Murphy's Circle

The Hearth of the North
Third Session

Hugo and Jasper were surprised when they looked out of the Inn to see a totemic Solar Anima banner flaring over the Terrestrial Warcamp. After facepalming so hard that Creation itself shook, Hugo leapt out of his chair and headed off like a bat out of hell for the warcamp. At the Warcamp, Hakun and Lisara had engaged in combat, Lisara pulling her sword and attacking the young Solar. Hakun parried and retaliated, his Caste Mark flaring as Lisara’s eyes grew wide in shock. Screaming for the guards to slay the Forsaken Anathema, she flew into combat with Hakun. Hakun quickly gained the upper hand, for as experienced a Dragon-blooded warrior as Lisara was, she was no match for a Solar. Or at least, she shouldn’t have been, but she held with Hakun, and later Callas, before she transformed into a great phoenix and fled. Her remaining troops cited they had no wish to partake in a Wyld Hunt, and surrendered, cursing Hugo as a blood traitor once he reached the camp and did not openly defy the Anathema. With nothing left to do, the Circle headed into the darkness of the mines.

They spent several days navigating, the Gryphon distinctly unhappy about being both underground and in near-total darkness. They eventually heard the some variety of sound that was metal on metal, and headed towards it. Coming upon a Mountainfolk mining camp, they were greeted mainly with curiosity by the lower-class Jadeborn. The foreman of the mining camp quickly directed the Circle to their city, which was accessible via either a secure but long passageway, or by taking a high speed minecart through an area that hadn’t been secured yet. Naturally, the Solars took the faster, less secure route, running into a Mountainfolk patrol engaged against undead. The Solars launched into an assault, slaughtering the undead and shadowfolk in seconds. The Jadeborn captain quickly thanked the Circle for their assistance, then directed them to the Jadeborn capital after sending a message ahead, and leaving a demolition squad to deal with what was left of the shadowlands.

Upon reaching the Mountainfolk city, the Circle was escorted by an honor guard to the leadership of the Mountainfolk. Met by a representative of the artisan, engineering, and war castes, the Circle quickly commenced negotiations with the Mountainfolk Elders. With Hugo and Jasper taking the lead, the high-stakes verbal fencing match began. Skyseeker, their engineer, and Songforger, their artist, seemed open to the idea. Dark Granite, by contrast, was openly hostile to the Circle, and stated quite plainly that nothing short of direct intervention from the Clay Man himself would persuade him to lend his support to the Bull. Still, a slip of the tongue on Skyseeker’s part reminded Hugo of the Great Geass, and his insistence that it not be invoked won over Songforger, who pledged a few of his journeymen to aid the Bull. Aid from artisans and songwriters, though, was not what was asked for by the Bull, and they continued to press. After Hugo gave them an update on the crumbling status of the Realm, coupled with the technological innovations of the surface, Skyseeker herself agreed to take a ‘sabbatical’ to the surface for a few decades. It would take three months for the Jadeborn to tunnel all the way to the Bull’s capital.

With the support of two of the three castes secured, the Circle stayed in the Mountainfolk city for roughly a week, commissioning several custom magic items. They traded demonstrations of their abilities for payment towards the custom gear, with Hugo picking up a custom version of his existing chakram that doubled as a shield, Geralt picking up a set of boots that were amazingly fast, Callas repairing his gryphon’s wargear. With that set, the Circle agreed to secure rapid transit for an advance prep team of a few Mountainfolk, with whom they set off to the surface. On their way up, they discovered several fresh corpses once they neared the surface. Their flesh had been carved in a fashion Callas found all-too-familiar. She warned the Circle to be on their guard as they approached the surface, only to see the telltales of fire as they reached it.

They reached the surface to find Diamond Hearth besieged by demons. Hugo immediately lit off several charms and began half sprinting, half flying for the town, while the remainder loaded onto the Gryphon with Callas. When they reached the city, they saw three airships defending the city, besieged by blood apes and demonic wasps. Hugo moved to defend one of the smaller airships, as did Callas after she had dropped the other three off at the large one. Hakun, Jasper, and Geralt made a good account of themselves on the main airship, but Hugo and Callas stole the show. Hugo was flaring like he never had before, his anima banner totemic for the first time in his life, supplemented by the hearthstone he bore, which gave the effect of him having both his Night-Caste banner and an Air-Aspect banner. He single-handedly drove off the demons assaulting one of the ships, while Callas did much the same for the second. Hugo gave his two cents for the second airship, though, when one of the blood apes used two crewmen as impromptu chakrams. Hugo caught the pair and tossed them back onto the airship, which started to break apart. Hugo shored up the weakened prow long enough for the damage control teams on the airship to get more permanent shoring in place. During this, Hakun, Geralt, and Jasper took down the large attack team besieging the heavy airship. Once the airships were secured, between the Circle and the heavy airship firing an essence cannon, the town was cleaned up fairly quickly.

Hugo quickly tried to establish what the hell had happened in the town. One of the older women in town quickly accused the Circle of causing the assault. Hugo was confused at that, and asked for elaboration. She said that her husband had been the ‘necromancer’; actually the town’s local God-blooded seer, and he had seen a great evil coming. The only option he saw was to raise an army of the undead to beat back the demons. Hugo was skeptical at this, but then she mentioned that the one who brought this evil on them was the female leading the Realm troop. Hugo twitched at that, and then Hakun and Callas remembered something about the way she’d fought Hakun… she’d had far too much power for a simple Terrestrial. That coupled with the fact that Hakun and Hugo specifically recognized what she used near the end of the fight – Infernal Hero Style martial arts – lent credence to her case. Jasper’s somewhat reluctant admittance that he’d seen a tattoo on Lisara that, upon further review, made her so obviously an akuma, selling out Creation to the Yozi, they should have realized it sooner that Hugo hit himself. Hugo and Callas were ready to go chasing her straight to the Realm, or Malefas, or wherever she had fled, but Hugo calmed and decided to finish the mission he was on… only after swearing a Blood Oath of Vengeance on the Unconquered Sun and the Dragons that Lisara would die by his hand. They elected to get back to the Bull’s as quickly as possible. The Jadeborn quickly souped up one of the airships, and they headed back to the Bull’s at breakneck speed to deliver news both good and bad.

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Murphy Steps In
Interlude

After hearing what Hakun had said when they landed, Lisara wished a more comprehensive talk with several members of the Circle, and she called three of them into her tent sequentially.

Hugo was the first, and he was forced onto the defensive immediately when she called him on associating with those who claimed to be working for the Bull. Hugo managed to evade the question, citing that he was there on Order business. He claimed that they were attempting to destroy the Bull through guile instead of open arms, and that he was on an infiltration mission. He gave her Maxim’s name as the one giving him his marching orders. That seemed to calm Lisara, and they held a brief talk of restoring their House to its former glory.

Jasper was the second. Despite Hugo’s warning that Lisara was a conniving seductress, Jasper elected to enjoy himself for the evening. The rest, as they say, is censored.

Hakun was the third. Lisara challenged him on all of his claims – that they were working for the Bull, that they sought the aid of the Mountainfolk, et al. Hakun also ignored Hugo’s warnings on dealing with her and eagerly responded with the truth. He was so enthusiastic about helping the Bull that Lisara couldn’t restrain her temper and set upon him in a rage.

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Expected and Unexpected
Second Session
“Just because you’re the power behind the throne doesn’t mean it can’t be pushed on top of you” – Jasper

After nearly a month’s travel through the frozen North, Hugo, Callas, and Hakun finally see Diamond Hearth. At Hugo’s insistence, they land on one of the pads designated for the commercial airships that service the mining city. When they landed, they were once again greeted by the clack of crossbows being loaded and readied. Hugo tried to talk to the sergeant of the guard to get the proper permissions, but when asked Hakun invoked the Bull of the North’s name, which set the entire platform on edge immediately. Hugo defused that by quickly saying they were there for trade negotiations and would leave immediately if asked. The sergeant did indicate that there was a serious problem with the Undead coming out of the local mass graves. The three of them agreed to help clear the local Undead hole in exchange for the proper permissions to rest in Diamond Hearth. The sergeant was agreeable, noting that they’d gotten aid from a Realm garrison in the South. The sergeant sighed, let them into the city, and pointed them towards the inn. Callas went off with the griffon to hunt, locating several baby seals south of town.

Hakun and Hugo, meanwhile, reached the inn, where they immediately grabbed a bite and a brew, tired after their long travel. A glance around the room showed that there were a few of the normal patrons in the place in addition to a group of Realm soldiers. Not all of the town had merely casual interest in them, though, and a note Hugo found mysteriously at the bottom of his drink asked him to meet on the second floor. A quick reconnoiter showed that it wasn’t an obvious trap, and after knocking whilst invisible Hugo confirmed that it wasn’t actually a trap. He knocked again and entered, greeted by Geralt, a man who’s only distinguishing feature was that he was completely forgettable. The second man was a poised gentleman who identified himself as Jasper. The four of them danced around the issue briefly before Hugo flared his caste mark, the others following suite. Hugo was somewhat surprised that they had a Perfect Circle, all five castes represented with Jasper and Geralt representing the Zenith and Twilight castes to balance the Dawn, Night, and Eclipse they already had.

With the group committed to working together to clear out the undead, they parted ways for the night. Hugo immediately sat down and went into deep meditation while Hakun chatted up the Realm troopers that were downstairs. Two of them where Tepet Legionnaires that had survived the battle with the Bull of the North that was now almost a year ago. The warriors talked for a while, wishing they had at least one Immaculate Monk to back up the three Dragon-Blooded they had before they parted ways for the night.

The next evening the five Solars set out for the warcamp of the Realm force on Griffonback. Upon reaching it, Hugo leapt off the back of the winged beast, lighting off his hearthstone to simulate the effects of Air-aspect Terrestrial anima. That cemented the group as a Terrestrial merc crew, which kept their cover intact. Jasper and Hugo then were approached by the Captain of the Dragon. That officer was Tepet Lisara, Hugo’s former CO and second cousin. She immediately commented that she was glad to see fellow terrestrials, even if they were Outcastes. Hugo immediately retorted that there were no Outcaste here, just one Exile, as he stared daggers at Lisara. She sent a death glare right back. She remembered who Hugo was, mentioning that his Exaltation did them no good since the battle had already been lost by that time, and wondering why Hugo was in town instead of back at the Monastary. Hugo simply responded his actions had saved four hundred lives, not lost four thousand. Lisara visibly swelled at that, invoking her rank and station, and Hugo’s status as a ‘mere’ soldier of House Tepet, ordering him onto latrine duty and out of her sight. Hugo left, and she turned to deal with the rest of the group.

Lisara held a brief talk with each of the other four, Jasper taking more time in her tent than the others. After the brief talks, dusk fell, and the soldiers prepared for the onslaught of the undead. Lisara had repositioned the Solar circle to cover one of the larger areas that had been giving her men some trouble. Thankfully for the Circle, they were well away from the Terrestrial troops, and while they had to be careful they didn’t flare any anima, they could fight unimpeded. Hakun, Jasper, and Geralt took up a concentrated position overlooking the hole in the earth, with Callas flying air support. Hugo elected to unwind a bit and continually leapt over the chasm, serving as the eyes and ears of the Circle. The first waves spotted were mere zombies, and between Hugo and Callas they were stopped cold. The second waves added warghosts into the mix, which Hugo and Callas were unable to cull before they reached the surface. The trio lead by Hakun engaged while Callas provided air cover. With that quad holding decently, Hugo kept his focus on the next wave of Warghosts and rained chakrams on them before they could reach the surface. Once they reached the surface, though, they immediately mobbed Hugo. The Immaculate, though, was too slippery for them, and even extended as he was he managed to slip the relentless assault. Hakun, Jasper, and Geralt, meanwhile, had handily dealt with the gang on them.

A deep roar was heard, and three massive… well, undead golems came out of the hole. One set upon Callas, one set upon Hugo, and the third set upon the remainder. Callas pinned one of them down and pulled it out of the fight, while Hugo danced about with the second. The trio subdued the third handily, while Hugo displayed the prowess of the Immaculate Order, single-handedly subduing one of them before finishing the one Callas had clinched. With that, the remaining ghosts fled underground, and the Solars came after them in hot pursuit.

The Circle came upon a dank, dark underground, which they set into fearlessly. None of the Solars had exerted themselves to the point where they were flaring, which was a good thing. Hugo and Hakun came upon a terrified mortal fleeing something. They attempted to question him, but he merely fled. A chalk of the Realm troops followed him and said that man was the necromancer. Hugo and Hakun immediately gave chase, with Hugo eventually catching and forcing the necromancer into a submission hold. The necromancer was terrified beyond belief, and all he could say was ‘The beast is coming… the beast is coming…’ until he saw Hugo’s face. On seeing that, he pointed right at Hugo and said ‘It’s coming for you!’ the necromancer shrieked before he demonstrated that he was surprisingly spry and slipped Hugo’s hold. After staring dumbstruck for a second that such a little guy could break his hold, Hugo flung a chakram at him to stop him. However, Hakun had the same idea, and he too attacked the fleeing necromancer. The combined effects of their attacks killed the man almost instantly.

With the necromancer dead, the Realm forces quickly set to searching his lab. Their Occult experts determined simply that he was a novice, just taking advantage of the high concentration of dead bodies and the encroaching Shadowlands to create the undead. That was all they shared, and all that Callas and Geralt could determine, either way. Lisara made it clear that she wanted to speak with several members of the Circle privately later on, but with the necromancer dead and his undead servants vanquished, the Cicrle set to rest and recover.

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The Beginnings of a Circle
First Session

For two weeks, the trio flew north upon the back of the gryphon, searching for the Bull of the North, who was rallying the newly-returned Solars to his banner. After their travel, they sighted what appeared to be cattle grazing about the trunk of a tree…. only they could clearly see them from the sky, and both were far too large to be mere cattle. Once they spotted that, they descended to low flight until they reached the gates of the walls built around the tree. That tree, as it turned out, scraped the sky, and the ‘cows’ they had seen were actually yeddim, the great beasts of burden. The trio was greeted by an alarmed response – dozens of archers took aim at them. Hugo quickly dismounted and attempted to get the message across they were no threat, which confused the Icewalkers. Callas sought parlay while Hakun simply held his tongue. The Icewalkers deduced the obvious quickly and escorted the three Solars to the Bull of the North’s throne. On their way in, they passed by the smithies, who were busy with the spoils of war – literally thousands of weapons bearing the insignia of the Realm’s House Tepet were being repaired, including a plethora of jade weapons mixed among the more mundane ones.

A look flashed across Hugo’s face too quick for anyone to really notice it while they ascended to the Bull’s throne where they met the legend of the North. The Bull greeted his fellow, if still young, brethren in his throne chamber – set in the mouth of a massive dragon construct, the walls decorated with war trophies from House Tepet, and they set to a discussion. The Bull laid out his goals – to build a civilization upon the Frozen North – and to defend it without taking it on the offensive. His problem, though, was that he was uniting nomadic tribes used to raiding and hunting and trying to turn them into a civilization of farmers, scholars, and craftsmen, and they had little experience with any of that. He had sought aid from many, but few had answered, and now he needed skilled craftsmen more than anything. He requested that the newly-Exalted Circle that sat before him travel to Diamond Hearth and seek an audience with the Mountain Folk, and attempt to negotiate a treaty with them for trade and technical aid. He was pleased to see that Callas was an Eclipse and could bind the Mountain Folk to the treaty, although a look of concern flashed on his face as he saw Hugo clearly upset by something. He gave the Circle time to rest after their journey.

Hugo set upon his quarters with barely a word to the others and before shutting himself in, while the Callas and Hakun browsed the smithies, searching for weapons and armor they could use. There was no Orichalcum armor befitting a child of the Unconquered Sun, but there was jade equipment in plenty, and both helped themselves to arms and armor as they could. Restless, Hugo took leave of his quarters to look around the city, where he was taken aback by two things – the mind-boggling array of equipment from House Tepet, and the hardiness of the folk. He wandered into a town square where several warriors were training on an essence projection simulator. Hakun happened upon the simulator at the same time, and there was a huge demand for the two Exalts to spar. Hakun was eager, Hugo less so. Hugo reluctantly agreed to enter the simulator, knowing that refusing a fight would burn nigh all of his credibility with these people, even if fighting would raise questions he didn’t want asked. Hakun eagerly entered the ring, his massive Orichalcum sword and shield somewhat clashing with his newly acquired blue jade plate, but that wasn’t what drew the stares of the crowd. Hugo had reluctantly shed his cloak, revealing an Orichalcum breastplate which was ornately wrought with Moonsilver, Jade, and even a few tiny bits of Startmetal, but it was not even that the fine armor which drew the stares of the crowd – it was his blue jade bracers and chakram, paired identically to what the Icewalkers had seen six months ago, against the Legions of House Tepet. Hugo sighed, knowing this was a bad idea. Sadly for him, refusing the battle would be a worse move than what he was about to do, and he entered the arena.

Hakun immediately launched an attack, his daiklaive coming for Hugo in a great arc. Hugo sprang out of that arc, though, with a speed and agility that he hadn’t betrayed to the others before. He then did something that truly quieted the entire square – he dropped into a martial arts form that everyone there immediately recognized as Air Dragon style. He flared his Caste Mark so that he wouldn’t be mistaken for a Terrestrial, and subsequently put to death, before he hurled his Chakram in a dizzying flash of air and essence. His blows too came to naught, for Hakun batted aside all of his attacks and retaliated with fury, a savage series of blows whipping through the air towards Hugo. His acrobatics weren’t enough, though, and Hakun’s sword drew first blood, scoring Hugo across the back. Hugo dropped a quick Charm and retaliated, filling the air with chakrams, all of them speeding for Hakun. A huge roar went up from the crowd as no less than eight lightning-infused chakrams sped through the sky in a multi-axis assault on the Warrior. One of the weapons found its way through Hakun’s defenses and scored a solid wound into his back. Hakun, though, was not one to be had that easily. He reached into his own bag of tricks and unleashed a powerful series of blows that Hugo’s evasive flips and twists could not escape, and Hugo was hit again, this one blooding him. Hugo rolled out of arm’s reach and began a whirlwind spin, hoping to disguise his next blow. He let fly with his chakram after several feints. It wasn’t enough, though, and the Hakun batted down the thrown weapon. Hugo’s lightning speed caused his next attack to land as Hakun’s did, and the two locked weapons, both attacking but not landing a hit. Hugo leapt back and moved for his final play, but in the time it took him to set that up, Hakun launched into another vicious combo, blasting through Hugo’s depleted defenses and skewering the Night Caste.

Hakun was quickly raised on the shoulders of the crowd whilst Hugo hacked on his knees, the pain of the blow which had taken him almost making him retch. His Caste mark burning his forehead, he fumbled for his real weapon, assuming that he was about to be set upon by a mob of angry Icewalkers wishing death upon one who fought as a Terrestrial. He was surprised, though, by Icewalkers congratulating him, and there was even a sizeable number that wanted him to train them. He made an effort to disappear into the crowd, although his flaring anima banner made that difficult. He did note that it felt good not to have to hide this, but he paid that little mind as he attempted to get out. His efforts, though, were futile, and the Bull of the North himself congratulated him. He said that it was probably for the best that Hugo had lost, since the crowd wouldn’t have wanted to see an Immaculate Style prevail. He chuckled, commenting that he hadn’t seen a fight like that in some time. Hugo turned back, anger and pain in his eyes as he asked if it had been six months. The Bull took a step back at that as he realized just how Hugo had Exalted. He asked Hugo to meet him later in council, for these were… awkward circumstances. Hugo was still charged from the fight, and the Bull gave him some time to cool down and center himself before the two had a discussion. With that done, the fledgling Circle made their final preparations to set off for Diamond Hearth.

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The Road to the North
Prologue
At a tavern in a far-flung crossroads town, three weary travelers rested. The one called Hugo relaxed over a pipe after his long journey, content to remain in the shadows in simple traveler’s garb. The other two, though, were not so discrete. Arriving in town by flying in on a fire Griffon and openly wearing Orichalcum weaponry, it was impossible to mistake those two for anything save Solars. Hugo ignored the newcomers – an aged lady in tattered vestments called Callas and a young man in lamellar armor carrying a massive sheathed daiklaive known as Hakun– and kept to his pipe. For reasons he kept to himself, he wished to remain out of sight. However, even a Night caste such as Hugo cannot hide forever, and Callas sought him out, recognizing Hugo as a fellow Lawgiver.

Hugo chided the pair for their utter lack of subtely, citing a nonspecific encounter with the Realm as his reasoning to remain unseen. Callas asked Hugo where he was going, and then offered the young man a lift when she realized they were headed in the same direction. Hugo refused, however, preferring to arrive much later, but without the obviousness of riding a flame gryphon. He bid the pair of them safe travels and returned to his drink. Callas and Hakun returned outside to the hitched gryphon, entertaining the local children. Hugo briefly stopped outside, glaring at the two of them before turning to appraise the gryphon. The two stared down briefly before the beast offered Hugo its grudging respect. Hugo held a brief talk again with Callas. By now, there were several people staring, not only at the two Solars, but at the traveler who was talking with them as well. A priest then descended upon them, burning incense and chanting ‘Anathema.’ Hugo had a brief word with the priest, where he made it clear that he would ‘take care’ of the pair after the priest let slip the Wyld Hunt was approaching to deal with the pair. Hugo quickly put on a show of forcing the two Solars out of the town before joining them on their flight north, speed becoming paramount with the Hunt approaching.

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