Children of the Unconquered Sun

Cut Scene (Haral)

V’neef Cardassian Marak had gone dark.

Cathak Haral stood before the open window at Cydonia, staring down at the ancient stone courtyard. Below, his people worked like bees. They had set up running water, gotten the kitchens going, and started farming on the rooftops to supplement supply trains and supply runs. If they could get traders in here it would be a proper city soon, the very keystone of the kingdom he was hoping to build. He had no ambitions to be Emporer, but King was a nice step above Satrap.

He very much doubted anyone would be Emporer or Empress, ever again. Though he supposed Mnemon might eventually take up the title, ruling over a very much reduced section of territory.

The letters he had just burned threatened to change all of that.

Haral was no fool. He had relied on far more than the bounty hunter to track the movements of the Anathema who had left his employ. Just because a mere human wasn’t equipped to fight the man did not mean that they did not have eyes, and ears. He made use of those with hefty salaries, and had a network of agents across the Scavenger Lands and well into the east and south for as long and as far as he could insert them.

It had taken him some time, however, to trace the identity of the ship’s captain who his wayward, possessed slave had taken refuge with. And when he had, and had further read the reports that his bastard daughter—Dragons above, what had the name of the kitchen maid who had birthed her been? It had been too long for him to remember now—Desdemona had also shown signs of the Anathema curse…well.

A cold sensation had struck him to the core, twisting his stomach in knots. He already had that damnable representative of the Immaculate Order here, sniffing around, all but openly accusing him of treason. His men were in a state of uneasiness and unrest that only Jarak’s steady hand had managed to calm. The only reason Haral’s own men weren’t dragging him back to the capitol in chains was due to the fact that the monk had no evidence.

He had never had much use for monks. There was one little temple in Greyfalls, but they had mostly stayed out of his way. He hadn’t encouraged any greater participation, and had made it as easy as possible for people to seek civil ceremonies for marriages, funerals, and all manner of other rites.

But the monk was out for blood, and his darling wife had probably fucked him senseless to make sure it was not her blood that he came for.

But if this got out—if others made the same connection—the monk wouldn’t need anything else. He’d be branded a heretic, perhaps called Anathema himself, and that would be the end of him.

But it wasn’t just him. The backlash would strike his brother, one of the few people who had ever had his back. Every one of his men would find their military careers and their lives cut short with new assignments to the front lines. His kingdom would fall apart. His nephew would probably find himself sent to the coldest hell. His little niece, so sweet and frail? Her marriage to the sorcerer would fall apart, and, with no other prospects, she would probably be disowned probably to make absolutely sure that the Tepet distanced themselves as far from that possible trouble as they possibly could.

Dragons help him, his heart even demanded that he spare a thought for his wife. He hated her sometimes. He’d wanted to kill her before. But the little fool would be mistaken if she thought for one moment that this wouldn’t backlash on her, too. He entertained a brief fantasy that this could bring them closer together somehow—that in mutual persecution she would have no choice but to turn to him, and work side by side with him, in a situation that was still as dangerous for her as it was for him. She did want to be Queen, he knew. Perhaps not with him…but perhaps that could be dealt with.

And perhaps Jezmin would stick a bloody knife in his back and twist it while laughing at his screams. No, best not to involve her.

He clasped his hands behind his back, white knuckled. No. He was going to have to deal with this. The only hope would be if he took them and killed them. Though a more interesting possibility had wormed its way into his head. If they had the powers to sway entire crowds of people he could perhaps use them to strengthen his hold and his kingdom. Sway the hearts of the people back to him, destroy or exile the Immaculates in a swift pogram—or rewrite their religion altogether—and challenge the empire with such allies at his side. Because if the secret got out later it wouldn’t even matter if he killed them! Desdemona was his daughter, and the belief would be that he killed her, not to spare the world from ravaging by a dangerous Anathema, but to hide the secret.

Which was in fact why he did want to kill her.

His own daughter.

Dangerous thoughts. A dangerous situation. But nobody ever made it to monarchy without danger.

He would have to decide later. First, he had to get to them. He had to be the first to get to them. He had to see to it that the monk could not accompany them for any reason, but he thought he had a solution there. He’d tell the monk that V’neef had gone dark, and that V’neef had evidence that would exonerate him. That would send the bloodthirsty bastard after V’neef to kill him before any such evidence could come to light. By the time he got back, Haral would have his most loyal men on the move. A Dragon of Calvary could make the trip in good time.

At least he knew where to go. A single member of the crew had talked to one of his agents. Pillow talk. The man was conflicted about traveling with a bunch of Anathema, and had been full of complaints about the lot of them. He hadn’t been sure where their next port of call was, but he’d said that Desdemona had perked in interest when a Lookshy patrol had mentioned some other Anathema (dear Dragons, the Scavenger Lands were crawling with them!) and Denasdor. What anyone could want with the Empty City was beyond him, but the complainer had also been angry about certain artifice retrofits that had been made to the ship, artifice that could make it fly over land. The agent had planted the notion of a bit of sabotage if it looked like they were going to leave there very soon.

Which meant he could safely plan on them being there.

Picking up a pen, Cathak Haral began writing up his orders.

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Chapter Ten - Entering Denandsor

20th Day of Wood Descending in the Years of the Glorious Reign of our Scarlett Empress, May She Live Forever.

Denandsor.

It is a grand, breath-taking city full of First Age wonders that has been abandoned for many, many centuries. Warily, expecting traps and monsters, Mihir and Jumanah went in first to do a little bit of initial scouting. They did not go far before they found out the reason why everyone stays away.

Every fifteen minutes, a wave of black terror spreads through the city. Those too weak in will to resist it run fleeing for the nearest gates.

Still, what they found was splendid, and soon, all four of the heroes were exploring through the city. They found treasures and cathedral factories. Taking materials and artefacts, they returned to the Night Star where Rillin put together tracking equipment to find the source of the black waves of terror as well as craft amulets to help resist its effects. Mihir discovered that jam sandwiches are not of any help during such endeavours.

Thus armed, the four returned to Denandsor for a second venture…

Which has been going nearly disastrously. Upon the first wave of terror striking them again, Jumanah lost control of herself, and in a rage, she fled the city to tear into the first thing that she could find.

Left to their own devices, Mihir, Rillin and Desdemona went onwards to try to finish the mission. They found the central tower where the black terror was originating, guarded by a pair of golems. Mihir talked to them, distracted them, so that Des and Rill could sneak into the tower.

While Mihir was directed to the Daimyo’s office for a great seal to enter the tower without the golem guards attacking him, Rill and Des made their way downwards, searching for the machinery itself to deactivate the black terror assaulting their minds on a regular basis.

But the job was not finished before a terrible, black energy began to emanate from the top of the tower, oozing its way down the central pillar. Mihir emerged from the Daimyo’s office and rode his automaton Garron up the stairs of the tower to find the reason why, arriving there before Rillin and Desdemona could venture out of the basement chambers.

Zhen Heaventouched was there and conducting a ritual.

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Chapter Nine - Temporary Partings

Setting sail on the Night Star and heading north along the river towards the city of Varsi, the Heroic Do-Gooders briefly conferred. They knew that Setsuko and Marak would be pursuing, and a way was needed to slow them down. In the end, it was agreed that Mihir and Jumanah would ride south upon his mechanical steed. If, in four days, they had not caught up to their pursuers, they would return north to Varsi. If they did, then they would do what they could to slow their river craft and buy Desdemona and Rillin more time to finish outfitting the Night Star with its new Essence engine.

So the group split in half. Desdemona sailed her ship north up the river, while Mihir rode south and back into the jungles.

For Desdemona and Rillin, the journey was mostly uneventful and peaceful. Several days later, they encountered a Lookshy patrol captainned by the young Lookshy Terrestrial named Teresu Seifuku. He boarded the ship, stating that they were searching for the Anathema that were rumoured to be in the area. He also mentioned a certain Lunar who turned into an oversized wasp, who infiltrated the Lookshy archives and took every scrap of information pertaining to the Forgotten City of Denandsor. When confronting the San-Beast Kilarah, Rillin’s companion, Seifuku was deterred from believing she was a Lunar when Rillin revealed himself to be her advisor and that she was an ambassador of Halta. Believing that the ship held no Anathema, Seifuku left the Night Star and sailed onwards.

Rillin and Desdemona sailed into Varsi’s docks without further incident and immediately acquainted themselves with some heavenly tarts.

Meanwhile, Mihir and Jumanah did not have so easy of a time. Their journey south did end with finding Setsuko and Marak sailing the Mud Turtle upriver. Combat ensued when Marak took the first shot, taking Mihir in the back and through the shoulder. Jumanah boarded the vessel, and blood was spilled on both sides when Setsuko struck a hard, first blow, only to be grievously wounded herself when the infuriated Lunar cut loose.

With his flaming arrows, Mihir set the boat on fire and struck Marak’s firewand out of his hands, sending it into the water. In retalation, Marak lept off of the boat and through the jungle, pursuing the Solar until he lept upon him and nearly tackled him off of his horse. The two grappled for a short time, until Garron threw both riders off. Marak struck his head upon the ground and fell unconscious.

With the boat burning and Mihir losing blood quickly, he called for Jumanah to retreat. When the Lunar returned to him, both of them took Marak away with them and deeper into the jungles. They kept him bound, but Mihir healed his wounds. The Solar spoke at long length with the Dragon-Blooded, and in the end, Mihir convinced the zealot that he was not truly evil. A bargain was struck between them. In one year, Marak would return to find Mihir, and if he had held to his sanity, he would be allowed to live. If not, Marak would destroy him. Trusting that he would hold to his word, Mihir released the Dragon-blooded and convinced him to ride north with the pair to Varsi.

The three traveled together north, but roughly five miles out from the city of Varsi, Marak took his leave of Mihir and Jumanah in order to board a ship sailing south. His work would continue in Jades, where he would hunt for the murderer of Destiny’s Flower. Furthermore, Marak had no wish for anyone to realise that he might have possibly committed treachery by befriending (or at least abiding somewhat peacefully) with an Anathema.

Eventually, Mihir and Jumanah rode into the town of Varsi, soon finding Rillin and Desdemona. The four were reunited, and it was decided that they would travel next to Denandsor. There, Desdemona would search for Zhen, Rillin would search for First Age wonders, and Mihir would search for more sleeping Dragon Kings to awaken.

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Chapter Eight - Confrontation in Jades

15th Day of Wood Descending in Years of the Glorious Reign of our Scarlett Empress, May She Live Forever.

After a very long and exhausting journey, the quartet with the rescued Guildsmen returned to find that Jades had changed during the time they were gone. The Night Star was chained and anchored to the docks, the crew and freed slaves thrown in prison, and the Guildwoman they’d done business with – Destiny’s Flower – had been murdered. The new Guildman in charge of operations, John Silverfist, protested that everyone had thought the quartet dead and so had seized the ship and its crew.

Upon finding Aeshona, the first mate of the Night Star, bound and bloodied and whipped in her prison cell, the quartet were left to face the tender mercies of her captors: V’neef Cardassian Marak the Terrestrial bounty hunter and Captain Setsuko Sayo, the former mistress of the Night Star. The quartet had been led into a trap with the imprisoned crew acting as bait.

While Desdemona faced off with Setsuko in a duel of swords, a pair of First Age golems tangled with the two Lunars, and Mihir attempted to talk down Marak from his zealotry and his mission to kill the evil Anathema.

The golems were deactivated, and Desdemona had nearly bested Setsuko in her duel when another disaster hit. Silverfist had set fire to the prison building.

Deciding to flee before she was killed by sword or asphyxiation, Setsuko took off with Marak in tow. The quartet let them run, and after releasing all of the prisoners and slaves, they fled the prison building and got back to their ship. As a storm broke out, Desdemona set sail north on the river. Rillin released a spell to damage and disable the pursuing mercenary ships, and the do gooders made their escape.

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Chapter Seven - Reviving the Dragon Kings

27th Day of Wood Resplendent in the Years of the Glorious Reign of our Scarlett Empress, May She Live Forever.

The quartet of do-gooders did indeed find six of the Dragon Kings in their stasis chambers, deep in a magical slumber. There were three of the Raptok, led by an elder named Rain-Falls-Gently, one Anklok with a penchant for wild shorts, one Mosok and one Pterok. They were well-spoken and reserved, intelligent and peaceful, however they knew nothing of the world since the Great Contagion. The quartet gave them a brief recounting of history since they went to sleep, and then they took them back into Rathess.

Trusting Rain-Falls-Gently to take care of the city and restore the feral population of Dragon Kings to a state of civilisation, the quartet finally began to prepare for their return to Jades with the Guildsmen.

The former slaves who had been captured along with the Guildsmen wanted their freedom. Negotiations were made with the Guild, ending with a trade route being established with the slowly-returning Rathess and population of Dragon Kings in return for secrecy, the freedom of the slaves and goods.

The group began a return to Jades, which more or less progressed without event.

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Chapter Six - Leyata's Dragon Kings

27th Day of Wood Resplendent in the Years of the Glorious Reign of our Scarlett Empress, May She Live Forever.

While there remains no sign of Zhen, the party recovered after their rescue of Desdemona. The first order of business was seeking out the reptilian goddess Leyata, having promised her that they would come to see her once their errand was complete.

They found her within an old museum where many of her treasures had been preserved. There they spoke with her, and she asked them to revive the ancient race of Dragon Kings from their slumber in stasis chambers deep beneath the city. After some time and some discussion, the quartet agreed to do it.

The band ventured into the tunnels of the city, leaving other explorations for later. Rillin geeked out and restored a transportation capsule that carried them down tracks like a roller coaster deep into the water-logged tunnels.

All was going quite splendidly until they were set upon by leeches. When they fought off a good number of them, the creatures pulled themselves together into a monstrosity that spoke to them, calling itself the Avatar of the Leech-God. Though Mihir tried some diplomacy, that was short-lived before it attacked, swearing that they would never revive its hated Dragon King enemies.

The Avatar was eventually pwned in a mighty, epic battle, leaving the heroes somewhat wounded but ready to continue onwards in search of Leyata’s Dragon Kings.

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Chapter Five - Heaventouch's Betrayal

12th Day of Wood Resplendent in the Years of the Glorious Reign of our Scarlett Empress, May She Live Forever

After some time to explore the city of Rathess, the trio have gathered some good swag for themselves – new suits of armour, an engine upgrade for Desdemona, and a hearthstone for Mihir.

Enter Rillin Greenstrider.

While stalking an animal for a new form in a sacred hunt, Jumanah came upon a Lunar named Rillin and his companion, a San-Beast named Kilara. Bringing the Lunar back to the temple of Rathess where everyone had been making a rough, temporary home, Jumanah introduced the new Lunar to Mihir. They would have introduced him to Desdemona, but she had not returned from a lunch she was sharing with Zhen Heaventouched.

They went in search of her, and they came upon the remains of her meal, which had been drugged. Now fearing for Desdemona’s safety, Jumanah led them in a hunt for Desdemona and found her deep in an abandoned temple in the city, tied down to a clock, about to be sacrificed by the treacherous Zhen for a ritual that would taint his own Exaltation and make him into one of the Abyssals.

The ritual was stopped when Rillin and Jumanah burst through the doors, and Mihir shot the treacherous Lunar in the hands with his arrows. The pent-up energy released in a wild explosion, flinging everyone across the room to hit the walls and slump into unconsciousness. When the group awoke, Zhen was gone, and Desdemona was still alive, awake and screaming to be released.

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Chapter Four - Brotherly Wisdom

The answer was soon made clear as to why the trio were wanted alive.

Thinking that there might be some treachery, Mihir suggested the group split apart. He would face the leader of the goblins while Desdemona and Jumanah followed at a distance to launch an ambush if all went poorly. So the three went off, and Mihir was led to a great temple where an army of three hundred goblins and other creatures gathered to worship a crazed man who was whipping them into a frenzy of blood lust. This man, dressed in the skins of dead people, was preparing to sacrifice and eat the captured men and women of the Guild who were kept in cages, all in the name of his god, Han-Tha.

The thing is that Filial Wisdom was a Solar. A very crazy ass Solar. He wanted Mihir to finish a poem for him, one that would glorify the name of Han-Tha and inspire men and women to worship him on a bloody campaign of conversion.

While Mihir worked to talk down Filial Wisdom from his madness, turning his loyalty slowly away from Han-Tha to the Unconquered Sun, Desdemona received a visitor from an unknown and mysterious man, a Lunar. With his help, she found a way into the temple to retrieve that poem and light it on fire, facing the dangers of goblins along the way.

Upon discovering his poem was on fire, as well as the top floor of the temple, Filial Wisdom cried out in fury and rage. Mihir again managed to talk him away from his madness, bringing him back to sanity with logic, calm, and gentleness. Realising the crimes he had committed, Filial Wisdom ran away and across the city, to face a growing cloud and storm that was the fury of Han-Tha. Apparently gods don’t like it when they lose their high priests.

The remaining goblin hordes attacked Desdemona, Mihir, Jumanah and their mysterious Lunar pal, but the battle was short and sweet, ending with victory for the Heroes. The mysterious Lunar departed, giving his name as he did: Zhen Heaventouched.

And as he left, another figure arrived. Mihir recognised her as his mysterious benefactor in Nexus, the woman who bought him time by battling with Cardassian so he could flee to Desdemona’s ship. She introduced herself as Tenshi Terumi, and she offered herself as a teacher for the group.

The gate of the goblins they have as captives remains in the balance, as does the ultimate fate of Filial Wisdom, who rushed away to atone for his crimes.

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Chapter Three - In the Jungles

Date: 24th Day of Wood Ascending in the Years of the Glorious Reign of our Scarlett Empress, May She Live Forever.

Having accepted their mission from Destiny’s Flower, the trio set off for the jungles surrounding the forgotten city of Rathess. All of the child slaves had been freed, and the ten days of travel towards the city through the jungle was long and tedious but uneventful.

On the tenth day, they finally encountered a group of wolf-goat men. Taking shelter in the trees in case the group proved hostile, both Mihir and Desdemona were able to instead speak courteously and politely with them. The exchange was peaceful, and the horned wolfmen confirmed that the group of men they sought had come through and gone towards the city of Rathess. The trio took a detour to leave the territory of the wolfmen, then continued onwards and into the city.

1st Day of Wood Resplendent in the Years of the Glorious Reign of our Scarlett Empress, May She Live Forever.

Four days more of slow hacking through jungles finally brought the trio to the gates of ruined Rathess. Entering through the northeast, they found an abandoned cart and a dead horse, one that had been killed by a multitude of blades and had tried to fight back. Before the mystery of who did it could be solved, the group were accosted and then attacked by twelve goblins.

Most of them were killed, but those that were spared or survived can be questioned. Because they are working for someone, someone who wants the trio alive for some reason…

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Chapter Two - In Jade

Date: 14th Day of Wood Ascending in the Years of the Glorious Reign of our Scarlett Empress, May She Live Forever.

After two weeks of relatively peaceful sailing upon the Night’s Sky, the ship and her crew pull in to dock at the city of Jade. There they find a woman waiting for them, a representative of the Guild named Destiny’s Flower. Though Desdemona tries to sweet talk her, she is well aware that there are men, women and children aboard who are illegally-escaped slaves. Instead of trying to pursue the matter, she demands that Des, Jumanah and Mihir meet her for dinner that night to discuss a bargain.

After acquiring supplies, the Trio meet with Destiny’s Flower at a reputable inn. Both Jumanah and Mihir catch sight of an odd individual in the tavern, a fellow who had taken a great deal of notice in Desdemona himself, but when he presented no overt threat and left, he was soon forgotten.

Meanwhile, Destiny’s Flower spoke of missing companions who had gone down into the jungles towards Rathess three months ago, and they disappeared three weeks ago. She suspects that they’ve fallen prey to a vicious Wolf-Goat tribe, creations of a man called Ma-Ha-Suchi, the Mad One. If the Trio find the missing men, some news on their whereabouts, or anything useful, then Destiny’s Flower will remove the tattoos that mark the adult slaves as captives. The children she will free now, as a gesture of good will, and she also had trade information.

The Trio agreed, and they are off to explore the jungles near Rathess.

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