Legacy-Dreams-WantonSlaughterer

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Aapo (Book One, Chapter 2)

The four Dragon-Blooded who flank you are potent martial artists, so disciplined and focused that they have managed to master the arts that come natural only to the Celestial Exalted. Their shaven heads and tattoos mark them as disciples of the Fourfold Regalia Sect of the Unconquered Sun’s religion. Elemental traits mark all of them as Fire aspects, and their tattoos indicate that they are each a master of one of the styles favored by the Fourfold Regalia Sect: Unwavering Spear of Strength style, Glorious Horn of Victory style, Clementous Laurel of Blessedness style and Unyielding Shield of Resolution style. You know that their training will make their fiery auras burn white-gold, in honor of their dedication to the Unconquered Sun.

Around one of each of their wrists is bound a shackle of orichalcum, with a chain of the gleaming gold metal leading away from it. Those chains lead to the massive shackles around your wrists and ankles. You glance down at the hearthstone socketed in the manacles that bind your limbs – a blackness still roils within it, and a feeling of cold still spreads through your limbs.

You know it is a hearthstone to a Manse constructed in a Shadowlands, and rather than granting a flow of Essence as hearthstones of Creation do, it drains you of your Essence, as quickly as you can respire it. It seems to drain your strength, and perhaps your will as well, for you meekly follow them to the airship that sits, yawning open, waiting for you.

You are escorted into the hold, and the manacles shifted from the wrists of the monks to the strong girdings along the inside of the ship. Once, you would have welcomed the chance to try your strength against such things — the only question is whether the chains or the ship’s hull would have given first, for there would have been no doubting your strength.

Those days are past, though.

You shift slightly as the airship rises into the air. Your warrior’s balance is still perfect, despite your exhaustion, weakness and cloudy mind. You look up as the door between the hold and the rest of the ship opens, and the monks quickly rise into combat positions.

The man who stands there has long green hair, braided into a single thick braid, and his skin is like pale tree bark. He wears long bureaucrat’s robes of black and purple. His eyes are deep purple, and where others simply have black in their eyes, his is a scintillating field of stars, like the clearest of moonless nights. He nods to the monks, and they resume their positions, seated, watching you intently.

“So you are he,” the Sidereal — one of the Chosen of Saturn, the Maiden of Endings — says, looking you up and down. “The Wanton Slaughterer.”

“My name is Scarlet Morning, fool,” you taunt him. Any other time, you might have enraged him with your words alone, but the attempt now is just…weak. Unworthy. He sneers.

“I know your name,” he says, pacing the deck in front of you. “But that is what we called you before we knew you were responsible.”

You remain silent. He continues to pace, and speak.

“We named you that because of the abhorrent level of carnage you and yours left in your wake. Villages, in the middle of Principalities overwatched by the Solar Exalted – by your own kind – utterly decimated. Who could have done this? The Deliberative had no idea: perhaps it was a behemoth that hid itself well, or a particularly sinister Fair Folk given to murderous pursuits. The Deliberative even commissioned demonologists to poll the denizens of Malfeas, and see if perhaps some potent demon had gotten loose somehow.”

The young man stops to look at you closely. You can tell he’s looking for something. Remorse, perhaps?

“Do you remember the village of Fernwright? In the East?”

He watches you closely still. He wants recognition from you, you can tell.

“Do you expect me to remember every miserable patch of green I ever painted red and put to the fire?” You ask him, and a look of fury crosses his face.

“Yes!” he yells, swiftly crossing the distance between you, backhanding you so that you rock in your chains, kept up only by their tautness. In the blink of an eye, the monks are standing. He holds his hands up to them, stepping back.

“Yes, I do. The only thing that makes the horrors you committed worse is the idea that you might not remember each life you took. Each home you destroyed. Each…each corpse you allowed your filthy followers to eat.”

“Then it is worse,” you say. He looks at you with horror.

“Don’t you feel anything? I can’t…it doesn’t make sense. I know you are beyond the capacity for remorse, but surely you feel something! Gloat for me, Scarlet Morning. Tell me how much you enjoyed the feel of blood on your hands, the pleasure you took in leading the vile, flesh-eating things that used to be human in rape and murder and cannibalism.”

“I cannot give you that,” you say, coldly.

“That was my home,” the Sidereal says finally.

“I assumed as much,” you say, glancing up at him. His face is so torn by grief, you suspect that his pride is the only thing that keeps him from weeping openly. “And yet, you merely stand there, boring me with your tears and memories. Were our positions reversed, you would be hanging from these chains with your guts about your feet.”

How quickly grief can transmute to fury. With that, the Dragon-Blooded monks are in motion, placing themselves between you and he. The monk closest to the Sidereal, crouched, already in the strong stance of the Unyielding Shield of Resolution form.

“Step away,” the monk behind him warns. The other two turn to face you.

“Silence,” they say. “You were warned about attempting to instigate anything. We have authority to snatch out your tongue if you refuse.”

You simply smile, and look past them at the Sidereal.

“You are an animal,” he says, stepping away from the monks. “A filthy beast. Those people were given into your care, and what you did to them…oh, they loved you and followed you into war, but their reward was too horrible to think of. In less than ten generations, you turned a countryside of good, honest farmers and merchants into blood-thirsty, cannibalistic tribes. Did you know they attacked everyone we sent to speak with them…even Exalts? The Deliberative chose to euthanize them today, you know. Creation’s people are too civilized to try and reassimilate those horrors you bred through violence and brutality.”

You narrow your eyes. You are sure that they will flee, as you taught them. You knew this day might come, and your Arzchecki are bred for survival. They will flee to the edges of Creation. As you taught them.

“Are you aware that you corrupted the geomancy of your Manse? The place your Arzchecki call the Blood-Dimmed Sanctuary? It has become a Shadowlands, because of the things you did there. You were so vile that you slew Creation itself around you, you monster.”

The door to the hold opened, and one of the pilots stepped in. He looked away, nervously, and cleared his throat.

“Yes?” the Sidereal asked, without taking eyes off you.

“We’re approaching the Adamant Citadel,” the pilot says, and then flees the scene in the hold.

You narrow your eyes.

“Oh, yes,” the Sidereal says with a smile. “The Deliberative has elected to not murder you outright. You’re still one of the Chosen. You are to be imprisoned in the Adamant Citadel, until they decide an appropriate punishment. Death came quickly to those you savaged, Wanton Slaughterer, but it will not come so fast for you.”

He turned to leave.

“Your name,” you bark, and he turns to look at you again.

“Ofelis Marr,” he says. “Why?”

“So that I can find you and kill you when I get out of here, of course,” you say and his eyes grow wide at the temerity of the threat. One of the monks immediately lashes out, striking you in the abdomen. You cough blood.

You grit your teeth and look up at him in a snarl through the spatters of blood that stain your face.

“I leave nothing unfinished.”

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