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…


Azuki Azuki

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