Verrance is a young Sidereal, Chosen of Endings, assigned primarily to the Convention of Air. One day, coming in from Yu-Shan to the headquarters of the Convention of Air, he finds himself face to face with two older Sidereals, both Chosen of Secrets: Castiel, a member of the People of the Air and a Gold Faction member, and TJ, a ranking member of the Convention of Deathlords. TJ has assigned Verrance to follow the Circus Moribund, since he has encountered it before, and follow its path, since Castiel has projected that the Lover Clad in the Raiment of Tears is about to come into serious conflict with the Bull of the North, and the Circus is a focal point of this conflict. TJ warns Verrance that the Lover is exceptionally subtle and any obvious moves he could make may be diversions to draw him off.
Some weeks later, Joshua arrives at a town that seems drained of life and energy. When inquiring about, he learns a strange, fantastical circus came through, and several people died. He follows the path of the circus and within the next day finds it. He strides in confidently (attracting Verrance’s attention) and wanders about. After a bit, he believes he’s caught a glimpse of his brother entering the back entrance of one of the three huge tents. He follows him in, but doesn’t see which way he went and soon ends up in the main tent area, where a beautiful Snow Leopard sits in a soulsteel cage, admired by a small crowd. Joshua investigates this Snow Leopard and finds she has a silver necklace around her neck, with thin soulsteel strips wound around the hearthstone and a soulsteel collar around her neck. Joshua interacts with her a bit, even showing her his caste mark. He then decides to slip back around and look for his brother.
Verrance, in the guise of Emerius the Bard, has wandered in after Joshua, and sees him interacting with the Snow Leopard. Joshua evades all detection when he leaves but Verrance trails him with his Resplendent Destiny still active. Joshua attempts (and fails) to hide from “Emerius” while they both eavesdrop on a conversation between the Melkin Fool in Red (the ringleader of the Circus Moribund) and Joshua’s brother, Phantom Blood. The Fool is relaying orders that demand that Phantom Blood ignore his brother’s presence and carry out his assignment, which is first to ensure the success of the “Seductress’s” mission, and then to track down the “Little Flying Boy”. “Emerius” and Joshua start cooperating fairly quickly after having a measured conversation about not interfering. They split up and meet again in front of the Snow Leopard, but Verrance has dropped the destiny and it takes Joshua a bit to get used to it.
Verrance carefully analyzes the technology and identifies it as essence-draining equipment that is releasing the negative essence down around the entire area. While he’s examining it, the Snow Leopard notices The Fool, Phantom Blood and a third person who is a quote “extravagantly attractive woman” coming out the same way they came out from the back area of the tent. She gestures purposefully and Verrance rapidly conceals Joshua behind her cage. The Fool then announces that everyone must leave for a bit and the exhibit is closed, but that they will soon open it again and they will be able to feed the leopard. Verrance steals her surface thoughts while she’s talking, and finds she’s clearing the area out so they can get information from the Snow Leopard. He deems this exceptionally bad.
Verrance then stages a distraction while Joshua slips out without being noticed by Phantom Blood, and the two then fret for a bit before Verrance has the idea to check the other cages at the other two tents. One has a strange malevolent-looking child with another soulsteel collar, and the other cage has a “Fire-burper”. Joshua lies in wait near the Snow Leopard tent (but outside its line of sight) while Verrance uses his fate-stealth charm to open the cage and detach the collar from the Fire-burper, then tosses it out of the cage. It immediately begins wreaking havoc, and once Joshua sees the fire he shouts “Fire!!” with his second Presence excellency. After a moment the Seductress pokes her head out, confirms the fire, and then the Fool, Phantom and Seductress all run out towards it. Joshua slips inside, and Verrance arrives soon after. They manage to get the chains off the Snow Leopard, at which point she turns back into her human form.
The three of them sprint out the back and hide away in the nearby woods. Introductions are made, and the question of what to do next and where to go comes up. Joshua suggests he has a house back in Karn, if they need to lie low. While this is debated, they see a figure walking along the road towards the Circus Moribund. Verrance and Chantal lie in wait while Joshua comes out ahead of the road to warn the traveler to not go any further. Much to his shock the traveler is Nalla Bloodaxe, the King of Karn.
Joshua reacts with shock and demands to know why Nalla has abandoned Karn. Nalla tells him that he is in love and his love has promised to meet him at the Circus Moribund. Joshua is agitated by this and no amount of reasoning with Nalla can persuade him. Chantal then attempts to use Mirror Sight Dismay to Jedi-Mind-Trick Nalla, but her “your people need you” attempt is fairly feeble. She then tries again and bursts out with “She’s not there anymore!” which connects and Nalla is briefly confused and horrified, before the lovesick lethargy sweeps over him again and he returns to insisting that his love will wait for him at the Circus. Chantal then uses her Cobra Hypnosis technique to transfix him while the party briefly debates what to do next. The consensus seems to be to prevent him from being taken at all costs.
As he begins to snap out of it, Joshua punches Nalla in the face, trying to knock him out. Nalla hits the ground, dazed, and as Joshua strides up for a followup, Nalla says he doesn’t want to hurt him. Joshua attacks again, and Nalla activates a combo that perfectly blocks his punch, lashes out with a counterattack (which Joshua narrowly deflects himself), and spins out of the way. While he stands, still dazed and weaving drunkenly, Chantal causes a gust of wind to push his cape over his head, and while he fumbles a bit, Verrance judo-chops him in the back of the head, knocking him out.
Chantal now turns herself into a reindeer and they load Nalla on her back, trussed up with his own cape, and Joshua reckons they are a several hour walk to the next town. However, not ten minutes away, a little girl is standing in their way in the road. She is wearing black, with a blood-smeared apron and carrying very sharp knives, and asks that they give Nalla back, because her mother sent her to help Auntie Lover and the Lover needs him. Verrance uses Avoiding the Truth technique and tells the girl, “Yes this is the guy you’re looking for and we’re stealing him”, successfully tricking her into thinking he’s lying. Unfortunately her response is “What did you do with the real one??”" and brandished her knives. Verrance responds by leaping to the attack with an Auspicious Martial Arts attack with 16 successes, but the little girl is an Abyssal and perfectly dodges his attack and ends up behind him. Then with one action she shivs Verrance in the kidney, as he can’t defend the attack from behind, and throws her other knife at Joshua with a Thrown combo that produces fifty more blades. Joshua tries blocking them and also uses his Iron Skin Concentration, but they still slice his flesh.
Obviously, however, the girl was expecting them to both die, because when Joshua leaps to his next attack she does not have a perfect dodge prepared, and his attack completely slays her in one blow (his bracers cause his attacks to do aggravated damage to creatures of darkness). They dump her body in a ditch and continue on towards town, though they don’t make it until nightfall. They get a room in the inn (including dragging Nalla up with the excuse “it’s been a rough time”) while Chantal goes to buy rope and towels for restraining Nalla.
Once Chantal gets back she finds Verrance and Joshua still debating whether and how to use the Wound-Mending Needles that Joshua’s mentor had left him. They eventually ask Chantal to do it, and while she demurs at first they eventually talk her into it. She uses them on Verrance first, and successfully activates them for 18 motes of essence. Verrance then has to lie still for an hour and a half. While that happens, Nalla comes to, and Joshua ungags him so they can talk. Nalla continues to plead with them that he must go see his love, and eventually Joshua knocks him out again.
Everyone sleeps in shifts, but Verrance’s nightmares keep him up so he takes most of the watches. At around 4am he vaguely hears someone walking outside, mumbling about ‘Annabelle’ quietly. Verrance chalks it up to sleep madness.
In the morning, Chantal goes downstairs to pick up food, and while she’s there she’s accosted by a white-haired, black-clothed teenage girl who asks if she’s seen her sister. Chantal replies in the negative and leaves with her food. After breakfast the topic comes up of how to move Nalla without suspicion, and ultimately Verrance heads out to buy a horse and wagon. He successfully makes the purchase while Joshua guards Nalla and Chantal practices blowing things with her wind powers. While she’s doing this, however, she notices a guy on the roof of the building across the street attempting to drag something up. She alerts Joshua, and as they look again he is casting some kind of sorcery. Joshua quickly drags Nalla out the door while Chantal jumps out the window in Snowy Owl form, both narrowly evading the Flight of the Brilliant Raptor which explodes the room and sets the building on fire.
Verrance had been heading back when he saw the firebird light up the room, so he sneaks around the side of the building and finds a ladder. Chantal sees him sneaking up on the arsonist so she flies off to find Joshua. Joshua has been carrying Nalla on his back and as he enters a crowd of people fleeing the fire, a white-haired teenage girl attempts to stab him in the side. He manages to activate Iron Skin Concentration and prevent taking damage, but the girl is gone into the crowd before he even gets a look at her.
Joshua does not go out the main exit, but instead goes out to a back alley, where his path is blocked by the same extravagantly attractive lady from before. She blows him a kiss and he narrowly avoids standing and doing nothing, but she is still so distracting he can’t really prevent the knife in the kidney from the assassin girl. She also kicks him in the back of the knee and he falls over so when he looks up, Nalla is gone, as is the Seductress.
Verrance has made it to the roof and activates his fate-manipulation stealth charm to ease up very close to the man on the roof, who has a very large and heavy essence cannon and is muttering about who to kill and how awesome the fire is. Verrance finally reaches him and activates his Fateful Martial Arts Excellency as he puts his hand over the pyromaniac’s mouth, whispers “Your time has come”, and slits his throat and dumps him over the roof. The fuel bolt launcher also falls off the roof, and as it hits the ground it discharges, sending a blast of piercing fire clean through another building. The pyro is now lying broken on the ground in a huge pool of his own blood.
The assassin girl is now standing over Joshua, bleeding and wounded, preparing to kill him as she asserts that he killed her sister. Joshua can see Chantal dive-bombing her and wise-cracks “Would you like to join her?” Chantal then rakes the assassin’s eyes and Joshua takes the opportunity to punch her in the arm, though he fails to cripple said arm. Chantal transforms into her human form asking Joshua where Nalla went, but he berates her for her priorities, so she transforms to her war form and slashes the assassin across the chest. Joshua activates his martial arts form, and then the assassin begins a rapid flurry attack that slashes both Chantal and Joshua repeatedly, but now she’s wounded as well, so she fails to dodge Chantal’s coiling tattoo-artifact prehensile tail as it wraps around her neck, hoists her off the ground and strangles her. The assassin’s last thrashing includes to put a whistle in her mouth, and though no sound comes out, soon deep and scary barking echoes through the alley. A massive undead demon dog, a Barghest, comes charging at them, with glowing eyes and slavering jaws, but right before it reaches them it is hammered into unconsciousness by a huge shimmering figure. The cloaking screen falls away and a huge figure in white jade and steel power armor with a massive jade tetsubo stands before them dramatically.
Most Badass Moment candidates:
- Joshua’s first and only attack against Shoat of the Mire completely slaughters her, from full health to very dead in one blast of Orichalcum-fueled power.
- Verrance’s Avoiding the Truth Technique scores 8 successes and tricks Shoat of the Mire into thinking the real Nalla Bloodaxe is elsewhere. Unfortunately, her response is then to try and beat the truth out of the party.
- Verrance’s initial attack against the Shoat of the Mire is an Auspicious Martial Arts attack which means it scores 16 automatic successes…
- Chantal’s dive bomb attack saves Joshua and evens out the fight with the Crying Lonely Heart. Didn’t quite pull her eye out though…
- Verrance uses Fateful Martial Arts Excellency to score 17 successes for only 3 motes of essence spent. His one-liner is perfectly delivered as well.
Funniest Moment candidates:
- “What no foreplay?”
- Verrance: “Yes this is the guy you’re looking for and we’re taking him away from you.”
- Alejo: “Okay she’s going to split her action because I don’t feel like making Eli roll a new character already”
- Alejo: “Oh, Eli, this is going to be bad for you…” *picks up many dice* Eli: “Yes I know…”
- *Verrance and Joshua are debating something, Chantal is piping up.* Chantal: “Guys? Hey why don’t we, guys? HEY! The girl is trying to talk!” *The guys fall silent*
- Fun with Avoiding the Truth Technique: “I’m going to kill you as soon as you let your guard down” “Oh psh well he’s no threat gyah!”
- Natalie: “Okay okay I’ll try it. *picks up 3 dice* DM: “Which of them are you going to try first?” *Joshua and Verrance point at each other*
- Verrance, to Chantal: “You’re actually disappointed we don’t want you to pull the wagon??” Chantal: “I’m just trying to be helpful!” Verrance: “It just doesn’t seem very gentlemanly to ask you to do that!”
- Eli: “The NFL is going to want this data. ‘Oh he’s had 17 concussions in the last 24 hours?’ ‘Yeah give or take, not really sure about some in the middle there…’”
- Chantal: “Uh Joshua, there’s a man climbing onto the roof.” Joshua: “What’s he doing?” Chantal: “Apparently, throwing out his back.”