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Crimson Slate (Prelude, Chapter 3)

You ride up to the temple-Manse. The lion dogs at the archway which marks it as holy territory bow low to you as you dismount.

“Are you certain this is wise, master?” Fidelis asks. You glance at your mount, and in his gemstone eyes, you can see concern. You lay a hand on the neck of great clockwork steed, a creature of brass and orichalcum. Below his throat burns the jewel that imprisons an elemental, the fire of which flickers through the great magitech body of your loyal steed and companion, manifesting as great fiery gouts where other steeds have mane and tail. You pat him fondly.

“Perhaps not,” you say. “But what other choice do I have?”

Turning on your heel, you walk toward the gate, shining your caste mark. None may deny you entry now, for it shows that you are an Emissary of Heaven, and your business here is the Unconquered Sun’s own. The lion dogs regard you warily — your buff jacket is lined with traceries of starmetal, and the starmetal choker with the filigreed decoration that hangs down on your back is revealed as far more in their sight. They bow low.

You walk past them, and meet an obsequious air elemental along the way — a thunderbird in his human form, from the look of him.

“Hail, Prince of the Earth. This one is humbled and honored to stand in the light of your radiance.”

“I am Auspicious Mystery. I am here on behalf of the Ministry of the Adjudication of Numinous Terrestrial Deities and Elementals,” you say, flashing the small Essence-jewel embedded in the starmetal hearthstone bracers you wear. His face reveals his sudden terror as he glances down, reading the prayers embedded in the small chip of Essence at your wrist, which reveals your name and Deliberative title.

He stutters for a moment, rushing to keep up with your step, trying desperately to retain his composure in the face of such a serious inquiry by such an important individual. Along the way, you pass a few tiny local gods, all of whom are drawn to your light like moths to a flame. Such an important personage must certainly be newsworthy, and their curiosity pulls them along in your wake.

“Is…is everything alright?” the little elemental finally manages, and you stop and fix him with a stare, making sure that your caste mark is shining directly in his face.

“No,” you say plainly after a moment of just standing there staring at him. “No it isn’t. Assemble this court immediately.”

You wait for a short period of time, while the lesser functionaries of this court scramble to gather its little gods and elementals. In short order, they are gathered.

“Minister,” says the ancient god of the hills that serves as the lord of this court. “We have gathered as you have directed. How can we be of service.”

You glance around and nod. A little over a dozen gods here, then, and nearly as many elementals as well. You make an arcane gesture, and your Essence sparks. Lines of holy white fire create a warding circle around the chamber you are in: a warding circle against spirits that prevents all but the most potent of spirits from entering or leaving.

“Minister?” the god of the hills asks again, somewhat nervously.

“Thank you all for coming,” you say, fiddling with the choker at your neck. The entities in the room look nervously from one to the other as you do so. All eyes are on the small starmetal decoration that hangs down from it to the middle of your back. “My time here is limited, so I fear that there can’t be a great deal of ceremony to what I’m about to do here today.”

“Of course,” the king of the court nods. “We know your time is precious, Minister. Pray tell us what we can do to aid you, and it shall be done.”

“That’s simple,” you say, smiling. You unclasp the choker and the decoration begins to fall. Your buff jacket whirls dramatically as you spin to catch it midair. As you complete the spin, the rest of the weapon — the sleek adamant blades that meet at the filigreed starmetal design to form a massive skycutter — cease being immaterial, and solidify into a thing of terrible beauty.

You complete your spin and release the skycutter. Its adamant blades break into a thousand-thousand whirling shards of terrible, cutting diamond-glass. Your anima burns brightly, and approximately a fifth of the gods and elementals in this room die horribly, their divine Essence scattered. You whirl the chain on which the starmetal device hangs, regathering the shards into the adamant blades of Rapture of Adamant Tears and inhale deeply, consuming the Essence of the gods you just murdered.

“You can die.”

The god of the court screams a battle cry and charges you with his white jade daiklaive, attempting futilely to defend his charges, and you cut him down and consume his Essence as well. Your movements become swift and harsh, utterly punishing as you lash out with Rapture of Adamant Tears again and again.

“Die! Filth! Primordial-spawn! Disgusting horrors! Die!”

In short work, a dozen gods and a dozen elementals are destroyed, their Essence bled to feed you so that they cannot ever reform again. You sit in the middle of the courtroom floor and bask in your deeds here.

Terrible, yes, but so, so necessary.

You are still sitting there when the Celestial Lions and Sagacious Eagle find you, tearing through the little wards that kept your victims from escaping. Sagacious Eagle stops and surveys the scene. To those capable of seeing nuances of spirit and Essence, it is utterest vile carnage.

He clearly has those eyes, if the look of horror on his face is any indication. The Celestial Lions with him growl and circle you warily as you stand.

“What have you done, Auspicious Mystery?”

“What I needed to. None of you seem to understand. These filth are responsible for all that is wrong in Creation.” You narrow your eyes and gather the chain of Rapture of Adamant Tears.

“Stop, Minister,” Sagacious Eagle warns, summoning the paired daiklaives he wields from Elsewhere. “Don’t make me use force. You are bound by the Deliberative’s authority to come peacefully, to answer for your crimes before the Deliberative.”

“No fear, Eagle,” you say smiling. “I don’t fight my kind.”

With a sudden movement, Rapture of Adamant Tears is in motion, shattering into a thousand shards — which whirl for the two lionlike gods of justice that accompany Sagacious Eagle. They are caught flatfooted.

In a sudden flash of burning violet and gold Essence, like the first rays of the rising sun, though, Sagacious Eagle’s daiklaives leave his hands and in a burst of Essence deflects all harm from the celestial lions.

Before you can even truly follow, he has crossed the distance between you and slammed his fists into you four, five, six times. You cough blood, and fall. Dimly, you are aware of his last words to you.

“Sadly, I must,” he says, before dragging away the first recorded serial killer of gods in the history of Creation.

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