Aug 13, 2020 9:00 PM
decima and ellie in exalted
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Sometimes she misses the desert. The great forests of the East are warm enough at this latitude, at least during the summer months, but too wet for her taste.

At least she has long since left Nexus behind her. Worse than Malfeas, that place. People chose to live like that. At least the Demon City has the excuse of his defining nature. Her work now has taken her to the back of the backcountry, where the scattered bands of civilization are easy prey, eager for any edge they can get to aid their survival and willing to pay whatever price. She has met with no small success, converting sometimes entire tribes to the worship of her patrons and their Third and Second Circle spawn. As well as her own personage, of course.

But she's not the only one quietly making a tidy profit exploiting this region. The Guild sends its slaving bands through, snapping up the vulnerable and shipping them to the raksha. This works to her advantage when she gets to an area ahead of them, but just as often, she's a step behind. She's been tracking their favored routes for a while now, and thinks she's pinpointed which track the next caravan will be following in time to set up an ambush. She'll kill the guards, loot the wagons, and offer the erstwhile slaves a choice between conversion and sacrifice. Possibly not in so many words, people sometimes respond better if you keep the whip hand hidden until it is needed.

She brings along a company of tribals to help deal with the Guildsmen. All have been blessed by her gifts, some gone far enough to take the fangs of a lion or the wings of a vulture, and most are devout enough or eager enough to bloody the Guild that she does not need to invoke their geas. She settles them in along the high ridge by the river path to wait.

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The caravan comes into view soon enough, as it's starting to get towards evening. This is a narrow valley and a poor road, forcing the wagons to trail out of their bunched up caravan - an area rife with good ambush spots, when the caravan's at its weakest, its guards spread thin and tired from a full day's travel. They'll be pinned between her forces and the river...

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Or, apparently, her forces and the other force that noticed this is a really, really good ambush spot.

A tiger - white, something about her fur (definitely her, this tiger is familiar, Luc knows her - ) shimmering oddly - jumps down in front of the lead wagons, stretching languidly.

And starting a panic, of course, leaving a brief moment of vulnerability as the guards try to reshuffle and beasts panic and the front of the caravan comes to a screeching halt without informing the rear of this -

The tiger laughs and leaps forward, moving like the wind through scattering leaves.

Somebody else appears to be causing chaos in the rear.

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...That tiger...

Her hesitation lasts a bare moment before the same instincts that are flaring about the tiger remind her not to waste an opportunity like this when it's handed to her on a silver platter. She signals her forces to attack, splitting in half to hit both front and rear guards from their backs. She leaps out, her long silvery whip flashing out to wrap around the nearest unfortunate. As she pulls on it to direct her landing, the coils tighten and the raised bumps of metal along its length slice cleanly through padded armor and into flesh. Her target falls screaming, and she shakes out her weapon to seize the next.

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The tiger carves a bloody, laughing path through the guards and slave-drivers, leaving the slaves themselves untouched (cowering, afraid, but uninjured).

Her gaze flicks to Luc, and she pauses for a moment in the battle - then a guard tries to rebuild their formation, and she's off again, easily batting away enemies as her own forces - a motley mix, some of them clearly wyld-tainted or clearly from closer to the elemental pole of wood than here but most from the same ethnic groups as the slaves - work on establishing defensive perimeters around the slaves, keeping them away from the slaughter - and from fleeing into the woods. They move well, in clear, drilled formation, at odds with their shabbier gear.

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She barks commands at her forces so that they continue to focus on the armed resistance and leave the others to protecting the slaves. It's better that way, anyway.

She circles the battle herself, staying on the other side from the tiger. All the better to crush the enemy, if they face Exalt-level aggression wherever they try to turn.

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The fight goes almost pitifully easily, and blood soaks the worn wagon tracks, and the dirt churns into mud, bodies scattered around - almost entirely of the slavers. The tiger's been protective of her forces.

She calls out a few commands in one of the forest tongues, as the battle concludes, and her people smoothly turn to divvying themselves between making sure every slaver lies dead and freeing the slaves of their chains.

The tiger paces up to Luc, then.

"You fight well," she calls, tilting her head and eyeing Luc.

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"So do you. For a tiger."

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She snorts.

"Thanks for the help. Made this a much cleaner and quicker operation."

"Though I'm curious what brought you here...?"

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"More or less the same thing as you, I think." She nods at the slaves. "No one who isn't in the Guild very much likes them."

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"Fair, though I haven't heard of you operating around here."

"I have infrastructure nearby - guides to get them to where they want to go, places they can settle away from the Guild."

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"I've been moving around. Haven't been in the area too long. If they'd rather go with you than go home, your place is probably closer than mine."

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She nods. "My people usually handle the logistics at this point; I'll talk to anyone who needs it, and I'll swing by later to make sure they arrive okay, but my time's usually better used elsewhere."

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"No rest for the wicked." She finishes coiling up the whip and clips it back onto the leather belt clinching her loose robes.

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"Heh."

"You're - very interesting. I'd like to get to know you."

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"Far be it from me to tell a five hundred pound tiger who she's allowed to follow."

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Her ears relax a bit. It's hard to read her expression, but she's probably amused. "I could just stalk you," she says, teasingly. "Talking seems more polite, though."

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"I agree." She starts heading over to where the former slaves are gathered.

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The tiger stalks along beside her.

The slaves seem wary, but the tiger's people have been reassuring them. They seem to take the tiger for a spirit - probably reasonable, and the tiger encourages that impression, giving a (rather rehearsed and stirring) speech about their newfound freedom and their choices: to return to where they came from (which she will not begrudge them) or to join her, and free others who have been so plagued, and build a new life for themselves under her protection and guidance.

The tiger, also, finally introduces herself, as Shimmering Wyldclaw.

The speech is effective - people's backs straighten as she praises their bravery and endurance, and a fervor enters their eyes as she dangles the idea of perhaps hope, perhaps ambition, perhaps revenge in front of them. No one openly contradicts her.

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She detaches herself from the tiger before the speech happens, and circulates between smaller groups, quietly asking where they've come from, what they lost, if they wish they could have been faster, stronger, better with a sword, if they want that now, to help survive, to take revenge...

(She can't be too obvious, with this probably-Lunar right there. Two or three of the most promising is all she'll spend the essence on, with an extra smile or laugh or touch to help fix her in their minds.)

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The most promising are all also listening to the tiger; seems like they'll be among the followers she peels away (which is most of the slaves; only a few want to return home, and some of them are inspired enough to want to move their families into the tiger's protection).

Shimmering Wyldclaw doesn't comment on Luc's movements, but does see to the start of her people taking over logistics fully.

She pads over to Luc once her tasks are done. "Have you spoken to everyone you'd like to?" she asks, idly.

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"I'd like to keep moving, then." Languid stretch. "If you trust your forces enough to leave them at loose ends - I can travel much faster than a human on foot, and carry a passenger."

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"They live near enough where some of those who wish to return do. I will send them as an escort."

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"Alright."

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She nods, and goes to give the orders before returning.

"Where do you intend to go?"

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