Session 21: The Battle of Ocho-Rin Hill, part 2
Throughout the night, the circle kept watch for signs of Guild treachery. After the painful lesson taught to them by Snapdragon and the near-miss by Gideon, the Guild seemed content to let it come to open warfare. After all, the Anathema couldn’t be everywhere during a battle—numbers would win the day. For their part, the circle prepared throughout the night. Venomous Spur prepared defenses while Red Lion trained the freedmen in shifts. Prism and Gideon quietly departed the manse and communed with the local spirit courts for emergency aid. Snapdragon laid traps up the sides of Ocho-Rin Hill and Blazer fine-tuned the manse’s weapon systems, improving their range and power.
As the morning came, the children and teens of Ochorin came to Red Lion, begging for the chance to fight alongside their parents and guardians. He refused gently, despite their insistence that the Guild’s swords would kill them just as surely as they would an adult. Ven came to them and offered them another option: the manse would need people to stay behind and do important tasks like putting out fires, caring for the wounded, and other critical things. They asked her where she would be—and Ven paused. She had intended to go into battle alongside her mate, but how could she justify what she had just told these mortals if she were hypocritical enough to abandon them. She looked at them and declared that she would stay behind with them and lead the defense of the homestead. Buoyed by her example, the freedmen’s morale improved yet further.
Rolling Ocho was missing, despite his oath to come to the defense of the freedmen; either he had betrayed them again and placed himself beyond hearing their prayers, or he was being restrained by the Guild. Gideon assumed it was the former, and the others couldn’t think of any reason why he would be wrong. They decided that he would receive his due reckoning after the battle. Finally, Red Lion finished the freedmen’s training—a decade of battle experience crammed into a few mere hours. He was tired and sore, more than he could remember since his Exaltation, but there was no time to rest. Sunset was coming, and with it… war.
The western sky turned bloody as the sun touched it. A mighty cry went up from Ochorin: “For Red Lion! For the Unconquered Sun! For freedom!” The gates of the manse swung wide, and the Lion’s Roar drove down the hillside, tons of crashing orichalcum tearing into the heart of the Night Talon ranks. The freedmen followed close behind, their war cries unsettling even the hardened mercenaries. As the Lion’s Roar took position at the heart of the battle, Red Lion flared his anima banner brighter than he had ever done before, casting the glow of the dawn sun across the arrayed forces. Terror filled the hearts of his enemies, while the men fighting for him were filled with fearless bravery.
Gideon took to the skies, raining down hell on the Iron Brotherhood. Prism stood on the walls of Ochorin, his mighty voice projected across the battlefield by the power of Blazer’s devices so that all could hear his prayers to Sol Invictus. The spirits heard him too, and the mercenaries found themselves beset not just by mortal soldiers but by bad luck, the land shifting under their feet, and the elements themselves turning against them. Blazer stayed on the walls with Gideon, partly to maintain the machinery of Ochorin’s defense, and partly to grapple with his own conscience. Ven led the volunteer brigade in fighting fires, detaching the grappling hooks of the few mercenaries able to get close enough to the hill to use them, and keeping the essence cannons working in top order.
Snapdragon launched herself into the ranks of the Iron Brotherhood as well, coming face to face with their commander, the Earth Aspect called Master Fedekiro. He wielded a huge white jade goremaul and his skin was like rock. Snapdragon couldn’t seem to get purchase against his stony hide, while his blows devastated the area around her even when he missed. He shattered the stony terrain into shards of razor rock, flowed mud into quicksand, and made the terrain nearly impossible, save for Snapdragon’s nimble acrobatics. Prism saw her plight and descended from the hilltop to help her in the battle. The two of them fought a deadly battle against the lone Dragon-Blood, finally pooling their might into a single lethal X-strike across his broad chest. Fedekiro died hard, and with him, the morale of the Iron Brotherhood.
Red Lion and the freedmen swept through the Night Talons like a mighty wind, shattering siege engines and knocking foes into limp, broken-limed heaps—but without inflicting a single death. Dageru Yohotima, the heroic mortal commander of the brigade, took a position on a rocky outcropping, directing his troops with the iron fans of a Shogunate-trained military leader. As the battle began to turn, he exhorted his men to bravery, even taking up arms himself and putting a powerbow-driven bolt through the eyeplate of the Lion’s Roar. Gideon respected such bravery but couldn’t permit it to remain on their enemies’ side. Still, he found himself moved by Red Lion’s heroic pacifism and merely removed him from the battlefield with the aid of his Twin Dragon’s rocket shot; if he was lucky, he would land unharmed, many miles away.
Up at the manse, everything seemed to be going well—until one of the volunteer brigade children came rolling through the doors, unconscious and bruised. Ven looked to the doors to see none other than the Sidereal they knew as Ochre Blossom come walking in. He seemed surprised that any of the circle were still in the manse and introduced himself at last as Oberen, Chosen of Endings. Ven refused to banter with him; she leapt at him, changing to her deadly beastman shape as she moved.
Blazer felt the rush of mortal combat through his brothers’ bond. He might not be able to reconcile his logic with his heart about this war, but he could still help his friends! In a bolt of blue, he rushed across the hilltop to the manse, only to find Ven battling the violet-glowing man who had nearly killed him in their first encounter. Oberen taunted Blazer, who pulled forth his Swooping Shrike and took aim—only to find the bolt diverted by a quick tap on his arm by the Sidereal martial artist! Oberen had used the same trick in their first encounter, and Blazer had been too furious to avoid falling for it again. This time, the burning bolt took Ven in the chest and sent her tumbling. He could tell that she was alive, but only barely. And without a strong melee combatant to back him up, Blazer knew he couldn’t last long.
Down below, the battle was turning in favor of the freedmen—when suddenly, Red Lion felt a cold terror grip his heart. Ven needed him! He looked down at the men who needed him too… and let his heart choose for him. He abandoned the battle, leaving the mortals to win the day on their own, to go save his Lunar mate. As the Lion’s Roar crashed through the gates of the Ochorin manse, Red Lion flung himself from the cockpit at high speed, knocking Oberen back from the now-bloody Blazer. He looked at Ven’s still body, at the limp body of the wounded child—and something inside him snapped.
Awash with the fires of the sun, his eyes molten pools and his anima in full iconic blaze, Red Lion rushed Oberen without a single show of style or technique in his blows—only raw and unyielding power. Oberen was a talented martial artist, and he taunted Red Lion for his lack of training—right up to the moment the first blow broke through his defense and shattered half of his ribs. The next minutes were the most painful of Oberen’s life, as Red Lion beat him senseless, grappled him, and crushed his starmetal hand in one mighty fist.
Finally, the Sidereal collapsed unconscious from the viciousness of the attack, but Red Lion decided that he hadn’t suffered enough. Ending this man’s life would be a mercy, not a punishment. The Solar loaded himself back into the Lion’s Roar, used its armaments to burn Oberen’s clothing away, and then loaded him into the main cannon as a projectile. A brief bit of fiddling with the controls changed the output from raw energy to kinetic force, and then Red Lion launched the naked Sidereal back to Heaven by shooting him straight up into the Dome of the Sky.
As Red Lion cradled Ven in his arms and Blazer tended to her wounds, they could hear a great shout come up from outside. The battle was over! Though things had been touch-and-go for a while without Red Lion’s presence, the freedmen had managed to pull out a victory anyway over the battered enemy forces. Not a single enemy soldier had been killed by a freedman, though the same couldn’t be said in reverse; the people of Ochorin mourned their dead, and though they craved blood vengeance, they remembered that many of them had once been mercenaries too, before being shown a better way.
Gideon, Prism and Snapdragon noticed that certain members of the Guild were attempting an escape now that the battle had been routed. Though the Guild would kill them if they ever caught up, apparently Mistress Shun and Commander Tranh had decided that running for it was the only path left open to them. Even so, they couldn’t run fast enough to escape the Solar Exalted. Though Gideon craved their deaths, the three of them offered the Guildsmen a choice: surrender and aid the freemen, forswearing the Guild, or meet their end here and now. Mistress Shun challenged him; hadn’t Red Lion sworn their lives would be spared? The Solars pointed out that Red Lion wasn’t here—and that was the end of that. Mistress Shun and Commander Tranh knelt down and swore their lives to the cause of Ochorin, bound by the power of the Eclipse Caste. The circle managed to hunt down Rolling Ocho, discovering his treachery knew no bounds or decency, and Ven threatened him with the wrath of Heaven itself should he even consider stepping out of line again.
Red Lion mourned for all of the death and loss, and he wondered if his powers could be turned to creation as well. Focusing his mind as intensely as he could and hardening his body with essence, he began to shatter the stony cliffs around the Ocho-Rin Basin, knocking stones across miles of terrain to fit them in place. The ground ruptured at his blows, forming foundations for buildings as he worked himself beyond the point of exhaustion. By the time Red Lion collapsed that night, he had torn a city fit for thousands from the soil and stone of the land. He would sleep for days as the other worked to build a working government, arrange for food through the coming winter months, and deal with the prisoners. It was a just sleep. Ochorin was free—no longer a ragged town of survivors, but a new nation of free men!
There would be more trouble later, of course, but for now all was well in Creation.