Anathema, Enemies and Others.

BY : Charles_de_Mercania
Category: +A through F > Exalted RPG
Dragon prints: 1301
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights of the Exlated RPG setting, comics nor novels and make no money from writing this story. Though if well received here I may attempt to convince White Wolf to Publish for profit. In which case this would have to be deleted.

Author's Note: I will occasionally add Parenthetical Statements--Literally in Parenthesis to explain bits of the Exalted Setting that those who do not play the game would not know about.  These little factoids could be worked into the narative, and probably will be eventually, but presenting them now reduces confusion among those unexposed to the Exalted Universe.

1 First Sight

“Captain, the city has sent  two strike forces out against Engines Two and Three.  They are being led by Dragon-Bloods,” Sgt. Gex (pronounced “Jay”) intoned in a grave voice behind my position at the Commander’s map table.

“Excuse me, Commander,” I said, “The intelligence on the city’s having hired some Dragon-Blooded defenders appears to have been correct.  I need to attend to this personally.  May I go?”  The grizzled soldier in gold-washed armor simply waved a hand at me in dismissal.  My employer, Commander Broven, was not one to waste words.  I turned and departed with Sgt. Gex on my heels.  “Sergeant, which Engine is in greater danger?” I asked as we ran towards the line of our emplacements.

“Ensign White thinks Engine Two is the more imperiled, sir.  I agree with her; the attacker is Fire Aspected.”

“Engine three?”

“Air Aspected, sir, Ensign White was heading there when she dispatched me to you, sir.”

“Good tactical thinking on her part.  Sergeant Gex, inform Ensign White that you and she are to continue Emplacement Three’s defenses.  Let’s see if Plan B works as well as I hope.  I’ll be along to help there as soon as I can.”

“Aye-Aye, Sir!” He split off from my path towards Emplacement Two.

I activated the combat charms which created my armor of hardened essence and light, just as I reached the base of the hill that was the site of Emplacement Two.  I could already see smoke rising from the hill’s top as I started running up the mound of rubble and earth we had built atop the broad hill in the first week of the siege.  The City’s defenders had obviously reached the Emplacement before me.  When I crested the hill; I saw her for the first time.

She was surrounded by at least twenty of my engineers and soldiers; all dead or dying.  The grass and clothing of the corpse near her feet were catching fire from the heat and flames of her Anima Banner.  A long bodied dragon of smoke and flames flew in writhing coils about her.  The smells of smoke and burning flesh were stronger than I would have expected for the amount of smoke actually present, as a light eastward breeze was blowing it away from the mound.  She was short, had light armor and no helm to cover her short cropped, bright red hair.  Her back was to me as I reached the top of the hill and bellowed my challenge to her, “Child of Hesiesh, turn!  Face a foe equal to your power!”

She spun quickly to face me.  Bringing her Daiklave into a guard position in front of her she nearly disappeared behind the width and length of her blade.  Reaver Daiklaves are usually oversized, but this one was excessively broad and nearly as long as she was tall.  She looked almost comically absurd in appearance, but only “almost” so, because the dismembered corpses scattered about the remains of the damaged trebuchet emplacement were mute testimony to her skills with the weapon she held.  As she took in the sight of me in my glowing plate armor, with my own Anima glowing about me, her blue-green eyes widened in surprise and she called out a single word, “Anathema!”  Then she charged me; bringing the clipped point of her massive blade up into a thrust that would have removed my head like a horizontal guillotine had it connected.

+++---+++

Our charge from Oxbow’s sally port towards those Dragons-be-damned trebuchets had gone about as well as could be expected; I guess.  My strike force only lost half of its strength getting to the trebuchet that was our target.  I bruised my right shoulder when my horse was shot out from under me by what I would eventually come to know as an arbalest bolt.  Before they took out my horse and half my team, I’d never seen arbalests before.  They were as terrifyingly accurate and as devastating against my strike team as the trebuchets were proving to be against the city’s South wall.  I’m more comfortable on my own feet than on horse-back, but I would have preferred to dismount the beast when I reached the target to making a rolling somersault and running the last hundred-and-fifty yards to the target.  However, the arbalest bolt that pierced my mount from left chest to right flank didn’t give me a choice in the matter.  Nevertheless, I and a dozen of my soldiers made it to the emplacement and I engaged the men operating and protecting the monstrous siege engine as my men set about smashing pots of oil against its frame and lighting them with torches.  Eventually my Anima Banner would spread more flames through the enemy’s war machines.

The enemy soldiers were quite skilled.  Were it not for Hesiesh’s blessing I could not have stood before one of them, but I had learned in the first week after my Exaltation that I was as powerful as a dozen normal men.  However, these men coordinated their attacks against me in groups of three to six; attacking on lines that left me open to fire from their arbalests and soldiers firing strange short bows at me.  I started to feel real fear for the first time since I had drawn my Second Breath.  Before I was blessed by Hesiesh, the Elemental Dragon of Fire, I had known that those who bore the Dragon’s Blood were unparalleled warriors.  I assumed that was the path my life was destined to take when the fires of my Anima first flared to life about me and the image of Hesiesh coiled about me.  Why Hesiesh bestowed his blessing on me, I could not even guess.  Before that I had been a normal girl.  I had played at being a soldier with my siblings and the other children of the town, but never thought I would ever actually be one. 

I bought a Daiklaive at the first opportunity (the Scavenger Lord gave me a good price because Foecleaver was “the plainest Daiklaive he’d ever seen”) and started practicing with it every waking moment.  I had hired on to defend the city of Oxbow when I heard they were looking for Dragon-Blooded defenders.  I thought that a small conflict like the war between Oxbow and the City-State of Pampas would be the ideal place for me to get a little experience in my new profession, but now I was in great danger.  Even a Scion of the Dragons could be vulnerable to so many attacks coming from so many directions at once.  If I had been less athletic and low on Essence when the fight started, I might have fallen to them.  Fortunately, I had used little of my Essence to that point and had plenty to spend in my defense against their coordinated assaults.  My troops were less effective in their defense.  Though they did manage to set the trebuchet aflame, all of them were cut down within a half-minute; leaving me surrounded by a half-scale of enemy soldiers.  I suppose a minute, maybe two, passed while I fought to break from the surrounding troops, I cut down and smashed a good number of them but many remained outside the range of my blade shooting short arrows at me with peculiar bows (that I would come to know were called crossbows).  My Anima was at full strength when I heard the challenge issued behind me, “Child of Hesiesh, turn!  Face a foe equal to your power!”  Turning and bringing my blade into a guard that would shield nearly my entire body behind the breadth and length of my Daiklaive, Foecleaver, I saw him for the first time.

“Demon’s spawn,” was my first thought as I took in the sight of the tall man wearing plate armor of glowing gold, red and purple light through which his uniform (which closely resembled that of the engineers who manned the siege engines) was faintly visible.  A phantasmal, warhorse sized spider of golden light with red, blue, purple and orange highlights and red eyes reared its two front legs up and outwards behind him.  I had heard that the Empress had disappeared five Calibrations past and that the Anathema had become more common—still I did not expect to ever face one!  I knew the identifiers for them.  What follower of the Immaculate Faith does not?  This man showed several of those marks in a blatant display of stolen power.  The caste mark of The Unclean, burning upon his brow, briefly caught my eye as I brought my blade into an attack posture.  “Anathema!” I screamed with my thrust.

+++---+++

I pivoted and slid leftwards to avoid the deadly thrust of the massive sword the woman aimed at my throat.  My counter blow was a flurried disarming-attack technique I had worked many weeks to perfect.  My essence charged left fist struck the underside of her blade near the guard as my right fist struck the opposite flat of the blade near the point.  The fact that she was using a Reaver Daiklaive made this a much easier than usual accomplishment.  I was gratified to feel her attunement to her massive blade break under my magical assault on the weapon.  Unfortunately, the more physical aspect of the disarming attempt failed and the sword remained in her grip.  Still, without the currents of essence that buoyed and partially controlled the weapon’s movements, she would find the blade slower and clumsier than usual to use—assuming she could wield it all.  It was truly a moot point because the rest of my flurry of attacks consisted of slamming my left elbow into her sternum; followed by a powerful punch to her forehead just above her eyebrows and dead center between her eyes.  She was rendered instantly unconscious by the pulse of magic the raced through her brain.

+++---+++

I missed the thrust that should have taken his head.  He just turned and glided out of Foecleaver’s path by an inch, less than an inch, even!  The maneuver looked effortless and nearly languid.  Then he glowed more brightly for an instant and I saw his right fist, glowing with the stolen power of the gods, smash into the flat of my blade.  The shock and surprise of my attunement to Foecleaver breaking held me motionless for just an instant, but I kept my grip on my sword—until his elbow smashed into my chest and his glowing right hand did the same to my face.  Then all was darkness.



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