“If you want help from the Celestial Bureaucracy, you’ll need to file the paperwork. You do realize that they’re still backed up with claims from the Usurpation?” – Masaru
“I may be a God of Conquest, but these guys got cojones!” – Salazo
The Circle approaches Masaru to solicit aid from the Celestial Bureaucracy. Masaru says that while it can be doneDecide to go to Maxim, since he has obvious ties to Yu-Shan after the little revelation about Masaru. Hugo wants to take hypersonic Nightbird there today, but Maxim asks them to give him a day to receive them, then warns about an approaching army. Aunn and Callas do some scouting, and find that 3 Legions of Undead, a dozen Deathknights, 500 Bonestriders, and Juggernaut itself are marching on Denandsor, and are approximately four days away. Yurgen is quickly informed of this, and the Circle sees him run through every War charm he knows. He then looks back at them and says that he isn’t sure if he can handle this one. The Circle mentions that they will get his attention, and take some of the heat off of the Bull.
The Circle debates what to do next, with the armies of the Labyrinth bearing down on them. Jasper sends an Infallible Messenger spell to the Mask of Winters, in an apologetic tone, but with an edge of steel written into it. The Mask responds by sending an essence projection of himself as a warning, telling them that he will destroy anything between himself and what is his. The Circle deduces that includes the Yozis, so they come to an ambitious decision. They will ride to some combination of rescue and confrontation with the Empress, trailing the armies of the Undead behind them.
However, one does not simply walk into Malfeas. If half of what they’d heard from Maxim and the Mask of Winters was true, then the Empress and her chosen were laying siege to the place, and that was two potential armies they might had to face. Even with a full Circle of Solars, a Lunar, and the assorted support they could muster, there was no way they could manage it. They come to a singular conclusion: they will need to put together a crew to run to the Empress’s rescue. The Circle ran down a list of potential allies, and they started recruiting.
Hugo, Masaru, and Callas head for the Blessed Isle to talk to Maxim. Meeting with Maxim, he says that he will send what indirect aid he can from Yu Shan, and that the Order is already stretched thin. He promises what he can to alter Fate to support the Circle, and confirms that the Empress’s missing daughter Lillun. Hugo then asks about Lisara, and is informed she is doing fairly well. Hugo then asks to see her, and is granted admittance. He examines her closely with the Eyes of Autochthon, and is both pleased and saddened. Pleased, because he believes he can cure her, saddened, because it will take him seasons. He promises her that he will be back to cure her as long he survives his mission to Malefas, and that he will do what he can not to take Lucy with them on the assault. Lisara reacts violently, missing with a grab for Hugo’s throat before she is restrained by the three Immaculates outside her door. She writhes in their control locks, insisting that Hugo swears by Callas that he will not take Lucy with them. Hugo elects not to be Oathbound by Callas, but he does willingly swear on both the Immaculate Dragons and the Unconquered Sun that as long as he draws breath that the Ebon Dragon will not take Lucy.
While that group is on the Blessed Isle, Jasper, Geralt, and Mocks Her Madness are dispatched to Lookshy to attempt to gain aid from them. Are greeted by an entire Talon of Gunzoshou Troops, and have a brief conversation with the Captain there before they are ushered before a Lookshy delegation of an Elder Earth-Aspect – Vito – and a God of Conquest named Salazo to discuss it. Jasper brings up the notion that the Circle could position itself so that the Mask must travel over Lookshy as an idea. Salazo injects that that may not be the best way to negotiate before Jasper brings up the idea of Lookshy sacking Thorns while the Mask is out. Jasper continues with the notion that an alliance is not what they are seeking, but rather moves that would benefit both parties. Salazo brings up the fact that their mercenaries are the best, but are also not cheap. When they discover the scope of transport abilities they can be offered, they offer whatever they can in exchange for the support of the Icewalker’s transport network.
Aunn detects the presence of salt water in Denandsor. This confuses him until he realizes that is indicative of one of the Elders. Namely, Leviathan, an Elder Lunar who hasn’t been seen since the First Age. Leviathan is typically seen as a city-sized killer whale. He tries to track the scent, and then finds Lucy in the central fountain riding a Moonsilver-tattoed dolphin. Aunn greets him respectfully, and the Elder lets Lucy go before bidding the young warrior a good day. Leviathan had apparently heard that there was an upstart Circle of Solars who were looking to throw down with the Primordials, and he wanted to get in on the action. Leviathan tells Aunn to keep his presence here quiet, and then Aunn notices that everyone around them is ignoring the twenty foot tall Lunar warwhale in the middle of the City. He agrees to that, and Leviathan, much like Fury, mentions that he wants a good drink of Primordial Heart’s Blood.
The Circle heads for Diamond Hearth to talk with Dark Granite before they go to deal with Halsanti. Upon reaching the Jadeborn city, they notice that it is about a third full, with most of the remaining Jadeborn being warrior-caste. Dark Granite meets them, and then informs them he intends to survive. He says he plans long term, and then a loud thump is heard. The Circle tears out, only to see that the city is deserted and the elevator shaft they came down has caved in. They return and confront Dark Granite. He tells them that his plans are much longer-term than the Circle’s, and that they had been in motion for some time. He knows he can’t trap the Solars forever, but pinning them here for a few years will be enough for the Ebon Dragon, which will fulfill his part of their deal. Dark Granite then goes into hibernation. Attempting to exit the City through the tunnel system, they find that the city is completely encircled with vitriol, creating a prison that eerily mirrors the one that the Deliberative banished the Yozis to. Hugo and Callas both try to break through. Hugo’s attempts with the Eyes of Autocthon and his ability to manipulate Essence all end up simply slipping off the vitriol. Geralt’s attempts to brute force through with his martial arts abilities simply hurt his hands. Even Callas’s sorcery cannot break through. Dark Granite had acknowledged the prison wouldn’t hold them forever, but he seems to be correct in that it will hold them long enough to prevent them from interfering with the Yozis. Putting their heads together, they then remember the Abyssal Heathstone. They look at Geralt, who simply nods. He summons Pasiap’s Mighty Fist, which he had partially bonded to his soul when no one was looking, into the Jadeborn city.
Hugo feels his heart stop as he sees what Geralt did to the flagship Warstrider of House Tepet. The Realm banner has been replaced by an elaborate pictograph of Mocks Her Madness in her war form. What drives him truly crazy, though, was the replacement of the House Tepet banner with a pinup of Mocks Her Madness’s human form which left practically nothing to the imagination. Hugo literally collapses onto the deck, practically in tears at the sight of House Tepet’s proudest warstrider reduced to a vessel for a Solar’s softcore pornography. Still, he manages to compose himself after a few minutes as Jaspar extends the energy claws he had installed on the Warstrider, one of his many modifications.
Back at Denandsor, Lucy is playing with Aunn and Leviathan in a public square. Aunn is teaching Lucy Lunar Hero Style, since apparently Begging The Dragons at her age just isn’t enough in his eyes. Leviathan is watching from the fountain, when what appears to be a wound in the air opens. It is literally bleeding vitriol from its edges as the Circle runs through, Pasiap’s Mighty Fist holding the hole open. Aunn wonders what the crap just happened, but doesn’t ask too many questions as the city collapses on the Circle. They quickly ask Skyseeker what to do with Dark Granite after Geralt retrieves the hibernation cocoon he encased himself in. She shrugs and says that it’ll be a while before he comes out.
With the most incredibly diverse army Creation has seen in many a year under their command – crack troops and Gunzoshou Commandos from Lookshy, Icewalker barbarians and Sky Berserkers from the North, Beastmen and Lunar Warriors from the East, and a force of Immaculate Monks from Lookshy and the Immaculate Order itself, all under the command of a full Circle of Solars – the Circle makes its final preparations to launch the attack that may possible determine the fate of Creation Itself…