Session 18: Agreeing to Disagree
From almost the very beginning, the dinner was going poorly. Red Lion’s insistence on bringing Venomous Spur’s chair to the table as an equal made Invincible Sword Princess’ nose turn up. Blazer and Prism pushed for greater communication, as did Harbinger and Adamant Prayer, while Obsidian Hawk and Snapdragon each sized up the opposing circle for any sign of treachery. Sweet Emerald spoke honeyed words about working together and joining forces for the betterment of Creation, but Gideon sensed in her a spirit that sought only power for its own sake.
The discussion went back and forth for long hours, Ven’s temper growing ever shorter with each new insult from the Sword Princess. Distantly, she could hear Sweet Emerald talking about plans for dividing up the East and mutual non-aggression, but inside she was beginning to seethe. It felt like basking in the light of the full moon, like the moments leading up to her first blind rage that ended the lives of a dozen bandits—and possibly her own husband. It was building, moment by moment, and nothing could stop it.
Finally, the moment came. Red Lion said something pointed about people starving while their rulers led lives of ease and comfort, and Sweet Emerald responded that progress took time. Ven said that abstracts would never be worth human lives. Invincible Sword Princess told Red Lion to “keep his dog silent.”
Ven leapt across the table for the Princess, claws out and teeth bared. And that was that.
The battle was joined, Solar against Solar. Invincible Sword Princess brought her full power to bear against Ven, wounding her badly. Red Lion jumped to defend his mate, and Gideon turned the full force of his Twin Dragons on the swordswoman, hitting her so hard that she punched a hole through the wall of the manse and disappeared into the distance. Sweet Emerald turned the full power of her mystical voice against the attackers, and Gideon swept in to put her off-balance. When one of the Dragon-Blooded intervened, his plasma repeaters put her down, though not apparently fatally. Still, it was enough to send the otherwise chill Adamant Prayer into a seething rage.
Prism of Truth could take no more. His mind, confronted with the awful evidence of imperfection in the Solar condition, just shut down. He spent most of the battle in a fugue state, before being knocked out of a hole in the wall by a sneering Adamant Prayer. The fall knocked him out, leaving him to be guarded over by his personal spirit animal, a tropical bird he had picked up only a few days before.
The Dragon-Bloods thought to aid their masters in battle, but Red Lion summoning the Lion’s Roar into the heart of the manse made them think better of it. The appearance of the warstrider wrecked the room, tearing pieces of the ziggurat free as load-bearing structures were wrecked. Harbinger brought the full powers of sorcery to bear against the war machine, while Blazer strategically used his Swooping Shrike to fend off attackers. Obsidian Hawk launched himself at Snapdragon with glee, while she was somewhat less pleased about grappling with her abhorrent admirer. Their wrestling was far more suggestive than she would have liked, and she did her level best to avoid contemplating murder.
Sweet Emerald implored Invincible Sword Princess for aid, saying that the time had come to unleash her full power. As she streaked back toward the battle, the Princess’ anima banner swelled and grew, finally turning into an enormous warstrider made of solid golden energy. The Lion’s Roar grappled with the anima construct for a few moments as Red Lion desperately struggled to get the primary weapons systems of his warstrider working. He knew that they were functional again after Ven’s repairs, but the actual workings of them were more complicated than he thought possible. Alarms kept going off and the animating intelligence kept warning him about safety issues when discharging an ultra-heavy essence cannon inside a structure.
A thought had come to Red Lion. He knew that the others sometimes thought him slow or simple—and he knew that he was a simple man, in truth. He might be a Solar Exalted now, but he was still human at his heart, still a man. He realized that for people who cared about nothing more than power, removing that power was far worse than killing them, and far more damaging. As the battle raged around him, he charged the super-weapon on his deadly First Age war machine, thinking to end it all in one swift blow to the place that would hurt most: their pride.
Blazer realized that Prism had taken a bad fall and streaked outside to make sure he was still alive. He picked up the limp body of his friend—the first Solar he had met after his own Exaltation—and made the choice to save his life rather than aid in a fight he disapproved of. The others could take care of themselves; from a nearby hilltop, he watched the damage to the manse grow by leaps and bounds. A pain rushed through his head, and for a moment he was standing on another hilltop, watching a battle fought in the long-lost past. He was himself but not himself, standing back to back with a woman. The two of them burned through demonic hordes while Blazer—no, Orpheus—watched the Lion’s Roar standing amidst the ruins of a burning city, the light shining from it causing its foes to ignite when it fell upon them.
There was only one way this could end, he realized: in fire. And he despaired.
Inside the manse, Red Lion gave the opposing circle one last chance to end the violence before something irrevocable occurred, but Invincible Sword Princess simply sneered and called him a weakling. With that, Red Lion unveiled the greatest warstrider-mounted weapon of the First Age—Dawn’s First Light, a super-heavy essence cannon—and fired it directly into the heart of the manse, straight up. The intense precision of the weapon allowed him to cut the bonds of the man chained to the top of the manse, even as it burned through the hearthstone chamber below him. The beam stretched into the sky like a glowing finger pointing accusations at the gods themselves. The beam cut through the stone and gold and orichalcum like butter, terminating only when it burned a black line across the Dome of the Sky. Everyone paused. The beam had literally scorched the blue sky black in a short line visible from the ground.
Meanwhile, in Heaven, alarms were sounding. Gods rushed to and fro through the streets, wondering what was happening. Reports were formed and theories abounded. The Loom of Fate was consulted, predictions made and abandoned, and the Maidens’ Chosen scrambled to find an appropriate response. In the office of the most powerful man in Yu-Shan, Sidereals gathered to hear their leader’s words and obey his commands. Before he could begin to present a course of action, the doors to the office flew open and a tall, wild-haired god strode boldly in.
“Greetings, Chejop Kejak,” said Lytek, the god of Exaltation. He tossed a folder full of papers and reports onto the elderly Sidereal’s desk. Lytek’s face quirked up in a smile and his voice raised, high enough to be heard throughout the immense office and into the chambers beyond. “It seems the Solars have returned. I would have brought all of this to you sooner, but you seemed to have everything well in hand. Have a nice day.” Chejop Kejak’s face was furious and red as the god blithely walked from the office. His response to this Solar action would be have to be swift and lethal if he was going to stay on top of things…
Back on the ground, the battle was wrapping up. With the manse destroyed and a year of work in flames, Sweet Emerald called for an end to the fighting. They could always relocate and rebuild; fighting now was pointless that what they wanted was ruined. Red Lion was saddened that she was ultimately the sort of person who cared nothing for people, only for power. He had wanted to believe better of other people that had been chosen by the Exaltation. Prism came out of his fugue, wondering why he was so far from the manse, and why Blazer was crying. As the opposing circle sulked their way out of Zarrith, none of those present thought this would be the last time the two groups clashed. Still, neither side had the heart to see this battle through to its pointless, futile end currently. Perhaps the next time…
The circle realized they had an obligation now, to protect the people of Zarrith and to educate them in self-rule. The dedication of her Solar companions to mortals ruling themselves moved Ven’s heart. It was like the project her people had been working on for so long. Maybe the time had come to tell them about the Thousand Streams River. Before she could do so, however, Fenrir reappeared with a revelation for the circle. With his Solar mate departing, he had decided that the time had come to leave as well. Sadly, he had already angered the Brass Tyrant—and it was coming toward Zarrith. The behemoth would arrive in two days, and it would level Zarrith to the ground. They were welcome.
As Fenrir departed, the circle’s black mood turned even blacker. A behemoth was on the way, and two days was nowhere near enough time to evacuate a city of thousands. They would have to fight it.