Taking a break from Nano writing to write for Blood and Bone.
The sky of Yu-Shan was blue and clear, the sun hanging high, belying the chaos below. The golden streets were still, however, with gods scurrying from place to place rather than be caught dallying. The atmosphere of worry was almost palpable. And here, outside the Repository, the gathering of celestial lions could only mean one thing â€“ someone was about to pay the penalty for their defiance of the new order.
Thetram Nash stood on the roof, mapping out possibilities. Behind him, he heard a faint sound, and he turned, feet sliding easily across the marble. â€œWarden.â€
Yumeris, Warden of Lions, nodded gravely. The great lion-headed god was forged of gold and ivory, his armor made of all five colours of jade flowing into each other in an endless stream. He raised a claw-tipped hand politely, and pointed at the Sidereal. â€œThetram Nash. I must ask for your surrender, as a rogue agent of Heaven.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t want to do this, Yumeris.â€ Nash let Essence flow subtly into him. He was running low on his personal reserves, but this should do.
â€œWhat I want is unimportant, Nash. I have a duty. Now come with me.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think so.â€ Nash spun, leaping from the rooftops, as he invoked the power of Air Exalt Ways. His anima flared around him, gusts of wind instead of the pale light that the other had expected, and he leapt clear across the ornate street to land on the rooftop across. Turning just long enough to toss the Warden a mocking salute, he took another leap, crossing another street. With a snarl, the Warden leapt from the rooftop, landing on the ground with an audible crack. â€œAfter him! Aircars, cover the northern approach!â€ A pack of Celestial Lions burst into pursuit.
Nash, finishing his leaps, found himself wishing that he had bothered to learn more of the Sidereal Martial Arts than the few tricks he knew. He glanced backwards, seeing a trio of heavenly aircars swooping towards him, and the lions in the streets below. Chewing his lip, he covered another street, twisting into a roll as he leapt. He crashed through the reed roof, landing easily in the passenger seat of a rapidly-moving aerial rickshaw. The god directing the square vehicle, a small blueish-green being that was most likely a dispossessed weather-spirit, began to turn in shock, and Nash let power enter his voice, his true anima flickering to blue life. â€œDrive for the Northern Gates. Immediately.â€ The god, his eyes wide, hastened to obey, as Nash glanced backwards.
On the ground, racing after the rickshaw with shocking speed, Yumeris shook his head. â€œFoolish, Nash.â€ He watched as Nashâ€™s anima burst to brilliant light on the aircar, and he sighed. â€œYou always left yourself boxed in.â€ He spoke, his orders carrying easily to his men. â€œHe is heading for the Calibration Gate. It is the only way for him to escape the city.â€ Shaking his head, he sighed again. â€œGather our agents there. Weâ€™ll stop the rickshaw as it approaches. Order the Wind Division to be standing by.â€
He watched as the forces raced forwards, following the anima, which continued to blaze. With its beacon shining, there was no chance of escape for Nash. A hundred Lions descended on his position, creating a solid wall around the rickshaw. The Wind Division, composed of flying gods and the occasional elemental, surrounded the rickshaw as it approached the centre of Yu-Shan, and it was forced to the ground. Yumaris strode forwards, ready to strikeâ€¦ and froze.
The rickshawâ€™s only occupant was a terrified godling, looking around at the assembled throng with undisguised horror. The seat beside him heldâ€¦ nothing. An empty impression, filled with the blazing light of Nashâ€™s anima. Yumeris jabbed his finger at it. â€œWhat is the meaning of this?!â€
â€œHeâ€¦ he cast a spell. He told me to fly here, and set it there to destroy me if I didnâ€™t. I had no choice!â€ The god babbled, but Yumeris was no longer listening. A spell to displace the animaâ€¦ heâ€™d never heard of such a thing. Nash must have created it himself. With a bitter curse, he turned to look around Yu-Shan, casting out his senses. â€œSpread out! Find him â€“ and close the Gates!â€
â€œAll of them, sir?â€
â€œEvery last one!â€ Yumeris ignored the look of concern that passed the guardâ€™s face. This was the only wayâ€¦
It was a few minutes later that he felt a Gate begin to open. â€œThe Lap Gate!â€ He snapped the word to his attendant, and promptly called himself to the gate in question. He arrived just in time to see the doors swinging open, and a portly earth elemental striding through. It glanced back, winked, tossed Yumeris another salute, and broke into a run.
â€œStop him, you idiots!â€ Yumeris yelled at the two Celestial Lions guarding the gate, who looked at each other in confusion before turning to give chase. Yumeris caught up as the three passed through the gateway, coming to rest atop the polished stone head of the Lap. For a frozen moment, the elemental turned, shedding his earth about his as Nash straightened. His anima had returned, shining brightly around him, and he shook his head. â€œWeâ€™ve got to stop meeting like this.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t think you would escape Yu-Shanâ€¦ but no further.â€ The Lions had already circled, surrounding Nash on three sides. Yumeris tensed to spring. â€œYou have led us on a merry chase.â€
â€œAnd itâ€™s about to get merrier.â€ Nash gestured, his eyes growing dark. â€œThis path cannot continue, or you know where it will end â€“ you will be a pawn of the Yozi.â€ And as he raised his hand, a thousand faint symbols sprang to life. Within those symbols, Yumeris saw his own doom, and he felt his mind collapse under the weight of Nashâ€™s Transcendant Hatchet of Fate, his reserves of drive forsaking him. He yelled out in denial. â€œDestroy him!â€
The lions danced forwards, their claws lashing outwards. Nash sidestepped first one attack, and then another, and with each graceful move energy spiraled around him, his anima returning its power to him. And then a claw struck home, and his dance was interrupted as blood sprayed across the stone. And Yumeris, seeing his opening, raised his claws in victory as he leapt.
And Nashâ€™s eyes widened, and then he suddenly smiled. â€œSerafin! Iâ€™m home!â€ He winked at Yumeris, as a silver light surrounded him, and he fell cheerfully backwards into it, throwing a third salute. The Warden recognized the spell, and tried to shape a counterspell, but his will had been ravaged by the Siderealâ€™s Charm. He leapt forwards, but his claws met stone, and he roared with frustration.
And on the other side of the portal, Serafin, Conduit of Gaia, uncrossed her arms and grinned. â€œNash! Heavens, but itâ€™s good to see you back. Are you alright?â€
â€œIâ€™ll live.â€ Nash limped over to Serafin, reaching into his coat. â€œThe important thing is, it was worthwhile. I have the names. All five of the Solars you are looking for â€“ and four of them are even available.â€
Serafin grinned widely, and caught the Sidereal in a large hug; he winced and stepped backwards quickly. â€œI even have locations for three of them â€“ and I recognize the fourth. If heâ€™s still where he was, we should be able to go and see him immediately.â€
â€œGreat. Come on, Iâ€™ll get Alakazar â€“ you can tell us the rest on the way, and weâ€™ll see if Fiona canâ€™t do something about those wounds.â€
â€œThank you, maâ€™am.â€ Nash smiled sourly. â€œEvery time I go on one of your missions, I end up half-dead.â€