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Anstice: It is truly surprising how effective boring your guards to sleep can be with long recitations of how innocent you are. In this case, it covered up the chanting and faint ruddy glow of the impartation of elemental essence to one of the few things in his prison room/priest's cell, the bowl.

Anstice: A few minutes after he's caught his breath, he tosses the thinly shredded strips of cloth into it and covers his face as the magic begins to work, billows of smoke rising out and beginning to fill the room. He pounds on the door, calling out about a fire and then steps away, pressing himself into the corner and preparing his charms.

  • Burly Priest leads in a detachment of guards, throwing open the door. Much coughing ensues from both the priest and the guards, and the priest throws up his hands, shouting. "Collect the prisoner and remove him!"
  • Anstice wraps himself in the cloak of shielding essence, and then procedes to borrow the priest's dodging and athletics abilities, tapping one of the guards on the shoulder and then diving past the priest to lead the two together.
  • Burly Priest turns, stumbling, and falls into three of the guards, knocking them down, only adding to the confusion.

With the physical prowess of a man three times his size, Anstice ducks through the smoke-blinded and Essence-bound priests and into the hallway. A husky acolyte rushes right past him, hardly noticing the Exalt as he single-mindedly focuses on the fire and the bellowing men in the prisoner's suite.

  • Anstice puts his shoulder to the door as he closes it, slamming it shut and yanking the keys free before a short dash down the hallway, where he pauses to try to remember the meanings behind most of Ahlat's architecture. He makes a quick decision and heads left.

Not having familiarized himself with this particular temple before being captured by Ahlat himself, Anstice isn't exactly sure which way to go. But as he moves through the torch-lit hallways he smells male sweat and hears the sounds of bare feet on stone and the animal noises of men struggling to push the edge of their physical limits. Flickering shadows ahead play out a wrestling match in an expansive gymnasium, open to the sky above.

  • Anstice approves of that, and slides around the corner, pressing himself to the wall to check the height of the place and guess what sort of running start he needs to leap out.

The open ceiling is set high. It would take a great deal of talent indeed to simply leap into the sky. But Ahlat's vanity may prove a vital asset; massive sculptures of the Bull God reach almost to the open ceiling so that the sun illuminates them and casts the best light upon them at all times. Where the shadows of the 25 statues meet, two of the youngest priests Anstice has yet seen wrestle with each other in the form that offers most veneration to their deity.

  • Ahlat Priest lifts his hands up after one of the priests slams the other down with a dust raising thump into the dirt circle. "Bunkin, you have all the strength and endurance of a bull and still you remain undefeated. Praise to Ahlat for such a gift to your strong limbs." This is met by a chorus of Praise Ahlat from many of the spectators and some cheering by the onlookers. "Who else will step up and
  • Ahlat Priest try to match you in wrestling?"

Ahlat Priest: Stranding in a clear position of some authority is a middle aged man, wearing only a loincloth himself and with the sweat of a man who has been active at work in this gymnasium. His hair is growing a little grey though, but the amulets around his neck and the respect others show him must mean he still is a great man in their eyes.

  • Anstice is not exactly untalented in the arts of natural stealth, and puts that to good use just in case this priest is more than he seems. The thick corded muscles on the statues of Ahlat provide more than passable handholds, and the climb is begin, working in the corner of the wall and the statue as best he can.

Ahlat Priest: Another youth quickly moves up and out of the small crowd to engage the other boy in wrestling. The older priest talks quietly to them, again ensuring they know the rules and asking Ahlat to watch over this battle, as these two men fight for his glory. Not long after the two are at each other, grunting and shifting for position in the dirt circle.

Ahlat Priest: Suddenly the priest lifts a hand sharply and the gymnasium falls quiet and all turn to look where he looks, watching this stranger climb a statue in the sudden deafening silence.

  • Anstice waves a bit. "Pop test, gentlemen. Are you true scions of Ahlat, or girlymen? Catch me and see." He tosses the keys up to hang on the tip of the closest horn of the statue, redoubling his efforts.

Ahlat Priest: "I suggest more respect from you and a fast and quick explanation or everyone here will be getting to test their Javelin skills very soon." There is no humor in the priests voice as he watches you climb.

Anstice: "You don't believe me? Unfortunate. I happen to be surveying this place for geomantic purposes, as a student of thaumaturgy in these lands. I do admit I should have been more respectful, considering I'm not sure if I was awarded permission yet..." He pauses, and hangs his head. "Oh, well. Easier to ask forgiveness than get permission, right?"

Ahlat Priest: "Its easier to ask. Though harder to get. Now get down from there immediately. What is your name? Who is your teacher?"

  • Anstice checks how far he is from the top of the statue.

Currently Anstice is clinging to the statue's buttocks, halfway from freedom. There are a number of javelins, shot-put balls and other bits of athletic equipment in the gymnasium that could easily do great bodily harm to a single unarmed man clinging to a statue.

Anstice: "Might I get your name before I drop all that way?"

Anstice: "It seems only fitting that I give my explanation in less of an embarrassing manner."

Ahlat Priest: "I am Broken Stone boy, and you are wearing my patience thin."

Anstice: "Well, Broken Stone Boy, I'm going to keep climbing and think up an explanation. You'll get it when I'm done, and you can deliver it to my teacher, Arianna."

Ahlat Priest: For a moment, which no doubt Anstice will use for every second its worth the crowd is somewhat confused looking. Then it dawns on them, someone is trying to scale the face of the statue of their god and with a great shout they grab for their weapons to kill the sinner, for only blood can wash away this insult.

  • Anstice takes a deep breath in and holds it, then exhales, snaking himself back farther behind the statue and scrambling up. He dislodges a thick cloud of dust from the wall behind him as his knuckles and heels smash into it, a short curse as he bloodies one of them.

With a clatter and a few thunks the javelins hurled by the priests below stab into the wall and statue. None hit Anstice himself, though one comes very near his leg. Two are firmly fixed in the stone, providing further steps up towards the roof.

Ahlat Priest: The priest, Broken Stone, looks furious and he grabs a great medicine ball and starts to spin. Muscles snap out like corded steel as he whirls, is this what Anstice feared? That he was something more then he seemed?! Yes, he is! he is smart and the ball is flung, smashing into a great gong which echoes through the temple, a signal to the other priests and guards that there is an intruder!

Anstice: "Thank you, sirs! I'll be sure to call a blessing upon your houses when I learn how." He plants a foot on the nearest of the javelins and tests how firmly it's stuck. Suddenly, he springs from it to the next, the javelin shattering from the deep flex it's subjected to and rained splinters down the statue. Another leap, and another great crack, and Anstice is sailing up into the sky, silhouetted against the clouds as he hangs onto the broken javelin.

Goooooooooong

  • Anstice lands with a dull thud, rolling and swiping the javelin at empty air. He frowns, and waits another moment for the great weighted ball to arc up, then shrugs. A deep breath, and another, and he dashes across the roof, looking down and out across the grounds to look for the easiest place to lose his pursuers.
  • Anstan folds his arms across his chest, green-grey eyes glowering at the smaller copy of him. In Anstice's voice the Highest Priest of Ahlat speaks. "I knew you would not stay where you were told and I hurried back from Chiaroscuro."
  • Anstice skids to a halt. "You should also know why I couldn't sit in the cell while events spun on out of control without me, and thusly step aside."

Anstan: "Events are under complete control, Anstice. This is not your business."

Anstice: "You're mostly me. How is something involving you NOT my business, hrm?"

  • Anstan flicks his eyes, your eyes, up and down your body and studies your face closely. "I am not you. I was fathered by Ahlat himself and you...clearly were not."
  • Anstice laughs. "You sound just like me. Your eyes are the same as mine. Outside of the missing tattoos, you are what I'd be if I devoted years to strength training. Though probably not as effective in a fight."

Anstan: "There are people that look far more similar then we. No matter your appearance, you are troublesome to Ahlat and I have been sent to deal with you. You will not disrupt my marriage."

Anstice: "Who says I want to do that? I want to disrupt your engagement."

Anstice: "I don't trust Ahlat, considering that this was set in motion while I was unable to respond. Mendhari has been with me these last few months, and until I know WHY Ahlat is pulling strings to marry her off, I'm going to keep fucking with you. Oh, and probably her, too."

  • Anstan flushes red and steps forward, arms unfolding and muscles bunching as he controls himself and reins in his Ahlat-given instinct to beat you bloody. "You are mistaken. Ahlat and I will not permit you to interfere in his plans."

Anstan: "Mendhari will marry me and once she becomes accustomed to it, she will enjoy our marriage far more then any pale shadow of me she may have tasted in the past."

Anstice: "So now you're admitting that you're me? Maybe I should insult you some more, it seems to bring my natural wit out from under the suffocating folds of muscle."

Anstice: "What's in this marriage for you, anyway, beyond a rather stunning woman with a host of personal problems you're ill-equipped to deal with? I'd like to see you rawrgh-smash a Deathlord."

Anstan: "I will become the Tri'Kahn and Ahlat will achieve his goals through me. What those entail is none of your business."

Anstice: "They're damn well my business, you utter MORON. They became my business the minute Ahlat decided he wasn't going to give any warning whatsoever to the woman he wants married off. They became my business when he whacked me over the head, when he sent the goon squad to prevent me doing my celestially appointed duty."

Anstan: "Ahlat has heard that your celestial duty has been suspended." the muscular priest sneers at Anstice, for the first time looking very different indeed.

  • Anstice waves the javelin at him dismissively. "Tell you what. When Jupiter comes down here, takes my Exaltation, and tells me to stop fighting the Yozis and Deathlords, I'll assume my duty is over."

Anstice: "I suppose you'll be kissing Ahlat's ass a long time before you get to see that happen though."

  • Anstan moves in a sudden blur of speed, stepping forward and slamming a meaty fist into the smaller man's stomach.
  • Anstice burns a minute amount of essence to jam the javelin into the top of his counterpart's forearm, letting the grazing blow propel him up and over the thickened body and farther down onto the roof, sliding a bit before he catches his footing and runs on.

Anstan: The High Priest snarls and races after the slighter version of himself, easily catching Anstice and barreling at him hoping to drive the smaller man to the rooftop and pin him.

  • Anstice brings that javelin around and swings away one of Anstan's arms, ducking down and under as Anstan goes barreling over him, watching intently as he feels at the reaction with destiny-clouded eyes, assessing the options Anstan is thinking about to gauge his skill.
  • Anstan spins on one foot, turning even as he flies over Anstice. Faster then simple muscle or skill can possibly account for, a hail of blows is launched at Anstice. Each one likely enough to knock the smaller Sidereal into blackness.
  • Anstice taps away at each with that same length of wood, flicking the blows barely away from him and beginning to glow a bit. He bobs and weaves in anticipation of the strikes, seemingly ready even before Anstan throws them. He shakes the javelin once as a cloud of splinters falls away, stopping himself from hurling them into Anstanís eyes. He stands, pointing the weapon at his clone. "Alright,
  • Anstice it's obvious neither of us is going to yield. Can we at least hold a fair fight between us? If I lose, I'll yield on behalf of Mendhari."
  • Anstan laughs. "This is a fair fight."

Anstice: "Oh, please. With a wedding on the way, do you really want me eye-gouging, groin-kicking, and biting your ear off?"

Anstice: "Certain terms, a way other than complete unconsciousness to settle things."

Anstan: "What terms? I will beat you regardless."

Anstice: "I already lose at first blood." He sucks on his knuckle. "Pinfall, thrown off the roof, or submission, in a variant on the rules I saw back there. I'm keeping the stick, though, and I assume you're keeping that distractingly bloated body of yours."

  • Anstan shrugs. "If you wish. Your magic will not help you defeat me."

Anstice: "As if you're not using any of your own."

  • Anstan smiles and closes once more, fists flying out to smash Anstice's mouth shut on his rebuttal.
  • Anstice gives way on the strikes in a slow theatrical shift of his body, almost like a matador. He uses the jagged end of the javelin which isn't currently occupied saving his pretty face from being turned into mush to strike back at Anstan, spearing out and tearing jagged red lines along his arms and chest. The blood matches the glow dripping from the clean end of the improvised spear as essence is pushed through it and splattering on the roof in arcane patterns.
  • Anstice staggers very slowly at the last strike, taking a knee and resting on his spear. He would waver if his body would let him, but alas, he instead just kind of glares woozily.

Anstan: Despite taking two light scores across the chest as Anstice takes advantage of slight defensive openings provided by the hail of attacks, the High Priest delivers a devastating blow. Four attacks are deflected, but the fifth lands solidly against Anstice's chest and the shock sends him to his knees.

Anstan: "I believe that concludes our duel, Anstice."

Anstice: "Bastard. New and improved me... Can I at least know what to call you when I send Mendhari the message where she's hiding to avoid you?"

Anstan: "You've been told my name."

Anstice: "I was? I'd have sworn it was mine with accent..."

  • Anstice seems confused.

Anstan: Grey-green eyes narrow and his, your, voice tightens. "Do you insist I pin you properly, or will you abide by the agreement you made without the need for the embarrassment?"

Anstice: "Oh, I will abide by the agreement, Anstan. I yield this fight on behalf of Mendhari. But, as Ahlat knows, she's missing. She's very good at hiding, and she left because of this very reason, Anstan. If you want her to accept you, you'll have to handle her yourself, and prove that you're worth her breaking her word to me. That's not going to happen without honoring Mendhari's wishes, Anstan.

Anstice: But if you're willing to let me actually handle that, and bring her to you, I give my word of honor that you'll be meeting her within the season."

Anstan: "I will let you leave here and go where you will if you agree to return within that same season and engage in a contest. When you loose, you must give up your claim to Mendhari."

Anstice: "Agreed. Who chooses the contest?"

Anstan: "A neutral party we will both agree on."

Anstice: "Mmmm... I am cynical. I think the agreeing on a neutral party will be more difficult than the contest. But yes, I can agree to that. Might I stipulate it be a public contest? To satisfy the tri-kahna, and the future tri-kahna."

  • Anstan nods. "Very well. A public contest for the hand of Princess Mendhari. Will Grandmother Bright be neutral enough for you?"

Anstice: "I'd prefer to talk to her. Ahlat is a big name in the South, after all."

  • Anstan shrugs his broad shoulders. "If you wish. Remember to return within the season. Otherwise I will come and find you."

Anstice: "Mhrm. It'll be late in the season, admittedly. I have to speak with my companions, see how their fight progresses.

Anstice: "Mind letting your paralysis go?"

Anstan: "Your body will recover in a few minutes." Without further attention to the smaller man, the newest High Priest of Ahlat drops down the skylight and into the Gymnasium to inform the other priests of the rooftop battle and its results.


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