Chapter 0 - Embryo
- Devon - Martial artist. Trained with the Immaculate Monks, often as a practice target since he was so resilient. Grew disaffected by the Immaculate Philosophy and joined an offspring sect named Imperfection of Form. The Imperfects follow much of the same philosophies, and are tolerated by the Immaculates, with their primary difference being that the Immaculate monks demand perfection of spirit while the Imperfects realize that humanity can never achieve that lofty goal and only demand that they try.
- Tonic - Guild middle-manager and skilled flame piece wielder. On his days off he often "volunteers" for extra duty as a governmental liaison to Prism Flame. The duties have taught him a lot about the way governments work, and shown him how different large social groups can be manipulated, but only if one understands their underlying goals and mores.
- Sejjeto - Adopted son of a self-admitted (albeit not public) abyssal, Sejjeto was prrophecied to have a great destiny at an early age but his impoverished parents couldn't wait for it to arrive and sold him into servitude. But instead of a life of menial labor he found a teacher who expected him to exalt as part of his destiny, and instilled in the young man an appreciation for weapons, armor, and his station as a nobleman.
- Raistlin Majere - A sickly thaumaturge constantly being compared to his handsome, likable, and strong brother. Raistlin has severe "why can't you be more like your brother" issues and seeks power wherever he can find it. Currently only skilled in the arts of enchantment, he seeks magical knowledge and knows that he will one day be greater than everyone else.
- Hain - In and out of gangs and prisons since an early age, Hain has found his way to Cloaka as a street level thief. His boss, Quiescent Maelstrom, has had him stealing obol and shekel goods for a while, feeling out his skills. But the Lintha captain has liked what he's seen and promised big things, and doors opening that can give Hain the life of freedom he craves.
Working for the (Wo)manSejjeto's duty to the Imperial Seat is made clear when Governor Prism Flame calls the man into her greeting chamber. There he is introduced to several men of lesser social stature, which he quickly files away as underlings and ignores. Meanwhile Devon and Tonic introduce themselves. Raistlin focuses all of his attention on the governess's problem.
It seems that several strange items have been stolen over the last few weeks. Nobody really cared though, as they weren';t dangerous items and hadn't been stolen from influential families (certainly none of them belonged to and Dynasts of the Realm). They were:
- A glass ball that glows with the light of a torch and remains where it is left despite environmenental factors such as wind or gravity. It was stolen from a butcher's shop where it did duty as the light source for the kill room.
- A tattered old copy of The Thousand Correct Actions of the Upright Soldier. It was reported stolen from the barracks, but the Kazei in charge of the local wing thinks that it might have been intentionally lost so the Chuzei running that scale could requisition a new copy.
- A Death Clock, so named because its craftsmanship requires such rigor that the mortals who work on it die early, having given their souls to the work (and touched too much of the mercury). It is one that has been sitting in the front room of the city's only clockmaker since time immemorial.
- A Horse-Shaped Tricycle. They are fairly common children's toys here in the home of the Firemanes. The one that went missing was taken from a farmer's home.
Soon to be a Made ManAs far back as Hain can remember he never had a family. He was born and grew up in the slums of Chiaroscuro, where no one could be trusted. Most of his youth was spent as a pick-pocket and look-out for a local knife gang. He appears to have an amazing knack for a life of crime. It wasn't long before he was skilled in the use of a blade and joining the gang in robberies and bloody knife-fights. That period of his adolescence is when he began the next mind-numbing twenty years of his life that consisted almost solely of catch and escape by a multitude of sources: local law, slavers, cultists, bounty hunters... you name it. Despite any level of security, Hain has always found his way out of imprisonment. He's never been incarcerated for more than a few years at a time without making a successful escape. The past two decades have twisted him into an exceedingly hard, sly, and skilled man of pure focus and will.
Quiescent Maelstrom, Hain's Lintha contact, calls the thief into the back room of Happy Songs. The oiran (actress/prostitutes) who worked there were clean enough, and both the guild and government got paid on time, so it was a fitting place for the demo-blooded criminal's office. There the man offers Hain his crimson sash, the symbol of office for a Little Brother. With the enhanced status would come more power, and with that power both freedom and responsibility. Hain would be able to set his own jobs without worrying about stepping on any toes, as long as he paid attention to the "off-limits" list of people up to date on their protection. And all he had to do was steal some glass throwing knives from some dragon-blodded noblewoman's house? No problem.
InvestigationAs soon as he's heard the tales, Raistlin heads downtown to the death clock's maker. On the way there he sees a figure shrouded in shadows creeping around the outside of a nice house. As he walks past the figure picks up some rocks from the ground, uses them to distract the front door guard, and slips into the home. It doesn't appear to be related to his mission though, so he memorizes the man's features and picks up one of the rocks before continuing on his way. When he gets to the shop he looks around intently but his clothes and demeanor make it clear to the shopkeep that he's unlikely to be buying anything, so the man mostly ignores him.
Sejjeto takes his leave of the governess, not even realizing that Raistlin has already left. Assuming that his new underlings will follow, he goes outside and pulls his heavily-armored form up onto his horse. Riding out to the home and business of Resilient Starfire, he sees right away why this stable won the Mercury Bridle last year. Perfectly maintained grounds give free range for magnificent red-maned steeds while attentive trainers alternatively walk, run, and gallop their steeds. In the distance an exact replica of the Cloaka Track acts as a mirror so that there are no surprises when the horses compete in the real deal. Recognized as having bought his horse there the year before, the lordling is given a friendly welcome. He speaks to the gatesman and Resilient Starfire herself, but they can tell him nothing other than the facts that nobody saw anything, the doors were all still locked in the morning, and a massive search had made sure that it wasn't just a joke or foolish theft by a servant. He sees a strange spill, but assumes it's some sort of cleaner and shakes his head sadly at the nature of servants these days.
A bit more amiable-natured, Devon and Tonic join forces and head towards the butcher's shop to act as a team. There they speak to the man in charge and learn much the same thing that Sejjeto did: the doors were still locked and nobody heard or saw anything. Tonic's clear memory tells him that the butcher is up to date with his guild dues, so it's not a punitive measure. Devon learns that the butcher found a few cleaning agent spills and told his son to clean them up, and Tonic's keen eye spots a strange pool outside. It looks to be melted and reformed glass but is thick, sticky, and oily to the touch. The orb itself came with the building, and is clearly incredibly old. The butcher (and presumably the former owner of the building) can't even move it. Next the two head to the farmhouse where the tricycle was stolen. They get there shortly before sundown and see the farmer in the field with his scythe, so respectfully wait until the man is done before approaching.
Sejjeto leaves the breeder's and heads into town to the clockmaker, where he meets back up with Raistlin. His sword. horse, and armor scream his wealth loudly and he gets a very friendly welcome from the shop's owner. He eventually buys a nice pocketwatch, but the well-cleaned store and lack of witnesses tells them nothing more than he already knew. Together the two head to the barracks to look into the missing manual.
Outside the barracks Sejjeto and Raistlin are greeted gruffly by several soldiers cleaning their weapons. Their lack of military protocol and etiquette gets them a quick brushoff until they say they're there to investigate the theft, at which point they're curtly directed to the other building with a "our scale would never lose something so important" added to the end. The other building gives them much the same reception, but they eventually manage to speak to the chuzei, where they hear a familiar story. Looking around outside Raistlin spots a puddle of what looks to be liquid glass, and he recognizes the consistency and splash pattern from his studies. It appears that someone has summoned one of the uthiul, also known as the vitreous jailer. These demons are incredible thieves, and almost always summoned for that purpose. When he tells Sejjeto, the lordling explains that he saw a similar puddle at the breeder's.
As the sun dips into the horizon Cho Zhe Tu, father-farmer-and-faithful, heads back into his home but is stopped by Tonic and Devon. The monk questions the man thoroughly while the guildsman looks around the premises. The tricycle was stolen from out of Cho's daughter's room, and not even the dog barked. It was old and in good shape, but nothing special as far as the man knew. It had come with the family from the Shogunate Era city of Lord's Crossing, and been inside the house or in the yard ever since. Though the talk is uneventful, Tonic finds more of the liquid glass residue. This time it's enough to follow a sparse trail and so the two head into the fading light to find the source.
As Tonic and Devon pass through a neighborhood filled with wealthy homes they spot a shady character climbing down a homemade ladder of blankets and tapestries. Tonic draws his flame piece and shouts at the man to stop, while Devon stays on mission and keeps following the trail. The shadowy figure doesn't stop though, even after Tonic shouts that he's not the police, but that he works for the Guild. The thief quickly loses the clerk in a line of trees, so Tonic memorizes the best description he could get and catches up.
Meanwhile Sejjeto and Raistlin make their way to the butcher's shop where the thaumaturge finds a trail. Unfortunately, neither man is trained in tracking and they quickly lose it in the dim night, so they head back to the governor's home to make a report. Raistlin tells the man assigned to their investigation about the demon residue and gets quickly pushed up the ladder to the man who assigned the man assigned to them. Asking about local thaumaturges gets the names of two men licensed for demon summoning and one who is not, so they head back into the night, aimed at Guild headquarters to see what they can learn about these thaumaturges.
InfiltrationHain scouts out the noblewoman's house and sees that she has decent but not insurmountable security. He slips back into the streets and acquires a few tools he'll need: hairpins for improvised lockpicks and a few stones to use as distractions. He waits until a delivery arrives and slips in behind it, using the clacking stones to distract the guard. He then slips out of the large home's main passageways and glides through it like a mouse until he sees a prettyboy at the bottom of the stairs telling a butler to fuck off. Apparently the lady of the house doesn't want to be bothered.
Hain grabs a poker from the fireplace and combines it with a little bit of stealth to turn the boytoy into a throw rug, which he stows in a closet. Upstairs he finds the dragon-blooded owner's show room, and in it a glass display case that contains his target and another set of nice throwing knives. He ties together a makeshift ladder for a quick escape and then picks the lock tot he case. Snatching the glass knives for the Lintha and the steel ones for himself, Hain jumps out the window and tries to disappear in the night.
But someone has seen him, and a drawn flame piece is followed by a command to stop. When that fails miserably the shout changes to "I'm not the law. I'm with the Guild and want to question you." That, of course, also does not work but it set Hain's paranoia and curiosity into motion. The thief buries the knives he took for himself on the edge of town, trades clothes with an unsuspecting peasant, and then takes the rest back to Happy Songs. Quiescent Maelstrom knows nothing about the Guild interest, but says he'll ask around.
Still curious, Hain walks to the Guild offices and asks the receptionist out front about the man he saw. The guy doesn't know anything, and Hain's illeteracy makes it impossible to read the large calendar splayed across the man's desk. Luckily for him a friendly man in jet black full armor introduces himself as Sejjeto and offers to read the calendar for him. Hain attaches himself to this obviously wealthy target, and ingratiates his way into the man's trust by showing him how best to secure his coin purse against pick pockets. Knowing how to track gets him an even better inroad, and he sets about following a trail of glistening ooze.
A Joining of ThreadsThe disparate groups converge as they each follow the uthiul through the night. When the trail gets close to the unlicensed thaumaturge's business, Raistlin takes the lead.
Some Thugs With Really Poor Taste In TargetsCutting through an alley gets the group an unexpected interruption (despite its clichè'd nature). Several young punks with swords demand their due while a cloaked figure with a bow watches from the rooftops.
Sejjeto runs one of the men down on his horse while Hain uses the distraction to slide into the shadows and then shimmy up a drain pipe towards the archer. Not being much of a combatant, Raistlin takes cover and eyes the shadows looking for more threats. The thugs try to give as good as they can get but only manage to scratch Tonic, the Guild clerk. An arrow from the darkness hits Sejjeto with a grazing blow, but the sniper's hopes that surprise would overcome heavy armor were ill-founded.
The other thugs die quickly, one with a huge hole in his chest from a flame piece and the other having been pummeled by Devon's staff. On the roof Hain tosses a stone at the archer, who takes off into the night, jumping from this roof to the next once he sees his minions are no longer useful. Another throw from Hain sends the man tumbling into the darkness.
Raistlin strides off into the the night towards the thaumaturge's shop and tells the rest "Follow me."
Sejjeto, unaccustomed to the role of follower, heads in the opposite direction with the firm command to "Follow me."
Hain looks back and forth at the two and says "Follow Raistlin," which seems to remind Sejjeto that he meant to go that way all along.
Trail's End and Some Unexpected Otherworldly FoesThe motley crew of investigators arrives at the back of Eldario's Benevolent Succor Shop. As they creep up on the seemingly abandoned building all Malfeas breaks loose. Several shimmering balls of liquid glass roll out of the darkness, the rainbows in their centers flaring to life. Hain spots them and ducks for the shadows, where he takes aim at the last one to show itself, but waits to throw until he knows what the hell they are and if they can even be hurt. Tonic draws his flame piece and fires at one, but the tiny orb is hard to hit and he misses. Sejjeto draws his greatsword and swings, but the tiny thing he aimed at simply shifts its trajectory and the blade goes wild. Raistlin tosses Hain's distraction stone at one of them, but it's only a ruse and the stone flies past it to a street lamp, shatering the glass and dropping oil all over the demon.
The four uthiul swarm and with just a touch they ooze up and over Tonic, Sejjeto, and Raistlin. Stretched and distended, the tiny orbs now cover their victims and Raistlin knows its only a matter of time before they're shunted into the Elsewhere and taken to the uthiul's progenitor: Kassat, the Vigilent Collector. Still unsure what to do, Hain stays hidden but moves closer while Tonic reloads and fires. The blast of flame sears down one leg and into the heart of a rainbow, shattering the liquid glass and spraying light across the Succor Shop's fence. Though not yet freed, the mere fact that they can be hurt seems to spark resistance in everyone.
Sejjeto draws his sword up and scrapes the one on him off, leaving three. The two that have Raistlin and Tonic held ripple, squeal, and then condense back down into dripping glass orbs. As Raistlin is ripped away from Creation he grips on tight and pulls a piece of the uthiul with him, twisting it around his finger. There is no sign of the thaumaturge or the clerk. The last one wraps itself up and over Devon, threatening to take the man away like his friend. Devon responds by ignoring the thingon him and smashing the one that stole Tonic. As the tiny orb shatters a blue-skinned and shivering guild clerk reappears in the alleyway.The rest of the deoms flee as Tonic stands to shoot and Hain throws his blade.
Finally able to deal with the one on him, Devon flashes back to his body hardening exercises with the Immaculate Brotherhood. His staff slams into his chest and then his back, and as the rainbow light from the demon splashes into the dirt another light flares from the monk's forehead. A solid circle of golden light bathes the alley in the warm and powerful glow of the Unconquered Sun. In the space of a heartbeat Devon is transported to a golden landscape where a four-armed hulking incarnation of perfection explains to him his place in the world as a Solar and one of the Unconquered Sun's priests.
Back in the alley the appearance of a true Anathema leaves everyone concerned, but right now the demons trying to kidnap them are more important. Sejjeto charges the one that stole Raistlin, using his horse's momementum to smash through the shop's back window and kill the thing, which prompts another stream of light from his forehead. Unfortunately, as Raistlin reappears they both see the Uthiulss mother, Kassat, standing in the shop's summoning chamber, looking down with anger at her murdered child.
Kassat, the Vigilent CollectorEnraged by the death of her sweet and innocent baby, Kassat extrudes tendrils of molten rainbow glass from deep within the folds of her kimono. Had they managed to wrap around Sejjeto they would have dragged him into the well-lit hallways of the museum inside her. Tonic tells her that they will give her a chance to survive if she surrenders, a threat which would be much more meaningful if his shot at her didn't go so wild. Devon rushes into the shop and drops into Mantis Form, a style he remembers from past lives. Hain also moves in, but sticks to the showroom and avoids the demoness.
A Deal with the Devil (actually, a mid-ranking functionary arranges an appointment for a possible future deal)Raistlin pulls himself up from the floor and removes the frozen essence of the uthiul from his fingers. Now a perfect globe shining with inner light, he offers the unique new creation to Kassat who offers him power in exchange. Not satisfied with just that, he states his requirements for the trade: she must leave Creation for 100 years and tell him how best to achieve power. The tiny orb flickers, playing at both her motivation for collecting unique things and her deep intimacy with her children, so the second circle demoness agrees. "The Ebon Dragon is deeply interested in you. Pray to his seventh soul during the upcoming Calibration. You will be answered." Raistlin markes his mental calendar for the upcoming conversation with Erembour, that Which Calls to Shadows. As her light fades, his forehead begins to glow.
DiapsoraThe new Solars gather together, knowing they now have to flee. In the backyard a mysterious man awaits them. Hain, complaining about the lack of booze, is answered with a fine bottle from within the man's robes. The drink closes their wounds as the stranger tells them to flee. The Qyld Hunt will come for them and, because it will only expect one Solar, they will be ableto defeat its first foray. But The Hunt doesn't give up and the second wave will destroy them. But if they can make it to Chiaroscuro they'll have allies waiting for them.
The group heads to Sejjeto's house for supplies, except for Tonic, who returns to the governor's home. There he gives his report to the man assigned to them, and eventually the governor herself. Pristine despite the late hour, Prism Flame demands a full report and Tonic returns to his Guild office to prepare it. He covers the tracks of the anathema by leaving that part out and stating that they stayed behind to keep the demoness busy.
As the sun rises over his flowery prose, he realizes that his candle went out hours ago and he has been writing by the light of his forehead ever since.