Dust-Shrouded Sun session 2

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Start As You Mean To Go On

(Second writeup for the Dust-Shrouded Sun campaign)

So, where was I? Oh yes: I was about to tell you, dear reader, a tale of adventure and derring do. It will amaze, astound, and awe you. Or possibly just bore you rigid, but that's a risk you'll just have to take.

Anyway, there I was, newly Exalted. How I attained this lofty state is a tale for another day, I fear, but suffice it to say it was something of a shock to the system. One of the first things I realised was that I was being drawn somewhere. Following this compulsion in the hope that it would eventually lead me to some answers, I instead encountered three other new Exalts who were just as clueless as I! I shall skip over the ensuing kerfuffling, but between us, we figured out that we were the reincarnations of a previous Circle. In other words, we knew each other in a former life.

Having established that we sort of knew and, surprisingly, trusted each other, we found ourselves being drawn to the somewhat troubled city of Chiaroscuro. When I say "troubled," I mean that it was currently under the martial rule of a bunch of Dragon-Blooded who'd just kicked out a bunch of Solars who, in turn, had kicked out the previous ruler, the Tri-Khan. Confused? How do you think the inhabitants feel? This isn't really the time and place for a lengthy treatise on the recent upheavals, however. Just take my word for it that the situation in the city was somewhat… messy. I should know: I was born and raised there.

I wasn't a so-called noble, by the way. You better think twice before you accuse me of being one of those parasitic sons of serpents. Just wanted to get that straight. No, I was a street rat through and through. And now I'm a Chosen of the Unconquered Sun. Go figure.

We joined a caravan for the journey back to Chiaroscuro. Unfortunately, the caravan was attacked by a group of demons. Blood-apes, to be precise. How utterly tedious. Well, we could hardly let them tear through the hapless mortals around us, so we took care of it. Alas, I got a little carried away with my new abilities and put on quite a show. It was a damn fine show, if I do say so myself, with eldritch chanting, blazing pyrotechnics and razor-winged butterflies of doom. But it did give away that we were a little more than we appeared to be. Just a little. The upshot of that was that as soon as we finished off the demons, the rest of the people in the caravan turned around and said words to the effect of: "Thank you very much for saving our lives, now could you please leave." They were very, very polite, being clearly shit-scared of us. Oh, well, that's gratitude for you. We left them to it.

The rest of the journey to Chiaroscuro passed without incident. Our arrival at the gate caused a little consternation among the guards, as Wren—one of my new companions—was a monk of the Immaculate Order. As soon as the guards recognized his robes, we were rushed through the gate and escorted off to meet someone or other. No waiting in line with the peasantry for us!

As we were en route to our impromptu meeting, there was the sound of an explosion from somewhere out in the city. The earth shook, but we all somehow managed to keep our feet. When the ground once more deigned to do its duty and provide level footing, we went to investigate the commotion. It was not hard to locate. Loping through the wreckage of walls and buildings was another pack of blood apes. I was starting to feel persecuted.

The demons wasted no time laying about them with all the natural weaponry at their disposal. They possess truly formidable teeth and claws, a fact I can attest to personally. But I am getting ahead of myself.

My companions and I sprang into action. Given our location, I did not wish to be quite so blazingly obvious as in the last encounter with these creatures. However, physical combat is not my primary area of strength, so I resorted to other tactics. Being a talker, not a fighter, I focused my will and ordered the demons to leave, reinforcing my command with a weave of essence. Let us just say that it did not precisely work as I'd hoped. I certainly got their attention, but rather than heading for the hills, they started to come for me. Apparently, I'd succeeded in making myself a big fat target.

Still, on the plus side, they were no longer tearing into the general populace. And my companions were able to take advantage of their distraction to dispatch them with aplomb. I wasn't even too badly injured, much to my immense surprise.

In the aftermath, guards started rushing in to maintain order. People started tending to the injured. With a view to tracking down the sorcerer responsible for summoning the demons, I made sure to obtain a sample of blood and hair from one of them. Alas, this really wasn't the time or place for such a task. As I was making sure the samples were safely tucked away, I noticed someone I knew: Batul, a kid from the same gang as me. She'd been injured, and was clearly distraught. I went over to tend to her as best as I could, and she started babbling incoherently about not meaning for this to happen.

This was certainly intriguing. I managed to calm her down and persuade her to tell me what she meant. In all honestly, the latter wasn't all that hard. She clearly had one hell of a guilty conscience. I think she wanted to confess to someone. It's just lucky I got to her first. She believed that she had summoned the demons. I was going to tell her that this was unlikely, but then she showed me something and the words died in my throat. It was a clay amulet, broken now, with a hollow containing a blood and fur from one of those apes. There were markings upon it. I knew what they meant. This device was intended to attract the creatures, drawing them like moths to a flame. Yet it could not draw them out of their own realm, which meant that someone else must have brought the demons here in the first place. Who?

It was clear that the girl was merely an instrument in this affair. She had been tasked with calling the demons to make life difficult for the dragon blooded who ground the city beneath their boot heels. (I must admit: I'm not exactly unsympathetic to this cause. This method, however, leaves much to be desired. It's far too indiscriminate.) I gathered from her babbling that she was supposed to wait until the streets were empty before using the amulet, to minimise casualties among the common folk. Apparently, it's activation at this time was an accident.

The only other useful piece of information Batul could give me was the name of the person who'd given her the amulet and told her how to use it: Hafiz. It was a name I knew well. He's the leader of the gang I run with and a person of considerable influence in the underworld society hereabouts. He's more than just a leader, though. He's been a father to me for most of my life. And now he doesn't want to so much as see me anymore. But I'm getting ahead of myself again.

I tucked the remains of the amulet away into my robes and made sure that Batul knew she should keep quiet about the whole thing. Unsurprisingly, she'd already figured that out. I just wanted to make sure. I worry about the little brat. I'd hate to think what would happen if the guards or, worse, the dragon blooded managed to get hold of her. But that won't happen. The kid's smart. She'll keep her mouth shut. I hope.

Clearly, I needed to have a little chat with Hafiz. Unfortunately, I wasn't to have the opportunity just yet. A bunch of higher status guards turned up, together with one of the dragon bloods. Young red-head, flame-touched if ever I saw one. Maybe a Cathak? Might've been good-looking if he didn't have a perpetual sneer pasted on his features. Fortunately, he didn't pay us any attention. He was too busy throwing his weight around and trying to impose some semblance of order on the place. Some of the guards did pay us attention, however. In fact, they seemed to have been looking specifically for us. Turned out that the city's overlord wanted to thank the ones who had defeated the demons. Personally. Damn.

So much for not drawing attention.