A Little Piece of Home

The Dive

The Dive

Basou Marou had to admit it. It wasn’t one of the best fights of his career, nor one of his best laid plans. The cursed ghost had done well enough to sap his essence, that at least made Basou Marou feel weak and faint. At least he didn’t have to fake that part of it at all. It was setting Sambar up to give him a wicked shiner and make it look good. That, oddly enough was the easy part. Unfortunately, not telling Sambar of his plan probably turned out to be a major oversight. Laughing quietly through the sore ache in his… everywhere, Basou Marou tried to go over the details of the fight in his mind.
No hooded looming figures in the audience or offers of Malachite as the prize didn’t help. There just weren’t many leads and the fancy party involving every single Death Knight in the city was soon. He could still hear his master’s lessons on “seeing the unseen” playing over and over again in his head, like an annoying song that you just can’t forget.
Forgetting… the shear act of trying to forget one memory led others flooding into his mind. Mieyo was here in the underworld, a Death Knight of all things. Not only did he fail her but he lost her irrevocably. This whole journey into the underworld just seemed one tragedy after another. Maybe it was because they didn’t have Saurel any more. Maybe they needed a down to earth spear chucking mortal ton help keep everyone balanced. Basou Marou thought of the Dragon Blooded Pirate King but figured he didn’t know him well enough to try and come up with a funny name for him. Everything hurt as Basou Marou winced in his unconscious stupor.
Losing his noble herd felt like the last straw as Basou Marou unconsciously gripped Edge Crusher in a death grip and fought to regain his mind. He spiraled in fever dreams where he was helpless to help anyone. Beyond being out of his element, the Underworld seemed out to claim him.
Every thought of sadness and regret seemed amplified in this grey place. He knew he missed the glory of the sun. His memory of Mieyo’s stubborn pouty face was replaced with the dead sightless eyes of the Death Knight she had become. Every pleasant memory was washed over in sadness and viewed through eyes that saw only in black and white. Basou Marou struggled to pull his energies together to help focus himself. He was lost in a prison of his own making and even Taki couldn’t offer up the sage advice that always kept him from doing something stupid.
Even trying to remember his master’s words, the sound came on as rushing waves, distorted and chaotic. The essence just wan’t flowing here as it did in Creation, he was still getting used to it. The slow ambient trickle was not the same as the warming waves of first dawn. He struggled to remember.
He wanted to take the dive, but he was struggling to remember why…
The welt that was his right eye throbbed with nerve racking pain and his master’s words of “seeing the unseen” played itself again, like a broken record. His pain wracked body brushed up against his belt sash, no, not his belt sash, but the spirit sash his master had given him! That was it, a good crack on the head always gave Basou Marou the good idea he needed. He had the tool he needed to find his friend, his Simata, Malachite.
Now it was just a matter of waking up and remembering…

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Data log of Dream Part 6

We have been staying in the town of Hollow these last few nights, trying to track down Basou Marou’s missing somata, Malachite. Infuriatingly, he has been well hidden, if in fact he is even in the city.

My travels brought me to Bitter Orchid, owner of the Brothel of the Mind, and host to a party following the annual tournament that we had arrived in town for. Bitter Orchid was looking for missing party paraphernalia, some of which matched my initial expectation of the food required to keep to somata well fed while it was kept in the city.

My research led me to track down the whereabouts of a assistant quartermaster living in a nearby district, but the trail ran cold.

I visited the Brothel of the Mind with our new part member, Maladen and Taki. We were entertained by two courtesans, Fall from Grace and Sapphire Snow. We learned a bit of how the brothel worked, and I was able to identify later that the documents regarding Fall from Grace were forged or tampered with, and she is not who she claims to be. I pointed the impropriety to Bitter Orchid’s assistant, Rue, and moved on to pursue other leads.

Sambar and I visited the Gauntlet Meeting House int he Capital District, which we were able to identify is the location of a meeting of Death Knights. Ash has shown an interest i this meeting and has been conversing at some length with many death knights as they have come into town, including the Confessor, who had joined us at Black Blossom. Sambar and I found evidence of a planned assassination. Discussion with Ash revealed that she may in fact be the suspect in this attempt at suicide.

{Analysis: Cross Reference: DeathKnight.db SheWhoFliesOnTheAshBornWingsOfDecay.db}
{Probability of success at assassination of a death knight at this meeting: 92%}
{Probability of successful escape from remaining Death Knights in attendance: 51%}
{Probability of successful escape by entire party from Hollow with somata: 0.01%}
{Conclusion: Unacceptable Risk}

I can not allow Ash to complete this assassination plot, if it is in fact her trying to commit it.

I was then called to watch the tournament. Basou Marou, Ash and Sambar had all signed up as participants. It is my right and privilege as their assembly mates to watch and review their combat prowess.

Ash and Sambar performed admirably. As did Basou Marou. But, as stubborn as he can be, became far too exhausted by the time he came up against Sambar in the lists. I was expecting one of them to take a bow, but Basou Marou does not back down from a fight. Ever. He fought valiantly, but in time, he succumbed to his injuries and Sambar was able to defeat him.

Ash won the tournament, which earned her a fair amount of Jade and some level of fame for winning, which has been most useful in acquiring formal attire for Bitter Orchid’s party later tonight. I write this now from our rooms while Tkai looks over Basou Marou and his injuries. Wait, here came Tahmin, she’s saying something is wrong with Taki…

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Data Log 05
{Background system override}

>> Active Systems:

<< Sensor Array
.Aim-Calibrations Sensors
.Dedicated Harmonic Targeting
.Optical Enhancement
..Microscopic Lens
..Telescopic Lens
..Motion Tracking Targeting Glance
..Crossphase Scanners
..Light-Intensification Filters
..Flash Shutters
<< Defense and Operational Systems
.Omnitool Implant
.Integrated Artifact Transmogrifier
.Transcendent Multimodal Artifact Matrix
..Adamant Sky Cutter

>> Active Processes:

{Emotion.db}
{Language.db}
{ScanSuite.exe}
{MotorCont.exe}
{BasicIO.exe}
{Log.txt}

>> Deactivate Emotion.db

<< Unable to comply. This process is active and cannot be interrupted.

>> Override

<< Unable to comply. Emotion.db remains active.

>> Create Logfile005.txt

{Logfile opening… Please wait.}

I am unable to deactivate the malfunctioning {Emotion.db} subsystem. Overrides are not working. It has caused an override to my Threat-Assessment and Decision-Making subsystems. I must find a way to reconcile this issue or risk being overcome with unwanted emotional responses.

Recent events have shown that these responses have led to feelings registered as Guilt, Regret, and Sadness {Ref: Emotion.db: Guilt,Regret,Sadness,Loss} I shall log in further detail here in the event that further diagnostic tools and/or system restoration becomes available at a later date.

We have been in the Shadow Land for many days now, staying in the town that was once known as White Blossom. It has triggered a restored memory fragment. It is one I wish I could now forget, according to Emotion.db.

In the First Age, my original assembly and I apparently worked for the Yellow King in cleansing this village of a plague that had taken hold of it. We were told to eradicate all of the citizens. My assembly carried this out with extreme prejudice, except for myself. I had befriended a man, Fen, who I later was forced to betray as the village was culled. Regret. It cripples me as I think back. Sadness. It makes me weak. I must ignore this and—

I cannot ignore it. It overwhelms me to think of it.

{System Idle…}
{Warning minor Ocular Fluid leak detected}
>> Override Ocular Fluid Leak
<< Compliance.
{System Idle ends, total duration 3:27}

It appears the adage of history repeating itself has manifested here. I find myself in this same village with an assembly again while the village is in the grip of seemingly the same plague, but now stronger, more potent, able to affect the dead as well as the living. Taki has been hard at work to heal the sick, and he seems to be successful thus far, as Serenity was never able or willing to do. Basou Marou has been very helpful in finding a necessary herb to aid in the healing, though I must admit, I have not seen as much of him as I would like. {Emotion.db has triggered a response: Desire, Fondness}

Ash and I have been working together to investigate why this plague has returned, though Ash was only just notified by me that this is a recurrence, and not the first time these people have suffered in my presence. Our investigations led us to find Bitter Fen outside the village limits. I was certain that Fen had perished in the culling of the village in the first age. In the Shadow Lands he has endured and cultivated his {hatred} for me and my original assembly.

I can scarcely blame him. I have decided to do all in my power to make his afterlife easier for him than his life was.

As it turns out he has a working antibody to the plague. With a lot of convincing, he has been working with Taki to aid the sick, and is the reluctant hero of the village. I am {glad} he is still able to put aside his hatred and mistrust to save his town.

We will complete our investigation and move onwards on our quest. I now find I have a connection to the events unfolding around me, and a responsibility {Ref: regret,desire} to make things right as I was never able to.

I must do this, for Iahzir. He put me here to right this wrong. I know this now. I must bring Justice and recompense for the wrongs I witnessed so long ago to these people, but seemingly yesterday for me.

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Data log 04
Reconciliation of Emotion.db

{Decompiling Emotion.db  Please wait.}
 
 
>> Create Logfile004.txt
 
{Logfile opening… Please wait.}
 
I am currently decompiling my Emotion.db as it appears to have surfaced several bad sectors and caused irrational responses to a situation that defies logical explanations.  Once I have scanned it for further errors I may bring it back online.
 
We returned the Smiling Boy to Uol of Many Lives, The lord of a particular Wild Zone we must access to reach the Shadowlands, continuing our quest to find this hidden city as charged by Blessed Lotus, whom I still can not bring myself to trust implicitly as the others do.
 
Uol charged us with resolving an outstanding dispute as payment for passage through his lands.  We agreed, and were presented with a battlefield with a single old goblin, a General Custer, versus an army of other goblins.  We were to assist Custer with winning the battle.
 
{Error found in Emotion.db; potential “Care”/“Love” paradox found.  Attempting reconciliation…}
 
I was advised by Cathak Taki that when one cares for another, you must keep them close.  I decided to put this theory to practice by remaining close to Basou Marou while he slept on the evening before the battle.  This caused an unanticipated reaction in Basou Marou however, and requires further analysis.
 
The battle itself was difficult to describe, as many of what we encountered defied explanation. 
 
{Emotion.db has encountered and error; “Amusement” = “Fun” reconciling…}
 
I do recall a sense of what I believe to be satisfaction.  Of the highlights, I do recall deceiving the Goblin enemy leader into peace talks, and unbalancing him using my Sky Cutter, and forcing the enemy goblin forces to clog their own weapon batteries by using a technique taught to them by She who Flies on the Ash Born Wings of Decay:  “The Hug”.  I have stored this technique for future applications.
 
Also of note was an instance wherein the the entirety of the assembly was granted excessively large and glamourized anthropomorphic machines representing ourselves that required shouted commands to operate.  Despite its inefficiency, I still found it to be {fun}.
 
{Error found in Emotion.db; “Anger”. Reconciling bad sectors, please wait.}
 
We were then put into a third round of the battle fighting overly strong fair folk of differing types.  We each took one on as best we could.  I experienced great difficulty in overcoming my opponent, best described and a goat-man with the lower body of a large spider.  He used a series of close-combat techniques that overcame my {combat.dll}, forcing me to use {improvise.dll} instead, at increased risk to major system damage.  Emotion.db at this point caused a memory overflow issue, causing the database to overflow wildly with my other systems. 
 
The battle was eventually won with the hard work of the assembly, minus myself.  We were granted boons for helping Uol reconcile his issue and permitted access to the Shadow Lands at the border of his lands.
 
At the border of the shadow lands, we encountered some of the dead, seeking a way out. Fortunately there was a line of salt preventing them from bleeding back into creation.  While I did feel a brief surge of {pity} from {Emotion.db}, {Justice.dll} bypassed the script, and I was able to rationalize the situation and move on. 
 
I have decided to keep {Justice.dll} activated fort he time being, as it is my primary function and operating within expected parameters.  It has Identified She Who Flies onthe Ash Born Wings of Decay as a threat, and marked her for later judgement.  It is clear that she poses a great risk to the rest of the assembly, and to creation itself.  She continues to take unnecessary risks, despite the repeated warnings of Taki, who remains the tactical point of contact for the assembly.  In the event that she grossly breaches the interest of the assembly again, {Justice.dll} requires that I take immediate and decisive action.
 
{Warning, potential disparities between Justice.dll and Emotion.db found.  Manual intervention required for resolution at any conflicting juncture.  Continue? (y/n)}
 
{Emotion.db has activated line 025:  Hopelessness, loss}
 
I do hope that I can recover my memories soon, or at least restore a sense of balance.  This place is bleak, and I sense that it will have negative repercussions for the assembly if we remain here for too long.  What is my place in creation now? 
 
{Decompilation of Emotion.db complete.  Emotion.db is temporarily offline at User request.}
 
>> Close Logfile004.txt

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A Moment of Sword Zen

The mountain’s reflex
many arms it may remove
undone by silk thread

silk thread sword dancer
you are pinned by the mountain
your dance is no more

spider leg-ged goat
your horns are fearsome and sharp
undone by machine!

Crystal song of pain
your flute is usless, hand-less
Taki has claimed is

Lion roar your curse!
You spurn your allies with rage!
Shadow dance does slay!

Quick and nimbles eyes
Your friends are just as nimble
but now, all is mist

The one I forgot
I’m sorry for the rudeness
I am a dumb sword…

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Data Log 3

>> Create Logfile003.txt

{Logfile opening… Please wait.}

I continue to gather data about my current situation. Creation is very different than it used to be. It is also exactly the same. From the events and memories I can recall, at any rate.

I can been reconciling the errors in Emotion.db to some success. I have interacted with the Fair Folk known as the Smiling Boy as a test of several emotional responses. I have identified mistrust, doubt, and dislike {REF: Hate} while interacting with him.

We were visited by Blessed Lotus, a Sidereal of undetermined power, who has asked that we make haste with an amulet owned by Yelin Green-and-Golden for a city made of a god, hidden from the world somewhere between here and the Underworld. I am unsure as to the exact reason this band has been instructed to do so, and I am {wary?} of blindly accepting what she asks, possibly due to old programming.

Some things never change after all.

I go forth now to ply my trade and make repairs to the cart, make it as efficient as possible.

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Inner thoughts
of a little Twilight

I hate to say it but I feel myself unraviling. All the stress and the weight of our situation is finally getting to me. I put on a serene face for everyone even though I feel like I’m withering from the inside. Sorrel is leaving. I’d rather have him up in heaven with blessed lotus…safe, instead of going with us to the underworld. He hasen’t even left yet but I can feel us drifting apart already. The weight of the realization is crushing me. I am certin now that I love him, but love can be misplaced. I cannot comprimise my people in passion or in haste. I could be his life companion anywhere but where we are going and on the path we have traviling.

I have thought of such things…though I try not to. I now understand how my father must have felt watching me grow and not exalting like my brothers. I would grow old…I would die and he would watch his youngest child turn to dust. I feel this way when I look at Sorrel. He would be better off living life without me and my heart would rest easy not having to worry about him.

These thoughts…they are not right though. What is right for him and me may not be what we want. I will follow what I want and forget what my brain tells me. Even though it will hurt to loose him, I would not give up a moment of the time I spent with him. Those moments and memories make me happy…happier then I ever was on the blessed Isle. I was always on the outside looking in back home…locked away from the world by an overbearing protective father.

We will part ways…but I prmosied him that I would hold him in my heart. I can only pray he does the same for me. When we meet again…it will be just that much sweeter. I know he’ll be waiting for me and it gives me something to look forward to.

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Data Log 2

{System Dioagnostic}
 
>> Review System Logfile002.txt:  debug mode
 
{Logfile opening…  Please wait.}
 
We remain guests at the floating Manse of Sagacious Jade.  Why we are here I have yet to ascertain.  The grounds have fallen into minor disrepair, possibly due to limited use or necessity.  I have analyzed the flora and fauna of the island and am intrigued by my findings thus far.  {REF Logfile Flora001.txt, Fauna001.txt} {No errors found}
 
We have been provided basic living quarters, to which we were confined for 5 days before being summoned by Sagacious Jade for dinner and being given leave to explore the island.  Our cart remains where it was left, and all items accounted for based upon my scans {Review Logfile CartInventory001.txt} {Ongoing process, Standby}
 
I have learned more of my captors {Error REF: “captors”=“travelling companions”=“band” reconciling error} since prior log entry.
 
She Who Flies On The Ash Born Wings of Decay is an Abyssal Death Knight {Reconciling error:  No Entry Found, New Entry to Exalted.db added, reconciling available data…} of which I have had little interaction since my initial analysis.  I am still unclear how she is considered an Exalt, but I will take close observation and append to future log entries for further analysis.
 
Cathak Taki is a Twilight Solar Caste Exalt, male, despite initial analysis.  He has a relationship with Sambar, a Lunar {Postulation:  mate?  Further Analysis Required}  He is bright and has requested of Sagacious Jade to undertake the art of sorcery.  He has begrudgingly accepted.  Further analysis will be required.
 
Basou Marou is a Solar Exalt {Postulation:  Dawn Caste?  Further Analysis Required} who I have had some time to interact with.  We ahve spent considerable time sparring, which I have used to re-attune my combat techniques and subroutines.  I am grateful {Error:  Emotion.db unavailable or corrupted.  unable to reconcile of confirm} for the opportunity, as my long slumber has caused a sort of atrophy of my systems.  He is energetic and willing to work until exhaustion.  His presence seems…  Appropriate.  {Error:  Definition/Clarification required.  REF Emotion.db  Error:  Emotion.db unavailable or corrupted}  I cannot explain why, for I do not yet know the explanation.  Further analysis required.
 
Sorrel is a Mortal.  He has provided basic garb to assist in my integration with my captors {Error REF: “captors”=“travelling companions”=“band” reconciling error.  Unable to reconcile.  Analysis ongoing}
 
I have requested if Sagacious Jade can assist in restoring the corrupted portions of my memory and reconcile the database errors I have been experiencing.  He has agreed, possibly more willingly than caution would advise.  I must remain vigilant, but his services are required.  I will have to make a redundant backup of my current state when I can devote the resources to do so.
 
Please Stand By for further details…
 
{debug analysis:  2 Postulation comments – Analysis required. Appending to Observation.app  3 Errors in databade referencing, reconciling.}
 
{Memory restoration ongoing, please wait…}
 
>> Close Logfile002.txt

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Meditations in Midair
The Split Mind

Ash went back to her room, not sleeping, and not awake, but somewhere in between. An apt metaphor for herself, she thought. In the meditative state she was in, she focused on what it was that she was intended to be, and should still be: a weapon. She thought of her focus: Carrion’s Decay. The weapons she wields.

My job is to end life. I am the decay that wracks the body. Everything ages, everything that ages dies.

It felt, different. As though her own mind rebelled against her will. She repeated her mantra. This time images began to fill her head. Basu-Maru, the Dawn Caste. Fighting non-stop against a horde of…anything. Dragonbloods, Abyssals, in the end the horde he was fighting didn’t matter. He was just fighting, taking a stand for what he believes in: Justice…and swords. How odd then, that she should be here, fighting beside him, anathema to everything she is. She didn’t force the images from her mind, but let them drift away. Once more she repeated her mantra.

Dreams was there. Looking at a small bird under glass, barely alive. “Strange isn’t it?” Dreams was talking to her, but She-Who-Flies-On-The-Ash-Born-Wings-Of-Decay said nothing. “It’s so close to death, a fraction of an inch on a scale we are too large to be calibrated for, and yet it fights to survive, to…live, at any cost.” Dreams lifted the glass and handed the bird gently, with reverence to her. Taking it in her hand she glanced down to notice the fresh wounds on it’s back, something small had punctured the back of this small bird. Blood was dripping out of the fresh wounds of the…Nightingale? “Why did you give up on that which to bargained to keep?” Dreams was still talking to her, but she was too shocked to do anything. She took a step back as was again sitting in the void that was her meditation. Once again she repeated her mantra.

Taki was a short ways off, sitting with Sorrel, not fighting, not close to death. Just watching the sunset, the beginning of twilight. She recognized that look on Taki’s face: love. Something so familiar, and now so distant. They were talking, sharing something intimate, secret, but the emotion and the sentiment was clear. Expressions of feeling. The two of them ignored her as she walked forward. What is this? In the end the moment was all too…human. The sun began to move faster and faster, days were passing by in what would be mere moments. Years in the day. Taki remained static: forever his age, but time was not so kind to Sorrel. Each tick of the seconds decades were added to his age. Until he was simply ash, a tombstone marked where he had sat. “Everything ages,” she heard Taki say, “Everything that ages dies.” There were sections of dampness on the ground, “I wouldn’t have traded anything for the few short years we had. I was at my happiest then.” She looked at the small memorial that marked their spot. That image too, faded away. She-Who-Flies-On-The-Ash-Born-Wings-Of-Decay didn’t know what to make of any of this. Once more she repeated her mantra.

She was kneeling before her Deathlord. He towered over her, shadows made up his features. This wasn’t the lord she served, this was something else. Something commanding her, but not her lord. He could feel her heart beating quickly, she was sweating, she was afraid. Fear, panic, terror where she should feel the most at home, and safe. She ran, ran until she could see the void, the gaping maw that wished to devour everything in and that made up Creation, giving Those-that-were-never-born a final death, an end to those-that-never-began. She looked over her shoulder, there was the thing pretending to be her lord. She stood, if she were to be ended: it would be on her terms. Turning around she crossed her arms and fell back: falling into the void of her undoing. For the last time her visions melted away. She took a deep breath, repeating her mantra a final time.

Her mind sumbited to the will of it’s owner, giving her the visions and foci she requested. The bodies of the slain left rotting where they fell, the slow decay of nature, time claims all in the end.

My job is to end life. I am the decay that wracks the body. Everything ages, everything that ages dies. She-Who-Flies-On-The-Ash-Born-Wings-Of-Decay stated the words in her mind, and Ash wondered, somewhere in the back of her mind, unknown to the one thinking them: did they hold any meaning. Nightingale in the Meadow rethought the last choice she had ever made. She-Who-Flies-On-The-Ash-Born-Wings-Of-Decay was at last able to return to her duties.

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Forgotten Glory, 1
Senada

The city roars behind you for a quick death, while ahead the army advances on you and your small band of brethren, pushing forward through the blood-churned mud and the bodies of those that have fallen already. You stand ready, to fight until there are none others standing.

“Traitors!” you scream into the wind, fast and razor-sharp as Adrian at her fall. “Blood traitors!” The army doesn’t falter, though, and your pitiful hand of defenders behind you grip their weapons nervously, staring out into their death.

Yes, they will probably die. It’s a shame, considering how long it took you to train them. Good Dragon-bloods, real Dragon-bloods, are hard to find these days, what with the blasphemous mixing of their blood with the lesser mortals they governed in your stead.

That was the first problem. When this battle is over, the first thing you’re doing is putting all the Dragon-bloods to the sword. They’ll understand, of course – their job is to lay down their lives for the betterment of the Solar God-Kings, right?

Right?

Arrows rain down from the sky; you swat them aside with a flick of your hand and turn them back on their attackers. Hundreds die in burst of green and white, red and blue. You frown.

This is boring.

A squad rushes you, armed with long spears tipped in jade. You spin in an effortless circle and take their heads in a single swoop, flicking them up to land on their own spears. “Boring,” you mutter, turning toward the next squad.

It goes on like this for what feels like hours, though you’re certain it took only a few seconds. “Boring!” you shout as you liberate the heart from a Dragon-blood traitor and burn it to ash. “BORING!” you scream as you flare your anima, becoming a towering pillar of glorious light that scatters the army like child’s toys. You have a momentary thought of your youngest child, safe within Carcosa’s whispering walls. You’ll have to bring him a souvenir of the battle. Now, what would he like?

Tassels from a hundred footmen? No, that’s far too banal for a son of a Solar.

Oh, the eyes of the sorcerer-priest you just ran through! Truthfully, they’re the only salvagable piece of him left. But no, eyes are too dangerous for such a young thing. Windows to the soul, as you know.

Yes, you have it! The spear from the general of this army of blasphemies, your once-trusted advisor and lieutenant! It’s large, yes, but a little practice and he’ll be ready to ride out beside you!

No, wait. He already has one of these. And the general died a little too easily, scrambling to protect his body from your inevitable strikes. Wouldn’t want the man’s cowardice infecting the boy – something like that is worse than death.

The battlefield is quiet as you look around, your anima still lapping at the bloodstained mud hungrily. What remains of the army is scattered, fighting in twos or threes against your own well-trained troops. You bound back toward the city gates, exultant in victory, where your three closest Dragon-blooded lieutenants wait, raised up after the rebellion claimed most of your officers, though battle or treachery.

“Not much of a fight,” you say, laughing aloud at the Dragon-bloods harried looks. They are bloodstained and filthy; the oldest, Paavel, limps on one foot, the other a ragged stump. The other two, Marlin and Pale Flower, exchange glances as Marlin fingers a long dagger of black jade and moonsilver. “Spent most of my Essence, though,” you say, turning around to survey the field once again. “I should have expected as much from lesser Exalts.”

“Lesser?” Marlin scoffs behind you. “We are Chosen, as you were.”

“Hah.” You roll your eyes – it’s the same argument, all over again. When will they learn? Perhaps Marlin will be the first to die when you begin the purge. He would serve as an excellent example of the differences between a Dragon-blood and a Solar. “We are all Chosen, but some are made to rule, and others to serve. Which one are you?” You turn back to flash a smile at your underlings, but a sudden sharp coldness pierces your back, and you see Marlin standing, his hands on the hilt of his dagger as it plunges into your back. The tip emerges out from your stomach in a gut-wrenching burst of blood and pain – surely it wasn’t that long to start with? The blade whispers as you feel it latch on to your soul and pull – it pulls the golden Essence from you and from the air and drinks it into the black blade, which you see now is not black jade at all.

Where did Marlin get a soulsteel blade?

There is more pain than you can bear as the blade shifts, widening to slice through your bones and bring you to your knees. Your vision wavers – you cannot be dying, that’s ridiculous! Killed by Dragon-bloods?

In what world does this make sense?

You slump to the side, unable to stand on nerveless legs and weakening as the blade drinks in what remains of your energy. Your anima fizzles and dies, falling dark as the faces of your three lieutenants look down at you. Paavel looks away, frowning; Pale Flower has tears in her eyes. Only Marlin watches as the light goes out from your eyes, his expression a mask until you see no more.

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