Dynasty of Dovak

BY : JohnDoe
Category: +A through F > Exalted RPG
Dragon prints: 2113
Disclaimer: White Wolf, Exalted and Exalted 3rd Edition are all trademarks of White Wolf Publishing AB, and official characters, names, places and text are copyrighted by White Wolf. I do not own Exalted and I'm not making money from this fiction.

Session 20 – Reya (55XP 44DX, 54/44 spent) and Melody – Sudden Yet Inevitable

 

Reya staggers to her feet, the unnatural darkness of the nephwrack replaced by the gloom of night and the burning of Dovak, she pulls fragments of Obsidian Butterfly from her shoulder, wincing at the pain.

 

Melody sits in the saddle, dozens of cuts grace her form, but she grits her teeth, and unsteadily notches her bow, peering out into the gloom.

 

Ganan stands over Shriek. They’ve won.

 

Reya can’t help but feel a great swelling of pride, then Nanals is at her side.

 

“We should surrender. Don’t worry. It’s all in hand.”

 

Melody coughs up some bloody phlegm and spits from the back of Clapper, “Surrender?”

 

As she asks the question, the bearfolk army appear from the gloom, and Reya notices just how beaten-up Ganan looks. He’s practically dead on his feet.

 

Then Mishra is standing by his side, and Reya and Melody watch as Ganan keels over and Shriek rises.

 

Shrieks voice, like nails against glass reaches them even from this distance, as the bearfolk army encircle the badly mauled Mnemon forces, “Well… that went even better than expected.”

 

Ferad speaks, gripping his weapon in a fighting stance, “We’re not beaten yet.” He tries to sound up-beat but Reya and Melody are both familiar enough with him to know he’s putting on a brave face, “They’re just beastmen!”

 

Nanals lays a hand on Reya’s back and gestures, Bekara and Alinos are both unconscious. “Trust your daimother.”

 

“Ferad stand down.” Reya orders her brother levelly. Ferad looks over to Melody who dismounts and gestures for him to lower his weapon.

 

The bearfolk lock the unconscious Ganan in irons, and Mishra approaches the remaining Dragons.

 

“We surrender.” Reya intones, raising her hands.

 

“Good decision.” Mishra responds, speaking in High Realm in front of the Dragons for the first time.

 

****

 

The Dragons are blindfolded and disarmed. They’re separated and led away.

 

Melody can’t resist growling at the beastmen “If you hurt my shieldback I swear I’ll kill you all.”

 

Reya is roughly cut out of her chain, but the bearfolk don’t recognize Melody’s shirt as armor.

 

Though they’re separated and both taken by different routes, both of them are taken to the outskirts of town, forced down to their knees next to a roaring fire. The blindfolds are roughly removed. A third woman, a Dovaki native by the look of her, is hogtied and gagged a short distance away, her body bound in silver chains.

 

The well muscled man they met in the throne room stands before him.

 

Melody starts to speak “King Urza Arcus, a pleasure to see you again. I take it you’d like to renegotiate the terms of our treaty against the dead?”

 

Mishra steps from behind the fire, “It’s Prince Urza Arcus, actually. A trifling distinction, I’m not offended. I’m glad to see you remember my most trusted advisor, Reaper.” She gestures at the man, who bows deeply to her. Mishra, Prince Urza Arcus, circles her captives more like a vulture than a bear, “Gracious Pealing Melody, you are a foundling. Press-ganged into the Realm’s armies and sent to fight their wars. I’d like to offer you the chance at a better life. I was… touched by your concern for your riding beast. Forsake the Realm and join me.”

 

“My name is Mnemon Alinos Gracious Pealing Melody. Let me and my family go and we’ll consider not raising a Wyld Hunt to burn your city to the ground.”

 

Mishra, does not smile as she responds, “My name, Mishra, denotes my varna. My calling. Not as a ruler or a warrior, but as a teacher. Urza Arcus is the name of my city, and I am named for it because I respect its culture and its heritage. Prince, of course, denotes my rulership. My rightful rulership.” She turns to Reya, “Mnemon Alinos Danireya. I admit, I expect you’d put up more of a fight. My spies warned me that you were quite ferocious.”

 

Reya looks Mishra square in the eyes, the fire illuminating Mishra’s face accents her scars, “Like you, my calling is learning. I only fight when I have to. Such as to stop the dead wiping out all life in Dovak.”

 

“In Arcus.” Mishra gently corrects, “The blight the usurpers call a city,” She gestures towards Dovak, “Was in ancient days an outpost of my people.” She walks towards the bound woman and pulls her up roughly by the hair, “Thanks to Cynis Ganan, we have the dead well in hand.”

 

The Dragon-Blooded look at the woman, in the firelight it’s clear that she’s dead. Freshly killed. Her eyes betray madness and hatred, and the Dragons realize the body contains the bound spirit of the nephwrack.

 

“So you betrayed the dead as quickly as you betrayed us? I have to admit, that actually makes me feel better.” Melody smiles and nudges Reya with a bound arm.

 

“Oh there was no betrayal. We had a truce until the dead were defeated. The Gift of Merciful Silence negotiated a truce until the Realm was defeated. Once Ganan toppled Shriek, our alliance was over. Once you were our prisoners, we had no reason to keep the peace with the dead. You were outmaneuvered, but I kept my end of the bargain.”

“I wanted a lasting peace.” Reya’s voice is without emotion, “We could have built a partnership here.”

“Well that’s not what you negotiated.” Mishra’s voice is matter-of-fact, not a hint of sharpness nor playfulness, “Keep that in mind Mnemon Danireya. I’d like to negotiate the surrender of the palace.”

 

“And what makes you think I, in chains on the outskirts of the city, have the authority to do that?”

 

Mishra at last allows herself a smile and she squats before the Dragon-Blooded, “Things have been going well for you in Dovak,” She practically spits the name of the city, “On your first day you meet the king, and convince him to put his life in your hands. You send his men out to find my city and, oops, they’re all killed.” She looks over to Shriek then back again, “Your only enemy in the city, Ragara Haseti dies and his priceless shield falls into your hands. One by one, all your enemies die as you play Haseti’s allies against each other. You inherit Haseti’s books, and his demons. And your Satrap, desperate to leave, starts to train you to replace her, a career of power and influence. Oh, and I believe you made a match for your son?”

 

“The threshold. Land of opportunity. Doesn’t change the fact that I’m out here and they’re in there.”

 

“Feigned ignorance does not suit you Danireya. We both know you have… a connection with the leader of the Dovaki forces. She’ll listen to you. As will the Mnemon legionnaires currently holding the palace.”
 

Melody chips in with false chipper, “Actually they’re personal guard. The Mnemon Legions are to the west in Jiara, or even further west on the Isle.”

 

Mishra is ignores her, “It’s not her baby, is it? I shouldn’t think so, but women like us have our ways don’t we?”

 

“I’m not going to help you kill Tinkara.” Reya says defiantly.

 

“Psht! Who said anything about killing her? I want her out of my way. I want you out of my way. Now I could settle in for a protracted siege. Free that one.” She points a finger at Shriek, “Starve them out. Raise dead civilians against them. Use disease and fire and war. But I’d rather not. I’d rather you tell your soldiers to surrender, and you and the Dovaks can leave. How does that sound? Better than watching me kill your children in front of you, and having this thing raise the bodies, yes?”

 

“We know we can’t trust you. The dead aren’t defeated: the Deathknight is still out there. And for all I know you’ve killed my family already.”

 

“Plus you can’t even get our names right.” Melody adds.

 

“Let me worry about the Lawgiver. And I was hoping you’d ask to see your family.” She snaps her fingers and three bears drawing carts roll into view. Trussed and gagged in the backs of the carts are Alinos, Muli and Nula. “Family means so much to us all, but especially to your kind. My soldiers haven’t hurt a single hair on any of their heads.” She waves the carts on, and the bears pull them out of sight, “They’re all on carts. All tied. All separate. All moving on routes only I know. How far will they be by morning? How long will it take them to starve to death behind their gags should you refuse to co-operate?”

 

“Fine. Untie us and we’ll convince the guards to surrender, if you swear you’ll let us leave peacefully.”

 

“And not come after us. Just to be specific.” Melody adds.

 

“Melody is here because I appreciate those who appreciate animals, and I wanted her to join me. Not to negotiate.”

“Well then your spies aren’t as good as you think they are,” Melody says, suddenly serious, “Because not only would I never betray my family, but my outriders won’t take orders from a stuck-up princess like Reya. So unless you want a Wing of crack-shot archers holding the Tower, you’re going to need me to tell them to stand-down.”

 

Mishra considers for a moment. “Fine, then we have a deal. You will convince the remaining defenders to surrender. You and your house will be allowed to leave, with the Dovaki royals. And Arcus will once again be mine, in its entirety.”

 

She motions and Reaper cuts their bindings.

 

Reya speaks, “We’re going to want our artifacts.”

 

Mishra shrugs, “Life is full of disappointments. I trust you’ll have the gates open for us by morning.” She points in the direction of the city, and Melody and Reya start walking.

 

The bearfolk have gotten the fires under control, and are running down the last of the dead as the Dragons make their way through the city. A force has gathered outside of the Temple, but seem to be holding there with no intention of sieging it. No-one molests the Dragons as they walk, but as they approach the Wall it’s clear that battle-lines are being prepared.

 

“Do you really think we can trust her?” Melody gives voice to the question.

 

“No.”

 

“Do you have a plan?”

 

“No.”

 

“Me neither.”

 

Melody catches sight of Clapper, tied up in a stable not far from the Wall. The bearfolk are treating the beast’s wounds and feeding him.

 

Eventually they make it to the Wall.

 

“Let us in!” Melody calls up, but there’s no response. “You want to, uh, rip off the portcullis with your bare hands or something?”

 

Reya sets her voice on the wind, “Laurels, get Tinkara to let us in.”

 

A few moments later, the god-blood and elemental open the gate, and the Dragons are let in.

 

Tinkara doesn’t let them speak, “I won’t surrender. Not to the bears, they’ll eat us alive. But I’ll go along with whatever your plan is.”

 

“We don’t have a plan.” Melody cheerfully announces.

 

“Yet.” Reya adds, conscious of the fact that they’re standing in the hallway. “Let’s talk in my grandmother’s room.”

 

Tinkara lets Reya lead the way, and they enter the privacy of Nanals’ quarters.

 

“OK, Tinkara bring us up to speed.” Reya says.

 

Tinkara hesitates only for a moment, “When you ventured out, the dead kept coming. I had the troops draw up salt lines and we repelled them from the Wall. Father is holed up in my room in the Tower, just in case any of them got past us. We lost… a few. Too many of the dead got past you, a lot of civilians didn’t make it, died outside of the walls. Then the bearfolk rolled in. Haven’t attacked yet, but they started making camp, so I went ahead and assumed they betrayed us. I was hoping to see your animas blazing as you came back to rescue us, not to see you walking in sliced up with no weapons.”

 

“The bearfolk got us. We think everyone is alive. Tied up. We’re supposed to convince you to surrender before morning.”

 

“And it takes two of you to do that?” Tinkara raises an eyebrow.

 

“I can be pretty persuasive when I want to be.” Melody winks. She turns to Reya, “So really, how are we getting out of this one?”
 

Reya speaks slowly, “I have one idea, but… neither of you are going to like it.”

 

Tinkara shakes her head, “If it saves the kingdom, you have my full support.”

 

“It would have to be a pretty bad plan to be worse than getting eaten by bears.”

 

Reya whispers a short message on the wind, and leads them out to the court-yard, “One of the things Ganan and I studied at the Heptagram was civil engineering. Very Mnemon, I know. Ganan took to it, I didn’t. But I know enough. The Wall was built after the Tower. A long time after. If I know my architecture, there are hidden tunnels in and out. And I’m hoping that you already knew this Tinkara.”

 

Tinkara grimaces as they approach the concealed entrance to one of the tunnels. “Please tell me your plan isn’t to run away in the tunnels. They’ll find us, kill us, and use the tunnels to get in and kill everyone else.”

 

“Oh my plan is so much worse than that. See, I figure that if you know where the tunnels are then...” She unbolts the hidden latch, and opens the door.

 

In the gloom of the tunnel, a figure stands. A pale figure, with raven black hair and a wicked club made of soul-steel.

 

“Maybe Oka would too.”

 

Tinkara draws her weapon, ready to attack. Melody, who has not seen the Deathknight yet, is cautious but not openly hostile.

 

Tinkara speaks, “Have you lost your mind!”

 

The Gift of Merciful Silence speaks, his voice beguilingly melodious, “At any point, I could have transformed myself into shadow and slipped under the crack in the door. It seemed more dramatic to wait for the little lizard to introduce me.”

 

Melody speaks, “And you just happened to be waiting in the tunnel… because?”

 

“I had planned on killing you all once you’d eliminated Mother for me. But when the bearfolk betrayed us, I thought it was better to use the old king as bait for Mishra. Draw her into the Tower, kill her here then slip away before her forces could corner me. But the beautiful Danireya’s plan seems better.”

 

“And what is that plan, exactly?” Melody asks, putting a hand on Tinkara’s warclub, forcing her to lower it.

 

“Kill Mishra, free both our families, slaughter a bunch of bears.” He gives a winning smile, “What’s not to like?”


“And you’ve got enough forces left to do that?” Reya questions.


The Gift pouts and looks at her, “I’ve been planning to kill the Dovaks for a month. Do you really think I’d approach this half-cocked after what happened last time? I’ve got enough left to free your family and get them their weapons. The four...” he looks at the Greenmaw, “And a half of us will have to kill Mishra. Most of the bearfolk can’t see my ghosts, but Mishra and her shamans can. They’ve warded their positions with grain, but fortunately the Dragons are being kept on carts which are kept in motion. Makes it hard to keep them lined in return for making them hard to track. Unless the Dragon-Blooded on them happen to be bleeding from being cut to shreds by Obsidian Butterflies, in which case my ghosts can find them without any trouble at all.”

 

“OK,” Melody says, “And the Deathknight is just going to help us out of the goodness of his heart? And he won’t immediately betray and murder us because?”

 

The Gift smiles, and gives a non-committal shrug.

 

“Fine, fuck it, I’m in. I don’t suppose you can put all the bearfolk to sleep?”

 

The Gift shakes his head, “The Gift of Merciful Silence is ‘death’, not ‘sleep’. Sleep and dreams were Eletha’s gift, not mine.”

 

Reya studies the Anathema carefully, looking for signs of deception, “Are you saying you didn’t curse Dovak a month ago.”

 

“No, I didn’t,” the Gift replies, apparently sincere, “Mishra said you blamed me for that. Let me assure you: if it were me, you’d be dead.”

 

“Well we know it wasn’t Eletha.” Reya states with certainty, “Any other renowned mystics in Dovak?”

 

“My guess is, the Witch of the Wests.”

 

Melody snorts, “Now I know you’re making that one up.”

 

“Maybe not,” Tinkara interrupts, “Edge of the Wolf’s Blade, the Witch of the Wests, is an old folk tale. Supposedly she was Eletha’s lover, hundreds of years ago – long before my father took the crown. There are a few stubborn hold-outs to the Old Faith who still worship her – like the Honest mining clan. They have been a bit more… active since you arrived in Dovak, but… well it’s an internal matter. We didn’t want you thinking we were all god-worshiping heathens.”

 

“And what,” Reya asks, clearly irritated to just be learning of this now, “Supposedly happened to this centuries old witch?”

 

Tinkara explains, “Well the stories say that after she learned everything she could from Eletha, she sailed back to the islands of the West.”

 

“But,” The Gift adds, “Not before she made a pact with Tomonas promising that one day she would return.”

 

“So, what, the sleeping curse marks the witches return?” Melody asks irreverently.

 

“Perhaps,” The Gift remarks, coyly, “If one believes in old folk tales.”

 

Tinkara interrupts, “It’s just an old morality tale. Don’t trust strangers. Tomonas is in every story to show how powerful he is. That’s all there is to it: the crazies may as well be trying to build a religion around ‘The Boy Who Cried Anathema’. It doesn’t help us right now.”

 

“You’re right,” Reya says decisively and turns to Melody, “We can’t afford to tip our hand. We need to get our family and our weapons back, before Mishra realizes we’ve betrayed us. We can’t risk freeing Clapper first, but I promise you that we will rescue him.”

 

Fine.” Melody takes a deep breath, “I trust you. But I’ll need a mount.” She looks at Crown of Laurels, and the elemental slowly backs away.

 

“I can provide a worthy steed.” The Gift grins menacingly.

 

“Actually, I have someone else in mind.” Reya calls down Yipyip, asking the demon to travel immaterially so as not to be seen. She explains to the demon that as Ragara Haseti is dead, Yipyip needs to help rescue Reya’s family or risk being eternally bound with no-one to to ride it. The Beauteous Wasp readily agrees to let Melody ride it.

 

“Melody, you’d better get to the armory and find a bow. Grab me an axe whilst you’re down there.”

 

“Actually, Rey-rey, you’d better come with me. Match the weapon to your height and grip.”

 

Reya nods, “Laurels, protect Tinkara.”

 

Once the Dragons are safely locked in the armory alone, Melody explains, “I know a Wolf’s Bade – Lame Louve. When Ferad and I were stationed in Thorns. Your mother hired an Outcast sorceress, Lame Louve, to take baby Jorod to Bekara. She was old, a haggard old crone, and so dirty. She reeked of piss and merde and was dressed in filth as much as rags. Even before I drew my Second Breath I had scarcely seen such a deprived and disgusting creature. I refused to believe that this crone was Exalted, and I refused to give her my baby. And then… I was waking up in bed, next to Ferad. The elite guards he had hired to protect me during the exchange woke up in their beds. We all remembered me screaming that I’d never give her the baby… then we just woke up in bed. Later that morning Bekara sent an Infallible Messenger informing us Jorod had safely arrived in Jiara with her. This Wolf’s Blade put us to sleep and traveled hundreds of miles overnight with a baby in tow.”

 

Reya rubs her temples, “And let me guess, you never saw her again?”

 

“I never expected to. But when the Deliberative retired us out of the legions, Ferad took me home so we could get permission to marry. And I met an old woman, immaculately groomed, wearing the finest silk kimono I’d ever seen. She looked like a completely different woman, but I could never mistake the woman who took my child from me. She looked at me, and I know she knew that I recognized her. Then she introduced herself as Mnemon Nanals.”

 

“And you didn’t think it’d be a good idea to mention this until now?!”

 

“Of course I mentioned it! I told Ferad the night we were attacked, before he went out looking for you! He said that Nanals was the daughter of the most renowned sorceress in the Realm, and that she’d be the first person anyone with a brain would talk to about any kind of sleeping curse! And I hadn’t heard anything about this Witch of the Wests stuff until just now when your… when Tinkara and the Anathema mentioned it. Then I told you right away, that’s what we’re doing now!”

 

“This is ridiculous. Nanals is eccentric but she’s not a traitor.”

 

Melody shakes her head, “You’re half right: she’s not a traitor but she’s not ‘eccentric’. She’s brilliant. Think about it. Think about what Mishra said: the bearfolk that attacked us. That didn’t hurt our position: it helped us. Nanals orchestrated the death of Ragara Haseti on our first day here. A Mnemon turning on her own family? Unthinkable. The daughter of Mnemon killing a scion of Ragara in an elaborate assassination that can’t be linked back to her? We saw the bearfolk city: they keep the Old Faith. They worship Wolf’s Blade. If the Anathema orchestrated the attack, why wasn’t she here? If Wolf’s Blade convinced the beastfolk to throw their fighters away in a futile attack on our forces to cover the assassination of Haseti… well she was here. Probably killed Haseti herself. There’s a resurgence in her cult on the day she arrives here. Then when the beastfolk take us prisoner, Alinos and Bekara are unconscious – asleep – and Nanals says that we should surrender. Come on Rey, everything grand-mama has done has helped us, but you can’t be blind to this!”

 

Reya exhales deeply, “Either way, we proceed as planned. Get our weapons back. Rescue the others. Hope that the Anathema kill each other. Try to stay alive. And if Nanals has some kind of trump card then so much the better.”

 

The pair arm up and are pleasantly surprised that The Gift hasn’t murdered Tinkara in their absence.

 

The Gift gives them his best shit-eating grin, “Well, if there are no further distractions, necromancy is… an art, and we only have a few hours of darkness to work with.”

 

The Dragons nod grimly, and they head back into the maelstrom.

 

****

 

Reya trains Oath of the Ten Thousand Dragons (8XP) and Bureaucracy 4 (6DX).



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