Sable Oak's eyes held anguish and resolve as he stepped through the brief whirling kata of Dreaming Pearl Courtesan form. He look to Sienna and beseeched her not to fight. The Solars would not be harmed, just contained. His eyes locked, and Sienna felt remorse at what she knew was necessity. She steeled her heart and dropped the guise of Kala, drawing the ribbon from her hair and pulling it to her bowstring. She spoke the Scripture of the Clay Maiden, and released. The ribbon streaked toward Sable Oak, cutting a line of blood across his cheek.
Senka landed and spoke to the massive wolf, promising to free here, and sprinted down one of the halls into which the binding chains disappeared. She reached the end of the hall, and found the chain linked to the wall. Realizing she did not have the strength or magic to break it, she turned back toward where Genjo had landed beside her.
Genjo took a few moment longer to regain his balance. From above, Sunipa pursued them, leaping from the balcony. As she arced through the air, she cast fire from Delicate Scarlet Blossom, her firelance. Genjo was force back by the heat of the flames, off balance and stumbling to avoid the flames.
From behind the goddess, and army of bronze soldiers, the Sun Guard, surged forward. A twist of dark green essence materialized before Zakiti, and her greenmaw surged forward to clash with the metal soldiers. Lashing vines bat aside spears but the soldiers' formation stops the greenmaw's charge.
Breathing hard and feeling singed, Genjo focused on the war god in front of him. He charged her, trying to grab her with a tackler, but catching her with his shoulder. She stumbled back at the force of their impact, but then stepped fluidly into a spin, casting about her with her flamelance an laying a garden of blooming fire around her that clung to the ground. With preternatural speed, she came out of the spin, raising her arms and leveling her weapon at Senka. Flame erupted, racing down the hall. Senka gracefully avoided the flames as the rushed past her, scorching the already dark stones of the wall.
Above, as the greenmaw continued to lash at the bronze and gold soldiers, Sienna fired another shot at Sable Oak. She mouthed an apology as the arrow flew, and took several long steps to sail gracefully off the edge of the balcony. The sign of Mercury, Maiden of Journies, appeared on her forehead in blazing yellow. The shot cut the long train from one of Sable Oak's sleeves as he dodged deftly.
Emerging from the passageway, Senka centered her essence, concentrating it into a single point. She gripped her sword hilt, drawing and re-sheathing it in a flash between breaths. She rushed the goddess, sword moving like it had a will of its own. Her caste mark appeared, an ring of deepest sunlight on her forehead. A single step brought her through the flames and her sword lashed out again, clanging from the jade-clad goddess's armor.
Still contending with the flames and smoke searing every breath, Genjo focused his essence into a thunderous iron-fisted strike. His fist connected with the goddess, sending her stumbling to recover and the flames around them finally dissipated.
Zakiti pulled her Agata from the essence of Creation and shot upward to avoid the Sun Guard, now pouring around the greenmaw. They hacked at the viny beast and held it at bay with stout spears and short blades.
Reveling in his succes, Genjo pressed the advantage, golden sundisk gleaming on his forehead. He seized Sunipa's cape, and struck several disorienting blows with his free hand before jerking the cape downard and sending her careening into the wall. The goddess struck, cracking the ancient stonework. A pulse of essence emanated like a shockwave, and she dissipated. The etched brass of her firelance clattered to the floor.
Sensing her opportunity, Sienna drew on her fated knowledge of the ancient laws of Yu Shan and the Bureaus of Destiny. She called out to Sable Oak, citing a statute mandate agents of heaven drop other missions to aid gods who held the rank of division head unless they had direct countermanding orders. As Sable Oak paused considering the argument, the Sun Guard surged forward, overwhelming the greenmaw's defenses as it lashed vainly against their shields. He sighed heavily, looking to his betrothed. "Seriously!" he exclaimed, then spun into action, attacking the Sun Guard and breaking their closely ordered formation.
With the goddess Sunipa banished and Sable Oak turned to their aid, the circle made short work of the Sun Guard. Zakiti materialized another of her demons, and the greenmaw finally seized some of the automata, shoving them into its maw. Sienna leaped back to the balcony, and fought side-by-side with Sable Oak, defending him.
When the last of the brass soldiers was defeated, Sable Oak turn to Sienna and said, "I'm glad I didn't have to fight you." Sienna replied, "I wasn't trying to hurt you, for the record. I was trying to keep you distracted."
The Circle examined the chains. Each link was etch with Old Realm runes. They reminded Zakiti of the binding that held Five Days Darkness beneath Firewander in Nexus, but they were much more intelligible to hear knowledge of the language. Each of the links was enchanted to strengthen itself and the adjoining links, drawing from the Earth essence channeled to the prison manse. The working forced Darunla to hold her material form. Each chain ended in a complex locking mechanism.
Hardening his essence into his fists, Genjo tore apart the walls anchoring the chains and untethered the enchantment from the manse that powered it. After breaking the tether for the first chain, the massive wolf calmed, and watched them. Genjo broke the second chain, and the wolf-goddess howled. Sunlight emanated from her, and the light hid her transformation. Standing before them was a woman dressed in armor and white robes pattered in red. Her feet were bare and her wrist and ankles were raw. The great chains were cast aside.
They approached and she spoke in Old Realm, "How long?" Sienna stepped forward and replied, "Roughly 1500 year." The saw the symbol on the Sidereals forehead, and snarled. "I'm not of the Bonze Faction," Sienna added quickly.
Senka stepped to the fore, caste mark blazing. She bowed deeply and respectfully, and Genjo followed suit, but bowed more in greeting than reverence. The goddess observed the Solars and spoke again. “Champions of the Sun, I thank you for my freedom. We shall hunt again and harry the foes arrayed against us.”
Genjo looked her in the eye, “I was told in a vision that you would be a strong ally.”
“I have always been an ally to the champions of the Sun," she replied. "I did not fight against the Creators only to see the champions of the Unconquered Sun destroyed.”
“Darunla, I apologize for not knowing the history that you’re speaking of, but I am honored that you are willing to support me regardless of my ignorance.”
“With my freedom, I am free to harry the enemies of the Sun again. I shall draw together a great pack and bring the East against your enemies. Name who you would have me harry.” The goddess eyed Sienna hungrily with her golden wolf eyes.
Genjo expressed his gratitude at her offer and introduced the rest of the Circle. Zakiti also set her caste mark alight to show the goddess that she too was chosen by the Sun. Genjo explained that he had to confer with his Circle.
As the Solars conferred, Sienna discussed the best course of action with Sable Oak. The debated the risks, but settled on asking the Solars to convince Darunla to reclaim her post in Yu Shan. Sable Oak objected to trying to sneak the Solars into Heaven. Sienna proposed the plan, and Darunla agreed that reclaiming her office would let her turn its resources to aiding the Solars.
Senka explained the threat posed by the the Mask of Winters and their quest to find the Fortress Invisible. Darunla commented on the secrecy of Larken Quen, and Zakiti asked the goddess if she had known him.
Darunla explained, and answered further questions. Quen had come to her out of respect, seeking her blessing for the defenses of the fortress he intended to build in her territory. She noted the Zakiti had the smell of him about her, like an echo. She explained the the Solar power is granted by the Sun, but that she was not the first bearer. On the topic of the Mask of Winters being the ghost of Larken Quen, she said that the ghosts of Solars rarely appeared in her time, but that the ghost of a Solar as powerful as Quen would be concerning indeed.
Sienna suggested again bringing the Solars to Yu Shan, which Sable Oak rejected. He said that course would only lead to the death of the Solars. Genjo looked pointedly to the shattered wall, and Sable Oak explained that while they had attained impressive strength, there were some in Heaven who had spent more than a thousand years training to kill them. They were prepared to hunt and confront the returned Solars.
Genjo asked why everyone had a problem with the Solars. Sable Oak told him that in the past, the Sun Kings turned to cruelty and madness. The Sidereals feared for Creation and scryed the future. They saw Creation could be saved by overthrowing the Solars, but doing nothing would lead to destruction. In their action, they diminished the world to save it.
Senka tried to hand Sunny over to Darunla, but the goddess rejected the gesture, explaining that the mouse was a gift from the Sun. Sunny cheeped indignantly, and Senka offered cheese to assuage his protests. The mouse continued to cheep, and Darunla translated that mice do not favor cheese, and Mice of the Sun prefer sunflower seeds.
Sable Oak suggested they move quickly to get Darunla back to her office in Yu Shan before SUnipa had a chance to reform. There would be hard work, and a lot of paperwork, to get the reappointment to stick. Sienna welcomed him to the Gold Factions, to which Sable Oak responded that he was doing it for her, not for any faction.
Outside the temple, the Solar Circle prepared to part ways with Sienna. She explained the returning Darunla to Yu Shan would help tip the balance of politics in favor of her faction within key departments at the Bureau of Destiny. She had to get back, and while she hated the paperwork she was going to have to do, working with the Loom was important. She handed Zakiti a map case with paperwork, including letters of charter that would let them use any of Dawning Seaspray's shipping interests for transportation around the River Lands.
Sienna told the Solars she would miss them and miss traveling with them. If they needed her, they could get a message to Umber in Nexus, her granddaughter, and the Sidereal would get it and respond.
Once again on the rivers, the Solars discussed their course. To reach the Fortress Invisible, they would have to pass through Greyfalls. Senka revealed she had grown up there and reminded the others that she had a score to settle . When the others had sought her out, they agreed to help her kill someone, Cathak Kitono. He had ordered the death of children as part of leading the wild hunt. However, they could not simply kill him, that would leave to much instability. She also wanted to look Kitono in the eye before she killed him to banish him from her nightmares.
And so the Circle sailed for Greyfalls…