- 1 Kasumi's Power Combat 101
- 1.1 Part One: Power Combat Is Not Just Combat
- 1.2 Part Two: ...But It Is Mostly Combat
Kasumi's Power Combat 101
(it's not Mailanka quality, but for the moment, it's all you've got ;)
In the shadows beneath Rathess, a light moved without fear or impediment, bringing its radiance to long forgotten wells of darkness, illuminating ancient secrets, and casting down that which sought to destroy what remained of the city's fallen glory.
That light's name was Alakra, and he was Chosen of the Unconquered Sun. His golden braids skipped in the wind created by the speed of his passage, his green eyes glinted in the darkness made light by his anima, and in his accoutrements of holy orichalcum, Rathess could be seen reflected as it was in all its majesty, not as the ruin it was today.
The first of the example characters helping us today is Alakra Magpie, a Night Caste procurer of artifacts (more or less a tomb robber with an academic tenure). Alakra is a young Solar of moderate experience (Essence 3), phenomenal mobility, and a powerful practitioner of Tiger Style.
He is equipped with orichalcum Razor Claws, and orichalcum Hearthstone Bracers, socketed with a Gemstone of Perfect Mobililty (from Castebook: Dawn, grants him two splittable dice pools per turn).
Alakra has numerous charms, but for the moment he has only one active: Feather Foot Style, which allows him both to walk on the surface of liquids (very useful for flooded parts of the Underways), and doubles his movement rate for the remainder of the scene.
Part One: Power Combat Is Not Just Combat
Unskilled Penalties For Exalted
Alakra roams the underways at will, seeking ever to uncover that which has lain hidden for far too long, and nothing can bar the passage of a determined Chosen of the Unconquered Sun. Sadly for our brash young hero, this means all too often he wanders into areas of exceptional danger just as easily as the safer parts of the Underways. While hurtling along at incredible pace, he stumbles across a chamber whose secrets the ancient Dragon Kings wished to see never again come to light--and accordingly, as he steps on the first flagstone, ancient mechanisms seek his doom...
Alakra has set off a trap! How very D&D. Alakra's ST calls for a Perception + Awareness roll. The young Exalt has a decent Perception (3), but being exceptionally optimistic, has never seen a need to buy any awareness. If Alakra was not of the Exalted, this would levy a two dice penalty on his roll, leaving him with only 1 dice (3 - 2 = 1). However, the Exalted (and only the Exalted) do not suffer a dice pool penalty for being unskilled. Hence, Alakra rolls 3 dice, and luckily scores 2 successes.
A gnarled and spined wooden spear hurtles from its hiding place, flung by the mechanism tripped by Alakra's unwary foot. The Exalt's keen senses notice the barb just as it is about to strike him, and a burst of golden essence ripples over his skin, shattering the spear into a thousand sun-bleached splinters.
Having succeeded his roll, Alakra notices the trap and may defend himself against it. Deciding to look tough about it, he decided to allow the spear to hit him, at which point he will use a soak charm to save his precious health levels. The ST declares that the spear does 7 lethal base damage, and asks how the unarmoured Alakra intends to soak. The Solar activates Iron Kettle Body for 3 motes, gaining not only +9 lethal soak (for a total of 10 in conjunction with his 2 stamina), but a Hardness of 8 against this one attack.
Because the raw damage of the attack is less than Alakra's Hardness (7 < 8), he ignores the attack entirely--it does not even roll the normal one die of minimum damage. The hardness would also have allowed Alakra to ignore the attack if the raw damage had been equal to it--8L.
If the spear's raw damage was 9L, it would have been above the hardness, but still less than Alakra's soak of 10L. Hence, while he could not have ignored it, he would only have taken the minimum damage of 1 die. Remember, Hardness applies before soak.
Dice Pool Penalites For Essence Users
Sadly for the young hero, however, the spear was but one of the mechanism's organic assaults. A hideous cloud of spores seeps into the chamber, filling his lungs and forcing him to cough uncontrollably. This is of particular note as he stumbles forward, and the next flagstone grinds beneath his feet, eloquently speaking of a second mechanism...
The horrible spores levy a 2 dice penalty to all of Alakra's pools. How sad! Even worse, there is another trap on the next flagstone, and the ST calls for another Perception + Awareness roll. Surely this time Alakra will fail--with a 2 dice penalty from his Perception of 3, he'll have only one die--right?
Actually, no. As an Essence User, Alakra is attuned to the world, and thus there is a limit to which his ability to affect it may be diminished. No Essence User can have their dice pool reduced beneath their Essence by dice pool penalties. As such, Alakra rolls his full 3 dice, since his Essence is 3.
He scores one success--luckily.
Note that wound penalties are explicitly an exception to this rule. Multiple action penalties are also an exception (though not explicitly stated in the Player's Guide). Note also that this rule applies to all beings with access to their Essence pools--unlike the unskilled penalty rule above, which is the exclusive purview of the Exalted.
Despite the disgusting sensation of spores clogging up his lungs, the young Solar's attunement to the world is such that he notices the silently swinging pendulum of razor-sharp obsidian swinging at him from the ceiling. Summoning the might of his god-like body once more, he braces himself for the blow, but despite stopping the pendulum's arc cold upon his essence-reinforced flesh, a single drop of blood trickles down from its point of impact.
Alakra decides to repeat his soaking trick, not noticing the wicked grin on the ST's face. Cheerfully, Alakra's player asks for the damage.
Alakra could activate Iron Kettle Body again, but since the raw damage of the attack is above the Hardness provided by the charm, he would not be able to ignore it, and even Iron Kettle Body's considerable soak bonus would still leave him suffering many dice of damage. Instead, he activates Iron Skin Concentration, costing 3 motes, which can reduce any attack to minimum damage, as if it had been entirely soaked.
In this case, that's a measly 1 dice of damage. The ST rolls, and Alakra's luck holds--no damage (though the player and ST agree a cosmetic cut would be nifty).
Having survived the sequential trapping calamity with little but his pride bruised, the brash young Solar brings the secrets of the chamber out into the light, much to the delight of his circle's Twilight.
Part Two: ...But It Is Mostly Combat
All is silent atop the Tower of the Garden, amongst the ruins of a once glorious display of the wisdom and might of the Dragon Kings. Overgrown and strangling creepers bedecked with throrns surge over a plaza once a miracle of cultivation, offered in piousness towards the majestic form of the Unconquered Sun, without whose life-giving warmth such a work of art would have been impossible. Shattered stone walls that once supported the delightful garden dripped with jungle condensation, and dank pools of green muck ran amongst the flagstones, where once radiant fountains glittered with water like crystal.
"Excellent, though it is not enough. When we are done, nothing shall remain to show these despicable heretics ever lived!" All was silent, that is, other than the voice of Cathak Marissa, sweeping through the plaza with the chill and fury of a blizzard. She stood there, resplendent in her awesomely sturdy armour of blue jade, utterly encased but for her beautiful pale face, and her long white hair, floating in the icy breeze that followed her wherever she went. The Bite of Frost, a magnificent blue jade direlance, was gripped loosely in her right hand, while her left supported her thunderbolt shield, again in perfect blue.
"Not even your darkness can hide the light of history and wisdom, Dragonling. No power can deny the people of Creation the truth forever." It was if the sun rose again--a slight man in black silks, with long blonde braids flowing behind him, arose over the eastern side of the tower, burning through the air in the midst of a bright golden halo, his right hand coiled within an orichalcum claw, his left extended before him, as if to direct the surge of essence that allowed him to fly. Marissa sucked in a sharp, icy breath, and then spat upon the broken ground in fury.
"Alakra, the one they call the Storm of Blood and Gold. I see you, Anathema, and this day is your last!"
"The Storm of Blood and Gold?" The Solar chuckled as he orbited the tower twice, before settling to a landing many yards from the Air Aspect. "That's a good name. But you are outmatched, girl. Go home, back to your Isle, and leave the wisdom buried in this city to us."
"You slew Cynis Daok and Tepet Silea! I will avenge them, I swear, and bring your head to Silea's mourning brother!" at Marissa's snarl, shards of ice began to manifest in the swirling maelstrom of wind about her.
"I killed them, true, but only because they attacked me for no better reason than what I am--as you are about to do. But if you insist..." The Solar smiled, and his body coiled into the stance of the Tiger, bristling with essence and power.
And so it began.
Our second example character today is Cathak Marissa, a young Air Aspected Dragon Blood, and recent graduate of the House of Bells. She is typical of a fairly inexperinced Dragon Blood, such as Celestial PCs are likely to encounter early in their careers.
She doesn't know it yet, but she's about to die.
Marissa is wearing jade superheavy plate, which has a hardness of 4 and grants her an additional 15L/15B soak. She has a jade Thunderbolt shield, granting her another 2L/2B soak, and increasing the difficulty of attacks made against her by 2. Her jade direlance has a Speed of 15, an accuracy of 2, a damage of 9L, a defence of 3 and a rate of 3 (it is a standard Jade Direlance).
Her relevant attribute and ability scores are Str 3, Dex 4, Sta 3, Wits 3, Melee 4 (Lance 2), Dodge 4, Martial Arts 3 and Essence 3.
Her base soak is 18L/20B.
Marissa does not choose to activate any charms at this time, nor does she have any currently activated--this is mostly to preserve her essence pool for instants, since a great deal of it is committed to her artifacts. She bears a Windhands Gemstone and a Stone of the Revolutionary Dog, both powerful hearthstones but not relevant to this combat.
Cathak Marissa is not meant to represent all Dragon Blooded. Her purpose is to demonstrate how poor tactical choices are punished in Power Combat. This is not a fair fight. She is going to die, and it will not be pretty.
Alakra has the artifacts mentioned above. His Orichalcum Razor Claws have a speed of 0, an accuracy of 2, a damage of 5L, defence of 2, and an incredible rate of 7. Orichalcum no longer gives a speed bonus, but adds +1 to rate.
His relevant attribute and ability scores are Str 3, Dex 5, Sta 2, Wits 5, Martial Arts 5 (Claws 3), Brawl 5 (Clinch 3), Dodge 5 and Essence 3.
He has activated Tiger Form and Flow Like Blood. He has cancelled his activation of Eagle Wing Style. He is not currently using Feather Foot Style. He knows the charm Celestial Tiger Hide, but chooses not to activate it--a Direlance is a fearsome weapon, and he knows if his fragile body is struck by it, the instant charms used earlier against the traps will be of much more use.
Both Exalted burst forward, their legs pumping furiously. As Marissa hurled herself furiously into a sprint to close the huge distance across the top of the tower, she saw the Anathema's body burst into golden fire, and it seemed as if he moved with the swiftness of sunlight itself. She quelled the fear in her breast, however; while Daok and Silea had been felled by that terrible alacrity before they could even strike, they had not the magnificent protection of solid blue jade to guard them against those unholy claws.
The two Exalted are 100 yards apart. Since they are unlikey to make contact this turn, and neither makes use of ranged attacks, initiative is not called for by the ST.
Marissa uses her whole dice action to move. As such, she moves 20 yards + her Dexterity x 3, or 32 yards.
Alakra, thanks to his Gemstone of Perfect Mobility, has two actions per turn. Like Marissa, he uses the whole of his first action to move, and covers 35 yards with his slightly higher Dexterity. For his second action, however, he decides to use a Simple charm--Increasing Strength Exercise. Combatants may move up to 12 yards + their Dexterity and still take a full action, so Alakra moves an additional 17 yards as well as activating his charm. He spends 9 motes from Peripheral and increases his strength to 6.
The distance between the Exalts is now 100 - (32 + 35 + 17) yards, or 16 yards.
Stone shattered under Marissa's jade-shod footfalls, shards being swept into her wind, while stagnant water streamed back from Alakra's path, rended golden and transcendent, falling pure to the ground in the cleansing light of his anima. As they closed, the Cathak levelled the Bite of Frost out before her, knowing the key to victory lay in forcing the Anathema onto the defensive with its great length, keeping herself well outside the range of his golden claws.
Marissa rolls 1d10, scoring a 6, and adds her speed of 22, for a total of 28.
Alakra rolls 1d10, scoring a 5, and adds his speed of 10, for a total of 15.
Alakra is clearly never going to beat a spear-wielder in initiative with his short claws, ever.
Breathing out a frosty mist, Marissa slowed her dash slightly, bringing her lance sweeping about in the Three Brave Dragons formation taught at the House of Bells, a fierce attacking style for the lance that nevertheless preserved the warrior's defence capability. Her voice burst forth in a fierce kiai, but the Solar seemed unmoved by her ferocity--clearly he had fought graduates of the House before.
Marissa is 16 yards from Alakra. Coincidentally, she may move 12 yards + her Dex, or 16 yards, and still take a full action. She does so, moving forward to engage the Solar.
Marissa's direlance has a Rate of 3. As a consequence, she can take no more than 3 actions with her lance in a turn without the aid of charms or other magical effects (she thinks it's a little early for Ringing Anvil Onslaught, however). She must still take multiple action penalties as per normal Exalted rules to make use of these three actions, however. Marissa could, at her option, still use the normal multiple action rules to take as many actions as her dice pools could support, but no more than three of these could be with her lance.
Marissa chooses to take three actions, making two attacks with her lance on this initiative beat, and reserving her third action to defend herself with later.
Alakra's eyes flicked over the dancing head of the lance, recognising the Three Brave Dragons pattern. He judged that while his initial assumption of superiority was correct, Marissa was a skilled opponent and worthy of caution. As the lance swept in, charged with essence, he fell into a defensive stance, flicking his claws about in a warding pattern, striking the lance's blade each time it dances near him.
Marissa makes her first attack, using Stoking Bonfire to add 4 dice to her pool. Her total pool is Dex 4 + Melee 4 + Specialty 2 + Accuracy 2 + 4 from her Charm - 3 for multiple actions, for a total of 13 dice. She rolls well, scoring 7 successes.
In response, Alakra aborts to a Full Parry. His defence is Dex 5 + MA 5 + Specialty 3 + Defence 2, for a total of 15 dice. He also rolls 7 successes, and parries her first attack.
Marissa follows up instantly with her second blow, using Stoking Bonfire again, and rolls 12 dice for her attack. She achieves 6 successes.
Having aborted to a Full Parry, Alakra may attempt to parry this blow as well, with one less dice in his pool, exactly like a full dodge. Unlike a full dodge, however, he may only make a number of parries equal to the rate of his weapon--in this case, 7. Alakra rolls 14 dice, but only scores 3 successes!
However, the Brave Dragons will not be denied, and the Bite of Frost scores over the orichalcum in a shower of blue and gold sparks, slicing up into the unarmoured Solar's chest. Marissa feels a surge of power and joy at this first taste of blood--until she notes that it is not blood flowing from the Anathema, but light. She twists the blade, but it meets no resistance in Alakra's dreamlike body. He steps back, smiling.
"You must have greater skill by far than that to wound the Chosen, little Cathak."
Alakra can't parry the blow a second time, despite having 5 parries remaining in his Full Parry, because you can't apply the same defence multiple times to an attack. You can, however, apply as many different defences to an attack as you have available, and Alakra is granted a reflexive dodge by Flow Like Blood.
Alakra's Dodge pool is equal to his Dexterity 5 + Dodge 5 + Hearthstone Bracer Bonus 3 + Essence 3, or 16 dice. He rolls 8 successes, easily avoiding the remaining 3 successes on Marissa's attack.
Hearthstone Bracers, no matter what the construction, always add 3 dice to all dodge pools in addition to their normal effects.
All beings with an Essence greater than 1 receive their Essence as a bonus to all dodge rolls (though, to be fair, denying that guy who makes an Essence 1 Exalt with flaws his single die is a bit harsh).
Marissa falls back in shock, bracing herself with her spear in the posture of the Third Dragon. The Anathema continues to smile, pacing about in a small circle.
"Now you will learn, however briefly, that no amount of lust for vengeance makes it wise to attack one of the Chosen alone."
Golden light exploded about her, and Marissa is dazed, sweeping the butt of the lance forth instinctively in a whirling parry. As her eyes cleared, she saw the Anathema, framed by twin streams of water rippling up from the sheer force of his passage and suffused with his light, charging forth, dashing up her extended lance. Then he was gone, behind her, but she felt a terrible weight on the tip of the lance, and realised with dread that he had seized in his left hand, and was using it to spin about as leverage, before raking his claws down her back in a storm of tearing and gouging swipes.
Alakra pulls off some improbable stunt, and being in a generous mood, his ST gives him a +2 bonus. Normally, he could take the reward as either 1 WP, or 2 motes of Essence. In Power Combat, all mote rewards from stunts are doubled, so Alakra can take 4 motes of essence as his reward. This never doubles dice or Willpower, only motes regained.
This handily pays for the motes from his cancelled Eagle Wing Style, so Alakra takes the 4 motes.
Increased Minimum Damage
Marissa felt searing pain errupt in her back, and the stone beneath her feet crunching with the impact of the Anathema's blows upon her body. Summoning the might of the Five Dragons, she sought to reinforce her frame with Essence, but to no avail--while the blows were dulled somewhat, bright red blood arced out from her body to paint the ruined plaza behind.
Alakra declares three attacks with his claws on his initiative. Ordinarily he'd be unable to do this, since he declared a Full Parry, but as he has a Gemstone of Perfect Mobility, he has an additional action, which he may use freely for multiple actions according to normal rules.
Note that the gemstone would also allow him to take up to 14 actions with his claws--7 with his first pool, and 7 with his second, never exceeding the Rate with a single pool.
Alakra's first attack is made with a dice pool of his Dex 5 + MA 5 + Specialty 3 + Accuracy 2 + Stunt Bonus 2 - Multiple Actions 3 for a total of 14. He chooses to use Striking Fury Claws on this attack to increase the damage, and rolls 7 successes.
Marissa uses her held action to parry, with a pool of Dex 4 + MA 4 + Specialty 2 + Defence 3 - Multiple Actions 5 for a total of 8 dice. She rolls 4 successes, and her shield subtracts 2 successes, leaving Alakra with one success. She activates Flickering Candle Meditation in order to build a dodge pool of 4, to which her Essence is automatically added, as with all dodges, and a -2 mobility penalty from her armour for a total of 5 dice. Rolling 3 successes, she easily evades the first blow.
The second blow, also with Striking Fury Claws, rolls 9 successes on 13 dice! With no parry, she is forced to dodge again, once more for 3 successes, leaving Alakra with four successes after her shield.
His damage is Str 6 + Tiger Form 5 + Striking Fury Claws 3 + Claws 5 + Hearthstone Bracers 2 + Extra Successes 4 for a total of 23, five damage over Marissa's lethal soak of 18. Note that Marissa's armour's Hardness of 4 is entirely irrelevant--the raw damage was in excess of it, and thus it is ignored.
Marissa activates Five Dragon Fortitude, and buys four lethal soak in order to buy Alakra's damage down to the minimum of one die--or at least, that's how it used to work.
In Exalted Power Combat, Marissa is out of luck. Soak cannot reduce the damage of an attack to less than the attacker's Essence. Hence, Alakra still does 3 dice of damage. He rolls, and scores 1 HL of damage.
Realising she's spending Essence too fast, Marissa offers no resistance to the third blow, trusting to her armour. Alakra scores 6 successes on 12 dice with the third attack, for a damage total of 26. Marissa's armour soaks 18, and Alakra rolls 3 HL of damage upon her from the remaining 8 dice. She has lost her -0 level and three of her four -1 levels.
Whirling about, determined not to allow the Anathema to see the pain his cruel blows had inflicted, Cathak Marissa held her shield out towards him, spinning her lance about the axis of her hand in an entirely defensive posture, desperate to regain a tactical advantage. How could she deal with such speed?
Alakra crouched, a finger tracing its way through Marissa's fresh, bright blood upon the ground. He looked up, green eyes flecked with gold, his Anima still burning.
"You are not sufficiently skilled with that lance to defeat me. Let us test your abilities in other modes of combat." He vanished in a blur, and three times she felt her lance ward away his razor-sharp claws, but then pain shot through her skull as he seized her long white hair, bringing her down to her knees, bent backwards over his own as his free hand closed about her throat...
Wound penalties now apply to initiative, so Marissa loses 1 from her initiative total. This does not change the fact that she still has a comfortable 12 points of base initiative up on the Solar, and hence she wins initiative again.
Marissa chooses to full parry. This allows her, as explained above, to parry a number of times equal to the weapon's rate (3), losing one die from her pool each time after the first.
Note that you must choose which weapon to full parry with--if she was dual wielding two lances, she could not add their rates to parry 6 times with a full parry (though she could do so with normal multiple action rules, parrying three times with each lance). Alakra, on the other hand, could take two full parries--one with each of his two pools--and if he chose, he could take one with his claws (Rate 7), and one with his left fist (Rate 5), though since nothing would be stopping him from using his claws for both, this would be unlikely. He would still only be able to apply one parry action to each attack, regardless.
Alakra makes three probing attacks with his first pool in order to draw out her parries. We will assume that between the parries, the shield and Flickering Candle, she avoids them all. With his second pool, however, he makes a single attack--a Clinch.
All attacks or maneuvers of the grappling type are now considered clinches. Holds, throws and the like are still possible, but they are now consequences of a clinch rather than maneuvers in their own right. A clich is a -6 speed, 0 accuracy, Rate 1 attack, and hence Alakra cannot take multiple action penalties in order to make multiple clinch attempts.
Alakra makes his Clinch attack, activating Dragon Coil Technique, which gives him bonus dice equal to his Essence. He may use either Strength or Dex plus Brawl or Martial Arts to make the attack, and chooses Str 6 + Brawl 5 + Specialty 3 + Dragon Coil 3 for 17 dice total, rolling 9 successes.
Marissa attempts to dodge with Flickering Candle, and rolls a measly 2 successes. Alakra still has five successes after her shield, and has successfully initiated a clinch.
Despite the ferocity of Alakra's stunt (for which miserly ST gave no bonus, wah!), no-one is in control of the clinch just yet. If either party had any remaining actions, they could attempt to take control of the clinch, but as they don't, nothing happens for the moment.
What's control of the clinch, you ask? Well, we'll see next turn.
Alakra does, incidentally, take 1 lethal damage dice from Marissa's anima at this point. She does not roll a success, however. If Alakra had have been wearing armour with a Hardness rating of 1 or higher, he would have ignored the anima entirely.
Clinching Continued--And Piercing Damage
Marissa struggled against the iron grip of the Anathema with all of a Dragon's fury, but only in vain. Ignoring the razor-sharp shards of ice swirling in her anima, Alakra closed his hand about her blue jade gorget, which began to crack with a satisfyingly horrible sound, like a glacier breaking apart.
Initiative is very, very different this turn. Both parties have really no choice but to clinch, which is Speed -6. Alakra rolls 1d10, and adds his speed of 4, scoring 9. Marissa rolls 1d10, adding her speed of 1, and subtracting 1 for her wound penalty, and scores 5. Alakra wins!
On his initiative, Alakra activates Dragon Coil Technique, and makes a clinch action. This forces the clinch into being contested, which means Marissa's attempt to resist the clinch happens on this initiative as her dice action. She cannot escape and then take actions.
Alakra rolls 17 dice as before, scoring 10 successes!
Marissa rols Dex 4 + MA 3 - Wound Penalty 1 for 6 dice, scoring 3 successes. Alakra is in control of the clinch, with 7 extra successes.
He may now opt to a) do damage b) hold Marissa in the clinch without doing damage c) end the clinch, either releasing Marissa, throwing her up to his strength in yards, or throwing her to the ground prone.
He opts to do damage.
Normally doing damage in a clinch is Str + 0B + Extra Successes damage. Because Alakra is using Dragon Coil Technique, he does Lethal damage. He also adds the bonus damage from his hearthstone bracers as normal.
If Alakra had been using a Clinching Aid, like a Crushfist or Fighting Chain, he could have added its Accuracy and Damage to relevant pools. However, as a Tiger Style Martial Artist, this is an unnatractive prospect to him--you may only enjoy the benefits of a form if unarmed or armed only with the weapons of that style.
Alakra's damage is hence Str 6 + Extra Successes 7 + Hearthstone Bracers 2 for 15L total. Normally this would be soaked to minimum damage by Marissa's armour...but wait! Clinches do piercing damage!
Piercing damage is exactly like the damage done by target arrows--it halves soak provided by armour. In Power Combat, many Bashing Damage attacks have Piercing, because their crushing force translates better through armour. Hence, her armour provides only a soak of 8, for a total of 11L soak. Alakra rolls four dice of damage, getting 2 successes. Marissa loses her last -1 level and her first -2 level, leaving her with 3 -2 levels and one -4 remaining.
A clinch is rate 1, and hence Alakra could not take multiple action penalties to attempt to control the clinch multiple times, but he can use the second full action granted by his hearthstone to do so once more, and he does. Marissa has no more actions, and hence cannot contest the clinch--Alakra must roll at the difficulty of her last clinch roll (3 successes), but even if he fails, Marissa will not gain control.
He rolls 17 dice again, gaining a mere 6 successes this time--well in excess of the difficulty, however, with 3 extra successes.
He opts to do damage once more, doing Str 6 + Hearthstone Bracers 2 + Extra Successes 3 for 11 damage. This is soaked entirely by Marissa's armour, even with piercing damage, but according to the Increased Minimum Damage rule, he still rolls his Essence in damage dice. He scores one success, taking another of Marissa's -2 levels.
Alakra takes damage from Marissa's anima again, and this time she rolls a success. He loses his -0 level.
Marissa smiled with satisfaction, even as blood welled forth over her pale lips and pristine white teeth. A shard of ice had dug into the Anathema's forearm, and his blood dribbled down his fingers to mix with her own amidst the cracks in her gorget. Grunting with the sudden shock of pain, the Anathema stood up, looking deep into the armoured Dragon Blood's ice-blue eyes as he hauled her by the throat from the ground.
"At this game, too, you fail. Have you not understood yet? I will give you one last chance--I hope to the Unconquered Sun that you take it."
And then, with a flick of his essence-strengthened arm, Cathak Marissa found herself hurtling away from him in a burst of golden light, walls shattering from the force of impact from her armoured back, one after another, creeping vines that might have stayed her trajectory snap-frozen by her anima and broken like so much glass...
Initiative! Alakra, unsurprisingly, wins again.
On his initiative, the Solar chooses not to activate Dragon Coil Technique, satisfied that he could easily kill her if he maintained it, and feeling no need to prove it. Instead, he rolls to contest the clinch with his normal pool of 14, scoring 7 successes. Marissa's 5 dice manage only two successes, so Alakra is in control of the clinch.
He chooses to end the clinch. At this point, he could normally either hurl Marissa 6 yards (his Strength), hurl her to the ground (automatic knockdown), or simply release her. Instead, he activates Crashing Wave Throw, allowing him to hurl her either his Brawl x 5 (25) yards vertically, or twice that horizontally. He chooses to hurl her 50 yards across the roof of the Tower of the Garden, smashing her through several walls in the process.
In the interests of kindess for Marissa, we'll assume her armour saves her from any further damage from the incredible throw.
Dragging herself from the crater left by her ungraceful landing, Marissa stared fiercely out from behind her blood-matted hair, her blue eyes losing none of their courage or fury. She roared, her voice that of the blizzard itself, a wordless challenge.
Alakra, far away across the trail of wreckage left in Marissa's wake, smiled and pointed upwards with his left hand. Obediently, golden essence bore him skywards, and he resumed his orbit about the tower.
"Are you fleeing, Anathema?" the Cathak spat out her own blood, oddly satisfied by the way it froze before hitting the ground. "Do you not have the courage to stand against a vengeful Dragon?"
"You are a fool, Dragonling, but a courageous one." Alakra laughed, his clear voice ringing even through Marissa's howling winds. "Very well! I shall give you the death you so crave, and bear your valour in my memory into the Age to come. Here, I shall give you a gift--I will use my most powerful technique to slay you, that you may face your rebirth without shame."
He exploded forth, bleaching the very air about him with the might of his anima, and Marissa braced herself for his coming. She stood again in the Three Brave Dragons stance, hoping to catch him, hoping that he'd assume she wouldn't be so foolish as to use the same tactic again...while her own Essence sparked to unleash her own secret technique...
...but interminably, she had to wait. Impossibly mobile, the flying Solar hurtled about at incredible speed, able to set the pacing of the clash entirely as he wished. Unnerved, her grip slipped slightly--and then he struck, hammering down towards her, not even bothering to attempt to parry her weak spear thrusts, unbalanced as they were, despite the freezing blue essence crackling around the lance, merely allowing them to pass harmlessly through his dreamlike body as he reached forth to strike.
After a couple of turns of Marissa pulling herself from her crater, and Alakra deciding to fly again, the two Exalted are about to exchange blows once more.
Marissa, with the use of her lance regained, is in a commanding position from the point of view of initiative. She rolls 1d10, adding her Speed of 23 and subtracting her wound penalties of 2, getting a result of 28.
Alakra rolls 1d10, adds his speed of 10, and gains a result of 20! An excellent roll, but still soundly beaten.
Sadly for the Dragon Blooded, however, her enormous speed--usually a magnificent advantage--is in this situation a tactical weakness, because her incredibly mobile opponent is able to exploit it.
When Marissa's initiative comes up on 28, she declares three actions--however, with the flying Solar firmly out of reach, she is forced to hold them if she is to have any hope of attacking him. She is forced to continue holding on beat 27, beat 26, and so on until beat 20, which is Alakra's initiative, where he will himself swoop in to attack. When he does so, she uses two of her actions to interrupt him as attacks, activating her Stoking Bonfire + Falling Star Strike combo.
However, in Power Combat, you receive a penalty of 1 die per skipped initiative beat on held attacks (and attacks only, never any other kind of action). Having skipped 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22 and 21, she takes an 8 dice penalty on her attacks. Hence, her first attack is at
Dex 4 + Melee 4 + Specialty 2 + Accuracy 2 + Stoking Bonfire 4 - Multiple Action 3 - Held Action 8 - Wound Penalties 2, or 3 dice.
Needless to say, her attack is easily dodged with Flow Like Blood. Her second attack likewise.
NB: While Alakra is making use of the powerful Solar Charm Eagle Wing Style in order to outmaneuver the poor Terrestrial, any flying combatant may use the same strategy--rules for Flyby attacks from Eagle Wing are now constant across all flyers.
Seeing the wicked claws stretch forth once more, and the ease with which the dread Anathema ignored her technique, Marissa slammed the haft of Bite of Frost against the golden claws, hurling her body out of the way with the energy of the Hopping Firecracker, soaring up over the shattered wall to land upon the very point of an ancient fountain, safe....for the moment.
Until, her eyes opening wide in shock, she saw the Solar turn in his awful trajectory merely by pointing his finger at her heart, and realised his speed was too great...there would be no escape for her this day, or ever again in this life.
Held action penalties apply only to attacks, however. Hence, when Alakra declares a single attack with his claws, Marissa has plenty of dice to parry with.
Alakra rolls his pool of 15, scoring a respectable 7 successes, leaving 5 after Marissa's shield.
Marissa rolls her parry, with a pool of 13, minus two dice for wound penalties, totalling 11, scoring 4 successes. Activating Flickering Candle, she is able to score the single success she needs to avoid the blow, and then activates Hopping Firecracker, hurling herself (1/2 Dexterity) + 6 = 8 yards away, hoping to avoid the follow up attacks sure to come from the murderously swift Anathema.
However, any attacker attempting to land a blow upon a user of hopping defences may use any unused yards of movement to catch up to the defender, assuming they have sufficient movement, and the defender does not land in an entirely innacessible location. Alakra is flying, hence the fountain is not innacessible, and his movement with Eagle Wing Style is three times his sprinting distance--that is, three times (Dex x 3 + 20), or 105 yards. He has movement to burn.
Just to put the matter beyond all doubt, however, he activates his Rage of the Tiger Savant combo, with Leaping Tiger Attack + Striking Fury Claws + Spine Shattering Bite. He also spends a willpower to channel his valour on the attack for an additional four dice. His total pool for the attack is 29, and he rolls 15 successes, 13 after the shield. Marissa has no defence, her Essence exhausted, and she has no choice but to take the blow. Alakra's damage of 38 is soaked to 20, which is doubled after soak by the effects of Leaping Tiger Attack.
Her eyes widened one last time, staring out over the city she thought to destroy, bathed in the golden radiance of her enemy. A single tear trickled, half frozen, down her pale, blood-spattered face, as she heard the wet sound of her spine and heart being dropped to the ground by her foe.
Alakra smiled, a little sad, and watched her fall.
"You are lucky you challenged a mere thief, and not a warrior like my brother Orin of the Dawn."