Dynasty of Dovak

BY : JohnDoe
Category: +A through F > Exalted RPG
Dragon prints: 2114
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 30 – Ganan (75XP 60X, Spent 75XP, 53DX; 18GP 13SP) and Melody – End of Chapter 2

 

Five days pass as Ganan traverses the Endless Desert. He walks, exhausted through the shifting sands, plagued by hunger and thirst – sustained by his Essence and by thoughts of home (though not Hearth). The brown gem in his tetsubo leads him unerringly through the wasteland, and as midnight strikes at the end of the eighth day since his departure, he finds himself emerging from the Gateway Tree. (During the strenuous trek across the desert, Ganan’s remaining wounds have healed.)

 

Reya and Melody stand by the Gateway Tree, as midnight strikes, a remarkable transformation overtakes the tree. The metallic wood shifts and sloughs away, the tree pulses with life. Smells of healthy wood and loamy earth fill the air. There’s a sound like splitting wood and then Ganan is standing before them. He’s filthy from demonic soot and sand and blood, purple tunic now a dirty brown.

 

It takes Ganan all his effort not to collapse from exhaustion after emerging from the portal. He leans on his tetsubo like a crutch, “I have urgent news – the Yozi have their own Deathknights.”

 

Melody is nonplussed, “Sure, they’re Anathema. Anathema are demons. Demons serve the Yozi.”

 

“It’s not quite that simple Melody,” Reya cuts in, turning to Ganan, “You’re sure?”

 

“Quite sure. They have a place of high honor called ‘The Conventicle Malfeasant’, near to Ligier’s forge.”

 

“Akuma Deathknights… that’s...” Reya trails off, and Melody nudges her back on track, “You’ve missed a lot.”
 

“We’re pregnant!” Melody blurts out excitedly.

 

Ganan nods, slowly, “I know. I was there.”

 

A brief look of nausea crosses Melody’s face, “I mean, Ferad and I are pregnant. I’m pregnant. As well as Reya.”

Ganan looks hard at Melody, “Right.” He pauses, “Congratulations. Is this the most pressing-”

 

“Sit down.” Reya commands, and Ganan slumps to the ground, and leans back against the tree as Reya catches him up, “Everyone knows we’re pregnant. The Guild has begun delivering supplies to rebuild, but the undead attack was devastating. Melody and I rescued everyone from the bearfolk-”

 

“Tinkara helped!” Melody interjects.

 

“The bearfolk were attacking us from tunnels from Urza Arcus to Dovak – I think they were built before the First Age. Lookshy sent some mercenaries to help us. Sondok killed Mishra, but not before the Anathema killed Ratel.” She pauses out of respect.

 

“Who’s Ratel?” Ganan blunders.

 

“The royal porter!” Melody snaps.

 

Reya holds out a hand for patience, “He showed us to Dovak with Tinkara, and worked closely with Melody. His scouting reports were instrumental in finding the bearfolk city.”

 

Ganan nods respectfully.

 

Reya continues, “With Mishra dead, we’ve begun a campaign against the bearfolk. And we could use some extra muscle.”

 

“Water.” Ganan reaches out a hand.

 

Melody unslings her water skin and passes it to him, “I told you after eight days in hell...”
 

Ganan takes a swig of water, “Alright. Let’s go.”

 

Reya summons a Stormwind Rider and scoops Ganan and Melody up as they race for the mountain path into Urza Arcus.

 

“The tunnels are a maze, and we couldn’t find an entrance large enough for Clapper,” Reya explains, “The overland route is treacherous. The Dogs of Unbroken Earth and hostile wild-life really slowed our advance. You remember the lack of roads: getting Lookshy’s infantry into position has been a logistical nightmare.”

 

The trio of Dragon-Blooded race at breakneck speed up the mountain and through the mines to the bear-folk city. They pass clear signs of fighting (scorch marks, spent arrows, discarded equipment and the like) but blessedly make it to the front without incident. The Lookshyans and the Alinos are camped on the small mountain path into the city proper. Jinsuc walks up to meet them.

 

“Jinsuc Kazei,” Reya greets him, “This is my husband, Cynis Ganan. Ganan, this is Amilar Jinsuc.”


Ganan gives a salute of greeting, “Jinsuc Kazei.”

 

Jinsuc salutes back, “Cynis Ganan-san. I’m told you can help us break the deadlock here.” He seems unperturbed by Ganan’s dirty and disheveled appearance.


Ganan nods grimly, “What’s the situation?”

 

Jinsuc sighs, “We were ambushed repeatedly on the road here. Lost too many men. When we arrived, were breezed past the defenses on this path here: crushed the bearfolk on the field and drove them back to the city. Now they’re holed up in the towers: doors barred, raining stones down on us when we approach. We took one tower by having my best men scale the side and break in through a window. We took another by sending demateralized blood apes through the walls. That’s two down, and another ninety-eight to go.”

 

“We could burn them out,” Melody suggests, “Pile pitch against the sides of the towers.”

 

Jinsuc shakes his head, “It was hard enough marching infantry into position: we don’t have enough flammable material to burn-out all the towers and can’t bring wagons over. And if we burn-out one, I see the others fighting to the death.”

 

“I don’t have a magic bullet for you Kazei.” Ganan says solemnly, “I could force my way into another tower: take us down to 97. The towers you took, how were they for supplies?”

 

“Fifteen bearfolk per tower. Supplies for a month. Won’t last us that long, of course, I’ve already shared them out between the men. We’re not exactly provisioned for a long siege.”

 

“Any prisoners?” Melody asks.

 

“My men took all theirs alive, Winglord. The blood apes… didn’t.” He gestures, “They’re over there if you wanted to question them.”

 

Melody nods, and the trio make their way over, “Any ideas?” She asks.

 

“We could all summon erymanthoi?” Ganan ventures.

 

“I’d rather we didn’t senselessly butcher these people.” Reya reprimands sternly.

 

The fifteen beast-folk are roughly tied in a circle. Muli and Tepet Agoram are standing watch over them, they nod in acknowledgment as the trio approach.

 

I hear you fought well.” Melody opens, “But you know you can’t stop us. We’ll take your towers one by one if we have to. We’ll use demons, if we have to. No-one wants that. Your king is dead. Surrender and we’ll give you fair terms.

 

One of the larger bearfolk responds, “We’re wounded and tied up at your feet. Hard to surrender any more than that.

 

And we haven’t killed you. We’ve treated you fairly. Help us convince the rest of the city to come peacefully.” Ganan weighs in.

 

The bearfolk eyes Ganan suspiciously, clearly wondering what authority the filthy, exhausted looking man has, “They’ll fight you until they’re beaten. That is our way. We are not weak like the Dovaki!

 

Melody drags Reya aside (and Ganan follows after), “What about Nanals?” Melody asks, “She’s got to be a better play than having to clear out each tower one at a time?”

 

“Why would the old woman have a better play? Her best play was summoning demon with a ritual Haseti spent months preparing.”

 

“No, her best play was putting Dovak to sleep the day we arrived in city to engineer Haseti’s murder. The locals also worship her as a god – Edge of the Wolf’s Blade. But I haven’t seen her since before Sondok killed Mishra and mother agreed to this attack.” Reya admits regrettably.

 

“Well,” Melody follows up, “What about Sondok?”

What about Sondok?!” Ganan interjects, “Didn’t she enter the Gateway Tree as I emerged?”

 

Melody and Reya look awkwardly at each other, “No,” Reya confesses, “To be completely honest, I was surprised when you came through. I was sure Nanals had betrayed us. I don’t understand how the magic of that tree works. But I don’t know where Sondok is, or how to compel her to help us.”

 

“Then I say we move into one of the captured towers. Get some rest. Strike out in the morning.” Ganan says levelly. “It’s late, and this battle isn’t going to be won in a single night.”

 

Reya looks visibly chagrined, but leads them down the path into the city. The Lookshyan camp ends about sling range away from the third tower into the city.

 

Ferad is waiting with the sentries, he walks out to greet the trio, “Going to make a run for the tower? We brought in supplies, lost a mortal: towers are in range.” He gestures at the closest towers.

 

Ganan starts to cast Invulnerable Skin of Bronze.

 

Melody grimaces, “I’ll cover us, you coming?”

 

Ferad smiles awkwardly, “It’s that or sleep out here with Clapper.”

 

“Don’t tempt me!” Melody punches him playfully in the arm. She draws her bow as Ganan finishes his spell.

 

As soon as they step out beyond the camp, a stone comes whizzing at them. Melody shoots it from the sky, the Dragon’s make a run for the tower. As Ganan reaches the heavy stone door and heaves it open a second stone comes hurtling at him, Melody again shoots it from the sky. Ganan waves Reya and Ferad inside and closes the door as Melody backs herself in.

 

The inside of the tower smells like bear. The basic structure seems similar to the Tower of Air, but the rooms are purposed differently. Ganan bars the door and settles down to sleep. Reya offers to keep watch and Ferad and Melody go upstairs.

 

Come the morning, the Dragons plan their assault.

 

“Reya, take the window and give us some covering fire.” Melody makes obnoxious finger guns to underscore her point, “Ganan, open the door. Ferad, rush the tower, climb the side. I’ll cover you.”
 

“To be clear, you want me to open this door?” Ganan raises an eyebrow.

 

“Well, ideally, that will be followed by you either climbing the perfectly smooth walls of the next tower, or smashing through the solid stone door of said tower, or turn immaterial, walk through the walls and open up the door from the inside. You do you.”

 

“I’ll leave hand-holds in the stone.” Ferad reassures Ganan, “We can break through the windows on the third floor.”

 

“Just get the door open before I run out of arrows.” Melody falters and looks over to Reya, “If you approve?”

 

Reya looks over to Ferad who nods, “I bow to your strategic acumen, Winglord. I’ll fire from the forth floor.” She turns and starts up the stairs as the others take position by the door. As a blast of flame shatters the third floor window in the target tower and Ganan heaves the door open.

 

Melody aims at an arrow slit on the second floor as Ferad advances. Leaving the door open, Ganan runs out behind Ferad. Reya fires off another blast of flame. A stone comes whizzing from the tower to strike Ferad, but Melody shoots it out of the sky.

 

Ganan closes with the opposing tower, shutting Earth Essence into his anima to gird himself against harm. For a moment his anima starts to glow, until he pulls his tetsubo from the coalescing energy and smashes it against the door to the tower in a mighty blow. Shards of stone are send flying as he punches a fist sized hole in the solid stone wall.

 

Melody exhales, steadying her body and lets fly. Her arrow majestically soars through the arrow slit, past her foe’s shield and takes the bearfolk warrior directly through the eye.

 

Ferad reaches the smooth walls of the tower and starts to climb, the wall yielding before his fingers to make perfect hand-holds as he climbs. Reya launches more fire, this time at the fifth floor.

 

More slingers appear at the fourth and second floor, sending stones raining down on Ganan. Ganan spins his tetsubo, deflecting the killer projectiles with practiced skill.

 

Without missing a beat, Ganan shifts effortlessly from defense to offense and brings his tetsubo down again, widening the hole from fist-sized to head-sized.

 

Sighting an enemy through the hole Ganan bashed in the wall, Melody shoots from the hip, bulls-eyeing another bearfolk warrior before stepping out into the open to get a better shot.

 

Ferad climbs higher, leaving a trail of hand-holds behind him as he scales the first floor. Reya continues to give covering fire.

 

Obviously more worried by the Dragon smashing a hole in the wall than the one climbing it, the bearfolk launch another hail of stones at Ganan, who laughs as he batters them away effortlessly.

 

Now Ferad has a good start on him, Ganan banishes his weapon back into his anima and starts to climb after his brother-in-law.

 

Melody sights higher up the tower, ready to loose.

 

Ferad graces the second floor as Reya fires from her arrow slit.

 

Realizing their error, the beastfolk cast everything they have at Ferad to try to knock him down. Melody’s arm works like a horse at a gallop, drawing and releasing at impossible speed deflecting every projectile before it can strike her husband.

 

Ganan ascends behind Ferad, up to the second floor.

 

Melody unleashes another killing arrow, taking out a slinger on the 4th floor.

 

Ferad reaches the third floor window and heaves himself inside, drawing his daiklave from the fire Reya started as his sister banks the fire up to cover his flank.


The bearfolk in the tower fall back and rally on the forth floor.

 

Ganan pulls his way inside the tower, heaving his bronze bulk through the window with a surge of Essence that leaves him glowing with an aura of fire. The bearfolk use the third floor as a living area, and there’s plenty of flammable furniture that’s starting to smolder and burn. Ferad grins at him through the flames: it’s unlikely that the fire will bring the tower down, or spread through the thick stone walls.

 

Without slingers at the arrow slits, Melody can approach the tower and climb unmolested.

 

As the flames lick the room, Ferad casually walks over to the door and opens it for Ganan, “Shall we?”

 

Reya hurls flames ineffectually at the arrow slits on the fourth floor, unable to get a clear shot.

 

The bearfolk take position and prepare for the Dragon’s attack.

 

Ganan tears out of the burning room and starts up the stairs, he pulls his tetsubo from the glowing energy of his anima and smashes through the heavy door of the forth floor in a single blow.

 

Melody continues to scale the building from the outside.

 

Ferad races after Ganan, sword in hand.

 

The bearfolk charge Ganan in the doorway with spears and shields, hammering against him to keep the doorway blocked and prevent him bringing his tetsubo to bear. As the spears lash out of him, he easily slips into Earth Dragon Form, shunts protective Earth Essence into his anima and adopts the Sorcerer’s Impervious Mantle becoming immune to harm from the bearfolk’s mortal weaponry as his anima rages into his iconic sandman, lashing the room with a sandstorm.

 

The sandstorm lashes at the bearfolk, battering the shield-wall aside and creating an opening for Ganan to lay into them with his tetsubo, sending them flying with the force of the mountain.

 

Melody heaves herself into the burning tower, now in full conflagration. The flames burn her as she heads for the door.

 

Ferad bowls into the scattered bearfolk, sword lashing out in killing arcs of fire essence. The unit, already scattered by Ganan breaks and throws down their weapons.

 

Ganan banishes his weapon into his anima. Melody rushes from the burning room to regroup with Ganan and Ferad, and the trio round up the surviving bear-folk. As with the previous towers, there were fifteen of them: three killed by Melody’s arrows, two smashed to a pulp by Ganan’s tetsubo and two cut down by Ferad’s sword. The remaining eight are tied up in short order.

 

“What do you think we should do with them?” Ferad asks, “If we take them out the front door, we’ll be in range of the next tower.”

 

“I could finish demolishing the back wall.” Ganan offers, “Walk them out the back.”

 

Or we could kill them.” Melody’s voice is raised, as well as in Riverspeak. She glares murderously at the captured prisoners.

 

“Winglord! We do not murder prisoners of war.” Ferad reprimands harshly.

 

Ferad and Melody lock eyes and start to stare each other down.

 

“Really, it’s no trouble. Give me five minutes, I’ll have an archway knocked through. Give me an hour or two and I’ll get it looking really nice.”

 

“Fine, Dragonlord.” Melody responds sarcastically, “You guard the prisoners, Ganan and I will knock through the wall.”

 

Ferad looks like he’s going to respond but he thinks the better of it and just nods as Ganan and Melody walk downstairs. Smoke is starting to seep from the blackened door of the third floor, but Ganan remains confident that the fire will burn itself out. When they reach the ground floor, Melody pulls her arrow from the eye of the downed bearfolk.


Ganan calls his tetsubo forth again, his anima dropping to a white glow and swings at the head sized hole he made earlier to batter it wider.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” He offers.

 

Non.” Melody sulks as she cleans off the arrow.


Ganan swings again, “You might not have your commissions anymore. But you earned your ranks. Both of you. As far as the family are concerned, you are respected officers. And with things the way they are, you’ll have proper commissions in the Mnemon legions soon enough.

 

I don’t want-” Melody snaps, switching back to High Realm, “It’s not that. It is that. I don’t know. I love Ferad, but every day I don’t know if I’m waking up to my commanding officer or a helpless fils à maman who needs a woman’s permission to...” She grinds her teeth, “Rank was easier in the field. I don’t understand how your stupid society works.”

 

Ganan bursts out laughing and swings again, “The Empress herself doesn’t understand how our stupid society works.” He thinks for a moment, “Just do what I do.”

 

Melody looks up with coy interest, and raises an eyebrow.

 

“One: Be the biggest bad-ass in the room: regardless of age, rank and gender. Two: Do whatever the fuck you want. Three: Unless Reya is in the room, then do whatever she tells you to do.”

 

Melody laughs, “Sure. That’s good advice.”

 

Ganan swings again, knocking a hole wide enough to crawl though, “You’re most of the way there. I was completely ready to murder those beastmen for you.”

 

“That’s sweet. You’re a good brother.”

 

“They’re beastmen. I don’t understand why we’re taking them prisoner.”

“Were you just not paying attention last time we were here?”

 

“When an Anathema convinced us to make peace then immediately betrayed us? I’m the one who wasn’t paying attention?”

 

“Hmm, good point.” Melody admits, then shifting the subject, “You really think we’re going to have to do this 96 more times?”

 

Ganan bashes the hole wider, “They’re not going to surrender. They’re going to fight for every tower. Personally? I’m ready to do the next one now, but you’re going to want to dress those burns and restock your arrows.”

 

“There has to be a better way to take this city.” Melody states, Ganan doesn’t pause in his demolition, but he gets the gist over the noise of jade on stone. “I’m going to search the tower.” Melody calls and walks off as Ganan nods in acknowledgment.

 

Melody doesn’t find much on first inspection: piles of sling bullets; dried meats, preserved fruit; a little copper and silver coinage, which she pockets. There are no books, or works of art, just crude furniture made of wood and furs. But even her cursory inspection reveals something obvious to her: this tower looks as if it were deliberately stripped of valuables, as if the bearfolk expected it to be taken by the Dragons.

 

Seeing Ganan break down an archway large enough to muscle the prisoners through, Reya crosses to the tower, careful to keep it between her and the next tower in the mandala city. Ganan is using his palms to smooth out the rough edges and turn it into a proper archway (2SP), and Reya can’t stop herself from asking, “Is there any point to that?”

 

Ganan considers for a moment, “Each tower only has one entrance. That entrance is set facing the next tower, so the slingers in that tower can defend it. We seem to be taking prisoners. It’d be a lot more convenient if we could move prisoners, and our own troops, between towers without exposing ourselves to enemy fire. Besides, outer wall is load-bearing, if I don’t shore up the arch, we risk subsidence.”

 

“You just want to play.” Reya teases.

 

Ganan grins at her, “I want a straight fight. I could take on this entire city in an open field. In an afternoon. But going tower to tower? We’ll be here months.”

 

“Do you think we can afford to hire these Amilar mercenaries for months?”

 

“Do you think the mercenaries are doing anything useful, apart from guarding the sub-human spawn of the Anathema?” Ganan shoots back, more serious now.

 

“We’re not executing the prisoners. Tell me you took prisoners.”

 

Ganan holds up a hand, “Relax. There are eight of them upstairs. Dragonlord Ferad insisted we comport ourselves Correctly.”

 

Good.” Reya says harshly, “This is war, not a Wyld Hunt. There are rules.”

Melody walks back into the room, “Not in the rest of the world there’s not. The Realm has rules about war. Maybe Lookshy. The Dovaki thought we were mad to try and take Eletha alive.”

 

“And these people did take our family alive. A week ago. Maybe you’ve forgotten that, but at least Ferad hasn’t: they tied him up, they didn’t cut his throat.”

 

“That’s different,” Melody snaps back, “Mishra wanted them as leverage to try to bring down the kingdom. She was using them to blackmail us, and you agreed that she was probably going to kill them as soon as we gave her what she wanted.”

 

“Be that as it may,” Ganan weighs in, “These...” He struggles, but is unable to bring himself to say ‘people’, “Creatures didn’t murder me in my sleep when I was their prisoner. A Dragon-Blooded is not less honorable than the inauspicious spawn of the Anathema. I won’t kill the prisoners until they try to escape.”

 

Melody shakes her head, “Fine.” She gestures vaguely at Reya, “You’re the boss.”

 

The Dynasts escort the bearfolk prisoners back to camp, and meet up with the Lookshy Dragon-Blooded.

 

Jinsuc and his lieutenants have laid out some cushions on the ground, they invite them to sit.

 

“Danireya Hidenka, Melody-San, Ganan-San. You’ve taken another tower. Keep this pace up and you’ll be done in a month. You realize, of course, we’re not staying here that long. You sold us on the idea of war with an Anathema and a city of treasures to claim. The Anathema is dead, thanks to a mysterious assassin, and the treasures of this city are matted furs and shiny pebbles.”

 

“Let me stop you there Jinsuc Kazei. The city will fall in one week.” Ganan reassures him.

 

“In one week?” Jinsuc seems incredulous, but studying Ganan hard, he can see no trace of deception, “Very well. We’ll give you a week Ganan-san.” The Lookshyans give a bow and withdraw.

 

“When did you get so good at lying?” Melody asks Ganan looking askance.

 

Ganan shrugs, “Nanals put Dovak to sleep in a day. That gives us six days to find her.”

 

“Aren’t you-” Melody stops herself and turns to Reya, “Isn’t he supposed to be a genius?”

 

“Tomonas’s sanctum is over that rise. His court is filled with spirits, including an agata who can identify Dynastic bloodlines. Someone there is going to know how to find a woman worshiped as a local god.” Ganan looks at Melody dead-pan.

 

“Oh. OK, I see the ‘genius’ thing now.”

 

“Well it’s better than taking these damn towers one at a time,” Reya concedes, “Clapper won’t fit in the sanctum, hop on.” She summons up a Stormwind Rider and they depart.

 

In a matter of minutes, they reach the crevasse leading into Tomonas’s court. Ganan leads the way down and Reya takes up the rear as they enter the throne room (careful, this time, to wipe their feet).

 

Tomonas greets them bombastically, switching between Old Realm and Riverspeak “Dynasts! My friends the Dragon-Blooded! How good to see you, my Dragon-Blooded friends! Everyone! The Dragon-Blooded are here!” He makes a big clamor, throwing his arms wide.

 

Mighty Tomonas, my friend, we’re here-” Ganan starts, but Melody cuts him off.

 

Cut the crap!” She draws her bow and starts looking around the room, the materialized spirits and elementals eye the Orichalcum bow with mixed expressions from curiosity to dread.

 

“Are we not here-?” Ganan starts to question before noticing that Reya has her axe and shield out.

 

Where is he?” Reya asks Tomonas accusingly, Tomonas doesn’t respond but looks bewildered and hurt.

 

Melody spits her sentence through gritted teeth, “Ganan, I love you like a brother but pay attention man. We have exactly one non-bearfolk enemy in Dovak who, if he were hiding here, would appreciate a nice loud warning if we were ever to walk in unannounced.”

 

“Oka Dovak! Show yourself!” Reya calls into the room, gazing into the reflection on her shield, looking for The Gift’s formless shadow.

 

Emerging from the hot-springs, dressed in nothing but a towel, The Gift of Merciful Silence walks into the room, “Don’t be so dramatic. Of course I’m here,” His eyes settle on Melody, “It’s not like I have anywhere else to go to.”

 

Melody draws an arrow and takes aim at The Gift, and Reya interposes herself between Melody and the Anathema.

 

Tomonas interposes himself between the Dragons and the Deathknight, “Let’s not do anything hasty… It’s clear that The Gift is not the reason why you are here.”

 

“Where’s Nanals?” Ganan asks Tomonas, cautiously walking towards the thunderbird and the Anathema.

 

“Who’s Nanals?” The Gift asks, giving a winning smile, “And why are you so… dirty?”

 

“Ganan, flank him!” Melody barks.

 

“I’m told you know her as Edge of the Wolf’s Blade.” Ganan continues to advance, he spreads his empty palms.

 

“Ganan, we’re friends. Don’t do anything rash.” Tomonas cautions, “The Gift just… appeared here. I didn’t seek him out, but he asked for sanctuary and I granted it. You can’t fight him here.”

 

“Can and will.” Melody snaps.

 

“You’re getting off-topic. Nanals. Where is she? That’s why we’re here. We’re your friends Tomonas. You don’t want trouble. Send us off to find Nanals, and when we come back and The Gift is no longer here then you and I can have a little talk about offering sanctuary to the sworn enemies of Dovak.” Ganan is now arm’s length away from Tomonas, a short dash from The Gift.

 

“I think I can be of service. Lame Louve disappeared last night.” The Gift starts to towel off, leaving nothing to the imagination, “Faded away into thin air, cursing one ‘Sondok’. She had a bound neomah who found her way here… I, uh, have been keeping her busy. Sorry Tomonas.”

 

Merde!” Melody spits.

 

“And how do I know I can trust you?” Ganan asks, “Last time we met you were threatening to kill my family.”

 

“You can ask the neomah. I’m done with her… and you clearly need a bath…” The Gift gestures back towards the hot springs.

 

“Why did you want her?” Tomonas asks, noting that Reya and Melody both seem intent on starting a fight.

 

“We need a sleeping curse.” Ganan says frankly, he looks over to The Gift, “Say, weren’t you Eletha’s apprentice?”

 

“He says his gift is death, not sleep.” Melody cuts in, not liking the way this conversation is going.

 

“And my gift is knowledge of Shogunate History, but that doesn’t stop people asking me to beat fools to death. You think you can curse Urza Arcus to sleep?” Ganan looks over Tomonas’s shoulder to The Gift.

 

“Oh I could. The question is why would I want-”

 

“Can you do it in a week?” Ganan interrupts, “Because I can put them to sleep in a month or two. But we need this in a week.”

 

“One week?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“No.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“It’s impossible. No-one can curse an entire city in a week.” The Gift shrugs, “So, nice seeing you all again. Danireya. Ganan. Melody.” He turns to leave.

 

“Well, as you’re here.” Ganan summons his tetsubo, and leers menacingly, “And unarmed. And unarmored.”

 

The Gift of Merciful Silence turns back, his anima already covering his body, “Too slow.” He taunts as he disappears.

 

Ganan slings his tetsubo on his back, “There. Entirely non-violent. Where are The Gift’s clothes?”

“His clothes?” Melody queries.

 

“His belt. Vaktri take our clothes for cleaning when we use the hot springs. The Gift wasn’t wearing his black leather belt.” Ganan turns to Tomonas, “You hand it over, we overlook the grotesque number of shrines to you in Urza Arcus and the fact that an Anathema answered our queries before you showed willing. Our friendship continues and we leave in peace.”

 

Tomonas’s eyes narrow, elementals, gods and demons around the room close in round the Dragon-Blooded.

 

Melody quickly cuts in, “Ganan’s right. No blows were struck here. We all know you’ve been holding back when sparing. But so have we. And I’m sure you have a lot of new members of your court: left homeless with the defeat of Eletha, Shriek and Mishra – new members who might not exactly be happy with Dragon-Blooded rule. But we are your friends. Forget the Immaculate Texts: you can end this by giving your friends a belt, as we respect your authority in this place…” She curtsies, then bows low before him, “Or you can start a war because an Anathema tricked you into perceiving a slight that doesn’t exist. The Gift of Merciful Silence tried to burn Dovak and murder your bloodline. Don’t hand over the belt because it’s your duty: do it because you are a warrior seeking righteous revenge. If anyone has slighted you here, it’s The Gift not believing that you’d keep him safe.”


Tomonas holds up a hand, and the surrounding spirits draw back. He nods to a Vaktri, who disappears towards the springs and returns holding a black leather belt. Melody takes it and graciously gives a short bow to the Vaktri and deep bow to Tomonas.

 

Ganan and Melody move to withdraw, but Reya stops them and addresses Tomonas, “Tinkara would prefer if we could find a way to save Oka. I would like that too. If it’s possible-”

 

“Get out.” Tomonas interrupts her, his voice laden with hurt and regret.

 

For the first time, the Dragon’s leave by the rear entrance. It’s a lot harder to climb up than it is to climb down, but the three of them make it with some pushing and pulling.

 

“So… magic belt?” Melody asks, examining it.

 

“Well I’m hoping it’s a-” Ganan begins.

 

“It’s a Belt of Shadow Walking.” Reya confirms, “Rare. Powerful. Black Jade from the far west, bat leather from the far east and...” She runs a finger over the belt, “Soul-steel.”

 

Melody gives an involuntary shudder, and tries to hand the belt to Ganan, who throws up his hands in protest.

 

“I don’t want it!” He insists, “But whoever wears it should be able to turn immaterial. Walk right into a tower, unlock it, walk right into the next one.” He looks at Reya.

 

“W-why are you looking at me!

 

Melody shrugs, “Air aspects are sneaky. Good with spirits and the immaterial. Perfect fit.”

 

Water aspects,” Reya corrects, “Are good at breaking into towers and opening locks.”

 

“Our only water aspect is better at sailing ships and martial arts.” Melody counters, “I can’t wear it because the towers cover each other which means someone needs to shoot rocks from the sky.”

 

“I can wear it,” Ganan admits, “Takes your best fighter off the field and puts them on door duty. But I can wear it if you’d rather stay out of danger.”

 

“And not wear the souls by tortured an Anathema.” Reya shoots back.

 

Ganan shrugs, “Why should that bother you? You didn’t torture them. Not wearing the belt won’t undo the torture.”

 

“You wear it then!” Melody hands Ganan the belt, and Ganan straps it on.

 

Ganan makes a twirling motion with his finger, “Let’s get back and start opening towers.”

 

Reya hesitates for a moment then starts summoning a Stormwind. The trio race back to the Lookshy camp and explain their plan to the assembled Dragon-Blooded.


As planned, Ganan is able to walk, immaterial, directly into the towers, smash the bars from the inside with a Spirit Grounding Shout and walk straight into the next tower. Lookshy commandos simply have to follow behind, push open the unlocked door and capture the defenders. By lunch-time the Dragons have taken a four more towers. The Amilar and Alinos meet amid the captured towers to talk.

 

Jinsuc opens, “I must admit. I was doubtful this morning, Ganan-san, but if we keep this up we’ll have a quarter of the city by nightfall.”

 

Ganan nods.

 

Melody speaks, “Indeed. Thanks to your troops we have the numbers to hit multiple targets simultaneously.”

 

Jinsuc gives a small nod of acknowledgment, “I would prefer if we did not unleash any more demons. My men are better at taking these towers without… unnecessary casualties.”

 

“Unusual for Seventh Legion mercenaries to show such concern for beast-folk.” Ganan remarks.

 

Jinsuc rankles slightly, “If my concern for preserving life is suspicious, let me reiterate that your Satrap promised us whatever loot we could carry out of the city. I’d rather such ‘loot’ were not set on fire or drenched in blood. Do you think you can keep this pace up?”

 

“No.” Ganan states simply, Reya nudges him, “I’m told the bearfolk have shamans who can see dematerialized spirits. As we approach the center of the city, we’re likely to run into more formidable defenses. The city is sparsely populated, but more than fifteen to a tower: we’re going to start to see greater numbers. Then desperation – they might start setting their own towers on fire, barricade off the first floor and make us fight the flames. We’ve got a foothold here, and should keep going until nightfall, but this isn’t going to win us the city – we need a real plan.”

 

“I take it you have a plan in mind?” Jinsuc leans in, clearly interested.

 

“We do.” Melody cuts in, “But it’s going to depend on just what kind of resistance we start to see from the bearfolk.”


Jinsuc nods sagely, “How desperate they get? Whether we start to find children and the elderly? That sort of thing?”

 

Melody bobs her head, “Exactly.”

 

Jinsuc rises with his lieutenants, “Very well. Eat, rest, fetch me when you are ready to push on again.” The Lookshyan’s withdraw.

 

Ganan turns to Melody, earnestly, “Excellent. What’s the plan?”

 

Melody thumps him on the chest, then immediately regrets striking magic bronze with bare flesh (shaking her hand to regain feeling in it), “We don’t have a plan, you idiot. But you’d just told the mercenaries we hired that our only plan won’t work.”

 

“Well, it won’t work.” Ganan says simply, “And a Dragonlord would realize that.”

“So it’s a good job I bought us some time then.” Melody says smugly folding her arms across her chest.

 

“I never-” Ganan starts, but Reya shoots him a warning look, “Thank you, Melody.”

 

“You are welcome, now Reya – what’s the plan?”

 

Danireya considers for a moment, “Eat then head back out there and take more towers.”

 

Melody considers the shape of the city and the towers they’ve already taken and prioritizes targets aiming to get them as close as possible to the palace. She points the towers out to Ganan who again goes immaterial and starts smashing locks open. In the afternoon they stop and rest, then strike out again. By nightfall, they have indeed taken nearly a quarter of the city but resistance has increased dramatically: entire first floors are barricaded and fifteen warriors have increased to thirty.

 

Jinsuc approaches the trio alone, “It’s time to share what your plan is. We lost too many men on that last push. Opening the doors isn’t enough.” He speaks with a quiet sincerity.

 

“Would you like me to start clearing these towers single-handedly?” Ganan offers, he tries to make his tone sound mocking but it doesn’t really come through – the prospect exciting him a bit too much.

 

“No,” Jinsuc answers, “I know that will take too long – I don’t doubt you could do it though, Ganan-san. I was hoping you’d… finalized your plan?”

 

“We have,” Melody begins confidently, “We take the palace. Tonight.”

 

“That’s a… bold strategy, Melody-san.” Jinsuc says diplomatically.

 

“It is.” Melody nods, “The city glows at night, but visibility is reduced. Ganan can go ahead, enter the palace, become material and throw open the gate. I will ride Clapper through the city, create a diversion. You and your best troops take advantage of the confusion to make it to the palace and rally with Ganan. Between you, you take out what’s left of the bearfolk leadership and we parade them through the streets with the other prisoners. If they attack, they can see their fellows killed in the streets. But we show them that we want to take them alive and that they’ll be treated fairly, and how many towers we’ve already taken in the first day. I think they’ll surrender.”
 

“That… could work.” Jinsuc admits, “Doesn’t risk the mortals. You’ll take a lot of fire, Melody-san: even with your skills and a Shieldback.”

 

“I’ll be with her.” Reya lays a hand on Melody’s shoulder and presents Perdurant Vault.

 

“Then I’ll brief my Dragons. When do we leave?” Jinsuc gives a salute.

 

“I’ll need a couple of hours to focus my Essence.” Ganan returns the salute.

 

Jinsuc withdraws and Reya turns to Melody, “We are going to die out there. You know that right?”

 

“Don’t be dramatic. We’re just going to stomp around, make some noise, draw a little fire. Clapper can move with some speed. Ganan, just leave the doors wide open and I’ll run us straight into the palace as soon as Jinsuc and his troops are inside.”

 

****

 

Ganan turns immaterial and slinks through the eerily glowing city. If the bearfolk notice the creeping, unnatural shadow, they don’t throw stones at it. The palace, built like a massive version of the surrounding towers is well secured: turrets and slingers guard the vast doors. Ganan passes straight through the front entrance, slipping between the cracks in the great door. As soon as he is inside, a wizened shaman raises the alarm, and a hail of blessed stones come hurtling towards his shadow form: the entire foyer is filled with barricades and beast-folk.

 

Meanwhile Reya and Melody stomp through the city on Clapper, creating a diversion. Rocks are thrown from towers, but are expertly shot down, or ring harmlessly from Reya’s shield.

 

Ganan shrugs off the belt’s magic, regaining his solid form. A complex system of levers are used to bar the great doors of the palace. Ganan hoists himself six feet into the air and stands on top of the bar. He summons his tetsubo and brings it crashing down between his legs. The vast bar splits with a single, earsplitting blow, and Ganan skids down the ruined beam, taking a defensive posture by the door.

 

Melody and Reya continue their rampage through the city, Clapper’s tail swinging like a battering ram against the towers. Under the cover of their distraction, the Seventh Legion Dragon-Blooded move up.

 

The bearfolk in the tower send a hail of stones at Ganan. He spins his tetsubo, deflecting the worst of them, but as some of the hail makes it through his guard and to strike his body, he finds himself moving into Earth Dragon Form on instinct as his anima flares totemic.

 

Ganan takes aim at the barricades, chambering a charge in his weapon.

 

Melody and Reya turn off on a tangent, away from their captured towers. The rain of stones against them intensifies and knocks Reya off-balance.

The bearfolk in the palace fire another barrage at Ganan, thinking their efforts are holding him back.

 

Ganan explodes forward and unleashes a Mammoth Quake Slam. The impact sends the beastfolk reeling backwards and draws the slingers looking out away from their posts in an effort to stop his advance.

 

Melody steers Clapper directly for the palace, “Hold on!” She cries to Reya as she spurs the great beast forward. The Lookshy commandos reach the palace gates and push them wide open.

 

The bearfolk struggle to their feet and call up reinforcements as they descend on Ganan with blade and claw. Ganan effortlessly deflects their blows, as the sentries fire down at the Lookshyans.

 

Ganan smashes into the bearfolk who reel before his assault. Some throw down their weapons and run. Others are crushed to a pulp.

 

The Lookshyans respond to stones with perfectly co-ordinated Elemental Bolt Attacks, easily overpowering the sentries. “SCATTER!” Jinsuc screams at the top of his lungs and the Lookshyans dive for cover. Ganan turns, taking his eyes off his foes for just a moment, to see Melody and Reya come crashing through the open doors on the back of Melody’s shieldback lizard. Clapper tramples the barricades and downed beast-folk, bearing Reya and Melody “safely” into the heart of the enemy camp, stopping inches away from crushing Ganan.

 

Without missing a beat Melody fires her gleaming bow into the beastfolk who break and run under the force of the onslaught.

 

Ganan approaches the shaman, and holds his tetsubo out, “Surrender.” He offers in Riverspeak, before switching to Old Realm, “There’s no need to die here.

 

The shaman looks up at Ganan, places a wizened hand on his own neck, and tears out his own throat in a gruesome display of grim determination.

 

“That could complicate the plan.” Melody admits.

 

Ganan points, “Urza Arcus’s throne was on the other side of those doors. Reya, stay here with Clapper and make sure they don’t get past us. Amilar Jinsuc-Kazei, Melody: stick with me. We keep to the plan, take them alive if you can.”

 

Melody dismounts and gives Clapper a kiss on the cheek, “I’ll do my best. Let’s end this.”

 

The Dragon’s kick open the door to the throne room, Reaper sits on the throne. The entire throne room is thick with elite bearfolk warriors, anointed with bloody mystic runes by the shamans. Their weapons look like they were manufactured in Realm armories rather than the crude workmanship the Dynasts are used to attributing to the bearfolk.

 

It’s over Reaper! We’ve taken your people alive, mostly. Surrender and we’ll give you fair terms.” Melody calls out, still not entire sure whether Reaper even understands Riverspeak.

 

In answer Reaper stands, and points a massive cleaver directly at the Dragon-Blooded, and combat is enjoined.

 

Exercising no restraint, Ganan crashes directly into the bearfolk, smashing them back and trying to clear a path to Reaper.

 

Melody sights Reaper with an arrow and takes careful aim.

 

The Lookshyans form up in front on Melody and take a defensive posture, unwilling to strike killing blows if it can be avoided.

 

Reaper roars orders to the bearfolk in Dovaki. Seeing Ganan push his way forward he takes a seat on the throne, and waves forth an advisor who takes their orders and scurries off out of sight.

 

The bearfolk hammer down blows on Ganan and the Lookshyans. Their assault staggers the Lookshyan’s back, but Ganan’s Impervious Skin weathers the blows.

 

Ganan continues his push forwards, battering bearfolk aside with sweeping strokes of his tetsubo he wades through their formation as an unstoppable pillar of sand.

 

Melody lets fly, pinning Reaper by his braid to the throne behind him.

 

The Lookshyans push back against the bearfolk, holding them off and driving them back.

 

Reaper pulls at the arrow, but it’s buried to the shaft and despite his great strength he can’t find purchase on it. He roars out another command in Dovaki.

 

The bearfolk try to pin Ganan and the Lookshyan’s down, engaging them with spears and claws. With a surge of Essence, Ganan throws them back: he will not be stopped, but the Lookshyans are overwhelmed by numbers and dragged under by the bearfolk tide.

 

Two armored bears burst into the throne room and flank Reaper in defensive positions.

 

Feeling his Essence rapidly draining, Ganan at last pushes free of the mass of bearfolk. He makes a final lunge for Reaper, but one of the war bears puts its massive bulk between the Dragon and its master. Ganan’s blow hammers the bear, driving it to the ground.

 

Melody turns her bow of the bearfolk overrunning the Lookshyans and peppers them with arrows.

 

Jinsuc and his men fight from under the heap in a desperate flurry of blows. The might of the Dragons will not be contained, and they throw themselves free, driving the bearfolk back and off.

 

Reaper grabs his braid and tears it in two with his bare hands, then leaps at Ganan swinging his massive cleaver. Ganan raises his tetsubo from flooring the bear and knocks the blow aside.

 

The downed bear slowly clambers back to its feet, as its partner swipes a massive claw at Ganan, battering him despite his best efforts.

 

The bearfolk strike with renewed vigor at the Dragons, the rear half of their number wheeling to face Ganan. They stab with their spears, in a flurry of blows, nicking even Ganan’s invulnerable hide. One of the Lookshyans is impaled: still alive but badly wounded.

 

Melody continues her assault on the bearfolk, no longer caring about taking them alive, she hammers them with killing arrows.

 

Ganan paces himself, waiting for an opening with Reaper.

 

The Lookshyans grimly follow Melody’s lead and fight with killing precision as a unit. They advance and start to push the bearfolk back.

 

Reaper ducks between the bears, spinning his cleaver as the beasts circle him, he feints left then brings his blade crashing down. Ganan stands there, as still as Omphalos! As Reaper brings his blade down in a killing strike, Ganan smashes like an avalanche, moving at the last moment to smash aside the cleaver with his tetsubo. The blow robs Reaper of his momentum and sends him sprawling on the ground. Reaper simply drops his weapon and looks up from his crouched position on all fours with a snarl. His claws seem to elongate, and Ganan recognizes the killing posture of Tiger Style.

 

The bears barrel against Ganan. He dodges under the first swipe, but the second bear grabs him and hoists him up in a crushing bear hug. Ganan flexes his muscles against the bear as he’s crushed.

 

The bearfolk attacks are battered aside by the Lookshyans, but with Ganan held down by the bear their spears find purchase, stabbing and slashing him.

 

Fuck this!” Melody curses. With deadly precision she decisively wheels arrows into the bearfolk in a string of gruesome kill shots. The bearfolk line falters then collapses, the elite warriors breaking and running.

 

The Lookshyans push up and engage the bears.

 

“IT’S OVER!” Ganan roars at Reaper, pulling his way free. Reaper tenses up his body ready to pounce, and Ganan casts his tetsubo aside. Ganan strikes his chest in a display of power and strength and Reaper pounces, claws outstretched. Ganan catches him by the wrists and twists him into a body lock.

 

Unhurried, Melody approaches as the Lookshyans finish off the warbears. She ties Reaper’s hands and legs, then retrieves his severed braid from the throne.

 

She kneels beside him, as Ganan keeps the bound man restrained. “It’s over.” Melody repeats quietly, in Riverspeak. “You can surrender. Tell your people to surrender. And we will discuss terms. Or you can struggle. And I will tie you to my Shieldback’s tail and parade you through Arcus as my trophy. But either way: it’s over.” She holds up his braid for emphasis, and Ganan feels him go slack in his grip.

 

Jinsuc appears, “Take him back to camp. We’ll finish up here.” He bows to Melody and Ganan, clasping his right fist in his left-hand. “Ganan-sama. Melody-sama.”

 

Ganan returns the gesture, “Your men fought well Jinsuc Kazei.” Melody nods. They heavy Reaper up and manhandle him back to Reya. A couple of bodies smolder near here.

 

“Any trouble?” Melody calls.


“Not for me.” Reya responds.

 

They lash Reaper to the back of Clapper and brazenly stomp back out to the city. The beastfolk hold their fire as they stomp back camp.

 

Ferad and Tepet Agoram welcome them. “Successful mission?” Agoram asks

 

Reya dismounts and raises her voice for the camp to hear: “Urza Arcus, is ours!”

 

****

 

Ganan spends 8XP on Flaw-Finding Examination.

Ganan spends 1XP7DX on Stamina 3.

Ganan and Melody reach Essence 3.



You need to be logged in to leave a review for this story.
Report Story