Final Stroke (Longfang •••)
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By Gayo

Final Stroke (Moonsilver Longfang, Artifact •••)

It was in the waning centuries before the Usurpation that the admiral Winter Thorn forged a spear for her reincarnated Solar mate, Aphelion Yestris. Since Yestris was renowned as a wise ruler in her distant Northern domain, Winter Thorn made for her an arbiter's weapon: she offered assembled legal and religious texts from the five directions to the Unconquered Sun in a grand pyre, then blended the ashes with moonsilver to make the shaft, while the head was alloyed with orichalcum from a seal of the Solar Deliberative. In Yestris' hands, the weapon was gentle but firm; but when she was slain by her Dragon-Blooded officers, Winter Thorn fled with the spear to the rim of Creation, and for six centuries it changed hands throughout the Silver Pact, becoming as hard and fierce as their rule. At length it fell to Tepet Arano during a Wyld Hunt along the Black Shale Road, and like Arano himself, it has not been seen since the Tepet's northern legions were routed.

Final Stroke stands six feet tall, with a smooth silvery surface that widens near the head. Orichalcum filigree spirals from its base to the golden spearhead. Its tip contains a hollowed channel for ink, because the spear is not merely a weapon: it is also a tool for writing.

Attunement: 5m (spear) or 2m (pen)
Type: Medium (+3 ACC, +12 DMG, +1 DEF, OVW 4)
Tags: Lethal, Melee, Thrown (Short), Piercing
Hearthstone slot(s): 1
Era: Thirty Years' Silence

Evocations of Final Stroke

Final Stroke is both a weapon and a tool, and can change in size from a six-foot-long spear to a writing instrument easily held in one hand. Used for writing, its tip can become as supple or rigid as style demands, allowing it to function as either a quill or brush, and it can not only write on any surface in any color of ink but can also write in air with smoke or heatless blue flame that lingers for half an hour. It counts as exceptional equipment for Linguistics, and for Crafts that require a pen or brush, and it retains all these capabilities as a spear.

A wielder who is skilled with both the spear and pen (having Linguistics •• and either Melee or Thrown ••) can shift Final Stroke between its two forms as a reflexive action, so long as it is attuned and in hand. It costs two motes to attune as a pen and five as a spear, so when transforming it into a weapon she must make up the difference. As a spear, Final Stroke has a single hearthstone slot beneath its head. The hearthstone remains active while the weapon is changed into a pen, but can only be retrieved by changing it back.

Some Evocations of Final Stroke can only be used in one of its two forms, and bear an appropriate keyword, Spear-only or Pen-only. Some attacks can be performed with the pen shape. For this purpose, treat that form as an improvised light weapon that may be wielded with Brawl, Melee, Thrown, or Linguistics.

Mark of Reproach

Cost: — (2m); Mins: Essence 1
Type: Permanent
Keywords: Decisive-only, Dissonant
Duration:
Prerequisites: None

Final Stroke inks a burning brand on an opponent, marking him for death. The Exalt may pay two motes to tag a character with a stroke as a difficulty 2 gambit, or with a character or word at difficulty 3. Re-marking a marked target overwrites the old copy. Against a crashed enemy, a successful gambit costs no Initiative.

The mark glows when its bearer comes within long range of Final Stroke, imposing a -2 penalty to stealth and disguise. This gambit may even strike dematerialized spirits, rendering them indirectly visible through the mark. Moreover, the Exalt adds one automatic success to rush the marked character or contest his disengage attempts, and when she attacks him with Final Stroke, she may expend the brand in a burning flash, after she hits but before rolling damage, to ignore his Hardness or his soak from armor.

Unless spent to enhance an attack, the Mark of Reproach cannot be expunged for at least six hours, after which it still requires significant effort to remove.

Dissonant: The two-mote cost must be committed to sustain the mark.

Cutting Invective Assault

Cost: — (1m per die); Mins: Essence 1
Type: Permanent
Keywords: Dual, Spear-only
Duration: Permanent
Prerequisites: Mark of Reproach

The burning of the Mark of Reproach punctuates the end of the culprit's sentence. When she sacrifices the brand to enhance an attack, the Exalt may pay up to (lower of Essence or 3) motes to reroll that many failed damage damage dice. She must pay before the damage is rolled.

This Charm also allows the wielder to make a Thrown-based decisive attack against a marked target by hurling Final Stroke from up to long range, without needing to aim. If it hits, she must expend the brand.

Fierce Heart Mandate

Cost: —; Mins: Essence 1
Type: Permanent
Keywords: None
Duration: Permanent
Prerequisites: Beast-King Dictates

The wielder of Final Stroke needs no other badge of office: her words are law. When she uses Beast-King Dictates (Lunars, p.XX) to enhance written influence penned with the weapon, its cost falls to 3m, and its Protean condition always applies so long as she writes as though she held authority, and believes she has moral or legal grounds to do so.

These benefits also apply to spoken influence, but only when the Lunar brandishes Final Stroke in its spear form in the thick of combat or some other chaotic scenario.

Special activation rules: This Evocation awakens at no cost when the wielder achieves a significant story goal by using Final Stroke.

Racing Hand Poise

Cost: 1m; Mins: Essence 1
Type: Supplemental
Keywords: None
Duration: Instant
Prerequisites: Whirling Brush Method

A Lawgiver who has mastered the Whirling Brush Method (Exalted, p.322) may apply that uncanny speed and grace to any activity, whether scribing a message or fighting an army. This Charm supplements an action taken with Final Stroke. It removes the Defense penalty for a miscellaneous action or a draw/ready weapon action, and reduces the flurry penalty (for that action only) to -1. If the action also benefits from Whirling Brush Method — for instance, because the Solar is hurriedly scribing dictation in the midst of a battle — this Charm is free.

Stinging Admonition

Cost: 6m; Mins: Essence 2
Type: Simple
Keywords: Dissonant, Pen-only, Written-only
Duration: Instant
Prerequisites: Cutting Invective Assault

Using Final Stroke, the Exalt pens a short missive designed to unwind the magic of the Mark of Reproach. She must direct it toward either a specific recipient, to anyone bearing a mark, or to anyone with a mark of a specific colour. The message may include conventional social influence, but it must have the same targets as the magic.

When an intended recipient reads the message while bearing a Mark of Reproach, his comprehension catalyzes the mark, blasting it away and inflicting three dice of lethal damage that ignore Hardness. If the message also contained social influence, apply the damage first: any wound penalties it inflicts modify the target's Resolve against the influence.

Special activation rules: As long as the wielder isn't dissonant with moonsilver, this Evocation awakens at no cost when an enemy escapes bearing the Mark of Reproach despite the wielder's efforts, or when she permits him to escape to focus on more pressing matters.

Border-Marking Stroke

Cost: 6m, 2i; Mins: Essence 2
Type: Simple
Keywords: Perilous, Resonant, Stackable
Duration: Until sunrise or sunset
Prerequisites: None

The wielder traces a long arc along the ground or through the air, marking a boundary with the force of law. She must draw in a continuous motion; if she aims to cover more space than she can cross in a turn, the line ends where she next takes a non-movement action or applies her Defense. One action is enough to fully encircle herself out to the limit of close range, provided there's nothing in her way.

A curtain of embers rises from the line, extending two range bands vertically. Attacks that cross this curtain in either direction suffer a two-die environmental penalty, and characters (including dematerialized spirits) treat it as difficult terrain. The barrier arcs and crackles when something pushes through it, alerting others to the intrusion. Dematerialized spirits who attempt to cross are rendered visible (though not tangible) until the end of the round where they finish.

It's also possible to draw a boundary that bars only demons, the undead, and similar creatures of darkness. In this case ranged attacks are not penalized unless the projectile itself is composed of dark energies, like a bolt of necrotic Essence hurled by an Abyssal Exalt.

Resonant: The Charm may be used reflexively after disengaging.

Scorned God Retribution

Cost: 1m, 1wp; Mins: Essence 3
Type: Reflexive
Keywords: Clash, Decisive-only, Perilous, Resonant
Duration: Instant
Prerequisites: Mark of Reproach, Border-Marking Stroke

A law means nothing unless it is enforced. When someone attempts to move or strike through a boundary created with Border-Marking Stroke, the Exalt may detonate that line in a geyser of light and ink, sacrificing it to punish the offender. This is a (Charisma or Intelligence + Linguistics) gambit to add a Mark of Reproach. The Initiative roll succeeds automatically and its cost is waived, although a miss still costs Initiative. If the subject already has a Mark, the attack adds two non-Charm successes.

If the interloper is trying to cross the line, his movement is cancelled and the gambit functions as an unblockable strike against his Defense. If he is attacking through the boundary, it clashes his attack, regardless of its target or range. Unlike a normal clash, if the enemy wins he must then compare his threshold successes to his target's Defense (though if he attacked the wielder, she suffers the -2 Defense penalty for losing a clash).

Since this attack originates from the boundary, the wielder's position isn't important, but she must be aware of the intrusion and holding Final Stroke.

Resonant: Every extra success on the attack roll, to a maximum of six, refunds one point of Border-Marking Stroke's cost.

Draw the Line

Cost: 3m; Mins: Essence 3
Type: Supplemental
Keywords: Dual, Pen-only, Written-only
Duration: Instant
Prerequisites: Any other Evocation of Final Stroke

Final Stroke binds with chains of ink. The wielder uses it to write a message enjoining its target (whether one person or many) from a specific course of action, as a persuade, bargain, or threaten action. If a target reads the message and it overcomes his Resolve — even if he resists, and even if it's unacceptable influence — the weapon plants a thorn of guilt in his heart. If he is caught knowingly violating the ban, Final Stroke is empowered against him, doubling 10s on decisive damage rolls and waiving the Defense penalty for piercing attacks. After the Exalt catches the culprit in the act, this effect fades within a day; otherwise, it lasts indefinitely.

Only commands not to do something can be enhanced by this Charm. The injunction cannot be overbroad, and it must be less than a Life-Changing Task (Exalted, p.216). "Never go out after dark" or "don't follow me" or are usually acceptable, but "never leave your room" or "don't avoid my attacks" are not.

Etched on the Pillars of Creation

Cost: 2m, 1wp; Mins: Essence 4
Type: Reflexive
Keywords: Resonant, Stackable
Duration: Indefinite
Prerequisites: Mark of Reproeach, Border-Marking Stroke, any two other Evocations of Final Stroke

Resonant: Only characters resonant with moonsilver can awaken this Evocation.

The law dies only with the Lawgiver. Channeling her own Essence into Final Stroke's ink, the wielder renders her work ineffaceable so long as she maintains the commitment. Even if the writing surface is destroyed, the ghost of her words hovers beside the fragments. One use of this Charm can preserve several paragraphs of ordinary writing or a couple sentences of large-scale writing such as graffiti. Alternatively, one use sustains a Mark of Reproach or Boundary-Marking Stroke indefinitely. The Exalt must end this effect if she wishes to sacrifice the mark to fuel effects like Scorned God Retribution.

Special activation rules: After maintaining a commitment for a full year, the Exalt may drop it (and any supporting commitments, as from Border-Marking Stroke) to make the effect truly permanent. She can no longer sacrifice the mark after this, but it can be removed with a sorcerous working (Terrestrial Circle, Ambition 2) or by thoroughly destroying the underlying surface.

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