Cerin Cerin dropped from the airship, already almost impossible to notice before he touched down on the roof. He didn't bother descending to street level, simply running over tiles and jumping streets, moving on a arc that was taking him towards the Cathedral, where there was a device which had to be stopped. Before that though, there was one particular cell which had to be stopped, before one of the cell members made a choice she would
Cerin not regret for very long. Or before she was mistaken for something she was not by someone who could kill her before she had a chance to explain. The group had been directed to attack one of the schools in Solaria, although since learning of this, the students had been transferred home, and troops had been moved in. Even with his vision, Cerin could hear the combat before he saw it, and he started to run a little faster...
Indeed, as Cerin stepped towards the school, it began to appear in his vision: the soldiers arrayed around the school, the group of Broken Suns attacking on theforefront -- each holding swords or knives, their arms and necks bound with unusual, black metal bracers --
and on the outskirts, the second wave of Suns, ready to "assist" when needed... one of them, of course, quite familiar to Cerin...
The bracelets seem to connect directly into the souls of those who wear them, creating a hazy Essence shield that seems to surround them, as well as including a connection that seems primed to anchor those souls to the mortal world when the target is slain and strengthen them through Essence gathered by incinerating the fallen mortal body.
Cerin I'll just have to avoid killing them then. To have to kill them twice would be annoying At 300 yards, he strung the first mote on his bow, a diffuse glimmer of light that would render them unconcious but not kill them. And he let it fly. Then another. And another. And another. And another. And another, until there was a storm of sunlit motes rising up into the air from his bow, tipping over, and then plunging down on each
Cerin and every one of the Broken Suns. There was no warning. Just a flash of sunlight in the clear sky and then silence.
The brilliant sunlight rains down upon the scene, and afterwards, there is no longer a battle: only a confused mass of soldiers.
Cerin A few seconds later, Cerin is in front of Telani in her concealed guard position. "Telani, you have done well," he says, watching her reaction.
Telani is surprised at Cerin's arrival, of course, and clearly on edge. "Yeah," she says, looking at him and then down at the floor. "Yeah."
Cerin winced inwardly. "You can go back to the Cascade now," he says, his voice soft as he deposits a small bundle on the floor. Less cult like clothing, something to identify her to the defenders, a black card with two words written on it and a braclet. "You've done all that you needed to do and you have made a difference today. Go home, rest." and when I am sure about Lucent, I will ask him to see you
Telani nods hesitantly, then gathers her items and departs, her head hung low.
Cerin wishes he could do more for her, but rousing speeches and healing hands were not within his areas of expertise. And so for the moment, he puts her out of his mind. And sets off to the Catherdral once more, after snapping off a telepathic order to restrain the unconcious cultists.
Telani The Glorious Evening Sun Citadel rises up, a glorious building, five stories tall and decorated on its exterior in obsidian and gold: the traditional materials of the Unconquered Sun.
Telani The exterior rises up, its overall shape that of a rounded rectangle, but each floor narrowly inset from the one below to create the slightest hint of pyramidalism, and each dedicated to a distinct caste of Solars; atop it, a great, swivelling set of lenses and mirrors, carefully arrayed to capture the precise light of the sun, wherever it might shine from,
Telani and cast it upon the perfectly circular courtyard of brilliantly-polished white jade laid out before the building -- though now, of course, it displays only three-quarters full, as the shadow creeps across the face of the sun....
Telani The building is a popular center of worship within the Sunlands, and so of course it is quite thoroughly occupied today: numerous citizens walk in through its vast, abstractly patterned double-doors and file up through the five-fold staircases that swoop up from the foyer, while priests and other holy officiants proceed into the depths.
Cerin Cerin runs straight past the two cultists stationed outside to run interference, not noticed by either of them. A light hop takes him over the heads of worshippers entering through the large doors, running amongst them unseen, body flickering as he dodges idle hands and swinging bags. Another small leap places him on the banister curling downwards into the depths, although he's moving far too quickly to take the time to slide on
Cerin it. And then he's down there, looking through the thin interior walls and the haze of essence in the manse for the Sphere. His job would be a lot simpler if they hadn't activated it yet.
Telani Unfortunately for Cerin, his job today seems as if it will be anything but simple.
Telani In the sanctified chamber at the heart of the temple's lower floors, where a crystalline replica of the sun is traditionally kept, with motes of true sunlight preserved within that the priests might bathe within it even as they prepare in seclusion for their services, Cerin sees what has happened:
Telani Those preparing for evening services -- ten Faith priests, plus several attendants -- lie dead upon the floor of the chamber, their throats slit; the crystal sun has been cast down, shattered on the ground, and in its place raised up a golden sphere, trimmed in geometric patterns with black, white, and green jade;
Telani eight cultists within wear the same bracer and neckpiece combinations that Cerin saw earlier at the school, but in this case, four of them have chains running from these into slots on the spherical device, through which strong Essence flows make their way.
Telani At the moment, each of the connected cultists is forcefully suffused with a great deal of Essence: quite a bit more than many younger Exalts would command at any given moment.
Cerin marvelous Cerin thought, as he ran forward silently. He formulated his plan instantly, studying the essence patterns of the four linked to the sphere intently as he did, preparing the essence of his wrists and ankles accept similar patterns ...
Cerin The first the cultists knew of his approach was the door shattering inwards, torn apart by the passage of the razor edged and hungry motes. The four cultists not chained to the bomb died in that instant, and then Cerin was within the room, wrapped in a distortion of essence and turning to face the first of the remaining cultists.
The four chained to the device seem distant, lost in the intensity of their inhuman Essence suffusion, but they still turn, slowly and thickly, towards the source of the disturbance.
Cerin's arrows strike true on those who stand free on the outskirts of the room, of course, but the shielding provided by their heavy soulsteel shackles causes a single, brilliant flash of shattering Essence and breaking steel as his strikes fail to penetrate the souls themselves... and almost instantly, both hun and po of the slain attackers spiral upwards from their freshly-fallen corpses.
Those who are chained to the device continue to look to see if they can see what caused it, but being unable to move and having no noticeably improved senses, they can only look blankly around, unable to see the still fully imperceptible Cerin.
Cerin sighed inwardly, and then begins to methodically shoot out the assembled ghosts in the room, the only sound the clatter of the bracers as they fell to the ground. This really was going to make things interesting.
Cerin The first one will be the easiest Cerin thought, as he crept so very close to the first of the chained cultists, and shot him through the neck, drawing his knife almost as soon as he did and slicing through the now dead flesh and freeing the bracer, before closing the chain once more, around the attuned leg. He watched as the ghosts sprung into being beside him.
Cerin feels the charge of Essence grab on to his Essence as he locks himself into the circuit of the device, feels the loosed Essence throb into him and the signal-gathering Essence flow back into the device, even as behind him, two ghosts rise up -- each charged up with the Essence pumped into the now-dead body by the golden sphere, and overflowing with immense potential and strength...
Cerin very carefully and quietly knocks another arrow on his bow, and shoots the hungry ghost of the cultist he just shot. Three times. At point blank range. With burning shards of essence.
Joi Cerin's bolts penetrate the ghost's ectoplasmic shell (though with less effortless ease than those of the unadjusted ghosts he slew just moments earlier.) As the hungry ghost falls in upon itself, devoured by Cerin's hungry light, the po ghost charges towards Cerin... and all the while, the Essence of the device in the room's center (and the other cultists connected to it) slowly grows stronger....
Cerin is simply not where blows of po land, his form flickering and twisting despite the binding he now has, easily twisting aside from the raging ghost.
Joi Cerin feels it as the Essence within the sphere continues to grow, and as the ghost of his first victim strikes ineffectually at him. Just three more bracelets to go...
Cerin Disdaining the ghost for the moment, on noting how ineffectually it is swinging at him, Cerin decides that he can ill-afford to just sit around and kill these people once at a time. So instead he moves with unparalleled elegance, drawing shots and loosing them without thinking, every bit of him in motion always, every action dedicated to removing the cultists crowding to the bomb, every shot a perfect one. He caught each cultist as they
Cerin fell, the impossibly cutting knife severing limbs easily, freeing braclets which were clamped around limbs.
Cerin Three cultists. Three chains. Three seconds.
Joi The cultists fall to the ground, utterly dead, and as before, their ghosts well up -- these ones yet stronger from the rapidly-advancing Essence infusion their hosts received -- from where their corpses lay.
Joi However, this time, they enact a division of labor: the three hungry ghosts move almost immediately to overwhelm Cerin and break his connection to the device, while the regular ghosts take a different tack: charging towards the wall and out of the room entirely.
Cerin Chained to the largest essence bomb I have ever seen, surrounded by hungry ghosts. Cerin reflected briefly. So far, so good.
Spring ::Excuse me, Cerin. I was wondering if I could borrow something from your study.::
Cerin Before chains had even settled from being clamped around his limbs, Cerin was drawing back more motes across his bow to shoot at the four ghosts that were gathering themselves to flee from the room. It's because of this that there is a slight pause in his reply to Spring. He shoots all four of them in the back in rapid succession. ::Yes, take it please.:: he snaps off the reply. ::I'm a little busy at present.::
Spring saves time by sending back only the distinct impression that he has already done so.
The fleeing ghosts collapse under the hail of Cerin's arrows, even as the hungry ghosts, beefed up on the powerful Essence of the rapidly charging device, turn to bludgeon Cerin with their vast, ectoplasmic bulk -- at about the same moment that Cerin realizes that a surprise is coming.
Cerin Trying to hit Cerin at this moment in time is slightly less effacious than attempting to hit the air itself, his form is entirely fluid and wrapped up in distortions of space so complex that it is hard even to see where Cerin ends and the rest of Creation begins.
Cerin The ghosts dispatched and the hungry ghosts a mere annoyance which requires his body to be in constant, if not requiring of concious thought, motion, Cerin turns his attention to the essence structures of the bomb, trying to trace them all back to the few points where the device might be rendered safe.
Cerin studies the device carefully, tracking the complex and elaborate Essence flows that burrow through its vast and intricately wired structure.
Throughout it, he sees the many distinct and elaborate subdevices that are in operation: the central Essence generator, started by the introduction of a seed crystal during the construction process; the externalizing processors, which spin excess motes outward towards the bracelets;
the various jade cubes within that repeatedly reflavor the Essence gathered back from those connected and then stores it in an immersion state between two distinct colors of the magical stone; what appear to be a variety of carefully sculpted orichalcum funnels, designed to broadcast the stored Essence outward with immense force once it reaches a specific density....
At the end of Cerin's analysis, the surprise in question comes to fruition: portions of the device unfold to reveal the funnels, while red lights and blaring alarms sound from within to announce its imminent detonation.
Cerin Perfect, Cerin thinks, as the funnels slide back. His first action is to lock his essence channels, denying the device any further motes with which to finish the last of its proper detonation. Of course, this also acts as a trigger for the delayed and secondary detionation that would have gone off hand he not taken the time to chain himself to the bomb, leaving him with instants in which to act. He doesn't squander any of them. First,
Cerin his knife lashes out, scoring a line over the surface of the artifact. Into this, he forces motes, setting up a temporary eddy, granting him a scant handful of moments more. The claws of the ghost rake right through his form, touching none of it and so he doesn't even notice as he flips aside. Then came the flowers, large and red, Abutilon, for peace, each one charged with essence and placed over the funnels, channelling the tranquillity
Cerin inwards, as the Essence aligned all to one Orientation, loosing its destructive potential. Almost all of it. What was left coursed up the chains towards Cerin, melting them to slag as it went, threatening to sear his soul...
Cerin's fingers are nimble and precise as he moves to disarm the powerful device, carefully channelling things in order to push the Essence in exactly the direction he desires.
As the hungry ghosts see exactly what is happening (and their inability to devour Cerin) they turn away to follow the example of their upper fellows, and move to flee out through the walls of the chamber, as a powerful jolt of focused Essence fires up all four chains and into Cerin's waiting body...
Cerin The essence grounds itself out through his soul, a torrent of energy that would be sure to tear appart almost any construct of essence, leaving him greviously wounded. If, of course, he was willing to accept the consequnces of his actions. And in this case he was not. And so, with a careful application of essence, he enacted the Kata of the Unapproachable Self and ignored them.
Cerin And then he set out to hunt down the ghosts which had fled.
Cerin tears upwards through the stairs and hallways, just in time to see the stampede of chaos unleashed amongst the tightly-packed temple as three powerful hungry ghosts pop up from the floor and move out towards the gathered parishioners.
Cerin The parishioners don't see Cerin, wrapped in essence as he is. The parishioners don't see the arrows, flashing through the air faster than they can see. The parishioners don't see the ghosts get hit, the flash over in an instant. All they can see is the ghosts as they burn from the inside with the power of the sun.
Cerin Cerin is already moving onwards to the next place he has to be.