Freedom and Dreams

Session 1
Might Breaks the Trees

Traveling through Barun Nghe, the solars were put on edge when the lush forest goes quiet. Then, crashing through the trees into the poorly define road, and ox dragon appeared, seemingly furious. The beast performed a territorial display of aggression until Willow Bending slowly approached it, speaking softly. Thanks to his influence, Bastion, as he called the ox dragon, allowed them to pass.

On the approach to Three Falls, they observed damage damage in the forest about them. The road had been churned to mud in places and many trees were broken. The town itself looked undamaged, and Thrush speculated that they might be preparing for a festival when he saw flowers propped against the open gates of the town.

Upon entering, Thrush interrupted an argument between a Kamthahari merchant, Rel Nas and a local man,  Kafre. The merchant insisted that the people of Three Falls had instigated the beasts of the forest into aggression. Caravans leaving the town had been attacked, and now he was loosing money stuck in this backwater. He desisted when it became clear the Thrush was ignoring him. Kafre explained that the Immaculate Monk traveling with the Imperial Caravan had stopped them from giving offerings to their divine patron, Might Breaks the Trees and it was his anger that had riled the beasts to aggression.

The Immaculate Monk Sky went ahead to distract the other Immaculate Monk watching Treebreaker's temple at the base of the waterfall. The solars snuck around behind it, and climbed up to the offering platform that overlooked the basin carved out by the largest of the town's waterfalls. While looking at the carved image above the temple doors, a powerfully muscled man in a high-collar and a feather cloak with a pair of long horns rising from his forehead, a crash like the snapped of a tree sounded behind them. They saw the same figure depicted on the temple wall, and rather than the look of benevolence the temple depicted, his face was a mask of fury. He spoke and his voiced echoed with the waterfall…

"I am Might Breaks the Trees. Who has entered my temple without the proper offerings?'

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Session 2
Flames and Tinder

Might Breaks the Trees  stood before the Solars demanding answers. Thrush revealed himself as one of the Chosen, and the god changed his demeanor to that of respect. He expressed his outrage toward Flames Ascending, the Immaculate Monk who kept his temple closed. Thrush responded darkly, "All flames must die." During the conversation, Starfall heard shouts, and perhaps a battle-cry over the roaring of the falls. They agreed to help Might Breaks the Trees against the monk and passed through the temple toward the square. The god shattered the barred wooden doors, revealing an unexpected scene.

Apemen were attacking the town, the people of Three Falls were defending themselves, and Sky and Flames Ascending fought back to back against a pack of the beastmen. The Exalted and the god rushed to join the battle. Thrush moved to support Sky, striking with his cesti and using his voice as a weapon. Starfall drew upon the essence of Creation, transforming her hands in the rending claws of killing before setting on the assailants. Might Breaks the Trees transformed himself into an ox-dragon, and charged into the packs of apemen, tossing them aside. Sky and Flames Ascending fought with the skill and might of the elemental dragons. The apemen were quickly driven back, and Might Breaks the Trees chased them through the gates of Three Falls.

Thinking the heroes were also Dragon-blooded, Flames Ascending greeted them and thanked them for their aid. Thrush was immediately hostile to Flames, who responded with confusion. Thrush admonished her for stopping the people of Three Falls from worshiping their god. She said it was not proper for god to receive such worship. He asked what gave her the right. She responded as Dragon-blooded, they were at the divine pinnacle of reincarnation, and it was their right and duty to keep the gods in the proper place. Starfall attempted to set Flames off balance through an appeal to carnal companionship, and while tempted by the Solar's magnetism, Flames dedication to her place in the Order.

Before Thrush could continue to escalate the conflict, Might Breaks the Trees returned, running through the town. His face showed distress, and he shouted, "They've taken her, they've taken Ashai!" Once Thrush calmed him, he explained that the apemen had taken Ashai, a shrine maiden and the tribute bride that the empire was to take from him. The beastmen had split up and he was unable to chase them all down. Thrush volunteered to go recover her, and Sky suggested that he and Flames Ascending stay to protect the town in case there was a second wave of attack.

Thrush and Starfall tracked the apemen through the forest. Thrsuh recognized which one was carrying Ashai by the increased depth of the footprints, and tracked that pack unerringly north-east into the foothills of the mountains. The two Exalted passed quickly through the forest, and they soon caught up with the pack of apemen they were tracking. They kept to the shadows, but the keen-nosed beastmen smelled their approach. Starfall overheard their speaking, and despite the harshness of their dialect, was able to understand that the pack would stay behind to delay their passage while a runner would take the girl to the Voice-Stealer, which Starfall recognized as a possible epithet for the demon Berengiere, the Weaver of Voices.

The Exalted leaped into action; Thrush started running across the clearing to catch the escaping runner while Starfall stepped into view and began gathering the essence of Creation about her to weave deadly magic. The apemen surged forward, but with their essence-fueled arete, the Solars avoided their attacks. Thrush caught up to the runner, and used his voice to send the apeman sprawling. He caught Ashai to break her fall before setting her on the ground and subduing her captor. Around Starfall, shards of beautiful obsidian formed in the air, pouring down her glowing anima banner in a cascade of death and blood. The apemen who were not killed fled into the forest. Both Solars' anima banners were glowing from their magic-fueled effort.

Thrush untied Ashai, who responded fearfully before he reassured her that he had been sent to rescue her by Might Breaks the Trees. Starfall guided Thrush in binding the now captive apeman, who they dragged through the forest. With the shaken Ashai and the burden of the bound captive, the journey back to Three Falls took longer than the pursuit, and they didn't get back to the town until evening.

Upon their arrival, people from the town crowded around them, thrilled at Ashai's return but worried for her safety. One hunter, Inti, showed particular concern for her. Starfall and Thrush urged the crowd to give her space and took her to the temple to see Might Breaks the Trees.

At the temple, they are confronted once again by Flames Ascending. She was glad they were able to save the emperor's tribute bride. Thrush was outraged that she would be sent to the capital and stated vehemently that she was in no condition to travel to the capital. Flames suggested delaying the tribute caravan, to which Thrush said that Ashai would not be traveling at all. Flames said another would have to be chosen to go in her place. Thrush became confrontational, and Flames responded in kind. Before things could escalate too far, Sky stepped in and spoke in a low voice to Thrush. "I follow you because you are not what the stories say you are. Do not prove me wrong." Thrush agreed to drop the conversation and take Ashai to see Might Breaks the Trees in the temple.

While the temple doors were still shattered, the interior of the temple had burning torches, incense, and other offerings. Might Breaks the Trees graciously thanked Starfall and Thrush then rushed to make sure Ashai was unhurt. After everything, the shock of the day's events finally hit Ashai, and she broke down sobbing, sinking to the ground. Might Breaks the Trees knelt and embraced her, rocking gently. He looked up to the Solars with pleading eyes, "Please, do not let them take her from me, do not let them take my beloved Ashai."

Thrush said that they could take care of Flames Ascending, but for her aid in defending the town, Might Breaks the Trees did not want to see her killed. That, and the empire would simple send another agent. Three Falls would not always have the might of the Solar Exalted to defend them. Thrush responded that they would stay if Three Falls would fight for their freedom. At this Ashai composed herself and expressed her concern for the harm that could come to the people of the town if they fought in a war of the Exalted. Thrush convinced her to let the people of the town discuss and come to a consensus on whether to rebel. He would honor their decision.

With Ashai gathering the people to choose a course, Thrush and Starfall went to question the captive apeman. Once again, Starfall expertly guided Thrush in securing their captive before the woke her. Thrush began his questioning with violence, instilling fear in their captive. He demanded to know who had sent them, and why. At first, the captive was reluctant, but ultimately, Thrush's wrathful presence overcame the more distant fear of her master. She revealed that she served the great mother  Raksi, Queen of Fangs. Raksi had sent her and her pack under the leadership of the voice-stealing demon Berengiere. They had orders to take the favored shrine maiden and bride to the emperor to Berengiere, who was waiting for them a half-day's journey into the mountains. She was certain that her failure would lead to a painful death at Raksi's hand. With her cooperation, Thrush adopted a friendlier demeanor, loosening her bonds and learning her name, Huran.

Their questioning finished, Starfall and Thrush discussed what to do. They did not want to leave Berengiere to return to Raksi, and discussed hunting her down. Starfall realized they could send Flames Ascending after Berengiere, potentially ridding the of two threats. With everything they could do complete, the Solars awaited the decision of the people of Three Falls…

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Session 3
A Perfect Circle?

Sabin, Shadows at Sea, and Natsue relaxed in Three Falls public drinking hall. The masters of the Imperial tribute caravan sat at the high table, enjoying the the finest food and liquor the town had to offer. As they enjoyed their food and drink, they realized that the local people where slowly filtering out of the hall. Natsue noticed them subtly whispering to each other before leaving the hall. Natsue and Shadows made an effort to blend into the crowd, while Sabin brazenly followed the locals into their meeting hall.

Inside, a young woman was in the middle of a speech explaining that Three Falls had to make a choice about whether to rebel against the Empire of Prasad. The Chosen of the Sun who had rescued her had promised to remain and defend Three Fall from reprisal. When she saw Sabin, she fell silent. An old woman told him that this was a local matter and tried to ascertain whether Sabin worked for the Empire. She decided that he did not, and carried on with the debate, speaking against the risk of rebelling. Shadows cut into the debate, encouraging the people to rebel, and Natsue countered that they should consider their options carefully.

The debate continued for some time, which neither side seeming to gain a majority. Eventually, Shadows spoke again in favor of freedom, and Natsue following in his wake, asking the people to look at who was profiting from having the Empire in Three Falls. A young man, incensed by the words the debate, accused his grandmother of being the one to pocket the wealth, that she and the elders were selling the future of his generation. Sabin, having remained quiet through the debate, seized the moment, shouting over the crowd and inciting them to take back the tribute wealth of the imperial caravan. Many of the young men and women cheered in agreement and began marching out into the night…

*

Trush, Starfall, and Willow were waiting at the temple for the people's decision. Willow nervously swept, and Thrush helped him. Starfall lounged comfortably watching them with disinterest. Sky hurried in with news of a mob forming, seemingly intent on violence and urged Thrush to do something about it. He went out and confronted the crowd, forcing their attention with his essence fueled presence. He and Sabin debated the best first steps for rebellion, with Sabin arguing for taking the caravan and Thrush urging patients. As the debate between the two Exalted starting heating up, Willow quietly moved behind Sabin and struck him with his shovel with a resounding clang. Sabin stumbled forward from the force of the blow. Starfall attempted to defuse the situation, but the crowd paid her little attention. Others, including members of the caravan had started gathering to see what the commotion was about, and Natsue suggested they take the conversation somewhere more private. The six Chosen headed for the temple, and the crowd disbursed.

Upon entering the temple, Natsue peered into the spirit world, saw Might Breaks the Trees, and politely bowed to the god, who bowed back. Thrush and Sabin continued the debate about the proper way to hurt the empire or start a rebellion. Sabin expressed distaste for not acting immediately, but nominally agreed to Thrush's plan. Their conversation was cut short by the arrival of Ashai and Inti, who informed the Solars that Three Falls had voted to rebel. Ashai revealed that the young had voted against their family elders, which was unprecedented in the town. Thrush bid Inti to come with the six best hunters of Three Falls in the morning to begin their instruction in the ways of war.

The next morning, Trush named Inti and the other six hunters assembled as his lieutenants. With Sabin's assistance, he began instructing them in the ways of war. Might Breaks the Trees appeared to grant his blessing to their efforts, and Sabin was shocked at everyone's lack of reaction to the god's manifestation. During a break in the training, Thrush asked for Natsue's assistance to write a letter to Little Fish to tell him about the nascent rebellion.

Later in the morning, Flames Ascending entered the temple, and was shocked to find the manifest Treebreaker and the hunters dutifully taking instruction. Before she could intervene, Starfull told her about the threat of Berengiere, the Weaver of Voices, and convinced her to go into the mountains to look for the demon. Flames Ascending looked wary, but agreed that demons needed to be dealt with and departed.

Rel Nas, one of the caravan masters, came to the temple to announce the impending departure of the imperial caravan. Scouts had reported that the wildlife seems pacified, so they will take to the road. Ashai refused to go with him, to which he responded with confusion; as the emperor's promised bride, she had no choice but to come. Thrush stepped in with cold words and a cold stare, and Rel Nas nervously said the next tribute caravan will have to collect the emperor's bride.

As the caravan departed, the Solars heard the blast of horns. Inti and the other hunters said it was a warning of danger. Another hunter ran in, and said that more apemen had been spotted south of the town. Trush asked them to prepare a defense, and he and most of the other Solars went to see the source of danger for themselves. Natsue stayed behind with Ashai and Might Breaks the Trees.

Sabin suggested leading the apemen to attack the caravan, a plan that the others quickly agreed to. Most of them tailed the caravan, and Shadows at Sea sneaked through through the forest to find the apemen. What he discovered, was not just the apemen making their way through the trees, but three massive, gorilla-like blood-apes thrashing their way through the underbrush. With a clever quip, he attracted their attention, leaped into the trees, and began running toward the caravan with the demons and apemen following.

Meanwhile, the other Solars approached the caravan through the cover of the forest. In his eagerness, Thrush approached too closely, and attracted the attention of one of the caravan's rearguard. He claimed he had come to see the caravan off and that the horns heralded their departure. The guard returned to the caravan, then he, and Thrush, turned to look toward the sound of thrashing coming from the south…

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Session 4
Voices Silenced

As Shadows At Sea raced through the trees toward the caravan, his sister waited in Three Fall's temple with Ashai. Sky had left to see that the town's residents were safe. Ashai opened up to Natsue, revealing her fear about the conflict and the lives it could cost. Natsue tried to comfort her and instill her with courage. Natsue cut off her speech abruptly as she noticed the telltale signs of a powerful spirit. Opening her second sight, she saw a figured clad in wispy scarlet silks, decorated in brass, and veiled. An aura of barely audible whispering voices surrounded her and as she moved, motes of brass sand trailed from beneath the crimson veil. Natsue stepped between the woman and Ashai, and confronted her. The woman responded, "I am Berengiere, Weaver of Voices, Guardian of the Boneyard, and I have come for the girl. Step aside."

*

Shadows' ploy worked, the the blood apes crashed into the caravan. Unwilling to let the demons wantonly slaughter the caravan, Thrush leaped into the fray. Sabin circled around, watching the caravan's pay chest to ensure it's safety. Starfall called upon her sorcery, transforming her hands to wooden claws. The blood ape that Thrush attacked, stuck back, but Thrush rolled with the blow and suffer no injury despite the demons strength. Shadows At Sea abruptly turned, attacking the ape men following him through the trees.

*

Natsue recognized Berengiere's accent as being native to Champoor, and asked if she was from the Nighted City. Berengiere said she had not been there for many years, but the voice she used was from there. Natsue asked why Berengiere wanted the girl, and the demon replied that she did not want her, but her master commanded it. Natsue lit her caste marking, hoping to impress the demon with her nature. Berengiere was surprised. "I know what you are, Chosen of the Sun." Natsue defiantly declared that Ashai would go nowhere with her, and Berengiere agreed to the terms, speculating that her master would greatly enjoy her presence.

*

As the blood apes made short work of the caravan guard and started destroying the carts and goods, Sabin joined the battle to prevent the destruction of the empire's tribute wealth. What good is sacking a caravan if what they transport is destroyed? With skill possessed only by the Chosen, he made short work of one demon. Amid a hail of javelins from the ape men above, Thrush continued the battle with his adversary, flipping out of the way to avoid the beasts grasping clinch. Starfall used her sorcerously summoned claws to "caress" the third, lamenting the violence she had to inflict instead of "what could have been" between her and the demon. In the trees above, Shadows At Sea began to rout the ape men.

*

Resigned to go with the demon, Natsue sought to leave a sign for her brother to follow her. She slipped of a bracelet, and attempted to surreptitiously toss it to the ground. Berengiere spotted her, and Natsue claimed she was leaving an offering for Might Breaks the Trees. Inscrutable, even to the demon, Natsue's lie held, and Berengiere allowed her to leave the offering. Berengiere led them on a circuitous route through Three Falls to avoid interception. As they went, Natsue let her Anima banner stream out behind her, hoping to alert the others to her distress. She began an inspire speech, but before she said the word 'hope', Berengiere spun, reached out a finely manicured hand, and stole Natsue's voice. Natsue voicelessly finished the word before fear appeared in her eyes. Berengiere held the voice in her fine-boned hands, beginning to spin it into thread with her long nails. "This will make a thing of beauty. It has been an age since last I worked the voice of one of the Sun's Chosen."

*

The Solars finished of the blood apes and scattered the ape men. As the rush of battle died, they heard the moans of the caravan members to injured to flee. Thrush began ministering to them, granting a merciful death to those to injured to survive. Calling on his Essence, he banished the souls of the dead into the cycle of reincarnation, feeling their lives and hopes wash over him. Sabin secured the caravan's pay chest for himself and surveyed the remaining wealth scattered on the forest floor.

Realizing that the attack could be a diversion, Starfall rushed back toward the town with Shadows At Sea following her.

They arrive in time to see Berengiere approach the gates, and order the guards to their knees with a word. She caressed the face of one of the guards, a red welt appearing where her nail brushed his cheek. Voiceless, Natsue and Ashai followed. Starfall orders Shadows to get the others, and walked purposefully toward the Weaver of Voices.

Seeing the rapid approach of another Solar, Berengiere turned to face her. Her silk garments rustled with a thousand stolen voices, and a deafening susurrus washed over Starfall. Having faced greater tortures, Starfall emerged from the hurricane of sound, and struck at the demon.

The two battled, Starfall slowly gaining the upper hand, until the other Solars rushed onto the open pathway to Starfall's aid. Recognizing she was outmatched by the Circle, she pull aside her veil, unleashing a torrent of burning brass sand. The Solars avoided the avalanche of sand, but by the time they had recovered, Berengiere had vanished.

In the aftermath of the fight, the Solars agreed that they needed to confront Raksi. They would help Three Falls prepare for whatever response the Empire could muster in short order, and try to return before the Dragon-clans could turn their might in response to the rebellious backwater.

*

The people of Three Falls graciously accepted the remnants of the caravan into the town to care for their wounds. That night, as Natsue's voice returned as the barest of whispers, she asked the others to teach her how to fight. Starfall summoned an Agata and sent it with all haste to deliver Thrush's letter to Little Fish. Thrush hoped his revolutionary contact would come to Three Falls and bring his expertise with him. He could use the wealth taken from the caravan to hire mercenaries and fund Three Falls defense.

Several days later, as Thrush and Sabin continued to train the militia, the local shamans returned from the wilderness. They had refused to cease their practices, and had fled to avoid reprisals from Flames Ascending. The hunters had supplied them with what they needed and carried word to them when the town decided to rebel. They agreed to support the rebellion and pass their blessing on the efforts. 

After a day of hard training, her ribs aching, Natsue sat alone watching the sunset through the trees. Ashai came to her an confessed that she was afraid. She feared that Might Breaks the Trees was in love with her, and she did not want the god's affection. She feared for the safety of her people, worried that her choice not to go with the tribute caravan had been the first step on the path to war. She worried that Inti supported the war not because he though it was right, but for her.

Natsue though a moment and replied, " Let me tell you a story and pardon me if my voice isn't very good.

"Once upon a time there was a rich merchant. He had ships and gold and a daughter who wanted for nothing. He was handsome and brave. One night on the sea ships of glass sunk his ships and sooner than you can think they went from Everything to Nothing. No more fancy parties, no new nice cloths, no home, no food. Nothing. Left in the streets with absolutely nothing.

"Her father was so scared and so was she. She didn't know what to do and you know up to this moment that is what she thought she wanted. Her life back, her riches, her comfort, her power and all of it. She learned how to get her life back. How to talk to people, how to watch people, how to speak with honeyed tongue and soon she had all she wanted once more and more. She had control. She was in control of her power.

"And now it's all gone again. I have nothing. I have to start over. I have to adapt and figure out what I want. Which I don't know either. I know it will take sacrifice. It will take effort. With time and effort even a burlap sack can become a ball gown.

"We aren't going to leave you to stand alone. We'll help you and help find others to stand with you. The forest stands stronger together right?

"Take time to think, speak to the others, figure out what you want and what you are willing to give. Talk to the others. They may have better wisdom than I do.

Ashai thanked Natsue and promised to think long an hard about what she truly wanted.

*

After another day of training, Thrush joined the hunters in the public hall, and spotted Rel Nas, one of the caravan masters, who recoiled from him in fear. Thrush sat down across from him, and Rel Nas called him a demon. In response, Thrush relayed the story of his youth, demonizing the Dragon-clans and the Empire. Thrush relayed that his father was killed and he was forced into the army under duress. He thought if he fought back his mother and sisters lives would be forfeit. When he became older he realized this was a lie to keep him in line and he began to resist. As he told the story, a hush fell over the assembly, and everyone listened to his telling. Those who heard his words were bolstered that their rebellion was just and necesessary. Even Rel Nas was swayed by his words.

*

Shadows At Sea, being the kind of fellow that he was, realized that the caravan's pay chest was missing from the assembled loot. Remembering that he had seen Sabin with a well made chest, he approached the Bandit to ask about it whereabouts. Sabin said he had hidden it for safekeeping, and they would each get a share. In fact, he offered to give Shadows Natsue's share as well to look after. They shared a drink to their continued success.

*

Her task summoning Agata complete, Starfall rested under the night sky on the evening before their departure. Sky approached her, and confessed that he had judged her harshly when the first met. He said that he had feared she was the kind of demon that Thrush was not. She had proven him wrong. He stated that he suspected she was from one of the Great Houses of the Realm, and that he too bore the scars of the Blessed Isle. Starfall expressed that being one of the Solar Exalted was the greatest responsibility she could bear.

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