Murphy's Circle

Straight to Hell
Fourteenth Session

“There’s a plan for everything in Creation; sometimes it means I get lucky” – Jaspar, on how it ended up as a good thing that he slept with Lisara

The massed armies are assembled outside Denandsor. Beastmen, Icewalkers, Sky Bersekers, Seventh Legion troops, Gunzhoshou Commandos, and a Fang of Warstriders all lay assembled. Jaspar stands before the team and rallies the troops. Aunn rallies the Beastmen telling them that this is their chance to really fuck some shit up. Hugo shows Lookshy’s Gunzhoshou troops the scars that even Solar Exaltation can’t heal, leftover from his own time as a Gunzhoshou Commando. He tells them that they are going straight to Hell, where they will be fighting for their lives. He tells them that any man who does not Exalt will be left behind. Pointing out the one way out of this mess that a mere mortal would have causes a massive uproar of pride from the Gunzhoshou troopers.
Geralt then activates Pasiap’s Mighty Fist, ripping a gaping wound in the hole of Creation. Raw dread flows out of the hole, and the wound is festering as if it should be bleeding. Kordath tells Hakun to slot the talisman he gave him. Hakun does exactly, that, and the light of the Sun flows out of his Daiklaive and calms his troops. As he does that, the ground begins to shake, Juggernaut crests the hill. They all run straight into Malfeas, after .

A massive Manse of principally red jade is visible in the distance. It has all magical materials in it, and is recognizable as a war manse one would see on the Imperial Mountain, except it is on wheels. There are Demons in front of them, to the left of them, and to the right of them, and there is an Undead army behind them. Hugo sounds a charge, and the Commando units charge in close formation, blowing a massive hole in the rearguard composed of the off-duty troops in the back. Geralt’s warstrider fang jump-jets in, deep-striking at the seam between the rear and third ranks. Flaring his Fang’s Essence jets as they land, they slaughter everything in a hundred foot radius half a mile into the enemy’s second rank from the portal. Callas’s sorcery had fused her with Hakun, and the combination of the two Solars then leads a force of Tyrant Lizards cloned from Nightbird, dropping sorcery attacks that obliterate the entire Masaru then leaps in with his Immaculate force, establishing an anvil to Hugo’s hammer, smashing a hole in the second rank. Hugo’s Gunzoshou troops light the integrated flame pieces in their armor and advance slowly, pushing the remnants of the third rank into the woodchipper of the Immaculates. Jaspar leads his troops into the breaches left by the linebreakers of Commandos, Immacualtes, Warstriders, and Solar Sorcery-enhanced Exalts. The Lunars tie-in the flanks of the breach teams, with Mocks Her Madness in her squirrel form, tearing faces off on the sides of the unit. With that, though, the rain of arrows rains from the first and second ranks, and a dozen totemic banners rise up as Infernals in Hellstriders round and turn on the invading army. Their attacks bounce harmlessly off the warstrider Fang and miss the supersonic turbo lizard fang. Hugo and Masaru’s elite troops take a few hits, but it is Jaspar commanding the mortals who bears the brunt of the attack. Turbo Lizard squadron then comes in and drops on the second rank… obliterating it in its entirety. THe War Manse then opens up into the first rank, blowing things apart with heavy essence cannons. Three Inernals fall to the barrage as the gathered army presses its attack.

Hugo and his 3 Scales, now bearing 4 Awakened Mortals, 3 Terrestrials, and one Lunar in a penguin totemic form, advance on the First rank, flame pieces blasting to keep things in the killbox defined by the Manse’s fire and the Turbo Lizard Squadron’s fire. Masaru’s troops shoot to the left flank, slashing apart a number of 3rd Circle Demons as they set that flank ad force demons attempting to flee the killbox. Geralt’s Warstrider fang goes after the most powerful Hellstrider in the group as the Celestials begin headhunting the Infernals. Callas’s two Fangs of ensorceled flying Tyrant Lizards lay waste to the entire army of the enemy as the Exalts go straight for the Infernals and akuma. The gates of the Manse are thrown open and a force of Immaculates pours out to hold them, waving the armies of the Celestials in. The assembled alliance of Threshold pours into the war manse, the gates clanging shut behind them.

They are quickly ushered to the war room, where the Scarlet Empress herself awaits. She congratulates the Circle on their progress, noting that Maxim had kept her in the loop. She says that the Ebon Dragon is in fact using her daughter, Lillun, as leverage. He has perverted Lillun into the storage mechanism for Infernal Exaltation solely as bait to lure the Empress to Malfeas. He intended to force her to marry him, and had forged a wedding ring that would instantly enthrall whoever wore it. The Empress’s people, however, had snuck into the forge for it and input a feedback loop. The Empress would have a chance to reverse the link and enthrall the Ebon Dragon instead when she put on the ring. With that, the Circle agreed to help her assassinate her daughter, on the principle that taking the ability to control who gains an Infernal Exaltation is still good for Creation. They prepare to enter the Grand Arena of Malfeas, to destroy the source of Infernal Exaltation and ensnare the Ebon Dragon…

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Avengers, Aseemble!
Thirteenth Session

“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…

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The Best Laid Plans
Twelfth Session

“Lucy, what did I tell you about peeking in on the adults private meetings?” – Hugo, on finding her sneaking into their council with the Bull
“That I should sneak in and tell you everything that they say” – Lucy, in response

“Somewhere, Isaac Newton is crying” – Mark

It took Hugo a over full day to calm down before any of the Circle would let him out of confinement. About eighteen hours after they got back to Denandsor, he had dropped into deep meditation, and six hours later Aunn checked on him to see if he had come back down to Creation. Hugo told him that he knew that everything he had done and said the previous day were wrong, but they had felt right, and he had known he was right on a scale he’d never felt before. The fact that he’d said he wanted to depose the Empress and restore the Solar Deliberative genuinely terrified Hugo, since it clashed with everything he believed in, but had felt so correct when he’d said it.

Hugo’s discussions with the Circle were interrupted by the arrival of the Bull. After exchanging pleasantries, they reach a conference room containing nothing but the Celestial Exalted. Yurgen mentions that getting a ‘need you here now’ message from this Circle has had him more than a little worried. Hugo tells them that they have more pressing concerns – namely, that he, in a moment of what he hopes was insanity, he’d made an unprovoked attack on a diplomatic envoy of the Mask of Winters. Yurgen looked right at Hugo and asked just what the hell he’d been thinking, which Hugo responded he didn’t know. He told them they’d killed five Deathknights and two Scales worth of undead shock troops.

Yurgen wasn’t sorry about the dead troops, but was concerned about the implications. Then Callas dropped a massive shock on Yurgen and Hugo when she said that one of the Sky Berserkers had picked up one of the Deathknight’s Exaltations and had agreed to be restrained. Hugo looked over at them dumbstruck as Callas let the Deathknight out of her Staff, much as she did with Nightbird. Bernard, the Abyssal in question, immediately dropped to a knee and swore continuing fealty to the Bull. He then denounced the Deathlords’ desire to bring about Oblivion at visible effort to himself. Yurgen accepted his man’s word at face value, especially when he revealed that he had not met his Deathlord or had his naming ceremony. The Circle speculated that Callas’s sorcery probably had something to do with that. Hugo was mistrustful, but he saw that Bernard was trying not to let his Exaltation change his views on life. He saw a lot of himself in the young Sky Berserker, and decided that he would help the young Exalt. He offers to attempt to cleanse Bernard’s Exaltation much as he intends to cleanse Lisara’s. Bernard thanks him and says that he will accept it, but for now he feels that being able to hear the Whispers may prove more important than saving his soul. He asks Hugo to wait, and the Immaculate grudgingly agrees.
The next subject brought up was the black Abyssal Hearthstone they had discovered at the battle site. Callas went to retrieve it, only to discover it was missing. She looked up frantically, with both herself and Hugo activating their Essence sights.

Hugo spotted Lucy in the room, hiding using the invisibility charm he’d taught her as part of her Air Dragon Style training. Hugo chastised her before she reminded him that both he’d taught her the charm and had asked her to use it to eavesdrop on the others. She mentioned that she had the stone and that it had talked to her. That second tidbit got heart rates pumping. Hugo asked who, and she said it was someone who seemed nice and wanted to meet her in person named the Dragon. The room collectively cursed as they realized she’d been talking to the Ebon Dragon. She said that Hugo and Masaru had been teaching her that the Dragons were good and was confused. Hugo and Masaru quickly reminded her they meant the Immaculate Dragons, and this was the man who had hurt her mother.

Lucy quickly decided she didn’t like him or want to meet him. Callas then asked how she’d made contact with him, and if she could do it again. Lucy said she could, but was scared to. Callas offered Lucy shelter by temporarily merging their Essences and shielding her behind the power of a Solar Exaltation. She agreed, and after they’d merged, the Ebon Dragon temporarily used her as a conduit to speak to the Bull and the Circle. Hugo challenges the Yozi before he finds himself unable to speak. The Ebon informs the Circle that their antics are amusing but futile, that his bride will meet him soon and that Lucy will be his soon as well. Boasting that Creation will soon be his, he then tells the Circle that their Exaltations will be his playthings as he tortures them for all eternity in payment for his years of exile in Malfeas. With that, he released Lucy, and Callas quickly resolved herself back to her normal form.

His message delivered, the Circle vowed that the Yozis wouldn’t take Creation. They decide to assemble any and all people in Creation who would be opposed to the Reclamation. The first group they look to is the most obvious, the Silver Pact. On their way out, though, Aunn realizes something. They’d been too distracted earlier to notice this before, but he feels that certain connection to Bernard, and realizes that the Deathknight is in fact his Bondmate. That is…more than a little awkward for the Lunar, but since Bernard is fighting his Abyssal nature Aunn accepts it and they move on to meet the Pact.

Aunn had set the signals to Fury of Claws that he needed to meet with the Lunar Elder, and they proceeded on Nightbird, now enchanted by Callas to fly at hypersonic speeds. At the meet, Callas and Aunn approach Fury, while the remainder of the Circle, including Bernard, remain behind. Fury’s first question is to bluntly ask what the hells an Abyssal is doing with them. Aunn answers him with the unusual circumstance that his Bondmate. He also goes right into the unusual circumstances surrounding Bernard’s Exaltation, including that the Deathlords never made contact with him courtesy of Callas’s sorcery. Combined with Bernard’s oaths to continue fighting Oblivion, Fury decides to give the Abyssal a chance. He takes a closer look at Bernard, and chuckles. Turns out that Bernard had taken a chunk out of Fury’s ear when Fury was younger and was raiding Icewalker territory. He smiled, then turned back to Aunn and Callas. He said it had been a long time since he’d truly fought all-out, and that he would put word out to the Pact that something big was going down, and an invasion of Malfeas was coming. He cautioned that they were more likely to only get the crazy boys. Aunn commented that might not be too bad of a thing, and they headed back to Denandsor to plot how they would convince Lookshy and Maxim how to add troops for the invasion.

Hugo, meanwhile, had opened up his newfound essence sculpting to new levels, and took a close examination of Bernard. His Abyssal Exaltation was a perfect mirror of a Solar Exaltation, with the exception that it was perfectly coated in darkness, as if it had been soaked in it for years. He moved on, unsure of how to fix that, and took a look at Mocks Her Madness. He could see the locations where the Wyld had corrupted her Essence, but the Moonsilver Tatoos prevented him from altering them. He then grabbed Callas, who created a clone of her Essence and let Hugo experiment away on it. Hugo easily managed to remove the tail, and also managed to graft a set of gliding wings onto Callas before he called it a day.

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Scorch the Sky
Eleventh Session

“Inner peace through superior firepower” – Mike

“This isn’t a railroad – I lost sight of the tracks a long time ago. This isn’t even chess anymore. I threw all the gameboards around the room, dumped all the pieces into a bag, shook it up, and then threw them everywhere. The queen is on Boardwalk, the pawns have taken the parchesi board, and you’re pretty sure the backgammon pieces just kicked in the door on Munchkin and are up to no good” – Mike, describing the plot in postgame chat

As Harbinger of the Ghost-Cold Wind returns to the Abyssal column, Hugo coldly reached for his chakram and threw one directly at the Deathknight’s weapon whilst casting a charm. Aunn tried to get a hand on Hugo before the chakram was cast, but was too late. Ghost-Cold Wind snapped around and caught it on his razor claws, twirled it for a second before it disappeared into ethereal nothingness, and whistled. The other four Deathknights with him, along with their two Talons of warghosts, all leapt into the fray, the skin on their dreadmounts peeling back into wings as the beasts made their undead nature apparent. The Sky Berserkers needed no more than that to leap into battle, Hakun and Jaspar jumping on to gliders as Geralt focused himself, preparing for the battle. Amidst massed confusion in the skies, the Exalts met in a clash of the most powerful beings in Creation.

The Deathknights are at the head of the charge, building up speed before they take flight. Two of them – Undaunting Sabbath and Keeper of the Black Gate – are at the head of the pack. Aside from their Caste Marks, Midnight and Dusk, respectively – they are identical twins. Both of them take a swipe at Hugo as they pass, but the Solar manages to evade their slicing attacks. Callas starts casting a sorcery as Nightbird comes out of Callas’s new staff, scoops up Callas, and takes to the skies as the sorceress concentrates on her spell. Hakun, in his own warglider, casts one of the charms his mentor taught him, bolstering the Sky Berserkers as the Scale of humans rams into the teeth of two Scales of warghosts. Having failed to stop Hugo from his rash action, sighs and transforms into his tiger warform, his new Celestial Battle Armor transforming with him as he leaped after the twins. He smashes his fists into the Black Gate, only for his fists to thud. He’s sparred with enough Lunars to recognize a damage-absorbing charm when he sees one, and sighs as the fight kicks up in earnest. Warden of the Darkest Path, their Day-caste archer, sends a shot for Callas, but Nightbird intercepts the bolts in flight to no effect. Jaspar jumps onto one of the Sky Berserkers, standing on the top of the glider as it flies into battle, casting his own charms as he goes.

Geralt, still on the airship, concentrates on preparing for the fight, casting his Form charm as he waits to engage. The Daybreak caste, Dark Lantern of the Nemissary, attempts to land a blow on Geralt, but the Solar deftly sidesteps and smashes the Abyssal in the face as the Deathknight’s momentum carries him onward. Aunn gets a deathgrip on the dreadmount ccarrying Dark Gate and smashes the Dusk with what should have been solid hits, but he is again frustrated by the feeling of punching a stone wall as the Lunar asks the Deathknihgt for his name. Hugo is still standing in the eye of the proverbial storm, staring at Ghost-Cold Wind. He reaches into himself and draws on Essence to cast a charm, only for the Harbinger to pull Hugo’s Essence out of him. Hugo pours more essence onto the fire and manages to get his charm lit, but at the cost of completely draining his Essence. The totemic anima banners of the Solars and Lunar were almost blackened out by the massive essence flare of the Deathknight. The one chakram he rips off misses as Harbinger disappears in a flash, only to reappear in Hugo’s face, swinging with his razor claws. Hugo ducks out of the way of the claws and uses the Abyssal as a springboard, kicking off his chest and sliding into the dirt twenty yards away as sky berserkers and warghosts begin to fall from the sky around him.

Aunn is caught off-guard when Undaunting Sabbath smashes him in the back, giving the Lunar both names he had asked for and saying that Aunn had seen his last sunrise. Aunn simply absorbs the blow with a body-hardending charm and snarls as the skies turn even darker. Warden of the Darkest Path flares massively, turning the Essence-drenched landscape almost black as he pulls the string on his bow and lets fly. Arrows made of blood rain on the entire Circle, which scrambles to get out of the way. Hugo, still intently focused on Harbinger, is badly wounded by the attack. Hakun manages to interpose fallen debris between himself and some of the arrows, although he is still wounded by the exchange. Nightbird laughs at the hits, the sorcery and charms Callas has expended on the gryphon negating the blows. Jasper’s radiance, magnified by his newfound Crown of Thunders, unsteadies the archer’s hand enough for all of the blood arrows to miss the Zenith. Geralt’s anima creates a small bright spot in the darkness as he flares it to absorb the brunt of the attack. Aunn, meanwhile, kicks Sabbath’s mount between himself and the hail of arrows, killing the mount and leaving himself relatively unharmed. As fast as the darkness had come it disappears, and the Circle starts pulling blood arrows out of themselves as the Deathknights renew their attack.

Hakun, still in his glider, takes a high-speed pass at the Dark Lantern, his Daiklaive on Conquest raking across the Abyssal Martial Artist’s back, wounding him in exchange for the blood Warden spilled. Callas directs Nightbird to cover Hugo as she mutters her sorcery, protecting the wounded monk. Hugo shouts at Callas to stay out of it and leave Harbinger to him, but she ignores him and stays in a cover pattern. Geralt, meanwhile, decides to get in the game in spectacular fashion.

He launches himself off of the airship, streamlining himself to gain maximum possible speed as he plummets directly towards Dark Lantern. Just before impact, he flips out of the dive and slams his heels together, hardening his body with a charm. Using himself as an immovable object at terminal velocity, he smashes the Daybreak off out of the sky. Barely conscious and laughing maniacally, Dark Lantern extends his anima banner below him. The dark anima digs a seemingly-bottomless grave, complete with a headstone for him. His laughter fades along with the bottomless pit, fresh soil replacing the grave. Geralt hardens himself again and plows four feet deep into the soft earth, taking a second to recover himself after dispatching the first of the Deathknights.

Aunn stays with the Keeper of the Black Gate, smashing the dreadmount to death with his feet while slamming his fists into the Deathknight’s face. Once again he is frustrated by that familiar stone-wall feeling as the Deathknight counterpunches with a charm, dissolving the moonsilver fangs Aunn’s armor grew for him. Gate then leaps off the dead mount onto another and claws for altitude, clearly making a desperate bid to get away from the Lunar. Jaspar continues to cast his charms as he flies out to the fray, now flaring a bright, not quite totemic banner into the darkness of the field.

Hugo and Harbinger are still hammering away at each other, several chakrams flying. Harbinger again teleports and counterattacks – or at least tries to. The Solar managed to kick off the ground and get behind the Abyssal when the latter rematerialized, although he is unable to land a blow on the nimble bastard. Undaunting Sabbath, in a bid to defend his brother, streaks for Aunn as his anima banner flares, dark essence accompanying the blow. Aunn counters by casting his own charm to defend, his own silver banner going up. All three slam into the ground amidst the zombifying corpses of the fallen, reanimated by Sabbath’s flaring anima.

Warden of the darkest path, meanwhile, laughs as he notches his bow again and fires, this time at the airship. His arrow splits into six upon firing, and each one slices through the cables tethering the gasbag to the gondola. The gasbag harmlessly flies off as the gondola crashes to the earth. Jasper and Hakun slice their way through the descending wreckage unscathed while Hugo and Harbinger leap out of the way. Aunn and Black Gate see it coming and cast defensive charms. Black Sabbath is not as lucky though. The last thing he sees is a bye-bye wave from Aunn before a piece of the wreckage slams into his head, knocking him out. His brother and Aunn get up, Aunn smashing Gate in the face as the Essence drive of the airship sparks and arcs around them. Somehow not destroyed by the impact, it is now soaking up the eleven anima banners flaring on the battlefield.

That volatile engine of destruction is then sent flying. Geralt, still deep in the soil, was unharmed by the debris, although he is trapped by it. His anima banner flares totemic again as he picks up the wreck and swings it, trying to smash Black Gate in the face with the ninety-foot chunk of airship. He misses, but the force of the whirl, and the Essence he puts into it, sends the wreckage – and the now clearly overcharged and volatile essence drive on it – screaming away at an impossible speed, heading down a bearing that looks as if some hand had guided it directly for Thorns…

Aunn and Black Gate are still hammering away at each other. Black Gate rears up to slash the Lunar with his daikliave, but makes the mistake of leaving his neck a little open. Like a striking serpent, Aunn gets his fangs onto that opening, and the small opening he’d seen in Black Gate’s defenses become a large opening in the Deathknight’s throat. The Deathknight tries to speak, but only manages to gurgle before his undeath slips from him.

Geralt, meanwhile, has had enough. He stares over at Warden and casts another of his charms, a hammerblow of force sending the Day-caste flying backwards… right into Geralt’s waiting arms. A second charm teleported the Twilight martial artist into Warden’s flight path, and Geralt delivered a vicious blow to his chest, almost perfectly reversing Warden’s momentum.

That reverse of momentum sent him right into Jaspar. The Zenith had been pushing his glider for all it was worth to close on Warden, and with nearly impeccable timing, his daiklaive went right through Warden’s chest mere seconds after Geralt’s second blow landed. Barely alive and barely conscious, the Deathknight managed to utter a curse before the high-speed impact with terra firma killed him. Geralt snaked his way onto the back of the glider that Jasper was on. The heavy weight made the thing sink, its sky berserker pilot setting up a perfectly controlled crash before he bailed out.

Seeing more sky berserkers than warghosts airborne, and not seeing any Abyssal animas remaining, Harbinger smiles at Hugo before he uses his claws to slice into the fabric of reality itself and disappears through it. Through the Eyes of Autochthon, Hugo sees that the hole Harbinger opened leads into a place full of dark Essence and sorrow, obviously a direct line to the Labyrinth. Still in the grip of whatever madness had seized him earlier, either not knowing or caring about his wounds and fatigue, Hugo sprints straight for the portal to the Labyrinth, the Circle staring at him dumbfounded.

Callas urges Nightbird to save Hugo from himself, and the gryphon powerdives in a mad dash to catch Hugo before he disappears into the lair of the Neverborn. Callas and Nightbird plow into Hugo a scant foot from the portal, Nightbird clamping down hard on the Immaculate. Hugo struggles to free himself with everything he has to no avail as Callas gives Harbinger a parting gift. Her sorcery was finally ready, and a blindingly brilliant light shot out of her hand, the bulk of it straight for the rift. On the field, the undead corpses and unconscious Deathknight are charred to ash and bone while the soulsteel weapons and armor they had borne are shattered by the Light; the souls freed. From the portal, thousands of screams are heard as the Light of the Sun pours into the Labyrinth, burning the heart of the Deathlord’s home. The portal seals shut, Light still pouring out of it.

Hugo is still struggling in Nightbird’s claws as the rest of the Circle gathers around him and starts to ask questions, key among which are why did he attack a diplomatic mission, and why the hell was he trying to go into the Labyrinth alone. He responds be demanding to be freed and that they are all stopping him from administering the Unconquered Sun’s justice. After getting very little beyond that out of him, he is still struggling, snarling, and threatening violence on the rest of the Circle. Aunn simply shrugs and knocks Hugo out cold. The Circle polices up the field, discovering several hearthstones still intact, including an ominous, pitch-black sphere. They find that of their Scale of sky berserkers, about half had survived. Three of the dozen survivors had awakened their Essence, transcending into Heroic Mortals. The Circle discusses the ramifications of Hugo’s rash actions as the monk lays unconscious, deciding that stronger measures are needed.

Hugo came around in the mouth of a tyrant lizard Callas had summoned, with the Circle looking at him sternly for answers. He has apparently calmed and is given enough room to get an arm and his head free as he demands to see the black hearthstone. He is somewhat puzzled by its appearance as a black maze, scorched by the Light. The wheels in his head click as he realizes this is the artifact Harbinger used to transport himself to the Labyrinth. He demands to see it, and the others see that he was playing them, still in the grips of insanity. The Circle tried to calm Hugo, but he continues to spout off about the Unconquered Sun’s justice. He says that he will slay the Deathlords himself. To emphasize his point, a shockwave arrives from the direction of Thorns, which they assume came from the overcharged and volatile essence drive of the airship Geralt had thrown. With Hugo still struggling, the Circle shrugged again and knocked him back out. The events of the day weighing heavily on the minds of all, the Circle wearily sets out on foot to return to Denandsor.

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The Plot Thickens...
Tenth Session

“OK, I’m going to go punch a Warstrider in the face – it’ll be safer than this” – Aunn’s reaction to Hugo’s idea of locating and interrogating Masaru’s superiors

Six months have passed since the Circle destroyed the miasma generator and made Denandsor habitable again. In those six months, the Mountainfolk and the Bull have been busy – getting a quarter of factory-cathedrals up and running again is no easy task. The Mountainfolk had to setup quite a few workshops before they could get the factory-cathedrals running again. In the meantime, the Circle had helped themselves to the abundance of First Age artifacts remaining in the city. Hugo in particular had barely left the libraries, immersed in deep study of the texts he had found, still desperately searching for something he had yet to share with the Circle. He was so immersed in his studies, it took him two months to realize something. He had taken the Eyes of Autochon as his personal trophy, and the incredibly fine Essence sight they gave him allowed him to see something that no one had realized. Masaru… wasn’t a Terrestrial. That much was clear. He wasn’t anything Hugo could recognize. Hugo grabbed Aunn for backup and then asked for a moment of Masaru’s time.

The second they were behind closed doors, Hugo’s weapon was at Masaru’s throat. He was very direct, simply asking Masaru ‘what the fuck are you?’ and waiting. Masaru said simply that he was here as Lucy’s tutor. Hugo retorted that he had seen Solar, Lunar, and Terrestrial Exalts here, and Masaru wasn’t any of them. His followup was that the only options that left would likely result in Masaru’s death if he didn’t start talking quickly. Aunn chimed in at this point, realizing what Hugo’s comments meant, and asked Masaru what Maiden he was, correctly assessing the man as a Sidereal. That jogged the memories Hugo had of his research, where he had encountered the term several times, and he lowered his weapon at Masaru’s request.

Masaru sighed, commenting this was the third time he’d been cornered about this matter. His kind made people forget about their existence, and it was a testament to Hugo’s will that he kept coming back. Hugo was not dissuaded from what he really wanted though, and kept pressing Masaru for answers – what Masaru was doing here, who he was working for, and what their long-term goals were. Masaru deflected, and it got to the point where Hugo was ready to threaten violence on him. Hugo’s Essence sight then picked up someone eavesdropping on the conversation by magical means. He demanded that they show themselves, and Maxim’s voice rang out. Maxim told Hugo that he had known what Masaru was the whole time, and that everything he had told Hugo was the truth. Hugo commented that they were going to need to have a long talk next time they ran into each other and Maxim bowed out of the conversation. Hugo continued to insist that Masaru tell them everything, and he even wanted to talk to Masaru’s boss, and possibly interrogate them. Hugo’s behavior was more than a little odd for him, but no one paid it any mind as he sent a message to the Bull, telling their patron that he needed to get to Denandsor as quickly as he could. Lucy had shown up, and Aunn took it upon himself to distract her by taking her on a quick flight. On that flight, he noticed a large dust cloud indicative of approaching horsemen. He quickly cursed and returned to the city.

The Circle had a quick council. Based on the geometry, the approaching horsemen were from Lookshy or Thorns, and the Bull had not warned them of an incoming delegation. They elected to get out there and scout. Loading up their airship with the Circle and a talon of the Icewalker’s elite Sky Berserkers who had been training with Hakun, they advanced to the incoming horsemen.

Upon the airship reaching them, Hugo and Aunn fly out ahead, scouting. The horsemen circle up at that point, with one herald standing outside. Hugo and Aunn land, with Jaspar listening in through Charms. The figure greets them by name, which causes the two Celestials to exchange a glance, a little rattled. Hugo gets more rattled when he realizes that the ‘man’ in front of them is a Deathknight, none other than the Harbinger of the Ghost-Cold Wind. This gets the Sky Berserkers up in arms, as they have a very unpleasant history with him, but Hakun easily holds them in check before they can launch.

The Wind tells them he is here as an envoy of the Mask of Winters. He offered Hugo and Aunn a token of friendship and asked them what their plans were. Hugo told him flatly to get the hell out of their territory. He responded by asking what they claimed. Aunn countered right back with what the Mask claimed. Wind answered with ‘Creation’ and asked them again what their plans were. Hugo gave him a simple answer – wipe out the Deathlords, the Deathknights, the Green Suns, and the Yozis. Wind chuckles and asks if Hugo has an intended order, to which Aunn responds ‘as they come to us’ while glaring. Hugo tells the Wind to leave now. Tipping his hat to them, Wind obliges. He briefly turns back to Hugo before he leaves, though, telling him to give his dear cousin Lisara the Mask’s best. Hugo recognizes an Essence flash in his eyes for a brief instant before something snaps in the young Solar’s mind, and he reaches for his weapon, lighting off his Form-type charm as he decides that the servants of the Deathlords must be destroyed…

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Nothing's the Same Anymore
Eighth Session

“Her unnatural tendency towards evil; has abated; her natural tendency towards being a slut has not” – Mike, describing the changes to Lisara
“Sweet!” – Aaron

Hugo had pulled Callas and Aunn aside, and they talked among themselves to come up with ideas for what to do with Lucy. Hugo wished to hand her over to his sifu, Maxim, and let the Immaculate Order take responsibility for her. Callas and especially Aunn had… issues with that. Everyone had an opinion on what to do, but it was Aunn that came up with the best compromise. Since her destiny involved the whole of Creation, all of Creation should have a hand in her education. As such, he proposed that a representative of the Solars, Lunars, and Realm Terrestrials should take part in her education. With that decided, they moved onto the issue of what to do with Lisara. Hakun simply proposed waiting back in Creation until she died of old age, but Hugo wouldn’t have any of that. Hugo wanted to kill her… badly. But seeing that she wanted a second chance, and that she chose not to be evil, he couldn’t help but be reminded of his own dilemma a year ago, and how he similarly chose not to be evil, and reluctantly let her live… with constraints. She consented to be Oathbound by Callas never to serve Darkness again and never to strike the first blow against a Celestial Exalt. In exchange, the Circle suffered themselves to be Oathbound to allow Lisara to mother her child if she could prove to be cleansed of the Yozi’s influence. With that sealed, the Circle elected to remain there and train. This was complicated by the lack of space and privacy in the Elsewhere, and nerves frayed quickly. The lack of tea was the last straw for several, though.

After spending eight months of perceived time inside the manse’s time chamber, the Circle had had… enough. They emerged into Creation barely 30 seconds realtime after they had left, the cultists still in the process of running like both hells. They let them live as they closed the portal to Malefas before they began appropriating everything that looked valuable in the Manse, including a powerful hearthstone for Jasper. With that, they loaded up on the airship and headed out. Hugo briefly spoke long-distance with Maxim, and with his mentor’s consent the Circle set forth for a training ground Hugo’s temple had long used, to meet with Maxim and turn Lisara over to him.

Problems arose when the airship’s essence drive broke down, turning what would have been a day-long journey into one of a week. Hugo gave a quick heads-up to Maxim, arranging for an engineer to be on-station to fix the magitek. Landing at the arranged clearing, the Circle was disturbed by a lack of a greeting. Hopping down from the airship, a quick Charm let Hugo know there were eight people nearby. He waved, and Maxim walked out, accompanied by seven other members of the Immaculate Order. Hugo reported that Lisara had been Oathbound and cooperative since they’d left the manse. Nodding, Maxim then examined Lucy. A quick check of the child showed the Elder Immaculate that she was every bit as powerful, and her destiny every bit as strong, as Hugo had warned him. He noted that she had the ability to do great good or evil, depending on how she was raised. He then motioned to one of his monks, Masaru, who would be accompanying the Circle back to the Bull’s city to serve as a tutor and bodyguard for Lucy.

With that, the Circle had to spend a week in the uncomfortable position of Solars and Lunars being on the ground in the Realm. Hugo, in a bout of nostalgia, headed into town, accompanied by Jasper and and Geralt. Hugo and Geralt both picked up a new set of armored clothing in town, and Geralt simply observed. Back at the airship, though, a nobleman’s hunt came through. The nobleman spotted the airship, the gryphon, and Masaru, and looked from one to the other. He looked over at Masaru, and commented that it was good to see Order types out and asked what was going on. Masaru responded that it was Order business, and asked him to move along. The gryphon immediately took off and began circling, managing not to attack the horses on sight, but it was clear he was… agitated.

The nobleman asked what was going on on his property. Lucy then asked if she could have a ride on one of the horses. Masaru said no as the Terrestrial noble started to ask more questions. Lucy then got up on one of the horses, which had happily let her onto it, and even changed pink for her. Still enjoying her new cat form, Callas had forgotten that normally cats don’t talk and simply promised Lucy a ride on something faster later if she could wait. The noble’s eyes narrowed and he grew clearly suspicious, looking at the whole picture far more carefully this time – talking animals, airship, gryphon with elaborate barding rigged for war. Callas noted that he was spending Essence, and was likely putting two and two together – this was quickly turning from a hunt to a Hunt. Lucy quickly walked up to him and said that he should forget this and move on. The nobleman muttered that he should forget about Order business and moved on, his horse remaining there as he walked away half dazed.

Masaru looked over at her, wanting to issue an admonition, but she had defused the situation. Hugo, Geralt, and Jasper then came back. Hugo attempted to scold Lucy for deceiving the nobleman and making him forget about his mount, but Lucy managed to deflect… it seemed she took after her mother and her Solar father when it came to manipulating people, several of the Circle realized. Maxim briefly stopped back and had a ‘private’ conversation with Hugo,; one which Jasper felt the need to eavesdrop on. Hugo ‘revealed’ to Maxim that they’d learned the location of the Empress. Maxim nodded, noting that he had been in on the secret and knew what she was doing – she was invading Malefas to kill her daughter, who, through means unknown, was now the source of Infernal Exaltations. Hugo and Jasper both cried a loud ‘what’ at that, and they moved on.

That night, the Essence Drive was repaired, and the tech who did it went off, saying he was going to forget everything about this job through the judicious overuse of alcohol. On that note, the Circle took off with their ah-hoc repairs complete. It took them longer than they’d have liked to return to the Bull’s city, but pushing any harder would’ve burnt the drive out again.

Reaching the Bull’s, they noted that the Mountainfolk had reached the city and that their workshop was nearing completion. The Circle was quickly escorted to the Bull, who asked them only half-jokingly this time what Creation-shattering revelations they had discovered this time. They replied by informing him that their best guess said they had mostly freed Lisara from the Yozi’s control and that they’d left her in the care of the Immacualte Order, who hoped to find some means to purge the taint from her. He nodded, surprised but not shaken. He was shaken, though, when Hugo introduced Lucy and told him that she had been bred by the Yozis to operate the Realm Defense Grid, but the inclusion of Zenith-Caste Solar Essence in the mix had offset the Yozi’s hold on her. With that revelation through, the Circle took advantage of their first opportunity in almost nine months perceived time to get the hell away from each other, retiring to chambers.

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Into The Fire
Seventh Session

‘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.

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Solars on a Wyld Hunt (No, not that one!)
Sixth Session

“It isn’t unusual for you to see a Fair Folk on their own, because that would imply there’s a usual in the Wyld” – Mike

“I don’t think pregnancy is a Wyld mutation” – Mike
“It is if you’re male” – Aaron

Once the Circle had rested in the near Bordermarches, they pressed on, leaving Hakun to guard the airship. Vaulting over the massive waterfall they had found, they came upon a massive desert at the bottom. The desert eventually degraded into a literal sea of sand, which had a skiff beached on it. Hugo tentatively called out to see if anyone was there, and what appeared to be an old woman came out. She was so obviously Fair Folk it wasn’t funny, but she wasn’t hostile, so the Circle engaged her in conversation. She said she was fishing, and that she just caught five big ones. The she asked the Circle where they were headed, and Aunn told her they were looking for the Silver Pact. She offered to give them a lift, but the Circle elected to take the gryphon.

As they flew, fortunately for everyone Aunn spotted a large fin cutting through the sand. THey climbed, and escaped the wrath of the siaka that had been stalking them. The same skiff then darted in and cast a net about it, which instantly became razor-sharp the second it closed about the beast. She waved the Circle down. Aunn dove, transforming back into his human form, while the gryphon dove. THey had to wave off, though, when the effects of Hugo’s Wyld-repelling charm interfered with the boat. They quickly reached an accord. The little old lady would guide the Circle to the Silver Pact in exchange for protection from them. Sealing the deal with an Eclipse Oath, they presed on, reaching the end of the sea of sand.

The lady quickly fashions a simple diving rod to track down the Lunars. The Circle is confused, though, since she pretty much ignores it in her single-minded pursuit of her goal. They start in a forest where the entire landscape is made of bone, including the trees. Quickly that descends to just being littered with skeletal remains. They then come upon an archway into a jungle. The Old Lady continues on, as does the Circle. The lady is still totally focused on her divinations, and in that focus she steps on a brown mound. That mound then twitches, and what used to be a tyrant lizard comes out. Callas quickly tries to talk it down, but it responds by spraying the Circle with burning sand and ash. With the diplomatic option out the window, everyone lights off their combat charms and starts thed process of taking it down.

Hugo pulls away as he lights off, as does Jasper. Callas clambors onto her gryphon frantically as Aunn throws himself forward full-force, shifting to his war form. Aunn and Hugo deliver somewhat effective attacks as they finish lighting off, their anima banners going totemic, visible for miles. Aunn is scored by the battleaxe-like tail of the beast as Geralt flings himself forward. Geralt kicked the beast int he face before he slid down its back, dragging his razor claws as he fell. That badly wounded the thing, and Callas was able to convince it to let them go.

Hugo chides the old woman for letting them get in that kind of trouble. She just laughs, citing that its their job to fight and hers to look. They come upon a great river of lava which bears a single bridge. Across that bridge is a quartet of Lunars in war form all hurridly looking to cross. When they see the Circle, they calm down somewhat. They quickly begin talking, with Hugo and Aunn taking the lead in the discussion. They indicate they’re looking for an akuma last seen in this area, possibly searching for a manse, and decribe her phoenix form. The Lunar’s diviner quickly tries to set something up to find her. As the ritual was cast, Hugo and Strength of Mountains, leader of the Lunar pack, swapped notes on long hunts. Once the divination ritual had finished, the stick that Wind Reader had been using as a focus shattered. She looked puzzled as she consulted her thaumatology notes on what exactly that meant. She informed the Circle that they and Lisara were intertwined with a very powerful line of destiny that was not Lisara’s. She explicitly told them “You are fated to find her. There will be strife, struggle, and unintended consequences” That was all she could say; the presence of so many Exalts, operating outside of Fate, made the rest of future unclear. She did get a solid fix on Lisara’s location, and the Circle sets out, thanking the Lunars for their aid.

They approach the likely spot for Lisara – a manse where all 5 elements coincide, being a volcano with a lagoon and a forest at the base, with plenty of air at high altitude and the mountain itself filling in for earth. They approached the mountain under cover of dark before setting down. Aunn did a quick recce of the volcano. He spotted a secondary entrance to the place through the lagoon. The Circle moved in, trying to time their arrival with the dawn.

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From One Who Knows The Score
Fifth Session

“Bring all the maps." – The Bull of the North to his adjutant, trying to plan around the Circle’s actions.

The next day, the Circle is still reeling from their combat with Mocks Her Madness. The Bull is still recovering, unconscious as they await the delegation from Lookshy. Instead of the Lookshy delegation, though, they are alerted by lookouts that there was a massive explosion observed, along with an equally-massive red cloud to the East. The Circle immediately sets out to investigate the explosion. As they get closer, several begin to recognize it as a necromatic teleportation method. They spot a single figure at a table, apparently having tea with five others. The Circle collectively utters an ‘oh shit’ as they realize the standing figure is none other than The Mask Of Winters himself. The five seated figures are quickly revealed to be dead, and given the amount of jade the skeletons are wearing they surmise that this was the delegation from Lookshy. The Mask is simply conversing with the corpses before he notices the Circle. He waves cheerily at them, which intensely disturbs the Celestials.

The Mask didn’t want Lookshy to form any type of alliance with the Bull, hence the corpses of a Sworn Brotherhood of Immaculate Martial Artists surrounding him. Still, he did have business with the Celestial Circle. It seemed that the Yozis were making a major move, something the Circle was already aware of. What they weren’t aware of were the particulars, which involved a larger scale than the Circle’s worst-cases. The Deathlords don’t want the Yozis to score a victory of this scale, but they cannot directly interfere, so The Mask is using the Circle as catspaws. The Mask then freely gave the Circle quite possibly the most valuable piece of information in all of Creation: the location of the Scarlet Empress. He gives them that, along with a cryptic message

“She runs towards war in a wedding gown. She risks the world to slay her kin. Long has it been said that the legions would follow the empress to hell and back. As of right now, the old saying is half true. Secrecy has been her watchword, for only those who know can knowingly intervene. Yet no plan is foolproof, for the ingenuity of fools is truly without bounds. it is not from her conspirators that her danger lies, but from the one who is kept in darkness that he may ever speak without falsehood in his mind”

With that message delivered, he followed up with a fix on Lisara, who was literally clear across Creation. The Mask mentioned something about ehr being a cornerstone to the Yozi’s Plan , then departed, leaving the Circle standing there with dumbfounded looks on their faces in the middle of a Shadowland. They hiked back to the City, where the Bull was finally up and about. He asked them for a status on their last mission, and was delighted to hear that a full-scale Elder Jadeborn was en route. He then did a quick double-take a he spotted three new Celestials in the Circle, including a Lunar. He was less than thrilled to hear that the Mask Of Winters had shown up, and jokingly asked if they were working for him or if he was working for them. Deadpan, Hugo replied probably both, and then asked the Bull if he wanted to know where the Empress was. The Bull then asked if there was anything else that had happened, and Hugo replied that Diamond Hearth had been burned, and that they’d struck at least a good inroad to starting relations with the Silver Pact. He noted that in the span of three weeks, they’d done more than he had in three years, and joked that he should take naps more often. Hugo mentioned that they had a fix on Lisara’s location, then explained who Lisara was and why they were chasing her. The Bull briefly confirmed that the Jadeborn could build more of the airships the Circle was using before he bid them safe travels, calling for a full meeting of his war cabinet as soon as they could all be gathered.

The Circle swung by Lookshy on their way south, dropping off a diplomatic mission from the Bull after being escorted in by a trio of military airships. They also hit up Callas’s old stomping grounds, giving her a chance to confer with her spirit mentor before they dipped West, headed for Lisara’s last known location. They came in fast, but slowed when they reached The Lap, coming in quiet. After tossing on a quick disguise, Hugo donned his Immaculate robes and proceeded to the local Order monastary to dig up information, Jasper in tow. He asked about the phoenix form that he’d seen Lisara take, and the acolyte he spoke with indicated that they had seen something like that before he asked what it was. Hugo answered truthfully that it was an akuma and that they were chasing it. He was immediately brought before the head of the local Order, who asked why nothing had been sent out about this, since the firebolt had come straight from the Blessed Isle itself. Hugo mentioned that between the blood traitor up North and this, the Order was trying to keep it very quiet, and had dispatched his strike team to deal with it. Hugo told the head to directly contact no one but Tepet Maxim about this matter and passed a coded message to his old mentor. The head of the locals didn’t know where the akuma might be, but he had a hunch who did. He was hesitant to bring it up, but he did mention that the Silver Pact had a presence and that they would be able to find her if anyone could. Hugo gave them a feigned look of pure horror before he mentioned that he’d work with them long enough to kill the akuma, then it would be their turn. With a fix on a position, the Circle headed into the Wyld, guided by Aunn, who found a trail that lead into the furthest parts of the Bordermarches…

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Allies and Enemies
Fouth Session

Flying through the air at breakneck speed, the Circle received an Infallible Messenger sorcery from the Bull’s camp. It indicated that there was a great deal of trouble at the Bull’s, the most important bit was that the Bull himself was incapacitated and hovering between life and death, helpless. Despite the newfound sense of urgency, there was little they could do to arrive sooner, and they arrived 2 weeks later to see the camp on a full military lockdown. They were escorted to the Bull’s adjutant, noting that the soldiers were more focused on internal than external threats. They reached the Bull’s throne room to find him confined to bed, with an alchemist running all manner of tubes into him to keep the Solar going.

The Bull’s adjutant, a God-Blooded, said that several days ago, people had started disappearing. First one at a time, then in small groups, soldiers had been disappearing. The pattern fit someone very skilled at disguise, and they went to lockdown quickly. Eventually, they located the source of the problem – a soldier that transformed into a hideously deformed monstrosity – and they set upon it. The heavy Essence cannon they had laid one into the beast before the Bull himself came down to do battle with it. The Bull wounded it, but couldn’t kill it, and was poisoned in the process. Armed with that knowledge, the Circle deduced that the hostile was a Chimera, and they knew they had to find it and kill it. Finding it would be easier said than done, though, since Chimeras could look like anything they wanted to. With that, the Circle started to search, with Hugo and Callas airborne while Geralt and Hakun searched on the ground. Jasper, though, had been pulled in by the Alchemist to provide raw Essence to keep the Bull alive, and he was out of the picture.

Searching from the air with Essence sight, Callas expected the search to be brief. She was surprised, though, to see a horse on the ground. There had been no horses there before, and her gryphon immediately launched into a dive-bombing attack, snarling a war cry. Hugo leapt from the glider he’d borrowed into a freefall descent as soon as he saw Callas charge, and the others on the ground followed suite. The gryphon tore into the horse with a snarling war cry, but what emerged chilled the bones of the Circle. The horse became a Chimera, with razor-sharp quills, a snake’s body, and a lion’s head, laughing madly the entire time it transformed.

With that, the Circle set to work. Hugo snapped off a volley of chakrams as he descended, lighting off as many of his charms as he could. The remaining Solars all cast their charms and sorceries, and before you knew it there were four totemic banners flying, lighting up the sky for miles. Hugo’s eyes widened as his throws all landed good hits, but did next to nothing against the beast. The beast turned its attention to Hugo in retaliation, sending a volley of quills his way. Hugo twisted, but wasn’t fast enough, and his armor didn’t take all the hits, one of the quills scoring deep into his arm. Callas renewed his attack on the chimera, but her attacks barely scratched it too. Hakun, meanwhile, began directing the Circle for one massive, coordinated strike. The rest of the Circle didn’t relent their assault, though, but it wasn’t enough. The Chimera continued to laugh insanely as it set into Callas’s gryphon, badly wounding the animal.

However, it seemed that the Circle wasn’t alone. A falcon came screaming out of the sky at breakneck speed, before flipping over and transforming into a pissed-off Lunar, screaming ‘MINE!’ as Hugo and Callas continued their assault. The Lunar had transformed into his war form, and he too set into the Chimera as Hakun shouted directions, coordinating an attack on the Chimera. Hugo managed one last burst of energy, infusing his assaults with lightning before Hakun’s coordinated strike landed, with Callas pinning the beast down and Hugo raining electically-infused chakrams onto the thing. Those finally did something, and Geralt took advantage of the confusion to lay into the beast with his claws and boots. Geralt’s boot did a good number on the beast as the Solar stepped further in. He locked eyes with the chimera, expecting to see hatred. What he got back instead was… different.

Geralt felt a sparkof recognition in that instant, and the chimera transformed into a mouse, climbing up onto Geralt’s shoulder, simply repeating ‘you came back for me!’ After the initial confusion, Geralt realized that was the recognition of his Lunar bondmate, and he nestled up to the mouse, which now looked… cute That fact terrified the rest of the Circle beyond belief, and Hugo was still intent on killing the thing as a Chimera, since he viewed Lunars that had descended into Chimerism as Anathema. The young Lunar, Aunn, that had showed up agreed with Hugo, stating that the thing was beyond sanity and that it needed to be put down, although it was calm enough that Aunn was confused if that was still necessary. Hugo was… somewhat forceful on that point, flipping a bolt of lightning past Hakun’s ear by way of insisting. Callas broke up the argument by offering to seal an oath on the Unconquered Sun that the barely-not-a-Chimera Lunar known as Mocks Her Madness would not descend into madness again, would not recklessly attack thinking beings, would cure the Bull, and most importantly, that she would take the Moonsilver Tatoos that the Silver Pact used to contain the madness associated with travel into the Wyld.

With the Oath sealed, she transformed back into her human form, revealing a stunningly beautiful young woman, her hair the color of Orichalcum in a perfect mirror of Geralt’s moonsilver hair. They headed up to the Bull’s hospital bed, where she transformed again, sucking the poison out of the Bull. The alchemist that was trying to heal him noted that he would make a full recovery in the span of a few days, and all present breathed a deep sigh of relief. Aunn, the young Lunar, said that this was the last thing he’d expected, and that his Elder would be pissed. Almost on cue, a scout showed up saying that they’d spotted a massive owl indicative of another Lunar coming in. Aunn cursed, and the Circle, plus Aunn and the recently restored to remote sanity not-Chimera, headed to the largest landing on the tree as they waited for the Elder. Callas asked Aunn if it was Fury Of Claws, and Aunn said yes, indicating that he had been given instructions by Fury not to approach the Bull’s city because his bondmate was there and that they hadn’t parted on the best of terms… then he realized why Callas was asking and quickly facepalmed.

Fury Of Claws landed and was about to demand an explanation from Aunn when he spotted Callas and muttered a strained ‘Hi, Honey.’ He was backfilled on what had happened by Aunn and Callas, and was flabbergasted that Mocks Her Madness was ready to take the tattoos and wanted to become sane…-ish again. With the aid of Callas and Aunn, they performed the tattooing ritual by the changing moon, plugging the leaks in the Lunar’s sanity before setting off back to their camp to repair the damage that had been done. Fury indicated that there would need to be a suitable punishment to Aunn for his disobedience, and elected to have him remain with the Solar Circle. With that deal done, the Circle went back to the Bull, happy to see him recovering. His adjutant mentioned that he was glad to see the Circle back for a multitude of reasons, and now that the immediate crisis had passed, they would need to help with the envoys of Lookshy that were coming to discuss a non-aggression pact.

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