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…