Exalted: The Second Age

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The Red Spy

Original poster
Creation, the Second Age. It is an time of desperation and woe, where heroes are born into a doomed world. The battle is lost. The enemies are at the gates and the land is but days away from being plunged into total darkness.

It started at the dawn of the First Age. The Gods, beings of great power created by the Primordials who shaped Creation, were given the job of custodians to watch over the affairs of Creation and its creatures. However, the Gods grew tired of being slaves and sought to bring down their masters. Incapable of raising their hand against the Primordials however, the Gods instead invested some of their power into mortal men and women so that they might wage war and defeat the Primordial masters that resided in heaven above.

Among the many kinds of Exalted, the greatest were the Solars, the Chosen of the Unconquered Sun, the mightiest of the gods. So powerful were they that the power which imbued their soul with Exaltation did not die with them, but rather sought a new vessel. Reincarnation, but choosing a mature adult rather than a newborn, one which was fated to influence the entire world.

After years of war and much destruction of things Creation would never again possess, the Exalted triumphed and the Gods rewarded them with dominion of Creation, taking the heavens as their own home. But at what cost?

In their final breath before defeat, the Primordials uttered a dark curse that influenced the souls of the Gods and Exalted alike. Like a blight upon the hearts and souls of the Exalted, it ate away at them and their righteousness, causing the benevolence which they used to rule their vast empire to become tyranny. Soon, Creation was again wracked by war - but this time, it was civil war between the Exalted. Knowing that if they were not stopped they would usher in the demise of both Creation and Order, the weakest but most numerous Exalted (the Terrestrial Exalted called the Dragon-Blooded, champions of the Elements) betrayed their corrupt Solar masters and kin, murdering them and trapping their souls so that the cycle of reincarnation would fail.

This was the beginning of the Second Age. The present age.

The decadent champions of the Gods were lost, and the select few Solar Exalted who managed to escape exclusion from the cycle of reincarnation were quickly eradicated by Dragon-Blooded inquisitors known as the Wyld Hunt before they could gain any power or make any difference in the world. The Realm, location of the great Empire of the First Age, was now in the hands of Dragon-Blooded, and while still great, it was but a shadow of its past.

A beautiful, powerful, and superannuated Dragon-Blooded known as the Scarlet Empress rose to become the ruler of Realm and the mortal plane of Creation, shaping the world into a firm Empire under her control, and also the limited control of the eleven Dynast families, houses founded and led by her numerous consorts and claiming direct descent and blood relation. In short, tremendous power (whether or not it was warranted.) The Scarlet Empress went on to rule for over seven hundred years, outliving four great generations of Dragon-Blooded like her.

However, without warning, the Scarlet Empress would suddenly vanish - and it could not have been at a worse time. Without a proper ruler, the Scarlet Dynasty's many families began squabbling for control over the Realm while the world seemed to be unraveling at the ends and tearing at the seams. Ancient enemies were returning for revenge, and new, perhaps exotic threats were emerging as well. And the world was without its champions, the Solar Exalted, who lie defeated and trapped for centuries.

Until now.

This was five years prior. It seems as though the gate of the Solar Exalted's might have been somehow opened, for now they trickle back into Creation, able to rise in power more effectively with the Realm's grasp over Creation compromised by the lack of a worthy ruling body. And as ancient enemies return, so too do ancient allies.

However... great though the Exalted are, how can they hope to save Creation, which now faces more enemies than it ever has before? How can they save a world already dangling on the precipice of oblivion, and lift it back into the glory of the First Age, especially when it appears that their numbers have greatly declined?

This is where the story begins.
Creation is oriented as a flat world, rather than a planet. Each of its poles (north, south, east, and west) as well as the center represent an elemental pole which seemingly nails the world into place, whereas without the protection of these poles, order as mortals know it would cease as the chaos of the Wyld beyond the world's borders encroached upon and mutated the world into a fantastic yet terrible implausibility.

The southern pole was the pole of fire - and as one progressed closer to a pole, they would notice the traits of its element as the depiction of said element in the geography became increasingly more hyperbolic. The South in general is a vast sea of sandy dunes, a desert. The sun above, though, seems not to be its only source of heat as the night is just as warm as the day. Rather, it is the pole to the south. Approaching it, the deserts are more and more scorching until the sands give way to pure fire, burning eternally despite a lack of fuel.

The south is where the tale begins - in Gutan, closer to the coast of the Inland Sea than the pole by a large margin. A modest merchant outpost with a small population, it served as the rendezvous point of Leo Strighkar and his employers.

Employed by the Guild, a shrewd merchant organization with grips all across Creation - especially the South - the sizable man was blissfully unaware of just what kind of fate awaited a hero such as him. There they stood outside of the Guild's local headquarters on a sandy road near the edge of town, a large caravan preparing for departure only a few yards away.
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8"><meta name="ProgId" content="Word.Document"><meta name="Generator" content="Microsoft Word 11"><meta name="Originator" content="Microsoft Word 11"><link rel="File-List" href="file:///C:%5CDOCUME%7E1%5CJustin%5CLOCALS%7E1%5CTemp%5Cmsohtml1%5C01%5Cclip_filelist.xml"><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><style> <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> </style><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]--> The sun blazed harshly down on the dry, desolate little town called Gutan as its residents hurried about doing their best to avoid the suns' burning rays. Leo Strighkar watched from high above as the peasants scurried about desperately trying to complete the mundane task each of them hand in front of them. The giant smirked as he thought about the time that he was not very different from those he saw in front of him. Day in and day out he would wander about his vast farmland taking to each task as it presented itself with no higher thought or reasoning. Much like these people he had never taken the time to ask himself if there was a higher purpose for his presence on creation; he would simply work his endless fields without a thought in his head. His smirk spread to a grin as he reminisced about the night the Mighty Unconquered Sun had come to him through a visage and shared his virtue, cause, and power with Leo. That night was the only time Leo had come into contact with his beloved Almighty and it was a time he would never forget. The Unconquered Sun had saved him from his own lowly, meaningless existence and given him purpose and strength. Leo would spend the rest of his time on Creation repaying this great debt by spreading the virtue given to him that very night.
<o:p> </o:p>
As Leo's mind phased back into the present, he could help but notice a beggar approaching the caravan stationed in the center of the main road in town. Leo had been hired to travel with said caravan and thus had great interest in the beggar's intent. Just as Leo had suspected, the peasant nose led him straight for one of their food carts. He reached deep into the cart with his scrawny little arm and pulled out a shiny red apple. Taking a bite with what teeth he still owned, he savored the juices squirting out from the very ripe fruit. Leo watched as his eyes lit up with joy at the taste that accompanied the satisfaction of feeding; he would not punish the beggar for sustaining his own life. In two more ravenous bites the apple was no more, however, the peasant did not carry on as Leo thought he would. Instead, he turned back to the cart with big, greedy eyes in search for more. Leo did not react well when his good graces were stepped on, whether it is on purpose or not. The peasant had reached in and grabbed all the food he could carry, but before he could turn and run he heard a deep, ominous voice coming from above, "One should not take what does not belong to him." Instinctively the peasant dropped everything in his arms and tried to worm his way out of the situation, "I was…was just… I was just tryin' to…" his voice ran short as he turned to lay eyes on the Might Leo Strighkar. The Solar grabbed him by the scuff of his tattered clothing and raised him off the ground to his eyes level before speaking, "Don't sully my ears with your spineless babble. Run and pray that I never lay eyes on you again." Leo dropped him and watched as he hit the ground and ran off into the distance, not stopping until he was well out of Leo's sight.
It was dark. It was hot. It was muggy. He felt engulfed, entangled, smothered. What the hell was happening. The man thrashed about, extricating himself from a coarse, heavy blanket. He looked around. He was surrounded by canvas. There were a few crates, and the floor was wood. Where the hell was he? The sun peeked through a pair of heavy canvas curtains, lighting up a slice of the floorboards. Sho tried to process this for a moment or two, before succumbing to a mini-freak out. He patted himself down, searching his body. His topaz eyes darted to and fro, scanning and searching. He saw a burgundy corner poking over the top of a crate of grain or some such thing, and immediately calmed down. He reached out a lanky, bronzed arm and grabbed the silken pouch, tossing and catching it deftly in his hand, weighing it carefully as he did so.

Sho Six Times Blessed Angler of the South Horizon pulled a hairy green bud from inside the silken pouch, quickly produced a small, masterfully crafted, wooden pipe from his odd garb, and packed the bud into the pipe in a single fluid motion. He pulled a match from a front pocket, and struck it on the wooden floor, lighting the plant aflame and quickly smoking the bud down to ash. He emptied the charcoal onto the floor, and stretched, yawning, and coughing. He rose, straightening and rearranging his clothing, before dropping his pipe and pouch into various pockets. Sho then walked out through the curtains, into the burning sun. As his eyes began to turn red, he wondered for a moment what The Unconquered Sun would think of his behaviors, but at the time, he didn't really care. He walked around the wagon he had climbed out of, over towards a fruit cart.

There was a large man standing near it, and apples were rolling across the ground. Sho noted a scrawny, frightened, poorly dressed peasant scampering away from the fruit cart. He stooped to pick up an apple, and bit into it. Immediately his face contorted with disgust and horror, and he spit out the piece of apple. Angrily, the Six Times Blessed Angler of the South Horizon threw the apple away from himself, inadvertently pegging the escaping peasant in the back of the head, knocking him over. "Who in Creation's name would pay good money for any of these mealy abominations?" Sho spat a few more times to rid his mouth of the foul taste, before regaining his composure.

He looked at Leo, asking "Arr, you know when we'll be shoving off today?"
"I know," said a female voice that belonged to an approaching woman garbed for travel with leather and a cloak behind her back. To her side was the local Guild supervisor, one that Leo recognized as Darud. The woman herself, an experienced and easily annoyed adventurer by the name of White Heron, stepped over the jumbled gallimaufry of fruits that the thief had left at their feet to approach Leo specifically - not that she wasn't acquainted with them both, but she found Leo to be the more reliable of the two (to her that wasn't saying much, she had... high expectations that were impossible to meet.)

"They, and you two, are leaving in one hour. That is of course if you're still interested in the job. It's the soonest way to Gem for the next month. Rumors of strange activity there haven't died down with the arrival of the last caravan."

She turned and set her eyes on Sho, as if regarding him for the first time. "So you're finally awake. I thought you had died in there, are you sure you don't want to sleep the rest of the day away, too?" Her sarcasm was so sharp-edged in its conveyence that it cut flesh.

White Heron lived up to her name; she was a beautiful woman despite her temperment, with rich and silky white hair and gorgeously pale skin. She stood tall on longs legs that moved with unparalled grace, something that the two would by now have expected of her considering her achievements and her Exalted nature.

Darud Bashar, the man to her right, stood only an inch or two shorter but was certainly much darker in skin tone than her. A guild enforcer, he would have you think he wasn't a thug anymore, but to some there was no difference between the two occupations, except one was well-funded. His hair was kept shaved down to the scalp with nothing but a thin layer of black starting to grow in on the scalp, itself tanned as dark as the rest of him. One could say that birds of a feather flocked together, except that of the four Darud was the only one not Exalted. Not that he hadn't proved himself before, at least as much as a mortal could.

"We're leaving at tomorrow's dawn, we'll be right behind you," continued White Heron, just a tinge humbly enough so as to not sound completely snide.
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8"><meta name="ProgId" content="Word.Document"><meta name="Generator" content="Microsoft Word 11"><meta name="Originator" content="Microsoft Word 11"><link rel="File-List" href="file:///C:%5CDOCUME%7E1%5CJustin%5CLOCALS%7E1%5CTemp%5Cmsohtml1%5C01%5Cclip_filelist.xml"><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><style> <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> </style><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]--> The White Heron spoke quickly and to the point, however, it looked as though she was careful to not give away any information she did not intend to. Considering the condition of his new found companion, Leo decided to take it upon himself to solve the riddles in her words. "Tell me more about this strange activity. What exactly could be going on for the Guild to require escorts?"
"I was hoping you would ask," said Darud Bashar. "That is to say, I was fixing to let you know that we've had caravans being attacked by bandits for the past month."

"Not just any bandits, though," continued White Heron for Darud. "Ghost bandits."

Darud interjected. "And the strange activity we don't know of first hand, but supposedly Gem's population has taken on a cult-like demeanor, if you catch my meaning. The people there have been 'brooding' and 'unwelcoming' compared to usual. You'd have to see for yourself, after checking in at the Guild headquarters there of course."

"But the ghost bandits," finalized White Heron. "It sounds like rubbish, superstition being played like an instrument to the end of some crafty thugs. Little did they know just who they were dealing with. Don't feel inclined to show any mercy. If you see any bandits, ghost or not, make sure they trouble us no more."
Sho stayed calm under White Heron's biting words, conjuring up a smirk in response, but otherwise stayed quiet. He listened to the Exalt's words, questions bubbling up his mind like a froth, but the haze of the drug popping each before they made their way out of the man's mouth. He was quite content to allow Leo to do the talking. And talk Leo did. This prompted the only non-exalt in this mini-convention to speak his piece. Cults, bandits, and even GHOST BANDITS! And it was here when Sho began to speak.

"Ghost bandits, eh? For a while I was thinking this was just another run of the mill protection job, but it seems the plot has uh... thickened. For the sake of my attention span, let's hope it IS ghost bandits, or at least, something interesting. But I'm assuming you're done, yes? Or is there anything else you've left out that we ought to know?"
"There's nothing else," replied Darud with a curt nod. "You depart in an hour, for Gem."

"A caravan to Gem?"

The voice belonged to a tall man covered in red jade articulated plate armor and carrying a red jade reaper daiklave. A shock of white hair crowned his head and the air of confidence he carried suited him well. It was immediately obvious that the man was a wealthy inlander, perhaps even a noble from the lands of the Imperial Prefect. He approached with his cape floating behind him and an urgent swiftness to do business in order to get where he needed to go.

"I have been seeking passage to Gem, I would pay two pounds for passage, no questions to be asked. Silver currency, I know jade isn't good here," said he with an acknowledging nod.

"Two pounds for passage to Gem, sounds like a good deal for me. I'll run it by the caravan driver, if you'd give me a second," requested Darud, and he departed with or without the consent of the inlander's decisive nod. He turned his gaze on the Exalts before him, blissfully unaware that they were avatars of the Gods themselves.

"I was told that Gem has been stricken by a plague of nihilism as of this season of Wood, or something similar. Have you been there since?"

His question seemed directed at the three Exalts in general, with no shortage of enthusiasm and pride on his part, though White Heron wasn't the type to dignify a stranger, especially one from the inlands, with any such casual chit-chat. It's likely be left on the Solars.
Sho gave a quizzical smirk as the stranger approached. He eyed him with amusement and intrigue, as the newcomer passed some money Darud's way. Upon his questions, the Twilight's ears perked up, and he quickly responded.

"Well, I haven't been lately, but in the past I've made a few brief appearances. They were bright and merry as ever, I'll wager, but this was before the last season of Wood, so it's old news. I suppose you've heard of this situation then?"
"It's why I'm headed to Gem," he said with a sort of enthusiasm that was frightening in its lack of dignified precedence. "Well, that's not entirely true. Gem is a place I've been trying to take a look at for a while now, but in light of the recent rumors, I figure now's as good a time as ever."

He thrust his hand out to the one who he could not know as an Exalt simply from looking at him. "I am Zabasaz, it's great to meet ya."
Sho caught the hand with enthusiasm and shook hard with his own. His wiry arm moved frantically, almost too enthusiastically.

"Well met sir, well met. I am Sho Six Times Blessed Angler of the South Horizon. If that's a bit too long for you then The Sixler will do just fine. Or Sho, I'll allow that as well. Good good, now friends, introduce yourself to ole Zabasaz here. Am I saying that right?"

Sho was all smiles and nods, until he realized he had not stopped pumping the newcomer's arm up and down vigorously this whole time like a machine. He chuckled, then released, making an embarrassed gesture in an attempt to smooth the situation over as he ushered the others forward.
The female of the group set her eyes suspiciously on the jade-bearing newcomer. Perhaps her comrades were not entirely capable identifying the metal as red jade (except maybe the Twilight, although his narcotic-induced stupor might have dulled his senses slightly) but she was entirely aware and therefore suspicious of the fact that this man carried one of magical materials. Then again, it was not uncommon of a noble to carry around artifacts simply for the show of wealth, and this man had not actually shown -attunement- to any of these items. The articulated plate armor could simply be steel with a jade overlay for show, and the daiklave could simply be a light decoy.

Quite honestly, seeing an Exalt carrying jade was slender considering Gutan wasn't exactly the hub of attention for any Exalt of any sort, without proper invitation of course.

"I am White Heron, that man is Darud Bashar," she said, gesturing at the dark-skinned man who was addressing the caravan driver. "He is Leo," she finished, gesturing to the one who seemed unattentive.

"Splendid to meet you all," enthusiastically chimed the wealthy gentleman. "I take it preparations are in order then. I'll not be a burden, I promise."

Two weeks later, approaching sunset at a caravan half way to Gem...

Zabasaz approached the caravan driver and gave him a curt nod in greeting - not to be rude, but just to spare unnecessary pleasantries.

"Is there anything I can do to assist you, I can't help but feel I'm nothing but a burden riding along all day," declared the man, hand resting pridefully on the red jade daiklave at his hip.

The man looked him over briefly and gave him a dismissive wave. "You can keep watch, we're in dangerous territory."
"Quite dangerous actually. I've spent a great deal of time in this region and I can say that it's not famous for it's hospitality." The massive man spoke as though he cared very little for the white haired tag-a-long. He sized him up, noticeably, allowing Zabasaz to realize what he was doing. His gazed halted on the daiklave resting on his targets hip, "Can you actually wield that weapon, or is it just for show?"
Zabasaz had found it stunningly difficult over the past two weeks of travel to get any semblance of an amiable relationship out of this man called Leo. In fact, it seemed almost as though the man was predisposed to despise him, like Zabasaz was of a social archetype that Leo just couldn't stand. This was likely the exact description and nature of things.

His eyes went down to his own daiklave, hearing Leo's words, and he let loose a chuckle. The chuckle was suppressed laughter if anything, he would had bursted out as loud as possible were he not trying his best not to sound like a pompous jackass for this man.

"Ah, yes. Perkele and Hathor. I assure you, there are very real. As for whether or not I can wield them... well, let's leave that for when this so-called 'dangerous territory' plays its hand, shall we?"

The man maneuvered his hip just enough to show Leo that there was not one daiklave sheathed there, but two - two handles nearly identical in shape, making two supposed artifacts appear as one.
It seemed on cue that the first night the caravan entered high-risk territory, danger reared its ugly head. For in the distance, the likely silhouettes of hostile outlaws out for the riches they carried emerged over the distant dunes of the desert, visible only due to the stars and Luna herself that illuminated the sky behind them.

Something was strange about these silhouettes, though. They seemed slender, and a few of them luminous. Perhaps these were the ghost bandits that they were warned about. Whether this was the case or not, Zabasaz's back was to them, and Leo, who was likely facing Zabasaz during their discussion, would have a perfect view of them over his shoulder. Following Leo's gaze, Zabasaz too was made aware of their presence.

"Well my friend, it appears your question is about to be answered right soon. To arms! Hostiles are afoot!"

Almost as though signaled by Zabasaz's rousing cry that the time of their ambush was short, the distant assailants began a charge for the caravan. Upon moving closer, it became clear to those viewing that only two of the attacks were 'ghosts' - or more specifically, humanoid ghosts wearing bandit attire and wielding southern scimitars. The rest of them, perhaps two or three dozen, were actually skeletons armed with some form of shoddy equipment like swords and spears, a half dozen even armed with bows and firewands, though one experienced in the dark art of Necromancy would wonder if the walking dead had the mental acuity to reload and prime a firewand after firing.
No sooner had those words left Zabasaz's mouth, The Sixler vaulted over the top of a cart, charging towards the enemies. His cloth-shod feet beat a steady tatoo on the dusty sand of the desert path. He hollered an incoherent muttering, and an empty bottle labled XXX fell out of his oversized pants pocket. The man hefted a large metal club, with several sharp-edged flanges on its head. Upon closer inspection, one would find the weapon to be hollow, and the head hid a small hole, belying some other purpose. As Sho ran, foul smelling water spilled from this small hole, and more splashed out of the larger hollow at the base of the weapon's handle. But by now, the Six Times Blessed Exalt was upon his foes. He let loose another crazed yelp, and slipped. A skeleton was facing the Solar, spear pointed dangerously towards Sho, but his timely slide allowed the man to dodge his impending impalement.

Upon slipping, Sho slid on the sandy ground, skidding underneath the skeleton. After he had cleared this foe, he leapt up, whirling around and smashing his mace into the ribcage of the corpse. The bones fell apart with a clatter, but before the skull could hit the ground, Sho caught the falling head, pulled back his arm, then pitched the enemy head into another skeleton, knocking off the creature's own skull, causing the undead man to fall to pieces. Sho grinned, head in a drug-addled daze, endorphins pumping through his veins. He called out to the rest of the caravan.

"C'mon, me hearties, there's plenty of fodder for all of us! Join the fray!"
The giant Solar's heart jumped at the sight of the invading force. It had been too many long days and night with absolutely nothing of interest for the experienced traveler. Finally he would have the opportunity to earn his wage for the trip. One of the other members of the crew, the lazy one, was ironically the first one on the scene. It seemed that he had only come along for the fun, but none of that mattered now. Leo had to hurry or there would be nothing left for him to tear into.

He bounded off towards the enemy at an alarming rate for anything of his size. He had one of the many skeletons accompaning the ghost bandits in his sights the entire way. The enemy was well aware of it too, stopping its advance on Sho along with several others close to it. They readied themselves, or so they thought, to recieve Leo and begin combat. However, Leo had no intension of leaving any room to react between each of those. As Leo approached the lead skeleton, the one Leo had eyed, it brough its schimitar up over his head to strike the Solar when as he arrived. Unfortunately, it had greatly misjudged how quickly the behemoth was moving and was far too late. Lowering his shoulder, Leo allowed his momentum to carry him into the skeleton. The armor-clad battering ram collided with the skeleton blowing him to pieces all around where it once stood, with the schimitar sticking into the ground at his exact final location.

He slid to a hault a few meters from the impact site and spun round. Another one of them was upon him, but Leo reacted quickly gripping the smooth bone skull in one of his powerful vicegrips. He gave the enemy just enough time to realize what was about to happen before he crushed its skull into dust. Leo roared with excitement at it all, relishing the thrill of the battle, "Hahahaha! If you don't hurry there won't be anything left for you to test those blades on, Zabbasa!"
At last, thought Zabasaz. A chance to shake off the rust.

Zabasaz hurriedly drew both weapons from their sheathes, and to any that watched, it was acutely clear that they were, indeed, a pair of Red Jade Reaper Daiklaves. Sixler would know, for a Twilight Caste was near incapable of mistaking any product of craft, especially when the product was made of one of the magical metals. Jade was reserved for Exalts, just as Orichalcum, and Red Jade was typically the swiftest of them all, chosen by Fire-Aspect Dragon-Blooded.

But that meant...

Raising the blades overhead, essence swathed in flaming curls down Zabasaz's arms and washed over his body for a brief instant, and he entered what one might recognize as a practiced martial arts stance. Then, hurling himself into battle, his movements emulated a flickering flame, difficult to follow and capable of becoming a source of destruction at any given moment.

In seconds, Zabasaz was amongst the horde of undead. He approached like a tiger, prowling low and swift, but when he was among the foes, his tiger-like precision was matched by his dragon-like fury. Quickly, each hand's daiklave thrust into a separate skeleton, one on each side of him, sundering their armor like rotted tree bark and cracking their spines open like weakened tree limbs. Then, ripping his blades loose of their torsos, he turned in a practiced twirl, swinging both of the blades at the hips of the same skeletons, deconstructing them with frightening efficiency. The swinging blades maneuvered so that one was held behind him and one in front, both simultaneously parrying an incoming attack and riposting in an endless onslaught.

It was clear that between the three of them, these skeletons would not survive particularly long. Clear to them, and clear to the ghost bandits commanding the forces.

The caravan defenders lined up along the side of the caravan itself, their shoddy blades and bows readied, but they didn't begin their assault. Rather, they watched with awe as the two that were so curiously hired as the caravan's "only necessary defenders" took care of the work for them, with the assistance of the wealthy man who had bought himself passage as well and had previously seemed eager only to simply meander along with them, not quite a burden but indeed, not quite a helper.

"You'll find these blades are tried, tested, and true!" Zabasaz's response to Leo belied an equal enthusiasm to finally have some action.
Sho was happy, truly happy. He spun around, stomping on a skeleton's foot, crushing its bones beneath his cloth shoe. He twisted his torso, grabbing the skeleton's scimitar, ripping its arm from its socket. He finished the skeleton by sending a strike to its chest with his mace, and the monster clattered to pieces.

The man turned to watch the other two reaping a swath of destruction through the bone men. His eyes lit up with excitement, and he ducked, narrowly dodging a spear strike, before tripping the offending skeleton. He couldn't cast in the thick of battle, but then again, it was probably for the best, what with an entire caravan watching and him being anathema, after all. Not that this occurred to the strung out Exalt, of course. The Sixler turned his attention to one of the gleaming figures that seemed to be leading the assault, and dipped to scoop up a handful of rocks. He quickly hurled one at the shining foe, and with his deadly accuracy, it was unlikely to miss. Of course, being a pebble, it might not do much to a ghost, but that didn't stop Sho from trying.