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…


Azuki Azuki

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