All across the loom, the strands of destiny began to show black. Dripping with a sticky substance as if it was dipped in pitch. This future was unavoidable, each of the keepers knew this. Yet it was the pristine and immortal hands of one that toiled, for a chance was presented. Four strings, far apart, untouched by the dark, and a slight shimmer about them. They would exalt, she knew this. As loathe as she was to help the anathema... she would commit forbidden acts to do just that. Weaving them towards each other, paying no mind the damage she did to the past work of the loom.
There was a price, of course, for such tampering. Untold things might result... but worse still, she had to give up her own time. The skin of her hands, what should be eternal, they aged before her eyes with each disruption. All the while her sisters, the other keepers of the loom, had their heads down focusing on reading what was to be. This was good... it gave her time to work. For it would surely be her death should they know.
Finally the four strands, she was able to make them connect. Tomorrow. At the center of the tapestry. It was all she could do.... the now elderly woman could hear the ruffle of cloth behind her. Her sisters. All of them in a circle around her. "I am sorry, sisters. For my betrayal. But I am ready." She said in gasping wheezes.
"Do not be sorry." Said the one behind her. "As you may very well have saved us." Yet.... it would not change what she had to do.
The old woman felt the cold of steel against her throat, and the sting of it being drawn across her skin. She was too weak to do anything more than give in to death.
The room became silent. "We know what we must do..." the killer said in a sad voice. "Do not forget the position we are in. As well as who's life is in the line."
The stillness in the air grew thick. In the eyes of each of the women was an unspoken understanding. There were five keepers left. Five more chances to betray. Death may be their only reward... but maybe, just maybe... Jupiter would live, as well as the rest of creation.
Present day... five hours until sunset.
The city was in chaos. Soldiers scoured the streets and roofs, but their efforts hindered by the panicked screams of the citizens. Simhata were sent out to track the Anathema, but their senses were strangely deadened by the smoke and mobs. Everything was going wrong. Even some if the higher ups were making characteristically erroneous decision, sewing further trouble as stresses came to a boil.
Four anathema. Four solars. No chance you should have escaped... but here you are, a miracle of conveniences made this happen.
Jontom was able to lose the hunt amongst the streets. A tree among a writhing forest. Or perhaps more like a honeybee in the middle of a hornet's nest. You had run through the maze of the city, your swords slick with the blood of those in your way that you had cut down.
For the first time since you arrived, there was none chasing you and you took this opportunity to duck into a building, slamming the door behind you, and locking it tight. So you could catch your breath and figure a way out if this mess.
Red Shadow Claws
How was one to hide a great golden boar in the middle of a city? Well... you didn't. It was you, Luanna, that helped put the citizens in such a frenzy. A great beast charging through the streets, its tusks matching its name. The soldiers that tried to take you one were not prepared for the ferocity of your charge. And you were quickly lost in the dust and rubble of the destruction in your wake.
But the gates were closed. You and Red Tusk leaped into the dirtied Aquaduct before they could find you again. You and your beloved beast were able to climb out as it passed under a maintenance shack. Inside was dark and quiet. And though trying to get Red Tusk out of the water was very tough... you were successful.
You were in the process of trying to cover him with a large tarp before a man barged through the door.
Panic would be your first reaction... you would notice that upon his brow was a mark that burned as brightly as the one that graces your own.
Assassins were a tenacious breed... but they had nothing on the Solar exalted. As you fled, one still remained on your tail. And where there was one... there was more. Of course, you made them work for it.
As you kept over crowds, and slid through people's legs. Toppling over carts and soldiers. One by one the following assassins fell behind. Yet all it took was one wrong turn.
It wasnt until the second turn up a flight of stairs that you realized you were running up a tower. A dead end!
No. You knew the city. There was an Aquaduct nearby, and you were confident that you could make that daring leap.
At the top, just as you leaped head first out the open window, you felt a hand grab your ankle.
The assassin! But no sooner had he touched you than the shutter had slammed down into his face. Though... it was just enough to upset your trajectory. As you were no longer heading to the water... but straight down.
You crashed through a thatch roof, slowing your fall before finally landing atop a warm pile of furred meat. A great big pile of furred meat. A golden hellboar...
With the streets clogged with trouble, checking every nook and cranny for the elusive Anathema, what better place to hide than above their noses.
Up upon the rooftops you carefully made your way through the town. Roofs and top floors of buildings. Swinging from banners and tight roping across clotheslines. Whatever it took to. Sure this meant a few close calls, and the screams of people trying to dress, but your trek through the city was abnormally peaceful.
Sure, it seemed like like they had bigger fish to fry, judging from the chaos you have spotted in other parts of the city. But still, this was too easy. You were sure that there would at least be a team of dragon bloods at your heels.
As you stopped to ponder this, you immediately regretted it. Because from the sky, like a comet, came a woman falling from a tower. You sidestepped her landing on you just barely. She fell through the thatched ceiling.
There wa is a creak... and the section you were standing on collapsed... sending you tumbling atop the poor woman. And subsequently... the golden hellboar.
All of this, naturally, happened within seconds of Jontom entering the room. Seconds after he locked eyes with Luanna, the cieling and the two visitors, each with caste marks glowing bright, burst in through the roof.
Jontom could feel his heartbeat in his chest as he ran through the streets, his sword drenched in the blood of those that sought to end his life. Even with all of the running and fighting he had done, his energy seemed to be boundless; undoubtedly a side effect of his Exaltation. It was still hard to believe that he was one of the crazed Solars that he had heard so much about. The easy life that he had known was forever shattered by this.
Flinging the door open, he lunged inside the quiet room and quickly shut the door behind him, and he turned to lean his back against the door, his eyes closed, expecting to have a few moments to catch his breath. Then he noticed that he was not alone in the room. In a flash, his hand goes once more to the hilt of his sword as he prepares for violence.
Suddenly, he jumps as a loud crash fills the room as two figures slam through the roof. Wondering what in the hell is going on, he pushes himself off of the door and drops into a low crouch, hand at the hilt of his sword, ready to draw it.
Karyn lets out a startled yelp as the hand grabs her leg, spoiling her jump and sending her plummeting down to the roof below. A sudden thud marked her impact on the thatch, then she punched through the weak structure and into the room below. Instead of landing on hard floor, she is surprised to feel a warm fuzzy body beneath her. Before Karyn could do more than wonder at the strange twist of fortune that kept her from dying in a heap on the floor, a second crash sounded as a figure plunged through the weakened roof and landed on her! Was it the assassin?!?
She lets out an angry grunt, struggling to get free. Before she knew it, in Low Realm, she manages to gasp out, "Move your fat butt! You're squishing me!"
It has been a long time since I've had to run like this, though Ember ruefully between deep, burning, heaving breaths as she stood doubled over on the rooftop, this is why civilized people invented carriages. palanquins. rickshaws. horses. yeddim. flying carpets. howdahs. She could keep running. She knew she could. This wellspring of endurance she found when her soul lit up like Calibration in Chiaroscuro seemed bottomless, but that didn't make it pleasant to draw upon. She would definitely do exactly that, in just a moment. Or perhaps two. Three, while we're at it, because who's counting, really?
When a woman came hurtling through the air and reduced the rooftop beside her to splinters, she thought long and hard about dodging. She had just about worked herself up to entering into a vigorous round of negotiations with her legs over the prospect of leaping gracefully backwards when gravity made her legs a counteroffer they couldn't refuse. She wasn't even mad, if she was being honest with herself. Standing was quite a lot of work, and while she may have preferred to be falling onto a nice feather bed, at least she wasn't remodelling a roof with her face like this poor sod beneath her. If this woman was a Ragara assassin, she was quite possibly the single worst assassin Ember had ever seen. Credit where credit was due, though: Had the assassin been half a metre further to the right Ember would be giving quite a different assessment. A+ for effort and dedication to the cause. You could say a lot of things about the Wyld Hunt, but never that they lacked enthusiasm.
She had just managed to draw a deep breath and let out a few hearty guffaws at this observation before the wind was loudly knocked out of her as she landed hard on top of the other woman. Upon sober reflection, gravity may have gotten the better part of that deal. Ember moaned piteously, and the woman beneath her gasped something insulting in the local peasant dialect. Ember grudgingly propped herself up with one arm, the other on the back of the woman's head to prevent her getting up. If she let herself be killed by the Realm's worst assassin, she would never live it down.
"I never learned your <Flametongue: sands forsaken> peasant dialect," she replied in High Realm with the hoarse whisper of someone who has recently had all the air forcibly ejected from their lungs, "Stop struggling and drop... your..." Ember had just taken stock of her surroundings, including the two armed and angry Solar anathema looking back at her, caste marks burning brightly upon their brows. She immediately looked down at the woman beneath her, removing her hand from the back of the woman's head and instead planting a knee on her upper back. Ember's heart dropped as the woman turned her head to reveal yet another glowing mark upon her brow. <FT: I need this like I need a hole in my canteen>, she mutters under her breath before turning to the others and addressing them in Riverspeak for better odds of successful communication, "I imagine she's with you. I apologize. I won't harm her or interfere with whatever you're doing if you let me leave with my life."
Her brain could be forgiven for neglecting for so long the priority request for processing from her right hand. Her brain had a lot on its plate at the moment, but it was now catching up on the backlog and it was at that moment Ember consciously noted the incongruity between the dry, prickly feeling of the hay bale she thought she was propping herself up on and the warm, furry, breathing mountain of flesh she was actually propping herself up on. A boar. A hellboar. A boar a quarter this size could outfight a dozen hunters. This was entirely more than some primal part of herself had signed on for when it woke up this morning, and it wanted no part of it. She screamed at the top of her lungs while she pitched herself backwards with all the force her legs had previously failed to muster. Fire sprung from her fingertips as she hit the ground with a roll and came up as far as she could get from the terrifying animal, burning hands splayed out in front of her.
Luanna looks at the man wielding a sword standing before her and Red Tusk, but turns around at the sound of a crash, followed by a second one, as two people drop through the ceiling. She holds her spear close, but not quite in a fighting position, seeing the marks on their foreheads "I suggest you get off of Red Tusk, before he decides that he'd try to eat you, as he is carnivorous." and she pets him with one hand, to calm him. "Staying here, in the city, wouldn't be a smart move. we will be better able to survive in the wild, and hide our tracks."
Jontom slowly moved his hand away from the hilt of his sword, instinctively feeling that it would go a long way to deescalate tensions. Three other Solars, here, on the Blessed Isle! What are the odds of that, especially with me running into all three at once! Still staying by the door, he replies in Riverspeak, "It would seem that the four of us are all in a similar state of being on the run. Perhaps we should consider joining forces in order to increase our odds of survival. I am Jontom."
As he stands there, he cracks the door open to peek outside to see if the ruckus of the two women crashing through the roof would draw any unwanted attention.
Luanna stands strong. This man is definitely a fighter, and knows how to handle his weapon. Good. She replies in Riverspeak "I am all for joining forces. My name is Luanna, and this cute friend of mine, is Red Tusk, but don't worry, he'll grow to like you... enough." And then turns towards one of the women who crashed and was jumping back, and speaking in a version of Low Realm, a language she had learned while hunting after those who stole Red Tusk from her. "Maybe you should be careful around Red Tusk, he doesn't like people landing on him, especially since we're bonded."
Once Karyn finally manages to untangle herself from the person that landed on her (how rude!), she rolls off of the giant boar and searches around her for her recently acquired bow and the handful of arrows that came along with it. Having them in hand makes her feel a little bit more at ease, but not by much.
Looking up at the hole that she fell through, Karyn would say in Riverspeak, "There are assassins that chased me up to the top of that tower, and one grabbed me as I was trying to leap to safety onto another roof. It will not take them long to figure out where I am, so unless you wish to meet them, I suggest we vacate this building soon. I am Le - uh, I am Karyn, and I am sorry for landing on your friend Red Tusk. It was most assuredly not intentional."
Through the cracked door, you notice the streets are mostly empty. From your position, you can see a good couple blocks away.
The citizens have mostly holed themselves up in their houses. Every now and then you can see a face peek from a window, looking in a random direction. Citizens in the street are sparce, as they just seem to be trying to get home.
There is one person, however, that catches your eye. A tall handsome man with a stern face. And judging from his armor... this was no mortal. His lamellar armor was that of jade, black and blue. And at his side was a curve broad daiklave, still sheathed. There was no other threat in sight.
He was walking with purpose, right towards the building you were hiding in. You were not sure if he knew you were there or was just patrolling. He was about a block away.
Jontom quietly shuts the door and looks back over his shoulder at the others. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it looks like we do have company. A large man wearing lamellar and armed with a Daiklave is heading this way. He is about a block up the road, but will be here soon."
Is there any other way out of this room besides the door and the holes in the roof?
"There's the aqueduct that me and Red Tusk used, but if it's one lone man, why not just dispatch him, and be on our way?" Luanna grunts as she says this. Fighting 4 of them against one man, they should be able to beat him, plus, this man has probably hasn't met something like Red Tusk... "The Unconquered Sun spoke to me when I was given this gift, and he told me that we need to find him. I say, let's get to the top of this ridiculously tall mountain close by, and maybe there we can find HIM more easily"
The room itself was a maintenance shed. It was sizable, and built directly over the Aquaduct. There was a large ramp that met the water, no doubt for small boats to travel the channels for inspections.
The only other way out, aside from the front door, was a pair of large sliding double doors. They were locked, but as luck would have it... they were in the side facing the coming dragon blood.
The building itself was mostly empty. A few barrels and boxes, and crates of bricks that matched that which made up the Aquaduct. It was tidy, but there was nothing immediately useful.
Jontom grins, looking at Luanna. "I like the way you think. My only worry is that these Dynasts are a lot like cockroaches; where you see one, there are probably many more hiding out of sight. But I heard the same thing when the light of the Exaltation came upon me, and out of all the places that we can start to look, on the slope of the Imperial Mountain is not a bad idea to begin with."
He looks to the other two women, the one named Karyn, and the so far unnamed one with the burning hands. "Are the two of you in with us? The faster we deal with this one man, the better. Then we can get the hell out of here and get some planning done."
Karyn frowns at Jontom's comment about Dynasts being like cockroaches, but doesn't call him out on it. It was certainly true about the damn assassins that the Ragara bitch sent out after her. In a faltering voice, she says, "I-I heard much of the same from the Unconquered Sun, giving me the task of finding Him. I - I guess we should work together to get out of here. I just want you to know that I am not a skilled fighter; my gifts run in the more cerebral instead of the martial. But I will do what I can."
Ember takes deep breaths to steady her shaking hands and watches with increasing incredulity the scene unfolding before her.
When Luanna addresses her in the peasant dialect she shakes her head, "I don't speak realm-peasant-tongue, but you clearly understand riverspeak."
She backs up as far as she can from Red Tusk, but extinguishes the flames wreathing her hands. She listens quietly to the conversation, but finds the direction it's taking distasteful, "At first I thought you were Solar saboteurs from the Imperial City, but they've never been this disorganized. So we're all new, and barely more than half an hour in you're already living up to the stereotype of murderous disregard for human life," she observes wryly. "Climb the Imperial Mountain to search for the Sun? Have you seen the Imperial Mountain glowing in the middle of the night? No? Then the Sun is not visible from the Imperial Mountain," she shakes her head incredulously. "Do I have any hope of convincing you to spare this man's life, though I know he would not extend the same courtesy to you? I'm confident I can distract him long enough for you to escape. If not, so be it. I've had enough pointless bloodshed for one lifetime, but I won't stop you."
Luanna smiles at the woman's words "Realm-peasant-speak as you call it, has enabled me to get close to Red Tusks, and gave me the chance to finally release him, not to mention that it allows me to interact, and appear, as one of the common folk here, as i hardly think anyone would mistake me for a high-born stuck up. Can we spare this man's life? sure. If you can lead him away, but if the Unconquered Sun wanted us to find him, we'd better stick together. Also, i don't know if you've noticed, but that mountain is so freaking huge, that it actually rises above the clouds. Also, I don't see you coming up with a USEFUL suggestion on how to find him." Realizing she might be too harsh, she sighs "Sorry, I've been trying to get Red Tusk free for months, since they captured him in Halta, and it's been a long journey to get here following them without being noticed. And I'm not gonna leave him behind. He's my BEST friend."
"I have nothing against Realm peasants, I'm sure they're lovely people. I was just busy and it wasn't high on my list of things to learn and this isn't the time to be discussing this anyway!" Ember snaps. "Yes, I have no bloody idea where the Sun is, I admit it, but we're not going to divine the answer in this man's entrails."
She paces back and forth angrily, fire appearing and vanishing at her fingertips unbidden as her hands clench and unclench in frustration, "I'm trying to think of a way to get your best friend out of the city without murdering everyone from here to Juche, but he's managed the impressive feat of being less subtle than a yeddim." She looks briefly dismayed, "There's a supplies shipment to the XIVth legion departing tonight with an unsearchable House sealed wagon, if I could get him inside... but that would take days. There's an airship arriving from - no that's useless. There's a bulk cargo transfer tunnel Ragara has been using not far from here. It leads to an underground river that exits in a cave system in the hills. Maybe, if I could throw them off the trail - "
She looks up abruptly, "I don't have time to put together a disguise before the Dynast finds us. If I lead him on a merry chase I can't show you the escape route." She curses vehemently in flametongue. "This isn't my night. And seeing as how there's no day anymore, I suppose that means this night is the rest of my life. Bloody wonderful." Her expression hardens with grim determination, "If the life-giving Sun demands it, then so be it. The Pale Mistress only knows how many millions are going to die in the coming months with no sun; what's one more? I'm with you, we kill the poor sod."
Smuggling Hellboars Approach
Alas, wits instead of int.
Wits 2 + Larceny 5 + Hopefully Stunt 2 + let's say 4m Larceny Excellency = 13
9 hits, 8 without stunt.
You could thing of at least ten different ways to exit the city right now off the top of your head. But the challenge presented is hellboar. Such a beast would only fit through half of those, and would be spotted in the rest.
But your keen mind isn't without options. Underground is definitely the best way to travel. The sewer system runs below most of the city, where it deposits the waste outside of the cities walls. Many are barred up tight, but nothing you couldnt handle. These are mostly small and narrow, but there is one line you know would work.
The flood channels. They should be wide enough to fit a hellboar through. And given their designation as a hazardous zone, they are largely ignored save for weekly inspections. It hasnt rained for a week, it should be safe enough. You may have to ram down a few bars, but that should be easy with the hellboar.
The tricky part is getting there. There is another maintenance shed further down the Aquaduct that has access to it, but its gate is of jade construction yo keep Solars fromt entering the city that way. You would need either keys or a very skilled larcen to get by it.
That is also not to mention the challenge of getting there unnoticed. You all dont have a boat, but there are tarps and other materials around. You could swim there.
Aside from the challenges, this would be a quick and easy way to get out of the city.
Jontom takes another peek out of the door to check on the approach of the one Exalt. "If we are going to dispatch this man, we need to decide quickly so we can act decisively. He is still on his way here, and will undoubtedly have a few choice things to say about a group of Solars in the city."
As you peek through the crack of the door, you see the same man, and he is now much closer. His eyes are still on the building, and his gait hasnt changed. You could guess he will arrive at the door in a handful of seconds.
Despite the tense look on his face, he doesnt seem to notice the door slightly ajar or the eye peering from its shadows. He has yet to draw his blade, and you still see no other threats in the area. But at this distance you can tell from his posture that he is a capable soldier.
Luanna has had enough. The situation was bad enough with 4 Solars in the same room, and a DB seeming to be on his way there, and since they haven't worked together befire, they were deliberating more than they should. nudging Jontom to the side, she motions for Red Tusk, and opens the door, walking outside, and smiling, as the hellboar punches his way through the wall. "Were you looking for me, good sir?" While her posture was relaxed, she was really to get into a fight, if this DB showed an interest in such a venue, but she did want to offer him a chance to walk away peacefully.
Karyn sighs. Well, so much for subtle. This will not end well. As Luanna and her hellboar head out onto the street, she stays inside the building (or what's left of it) to try and keep from escalating the situation even more, and to be able to surprise the Dragon Blooded man if things turn to violence.