Exalted: The Sun Also Rises

Session 19: The Fire That Comes After

In which our Heroes face a monster from the distant past

Session 19: The Fire That Comes After

The circle was scrambling. The Brass Tyrant was coming to Zarrith, and Red Lion wasn’t sure that firing Dawn’s First Light again so soon would be safe for either the Lion’s Roar or for the city’s geomantic well-being. Blazer had mentioned that repeated firing of such an essence-draining weapon could permanently damage the “dragon lines,” whatever those were, and even the animating intelligence was insisting that the weapon was too dangerous to discharge again. Venomous Spur was both excited and terrified at the possibility of fighting a behemoth, so she chose to go out and distract it, maybe slow it down or even divert it from its current course.

Prism, Gideon, and Snapdragon busied themselves with rebuilding the ruins of the manse into a solid, defensive structure and preparing the populace for a possible evacuation. They spoke at length with the city father, a leopard-god called Itzcalimon who had been neglected by the previous Solar occupants, and garnered his aid in keeping the populace both calm and organized. Blazer had retreated to his private sanctum and wouldn’t come out. He strongly disapproved of the way that things had gone with the other Solars, and he didn’t want anything to do with his companions right now.

Ven’s battle with the Brass Tyrant was a disaster. The creature was a quarter-mile long, made of brass, and shaped like a living nightmare. It belched green hellfire as it moved, leaving a swath of ash and debris behind its immense and terrible form. Something like a blunt-nosed alligator and something like a great brass slug, the creature was clearly the creation of the ancient Primordials. Even in kaiju form, Ven was unable to breach its impervious defenses, and the raw heat and power boiling off it was almost too much to bear. A single blast from its mighty furnace-mouth left her reeling and barely-conscious. Instinctively, she shifted back to a normal platypus before being knocked into a nearby river. Interestingly, the Tyrant didn’t pursue her, though it had seemed quite content to fight her before. Ven’s mind raced and found the answer: the creature ignored things that were too small for it to see clearly. That could be useful later…

A day and a night passed, with Ven working to restore the area’s geomancy as fast as she could, Red Lion rebuilding the physical structure of the palace, and Snapdragon keeping the people calm in her own terrifying way. Prism and Gideon made speeches and prepared emergency stations. Many tactics for fighting or diverting the Tyrant were discussed, and all of them rejected for impracticality or danger to the civilians. Still, Blazer did not emerge. Finally, a few hours before the Tyrant arrived, Red Lion went to his friend and pled for him to join them. They would be stronger together, and they needed Blazer’s cunning and know-how if they were going to save innocent lives.

Blazer was ready to join them. His face was grimmer and more determined than Red Lion had ever seen. He was like an entirely different person. As he stormed from his sanctum, he brought with his the components of a weapon system that he had idly been considering for some time. He had never thought it would need to be built. Now, his ideals in tatters and his mind full of bloody thoughts, he had finished it. It was called Gungnir, and it would be the spear of the gods.

Blazer gave a piece of the device to Snapdragon and to Gideon, and instructed them to take a position about a mile from the creature and wait for his signal to discharge. They would catch the Tyrant in a triangular fire pattern while the Lion’s Roar and kaiju-Ven slowed it down. Ven had already devised a new charm to make her morphic body immune to the green fires of Hell, so she was more than ready for round two. Prism would use his powers of inspiration to guide the circle from within the Lion’s Roar.

Near sunset, the circle went out to meet the Tyrant in a low-lying valley beneath some rocky hills. The Lion’s Roar skidded down to grapple with the creature, while Ven popped out and slashed at it with her lethal spurs. After the first blow, Red Lion paused; he could judge a man’s character by trading blows with him, and the creature before him was no simple beast—it was a philosopher, a poet, a gardener. The land it burned away with its powers would grow back more vibrant than before. It wasn’t a killer, at least not intentionally. He asked Prism to try communicating with it, but the Tyrant either could not or would not respond.

From his vantage point, Blazer had calculated the proper angles of fire. The time had come. Red Lion grappled with both a monster and his own conscience. Blazer’s forehead burned with the unmistakable outline of a third eye, and he felt essence flood through him. The Gungnir system was fully charged for its single strike. Gideon fired, raking the Tyrant’s body with white and blue light, freezing and shattering its brass scaled. Snapdragon fired next, her beam dimming the green fire within the creature. Blazer’s strike was last, his device calling a furious aurora from the darkening sky to rain down rainbow-colored destruction onto their foe.

The Brass Tyrant screamed in pain as it died, confused and not understanding why or how these creatures had destroyed it. Red Lion comforted himself as best he could with the knowledge that their actions had saved thousands of mortal lives. As the creature died, it seemed like the land would darken and fall toward the Underworld, but the Gungnir system purged the necrotic essence from the land with a scouring fire. Blazer’s third eye closed with a snap, and he fell to the ground unconscious. Whatever he had just done, it seemed to have drained him badly.

Ven had her eyes on the real prize now. Dropping back to beastman form, she darted to the location of the Tyrant’s death, finding mostly only scraps of brass and flecks of greenish-black blood. Finally, at the center of the devastation, she found a floating ball of green fire, slowly pulsing as it died out. She had found the Tyrant’s heart. Grasping it with both hands, she dedicated the Tyrant’s death to Luna and devoured the burning heart in a single gulp. She felt her body twist and boil in its efforts to overcome the demonic forces within the organ. Finally, it was done; she had ingested the heart of a behemoth.

Later, in the Lion’s Roar, Red Lion sat vigil over his unconscious friend. Blazer had saved them, though Red Lion feared for the streak of ruthlessness that had suddenly come over his usually idealistic circle-mate. Suddenly, the interior lights dimmed, replaced with a green glow, and the air became thick with the smell of burning metal. From a nearby doorway strode a handsome youth wearing only wrappings around his loins and upper legs. His skin was bronzed and his eyes a deep, dark green. Red Lion recognized him immediately from his discussions with his scholarly friends: Ligier, the Green Sun, one of the souls of Malfeas, the ruler of Hell.

He and the demon prince spoke politely for a time. Finally, Ligier revealed that he had come to give a gift to Red Lion, in honor of his circle’s defeat of one of Malfeas’ most prized creations. Red Lion wondered aloud why one of Malfeas’ souls would give him a gift for destroying one of Malfeas’ creatures. Ligier responded that he always gave gifts to people who spited Malfeas badly enough. From one of the Tyrant’s remaining scaled and a few drops of his own blood, Ligier hammered out a musical instrument made of brass and green crystal. He called the guitar Impossible Emerald Brilliance, and suggested that Red Lion learn to play it before he visited the Demon City. With that, the Prince of the Yozis vanished back to his hellish realm.

Blazer remained unconscious for three days and three nights, filled with terrible nightmares about lives long gone and things his past selves had done. When he finally awoke, he felt weak and still tired. But there was no good news waiting for him. As he came to consciousness, a tiny magical messenger appeared before him. It relayed dangerous and frightening tidings: the Guild had returned to Ochorin Hill, and the freemen were vastly outnumbered. It looked like the circle was going back to save people they had already freed.

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