Episode 2 - River of Stars - Part 1
The circle of Solar Exalts continued their journey from Turg, and onto the city of Khacin. Concern weighed heavy on their shoulders as they contemplated their nature and the reaction of others to their existence. Most rode upon their horses, as Aisha directed the wagon with Falling Rain riding along. Kheralin, such was her nature and her profession, scouted ahead to look for signs of danger.
At night the circle camped. It was a few days yet before they reached Khacin and they were still unsure what they should so once they arrived there. There was the issue of the prophecy that had been thought to be true and now was somehow false, and the true prophecy lay within the city. Rain and Aisha spent their nights talking about the gods and spirits of the land, with Rain explaining some of the details of the Immaculate philosophy, while also coming to terms with this new god that had spoken to him directly. Dorn was able to attend to the dietary needs of the circle, the barbarian being an expert hunter. He was also tired of eating rice constantly, something that Red Echo has no issue with considering his upbringing in the martial state of Lookshy. Dorn approached Echo about how he might be able to raise an army, and if Echo would help him in this endeavour at the city of Nexus. Dorn simply saw his exaltation as a chance for revenge against his kinsmen in the Haslanti League. Echo of course knew that the barbarian could not lead an army, but that Nexus was also important to his own plan of assuming power within his mercenary company.
Two days had past and the circle could see over the hill rising towers of smoke. Kheralin and Resplendent Light of the Wood rode forward to see what had happened. Kheralin was aware that there was a small village on this route, and was horrified to find, that like her own village, that it had been raised to the ground. Kheralin called the circle to join them, as Light rode down. The others noted this impetuous charge and followed, more wary of the scene that lay before them. Rain questioned if this was the work of those that had attacked Wai'hl, or perhaps the work of the Hyena men savages that would raid the country.
The circle found that the village was a smoking ruin. Men, women, and children lay dead all around. Many were impaled by arrows. Dorn looked for tracks and found that the raiders had come from the east, and that they were men, and not beastmen. Light, who had already been there for a few minutes held an arrow he had taken from the body of one of the dead. He also pointed out those soldiers who were killed by the villagers. Their armour and livery showed them to be soldiers of the nearby rival of Khacin - Ashuriana. The wood of the arrow matched that of Ashuriana, as the rival state made heavy use of archery and spears in their own forces.
Dorn continued his search for tracks, finding that there were tracks leading out of the village into the north. Kheralin and Echo remained in the village as the others followed the tracks out of the village. It was not long until they found that the tracks, which were those of men and something on a sledge, led them to an excavation. It led down into the earth some distance before stopping at a hole in a revealed wall of some buried tomb or building. Large stones had been pulled from the wall to make the hole, and upon them were hieroglyphs from the First Age.
With some trepidation Light, Rain and Aisha made their way down, while Dorn proceeded straight inside. The moment Dorn entered the chamber he realised he was surrounded by three men. He lashed out, striking one and found that the figure just crumbled to white dust. When the others joined Dorn in the chamber they found that the men were composed entirely of something akin to chalk. However, it was clear that they were dressed as the raiders and that they had the look of terror on their faces. Something had turned them into chalk. About the chamber there were other mounds of white powder, no doubt the result of others having been turned to this powder and collapsing. The troupe began to search the chamber.
Meanwhile, back at the village Kheralin found on one of the soldiers a small pendant, upon which was some form of script that she could not read, and it certainly was not the language used by Ashuriana. Echo looked at it and knew immediately what it was. It was River Tongue, and more importantly it was a dog tag. The soldier was not from Ashuriana but from Nexus, and belonged to the Rabid Wolves. With this revelation it was clear that someone was trying to cover up something else with the attack and make it look like the work of Ashuriana.
At the excavation the others had searched the chamber. Rain realised that there were certain geomantic principles in action, designed not to channel essence but instead dissipate it and contain something. In the centre of the chamber there were signs that something large had sat in the centre of the room. Rain did find some old texts written in Old Realm, and also the remains of some sort of device. It was a helix made of crystal, but broken in half, and with it a blood drop shaped gem, the size of an egg. It was a dark garnet like colour. As Rain picked it up it began to glow and pulsate, matching his own heart beat. Rain pocketed it and kept it to himself.
Light recovered amongst the other pieces of decayed and broken artefacts, more books that contained schematics of strange devices of technology. Aisha however found a pair of red jade gauntlets, patterned with regular geometric shapes. Light tried them on, and by channelling his essence he was able to activate them, the jade gave of a glow of energy. They were a weapon or armour of some form. Dorn had recovered another weapon, but made of a different material. It was a short sword, with one straight edge, and the other edge as a square tooth blade. The tip was cut square and the entire blade had straight grooves running up its length. The blade itself was composed of a dark black steel. Light exchanged with Dorn the greaves, and then once more channelled his essence into the blade. Immediately the blade changed, the grooves pulsed a deep red, and the blade itself began to grow cold, so cold that ice formed along the edge of the blade. When finally awake the blade screamed a wail of pain.
It was in some of the papers that the group had recovered that the troupe that Rain spotted what looked like a schematic, and there in the design was the helix pattern with the gem
. It was clearly a device powered by a hearthstone, or many.
Kheralin and Echo stood at the top of the excavation as the others exited the chamber. They discussed what they found as they returned to the village. It was now apparent that someone, under the guise of Ashuriana, had come here knowingly to take this device. If it was able to cause such destruction then it is a danger that has to be stopped. As they approached the village they saw a beam of light rise up into the sky from somewhere in the distance. The beam split the clouds. Fearing the worst the circle took cover, only for a strong wind to pass. Now fearing what the weapon could do in the wrong hands Aisha summoned the Storm Wind Rider, and with Rain, Light and Kheralin, travelled in the tornado to the site of the beam of light.
As the tornado raced across the landscape and across the river, Chi Alahan, to the site, they could see that there was an encampment of men. Kheralin lepted out of the twister and landed a distance from the camp so that she could use her bow. The others continued straight into the heart of the camp and upon arrival found that the camp had also been turned to chalk. The only weapons left untouched by the magic were those not worn by a soldier. The soldier were indeed mercenaries, their armour alien to this region of the world, more like the desert raiders to the south of the Scavenger Lands.
Meanwhile, Echo and Dorn sat waiting in the camp. Dorn found some unbroken bottles of sake in the village and drank as Echo sat and wrote. They then both spotted something moving, and to their shock, down the road, was the priest that Echo had only killed just days earlier. The man stood and smiled and then walked off. Echo and Dorn followed but found that he had just disappeared.
At the encampment the others found clues to a contact that the mercenaries had been working for. It was clear the weapon had been moved, and quickly in the time it had taken for them to travel there. It was then that they spotted a dark shape where the device had once stood. It flapped to a unseen wind. A cold wind blew from it and Rain realised what it was. It was a gateway to not just the Underworld, but the Void. Rain then looked up and saw that the sky held a reddish sun. With fear running through his veins he knew that they were in a Shadow Land. Seeing the need to now act fast, and knowing that the device had been taken down stream towards Khacin. Light summoned a spirit messenger, a blue glittering cherub, and tasked it to inform the Dorn and Echo to take the horses and leave the cart, and meet them at the crossing upstream from where they can ride on to the nearest port and try and find this weapon.