Arc

Chapter Nine - That Glorious Might
The rebirth of kings

20:th of Resplendent Wood

The River Serpents were recovering after the fight with the guardian automatons in the ancient tomb beneath Jadeburrow. Both Steel Horizon’s and Callous Hornet’s anima banners were flaring, flooding the enormous chamber with sunlight. Ragara Calel Torai’s anima was flaring as well but his anima was that of a grinding cloud of rock dust slowly wearing away at the features of the statues closest to him.

Torai confronted the Serpents about them being Anathema but also informed them that he meant them no harm. He knew that he was vastly outnumbered and out-powered and that if they wanted him dead they could easily have killed him. He agreed to help them explore the rest of the tomb. After the short conversation they all continued onwards, carrying Blurred Mongoose with them.

They entered the great hallway at the end of the Triumph Hall and found another stone carving on the wall, this one depicting the five Solars from previous carvings. At first they were gathered before a shining sun, then fighting a war greater than any before. After that they were kneeling before the obscured shining woman previously seen. The rest of the carving had been erased except the final image that showed them together again at the funeral of the dead warrior.

The Five Tombs

At the end of the hallway they entered a six-sided chamber. There was a door on each of the five other sides of the room, each bearing the markings of one of the five Solar castes. In the center of the room five jade statues stood watching the doors, each carved from a different color of jade in the form of a creature mixing features of both lion and dog. When the Serpents entered the room the lion dogs came to life calling out to them in five different languages. None of the Serpents conscious understood any of these languages so they had to use Torai as a translator since he spoke High Realm which the white lion dog spoke.

The lion dogs were arguing whether or not to eat the intruders but came to an understanding that they should be allowed to stay, they hadn’t had visitors in over 1500 years. The lion dogs asked if they had barrels of finest wine with them to sate their great thirst. Steel Horizon was fortunate enough to have a bag of wine with him so he could give them each a sip of wine.

The Serpents started exploring the room and found that if their caste mark was shining that their respective door would open and allow entry into the tomb of their First Age counterpart.

  • Steel Horizon was first to explore his: a tomb full with grave goods, mostly weapons, armor and long since decayed clothing. But little of what he found mattered to him when he found what was resting in the center of the room. A full armor of golden plate armor covered in ancient signs, each a prayer to the Unconquered Sun. Inside the armor laid the bones of it’s previous owner. When Horizon was watching the artifact before him his mind was suddenly elsewhere. He was standing on a battlefield, the fighting was already over and his closest officer came up to him to inform him of casualties, but he paid little attention. His mind was already on the next battlefield, fighting the next fight. When Horizon once again came to he equipped the armor known as “Unbroken Prayer”.
  • Callous Hornet was second to explore her tomb: a room filled with exotic flowers that had dried up ages ago, when air once again filled the tomb they crumbled to dust. In the center of the room a pair of skeletons laid, embracing each other. Two artifacts laid beside them, a golden bow and a silver sword. Witnessing this Hornet was overwhelmed by visions of ages past. Her previous incarnation was standing on the fore of a ship out on the great ocean. He was chasing another ship, a ship he had been chasing for very long. And now he was finally about to catch it. When Hornet’s mind came back she picked up the bow to find that it was the bow for her, it was called “Diplomatic Edge”. She realized that the sword in the tomb was that of her ancient lover so she wrapped it up in cloth and took it with her as well.
  • Shifty Dagger entered his tomb next: he was disappointed to find a room completely without grave goods. The only feature in the room was a skeleton covered in a withered purple cloth. He tore away the cloth to find a skeleton wearing a golden chain shirt with a throwing star clutched in it’s bony grip. Receiving no visions from lives past he grabbed the artifacts known as “Vigilant Guardian” and “Breath Taker”.
  • Blurred Mongoose needed help to recover from his unconsciousness, and when the doors to his tomb were open he had to enter alone, crawling on the floor up to the skeleton of a dead king. He was wearing a pair of gloves and bracers made out of orichalcum as well as a simple golden crown. The gloves were called “Sun’s Judgment” and the bracers were simply Hearthstone bracers made out of orichalcum. He remained inside the tomb to recover the greatest of his wounds before he came out again.

When Blurred Mongoose came out again he had a short conversation with the green lion dog in Forest Tongue. Horizon asked it where the artifact sword his First Age counterpart had been wielding had disappeared. The lion dog informed him that the earth aspect dragon-blood that built this tomb took it with her when she was done. And when asked who had erased parts of the stone carvings the lion dog replied that it had to be the “ones who came afterward”. Mongoose also asked if the lion dog’s work was done but they replied that they still had to guard the ghosts of those buried here, and to keep intruders out of the tombs.

Then the Serpents set their path towards the surface.

Blood and Death

When the Serpents once again entered the room containing the spear traps Callous Hornet could see a figure skulking around in the shadows on the other side of the room. A man with a crushed face and who seemed to have been dead for at least a week. When the man noticed them he simply walked onto the trapped floor and was impaled by a spear from high above, stopping him dead in his tracks. The Serpents quickly realized something was wrong and quickly crossed the traps and made their way toward the exit, Torai was left behind with his men in all the commotion.

When they came to the hole leading out they found their rope on the bottom of the hole beside the lower arm of a man, the arm was covered in what looked like bite marks. They easily jumped up from the hole and up to the surface.

On the surface they were shocked to find Torai’s camp ravaged by what looked like several dozen already dead corpses. The bodies of both Torai’s men and Horizon’s mercenaries laid dead on the ground surrounding the hole into the tomb. But several bodies seemed to be missing and there were tracks of someone dragging bodies away from the spot. The Serpents followed the tracks to an abandoned farm on the outskirts of Jadeburrow.

They found the bodies of the missing soldiers in a pile together with about a dozen peasants in the middle of the square among the farm houses. When they approached to investigate further they were ambushed by about two dozen zombies lead by a massive undead warrior wielding a giant cleaver.

The battle proved to be very easy for the now even better equipped Serpents. Hornet was destroying several zombies with ease while Dagger was hurling both knives and his new throwing star against the enemy. Horizon entered combat with half a dozen zombies and their leader, ignoring the blunt claws of the zombies he proceeded with unleashing his mighty Iron Whirlwind on the leader, who proved to be incredibly tough to kill but he didn’t pose any real threat to these celestial exalts. Mongoose tried to stay uninvolved in the battle since he was still wounded, but the zombies clawing on the chariot were he laid forced him to dispatch them with his new armored gloves.

When they finally managed to destroy the giant warrior they found that the bodies in the pile started reanimating one at a time. Hornet was putting them down easily but they grew uneasy watching body after body rising from the dead right before them. Mongoose activated his supernatural senses and saw the ghost reanimating the bodies. He charged toward it and punched it’s immaterial corpus, catching the re-animator off-guard. The ghost tried to escape but was easily destroyed once detected.

After the battle the Serpents started investigating the site. The farm had been abandoned for several months, probably because plague had spread among the residents. The Serpents found little evidence of what had happened there, the two items that seemed out of place were a shattered mirror in a black iron frame and an extremely sharp doctor’s knife made out of a sinister black material which reflected no light. They speculated if the mirror had been used as some kind of portal, but none of them knew anything about such magics.

They also investigated the body of the giant warrior they had fought and found that it had been crafted from several bodies sown together with sinews and iron threads. It had also been reinforced with thick armor plating on it’s body to make it even more durable to damage. Whoever had built it knew disturbingly much about both human anatomy, both living and dead. They also realized that if there were more of these constructs they could wreak great havoc against mortal targets.

Trying to figure out what had happened the Serpents got the feeling that they were being held up here for some reason and decided to split up to make sure everything was fine. Horizon and Hornet headed toward Arc while Dagger and Mongoose stayed behind to make sure that no one had entered the tomb while they fought.

Dagger and Mongoose hurried to the bottom of the tomb once again but found no indication that anyone had entered after they left. Back at the surface they found Torai busy burying the bodies of his dead servants. Mongoose decided that he would burn the bodies of Horizons mercenaries using his anima powers to make sure that they wouldn’t return from the dead as their assailants had done. After a short rest they returned to Arc too.

The Boys (and Girl) Are Back in Town

The Serpents found that nothing had really changed in Arc while they had been gone, but they decided to stay there for a day to check up on current affairs. Horizon and Hornet arranged to have soldiers patrolling the roads of the kingdom and to report anything out of the ordinary to them. They also designed a system of reporting to make sure that no patrol was suddenly lost without them knowing where it is.

Horizon visited the royal librarian Naraka to have the symbols they encountered in the tomb translated. Naraka figured they were written in Old Realm and the meaning was “He-re Li-e-se Da Fi-we Ki-nu-gu-su” or “Here lies the five kings”. He ordered Naraka to find out anything about ancient rulers of this region and anything having to do with the sword of his First Age incarnation.

Mongoose visited Hai’ark to inform her of their findings. The city-father was pleased to have him as a visitor and was glad to talk about both the artifacts he had found and of the city’s history. She confined in him that she was a very young city-god, only about 300 years old and that she had very little experience of supernatural affairs in general. Mongoose didn’t feel comfortable leaving the soulsteel knife anywhere so he asked Hai’ark if she could hide it from mortal hands and she agreed to keep it in her sanctum.

Hornet and Dagger asked around their respective contact and spy networks to find out what was going on in the kingdom. Hornet heard about a prophet appearing among their cultists in M’ok, speaking on their behalf and gathering the people around their worship. When the rest of the Serpents heard of it they were curious and slightly angry on who dared speak on their behalf and what this person’s intentions were.

The Holy Town of M’ok

The Serpents arrived in M’ok late at night to find that great festivities were being held in the newest town district among the formerly homeless peasants. Horizon headed toward the fortress build-site to meet up with Jade to find out what was happening, the rest of the Serpents went to the festivities to find out what was happening.

Jade informed Horizon that the woman named Acya had declared herself a prophet in their name, and that she was leading a movement within their personal cults toward a new direction. She encouraged people to not see the Serpents as mortals but the gods that they (clearly) are. They were to be known as “The Shining” and they would no longer be called by their human names.

Steel Horizon was now known as “The Speaker”, the protector of the people and the one who inspires hope and courage among the believers. His word is law.

Blurred Mongoose was now “The Tutor”, the one who looks to improve society and make sure that even the poorest and sickest have a good life.

Callous Hornet was now “The Watcher”, a fertility goddess who also makes sure that all believers perform the tasks they have been given. Nothing escapes her keen sight.

Shifty Dagger was now “The Unseen”, a shadowy figure, rarely seen but always present. He makes sure that laws are obeyed. The people fear him but are also thankful of his presence.

The Serpents found that the festivities were in their name and that they were performing great sacrifices for “the shining to return”. They understood the great advantage of having the cult believe them to be actual gods and decided to encourage this movement. All of them (except Dagger) stood before their believers to show their support, their anima banners lighted up the night and they joined the festivities late into the night.

Horizon even took the prophet into his bed for the night to show his appreciation of her worship…

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Chapter Eight - Buried Mysteries
Grappling - the double edged sword.
18:th of Resplendent Wood

Roughly three weeks have passed since king Harrow was relieved of the throne of the kingdom of Arc and a lot has happened since then.

Shortly following the shift in power ambassador Azure Sails got the task of negotiating a peace treaty between Arc and the kingdom of Helim. Borders were drawn were they had been at the start of the hostilities and the peace treaty was unconditional and official apologies were given to the citizens of both countries. It will take time for the wounds to heal, but all agree that peace is a good thing. Azure Sails is given the permission to build an official embassy in the city of Arc.

The enemies of the state counselor Ciro and captain Rajish were sentenced for high-treason against the kingdom and were executed by hanging. Any identified co-conspirators were sentenced as well but their punishment was seizure of properties and exile from the kingdom for all their lives. The former-king Harrow was exiled for his crimes against his people, he was allowed a small quantity of riches and a few servants and bodyguards and will never be allowed to set foot on Arc’s native soil again.

The former-princess Ami has been officially proclaimed Queen of Arc. She swore her oaths (again) before her people on the steps of the temple of Hai’ark. She promises improvements that will benefit all citizens and to repair all damage her father’s rule inflicted upon society.

Callous Hornet took the position of counselor and has been busy re-organizing the tax-system and bureaucracy in the kingdom. Her subtle magical manipulation is speeding up the process considerably.

Steel Horizon is proclaimed the Protector of the kingdom, making him equally ranked to General Sarei. He is in charge of troops positioned in M’ok and it’s surroundings. A huge re-organization effort is started to adapt the armies to their new defensive orders.

Blurred Mongoose has been in charge of building a new Plague Colony outside the capital. The sick will be given proper food and living arrangements so that their last days in Creation will be as comfortable as possible under given circumstances. The newly re-established cult of Hai’ark has been most helpful in this endeavor.

Shifty Dagger has been working together with the Guild to make sure that their profitability is increased in the region. The Guild is given increased access to local markets to spread their wares, they are given permission of selling goods such as light drugs and medicine which were highly regulated earlier. The only trade that is still forbidden is slave-trade within the borders of the kingdom, but the Guild is given permission to let slave-ships travel upriver through the kingdom.

The town of M’ok is growing at a quick rate. The homeless peasants are no longer homeless for instance, they have constructed a new residential area on the outskirts of town. The rebuilding of the fortress ruins are coming along nicely now that the master architect Green Newt has completed the first parts of his great “masterpiece”. The harbor in town has been restored to it’s former glory and the roads leading to the docks have been paved with surplus stone from the ruins. Horizon has also started a program of competitions of skill to entertain the people and also encourage personal development. The brewer Garyan is placed in charge of founding a great brewery in M’ok.

The mercenaries that Horizon ordered from downriver earlier have arrived to the kingdom, roughly a hundred men hailing from Great Forks going under the name Dreamers of Victory. Their commanding officer is a great burly man named Grift Stonestrike who is very proud of his god-blooded heritage. They are ordered to make sure the town of M’ok is secure from outside threats.

Present Day

This chapter begins with Callous Hornet having a meeting with the royal librarian Naraka about his co-operation with the dragon blood Ragara Calel Torai. Naraka informed her that he has been working with the young dynast for roughly a month translating ancient books and scrolls to find the location of a long lost burial chamber somewhere in the vicinity of the kingdom of Arc. His work came to fruition roughly a three weeks ago when he found the passage “Tomb of kings, buried beneath graves of fallen warriors”, this lead him to believe that the tomb could be found in the area known as Jadeburrow to the northwest of the capital. The dynast and his expedition party has been gone for over three weeks now, with servants returning briefly to get supplies roughly once a week.

Hornet called a meeting with the rest of the River Serpents at the Golden Carp to discuss what to do about this situation. They agreed that Torai’s expedition had to be investigated to make sure that nothing of importance falls into the hands of foreign interests, especially The Realm. Shifty Dagger and Callous Hornet would go first to Jadeburrow to scout-ahead while Steel Horizon and Blurred Mongoose would come the next day with soldiers from M’ok in case things turned hostile.

Dagger and Hornet rode their horses to Jadeburrow to find where the expedition had set up camp. They found several abandoned dig-sites in the area before they found Torai’s semi-permanent campsite. They observed and infiltrated the area and found that the expedition had found a way into an underground complex several yards beneath the ground, they learned that Torai had gone ahead with some of his servants to explore the tomb. Later that evening Torai climbed up again but one of his servants was missing which caused his expedition to worry greatly about the dangers below. Dagger and Hornet set up a camp nearby to wait for the rest of the Serpents to catch up before they proceeded. The following day Mongoose and Horizon came to Jadeburrow with roughly 25 soldiers, they set up camp near Torai’s camp and went to meet up with the young dragon blood.

The meeting with Ragara Calel Torai went rather smoothly, the young dynast was quickly informed that any deals he previously had with king Harrow or counselor Ciro didn’t matter anymore. The Serpents demanded that they would be allowed to explore the tomb themselves and Torai insisted that he would accompany them inside with two of his servants. And down they went into the dark of the ancient tomb…

Tomb of Kings

They descended into the tomb through a hole in the ceiling of a corridor. The passage was carved from the very rock itself and decorated with immensely detailed carvings. Torai informed them that one direction would take them to the buried doors and the other would take them deeper into the complex, the Serpents didn’t hesitate, they wanted to go deeper.

The corridor lead them to a long staircase, it too carved from the massive rock ground. Carvings on the wall depicted the life of a priest-king, the handiwork is magnificent and incredibly detailed. The first picture depicts the king kneeling before a shining woman whose face has been concealed. Then comes a picture were the king is speaking before his people, he is shining with all his glory and his people are kneeling before his majestic glory. Then follows pictures of many battles, the king is leading his people into battle with ever greater and stranger enemies, but by each victory his army grows ever smaller. In the second to last picture he is kneeling before a burning city. And in the last picture the king has turned his back on the shining sun. Somehow Blurred Mongoose finds the events depicted oddly familiar and the last picture causes shivers down his back.

At the bottom of the staircase they enter a large room. The floor in the room is tiled and the ceiling is full of holes. In the center of one of the tiles one of Torai’s men has been impaled by an iron spear from above, this room was obviously trapped. On the wall another carving depicted the life of a mighty warrior. The first picture was him kneeling before the same shining woman as in the priest-king’s story. The following pictures are of him fighting on various different battlefields. The warrior is always in the forefront of battle, always smiling, always shining. In the second to last picture he lies dead on the ground, still smiling with an oddly calm expression on his face. In the final picture another warrior is kneeling before the shining woman, he is wearing the first warriors weapons and armor. This time Steel Horizon feels familiar with the events depicted, the picture of the dead warrior fills him with sadness.

The exalts discuss how to cross the trapped room for a while before Steel Horizon simply takes a giant leap across the room, ending the discussion. Shifty Dagger activates one of his charms and gently strolls upon the walls to reach the other side without stepping on the floor. This obvious display of mystic power clearly unnerves the young dynast. The rest of the Serpents and Torai’s crew cross the room either by jumping across or by a rope stretched across the tiled floor. They proceed further into the tomb.

The next obstacle is a pit in the middle of the corridor, and it seems to be the only way down. There is another stone carving on the wall beside the pit, this one depicting the life of a craftsman. Once again the first picture is of him kneeling before the shining woman. The following pictures are of him creating ever mightier artifacts, with great details and instructions on how these wonders were created. Unfortunately the second half of the carving has been erased, as if someone wanted the artifacts depicted to stay hidden. None of the Serpents was familiar with the events depicted, but some of the artifacts were slightly familiar.Climbing down the pit was easy for one who can walk on walls, the rest followed by climbing a rope.

At the bottom of the pit there was another stone carving, this time the life-story of a pair of lovers. The first picture is of a young man with a beautiful bow kneeling before the shining woman. The following pictures depict the various exotic and wonderful locations that the young man visits in his travels. Then he meets a young woman which he marries. The rest of their travels they do together without ever visiting the same location twice. In the last picture the lovers lay dead, embracing each other even in death, they are surrounded by crying soldiers. Callous Hornet feels the odd sense of familiarity, the last picture filling her with sadness but also hope.

The corridor leads them to yet another chamber very much like the first one. This time the room is filled with columns of stone statues, each one unique and very elegantly made. A thin path leads between the soldiers through the room. The walls contain the remains of a wall carving that has been erased, only the last picture remains. A lone woman, standing above the corpse of the dead warrior from previous carvings, she is holding a throwing star in her hand. Shifty Dagger somehow recognizes the woman in the picture. The Serpents wonder about the room for a while before one of them notices that the floor beneath the statues is somehow different from the floor in the small path down the room’s center, they figure that they should be safe if they walk straight through the slightly threatening stone soldiers. They climb a few more stairs before they reach a great stone door.

The Legion of Rock and Steel.

The Serpents work together to open the heavy stone doors, and on the other side waits a truly awe-inspiring room. The room is enormous and the entryway is near the roof of the room, high above the rest. The room is filled with the same kind of stone soldiers as in the previous room, but these number in the hundreds, if not thousands. They stand together in military formations facing a great doorway on the far-side of the room. Five greater statues stand before the others, one huge figure clad in armor carrying a great shield and a sword, the four others are warriors clad in brass-colored armor, carrying a sword and a spear in their hands. Above the doorway there are five symbols, written in a language that none of the Serpents or Torai comprehends. From the doorway a thin stone bridge goes across the room to a single pillar in the middle with a spiral staircase going down to the ground floor.

The Serpents stand in awe at the magnificence of the tomb before they go on down the stairs (except Dagger that walks along the walls). When they take their first step on the floor below the statues at the end of the hall come to life, pointing their weapons against the intruders as several of the stone statues around them come to life, animated by ancient machinery.

The ensuing battle is a glorious one as the Serpents fight alongside Ragara Calel Torai in vanquishing the mechanical horde. Callous Hornet was having trouble penetrating the heavy armor of the soldiers with her bow, but her carefully aimed arrows still proved to be of great assistance to the other fighters. Shifty Dagger was having the same trouble, and he quickly realized that his usual tactics of deception proved useless against these vigilant machine guardians, he fought the automatons with his throwing daggers and even a kicked stone head when the knives ran out. Steel Horizon once again made credit to his name. He fought the largest amount of automatons at once with his great sledge, shattering stone statues around him in large numbers as his anima burned brighter by every attack he made. Blurred Mongoose underestimated the battle prowess of the tomb guardians and even if he fought great in the beginning his tactics backfired on him. While grappling one of the Brass Legionaries his opponent managed to turn the clinch on him, squeezing life from him while lesser automatons were stabbing at him with their swords. Despite his efforts to get free he fell unconscious shortly after he lost control of the grapple. Ragara Calel Torai fought on their side with his white jade daiklave called Lost Dreams Refound, while he couldn’t quite match the power of the lawgivers in combat he proved quite effective at destroying the lesser automatons threatening the Serpents.

In the aftermath of the battle both Hornet and Horizon were burning like brilliant bonfires of solar essence and Torai was the source of a torrent of elemental power, his anima banner grinding like rock against rock while a dust storm surrounded him. Hornet quickly helped Mongoose with his wounds and here we leave the River Serpents for now, deep underground in the sunlit tombs of ancient fallen kings.

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Chapter Seven - Designs in Motion
Fear the might of the sun's chosen!
23:rd of Ascending Wood

We rejoin the River Serpents at the Golden Carp Inn, where they are discussing their future plans over a delicious meal. They agree that they must get rid of Counselor Ciro, but they can’t agree on method of removal. Shifty Dagger simply wants to assassinate the counselor and then secretly take control of the kingdom, but the others wanted to know more before they decided to act on it.

Steel Horizon and Blurred Mongoose wanted to visit the arrested city-guards and went to the tower containing their cells. Horizon bribed the guards and got to meet with Plovo former commander of the city-guards in the city of Arc. They discussed why they had been imprisoned and Plovo told them that he and the other guardsmen were wrongfully imprisoned and that something fishy was up with Captain Rajish who had recently taken control of the defending forces in the capital. When asked about people who knew more about politics in the kingdom, Plovo mentioned former counselor An’an who has been under house arrest for nearly a year since he misspoke about his opinions on the king’s rule. Horizon and Mongoose thanked Plovo and gave him some coins to pay of the guards so that they could messages out of their cells. In exchange for his help Plovo only wished that they would see to it that he and his men weren’t executed for the crimes they hadn’t committed. Horizon and Blurred then decided they would pay a visit to the former counselor and get his view on things.

Meanwhile Shifty Dagger and Callous Hornet were busy digging up more dirt on Counselor Ciro and Captain Rajish. Dagger got the location of Rajish’s home and easily broke in to have a look. He was amused to find that the dear captain wasn’t very secretive about his involvement in illegal affairs, in his (poorly) locked office Dagger found scattered papers connecting him to all manners of dirty work done for an unnamed person (most likely the counselor) which would be more than enough evidence to prove the captain was up to no good at all. Dagger grabbed the most interesting pieces of papers and went to meet up with Hornet at a nearby teahouse. While Dagger was breaking into Rajish’s apartment Hornet was looking for Counselor Ciro’s home, and thanks to her unsurpassed deduction and investigation skills she found the location of his secret apartment, a small room hidden away inside a noble family’s home with a secret entrance from an alleyway. Amused by her newfound powers she went to meet up with Dagger at the teahouse and due to the incredibly short time it took her to find Ciro’s home she managed to get enough time to drink a cup of tea and eat an apple before Dagger returned from his break-in.

Horizon and Mongoose found the home of An’an guarded by a lone and tired guard who was easily bribed to let them in. When inside they were met by an unnerving feeling that something was wrong and called the guard to find An’an. When they entered the private study of the former counselor they were met by an unexpected scene. An’an was lying on the floor, murdered, and the barred windows were open. It was obvious that a fight had taken place in the room not long ago and the assailant had been wounded in the fight before he managed to kill the former counselor. They decided that they would meet up with the other River Serpents back at the Golden Carp to inform them of this sudden turn of events.

Back at the teahouse Dagger and Hornet were discussing what their investigations had turned up. They decided that Dagger would break into the counselors house and then they would meet up with the others back at the Golden Carp. Breaking into the counselors apartment proved to be rather easy given that Dagger had previously pick-pocketed the counselors keys. Luckily the counselor hadn’t gotten around to getting rid of the latest evidence yet aswell. Dagger discovered a poorly hidden document in his room, a contract between the counselor and a woman named Winter Blossom. The contract was most likely one of assassination and the names of the victims were: Steel Horizon, Callous Hornet, Blurred Mongoose, Shifty Dagger, Ambassador Azure Sails, Former Counselor An’an, Priestess Waila and Nerman Ail. This information could indeed prove to be useful.

The River Serpents met up once again at the Golden Carp Inn to once again discuss what they were going to do. When all the evidence was laid forward it was quite obvious that the counselor had ordered the elimination of a large group of people, including the Serpents. When they started planning what to do next they realized that their opinions varied greatly and they split up into two groups of thought. Steel Horizon and Shifty Dagger wanted action, they were prepared to storm the king’s palace, expose the counselor and depose the king in one single move. Callous Hornet and Blurred Mongoose preferred a more cautious approach, finding more information, gathering allies and then exposing the counselor when the time proved right, they didn’t want to kill the palace guards just to stop the counselors plans. The Serpents were unable to come up with a unified plan so they decided that the thing they could do was to make sure that the people on the assassination list were safe. They left the Inn, ready to split up to protect those in need. But from here things took a new turn…

Outside the Inn the dragon-blooded assassin Winter Blossom was waiting together with her band of killers. Fortunately for the Serpents, Blurred Mongoose managed to detect the ambush only moments before the trap sprung on them. The battle was fast and deadly, Callous Hornet’s incredible speed and accuracy with her bow dispatched several of the assassins before they managed to do real damage to the Serpents. Shifty Dagger disappeared into the shadows and the only thing the enemy saw of him again was his sharp blades sticking out of their throats. Blurred Mongoose took care of the archers on the roof beside Winter Blossom, after a combination of powerful blows he threw one of the assassins into the other dispatching them both. And finally Steel Horizon engaged the leader of the enemy once again, his mighty hammer flew through the air past her guard and she retaliated with a well aimed arrow that proved insufficient to pierce his thick armor, then Horizon unleashed his full power upon her with his mighty Iron Whirlwind Technique which proved too powerful for the young Terrestrial Exalt.

The battle was over quickly and the Serpents had little time to regroup before a plan of action was decided upon. Steel Horizon grabbed the body of Winer Blossom and headed towards the Royal Palace. The palace guards tried stopping him but he easily intimidated them into stepping aside, once inside they were slowed down by even more palace guards. Mongoose handled them by activating his anima banner at totemic level, a brilliant ray of sunlight shone down from the heavens upon him briefly and then he was alight like a brilliant bonfire of solar energy, the guards backed aside and let them through.

The throne room was full of guards when they entered and the king was sitting on his throne, his counselor beside him. Steel Horizon activated his totemic power as well, making the gathered soldiers stand back in awe of his majestic glory. Horizon went straight up to the king and presented him with both the body of the assassin and the evidence they had collected. While the king was busy looking at the evidence before him the counselor tried backing away into the shadows but was stopped by Shifty Dagger who was already behind him disguised by magic. The evidence laid against the counselor and Captain Rajish was very effective and the king had the counselor arrested at once. When the king was thanking them for their help in saving his kingdom they decided to intervene on another issue.

They informed the king that he had to step down from the throne at this instant and that his tyranny was no longer tolerated. The king was chocked at this sudden turn of events and tried to grab his sword “The Will of Bodakh” but the intimidating presence of the Solars proved to be too much for him, he just stood there, frozen in terror, with his sword in it’s sheath. The Serpents told him that he would not be harmed but he was to be removed from office and banished from the kingdom. The palace guards were easily ordered to place the king under arrest as well.

Steel Horizon took the king’s sword and plunged it into the throne, declaring the rule of King Harrow to be over and that Princess Ami would be the new queen and ruler of the kingdom of Arc. This came as a huge surprise to all of those gathered in the throne room, not the least to the princess herself. She realized that her father had become a danger to his own people and took the rulership of the kingdom upon herself. Callous Hornet sealed her oath upon her ancestor’s sword under the watchful eyes of heaven, glowing runes swirling about as the heavy burden to rule was set upon her…

... then plans were really set into motion.

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Chapter Six - Inauspicous Doldrums
Shining happy people
21:st of Ascending Wood

The River Serpents (except Shifty Dagger) are returning to M’ok after their brief visit to the city of Arc, with them they have Jade, Bandol and the rescued peasants. The mood among the travelers is rather weird since they all have witnessed the Serpents new-found powers. Steel Horizon decided that he would hold another speech to his people once they arrived in M’ok to bolster the will of the people once more.

When they arrived in M’ok they were greeted by the worried relatives of the rescued peasants. While the people were cheering at them for their display of bravery and compassion Steel Horizon climbed on top of a building and let his anima burn bright. He held an epic-speech about the future, hope and community while burning ever brighter right in front of the massed people of the town. At the climax of his speech his anima reached it’s totemic level, a great glowing image appeared behind him: The sun dawning upon fields of steel grass. This magnificent display of supernatural puissance together with the speech turned the massed throng of people into a spontaneous carnival in his honor, singing and dancing ensued and people followed him around while he continued to glow in the aftermath of the essence expenditure.

During the commotion that ensued the rest of the Serpents kept themselves in the background and gladly let Horizon take the role of leader in the community, they all had other plans to carry out.

  • Dagger had prepared a small building near the harbor to act as home for Nerman Ail and his surviving men and as temple for the new cult of Shifty Dagger. His other project was to investigate what Garyan the brewer was up to. His investigations quickly revealed that Garyan was hiring thugs and criminals to perform burglaries in the capital with their home-base among the peasants in M’ok. Shifty Dagger didn’t look kindly upon this practice and forced Garyan to stop this practice and instead work for him as informants and look-outs.
  • Blurred Mongoose is very concerned for the lowest members of their society, the plague ridden. Since his supernatural resistance to disease makes him pretty much immune to the infection his is free to help make their last moments in Creation more bearable. He builds a number of pavilions for the infected to use as their homes instead of the poor-quality tents they have been using until now.

After a long walk around town inspecting and inspiring the populace Horizon proceeded to the fortress-ruins to do some clean up himself. With his inhuman strength he could easily clear away rubble too heavy for the ordinary peasants to carry, this inspired the other workers to work harder. During his work Horizon noticed that there was a possibility of building a private dock for his ship in connection to the fortress through a collapsed cellar wall.

During the evening further festivities were held and the Serpents all attended and the evening turned out to be entertaining for them all even if a small squabble occurred between the two blacksmiths Gracco and Ten Songs about the latter’s membership in the Guild. The situation was quickly handled diplomatically by the Serpents and the festivities continued late into the night.

The next morning

The next morning Horizon awoke to his servant Twice-watered Leaf waking him to inform him that his yacht Hammerblow had returned from it’s trip up-river and Horizon hurried to the docks.

Horizon met up with his ship’s captain Breeda One-eye and got good news. The ship had gone upriver and purchased a shipment of building materials but more importantly they managed to bring along a master architect named Green Newt and his three disciples. The aged architect showed no interest in socializing with his employer and immediately started his work in the now cleared ruins of the fortress.

Later that morning the Serpents got word that a squad of soldiers were approaching the town from the north. Horizon and Mongoose rode out to meet them while Hornet stayed behind using her incredible eye-sight to witness the meeting from afar.

Unsurprisingly these soldiers were the garrison that King Harrow had insisted on being sent to M’ok during their meeting about the rebuilding rights. The soldiers were an elite scale of troops recently transferred from the front-lines, their commanding officer was Lieutenant Sombail. The soldiers were also escorting the royal-architect Haki who was also sent on the king’s orders. The Serpents realized that these people could prove to be a problem for their plans so Horizon decided to get closer with the lieutenant while the architect was sent to meet up with Hornet.

Horizon showed the troops around town while he told them about the vision they had for the town. His charismatic presentation was a success and the soldiers were quickly becoming interested in the town, and not only because they were ordered to. Horizon also got the impression that Lieutenant Sombail wasn’t terribly impressed by the king, instead he was very loyal to General Sarei who he had fought together with during the war a few years prior.

Meanwhile Hornet met up with Haki and got the impression that he wasn’t interested in doing any actual work while being here, just inspecting the work and stamping reports to the king, this made Hornet’s following plans much easier. After her meeting with Haki she ordered Green Newt and Graceful Candle into her tent. She instructed them in the way that information was to be handled around the build-site, especially that the plans that the royal-architect would receive was to be heavily altered and bereft of important details such as hidden entrances and defensive positions. They all agreed and Hornet sanctified the oath under heaven, flashing with glowing runes and ancient treaties.

During this Mongoose received word that another traveler from the capital was approaching, this was Hai’ark’s priestess Waila who had left the capital since soldiers had occupied the temple of Hai’ark. Mongoose helped her set up a tent near their own inside the fortress ruins.

Later that day the Serpents invited Sombail, Haki, Waila, Graceful Candle and Bandol to dinner on-board the Hammerblow. During the dinner Horizon holds another speech while Hornet tries to get more information from those in attendance.

After dinner Horizon gives Haki permission to sleep on-board the Hammerblow, an offer the royal-architect gladly takes. Later he is sent young men and women to serve as his entertainment, the Serpents figured it would be best to keep him entertained and as far away from the decision makers around town. Horizon was also informed that Lieutenant Sombail’s commanding officer was Captain Rajish in Arc, a name that came up from one of the dying elite-soldiers they encountered in the capital just a few nights prior.

The Serpents met up again later at night to decide upon their plans. It was decided that Dagger would go to the capital to find out more about Counselor Ciro’s plans since he was certainly up to something, Hornet would follow in the morning. Horizon and Mongoose would stay behind for a while to set up some plans before they too would follow. They also decided that they were in need of some kind of way to intercept communications between M’ok and Arc especially letters to and from Sombail and Haki. Dagger quickly took his horse and rode to the capital in the night and entered the city unseen, he slept in an attic during the night to start his work in the morning.

Hornet met up with her new servant Swift Point who had been training on using his still functional limb. She decided that he was probably not good for manual labor anymore and commanded him to start learning a profession, more specifically the profession of architect. He was to study under Green Newt to learn the basics.

Horizon and Mongoose came up with the idea of hiring a town crier in M’ok to inform the populace of news, job-opportunities and other worthwhile information that they would need. Horizon found a loud-mouthed young man and gave Graceful Candle the job of supplying him with information.

The sun dawns yet again

In the morning Dagger set up a disguise for himself as a servant in the royal palace, probably the best place to spy on the counselor. His disguise made him blend in and his charms made him practically undetectable, perfect for the task at hand. He stayed close to Ciro for most of the day but realized that the counselor wasn’t gonna give up any worthwhile information while he was so close to the king, so he decided to steal his keys and enter his office in the palace, but first he broke into the king’s study.

Dagger realized that the king was obsessed with the idea of starting the war against Helim anew, and was busy searching for any strategic or military advantage that he could exploit to get the upper hand in the brewing conflict. After this Dagger entered the counselors study to find that the office was mostly empty and almost completely without any kind of paper trails that betrayed his secret plans. Dagger found a single document with an informal report from Captain Rajish thanking him for the opportunity to rise to his current position and that he was responsible for arresting the city-guard of the city for the made-up reason that they had been working together with the gangs in the Workshop-district.

When Hornet arrived in Arc she started investigating rumors that were abound: The entire city-guard of Arc had been arrested just a few days ago for protecting the criminal gangs in the poor parts of the city. Her investigations proved that the city-guards had most likely been framed and their position in the city had been filled by soldiers loyal to the counselor.

She also investigated this Captain Rajish that had been appearing in their investigations a lot recently. She found that this opportunistic military officer had risen to his current position mostly through deceit. He had actively disobeyed orders during the war but had his superior officer framed for his actions and had him sentenced to death by hanging. Hornet pieced this information together from various accounts and rumors amongst the city’s soldiers, but no actual proof was found for this. She found out that he had recently been given an apartment in the Ashtown-district like many military officers positioned in the city.

Horizon and Mongoose arrived in town later that day and the Serpents met up to inform each other of their progress and to plan their next step. They all agreed to one thing though: Counselor Ciro had to be removed from office, but they couldn’t agree by which methods.

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Chapter Five - Second Breath
Life for extras just got a whole lot harder.
20:th of Ascending Wood

The River Serpents regained their consciousness just moments after the light came over them. They found themselves standing in the throne room of the palace of the King of the Woods, but like themselves the giant tree stump had changed. Every spot in the throne room had been bleached white, as if the sun had been shining on the spot for many years. At their feet laid the body of the powerful wood elemental they had defeated.

The Serpents marveled at the power they had been granted, and quickly realized it wasn’t just the sun glowing bright but they themselves were glowing like brilliant bonfires of sunlight. Callous Hornet asked if they saw it too, the great crowd listening to their speech, but everyone had different experiences to share and understand. Steel Horizon remembered the battle and Shifty Dagger remembered the darkness and the power he felt inside him. Blurred Mongoose was the one who had been given the most informative visions, he told them they had been chosen by Sol Invictus, highest of gods.

In the middle of their conversation they noticed that the young scarred peasant girl was standing up. Her hair had been bleached white and so had the torn rags that used to be her dress, tears were flowing down her face when she was looking right at them. She tried taking a few steps towards them but her weak legs couldn’t lift her so she fell, but Steel Horizon was there to catch her. She had fallen unconscious, but at least she was safe now.

The Serpents could feel the palace was changed since their exaltation. They could feel essence flowing through the place. Blurred Mongoose had heard of such places before in other parts of Creation, magical spots where essence users can replenish their own energies at a fast rate. The palace is now a demesne aspected toward Solar essence.

Blurred Mongoose stood in the middle of the throne room and shouted to the hidden wood spirits. He informed them that their tyranny was a thing of the past and that things around there would change from now on. Scared wood spirits emerged from their hiding spots to listen, and pack of brave stick people carefully walked up to them and fell to their knees. The Serpents asked them what had gone wrong with the now deceased king. The spirits answered that nothing was wrong, the king had always been a tyrant it was just in recent years that his ambitions had gone unchallenged and unstopped. The Serpents asked them who was in charge of the forest now, and the answer was that they were.

No time was wasted with these new revelations, they immediately started ordering around the covering spirits. They came up with a plan to allow their own lumberjacks to gather materials in the woods without allowing the king’s men the same freedom. A wood-spirit artisan easily crafted a collection on perfect rings made out of the bleached wood of the palace, lumberjacks wearing these rings would be allowed to chop down trees at the edges of the forest. The spirits were questioned of the whereabouts of the other peasant girls sent into the woods, ashamed the spirits showed them a grove of trees formed like people, the girls were forever a part of the forest now. Before leaving the Serpents gave the spirits a few last orders: gather up some blood-berries and build a roof above the palace.

The Serpents left the forest and their glow vanished by the time they left the forest. The young woman awoke and she told them her name was Acya, and she had witnessed their true forms. She told them that she didn’t want to return to her father Lacaim, since he was the one who had forced her into the forest to marry the abusive tyrant. She would much rather serve her glorious saviors and after some debating Steel Horizon took her with him, Blurred Mongoose remained convinced that she would be better off going back to her father since she most likely would end up there anyway in the future.

The brief return to M’ok

The heroes returned to M’ok in the late afternoon and things were as they had left them except that sounds of construction were in the air since building materials were once again available.

They were greeted by Silla the wife of Bandol as soon as they came near the peasant camp outside town. The distressed woman told them that her husband, Jade and a few other peasants hadn’t returned from the city of Arc where they had traveled to purchase some textiles so that new clothes could be made for the townspeople. They were supposed to have returned earlier that day but now they were severely late and people had begun worrying about them.

The Serpents decided that this needed their immediate attention so Shifty Dagger and Callous Hornet immediately departed toward the city. Steel Horizon and Blurred Mongoose would tie up a few loose ends before they would follow. They took Acya to meet Graceful Candle the administrator that the Guild had supplied to the rebuilding effort. Candle gave her a new pair of clothes and gave her a position as a dressmaker in the peasants camp.

Before departing Candle informed them that a situation had developed with the plague-sick people outside of town. The cultists of the raven-god had suddenly left the town a few days ago and the hungry plague victims were forced to go into town to try and get their food, but were driven away by the militia that Steel Horizon had set up. Unfortunately there were casualties among the plague-sick which has led to people being afraid of both the plague-sick and the militia. Horizon and Mongoose decided to fix the problem by providing the plague-colony with fresh clothing and food in exchange for them keeping to themselves and not spreading the sickness to the healthy populace. They gathered up supplies from the peasant camp and met up with the “leader” of the plague-sick, he was a good man that realized that the plague-sick had to accept their fate. Mongoose officially gave them the holy-mission to make sure that they would take the dangerous disease with them to the grave. After this they followed the others to the city to find out what had happened to the missing peasants.

Meanwhile in Arc

Dagger and Hornet arrived to the city late in the evening just prior to the city-gates shutting for the night. When inside they immediately headed to the Guild Hall to get some information. Dagger entered the building through his normal means (the balcony on the third floor), he found that the building was mostly empty so he startled an administrator working late by asking him for some favors. The administrator didn’t know about the missing peasants but would try to find some clues so he woke up another administrator that had fallen asleep at his desk. Dagger left the Guild Hall as quickly and as quietly as he had entered.

When the Guild didn’t provide the needed information Dagger and Hornet decided to do the necessary investigations themselves. Hornet asked around a few textile merchants and suddenly possessed unnatural affinity for the task at hand, she found out the reason and location of the missing peasants in just a few minutes after they started asking around.

The trace of the peasants lead them to a collections of buildings in the Workshop district. The buildings had been crudely built together and turned into a small fortress in the middle of the city. This “fortress” was the home of a gang of thugs and criminals under the command of [[Gangleader Nerman Ail. The peasants and their goods had been captured when they were on their way out of town and had been taken to the “fortress” earlier that day. Hornet decided to look for the others by the city gates while Dagger would scout out the location before their rescue operation.

Horizon and Mongoose arrived at the city gates during the night and they were shut for the night. They shouted for the guards to open the gates but they told them to return in the morning. Horizon would not stand by such treatment and took a few quick jumps up to top of the walls and asked the guard once again to open the gates. His sudden display of prowess made the guard regret the decision to not open the gates, he quickly shouted to his subordinates to open the gates immediately. Horizon rewarded the man with a few bits of jade in exchange for no further fuzz with the gates in the future.

Inside the gates they were spotted by Hornet who told them what the deal was. Dagger returned with his scouting report and told them that the prisoners were being held in a small pit in the “throne-room” inside the gang’s “fortress”. The buildings were being guarded by 3 guards at the main-entrance and about a dozen people inside the throne-room. A plan was decided upon and set into motion: Steel Horizon and Blurred Mongoose would enter through the main entrance while Callous Hornet and Shifty Dagger would enter stealthily over the rooftops.

Horizon and Mongoose were stopped by the guards at the main-entrance but this proved to be of little concern for these mighty heroes. Mongoose displayed his new-found martial-arts form to the guards that quickly realized he wasn’t fucking around. They confidently walked past the guards right up to the front doors.

Meanwhile Dagger had assumed the form of another of the gang members and had entered the throne-room. One of the guards by the main-entrance came to warn everyone inside just as the doors were crushed to splinters by a mighty blow of Horizon’s sledge. All of the gang-members inside were caught off-guard but Nerman Ail quickly ordered his men to attack the intruders.

The Serpents weren’t particularly impressed by the gang as they were reduced to just Nerman himself and just a handful of thugs in mere seconds after the first arrows were fired by Hornet from outside. The most impressive display of force was when Steel Horizon jumped off of one of the pillars inside the chamber into the middle of Nerman’s personal bodyguards and swiftly slew them all with lightning-speed and inhuman-precision.

Nerman quickly realized he was not no match for these obviously supernatural opponents (Mongoose let his caste-mark shine during the battle) and surrendered. He was questioned by the Serpents and revealed everything they wanted to know:

  • He didn’t know exactly who the River Serpents were when he captured the peasants and their goods, but he promised that he would return all stolen goods and that the prisoners were unharmed.
  • He also revealed that the had friends in high-places of the kingdom’s government. Further questioning revealed that he has been working for Counselor Ciro for several years. His tasks had been dirty work such as extortion and assassination of political opposition.
  • The capturing of the peasants was not an order from the Counselor, but instead the work of the gang working on it’s own.

Callous Hornet revealed yet another of her divine gifts when she placed an oath on Nerman Ail that forced him to become a double-agent for them, reporting to them after any meeting between him and Ciro. The oath was sanctified by heaven and Hornet began glowing with the light of the sun.

The Serpents rescued Jade, Bandol and the rest of the missing peasants. They were all unharmed but slightly shocked from the experience. The textiles stolen from the carts were fine but had been painted with gang signs and hanged from the ceilings.

When some of the Serpent’s were leaving the fortress (Hornet stayed behind while her glowing stopped) they heard the sound of armored boots coming toward them. Dagger jumped up on the roof and witnessed a dozen elite-soldiers approaching together with their commander and his vicious dog. They killed the gang-members guarding the main-entrance without warning and were planning to storm the place. The Serpents understood that these were probably soldiers working for Counselor Ciro to hide the evidence of his business deals with the gang, so they decided to protect the remaining gang-members from the king’s men.

Horizon tried talking with the soldiers but they tried to open fire at the same time they shouted “Halt! In the King’s name!”, luckily Dagger was on the roof above and killed every archer before they managed to fire their bows. These soldier’s were obviously on a mission to exterminate, not capture.

The fight broke out between the Serpents and the remaining soldiers, their commander and a particularly angry mutt. The fight was over quickly as usual with the Serpents, even if their opposition proved slightly more competent than usual. Dagger was throwing his knives’s from the rooftop and using his newly-acquired magics to hide his position from those below. Mongoose tried to subdue the commander but had to settle with crushing the life out of him with his powerful clinching. Hornet was firing his deadly bow from afar while still glowing very visibly. Horizon repeated his trick of slaying most of the opposition with a single extremely-powerful essence-fueled attack. The fight was over with Mongoose holding the near dead captain Bish in his arms, they got a few questions answered before he died though:

  • They had been ordered to kill everyone inside the fortress, leaving no witnesses.
  • The order had come from their superior Captain Rajish.

Afterward the Serpents realized the city was no longer safe for Nerman’s gang. So they dressed them up in the soldier’s armor and Dagger marched them out of the city, toward M’ok. The rest of the Serpents stayed the night in the Gold Carp inn. Those that were glowing from their essence expenditure after the fights had to be rolled up in textiles and smuggled into their rooms.

The next morning

The next morning the Serpents (except Dagger) awoke in the inn, they ate their breakfast and decided to do a quick check around town before departing again. They found out that the military had been ordered to do a purge in the Workshop district to get rid of criminal gangs, most likely a diversion to cover the extermination order of Nerman’s gang.

They wanted to visit the Temple of Hai’ark before they left but found that the temple had been “secured” by military forces during the night, supposedly to protect the temple from the “disturbances” in town. Horizon bribed the guards and entered the temple to find out more.

The temple was quiet and empty when they entered, the priestess was nowhere to be found. The Serpents got a little worried and decided to try and get the attention of the city-god themselves, Horizon lead the prayer with small offerings to the god. Mongoose used his new ability to detect immaterial beings and actually witnessed the goddess appearing in the end of the ritual, still in a immaterial state. The beautiful goddess was quite stunned when she realized that she was actually being watched by these people in her temple despite being outside the natural order of things. She decided to materialize and find out more of these powerful beings here to visit her.

Hai’ark Shining Towers proved to be a very helpful and informative spirit. She was glad to have the new exalts in her city to set things right, and she sure needs their help. She told them what she knew of many things like exalts that have visited the city, the counselor being the true power behind the throne, the raven-cult and her own worship dying out when they first made their appearance. She also told them that her priestess was fine and actually preparing to travel to M’ok at the moment. The Serpents promised that they would help the god regain her position in the city and the goddess promised she would help them in any way she could. She gave them the name of Royal Librarian Naraka if they wanted to know more about the history of Arc or if they need to get into contact with others who are against King Harrow’s reign. When the conversation was over the goddess opened a portal in one of the doors in the temple and disappeared. The Serpents then started the journey back to M’ok

Meanwhile in M’ok

Dagger had arrived in M’ok during the early morning hours, having marched the gang out of town in the dead elite-soldier’s uniforms. He made sure they were given new clothing to blend in with the townsfolk, but he had other plans for them as well.

He took the gang-members and Nerman aside in his tent and showed them his magnificent solar glory and told them that he would be their god, and that they would become his personal cult. But his first task for them was to infiltrate the organization of Garyan, the troublemaking brewer among the peasant’s camp.

And here we leave our Solar champions for now.

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Chapter Four - Community Spirit
Exalted-style lumberjacking
18:th of Ascending wood

Roughly a week has passed since the River Serpents returned to M’ok to start the rebuilding of the fortress ruins. The rebuilding effort is still in it’s planning stage and progress otherwise is slow. The homeless peasants that have gathered around the Serpents have cleared rubble from the ruins and sorted out which materials can be re-used in the rebuilding effort. But the lack of new building materials has been a constant reminder since repairs and much needed maintenance have been delayed waiting for materials.

The Guild supplied administrator Graceful Candle has proved to be a valuable asset in organizing society in M’ok. She has sorted the peasants into different groups depending on the skills that they possess, the most skilled peasants are assigned to assist the craftsmen in M’ok. The Guild has also supplied it’s own craftsmen to help rebuilding but they are having a hard time socializing with the locals.

The community in M’ok has grown considerably in the week that has passed, and several new groups are forming among the citizens. A peasant named Bandol has become a spokesman for the other homeless peasants that are gathering around the town. With the vast fortunes at the Serpents disposal most officials and soldiers have been bribed to be more supportive of the Serpents and their agenda instead of the king’s. The Serpents have also heard rumors of a man named Garyan that seems to be hiring thugs among the peasants, Shifty Dagger decided he will investigate this once he gets time.

Swift Point, the wounded thug that Callous Hornet captured in Nexus before they left has partially recovered from his wounds. Being an honorable man he has pledged his life to the woman that spared his life (instead permanently maiming his right shoulder). He will try to be a useful servant to his new mistress.

Need for Lumber

The Serpents quickly realized that the most pressing matter that needed their attention was the lack of building materials, especially lumber. The closest source of lumber would be Arc Forest, a supposedly dangerous forest inhabited by spirits. A few out-of-line spirits would not scare the Serpents so they organized a lumber expedition to the outskirts of the forest to gather a few cartloads of good lumber to satisfy the town’s needs.

Steel Horizon holds a short speech to the peasants in order to gather up volunteers for the expedition and succeeds. Roughly 20 or so peasants join up and they travel to the outskirts of Arc Forest where they intend to cut down a few trees. Steel Horizon sets an example by felling the first tree to show them that no spirits will punish him for it before the volunteers start working. The other Serpents set up a security perimeter around the workers.

Later that afternoon a farmer named Lacaim came to the work-site looking for the “Heroes of Helim Forest”, having heard them working in the area. He pleaded them for their help to find his daughter that had gone missing, most likely taken by the forest-spirits. Blurred Mongoose didn’t quite believe his story and found out that Lacaim had sent his daughter into the forest to appease the spirits within, supposedly something the farmers around the forest have been doing every year for quite some time. His daughter Acya had been missing for almost a full week now and he figured he might ask the heroes for their help in finding her.

The Serpents discussed among themselves and agreed that they would find his missing daughter since it would be beneficial for them if their “hero-status” and friendship to the people grew even greater. They would travel into the forest the next morning, so they waited until the workers returned to M’ok with fully loaded lumber-carts and set up camp until morning.

Into the Forest

Early in the morning the heroes entered the mystic forest, they quickly realized that the forest was not what they had expected. They found plants from far away lands growing right next to local flora and the forest seemed to be completely untouched by human tools for ages. Traveling through the forest is a soothing experience and the characters quite enjoyed the experience.

They followed the tracks of Acya until suddenly Callous Hornet found herself lost and unable to see her companions, even if they were right next to her. A powerful illusion had been placed on her mind and when the other serpents were trying to help her they were attacked by Wood Spiders, a type of wood elemental.

This was the first time the Serpents had faced supernatural opponents and they proved to be quite a match for the heroes. Callous Hornet was busy fighting off the illusion, Blurred Mongoose was trying to grapple one of the spiders dangling from the trees, Shifty Dagger evaded the dangerous wood-based attacks of the spiders while trying to hide himself from them. Like times before Steel Horizon proved to be a challenging opponent to these spirits. He fought one of the spiders up among the branches and finished it off with a powerful move where he thrust his greatsword into a nearby tree and smashed the spider downwards with his sledge splitting the elemental upon his blade, raining down wooden splinters and vines to the ground below. The other spider tried escaping but was stopped by the heroes.

Checking themselves after the battle the Serpents realized they were lucky nobody got hurt in the battle, these supernatural foes are very dangerous against simple mortals, even if they are great heroes.

Palace of the King of the Woods.

The heroes continued following the trail of Acya until they encountered other more benign wood-spirits, small people made of sticks guided them toward the stump of a humongous oak tree, the palace of the supposed King of the Woods. They ascended stairs carved into one of the roots of the great tree and entered through a grand archway carved into a crack in the bark. Guardian spirits stepped aside when the heroes approached and they were guided to a grand hall in the center of the tree.

The throne room of the King of the Woods was beautiful, a grand hall where the sun shined down through a big hole in the tree. The sides of the hole in the roof was filled with seats filled with all manner of spirits in the forest, none dared say a word. In the middle of the hall a huge man sat upon a beautiful throne carved from the very tree itself, the man was obviously a powerful wood-spirit since his entire body was made of wood, bark and moss. On the floor on his side a young woman sat in a torn dress, she was visibly scarred and in a catatonic state. A small group of royal guard spirits surrounded the throne.

When the heroes entered the throne-room the king was not amused by the presence of mortals in his forest. He shouted at them to leave his forest and intimidating them with cruel threats. But the heroes demanded that he would release the girl but the king refused to surrender his new bride. The situation quickly turned hostile and a fight broke out.

As usual the River Serpents leapt into action. Steel Horizon rushed toward the king, using the royal guardsmen as a springboard he jumped toward the king swinging his weapons wildly. Blurred Mongoose followed after and tried grappling the powerful spirit, but failed initially. Shifty Dagger jumped up on Callous Hornet’s shoulders and began destroying the king’s guards. Callous Hornet began trying to attack the king with a carefully planned shot between Shifty Dagger’s legs and ricocheting off the floor in the king’s face, but barely missed the shot.

The king tried hurling deadly insults at the heroes but failed miserably before being clinched by Blurred Mongoose. The royal guards were dispatched by Shifty Dagger and Callous Hornet as Steel Horizon was hacking away at the tough bark of the king. When the royal guards finally were defeated Callous Hornet finished off the king with a well-placed arrow as Blurred Mongoose held him in place.

The king fell to the ground just as the sun moved into place high above the throne room. The room was quiet for a while before the wood-spirits started applauding their heroic victory against their tyrant king. Then the room fell silent once more as sunlight flooded the room. The entire room was full of sunlight, it was as if the sun itself was in the room with them, the heroes then realized that they were the ones who were glowing! A massive pillar of sunlight reached from the throne room to greet the sun’s own rays high above. The light was blinding…

When the light disappeared…

... Callous Hornet found herself atop a giant building, above a great gathering of people. She was with four of her companions, and one of them was just finishing up a speech to the people. She was called up to the podium and there she held up the giant cut-off horn of an unknown beast before the people that cheered. The sun shone down upon her as if it was proud of their triumph.

... Shifty Dagger found himself surrounded by endless black darkness. He felt the light within himself growing in power, and he with it. He felt the boundaries of his mind and body break as the power within him grew. He felt that the power was destined for greatness and nothing could stand in his way. He was born anew. And then the darkness around him was banished by his inner light, he had become what the night itself feared.

... Steel Horizon was standing on a field, facing an enormous enemy army led by a gigantic abomination. He smiles as he gives the order to attack. In the fore-front of a small group of soldiers the enemy army is crushed, their might is unstoppable. The abomination tries to stop them but it’s attempts are in vain. He laughs as he retaliates against every clumsy move it tries to accomplish. The battle was over when he entered the battlefield, what remained was only the battle.

... Blurred Mongoose stood inside a glorious temple. Gold and marble pillars surrounded by sunlight all around him. In front of him stood a being of immense power, a giant of a man with four arms holding a shield, a spear, a laurel branch and a horn. This was obviously The Unconquered Sun, the most high of all gods in heaven. And when he spoke Mongoose fell to his knees in awe.

“My name is Sol Invictus, Ignis Divine, Guarding Star, THE UNCONQUERED SUN! And I have witnessed your deeds and I am pleased over what I have seen.”

He placed his hands on Mongoose’s shoulders and continued.

“I trust you will use the power given to you in the right way. You are one of my prophets, one of my high-priests and one of my chosen leaders. May your people live long under your protection.”

Then the light of the highest god flooded over him…

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Chapter Three - Courting Disaster
One day, Three Stories

Three days have passed since the River Serpents came back from Helim Woods where they defeated Heinkel Toothless and his band of outlaws. The past few days have been fairly uneventful, they have been waiting for official word on their inquiry to rebuild the ruined fortress in M’ok.

This morning the Serpents awake and eat their breakfast while discussing their plans for the coming days when Jade comes to the tavern with news from M’ok. She informs them that number of homeless peasants has increased rapidly in the last few days, they number over a hundred individuals now. Having been fed by the crew on-board the Hammerblow they have settled in a tent-camp outside town. Jade wants to know what orders to give the peasants and if they should purchase more supplies to them from the city of Arc.

Several ideas are bounced around the breakfast table, here are a few of the more discussed ones:

  • Some of the most loyal peasants should be armed with light weapons and equipment and trained to be a militia to protect other homeless people. And a specific order is given that no peasant infected by the plague is allowed to interact with the healthy peasantry, under pain of death.
  • The Serpents realize they know next to nothing of the political situation in the country and decide to learn more of the important players in the kingdom of Arc but also in the neighboring country of Helim. They make note that they need to take some form of contact with a representative from Helim.
  • Having quickly realized that the country is in dire need of a change of leadership they discuss how the tyrant King Harrow could be deposed. They figure they could easily dispatch of him physically but that would probably just place another man on the throne, probably General Sarei. They also get interested in the royal heir Princess Ami and decide to find out more about her. After discussing different options they come to an agreement that the people need to be on their side before they do anything against the king.
  • They decide that when they get the right to rebuild the fortress in M’ok they will make that town their base of operations. That means they will have to rebuild the town itself as well as the ruins.

But ultimately they realize that little can be done before they get the go-ahead from the king to rebuild the fortress ruins. After breakfast they decide to split up to do a few different things on their own.

  • Steel Horizon and Blurred Mongoose will first go to the stables and get Jade a good horse so that she can easier bring news and orders between the capital and M’ok.
  • Callous Hornet will gather information on Princess Ami and see whom they should take the matter of getting the rights to rebuild from.
  • Shifty Dagger decides to check out the trade-houses in the city to find out where their loyalties lie.

Blurred Mongoose’s day

Blurred Mongoose and Steel Horizon head toward the stables when they realize they are being watched by someone on the roof-tops. Mongoose easily climbs up the houses and finds Master Holan’s apprentice Blue Cloud waiting for him on top of a narrow wooden beam between two buildings. She informs him that it is time for his second challenge and she has been appointed his challenger, he is given one hour to prepare himself and face her on that same roof-top. Mongoose returns to Horizon and informs him that he will be busy for now and cannot accompany him to the stables, and then he returns to the roof-top challenge ground.

Blue Cloud informs him of the terms of the fight, all manner of equipment will be allowed. The fight starts quickly with Mongoose trying to push her off the wooden beam the fight takes place upon, but she easily evades his clumsy attempt and draws her dual war-fans and strikes back at him. Mongoose narrowly avoids her sharp weapons by dropping backwards onto the beam. He realizes he must plan his actions more carefully and tries another attempt at pushing her off the beam but she blocks his attempts once more. She responds by trying to cut him down with both war-fans at once but Mongoose manages to dodge by dropping down from the beam to a dangling position underneath it. From there he decides to end the fight in a grand acrobatic and martial maneuver were he swings his legs up and pulls her down in a grab.

The amazing maneuver succeeds way better than either could have imagined. The force of the pull drives the spikes of his razor harness deep into the legs of the unarmored martial artist. She passes out instantly from chock and Mongoose wins the challenge. But he is not happy with the outcome, he didn’t want her to end up this badly hurt. He carries her back to the dojo while she is bleeding to death. He interrupts a lesson in progress when he kicks open the dojo doors, Master Holan quickly realizes she is in need of emergency medical attention to survive.

Unfortunately she dies short thereafter during the attempts to bandage the deep cuts in her legs. Her death has a deep impact on Mongoose as he hadn’t planned on hurting her severely, much less killing her. He decides to do the right thing and arranges her funeral to be held the same evening.

The funeral service is held on a hill outside the city, a pyre is built and Blue Cloud’s body is burned in attendance of her friends and family. Mongoose comforts her loved ones and joins them in the memorial services that are held afterward. He returns to the tavern later at night, still mourning the death of his challenger.

Shifty Dagger’s day

The morning starts off slow with Dagger trying to gather information on the trade-houses of the city, but he has little luck in founding out anything he didn’t already previously know. While asking around outside the Guild Hall one of Maray’s assistants invites him to a meeting with her master. Dagger figures he has more chance of getting information from Maray than asking around on his own.

This is his second meeting with the Guild operative in Arc. Maray excuses the lack of refreshments at their last meeting and offers him a cup of tea, then they get straight to business.

Maray is curious about a few things and he knows Dagger can find them out. He wants to know more about a shipment of goods that will be headed out of the city the following morning from Merchant Hanno Ammar’s trade-house. Dagger accepts knowing that he could benefit from having good relations with Maray.

Dagger proceeds with scouting out his target, a two-story building in Hedgetown district. He studies the guard’s positions and routes and decides the best way to enter the building would be through the windows on the second floor, he also decides it will be better to enter the building after nightfall. So he waits.

When darkness has fallen over the city he makes his move. He quietly skits between shadows and easily climbs up to the second story windows. He opens the windows with his burglars tools and enters the Ammar’s office. He can hear the fat merchant enjoying the company of his courtesans in a nearby room. He quickly searches through the papers around the office but since he cannot read he simply steals a valuable scroll-case and proceeds downstairs to inspect the shipments.

Downstairs he slips into the storage room and evades the pair of guards working the night-shift. He opens up a few of the crates that are going out the following day and finds nothing besides trade-goods such as porcelain, tools, leathers and furs. Dagger isn’t content with finding nothing interesting so he proceeds with checking out the latest shipment of barrels in the warehouse. He opens up a few of the barrels and finds that they contain a huge amount of salt, way more than the city requires. He closes the barrels again and leaves the same way he entered. He climbs into his bedroom in the tavern late at night while the others were eating supper.

Steel Horizon and Callous Hornet’s day.

After breakfast Callous Hornet asked around town about Princess Ami and the city’s bureaucratic system. He found out the princess wasn’t just a pretty air-headed noblewoman but instead an honorable warrior in-training. While she was asking around she got a message from her contact Manya the assistant of Scavenger Lord Kree with the following message: “I hope you own a dress, you have an invitation to the royal court! Bring your companions and meet me at the temple marketplace. Signed Manya.”

Hornet meets up with Steel Horizon who has visited the stables and is socializing with the folks at the marketplace and they both go to meet Manya. They find Manya pacing about the square waiting for them and she informs them that her master has obtained invitations for them to this evening’s feast in the king’s honor. She also tells them that they will need to dress respectably and that they should get a gift to present to the regent.

Steel purchases a nice dress for Hornet and finds a nice decorated great sword to give to the king. Having prepared for their visit at the court they wait for the evening to arrive.

When evening comes they go to the Royal Palace to socialize with the most powerful individuals in the kingdom. An announcer welcomes them as they enter the throne room of King Harrow, son of King Sirhain, grandson of Bodakh. The following people of importance were in the throne room during their visit: King Harrow, Counselor Ciro, General Sarei, Princess Ami, Scavenger Lord Oble, Scavenger Lord Kree, Ambassador Azure Sails, Ragara Calel Torai and Entertainer Horitz.

Steel bows before the king and presents his gift to him, and the king seemed pleased. Then he and Hornet began socializing with the nobility and other guests before they were called to dinner. The guests were seated in a grand dining hall where a lavish feast was enjoyed.

After dinner Steel spoke to Counselor Ciro about the possibility of rebuilding the fortress ruins in M’ok in exchange for destroying the bandits in Helim Woods. Ciro listened interestedly and conveyed the message to his lord who then wanted to personally have a word on the matter. He was prepared to allow the rebuilding of the fortress with a few demands. An architect from the king’s own staff would be present at the building and a scale of soldiers under the king’s command would be stationed at the fortress at all times. Steel Horizon accepted the offer and kissed the pommel of the sword Bodakh’s Will, the seal of the royal family of Arc.

After discussing with the king Steel spoke briefly with both Ragara Calel Torai, a dynastic dragon-blood from the Blessed Isle, far away from home and with Ambassador Azure-Sails, an ambassador from Helim. Azure-Sails wanted to speak again under other circumstances and offered to arrange a meeting in the future. Late that evening both Steel and Hornet returned to the tavern to get some supper and a good nights rest.

Together Again

Late in the evening the River Serpents met up back at the Golden Carp Tavern where they are served supper. Mongoose refuses to eat since he is fasting in honor of his dead challenger. They discuss the things they have encountered that day and decides that they shall return to M’ok the following day. They also show some interest in the fact that trade-house owner Hanno Ammar had imported such a large quantity of salt, which Mongoose pointed out had supernatural power over beings such as hungry ghosts. Dagger decided that he would ask Maray about that before they depart for M’ok the following day. Callous Hornet would try to get more information on the architect that the king would send to M’ok to supervise them.

The following morning the Serpents awaken to yet another grand breakfast served in the lounge on their floor. Twice-watered Leaf is given orders to load up the wagon with their belongings and be ready to travel at lunch time. A few of the serpents had some business to do on their own and they hurried to do them before departing:

  • Blurred Mongoose visited the site of Blue Cloud’s funeral again in the morning and uttered a short prayer for her and offered his breakfast to her honor.
  • Callous Hornet asked around town about the king’s architect and found out that his name was Haki and that he would probably go to M’ok once the construction had started.
  • Shifty Dagger first visited the Guild Hall to report upon his findings in Hanno Ammar’s trade-house to Guild-operative Maray. He also mentioned the salt shipment he found in the warehouse to which Maray responded that he should probably visit the temple of Hai’ark to find out more about supernatural matters. Dagger received a small amount of silver as payment for his help and was given full access to all administrative personnel and craftsmen of the Guild Hall. Dagger requested the service of an administrator to follow him to M’ok to organize the rebuilding effort as well as forging documents to fool the king’s men.

Dagger visited the temple of Hai’ark in the Market District. When he walked into the great hall of the temple he encountered the lone Priestess Waila holding a sermon to an empty room. They spoke briefly about religion in the city and when the subject of salt came up Waila told him that it is the Raven-cult that has taken over the task of salting the graveyard within the city-walls. She also told him about the ever increasing position the cult has managed to take from the worshipers of Hai’ark. Dagger was slightly shocked when the reflections in her eyes shifted to reflecting alleyways and buildings instead of her actual surroundings. They parted with kind words and Dagger reported back to the rest of the Serpents.

When everyone was leaving the city Dagger told the others of his encounter with the priestess and this got Steel very interested so he decided to pay her a visit himself. When he entered the temple the priestess was chanting a hymn in an unknown language. They too spoke briefly of the religious situation and Steel offered to allow the worship of Hai’ark to spread among the peasants in his employ if she desired. The priestess gladly accepted the possibility of new worshipers and offered to visit M’ok sometime in the future to teach the sermons and rituals of her goddess. On his way out Steel donated a large amount of silver to the temple and an unfamiliar voice thanked him, and he was filled with a sense of purpose and the chant Waila was singing earlier was stuck in his mind.

The Serpents traveled towards M’ok and on the way they encountered Jade once more, she was on her way to the city to pick up the additional supplies needed by the peasants and townsfolk. They learned that the peasant camp had grown since they last spoke and Jade was glad to hear that the rebuilding was ready to begin.

When they arrived at the town they saw the growing tent-camp and that the run-down town was once again full of hope for the future. Steel gathered the peasants and townsfolk to a square where he held a speech about the rebuilding, about hope and about the future. Although the speech was a little long-winded the people liked the effort. Cheering the peasants began clearing the site of the ruin from rubble and sorting the reusable building materials.

The Serpents then started different projects for the town and for the peasants:

  • A courier was sent downriver to Nexus to get place an order for building supplies and to hire a mercenary company to help with security around M’ok. The trip is quite long so it will take a while before word is heard from them again.
  • The Guild-supplied administrator was given the task of finding out which skills the peasants possessed and giving them appropriate tasks in the rebuilding.
  • All craftsmen in town were contacted and asked what supplies they needed for their trade, Breeda One-eye was given the task of going upriver to get supplies from the settlements there to get the craftsmen going again so that they could help in the rebuilding effort as well as doing long-required maintenance around town.
  • Blurred Mongoose started teaching the peasants some philosophy together with some light martial training to give them a sense of community.
  • Shifty Dagger and Callous Hornet started investigating various officials in town and bribing them so that they would be on their side and not on the king’s side. They also began looking over security around town so that people stayed loyal and that outside influence was kept to a minimum.
  • Steel Horizon took the position of leader for the new society that is quickly forming around him. He was set to become a shining beacon of hope for the community.

The rebuilding of M’ok has begun…

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Chapter Two - State of Despair
Great people make great plans.

Three weeks after leaving Nexus behind the River Serpents arrive in the kingdom of Arc. They come from down south, traveling on the Green River towards the port town of M’ok on-board the luxury yacht Hammerblow. They drop anchor in the run-down harbor in M’ok and lay witness to the poor condition the town is in: The town is very much in need of repairs and maintenance, the people are hungry and disease is spreading among the peasants who have fled the plague in their farming communities.

As soon as the Serpents get off the ship they are met by port-authorities that demand that they open the ship for customs-inspection. Steel Horizon almost didn’t notice that the inspector was actually looking for a bribe. Only a slight use of intimidation later the port-authorities backed off and left the ship in peace.

After borrowing a hand cart, the small order of tea that they loaded onto the ship in Nexus was loaded off the ship. The shipment was to be delivered to the trade-house of Merchant Hanno Ammar in the city of Arc.

While the ship was being off-loaded the Serpents took a walk around town to familiarize with the area. They quickly encountered a trio of guards protecting a rice granary from hungry peasants. After hearing that the peasants needed food to support their families Shifty Dagger decided to coerce the guards into giving the peasants a few rations of rice. Steel Horizon gave the peasants a few pieces of silver so that they had enough to rent housing for a few more days.

The Serpents started talking about what to do next when Blurred Mongoose came up with the plan to start hiring the homeless peasants around town to rebuild the ruined fortress on top of the cliff overlooking the Green River. Callous Hornet decided to investigate the ruins and found that the fortress could be rebuilt, but that would require a large workforce, a lot of building materials (though some stone from the ruins could be recovered) and the rights to erect a new fortress in the kingdom. After hearing about town they quickly realized that they needed to travel to the city of Arc to acquire the rights to the fortress ruins.

They packed another hand-cart with food and their belongings and left Breeda One-eye in-charge of the Hammerblow. The River Serpents and Twice-watered Leaf started walking towards the city of Arc. On their way out of town they encountered the victims of the plague and saw figures in dark feathered robes tending to the sick in the plague colony outside town, but the Serpents were wiser than to interfere with those struck by the plague.

Traveling to the city of Arc takes about five hours on foot, and the trip was uneventful except that they found wanted posters for the capture of the bandit-king Heinkel Toothless whose group of bandits has been sighted in Helim Woods. The Serpents included this in their plan to buy the rights to the fortress, perhaps they could use the money and the influence gained from defeating this bandit to buy the fortress.

The party arrives in the city in the afternoon, the farmers who have come to sell their goods are leaving the city with bitter expressions on their faces. With the gate-guards distracted by girls inside the gates the Serpents can easily slip by in the stream of outgoing carts and peasants. They enter the Market District where they see Scavenger Lord Kree’s Mansion and the Temple of Hai’ark. After deciding to meet up afterward in the nicest inn in town they split up to do different things in the city:

  • Steel Horizon and Blurred Mongoose take the shipment of tea to Ammar’s trade-house in the Hedgetown district. After dropping off the shipment they have a meeting with Hanno Ammar who is busy consorting with his concubines when they enter, he quickly goes back to work and gives them the payment for the shipment. Afterward they go to the inn named Gold Carp and rent an entire floor for their party.
  • Callous Hornet seeks out her contact Manya who is the closest assistant of Scavenger Lord Kree. Manya is in the process of overseeing the loading of a wagon outside a blacksmith’s shop in Ashtown district when Callous Hornet catches up to her. Manya is pleased to see her old acquaintance and gives her some time to talk while she power-walks to the next destination on her packed schedule. She informs that she can be a great source of information on the happenings in the city and will help them get in contact with powerful individuals in the kingdom.
  • Shifty Dagger follows the orders given to him in Nexus. He infiltrates the Guild Hall and sneaks into the office of Guild Operative Maray who is busy writing a letter. Shifty Dagger startles Maray by dropping from the ceiling right in-front of him. He informs Maray that he has been sent from Nexus to oversee and assist the Guild’s business and operations in Arc. Maray sees the benefit (and threat) of a skilled infiltrator in his area of business so he decides to give Shifty Dagger his full support in exchange for his assistance.
  • After a bath in the inn Blurred Mongoose goes looking for a martial arts dojo in the city. It doesn’t take long to find the dojo of Master Holan who trains his students in a dojo in Ashtown district. Blurred Mongoose enters the dojo and is met by Holan and his disciples Fu-Sihn, Blue Cloud and Great Falcon. Holan informs him that in order to train in his dojo as a full member he has to complete two challenges, defeat two of his disciples. The challenger gets to pick the time and location for the first challenge, but the second challenge is chosen by the members of the dojo. Blurred Mongoose chooses to display his might by challenging Holan’s first-disciple Fu-sihn. After a series of powerful blows received by Blurred Mongoose he manages to catch Fu-sihn in a clinch, but Fu-sihn manages to free himself from it but admits defeat after a powerful kick from Blurred Mongoose. The first challenge has been completed and Blurred Mongoose is given time to recover, but he doesn’t know when the next challenge is to be expected.
  • Steel Horizon visits a stable after his bath to purchase horses for the party and places an order for a war chariot and buys a wagon to use in the meantime.

After this the River Serpents meet up back at the inn where supper is served. They plan what to do the next day and they decide that they will hunt down the bandit-king Heinkel Toothless in order to use the reward to purchase the fortress ruins in M’ok.

The next morning they eat breakfast and depart for Helim Woods. They ride through Ankree on the way and come to the woods in the afternoon, they put on heavy robes as disguises and fill the wagon with empty crates and barrels and travel into the forest. In the evening when the camp out for the night they are attacked by Heinkel Toothless and a small part of his bandits. Heinkels thugs are easily dispatched but he himself manages to put up quite a fight before he is dispatched through the combined might of the River Serpents.

Afterward they follow the bandit’s tracks back to their camp and decide to attack them at sunrise. Shifty Dagger and Callous Hornet sneak up behind the bandit camp and Blurred Mongoose and Steel Horizon (carrying the body of the bandit-king with him) come from the front. They catch the bandit’s unaware and tell them to surrender, a single bandit tries to draw his blade but is quickly killed by a throwing knife from behind. The bandits surrender immediately after that and are bound together and taken back to the city with all their loot.

Back in the city the Serpents are given a heroes welcome and the surviving bandits are cast in jail and the Captain of the city-guard promises he will come up with the money promised on the wanted-poster.

Steel Horizon takes the majority of the praise given and quickly becomes a celebrity in the kingdom, women flock to meet the wealthy hero who killed the feared bandit-king. The rest of the Serpents stay in the background, content to give him the spotlight.

Shifty Dagger decides to seek out his other contact in the city: Entertainer Horitz. He is easily found in the tea-house named Tooth’s Shadow in Ashtown, the premiere meeting place for entertainers, thieves and prostitutes. Horitz welcomes Shifty Dagger with open hands and gives him some information on the political situation in Arc and promises him assistance in the future.

The Serpents return to the inn and this is where we leave them for this time.

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Chapter One - Nightside of Nexus
Life ain't easy being an extra.

Spring has arrived to the humongous trade-city of Nexus, and that brings it’s own problems with it. The poorest part of the city, the neighborhood of Nightside has been plagued by raiding gang-members from other parts of the city for some time. And since the first spring floods have recently receded it means that the raiders are returning, but this time the citizens of Nightside had unexpected help…

The River Serpents as they are called had decided to help the poor citizens of Nightside in exchange for only minimal rewards and compensation. This company of heroes consists of: Steel Horizon, Blurred Mongoose, Shifty Dagger and Callous Hornet.

The gang that attacked Nightside this night was lead by Bitter Scar, a dangerous warrior who had gained his position as gang-leader through his brutality and ruthlessness. But his gang would quickly know that they are barely a match for such experienced heroes as the River Serpents.

The first confrontation with the gang was when Steel Horizon and Blurred Mongoose encountered a few gang-members in the progress of robbing and murdering a two poor students in an alley, the battle was quickly finished in favor of the heroes. In the second confrontation another party of raiders was ambushed by Shifty Dagger and Callous Hornet, the fight was over before it even began with the raiders pierced by daggers and arrows before they could react.

After several fights with small groups of raiders the Serpents had prepared an ambush for the last remaining raiders fleeing the neighborhood, there were a dozen raiders lead by Bitter Scar himself that walked straight into the slaughter. Even if the gang-members were greater in number they proved little match for the heroes and Bitter Scar was quickly bested in combat by Steel Horizon’s massive sledgehammer. Not a single raider was left alive when the battle was over only second later.

Moments after the last bandit hit the mud the citizenry of the neighborhood came out of hiding to celebrate their new saviors. Joyous Pond the elder of the community invited the Serpents to a tea-house to celebrate their victory. The heroes were given the seats of honor and many gifts were placed before them by the thankful citizens. Celebrations lasted into the late night hours.

The next morning the Serpents were preparing for their departure from Nexus, each member had their own preparations to make:

  • Steel Horizon oversaw the loading of the ship and ordered his servant Twice-Watered Leaf to load the ship with trade-goods.
  • Blurred Mongoose took farewell of his sifu Long-lessons Half-forgottenin the dojo he had trained at for many years, he had now mastered everything his master had taught him and he needs to search elsewhere for more training.
  • Shifty Dagger had a meeting with his Guild superior Smiling Star who had heard of his plans to travel to Arc and gave him a mission to observe the head Guild-operative in the region named Maray and if possible increase the profitability of the Guild office there.

When the Serpents returned to the Hammerblow the ship was loaded and ready for departure. They cast loose and the ship started to move out of harbor when suddenly a smaller ship came in front of their ship from seemingly nowhere and hostiles started swarming the ship. Bowmen on the smaller ship opened fire and thrown javelins rained onto the ship’s deck, heavily armored swordsmen attempted to climb onto the ship from a small rowboat and brawlers tried swinging onto the ship from loading cranes on the docks.

The Serpents responded quickly to the unexpected attack. Steel Horizon sank the rowboat with a mighty blow from his sledge and jumped back up to the ship, Blurred Mongoose fought off those that managed to reach the ship’s deck, Shifty Dagger jumped to the smaller ship and dispatched the bowmen with perfectly aimed daggers. Callous Hornet was the one caught most unaware and she was badly wounded by the one of the javelins thrown at her, but she managed to get her revenge on the man who did it.

After the tumult it was easily determined that these were the remnants of Bitter Scar’s gang on a mission of revenge, but their lacking tactics and cooperation proved to be their downfall. Callous Hornet took the man that wounded her as her prisoner and the Hammerblow was free to sail out of the harbor to the Yellow river towards the city-state of Arc.

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Character Creation
Heroes are not born, they are made.

The following four characters have been made for the story:

Callous Hornet, a mercenary sniper looking for revenge on two powerful beings.

Shifty Dagger, a Guild member with hidden talents.

Blurred Mongoose, a rebellious martial artist with a taste for power.

Steel Horizon, a heroic playboy warrior with his own luxurious yacht.

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