‘Does it have a terrible aura?’ – Immanuel
’It’s a fucking demon, what do you think!?’ – Mark
Aunn’s recon had located three entrances to the Manse. One through a large set of ornate doors, guarded by blood apes. The second was a seaward entrance, apparently unguarded. The third was to drop in directly through the caldera. Hugo and Aunn discussed tactics, eventually deciding to insert through the caldera. Flying atop Night Bird, the Circle came in, through the heavy smoke of the volcano, and made their move. Aunn stayed high and inconspicuous as the gryphon descended among a wail of bells, Hugo leaping off the mount as alarm bells rang below. They saw that the lava only covered half the interior, while the other half was occupied by water, with a mass of steam rising where they met. There was a long, narrow path which had several buildings on it, and at the exact center, what could only be the manse.
Three Essence cannons were firing on the descending bird as cultists poured first out of the pagoda at the center. Seeing five Solars coming in ready for battle, they quickly dove right back into the pagoda as attempted to barricade it. Aunn dropped like a stone, streaking into the pagoda before it could be sealed. He ran into a pair of blood apes inside the door, which the Lunar set into immediately. Geralt, meanwhile, shattered the door with a single kick, and Hugo and Hakun scrambled through the door and slaughtered the apes, leaving nothing but cowering cultists clad in vestments of the Green Sun Princes.
Hugo nonchalantly tossed them a copy of the Immaculate Text, informing them they’d backed the wrong side. One of them picked it up, but Hugo grabbed his wrist before he could stow it. Hugo carefully examined the ring the cultist wore. Hugo’s eyes flew open in shock as he recognized the insignia of the Cult of the Scarlet Empress. Hugo demanded to know what they were doing with the Green Sun Princes and the Yozis. They stared back up at him, jaws open at the site of a Solar clad as an Immaculate Monk. One of them simply responded that the Empress was dead and this was the best way to ensure that someone worthy of the Scarlet Throne would sit on it. Hugo followed that with a demand to know where Lisara was, to which they simply responded the Hearth Room. Hugo proceeded to crack them over the head, knocking them out, and the Circle started a quick search of the place. They found more cultists barricading themselves inside the remaining rooms. The only thing of interest they found was a fully stocked occult center, complete with an extensive alchemical lab, and an open portal into Malefas.
They bypassed the portal and headed straight for the hearth room. They saw a visibly pregnant Lisara accompanied by a second circle fire demon. She commented that she should’ve expected Hugo to follow her, and that the Caste Mark blazing on his forehead explained an awful lot. She then nodded at the demon, telling it to take care of the Circle. Lisara disappeared farther into the manse, closing the door behind her as the demon turned to face the Circle. The demon smiled before lashing out with a fire whip, pinning Aunn and Jasper almost instantly. Hugo and Callas began an assault while Hakun barked orders, directing the assault. Hugo and Callas’s blows barely scratched the demon, though, and he was able to get one last blow off before Hakun’s coordinated attack fell. Hugo attempted to kick over the Demon’s sweeping flail, but it took him square in the gut, knocking him out cold almost instantly. While Hugo toppled against the wall, Hakun’s direction caused the blows of Aunn and Geralt to land true before Callas and Night Bird threw the demon into the water, ending it.
Hugo came around quickly, considering the blow he had taken. They attempted to break down the door, but neither Night Bird nor Geralt could smash it in. Hugo then studied it somewhat more intensely, and noted that it seemed to be designed for Terrestrials. He lit off his hearthstone, and then was able to freely walk in. He saw Lisara there, looking at him. She was no longer pregnant, which raised Hugo’s eyebrows quickly. He cocked his weapon, but she asked to explain what had happened. Hugo was battered, bruised, and since she seemed to want to ask something, he lowered his weapon, and then let the rest of the Circle in. Lisara said that time did not flow normally here, and that for every minute in Creation, almost two years passed in this place, which was some aspect of Elsewhere. She told them that this long in Elsewhere had at least partially broken the Yozi’s hold on her, and that she was tired, and wished to do what she could to make up for the misdeeds that had resulted from her pact with the Yozis.
She explained the Yozi’s plan in great detail, which had involved using her to mother a Terrestrial capable of operating the Realm Defense Grid. Almost on cue, a small girl walked into the room. She was a Fire-Aspect, and it was plain to all that she held great power, and great destiny. THere was no doubt this was the destiny the Lunar Circle’s diviner had seen. Hugo knew enough of bloodlines to know hers was the purest he had ever seen. Lisara commented that she had been born Exalted – which had not been fun for her – and that the Yozis had miscalculated. They assumed that adding Solar Essence into the child would have made her more powerful, which was true. But using a Zenith had allowed the light of the Unconquered Sun into the mix, and that had offset the darkness they had engineered into the child. Light and dark were in balance within her, giving the child free will. The Circle had many questions for Lisara, and they discovered this was the Yozi’s backup plan, and that Lisara was not read into their first plan. The Circle excused her from the area and discussed things internally, noting a massive shift in what they thought they knew.