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.


Azuki Azuki

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