Kantyn Town, if it could be called that at this point, was in an absolute mess after the battle we’d fought on its grounds. From here we could still hear the sounds of Mahasuchi’s war band as it marched (shambled?) away. I watched as each of The Chosen took the actions of those familiar with conflict. Burning bodies, taking stock of our remaining resources, planning our next steps. All but Kaemlin, the poor girl looked right conflicted. Clearly this was her first rodeo. And my Uncle Hinglebotter had taught us quite a lot about rodeos growing up.
At any rate, I managed to throw together a hastily made supper in one of the nearly destroyed homes. I brought Kaemlin and the rest of group… (Circle? Hm.) to dinner and we unwind a bit from the days fight. Over the course of dinner we discussed a great many things. The Lightbringer shared with us some of the history of Creation. The Dragonblooded’s place in the world, their betrayal. The Lunar’s and their exile, their relationship to us.
We also planned. Durandal seemed reluctant to give us his advice, but helped none the less. Kaemlin and Felsic would go to the Chayan capital to alert them to the oncoming danger, and to plead with their leaders to hold back on their Fire Tree Festivies until the defense of the nation could be secured. Byrrden and Vox would travel to Lookshy, a military society, defenders of the Threshold, and primarily run by a host of Dragon-Blooded. Once there, they would seek out political aid to combat Mahasuchi’s horde. The Lightbringer and I would travel back to Zion, to make ready for war.
A productive, and wonderful dinner… if it hadn’t been for the … unusual company that The Lightbringer kept. The large Fair folk at the far end of the table continued smoking from its comically large herbal intoxicant. It seemed to be enjoying the steamed rice I’d served it. I nearly jumped from my seat when Felsic partook of the foul smelling weeds.
Vox, the dear, spoke with me about my … attitude towards that certain… individual. If it had been any of the others I would have just brushed off the question, but I could hardly resist the young man’s charms. I told him about the fall of Relics Altar, and it doesn’t need further repeating. I left him an extra special treat in his care package for the trip.
It turned out, Chaya would send one of their Lieutenants to travel with Vox and Byrrden. I believe the sweet dears name was Daelaa. Her purpose would be as a functionary or some such as a full Chayan representative for the party.
Felsic and Kaemlin, transported to the Chayan capital by the Skyship that would carry the others to Lookshy, arrive to a hero’s welcome. Kaemlin was shocked by the show of adoration, the people of Chaya weren’t usually a society of celebrators — with the one exception of course. From what I’m told it was kind of more like a city wide dinner party. I’m sorry to have missed it, that’s for sure.
Han Shihan, A Fire Tree Monk, greeted Kaemlin and Felsic thanking them for saving the nation. Kaemlin urges the monk to gather the elder monks as she has further misfortune to share with them. They travel to the Temple of the Firetree, a large temple of pink marble. The monks gather before the duo of Twilights who relay the threat of Mahasuchi and his war-band, prepared to strike when every last Chayan would be caught in the thrall of the Fire-Tree Festival. But none of the monks seemed particularly concerned with these particular details. They seemed, convinced that they’d be fine. Mahasuchi is just a Myth.
I think the fire of the Unconquered Sun itself was burning in Kaemlins belly right then because she began to tell those foolish monks what was what. Felsic confirmed the three monks looked beyond perplexed that one of their citizens would, or could go off at them. But, the bigger shock for them it would seem, was when she produced the fist sized, stony, and prickly Fire Tree Seed. She tried to warn them, tried to ask them to even just reschedule, but it all fell on deaf ears. They’d need to speak to their Gods, their guidance would be the final say all.
Leaving the monks, the two plotted a course out of town, a magical cloud summoned by Kaemlin would take them for the first time towards Rathess and Zion. But not without stopping off and getting me a Chayan cookbook, the dears.
The world rolled by below them as the flew on through the night, and after some time the Fire Tree Seed began stabbing it’s way through Kaemlin’s bag. It was moving and trying to escape! Felsic, being ever handy, managed to keep the thing contained. Their trip was uneventful aside from the seed thing. Kaemlin seemed to have … a very strong reaction to Felsic’s singing. I haven’t heard it myself, but I’m sure he’s got an absolutely lovely singing voice.
Days later they arrived in Zion for the first time, and Felsic nearly falls in love with the whole of the place, it’s architecture, technologies, and strange inhabitants all part of the spectacle of the Deliberatives city. They are greeted by Slesk, on of the cities many Dragon-King dwellers. He shows them to the Wind Chicken, where the pair begins to work on finding out just what was going on with that seed.
When they opened it’s sack, the damnable thing JUMPED right at Kaemlin’s face, and would have smacked its prickly hide into her if not for Felsic’s fast hands. Together they restrained it again and began operation. In a single perfectly placed slice of her scalpel the seed split open. Within, a labyrinth of hexagons became apparent immediately. Over the next several hours Kaemlin studied its every detail. It was endlessly deep, and there were trace amounts of Oricalcum and Adamant within it. It reminded Kaemlin of the Chayan slag heaps.
They decide it’s time to reconnect with Durandal on their findings, and travel to the Bastion Invictus. When they arrive they head towards the tower at it’s center hoping to find Durandal, which they do. Only moments before I show up with more than a little on my mind to aggressively share. But I get ahead of myself.
On the Skyship Vox, and Byrrden traveled towards Lookshy, at least we think he did? Vox spent much of the first day of travel with Daelaa learning about Lookshy and it’s people. The military class of citizens being known as Lookshys, and non-citizens being Heliots. Many smaller nations traded food and goods in exchange for the protection of the defenders of the east. Deciding he should fill in the other chosen he was traveling with, Vox scoured the ship looking for Byrrden. He finds instead a man in a blue ninja get up, did Byrrden pick a new fashion sense?
The next morning the sky ship arrives at a towering fortress that from a distance appeared to be more defense cannons than actual city. Some of which re-oriented to point directly at the approaching air-ship. Three of the cities defenders, riding gold and blue sky vehicles built for a single rider zipped toward the ship, a man covered in head to toe blue armor called out for their purpose. Political Aid, Vox told them from a distance, ever charming and polite.
They were granted a swift landing, which was promptly followed by about 8 or so hours of inspection of their persons and cargo. When all was said and done, and they were granted access, Byrrden was still missing. Suddenly the blue ninja reappeared, revealing himself to Vox as Tepet Mela, of Zion. He had several key pieces of information for Vox — Nethvaran Ranidos was a potent military ally… but he died last week unexpectedly. Today was the funeral. Mela recommended that Vox should try to get an invite to gain access to the war council. And since most folks are sympathetic to his cause there… it could work out pretty easily. Gentes Yushoto, or Karal – highly influential and more interested in intervention.
With all this information imparted, Mela left almost as suddenly as he appeared. Vox and Daelaa would travel into the city together, and find a city in mourning. The flag of Gentes Nefverens flew across the city, during the only time the citizens were allowed to express their emotions — for Death.
Quickly gathering up an offering of flowers they made their way to Nefverens house, a manor open to the public, with a line of mourners trailing out of the front gate each person taking their time to offer condolence to the 10 members of the house, gathered in it’s entry way. Vox, ever cordial, waits for his turn. He greets the family with the correct amount of deference, stating they traveled all the way to offer solace during this dark time for the family. Widow Nefverens almost smiles at his offering, almost. She does however offer Vox and Daelaa a place to stay within their house.
Vox finds their hall filled with status of the families heroes Ranidos’ included. He also apparently learned about Durandal’s past indirectly through the stories of Ranidos’ life.
And so, Vox realized, he’d have to stay in this city of Dragon-Blooded, a city which was filled with adherents of the Immaculate Faith.
As we traveled back on the crowded Wind-Chicken back towards Zion… we saw Mahasuchi’s horde, and it was expansive. We didn’t lose sight of it for some time as we were carried down a bend and out of sight towards the city of Solars. I expected that The Lightbringer and I would have some time to discuss our preparations, to figure out what our next steps would be. As another warrior I expected something. But he… he hardly cast a glance towards myself or my troops for the duration of the trip. I’d had half a mind to not serve him any of the desert I prepared… but I’m not a monster or anything. He did recommend that I get The Golden Guardians ready for the next deadly encounter with Mahasuchi.
When we arrive to Zion, we’re greeted by Nayeli from the department of new arrivals, such a sweet young woman. I wonder if she’s got a family or any children? I’ll have to ask her the next time I see her! I ask to be directed towards the armory, and catch a final glimpse of Durandal as he turned to whatever his next goal was. Somehow he seemed less… mythical in those moments.
He traveled into the Underways of Rathess, heading deep into the Shadowland that lay beneath the surface of the thriving metropolis. He navigated his way easily through dark hallways, filled with necro-fiends that all seemed to be unphased by his passing, familiar with it. Here in the lair of The Beacon Over Still Waters, he showed no fear. Not even as a hand of bone, sinew, and muscle burst down the hallway making arcane hand gestures. He was safe here in his friend, Nougat’s home.
Durandal caught The Beacon, his Circle Mate, up on current events. The new Solar Exalted who had suddenly come into his life. Gethamane’s disappearance, and Dace along with it. Mahasuchi’s war path.
Beacon was keenly interested in the situation at Gethamane, convinced that the effect they’d discovered was comparable to the forming of The Void itself, as far as level of severity and process goes. If he had to guess, only a Deathlord (or many of them combined?), or one of the Neverborne could cause something like this. He also speculated that IF someone had survived the process, they would very likely find themselves within The Labyrinth. This was all the hope Durandal needed. Tasking Nougat with finding Dace and the cause for the cities disappearance, he said some rather nice things to his long time friend. This caused worms to spew from the Deathknights mouth, and blood to pour from his blackened eyes.
Before Durandal could depart, The Beacon asked just how long he’d expected it would be before Durandal let them into his circle. It was something The Lightbringer didn’t seem too keen on himself. Nougat laughed, calling Durandal out for being the “Great Golden Lumox” he was being. Durandal left, returning to the Bastion Invictus to make ready for War.
For my part, I traveled to the Armory where I met a lovely Anklok by the name of Krod, he’s something of a grumpy gus, but I could tell the large lizard man was more kind than he might let on. He was basically in charge of the armory and it’s upkeep. As he took me on a tour of the facility, I gasped loudly with realization and presented the Dragon King with a spicy tart I’d been working on perfecting. He seemed confused but confessed to liking it.
After a really long time telling him about our travels and plight he agreed to equip The Golden Guardians with longbows and reinforced buff jackets, a much needed upgrade to their armament. It reminded me of a time that a traveler to Relics Altar had been more than generous in their trade agreement with my father and I was telling him the particulars of that day when suddenly and unexpectedly several racks of weapons toppled and broke, directly behind him.
It was the strangest thing. He needed to deal with it and I excused myself. Noting a grand mosaic of Durandal and his Circle. I frowned, the time I’d spent with it nearly equalled that of time time I’d spent with the actual Durandal. With a sigh I made my way to find the citizenry of Relics Altar, and the Golden Guardians.
I did not expect to find them within a large mansion. A Manse. A Place of Power I was told. This was apparently my home now. It was hard to take it, and was about to force them to find some other accommodations for my people… and then I saw the kitchen. It would be an absolute wasted opportunity if I didn’t cook in it at least once…
And cook in it I did, my sisters and I gathered cooking with our family and friends. I should have been happy, as we planned expansions of The Golden Guardians and our roles together in making it the best mercenary company this side of Nexus. But I couldn’t find my … heart in it.
That night Fauve, my youngest sister, approached me. And being my baby sister she always could tell when there was something wrong. We talked about my becoming a Princess of the Earth. About my feelings towards the other Solars, and my mounting disappointment with the one Hero I’d expected to help me. To help all of us new Solars come to power. Thanking my sister for the talk, I marched off directly to get Charlie and get myself to the Bastion Invictus. I had a need to share my mind.
Arriving at the Bastion, it was an impressive sight. But that didn’t matter so much as I marched towards it, passing Kaemlin and Felsic, who I did of course pause to hug. I stood tall as I approached Durandal and gave him a piece of my mind. He was the leader we needed in these dark times. He was the Hero who slew the Mask of Winters. He was the only person I knew of who could have a chance at stopping Mahasuchi, and our only hope of survival. He needed to step up or we’d all be doomed.