Arc

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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