The Plague Race
As Wart, Bo’g’wai and Mela set sail on Mela’s sloop, the Wind Chicken, they encountered Wart’s mentor, Medli the Herbalist, clinging to flotsam in their path, aged, infirm, and unconscious. Fleeing the Wyld Hunt, the trio had no time to take Medli to a healer, and instead made landfall on the coast of Ahn-Teng.
In the swamps lived a tribe of unwanted orphans, one of whom, Yahn Farsin, had recently befriended a towering golden automaton. As Bo’g’wai used his wood-shaping to remake the Wind Chicken into a swamp-boat and build shelter for the children, When he discovered his cousin, Tepet Radrigos, was leading the local Imperial garrison, Mela flirted with a return to the Realm’s good graces.
But a family reunion was not to be, as Peleps Deled arrived with his Wyld Hunt and ordered the swamps scoured for Anathema. When Yahn was nearly killed, his Orichalcum giant unleashed a magitech arsenal upon the Realm Forces. Having confiscated the Raw Potentiality Torus from Wavecrest, Deled fired it from his flagship at the rampaging automaton. Donning a disguise, Mela fought off his countrymen before the machine could slaughter them, while Wart helped it regain its senses long enough to intercept the Torus, sacrificing itself to create a Wyld aurora that still paints the Tengese sky today. Radrigos arranged for the satrap to provide for the swamp orphans, but Bo’g’wai completed work on the Wind Chicken, and the heroes set off before the Tepet cousins ever saw one another.
They stopped at the desert’s edge to turn the Wind Chicken into a sandship and set off across the dunes. The very next morning, they rescued a young woman from a Bone Lion. Her name was Estelleah, but her deed-name was Seven Devils Clever, a Lunar “explorer” (tomb robber) of the Half-Moon Caste. The Bone Lion had been sent by her mentor, an ancient Lunar named Arrol Turns Bones White and Dunes Black, from whom she had stolen an artifact which could cure any illness. A Deathlord had fostered plague in Harborhead, and had bribed Arrol with the desolated territory if he did not interfere.
Estelleah wanted no part of Deathlords or plague, so she stole the Morbidity Trapping Mortar. The Pestilence Grinding Pestle, however, was hidden in a First Age ruin due to be uncovered by the sands for the first time in a thousand years in just days. Racing against time, they braved the horrors of the temple pyramid, including its master, a bronze golem housing the mind of a maddened First Age Solar Exalt who had lived up to the name Anathema so well his very existence sowed mistrust between Wart and Mela. They ran into Nougat in the temple as well, sent by his Mistress to ensure this new plague failed.
No sooner had they emerged from the sinking pyramid than the Exalts (and Bo’g’wai, mon!) were captured by Arrol and his Dune People. But the old bird underestimated his captives, who escaped and freed the man he’d crucified to the side of his cliffside Manse: Panther of the Zenith Caste.
Regaining his strength in great gulps, Panther thought Wart something of a wee pansy, so he forced the boy to run with him in the Wind Chicken’s shadow every day.
At last they arrived in a river town on the Harborhead veldt, besieged by the undead hordes of the Walker in Darkness, led by his general, the Dusk Caste Maiden of the Mirthless Smile. The Walker’s agents had already seeded the plague in town, and were now forcing it to incubate and eventually spread along the river.
Panther’s Circlemate Dace harried the undead lines but lacked the numbers to break the siege, and he dared not deploy four new Exalts, else the Maiden summon her Deathknight cohorts. Instead, Panther helped the fledgling Circle sneak under the siege lines and into town. Nougat used his necromancy to disguise hapless zombies as his Circle, who were captured and prominently executed by the Maiden.
Dace watched this display from a hilltop while the majority of the Smoking Skulls flanked the undead and rushed into town through a gate Mela had opened the night before. Wart used the Morbidity Trapping Mortar and Pestilence Grinding Pestle to cure the plague, while the Maiden spitefully threw her undead forces at the city walls and departed. The strain of curing the disease wore out the ancient magic in the mortar and pestle, whose final miracle had been a sadly finite cure for the Great Contagion itself.
Victorious, the motley crew of Exalts (and Bo’g’wai!) decided to call themselves the Circle of Unbroken Fate. Dace, who had thought them actually captured and killed, said only,
“I saw y’all’s heads cut off! When folk cut ol’ Dace’s head off like that, he tends to die!”