial hollow tree before he had the chance to say something he'd be made to regret.

He had a damsel in distress to spy on, after all.
Last edited by Wyldwraith on Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:38 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Exalted: The Silver and Gold Amidst the Green (SI)

Post by Wyldwraith » Fri Feb 09, 2018 10:39 am

Chapter 2:

Davion had a secret he'd never told anyone. A secret so outlandish that, after three hundred and eighteen years of living in Creation, there were honestly times what he believed to be true made him doubt his very mind. Over the long years he'd never stopped preparing for the calamities to come. Never stopped revisiting and revising his plan. Davion's reasoning concerning his doubts was simple and straightforward. If he'd become mired in delusions, so be it. If, on the other hand, his memory of what was to come proved true....Well, Creation would need all his preparations and a few miracles besides.

The true depth of his conviction had been tested when the Lunar warrior entered the Wyld as the final step in becoming a sorcerer. The capacity to turn away from what he believed to be the truth had been the sacrifice the warrior had offered to the entity who came to test all prospective sorcerers. The unnamed, ever-enigmatic Entity had accepted his sacrifice. More than two centuries had passed since that sacrifice etched his path forward in stone. Unable to doubt what he knew was coming any longer, Davion would have to abandon everything he believed in and knew to be right in order to turn from his course. That was something he simply couldn't do. No matter how lonely it was, being the only one who comprehended the enormity of the danger facing Creation. Comprehension he dared not share with another living soul, lest he be thought a madman or worse.

Simply put, Davion did not hail from Creation. Oh, he'd been born to a Haltan couple here in Creation sure enough. He'd been Exalted as one of the great moon Goddess Luna's Chosen during the wilderness Trial all Haltans underwent as a rite-of-passage into adulthood shortly after his sixteenth year in Creation. Yet Davion had been born with crystal clear recollections of another life. A life as an extremely intelligent, yet supremely unlucky thirty-eight year old. One who'd ended up with an addiction to pain pills due to a wrecked spine. An addiction ultimately responsible for ending a life which had become a sad exercise in plodding through each day and swallowing another handful of pills to make the pain bearable. The only things which kept his pitiable former existence from being a pointless Hell on Earth had been a devoted and loving girlfriend, two friends in many ways closer than family, and a mother and grandmother that were endlessly supportive in their love. The man he'd been hadn't, deep down, ever been able to fathom what kept them all from giving up on him. He'd loved them all dearly, of course. Done everything in his limited power to show them how much he cared about them. Yet the reality was, with the exception of the unique relationship with his girlfriend, each and every one of those relationships were vastly unequal arrangements he benefited from far more than those who'd loved him so long ago. It'd made him feel like some sort of vampiric parasite. Sucking the life from the people who mattered more to him than anything. Intellectually, he'd known those feelings came from the clinical depression he'd wrestled with. Yet that knowledge hadn't made those emotions feel any less real.

So, when death had taken him by surprise it'd been something of a relief. He hadn't struggled, believing he was headed somewhere infinitely better. A Christian all his life, there'd been notions of Heaven as the blackness had stolen over him.

There'd been a long glowing tunnel sure enough. Instead of leading to Paradise everlasting, it'd emptied out in the hands of a rather unattractive middle-aged woman with nut-brown skin. A stinging slap on his new and tiny ass a moment later had resulted in the ubiquitous infant's cry. As opposed to the choice string of profanities his mouth had tried to cut loose with. The reality he'd somehow been reborn hadn't taken long to sink in. He'd been an intelligent man after all. One with a curiously complete set of memories from his last life. The larger, overarching reality had taken somewhat longer to piece together given circumstances dominated by his inability to comprehend the local language at the time. He actually made it to the ripe age of three before the available facts shredded the last of his tattered sense of denial.

Shawn (Last name redacted) formerly of Ocala, Florida in the United Stated of America and citizen of planet Earth had been reborn into Creation. Creation: The apparently all-too-real setting for what he'd considered a favorite roleplaying game: Exalted. A flat planet drenched in the supernatural. A place where the Exalted, the Chosen of the most powerful deities had helped said deities overthrow their more-than-divine creators, the Primordials in a great war. A place where those Chosen had ruled the world for eons...until the dying Curse of the Primordials slain during said war had driven the Exalted mad. Resulting in their mass extermination or forced exile by a discontented faction of Exalted, who'd used the weakest of the Exalted to do their dirty work.

His new parents couldn't comprehend what was wrong, but he'd cried on and off for a week after figuring this out. The newly-minted "Davion" was a citizen of the Second Age. Also known as the Age of Sorrows, and for good reason.

Davion had briefly considered suicide. Born into a society that dwelled dozens if not hundreds of feet above the ground in great tree-cities fastened to giant redwood trees, it would have been easy. He'd been surprised at the sheer vehemence of the disgust aroused by the thought. Maybe it was being healthy and free from excruciating pain for the first time in almost twenty years. Maybe it was the utterly devoted love of new parents he couldn't bear the thought of hurting like his original family had no doubt hurt at his passing. Maybe it was simply stubborn hope that he could do better with the second chance he'd been given and the benefit of his previous life experience. Whatever the reason, Davion found he didn't have it in him to just...give up like that. Creation had more than its fair share of problems, but perhaps there was something he could do about that...Assuming his knowledge of the "setting" was an accurate guide of things to come.

That idea had stayed with him as he grew up. Then the day for his Trial was upon him. Over the years, the Republic of Halta had quite naturally become his home. It was a beautiful and amazing, albeit unorthodox place to grow up. The day of his fifteenth birthday came with the realization that in just one more year, he'd be expected to go out into the wild treetops with only a knife, blanket, waterskin and firestarter. To survive two weeks completely on his own, and return with an animal he'd successfully hunted or a valuable plant he'd gathered. Only then would he be considered an adult. The accompanying realization of just how much earning that recognition meant to him had been an epiphany of priorities for Davion. A mere mortal he might be in a world of corrupt deities, demons of eldritch evil and a host of other supernatural terrors. Yet deep inside the teenager-for-a-second-time burned the conviction there was SOMETHING he could do to make things better. Even if it was nothing more than helping his fellow Haltans avoid being swept up in the shitstorm to come, it'd be something.

More than he'd accomplished in his last life, at any rate.

Maybe Davion should have seen it coming given the themes of the world he now inhabited. Instead his Exaltation as a Lunar, Chosen of the Moon during his Trial had completely blindsided him. He'd accidentally roused a pack of vicious hatra. Tree-dwelling predators like carnivorous squirrels the size of badgers. Knowing he couldn't outrun or outclimb them, he'd turned to sell his life as dearly as he could rather than be pulled down from behind as he tried to flee. He was calm despite his imminent end. Determined to take as many of the hatra with him as he could. To this day, Davion didn't know who'd been more surprised when blinding silver radiance had erupted from his body, the hatra or him. Strength and catlike grace had flowed into him, as the wondrous connections between everything around him were suddenly so obvious. He'd meant to shout his defiance at the few hatra who hadn't fled. What had emerged from his mouth was a lion's roar.

Not even Exaltation could prepare him for what happened next though. Between one heartbeat and the next, the Silver Lady simply appeared in front of him. Before her radiant argent glory, Davion had fallen to his knees. When she actually spoke, the sound of her voice was so exquisite it brought tears to his eyes. Nevertheless, her words had shocked him.

"I know you, my Warrior. So much pain in your last life. I saw you in what you might call my dreams. You deserved another chance, a better chance. As one of my Chosen, you are beyond the sort of vagaries of chance that killed your potential in the egg last time. There won't be any convenient external excuses to blame if you fail this time. Creation and your old Earth are more connected than you are capable of comprehending. As goes the one, so goes the other. Nothing worth having is free, however. You've long known your foreknowledge to be a responsibility you cannot deny. I've given you the tools to help bear the weight of that responsibility. What you do with those tools is up to you. Be brave. Be wise. Be enduring. If you do your part, aid will find you along the way. Trust in my choice of you" Luna stated. The manifestation of the great Incarnae vanished in between his blinks. Leaving Davion simultaneously shaken and with renewed hope.

Three long centuries had passed since that day. Sometimes the loneliness of being the proverbial One Eyed Man in the Land of the Blind was almost more than Davion could bear. Still, he'd been absolutely relentless in his focus and preparations. There'd been precious little personal time, but his efforts had borne fruit. In his estimation he was the equal of Lunars a little more than a century older than him. Training had been his life. Training and preparation.

Yet now, at this most critical of times, a Solar was dropped in his lap. It was exactly the sort of distraction he didn't need. It was also the sort he couldn't deny and be who he was. So he seethed as he kept watch on the dwelling of the Solar in question from high above in the branches of a neighboring redwood. As one of the hollow-tree dwellings common to the more affluent, there were no convenient windows in the wood of the living tree to spy through. Yet Davion wasn't limited to conventional sight.

While he waited for his target to leave her dwelling, he decided to put a portion of his overall plan into action. Making the necessary signs, and speaking the required arcane words, Davion summoned an Infallible Messenger. The blue-chrome winged cherub popped into existence right in front of him and hovered. Davion stated the recipients name, careful to clearly enunciate as he said "Shining Barrator". With the recipient's identity locked into the spell, the Lunar began to recite his message: "Hear me, Captain of Heaven's police. The Yozi Ambassador Marilaq A'Lam has been creating Demon-Blood offspring just divine enough to avoid triggering the alarms from tiny bits of her illicit divine lovers, such as lost eyelashes and drops of...bodily fluids. Her creatures are very small because of these limitations, but exceptionally clever and masters of stealth. Some can also hide within otherwise solid objects. They are absolutely loyal to their mother-creator. Fortunately, their mixed parentage blinding the usual security measures is the extent of their capacity to hide their demonic ancestry. A determined search with more sensitive magics or Charms will quickly turn up at least a few of the slower-witted ones. They often rest in the empty quarters. Believe what you like about we Lunars, but I find the idea of demon filth in close proximity to Lady Luna abhorrent. We'll speak again once you've discovered the extent of the infestation."

Satisfied, Davion sent the cherub off winging its way through Elsewhere toward Yu-Shan. He was confident that news of Demonic contamination of Heaven would stir the ancient Celestial Lion to determine the veracity of the claim he'd made. Neither was he worried by the idea of his message being overheard by others if Shining Barrator wasn't alone when it reached him. The trails of demonic contamination were too many and too widespread for the other Yozi servants in Heaven to dispose of the evidence before Shining Barrator and his subordinates found some of it. In the best-case-scenario, it would hinder the other elements of the present demonic conspiracy as the conspirators scrambled to conceal certain things they'd planted they didn't want found under any circumstances. One particular element of said conspiracy was certain to take a beating due to his message.

Davion then weaved the spell anew. When the six metallic-winged Cherub of the Infallible Messenger spell appeared before him, he enunciated clearly "Uvanavu, Chrysanthemum Shogun and God of Health and Well-Being The leverage you need against Golden Reverie is the fact he's bribing gods in the Bureau of Destiny to hide the Guild's heroin producing Beasts of Resplendent Liquid. The Guild possesses seven such Beasts, so the stream of bribes must be continuous. Oh, and watch out for Livilla more than you already are. The Bronzes want to use her to assassinate you, and then cut her loose. She believes she can wean Lord Yaogin off drinking from the Lapis Ewer and taking the opiates Golden Reverie provides him, and onto her...charms. You're wondering what's in this for me by now. One, the Guild will take a very nasty hit if they lose their Beasts of Resplendent Liquid. Two, I get to wreck multiple Bronze plans. Three, if you support Shining Barritor when it comes out the Yozi Ambassador has been churning out Demon-Blood offspring small enough and divine enough not to set off the alarms from tiny bits of her divine sexual partners you rise. Leading to four, wherein I end up with a powerful God who actually CARES about Creation being favorably disposed to hear me out when I need a divine ear into which to sound the end-of-Creation alarm. Some of my kind remain Stewards, m'lord. My Stewardship simply happens to be Creation in its entirety. Yours in devotion, Davion Argentmane, Warrior-Chosen of Luna."

The tiny messenger-construct vanished in a blue flash an instant after it became clear Davion's message was finished. The Lunar calculated it would take the cherub approximately five to six minutes to cross the intervening fifteen hundred miles or so between him and the divine recipient of his message. He didn't expect Uvanavu to simply take a stranger's word concerning intelligence that his immortal life hinged on, but if the God was smart enough to outfox the entirety of the Sidereals so-called "Five-Score Fellowship" concerning his dual identity as one of the three Syndics of the city-state of Whitewall, Davion was certain the canny deity would be able to independently confirm what he'd been told and use the information to stymie Golden Reverie at the very least. With Golden Reverie under his thumb, Uvanavu could force his conniving lieutenant to help him definitively neutralize his peer Livilla, Goddess of Prostitutes. With Livilla eliminated or under control, and Golden Reverie equally neutralized, the God of Health would effectively be running the Division of Serenity. That would do until Davion could arrange Yaogin's healing. Preferable in every way to allowing the Bronze Faction Sidereals control over even more of Heaven. Davion had thought long and hard about how to use his "inside knowledge" to best effect. He'd settled on approaching Uvanavu first because he was one of the highest-ranking gods whose immediate problem was most easily solved. That, and Uvanavu still gave a damn about Creation. The day was coming soon when influential allies in Heaven would be worth a thousand times their weight in jade.

It was simple really. Davion was ingratiating himself when and where he could, even as some good was accomplished. It was a modest beginning as foundations went. Still, great achievements often began with small victories. Yu-Shan was always going to be one of the most difficult fronts to win over in the oncoming war. Fortunate then his labors had borne considerably more fruit on other fronts.

Another two hours went by without his quarry leaving her home. During that time Davion's two Hearthstones and the prayers to him from the most devout of his Leonii tribe restored his Essence. Since the Solar he was trying to discreetly meet for the first time was proving herself something of a hermit, the canny Lunar moved on to the next phase of his plan. One which had required considerable legwork and negotiations on his part with several other tribes of beastmen beside his own Leonii, plus half a dozen large tribes of barbarians he'd needed to provide various services for in order to garner their agreement. Again Davion summoned a six-winged cherub. "Atash Scarlet-Claw, Shaman-Rex of the Leonii.It is time, my faithful Rex. Send the winged messenger to D'Nek of the Hawk-God's Children. Communicate to them it is time they contacted the Ghost Wolves and the Tribe of the Red Elk to uphold the bargain. Then inform the Tribe to gather to venerate the Great Censor of the East, the mighty and just Wood Dragon Adiubande as we discussed" Davion messaged.

The Lunar took a moment to savor his scheme coming to fruition as the Cherub carried the words recorded by the Infallible Messenger spell to the shaman who was the spiritual leader of the tribe of Lion-Men he had brought into being. Atash was capable of casting only three genuine spells of sorcery, but the Shaman was a prodigy when it came to the Arts of Thaumaturgy. While the thaumaturgical disciplines lacked the raw power of sorcery, a master of the various thaumaturgical Arts could accomplish wonders in their own right.

With the Elder Lunar Rain Deathflyer's help, Davion had managed to bless his leonine offspring with lifespans two and sometimes even three times as long as those of "normal" people. His direct descendants in particular tended to be among the longest-lived within the tribe. Best of all, the Leonii retained their youthful vigor for more than four-fifths of their lives. Rain had at first denied his requests for assistance. The elder Lunar had initially taken the position that if Davion wanted to bring new life into the world with attributes the younger Lunar lacked the power to give them, he'd have to wait until he'd grown older and could manage it himself. He'd feared the young warrior lacked the emotional maturity and commitment such an undertaking required if it was to be done with honor. Davion had addressed those concerns by becoming the mother to the first two generations of the Leonii. Most Lunars learned how to change their gender before their first century of life elapsed, but very few natal male Lunars were willing to spend long periods of time as a woman. Let alone act in their reproductive capacity until they were considerably older and wiser. Rain had been impressed by his commitment to the nascent tribe, and thereafter agreed to lend the power necessary to grant the Leonii long life, extended youth and increased potential both physical and mental.

In the two centuries since, Davion had paid the best teachers he could find willing to enter the deep wilderness of the Northeast to teach the Leonii. Unlike other scavenger-lords, the Lunar had his moonsilver tattoos and Charms to protect him from the dangers posed by the Wyld. Those finds that he sold instead of keeping for or the Leonii's use, coupled with his commando's pension made him a very wealthy individual. As a result, the Leonii possessed a level of culture and education nearly unheard off in the bestial offspring of Lunars as young as Davion.

The pride he took in the achievements of the tribe that had nothing to do with his aid was far, far greater. Leonii alchemists treated ironwood that Leonii smiths crafted into superlative weapons. Trade deals brokered with a clan of Essence Spiders kept Leonii scouts and warriors in woven steelsilk armor. Other deals arranged with the gods and elementals of the forest via Leonii thaumaturge-shamans gave the Leonii treetop architecture similar to that of the Haltans themselves. One of Davion's proudest days to date had been the Leonii's successful negotiation for entry into the Republic of Halta.

Independent and self-sufficient they may have become, but the Leonii had not forgotten the one who was "Mother and Father of the Forest Lions." Neither had Davion ever ceased to watch over them. Which was why, when his recent vision had lead him to more than even Silver Python had guessed, he'd broken with long-standing tradition and pushed for the Tribe to move into the Manse of his ancient self the Lunar had recently rediscovered, and ultimately reclaimed from the mother of all Wood Spiders. A spirit-beast grown so great it had begun to take on draconic characteristics. Unlike the minor Wood-Aspected Manse he'd built in collaboration with several of the Forest Walkers over a period of eighteen months, his recent acquisition was of First Age construction. Invisible and Outside Fate, the great Lunar-Aspected Manse was a fortress that had somehow been grown rather than built. It's most mind-boggling secret had been the hundred square miles of lush, paradise-like forest located inside the Manse. Davion had read of such larger-on-the-inside constructs during his intensive studying of every scrap of First Age Lore he could find, buy or barter for. Yet he'd never expected to see such with his own eyes. Walking the Manse's halls, a pang had stabbed him through the heart. He couldn't understand the emotion at the time, but since hearing Silver Python's story he somehow simply knew the Manse was the work of his First Age mate and spouse, Glennaela.

With a start, Davion shook off the reverie that had claimed him for the last several minutes. By now his scheme would be in full swing. All he had to do now was execute.
Last edited by Wyldwraith on Sat Mar 03, 2018 10:31 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Exalted: The Silver and Gold Amidst the Green (SI)

Post by Wyldwraith » Sun Feb 18, 2018 3:03 pm

Chapter 3:

The sun was passing its zenith when a draconic face formed in the living wood beside Davion. When the newcomer spoke, it's voice contained the echoes of falling trees and branches rustling together in a strong wind. "I received the...honorarium you promised, Lunar. What matter do you believe requires my august attention? Speak swiftly, as my time is precious" Adiubande, the head of Heaven's law enforcement efforts in Creation's East inquired in a haughty tone.

Davion chose his words with exceptional care. When he responded, his tone was heavy with feigned respect and regard. "Mighty Adiubande, I am most concerned for the detachment of monks belonging to the Immaculate Order who just departed from Greyfalls. Most of them are newcomers to the East and unfamiliar with the perils of travel throughout the region. The commendable zeal which drives them to attempt to reach Halta's capitol as swiftly as possible has, I'm afraid, blinded them to the dangers of traveling with such haste. If some of your agents could have a few words with the local Road and River Gods, and convince said deities it would be in the Monks' best interests to be redirected to broader and safer routes, it would; in my humblest opinion be an act of justice and mercy. Unfortunately, the Monks might not see matters that way, caught up in their devotion to duty as they are. If these rerouting efforts could be achieved without coming to the attention of the Immaculates, it wouldn't impinge on their honor. If they absolutely insist on ignoring the efforts to reroute their path for their own good, perhaps a few inconvenient, time-consuming and yet for the most part harmless encounters with native flora, fauna and a few territorial spirits would convince these devout men and women to return to the much safer main thoroughfares. After all, the Monks will need all their strength if they're to successfully contend with the hated Fair Folk once they near Haltan territory. If their misguided devotion to haste in their travels were to lead to misfortunes that disturbed their sleep once they'd encamped in locales for the night which proved more perilous than these outsiders realized, that would be most tragic. Even the simplest dangers could rob their party of a night's sleep. Snakes slithering into their tents, a pack of hatras raiding their provisions, or even one of the many larger predators preying upon their mounts. All perils that so often befall those unlearned in the ways of the Eastern wildernesses. Wouldn't you agree, Lady Adiubande?" Davion described in a tone of well-feigned concern.

"The East is a dangerous place for those more concerned with where they're headed than their present surroundings. Yet not so dangerous that actual deaths among the mortal acolytes, or any serious harm to the Dragon-Blooded leaders of this detachment is likely in my opinion.Tragedies of that magnitude are the work of Fate, and it is neither your place or mine to interfere even in our speculations with the workings of fate. Otherwise, I'm convinced your concerns are quite justified. You have my word that my attendants will see to your concerns. Better such an enlightened party reach their destination travel-weary and later than they might have wished, than not arrive at all. This concludes your audience, Chosen of Luna" the Eastern Censor responded, tacitly agreeing to see Davion's wishes concerning the Wyld Hunt carried out. In exchange for the Essence derived from the prayers of the three thousand or so barbarians and beastmen the Lunar had arranged for.

Knowledge of which spiritual agents were open to bribes, and how to go about such bribery had been a lesson pounded into Davion's head by his mentor again and again. He hadn't known precisely what he'd need to bribe Adiubande to do months ago when he'd first began making the arrangements, but the Lunar had known it was best to be prepared. Especially given his goals. Unfortunately, his arrangement with the ten tribes he'd coordinated into this mass prayer effort was a one-time-only sort of arrangement. If the Lunar wished to harness their efforts like this again, another cycle of diplomacy backed by services rendered to said tribes would be necessary. The Eastern Censor was incredibly corrupt, but that corruption had one redeeming feature. If the Wood Dragon accepted a bribe, she stayed bribed. Davion could be confident that Adiubande would have her minions see to it the journey of the Monks would be miserable, exhausting, and most important of all, lengthy.

Such a tactic wouldn't have been viable even three years ago. The disappearance of the Empress becoming common knowledge had radically changed many things. The eleven great Dragon-Blooded Houses of the Realm had recalled the vast majority of their members to the Blessed Isle. Each noble House was consolidating all their power in preparation for the conflict they believed would decide who would be the next Emperor or Empress of the Realm. The most important consequence of this consolidation of Imperial power from Davion's perspective was the gutting of the Wyld Hunt.

For centuries, the Wyld Hunt had relentlessly hunted down and exterminated the recipients of the twenty Solar Exaltations the Sidereals had failed to imprison during the Usurpation. Newly Exalted Lunars had been hunted just as relentlessly. The Wyld Hunt had been the force which had driven the Lunars into the Wyld to escape their death squads. Constant exposure to the chaotic energies of the Wyld had shattered the Lunars natural Castes. Only the invention of the Moonsilver Tattoos had saved the Lunars from becoming mutated monsters of the worst kind, the Chimera. A salvation which had come too late for many of the elder Lunars who survived the massacre of their Solar Mates. Even today, new Lunars who weren't found and brought to others of their kind for the rite that surrounded receiving the Moonsilver Tattoos in time became Chimera themselves. For this reason among many others, most Lunars nursed an abiding hatred for the Dragon-Blooded of the Realm.

Now the once deadly organization was in shambles. The Great Houses which had once supplied the elite Dragon-Blooded warriors and exhaustive material support the Wyld Hunt required now hoarded their warriors and wealth. At the same time, the imprisoned Solar Exaltations had been freed. The remaining forces of the Wyld Hunt were still extremely dangerous of course. Yet they were a far cry from what they had been. Davion knew this laxness on the part of the Realm was only temporary. Which made the fruitful collaboration of the young Solars and his Lunar brethren the foundation goal upon which his other goals would rest.

The warrior's musings on the current state of affairs in Creation was interrupted as he spotted the door to his target's dwelling finally open. When he saw that it was a backpack-wearing young woman who emerged, he channeled a small amount of Essence into radically sharpening his sight. Suddenly he could see the young woman as well as if he'd been standing in front of her, rather than three hundred yards across from her and nearly a hundred yards above her. She looked up for a moment, smiling at the capering antics of one of the emerald monkeys so common in Haltan cities and towns. For the span of a couple heartbeats, Davion had a clear view of the woman's face.

The sight made everything else seem to pale into irrelevance. The sight of her caused Davion to do something he hadn't done in centuries as he unconsciously leaned forward as he looked at her.

He fell out of the tree he was sitting in.

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Re: Exalted: The Silver and Gold Amidst the Green (SI)

Post by Wyldwraith » Thu Feb 22, 2018 5:10 pm

Chapter 4:

The platform affixed to the trunk of the great redwood tree whose branches he'd occupied until a moment ago rushed up at the Lunar. Davion barely had time to activate the Charm Cat Falling Attitude. Expended Essence wrenched his body from a torso-first to vertical position as he fell, and preternaturally cushioned his optimally-balanced landing significantly. There was however a substantial difference between "significantly" and "completely" cushioned, when one experienced a three hundred foot drop. The strained tendons, ligaments, and torn muscles highlighted that difference for the warrior as pain blossomed throughout the lower half of his body. Fortunately, ignoring pain was a lesson long since drilled into the Lunar. Rising from the balanced crouch with a smile that belied his pain, he waved off the few onlookers who'd seen him touch down and thought to offer their assistance. Maintaining his smiling mask, he thanked the handful of altruistically-minded fellow citizens for their concern and laughed off the incident with a joke about how cats always landed on their feet. Recognition of his supposed divine great cat ancestry as one of the God-Blooded blossomed on the faces of the helpful group of citizens. All of whom were familiar with the still-famous retired commando leader "Emerald Lion." As the small crowd dispersed after thanking him for his past service, Davion got to work channeling Essence into two Charms. The first healed the injuries he sustained in the fall. The second Charm mystically concealed the silver nimbus of light which would have otherwise surrounded him while the powerful healing Charm was at work.

The moment the distracting pain vanished, Davion was visually sweeping the platform. Then a feminine voice he somehow just knew was hers spoke up from behind him. "That was quite a fall. Maybe you'd better come with me back to my home so I can examine you. I've seen complications develop in God-Bloods who use spirit Charms to rapidly heal themselves. Don't give me any of that nonsense about cat's always landing on their feet either. My brother's a Dragon-Blooded commando, and healing from a fall like that would have severely depleted his Essence under the best of circumstances. Come and let me look you over, please?" the woman requested.

Bemused, Davion simply nodded and followed along behind the short, yet exceptionally well-proportioned young woman. Every ten steps or so she looked back over her shoulder, as if to assure herself he was still there. Twice, a veritable storm of different emotions played across her lovely; heart-shaped face. Both times she ended up biting her lower lip and quickly looking away.

The walk to the Solar's dwelling was actually quite short, but for Davion it seemed to go on forever. Over and over the image which had caused his fall upon catching sight of his new charge's face played through his mind.

The cathedral was enormous. Orichalcum and Moonsilver iconography of the Unconquered Sun and Luna were prominent along the walls and across the domed ceiling. All five types of Jade made up the mosaic of Creation that made up the floor of the temple. Khyzin knew this much due to memories of the many weddings he'd attended here. Today he had eyes for nothing and no one save the woman coming down the aisle. Glennaela was heart-stoppingly beautiful. Her tall yet eminently feminine form was shown off to best effect by her wedding gown of white gold and Orichalcum. Khyzin's keen ears heard a few guests whispering in scandalized tones at the sight of Glennaela's veil and train of Moonsilver, but her willingness to break with tradition to honor Luna for his sake made him love his bride-to-be all the more. Khyzin knew the woman who would soon be his wife was terrified of having large numbers of strangers behind her where she couldn't see them. It had taken a month of arguments and pleading, but her smile beneath the veil was brave. If he'd had any doubts as to the beautiful Twilight's love for him, her willingness to face her fear like this would have laid them to rest. Closer she drew, every pace graceful and unbowed by the fear he knew was swirling in her stomach...

The shard of a memory not his own had been evoked by the sight of a woman who; other than being exceptionally beautiful in her own right, could not possibly appear more different from the bride of his past self. Yet still the image was somehow part of the growing connection he felt to a woman he'd only just met. "A woman a tenth your age" Davion reminded himself. Despite the reminder, he found his eyes drawn to the Solar he'd come to protect again and again. She opened the door to her family's affluent dwelling in one of the much-prized hollows in the living redwoods of Halta's capitol and stepped inside. Turning, she motioned for him to enter. Once he'd cleared the doorway she was quick to close the door. As soon as she had, her entire demeanor changed.

"You're no God-Blooded like you profess to be. Who and what are you? Why do you keep looking at me so intently? Why did I see..." she interrogated, before her mouth swiftly snapped shut. Her sudden silence was confirmation he hadn't been the only one to see something from their shared past life. It took him a moment to work out how she'd determined he wasn't God-Blooded, but once he figured out she'd already mastered the Essence vision conferred by the All Encompassing Sorcerer's Sight Charm he was understandably impressed. He'd lay his cards on the table then. Silver radiance filled the spacious living room as the filled silver circle in the center of his forehead began to shine as his caste mark declared him a Warrior of Luna.

Seeing the young woman's eyes go wide, he kept his tone gentle as he replied "My name is Davion Argentmane. I have had the privilege of being one of Luna's Exalted warriors for the last three hundred and two years. There are...many reasons, why I keep looking at you. One reason is you're the first Solar Exalt I've ever met. It's one thing to read about the Chosen of the Unconquered Sun. Quite another to meet one face to face. As for your unfinished question: I strongly suspect you were going to ask why you saw another man, in another time and place, and perhaps other things when you got a good look at me. If its any comfort, so did I. The shock of the experience is why I fell. I can explain the phenomena or not. That's entirely up to you."

Lireal Vandra didn't know what to think. Her intentions for the day had been to slip out of the capitol to a secluded and largely abandoned arboretum her mother had once overseen. There, she could continue to develop the Charm she was currently working on. As a matter of prudence, she generally kept her Essence vision active during her walk to the old arboretum. It was an effective means of spotting any supernatural entities that might be taking an undue interest in her. Keeping her behavior prudent and low-key since her Exaltation three years earlier had only seemed like common sense. She'd always known she'd have to leave Halta once her secret got out. Just as she'd understood said secret would inevitably get out. It was simply common sense to develop her new abilities as much as she could before that happened.

So when she'd seen "Emerald Lion" fall, the silver Essence that pulsed through him during and immediate after his fall captured her attention fully. She'd seen gods, God-Blooded, elementals and even Fair Folk expend Essence. Their Essence was nothing like the silver of the well-known; supposedly God-Blooded retired commando leader. Neither did it appear anything like the multi-shaded green Essence her Wood Aspect Dragon-Blooded brother utilized. The only thing those silver streams of Essence seemed remotely similar to, in point of fact, were the streams of golden Essence she saw in herself. The similarity was intriguing to the intensely curious healer and occult scholar. Yet not so intriguing she was willing to do anything that might get her noticed by someone with Emerald Lion's skills and resources. Despite Halta's alliance with the Bull of the North during the recent war, many Haltans were either frightened of the Solar warlord's power or resented the Bull and his forces due to the thousands of Haltans who'd died during the fighting. Lireal had no desire to be tarred with the same brush by her countrymen. Making her continued low-profile even more necessary in her opinion.

Then the Solar happened to catch a look at "Emerald Lion's" face. Suddenly she was...somewhere else, someone else. The canopied bed she laid on felt like a silken cloud beneath her. All of her attention was reserved for the man beside her though. Others knew him as a fierce, implacable warrior capable of the most ruthless actions. Or they had, until Khyzin had resigned his commission to ensure her safety in the wake of the attempt on her life. She never would have asked that of him. Still, the terror only receded enough for her to breathe freely when he was close. The sorceress-queen hated how the fear lashed her despite her vast power. Yet here, snuggled into the crook of her husband-protector's arm, Glennaela felt safe.

The vision-memory-hallucination lasted only seconds. Long enough for Lireal to change her plans. She circled back around while he dispersed concerned citizens who'd seen his fall. Once they were gone she called out to the enigmatic man from behind him. It took less convincing than she'd expected to talk him into accompanying her back to her home. Once she had him inside, she'd thought to interrogate him after throwing him off-balance by confronting him with the fact she knew he wasn't one of the God-Blooded. She hadn't been prepared for his apparent forthrightness. When his caste mark blazed to argent life, it had taken everything she had not to gasp in shock. A vague suspicion was one thing. A three hundred year old Lunar warrior in her living room was something else altogether. So when the man who'd identified himself as "Davion Argentmane" casually revealed he knew her secret, Lireal just didn't have enough shock left in her to properly go around.

Then he'd answered her questions. Even going so far as to answer the one she hadn't finished. Davion had stated he knew what had caused the visions they'd both had. He probably thought leaving the decision as to whether he explained the mystery up to her to be a kindness. Men! One more thing she had to take responsibility for. As if Lireal's insatiable curiosity even made continued ignorance an option when the truth was available for the asking.

"Yes, I want you to explain the vi...the phenomena" she said at last.

Taking a deep breath, Davion said "First, you need to understand that I don't have any expectations or intend to make any demands on you. Quite the opposite, to tell the truth."

"Got it. Now stop stalling and just say what you have to say" Lireal quickly responded. Her heart was pounding a mile a minute, yet her cool calm tone surprised even her.

"Simply put...a very, very long time ago the last woman to bear your specific Exaltation was the wife and Solar mate of the man who bore my specific Exaltation. Every Lunar Exaltation is eternally bonded, to a greater or lesser extent, to one specific Solar Exaltation. Echoes of that woman's memories remain in your Exaltation. It's the same for me, except the memories are more fragmented due to my Exaltation having been borne by three others between me and that man. What hit me like a lightning bolt was feeling what we Lunars call the Solar Bond. Which runs the one way, incidentally. It's meant to ensure you'll have the loyalty of a Lunar. So....there it is" Davion explained.

"Wait, so you're like mystically enslaved to be loyal to me? That's horrific!" Lireal responded, eyes going wide again, a deep look of distress dominating her attractive features.

"Nothing so extreme...Though there were some unbalanced and cruel Solars in the First Age who used the Bond to gain even more influence over their Lunar. Which is why, incidentally, some of the oldest Lunars really aren't fans of Solars. Others are undecided, and still others are overjoyed. Personally, I'm rather pleased the Solars have returned. The Solar Bond tends to influence me towards being loyal to you certainly. Yet it isn't always expressed romantically. Some Solars and Lunars were great friends, or even just strong allies. Although I should admit in all fairness that when dealing with two members of the opposite sex, who are both attracted to the opposite sex...it isn't uncommon for it to go that way. Please don't worry though. While I find you quite attractive, you are almost exactly one tenth my age. Making any unsolicited advances on you would be wrong. I just want to help get you out of Halta. Especially now that the Wyld Hunt knows about you. Then take you somewhere where you can learn to fulfill your potential. I give you my word I'll protect you from any harm. Which I was on my way to do before I even realized you were my Solar Mate, by the way" Davion reassured her.

"The Wyld Hunt knows about me! Why didn't you say so right away? We need to get out of here. I won't be the reason harm comes to my mother, brother or my countrymen. What did you mean about being on your way to get me out of Halta, and where are you wanting to take me?" Lireal alternately exclaimed and demanded.

"Take a deep breath and try to relax. I've made arrangements to delay the Wyld Hunt contingent journeying here. Nothing fatal unfortunately, but the two or three week journey from Greyfalls to Chanta will take them at least a month and change. On top of that they'll be exhausted by the time they arrive. They'll likely return to Greyfalls when they find no trail to pursue save the false one we'll lay down as we leave the city. This isn't the Wyld Hunt of days gone by. We're talking about three or four Dragon-Blooded Immaculate Monks, an equal number of mortal Essence-users trained in Terrestrial Martial Arts. Plus a couple dozen veteran mortal soldiers commanded by a young and inexperienced Dragon-Blooded officer. Unlike the Wyld Hunts dispatched before the Scarlet Demon Whore's disappearance, this is an improvised cadre. Only the leader of the monks and his or her second are likely to have even seen a Lunar or Solar before. The only reason I don't simply ambush and destroy them myself is doing so would confirm their fear you intend to join the Bull of the North. That could cause trouble for Halta. Just get together anything you can't bear to leave behind. No more than you're comfortable carrying in a backpack. Then we can be on our way. If, that is, you choose to go with me. I'm not kidnapping you, after all" Davion assured her as he detailed what needed to happen.

To his great surprise, and distinct approval, Lireal darted into another room and returned with a pack ready to go. Noticing his expression, Lireal grinned conspiratorially and said "My mother didn't raise any fools. I realized I needed to be ready to leave at a moment's notice shortly after I Exalted. We just need to stop at the capitol Arborists Center. I need to give my mother the signal I'm leaving willingly."

Nodding his agreement, Davion answered "Lead on then, oh well-prepared one."

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Re: Exalted: The Silver and Gold Amidst the Green (SI)

Post by Wyldwraith » Sat Feb 24, 2018 11:45 am

Chapter 5:

It didn't take long for Lireal to say her surreptitious farewell to her mother. Once that was done, Davion ensured plenty of people saw the two of them with packs on their backs leaving the Haltan capitol by a tree path leading off to the north. When the Wyld Hunt finally made its way to Chanta and began trying to track them, the fact the pair were last seen headed north would likely cause the Immaculate hunters to assume Lireal was indeed headed to join up with the Bull. By the time they realized their error, the already impossible task of tracking their quarry down without Sidereal guidance would be even harder.

Since they were only halfway through the month of Resplendent Wood traveling was still quite comfortable. Keeping an eye on his charge for building fatigue, the Lunar noted the fact Lireal was still going strong after what had already been a twelve or thirteen mile hike meant the young woman had kept up the physical conditioning all recruits had to achieve before being assigned to a unit of the Haltan Guard. In the Republic, every citizen who wasn't physically infirm was required to serve a four-year stint in the country's military. He'd been impressed to learn that Lireal had chosen service as a field medic. With her education she could've easily gained an assignment as healer in a fort's medical annex. Her prodigious feat of attaining a Master's Degree in Alchemy when she was only twenty-three could have just as easily earned her an officer's commission in the Equipment and Logistics Corps. Either assignment would have allowed her to avoid the many inconveniences and perils faced by soldiers. The answer she'd given, delivered as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, when Davion had asked why she'd chosen to serve as a field medic had impressed him even more.

"That's where our soldiers needed a skilled healer the most. On the scene as soon as possible after they'd been wounded. I worked on many of our brave men, women and beings who never would have made it to the medical annex without treatment more extensive than that provided by medics with less training. Plus, out in the field, no one could fling that hateful word triage at me to justify withholding expensive and difficult-to-make alchemical remedies. In the annex, the senior healer could order me to turn over potions and remedies made and paid for entirely by me to speed the recovery of a soldier who'd survive without them. In the field, anything beyond issued medical supplies were discretionary resources for us medics. The being who will otherwise die needs the most help, even if they're the greenest new soldier. I refuse to decide the value of a sentient being's life by their level of personal power. Which is why I did my four years and got out" Lireal had told him.

Her answer had sent a pang through Davion. Rationally, he knew that quite often valuing a being by their power level often lead to saving more lives in the long run. At least when it came down to deciding who to move to protect in a life or death situation. Emotionally, he envied Lireal's commitment to her ideals. He silenced the part of him tempted to call her beliefs naive. Whether he agreed with her or not, she'd earned the right to such an opinion every time she'd risked death to save another's life. Unlike him, the healer had been as mortal as every other human being when she'd put herself in harm's way upholding her ideals. Risking everything to remain true to one's beliefs took real courage when an individual didn't possess supernatural gifts to fall back on.

"You've gotten quiet since I answered your question. Do you disagree with me?" Lireal asked, more than a hint of challenge in her voice.

"I was just thinking about the nature of courage, actually. Whether I agree with you or not is immaterial. I respect your convictions because they're not just high-sounding words to you. You proved that by risking your life again and again to remain true to your principles. The Unconquered Sun obviously saw wisdom and justice in your compassionate outlook. On the other hand, if all other things are relatively equal, I personally believe in prioritizing saving the lives of good individuals with power over those without. Take your brother for example. A Wood Aspect Dragon-Blooded and highly trained commando. If I found myself in a situation where the lives of your brother and a mortal commando who was just as good a person were both in mortal danger, if I could only rescue one of them I'd choose your brother. His capacity to do good is an order of magnitude greater than the mortal commando's. On top of that, the fact is your brother's lifespan is measured in centuries. Giving him the opportunity to do far more good over a much longer period of time than his mortal counterpart. It isn't about your brother being a better person than his counterpart. It's simply a matter of your brother's far greater capacity for good over a much longer period of time. It might seem heartless to you, but from my perspective, Creation needs someone like your brother more than a mortal soldier. I've had to take a longer view, and keep the big picture in mind" Davion replied in depth.

"So you play God. Deciding who deserves to live, and who doesn't?" Lireal asked, sounding disturbed.

"There's no playing about it, Lireal. The Unconquered Sun gave the Creation Ruling Mandate to your kind. With the Solars murdered and their Exaltations imprisoned by the traitorous Sidereals and their Dragon-Blooded puppets, we Lunars were all Creation had left. There are only three hundred Lunar Exaltations. Reducing our ranks even further are the soulless Chimera that Lunars become without our Moonsilver tattoos, and the traitor Akuma who've sold their souls and free will to the Demon Princes for even more power. Even some of our elders who received the tattoos are twisted, mad things. Finally, there are those who are simply selfish. Who use their Exaltations to feather their own nests instead of using their power to protect Creation and its peoples. At any one time, no more than two hundred and thirty Lunars are actually doing good with their power. Meaning there are a mere fifty-eight Lunars for each Cardinal Direction, if we were to divide our efforts evenly. Your kind are in even worse shape, numerically speaking" Davion explained, weariness in his voice.

Lireal stopped walking as she heard his last statement. "What do you mean? About there being less Solars than Lunars? I thought you said there were three hundred of each. That each Lunar Exaltation was paired with a Solar one?" she asked.

"Didn't you ever wonder how the Solar Exaltations were freed from where the Sidereals imprisoned them? The Demon Princes conspired with their dead yet not-dead kin to break open the Jade Prison that held every Solar Exaltation except the twenty never captured by the Sidereals. They intended to capture all of the Solar Exaltations and twist them into things of death and evil. They only managed to capture one hundred and thirty of the two hundred and eighty Exaltations though. Added to the twenty who'd always remained free, that leaves only one hundred and seventy untainted Solar Exaltations. Eighty of the one hundred and thirty captured went to the Deathlords. Those ancient and utterly evil ghosts of First Age Solars twisted them into becoming the Abyssal Exalted. Their fate is horrific, but there's some slight cause for hope there. What happened to the fifty Solar Exaltations given to the Yozis is infinitely worse. Twisted and perverted, they became the Infernal Exalts. They serve their demonic masters desires to turn Creation into Hell like the Demon Realm so their masters can escape" Davion detailed, voice gone grim.

Paling visibly, Lireal didn't respond to that. As she turned away and started walking once more, the Lunar caught a glimpse of the tears the healer was fighting not to shed.

Wondering if he'd dumped too much bad news on the young woman at once, and hating the fact he'd caused her pain, the pair walked on in silence.

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Re: Exalted: The Silver and Gold Amidst the Green (SI)

Post by Wyldwraith » Sat Feb 24, 2018 6:24 pm

Chapter 6:

The Lunar and his Solar charge continued their hike to the nearest way-station in silence for quite some time. Davion worried he'd told Lireal too much, too quickly. Having the more alarming realities of Creation dumped on you like a wall of exposition in some story was bound to be unsettling, to say the least. He knew this, and yet still worried. Seeing the tears Lireal had refused to shed upon hearing the fates of nearly half the Solar Exaltations, and by extension the suffering of those who bore the now twisted Exaltations had been deeply painful for the Lunar. This deep-seated moment by moment concern for another's happiness and well-being felt so...intimate, and intimacy had never been his strong suit. Oh, he'd had his share of casual encounters with minor goddesses and a few of the more attractive and human-like female elementals drawn to his good-looks, strength and supernatural power. He'd had a few female friends that were also on-again, off-again lovers. Yet love or anything remotely like it had played no part in this second life of his.

Making matters worse were his own principles. He'd spoken truly when he'd told Lireal he thought becoming involved with someone a tenth his age would be wrong. At the same time, he knew feeling this way was ridiculous. As a fellow Celestial Exalt, Lireal was just as condemned as he was to watch any mortal or even quasi-mortal love interest age and die. Barring an all-too-likely untimely demise, their lifespans were measured in millennia. While deities possessed the required lifespan, they were ultimately too alien in their thought processes to find any satisfaction besides casual carnality or, rarely, an odd sort of affection with however human they might appear on the outside. "There was a reason Luna and the Unconquered Sun endeavored to pair us off after all" Davion reflected.

Engrossed in his thoughts, Davion might've missed the subtle noise for what it was were his instincts less finely honed. Grabbing Lireal, he pulled her down beside him. A split-second later several crossbow bolts whined through the space they'd occupied an instant earlier. Silken ropes dropped from above ahead and behind the pair, as two groups of half a dozen rough-looking men swiftly abseiled down onto the branch-path from the positions in the canopy where they'd been laying in wait. "Bandits" Davion immediately realized.

Given their numbers, the Lunar realized discretion concerning his powers would be impossible if he intended to keep his charge safe. Hoping an immediate showing of overawing power would scatter the human predators, he hurriedly whispered to Lireal "Remember, it will still be me inside. Don't panic, please."

Warning given, he leaped to his feet and called on the power for which his kind were rightly feared. In the two heartbeats it took the bandits to unclip from their descent-ropes, Davion's six-foot height increased by two and a half feet, and his two-hundred-twenty pound weight more than doubled. Bones and tendons popped and crackled, particularly in his now feline-like legs. A thick; sleek emerald pelt covered his entire body as his head reshaped itself into a far more leonine appearance with cat-like eyes, possessed of long fangs and a savage maw of flesh-rending teeth. Long claws unsheathed themselves from his huge hands. Exceptionally muscular legs ended in large pawed feet that were also clawed. Where the normal-seeming man had stood there now loomed an enormous green-maned lion-man.

The Lunar's sudden transformation seemed to give several of the men pause. Yet a stern voice from the back of the group in front of Davion and Lireal snapped at his men "So he's the by-blow of a lion-god. There are a dozen of us! Stab him enough and he'll go down. You and you, out crossbows! You get a clean shot through the melee, you take it, get me?" The bandits' unified response of "We get you, Sir!" concerned Davion. It told him he was dealing with a unit of ex-soldiers rather than simple brigands. Fury filled him at the idea of those trained to protect Halta preying on their fellow Haltans. Still, for Lireal's sake, he tried.

"You men did at least four years service to the Republic. Withdraw immediately, and I will grant you your lives out of respect for the Guard. If this isn't about mere greed, I can secure a good job for any man who stands aside from this. No one need ever know you were involved in something like this. I won't ask you to fight your friends. Simply stand aside. Some of you might know me. My name is Emerald Lion. Choose, now" Davion rumbled in a growling voice.

Several of the bandit visibly wavered. Davion's now much keener hearing picked out his name fearfully whispered more than once. Their leader was no fool however. "Every man here's a ravager. You think a commando hero will let any man who surrenders live, knowing that? He's seen your faces. Either he dies or all of us do. What's it to be men? Know what I think? I think if Emerald Lion was confident of defeating a dozen trained fighters on his own, he wouldn't be negotiating at all. I think his reputation is more wood-linen than ironwood. Most of all, I think we get a blade against his woman's throat, the mighty lion will turn into a kitten. The Republic pays God-Bloods like him huge pensions. I bet he's got at least a thousand dinars on him, plus whatever Yseult's Envoy will give us for the woman..."

Whatever else the bandit leader might've said was cut off by a deafening roar of fury. An instant later both groups converged on the huge lion-man. Out of the corner of his eye, Davion saw Lireal pull something she'd been slowly extracting from a pouch at her belt and hurl the object at the group of men behind them.

The object, a small flask, shattered against one of the plates in the lead bandit's leather buff-coat. A greenish-white gas enveloped the half-dozen bandits, as they began to violently cough, gag and claw at their eyes. Weapons fell from the hands of men in agonizing pain, and then two of them were suddenly screaming as they'd blindly lurched off the path to fall hundreds of feet. The remaining four immediately dropped to their hands and knees to feel the trail as they crawled away. With one throw, the Solar had cut the number of bandits facing them in half.

Seeing the fate of their allies, the group to the front suddenly slowed. One opened his mouth to speak, but Davion knocked his head from his shoulders with one great swipe of a clawed hand. A long furred leg lashed out to strike the headless corpse in the chest before it'd even begun to fall. The impact sent the corpse hurtling like a runaway Yeddim into the man directly behind him. Corpse and man went over the low rail of the branch-path together. A crossbow bolt thudded against the Lunar's heavily muscled and furred shoulder, but failed to penetrate. Seeing that was enough for the three remaining subordinate bandits. They turned and fled despite the curses of their leader. Said leader himself turned to flee, but with a superhuman leap the huge lion-man went over his head and curled in midair to land ahead of and facing him. The bandit leader lashed out with his double-edged blade with some skill. Defying belief for something his size, Davion flowed around each thrust and cut like water. Fear entered the man's eyes, but he simply redoubled his efforts to strike down the apex predator in front of him. Deftly timing his movements, Luna's warrior caught the blade by its flat between his palms with the speed of a striking serpent.

Blood drained from the bandit leader's face at the seemingly impossible feat. Then the weapon was wrenched from his grasp. Before Davion could tear his throat out with a clawed hand, however, his opponent suddenly stiffened and fell. Behind him stood Lireal. The bloody ironwood dagger in her hand slipped easily from the base of the bandit leader's skull as gravity carried the corpse off her blade. Fixing the corpse at her feet with a venomous glare, she spat on the body. "Ravager filth" she barked, kicking the spat-upon corpse. Stunned, the Lunar watched as the young Solar marched back to the quartet of still-blind men trying to flee on their hands and knees. It was over in seconds. Four precisely delivered blows with her dagger and the bandits lay dead. Only then dead she turn back to Davion, asking him to throw "the garbage" from the trail.

Stunned, the leonine Lunar simply nodded his great head and did as he was bade.

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Re: Exalted: The Silver and Gold Amidst the Green (SI)

Post by Wyldwraith » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:16 am

Chapter 7:

Nothing was said for some time after the brief yet bloody battle with the band of ravagers. As the pair walked on in silence, Davion reconsidered his initial impressions of his young companion. For all her compassion and empathy, there was a hardness in the young healer-scholar which had surprised him. He realized how foolish he'd been to take one side of the woman and consider it the totality of her being. In retrospect, it was obvious that an experienced healer would long since have become accustomed to making difficult decisions. Lireal would have abandoned the vocation long ago otherwise. All of that went double for a physician who'd served on the battlefield for years. "So why am I so thrown by the sight of her putting down a bunch of monsters like those ravagers?" he silently asked himself.

"You seemed surprised" Lireal suddenly commented, as if reading his thoughts. Before he could find the right response, she was speaking again. "I went to the University in Chanta to learn thaumaturgy. Earning my Adept Degree as an Alchemist in twenty-one months beat the old record for a mortal by almost two months. The achievement caught Tayla Ash-Child's attention. I absolutely hated the University's most esteemed Mistress of Alchemy at first. It seemed to me as if she delighted in downplaying my every accomplishment, and rewarding success ahead of schedule with three times more work. I was actually self-absorbed enough to believe a hundred year old God-Blooded Mistress of half a dozen Thaumaturgical Arts was trying to burn me out because she felt threatened by my talent."

"Then one evening I was working late on a compounding I couldn't leave unattended for more than a few minutes at a time. I stepped out of the lab to use the facilities. That's when I overheard her waxing ecstatic about my talent and potential to another faculty member. She'd called in favors to get my Confirmation training assigned to her. All because she'd worried I wouldn't be challenged enough to fully realize my potential otherwise. For months I'd been silently cursing her day and night for her demands. When in reality, Mistress Ash-Child had simply been focused on ensuring I reached my full potential. The shame I felt then...I can't really describe it. It made me want to crawl in a hole and die. I couldn't bear the sight of myself in a mirror until I'd sworn to all the Gods and Goddesses who might listen I would never allow arrogance and belief in my own intellectual superiority to twist me like that ever again. Then I went and confessed my stupidity and blindness to her. I expected her to be disgusted, outraged or appalled. Furious that after everything she'd done for me, I could be such an ingrate. All she did was smile and tell me she was proud of me for finding the courage to admit my mistake. Then she shared with me how for months she'd harbored similar feelings toward the Master Enchanter who'd constantly pushed her while she'd been studying to be Confirmed as a Master Enchanter when she wasn't much older than me. We started playing Gateway together whenever we both found ourselves unable to sleep. I learned as much from the conversations over the game-board as I ever did in the classroom" Lireal continued.

"Right before the academic challenges to Confirm me as a Mistress of Alchemy, there was an outbreak of Green Sun Sickness in Glorious Crown. Mistress Ash-Child had the ability to travel through living wood twice as fast as a Strix can fly. She set out for Glorious Crown alone, because her power could only carry her through wood. She never arrived. A year later a small merchant caravan was ambushed by a large, highly-organized group of ravagers after camping at a way-station for the night two days outside Glorious Crown. A God-Blooded man managed to escape by dematerializing before they could hit him with one of the knockout-darts that incapacitated all of the others. After he reported the attack, a group of commandos successfully tracked the ravagers back to their lair and took them down" Lireal related, her tone remote.

"The ravagers taken prisoner cut a deal. They provided names or descriptions of all the victims they could remember, information about rival bands of ravagers still active, and everything they knew about the Fair Folk buyers. In exchange, the ravagers received quick deaths. One of them clearly remembered a lone woman with bright orange hair. Hair the color of Mountain Ash berries. For more than a century, Tayla Ash-Child devoted her life to alleviating suffering and teaching others to do the same. Those monsters could have ransomed her. Thousands of people would've given their last coin to help the woman who saved their lives, or the life of someone they loved. Gods, we even allow our mortal enemies a month to ransom the lives of soldiers they send to kill Haltans and burn our forests! Instead, the wretches sold her like she was nothing to Yseult's monsters. The Fair Folk I can at least understand. Every predator eats after all. Ravagers make the Fair Folk look like heroes though. Anyone who can sell a human being to the Fae for the sake of greed isn't human as far as I'm concerned. If I could kill every single one of those debased traitors to humanity, I would!" the Solar finished, body-shaking as the emotion struggled to find release.

Having reverted to his human form once he'd finished throwing the last of the corpses from the trail, Davion didn't think. His strong arms enfolded Lireal as the dam broke and she began to cry in earnest. The Lunar had seen this sort of delayed emotional response to killing hundreds of times. He'd been where she was now more than once himself, long ago. Yet with Lireal it was different. He ached to take the pain of the reopened old wound from here, even as he knew he did her a disservice. Her grief and the responsibility for the consequences of her actions belonged to her. To behave otherwise was to act as if she was a child or a weakling unable to carry the weight of her deeds. So he simply held on, and rode out the emotional storm with her in silence.

After a time, the tears and shuddering sobs stopped. Suddenly conscious of the circumstances, Lireal quickly wriggled free of his embrace with a quietly embarrassed "Thank you." The tall, lean young-looking man only nodded in response. To divert the young woman from her sudden self-consciousness, he decided to do something he hadn't planned to do until tomorrow.

"How would you like to ride a cloud?" he asked, smiling at what must seem to her an outrageous statement. The look of surprise on her face, coupled with curiosity told the handsome Lunar his gamble had paid off.

"A cloud? That's impossible, isn't it?" Lireal questioned, obviously intrigued by the prospect. Her curiosity obviously distracting her from the dark thoughts and emotions that had been plaguing her.

"I assure you it's quite possible. I'd planned on waiting until tomorrow, but we still have four hours or so of good light left. I have excellent night vision as well. If you get tired, just lean against me and go to sleep. I promise you can't fall off. So, what do you say?" Davion asked, favoring her with an encouraging smile.

Wanting to leave the immediate area far behind and extremely curious, Lireal made her decision on the spur of the moment by nodding emphatically. She watched with fascination the two strange gestures her companion made, but gave a huff of frustration as the short string of words he spoke slipped from her memory. For a minute nothing seemed to happen. Then suddenly a fluffy white cloud swept down through a sizable gap in the treetop canopy to hover a few inches above the branch path directly in front of the pair. Davion confidently stepped forward and up onto the cloud. Then he turned and offered his hand to Lireal. The Solar hesitated for a moment, then quickly clasped the Lunar's hand and allowed him to pull her up beside him. A look of surprise crossed her heart-shaped face as she discovered the cloud was quite firm beneath her feet. When Davion took a seat, she did likewise.

The cloud began a slow ascent toward the gap in the canopy it had descended through. The pair emerged from the canopy of the great forest a few minutes later. As they gained altitude, Lireal couldn't contain a gasp of sheer wonder as she took in the sights below them. The emerald of canopy foliage stretched as far as the eye could see. The silver ribbons of rivers reflecting the afternoon sun were breathtaking vistas from this new exotic vantage. To the north, Lireal could just make out the stone outcroppings and collection of rough-hewn walls that made up the Proving Ground and the Great Maze at its heart she'd heard stories about. Beyond the Proving Ground, she could just barely make out dark smudges far to the north that she soon realized was the southernmost of the North's great mountain ranges.

An hour later the cloud began a gentle easterly arc at some silent cue of her guardian. The Solar marveled at the great trees presently in front of them. Despite the great distance, she realized these redwoods dwarfed the trees of their homeland by an order of magnitude as they stretched upward for miles. Even as the cloud continued to arc to the south, Lireal found herself turning to keep the enormous trees in sight. Only when she would have had to start looking back over her shoulder to continue looking at the colossal redwoods did she finally turn her attention to the sights now before them. Now the cloud began to pick up speed in earnest. Soon, the young scholar found the world zipping by beneath them faster than she'd ever traveled by far. Wind tossed her long ponytail of straight; dark green hair about as it caressed her face. Lireal couldn't help laughing, as the dark weight that had been pulling her down since the confrontation with the ravagers suddenly left her. The marvel of Creation's beauty spread out before her like this moved her in multiple ways. She'd wondered why the third stage of sorcerous initiation amounted to a journey into the unknown when she'd begun researching and pursuing such a path. What she was seeing now allowed her to understand what had been mere words on a page before in a manner she couldn't have imagined even a few hours ago. Now the truth of what she'd read was self-evident. The thought gave her hope, even as the thought of the final two stages threatened to rekindle the dark emotions she'd so recently overcome.

Before she began brooding, Davion suddenly asked her how far she'd come with her self-imposed Exalted training regimen over the last three years. As distractions went, his timing couldn't have been more perfect in her opinion. The thought brought a smile to Lireal's face. Despite the vanishingly brief length of their acquaintance, the Solar found she was coming to rely on her Lunar guardian more with every passing hour. Someone as independent and self-contained as the attractive Twilight should have found relying on anyone else so much distasteful at the very least. Instead, she found the warrior's solidity and uncompromising way of viewing the world rather refreshing. That he was someone who understood what she was going through meant something to her. The fact she was no longer alone in all this meant even more.

Still, there was a part of Lireal only too eager to remind her of just how much it had hurt each time her trust in a member of the opposite sex had proven itself misplaced. Male colleagues she'd considered close friends who ultimately valued their egos more than her friendship. Superior officers among the healers who'd been quick to take credit for her efforts. Her father...She cut the train of thought off there. Her current situation would be far more precarious without Davion. "Admitting that doesn't mean I'm some weak-kneed damsel in distress though" Lireal thought resolutely. Realizing she'd been silent for quite some time since the question he'd put to her, she hurried her response in hopes of concealing the tumult of thoughts and emotions swirling inside her.

"Well, I started experimenting with ways to use Essence to enhance my healing efforts. That's what lead me to discover I could use Essence to enhance applications of my preexisting skills. I can't really explain the train of thought that started me on the path to learning purely Essence-based healing techniques. Calling what happened an intuitive leap doesn't really describe what happened, but it's the best I can do. It took me a year of focusing on healing techniques to the exclusion of everything else to reach the point there was nothing more I could learn in that regard. My brother, Taric is a Wood Aspect Dragon Blood serving in the commandos. Once he came home on leave, I finally had the chance to confide in him about my Exaltation. He was a great help once he calmed down. My brother helped me build on what little combat training I'd received in the Guard. Mostly defense-oriented techniques. Then I discovered how to enhance my senses with Essence. After I had a very vivid recurring dream a half-dozen times, I started researching sorcery. That's pretty much everything up to the present" Lireal answered.

"We call discrete Essence-using techniques Charms. I'm impressed by how much you've accomplished in only three years. Where we're going you'll have the benefit of at least one skilled teacher. Possibly more, if he's running things the same way he was several years ago" Davion replied.

To his surprise, the Solar didn't question his deliberately vague description of her prospective teacher. "What's it like? Being over three hundred years old, I mean" Lireal asked instead after several moments silence. The unanticipated inquiry caught the Lunar off-guard.

"Honestly? It feels like you've slowed down without slowing down. People and events seem to pass more quickly, but you start to see certain repetitions of patterns. Things that might seem unique if your lifespan was shorter. Events you begin to realize reoccur with regularity when viewed from a sustained perspective. My apologies for the imprecise explanation. Being ageless for all practical intents and purposes means different things for different individuals faced with the prospect. It's provided me with desperately needed time, for instance" Davion answered perhaps too honestly.

"Time to do what?" the beautiful scholar asked.

"In for a penny, in for a pound" Davion thought. "Time to prepare to stop the fairly imminent attempt to end Creation as we know it" he answered without missing a beat.

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