PRP: A Burning Blighted First Bloom
The Warmonger Titus has offered a rare opportunity for outsiders to come within the Watchers as guests to participate in the holy day of First Bloom. Of course, no First Bloom is without a hunt and this particular hunt will be trying to locate a fiend known as Morbus, a great Calderan plague bear allegedly responsible for leading other plague bears devouring farmers trying to eek an existence near the withered dark jungles. Help lower the numbers of plague bears and earn respect from the children of Sangris! Bring your offerings, bring your courage and don’t forget your armour and weapons!
OOC: Up to 6 people via reserving a spot mailing Titus you’d like to go. A small scale one off adventure with religion, exploration and COMBAT set in the Caldera region and city of Sangris. Come get your Compact passport page stamped with a rare Red City stamp. To be resolved in one scene.
Jan. 27, 2023, 9 p.m.
Outside Arx - Sangris - Deep in the Wilds of the Saffron Chain
Comments and Log
OOC: @check luck at normal
Savio checks luck at normal. Savio is marginally successful.
Raja checks luck at normal. Raja marginally fails.
Patrizio checks luck at normal. Patrizio is successful.
Acacia checks luck at normal. Acacia is successful.
Cassiopeia checks luck at normal. Cassiopeia marginally fails.
Mikani checks luck at normal. Mikani is successful.
The ship you boarded is the famed Screaming Gorgon, with dark black sails with a main sail that holds a crimson drop of blood in white flames. On the masthead is a golden head that's been lopped off, a snarl is on the female face but the hair is replaced with hundreds of serpents. For those who have sailed in the south, the Screaming Gorgon is the flagship of the Sangrian navy and the Warmonger Titus usually leads it. So up you go and on you sail.
It’s taken quite a long time to travel from Arx to Sangris. You sail beyond the Bay of Thrax, through the Mourning Sea and beyond the Saffron Straits as the stars tell those who can read them that you are somewhere in the deep southwest. A heavy mist greets your final stretch along what is referred to as Sea of Skulls, blocking your vision to just a few meters beyond the ship as the splash of oars go to the rhythm of the drums beaten as the wind fizzled to nothing. There’s one soldier at the bow of the ship, keeping a concerned lookout and should any of you ask, you’re given a few different answers.
“Our enemies are all around.” “The Vaevici know only of war, even after death they keep going.” “The living aren’t the only things on these waters.”
Sailing is something that Raja is usually rather adept to. But, this journey was super long. Maybe it was a bit of the salted fish that she had? Or could just be female troubles. Who knows? Either way, Raja was not a happy camper towards the end of the trip. The final two days, she can usually be found draped over the starboard side of the Screaming Gorgon, giving the side of the hull a new.. color. After her latest bout with the seasickness, she does her best to get it together. She moves beside the sailow at the bow, narrowing her eyes into the silvery mist. "Any number of nuisances can use this mist as cover.." She mutters under her breath. "Are we there yet?"
Savio is from this part of the world, and always, ALWAYS happy to be back here. The Arakkoans of Tremorus come alive when they get to return to the Saffron Chain, tropical people who have sun and salt in their blood, who have for a thousand years. But Tremorus is a very, very different civilization than Sangris.
Still, the Screaming Gorgon is not an unfamiliar vessel to Savio. As a fellow Saffron wayfinder, he's been happy to talk with the ship's sailors about the constellations that begin to grow familiar this far south, helping with the sailing when needed, staying out of the way when not. As they draw closer to their destination and into the mist, Savio is making quiet conversation with his cousin, Cassiopeia. "I thought I saw a dolphin, just before we arrived into the mist. It was hard to tell... turned out to be a shark in the end. The Sangris soldiers were happy to see it though! That must be good, no?"
It's been an interesting journey, undoubtedly, but not one that Cassiopeia is unfamiliar with. A lot of getting to know her fellow passengers and telling countless stories about the Saffron. Many which are exaggerated, but she'd never admit. However, on this particular day Cassiopeia woke up late and what is worse she comes out of her room on the ship looking panicked and finding her cousin, Savio. "Gods!! I only have one sandal!," she exclaims sounding alarmed. "I swear. I checked my satchelios, before we boarded. I only have one jungle sandal. Where did the other go?," she puts one on and the other foot remains bare. Gold painted toes wiggle uncertainly. Cassiopeia lets out a sigh, "something Solaris gets into my bags and he pushes other things out to make room...," she rubs her forehead, looking around a little sheepishly. But, there's adventure to be had and the green mist makes her curious. Bow strapped to her back, eyes sparkling and tassels bouncing, Cassiopeia looks eager to get to land and start their journey.
A breath slips fro Patrizio as he's come to the deck as the ship cuts through the mist, armour agleam as he's contemplating the passage of those oars as they beat against the waves. "The Baroness had encouraged me, when we were discussing our stratagem against the Skal'daja," says he mindfully, lowly, to the rest of the group, "to come visit these shores. I regret it's taken me so long to journey to this portion of the Saffron." Which comes with the faintest of dips os his head, even as those jade eyes turn towards the curtain of haze before them. But a sound slides from him. "Always something unexpected to be found in these waters, not that the shores are much more a known factor..."
The tall redhead in dark fitted leathers leans casually as she speaks to the soldiers and sailor who are not presently busy. There is an ease to Acacia as she slowly smiles and purrs a husky laugh at something someone says. It might seem as though the woman has been subtly trying to charm her way into getting tidbits of information along their journey.
Turning to check on Raja to make sure she hasn't vomited, died or fallen over the side, the Red Culler softly frowns and her quietly sets her jaw before gazing into the deepening mist.
Loves all her time at sea. She grabs on to ropes and helps the crew whenever they should need it. Years on a ship and Mikani knows the ins and outs of ship work. She spends her time speaking with the sailors on their down time and has even on occasion played some music to entertain the group on evenings. "Dolphins would be a good omen though. The Marin'alfar, their sigil is the dolphin." Mikani comments as she looks at the sea as they move.
Savio casts a sideways look at Patrizio when he mentions Skal'daja, more inscrutable than is his usual wont, but is distracted shortly after by his cousin. "Oh, well..... surely you have another shoe! Yes? Somewhere? Do you need to borrow a shoe?"
Briefly, Patrizio's attention does turn towards Mikani when he hears her speaking of the Marin'alfar, the faint turn of a smile to find his lips. Though that does serve to alight his gaze on Acacia and where she's turned her gaze towards the mist, before he voices, "The mist'll lift soon enough, likely when we reach the shore. Though as to dolphins... they're good omens up until they choose to steal shoes, mmm?" His tone at the last is not at all serious, even as he rests a palm and peeks out over the side for a moment, as if to look down at the oars as they row.
Acacia's eyes slide to Patrizio and she gives him a considered look before returning to her watch and quiet talk with the sailors she's been chatting to. Unless invited, the woman will continue to keep out of the way of the captain and sailors who know this ship best unless it will be of help.
"I don't have jungle shoes. I have boat shoes and otherwise, I would just go bare feet but the jungle will bite my toes.," Cassiopeia is very grateful for the borrowed shoe from her cousin. Which does not match her other shoe. Woe.
|[Poor Raja's stomach, there's little to help in the void the mist creates. As for the shark that Savio saw, the Sangrians all seem to generally agree that it's a very good sign for war. While Cassiopeia's missing sandal is a mystery the Sangrians can't understand, they do know who she is and one offers their own pair of very worn sandals should she wish it. Patrizio, Acacia and Mikani seem to be gaining a few respectful notes from two or three Sangrian soldiers.
|[Silence except for the oars, until finally like a skeletal finger beckoning you forward, a jetty of rocks can be seen and naval shipyards. The lookout calls to those on land giving a greeting that those on the ship are the living and those on land don’t seem to believe it as you’re greeted with weaponry aimed in your direction yet not fired. One can see beyond the docks along the rocky coastline various ships of different ages, wrecked, burned or simply rotting away in the waters. The coastline itself doesn’t have much landfall, huge cliffs rise up almost like walls as mountains jutting upwards to scrape the sky high above.
|[There is though one familiar person you see at the docks, a very tall, quite pale and very gaunt looking knight in armour; Titus of Sangris.
|[The scarred skin on his face is pulled tight as he smiles fondly to you all and lifts a hand to greet, “Welcome to Caldera, my friends. Come, we’ve a journey still to do before you’re safe.” the decayed voice says to each of you, clasping your wrists with a shake to pull you up on the dock.
|[Patrizio is given a bow of his head respectfully to the member of the Choir of Pravus, and Savio? He's actually given a brotherly squeeze on the shoulder. Cassiopeia is greeted with the stoic greeting a Sangrian family gives each other too. Otherwise, suspicion and disapproving looks generally are thrown all your way by the Sangrians which reminds you always: you are outsiders in this strange land.
ou begin to make your way from the docks into Caldera.
Patrizio checks perception and war at normal. Patrizio fails.
Savio checks perception and war at normal. Savio marginally fails.
Cassiopeia checks perception and war at normal. Critical Success! Cassiopeia is spectacularly successful.
Acacia checks perception and war at normal. Acacia marginally fails.
Mikani checks perception and war at normal. Mikani is successful.
Raja checks perception and war at normal. Raja marginally fails.
Patrizio gratefully accepts the help to climb from the boat, before his palm finds his chest, and he dips his head respectfully. "Warmonger, it is a pleasure to see you again, and to be welcomed to your homeland." Respectful dips of his head are given to the crew who have conveyed them to Sangris, as well, and... no one, unfortunately, has ever quite accused Patrizio of being the most graceful off the dance floor, as it is not oft on the battlefield that one is judged for such things. No, indeed, the soft scuffling, the mindful way he has to lower his eyes to make sure his feet find purchase while he's advancing along the path, though with glances back to ensure the others are not be held up by him, or falling behind...
Thank goodness the docks are in view! Raja doesn't even seem to care that there are all sorts of weapons pointed in their direction. Nor does she seem to notice the glares and dissaproving looks she may receive from the Sangrians. Nope. Right as the boat settles at her dock, Raja's stomach has one more thing to say! So, the Culler rushes back to her favored spot on the starboard side of the boat. She will catch up.
The looks seem to wash over the taller of the redheaded woman. Standing at ease, Acacia Culler meets their gaze evenly and offers an upnod before going to check on Raja.
"Up and at it, lass. We're here," Acacia says softly as she keeps a watchful eye on the welcoming party. Once Raja is found in one piece, she will grab her and Raja's gear, shouldering both, so Raja can just deal with herself.
Savio has been happy to loan Cassi new footwear, though there's some teasing chatter in Arakkoan about how she better not lose HIS sandal as well. Hard for others to follow the exact nuance of the foreign language, but, 'I'm giving crap to my family member' is fairly universal in every language.
He is pleased to see Titus, written into the smile on his features, the way the clasp to the shoulder is returned. "It is good to see you, my brother. Especially here." As the group moves forth, he continues with them, careful to stay close to Cassiopeia.
His tone is not a warning, exactly, but thoughtful and cautious as he warns the group, "Sangris is a place to be respected. Caldera is a place to be watchful. This land does not suffer the weak or the unwary for long."
Having sorted out her collected issues with footwear, she is greeting her northern cousin, Titus. "Titus! It's great to be back here. Let's see what we can do to help," she says taking a look around. "Be careful, this place is pretty intense," she says to the collected group. "The path is going to get narrow, there's a lot of sharp rocks. There's soldiers patrolling-- it's a rougher terrain than other parts of the chain. There's blood on the walls," Cassiopeia gets very dramatic here. She does like setting the scene, she looks over at Savio, and elects to stay close to her much stronger and savvy Savio. Cassiopeia pauses and thinks, "We are at a place calls the Gorgon's Neck. I assume because it's narrow," she suggests with a small but cheerful shrug.
A ridiculous story is making the rounds, though many Arx gossips, suddenly overcome with an unearned concern for responsible reporting, will hardly touch it. A sizable town in House Nightgold's lands named Kinallen is said to have simply vanished, along with all its inhabitants. Some storytellers embelish further, claiming the merchant road leading to and through the town is also gone. Not destroyed, they insist. Gone. And still others claim Kinallen isn't the first; there was some tiny village named Littlebreak that vanished about a year ago, they say, and an outpost of the Knights of Solace that was lost a few months after that.
Both local authorities and suddenly responsible gossips are firm in their declaration that this is absurd, that it's not even an exaggeration of an actual shav attack, but something that has been entirely made up from top to bottom. There never was any village named Littlebreak. There never was a Knights of Solace outpost that far out. There never was any town named Kinallen, and that road has always been a dead end.
Some people will believe anything. That old forest has always been there.
Mikani laughs as she bids the crew farewell. Mikani is used to being looked at like an outsider so the looks don't bug her. She just smiles warmly as she gets off the ship. As they walk she keeps her eyes out for the tight spots. "They do like their Gorgons here." She agrees when Cassiopeia points out the Gorgon's Neck. "I have to say I haven't seen many decorate with blood ... but they do make it look good."
Raja manages to get her butt off the boat and onto shore along with the others. The stillness of the ground beneath her boots is almost an immediate relief to her gut. She glances to Acacia, giving an apologetic smile. "Sorry. Not sure what got into me there." She gestures with her thumb back to the boat they are leaving. Glancing to Mikani, she arches a brow. "Wouldn't blood decorations stink after a while?"
The simple act that Acacia does of shouldering the burden of Raja's items isn't missed by the Sangrians. There's a quiet murmur among them before they nod approvingly and they all offer to take some of the items so that what might slow one person carrying all of it might instead be shared by all. Once again, the outsiders impress the Sangrians and that's not an easy thing to do when they're so suspicious.
Most of the day is taken in silent march without stopping as the group moves from the docks. The only path from the docks is cut very narrow and often has switchbacks as it constantly climbs higher. Certain spots narrow so much that it'd prevent anything bigger than two people standing with their shoulders touching. The rocky pass also has quite sharp edges, don't stumble! As Cassiopeia shares, the group does indeed walk through the Gorgon's Neck, a place where armies are chewed up and struck down from the stranglepoints.
The group soon crosses a high and narrow bridge formed out of heavy bloodstone carved like coiling snakes and should you look way down, you see the remains of those who have fallen and left. The bridge ends at a hole in the cliffside that has serpents and fire engraved on it, and soon from the darkness you arrive to a valley and the sound of buzzing is in your ears.
There are tens, if not hundreds or maybe even thousands, of corpses that litter the valley of red rocks leading the a fortified city with impossibly high walls of bloodstone that gleam with a wet shine as the sun is setting. Some corpses look like they’ve been there for a very long time, just skeletal remains bleached white in the sun. Others look like they’re somewhat recent although very decayed. And a few you pass look like maybe they had died today.
On your way, you even come across Skal’dajan foreign armour and materials littering the valley floor, discarded where they fell. For the keen eyed, many of the remains are missing a skull and quite a few of at least the freshly killed ones look as though their chest has been cut open. You continue through the display of the vanquished as you cross the Valley of Flies, a reminder from the dead of what awaits those who would attack the Red City.
The vanguard blow a horn and you can hear a unified set of voices giving a grunted cheer from those who are walking the bloodstone walls. One of the few Vaevici has returned.
Heavy great gates moan in agony as they’re opened and you pass through the Watchers as you enter the city of Sangris. You might notice that most, if not all, of the vanguard as they walk through the Watchers reach out and touch the bloodstones, a small soldier’s prayer given in thanks or maybe an oath repeated.
Titus pauses at the gates as each of you walk through and he says "You're among the very first outsiders to step foot in Sangris. For as long as you are here to celebrate First Bloom, you are my guests. Thank you for coming."
This is Sangris. This is how it is decorated. It doesn't phase Cassiopeia, it's as normal as the topiary and gold statues she has in her own front grounds. The Saffron is diverse and complex, and she's been here a number of times prior. As such, she is comfortable, and moves through the area with some level of knowledge on the terrain and the history of it. Keeping an eye out on the group, she is there through the trip to assist those that might need it. Seeming comfortable with the outdoors, climbing and hiking. It's a pleasant walk, really. Cassiopeia chatters with Savio, telling him about a green bird with a black mask that she saw in Qadaath.
"Whatever it is, I suspect it's now out," Acacia gently teases Raja aside as she hands her a sliver what might be dried ginger. "Chew that. Slowly," she quietly instructs.
Acacia is happy to shoulder the load unless it's socially advisable to NOT turn the help down. In which case, she smiles and offers her thanks and comraderly nod to the Sangrians who have offered to help.
As they party moves along, Acacia remains quiet, falling after the nobles at Raja's side, keen eyes taking in everything, especially the looks and stances of the local residents.
Mikani bows her head to Titus. "Thank you for inviting us. I am honored to be here." She says as she has passed through the city with a curious eye as she takes it all in. Her eyes look as if they are taking mental notes. The occupational hazard of being an explorer. She murmurs something to Raja as she shifts her gear and pulls out a bottle of something and holds it out to Raja. "If that doesn't work, sniff this." She says with a grin.
It's in homage that Patrizio replicates the gesture of the vanguard, with a brief brush of his hand against the bloodstone, a breath most obviously sliding from him as he takes a moment of reverence for the location they're in, the appreciation for it being such an honour. When those eyes open, they are briefly cast back on the path through which they've journeyed, the bodies littering the way, before he briefly turns his gaze back, checking on both those of the Pravusi houses who are with them, and those from beyond, with a mindful eye for Acacia and Raja at the latter's issues.
But his attention comes back to Titus. "May this be the first of many such times, in the years to come, where we're gifted to share in what makes each of our homelands unique."
"I do not know that they would consider the blood as decorations, exactly," Savio notes of the red walls, but he doesn't elaborate. As for things that stink... well... never mind the walls, there's the whole Valley of Flies thing. He does pull his scarf up over his nose, though, as it smells... overpowering here. Corpses in the tropical heat, all the secret, chewing things that dwell within. Although Savio is listening to Cassi, he does spot some of that Skal'daja armor. A gesture that, while foreign, manages to seem very rude is made toward this armor, and some epithet added in Arakkoan. It is not until they reach Titus again that he seems to re-center, glad to see the Warlord.
Savio says in Arakkoan, "Coconut crabs take your bones, foreign devils."
Whatever Savio said, has Cassiopeia looking and she makes a similar gestures as well, fire in her eyes.
Raja isn't sure what to think of all these people trying to help her! So much of her life, she just sucks it up and figures it out herself. Murmurs of thanks are given to those that offer their assistance in carrying her gear. It really is a weight lifted off her shoulders! The dried ginger offered is taken with great appreciation and quietly chewed on. Along the journey, she actually seems to /enjoy/ the scenery! The gorgons, snakes, even the bodies rotting in the valleys below their narrow ascent gives her a macabre sort of glee. As far as foul smells, Raja is from the Lowers. So, there is that.
It doesn't take much to have a sense that Sangris the city is very old, a feeling you may have somewhere in your heart or mind which recognises elder things. Titus is impressed with each of you how you've somehow managed to impress more and more Sangrians. The city itself has very wide streets that run in straight lines and everywhere you look, order seems the norm here. Everything is clean, it seems everyone has a task or job to do and go about it although still you're given looks of suspicion.
You’re brought to the citadel of the Vaevici and you all are shown to the guest quarters although Cassiopeia has a room just for her should she wish it, something Titus says about family ties. Otherwise the guest quarters looks like a barracks room with cots and chests set out for each of you and a large wooden table with bench seats. Weapons are mounted on the walls along with shields, not for ornamentation but instead so that no matter the time or place, you might be able to fight. You also might note that there really aren't that many actual Vaevici you've seen; there's many rooms in the citadel but beyond the soldiers that come and go, there's only a few handful of the Warmongers. Maybe a distressing thought.
Titus says “Baroness Calla sends her greetings to you all. Tomorrow is an important day, so get some rest.” The blood red eyes glance across the room, and he looks like he's going to say something but holds back, offering a grim smile and then heads out with some military aides as there's a report given of attacks repealed today.
Dinner is served, a very simple meal of meats (or maybe that's boiled leather?) and flat breads without much vegetables. Whatever vegetables you do have seem to be low quality and so spindly you might think you’re getting something from the Murder of Crows (if you’ve been there) or maybe this place is suffering and you’re given the best of what they have.
A very high balcony is off your guest quarters, giving you a place to relax and look across the city before you sleep should you wish. Darkness comes late, and the jungle beyond the walls comes alive with the sounds of night.
Raja is seen to first, broth if they have it and she can take it. Once she's settled in Acacia sees to her own meal, likely joining a little after the nobles have all settled. The food seems fine to the woman and she gives her thanks before taking measured bites quietly listening to the conversation.
Once dinner is done, Acacia takes advantage of the balcony and heads out to take a look about and orient herself in her new surroundings, layout, exits, entrances, walls and the people and the patterns of how they move about at this hour.
The quarters provided suits Raja just fine! She gathers her supplies from those that assisted and sets them around her cot in some form of organization. With dinner, she does eat about half her meal and is slowly seeming to be better from her ordeal with the seasickness. With a full belly, she stretches back out on her cot for a nap.
The nap does not last long as the sounds of the jungle are not something Raja is used to. One eye pops open, then the second, "What is that?" She inquires, sitting up and rubbing the side of her face. So, being the curious sort, she makes her way to the balcony to look out to find the source of the noice.
Cassiopeia is gracious to a fault, but is surprised by the dinner put before them. It brings a level of concern to her features and she does whisper to her cousin something about deploying agricultural aid. She uses her room here, but she will no doubt stay up too late drinking some fancy night picked coconut rum from Scythia with whoever else is game. This means she can spend some time exploring and she finds herself on the balcony. There is something that captures her eyes, so she is off to find Savio and show him the "beautiful glowing blue flowers!," and any one else that wants to see.
Savio doesn't eat a lot. Just a bit. Either he's a Tremorus SNOB whose expectations are somewhere in the vicinity of 'pineapples' or he is simply not hungry. He will take any beverages they offer, even if it is just water, and he spends a long time on the balcony once the group settles. Studying... something, listening, more serious-minded than people usually know him for. Maybe Sangris brings it out of him. Returning to the group, he speaks to all and sundry, including beckoning Cassi over to hear.
"A village has been attacked in the withered jungle. Not the first," he describes, with a brief shake of his head. "This jungle is not like the forests of Dawnsend, or Pieros, or Hissah. There are things in Caldera's jungle I can only describe as monstrosities, and they are getting closer. The jungle is dark." An important glance to Cassi here, "Darker than rain-forest like this should be. It is a living shadow, for lack of a better way to put it. Things are not good."
Though something seems to weigh heavily upon her, Acacia smiles faintly at Cassiopeia's observation and she turns to take them in giving them a little study. She remains perched silently watching folk come and go, grateful for a spot outside.
A soldier by trade, Patrizio knows the nature of the repast that's offered to them, and copious thanks are offered up for the giving of such victuals to them. Certainly, once the drinking is done, and the opportunity comes for a little bit of a break, for the shedding of armour and the settling in to a more restful state, the prince tends up on the balcony, with a keen eye set upon the pyramid that dominates the city's skyline. His gaze lifts to the fire atop it, with the touch of a wistful smile finding him, and... briefly he makes a devotion to it, as if recognizing it for what it is.
Though Savio's voice does draw his attention, and when the prince lifts his head anew, it's only to turn slightly so he might better hear the discussion of what's afoot.
Raja studies the city below them in silence, also listening to the others as they discuss their own observations. She glances back to Savio, "But, I have to admit, these people.." She gestures out to the city below their balcony, "They work.. together. I don't see the classist lifestyle that we have in Arx. Everyone is in on this equally it seems. Look at what these people have accomplished with the little they have. Can you imagine what Arx could accomplish with a similar lifestyle?"
Acacia makes a slight face and gives a quick cant of head. "In a place like this, it's important I would think. Not unlike most smaller places peppering the coast. And yet, this place I wager isn't like most," the redhead says softly to Raja with half an ear on the conversation the nobles are having. "What do you see out there, lass?" she speaks lowly.
Raja gestures to the people, "Do you see how everyone wears the same sort of garments?" Raja's slender hand extends out to gesture to the city. "Nothing too flashy. Everyone about equal." Her brows furrow a little. "I don't see haves or have-nots here. I find a community all working towards helping the community as a whole." She smiles faintly. "Kinda like the Cullers looking out for each other." An elbow gently nudges the redhead next to her. "You know, there was this skull that I saw. It had some etching in it, a story of some battle. I might go back to take a closer look at that. I was still feeling too green to really stop and appreciate it."
Mikani takes her spot on the balcony looking down into the city as she takes notes in her notebook. It is her first time here in Sangris. "That is interesting." She agrees with Raja as she moves her hand and moves a hand on her back. "But they don't have theater or entertainment." She says sadly. Mikani looks at the others, "I Saw a skull that depicted what greed can do."
Cassiopeia's excitement tempers and she looks serious as she listens to Savio, her brows knitting together and she chews on her bottom lip. "There is many unsettling things in these lands," she breathes out slowly. "That's concerning," she says of the obvious and thinks, "do you think they is something...more unusual than the unusual unusual?," she asks, because there are many strange things in the Saffron. Raja's comment about a more egalitarian society has her blonde brows lifting. "I'm afraid I'd draw the line at uniforms," the Marquessa says honestly. "I do find it interesting how some cultures are able to function so differently.," she looks at Savio and then at their resident Prince, Patrizio, curious their thoughts on this.
A slender brow arches and a slight but present smile curls the taller woman's lips if only for a moment at Raja's thoughts on the Culler's nature and the light but playful nudge. Silently, Acacia's expression returns to pensive as seems to weight Raja's observations. "We'll see," she says finally, though she quirks a brow at the mention of the skull with the etching. "Oh?"
Below the balcony one can see some odd things that Cassiopeia points out, large flowers that actually are glowing a gentle blue which seems just so different in a place called the Red City, and so foreign to those not from Caldera.
Night continues to grow darker, and yet the stars? They grow even brighter. Constellations and patterns maybe can be recognised and seen, or if they're new, maybe the patterns are drawn from your own thoughts. And as Mikani and Raja point out a motif of skulls, you might just start seeing skulls, snakes and other things in the tiles or on the weapons or shields mounted on the stark white walls. Visible for those looking hard, otherwise easy to not see.
And while the children of Sangris are sleeping, the pyramid that Patrizio notes has a glow of fire on top of it. Light to fight the shadow?
And as Savio talks about the jungles being so different, deep in the far jungles while nightbirds can be heard with their different calls and songs, you each also can note Other Things. Not very often, rarely really. Every once in awhile, a roar or deep growl reverberates and echoes through unseen gullies and off sharp mountains from the wilds beyond the bloodstone walls. Things that might make you happy to live behind the great bloodstone walls of Sangris.
The hour though grows late and First Bloom approaches quickly tomorrow.
A sound slips from Patrizio as he's weighing Raja's words, that faint smile for Acacia at the asking that solicited it... and then a breath slides from him. "There are indeed a great many unusual things within the lands of the Saffron. As some of us who've gone into the deep isles have seen. But... I know not that it is so much that it is a matter of whether or not there are haves and have-nots. I think it's the matter of how one must organize to withstand that which faces you from without. We just don't see the distinctions, because they're being made differently than that which we're accustomed to." The prince smiles a hint more, even as he dips his head to Cassiopeia. "Think of how we are seen from without, be they the Warmongers... or the Eurusi, or the Cardians."
But a bow of his head, and... a breath slides free. "I think on that note," murmurs he, "we ought retire for a rest. Gods know that we need be fresh for the morrow, yes?"
Raja checks luck at normal. Raja marginally fails.
Patrizio checks luck at normal. Patrizio fails.
Cassiopeia enjoys the conversation and she eventually takes in a small breath, and makes her parting ways. There's an unsettled look on her features, she is thinking about things.
Cassiopeia checks luck at normal. Cassiopeia fails.
Savio answers Cassiopeia without hesitation, "Yes. More than the usual unusual. But perhaps not so dire that there is nothing we can do. Sangris... what it is," a gesture at All Of This, the harsh aesthetics and cooperative citizenry, "Because of the extreme pressure it is under, the constant threat it faces. While we are here, perhaps we can act against a measure of that threat. Titus will let us know, I imagine."
As for replicating this cooperation in Arx, though, he shakes his head a bit at Raja. "Arx would never make the sacrifices required. It doesn't have to, in order to survive."
It is growing late, however, and he gives his cousin a kiss on the cheek, before making toward one of the utilitarian cots. "Morning will come early."
Savio checks luck at normal. Savio is successful.
Mikani finishes her notes and closes her notebook. "I think Arx is making changes towards more equity." Says the former Thrall from Isles that now outlaws Thralls. "But it will be slow going. And not in our lifetime." She shrugs a bit. "Though it's been a long time since I slept with jungle sounds so I'm hitting the sack. Sleep tight." She says with a grin before getting into bed after putting one of her axes under the pillow.
Mikani checks luck at normal. Mikani marginally fails.
Raja glances to Savio and a faint smaile is offered, "True. They don't /have/ to in order to survive. This is how they survive here." She says softly. "Unf. I am going to get some sleep. If I snore, too bad for you." She smirks at the others. "Don't wake me or you might get stabbed." She turns from the balcony and heads back to the cot. With how warm it is, any sort of blanket that is present is used to make a more comfy pillow.
As the party drifts off to find their rest, Acacia lingers a little at the door to the balcony. For a time she simply listens, perhaps trying to play a round or two of "What the Feck Was That New Sound (and will it kill me or the party)" while she watches the glow of the pyramid. Running her tongue over her teeth give gives it a good long long, before following the others to her cot. Morning comes quickly, you know
Acacia checks luck at normal. Acacia fails.
You all go to sleep finally, even if it seems the jungles beyond are alive and awake. Patrizio has a very uneasy sleep, perhaps his knightly training keeps him on guard as he feels it in his soul that something isn't right. It might mean he's a little tired tomorrow. Acacia has a damn buzzing always when she's just about to fully nod off, maybe a mosquito that is delighted with the exotic vintage she brings with her body. Poor Cassiopeia, she's sleeping in the barracks and that god damn cot Isn't Comfy. The wood squeaks and groans against the stretched canvas. We all also learn that Savio seems to delight in dangerous places, and he sleeps like a baby.
You all are fortunate this evening though. The night passes without incident due to the Sangrian soldiers who have been impressed and you've befriended, they've chosen to stand guard. You may have heard fighting from somewhere outside, but the shouting ceases quickly with a scream and a few muffled cries.
You are safe, you are alive. You are not the vanquished. This is a thought that comes to you when you wake.
The next day comes.
You’re woken early by a sour and gruff looking old soldier telling you that your presence is needed. It doesn’t take long for you all to grab your equipment and soon you’re outside the Vaevici citadel and surrounded by a few honour guards although unlike Arx, no weapons here are peace knotted and in fact you might think that the guard might be on their toes making sure the VIPs are protected. There is evidence down in the courtyard that a small fight took place although one soldier is doing his duty scrubbing the white walls from the splashes of blood that show significant neck injuries occurred to the vanquished for those who have medicine skills.
You’re led through Sangris, an ancient city and formidable and militaristic stronghold, characterized by its towering walls of bloodstone. The city though is bustling with activity as all people are gathering in the city center which is dominated by a massive pyramidal temple, its gleaming white stone contrasting sharply with the deep red of the surrounding walls. The temple seems to be the heart of the city and you don’t see many other signs of other religious structures except the central temple. The sounds of drums can be heard though, like a heartbeat in this city of war. And high above at the top of the Temple of Pyros is a blazing fire. All around the base of the temple are people who are bowed and bowing, their arms and bodies moving in unison like water or maybe flames to the beat. Those closer to the Temple are more fervent in their devotions and activity.
You note that it’s very humid and that sticky heat is in the air already, even if it’s the morning. The sun is just starting to shine the light on the walls of the city and if you’re not sweating yet you feel like you probably will later today. It's god damn hot.
A child of the Summer Seas, Patrizio is not /that/ bothered by the heat, by the humidity, even in his armour and with that sword of his swaying at his hip - it might, indeed, even be a relief to him in some sense to not need to peacebind Beast's Unmaking for a change. The bigger issue is that fatigue from the night before, the lack of a good night's sleep which... while the bane of soldiers since time immemorial, still weighs upon him while they are making their way towards that pyramid.
And being tired, it is so, so easy to fall into the easy rhythm of the drums as he walks, finding it something to perhaps concentrate upon while that gaze of his lifts again towards the pyramid, and the flame that crowns it...
The heat is familiar for Cassiopeia, she revels in it, she enjoys the sun on her skin. It doesn't bother her and she's use to the humidity of the jungles. Rather, what does is her back and she looks really tired from lack of sleep. Cassiopeia is not use to sleeping in cots, her privilege is showing a bit. Still, there is a lot to take in, and the city and the temple is a place to explore and appreciate in its own right. Much curiosity flickers in her eyes, but the explanation Savio gave the night prior stays with her and so she sticks close to her much more rested cousin.
Savio had a great night, you guys. Like so good. What wonderful peaceful sleep. Awakening the next morning to a bright and Unvanquished (thus far) day, he is full of vim and vigor and spring in his step. Blood all over the walls? Eh, who cares, that means the guards won. Blood all over the BIG walls? Yea that means the whole city won. Humidity? Perfect weather. HOT humidity? The best. It makes the valley of flies smell even worse but who cares. It's Sangris baby.
Thus is that, armed and armored in weather-appropriate steelsilk, he agreeably if somewhat cautiously follows where the group is led. Keeping close to Cassiopeia the whole time!
Raja furrows her brows as they make their way along the streets of the city. Sweat already beads at her forehead and is dampening the various joints of her body like underarms and the back of her knees even! Still, it's better than cold. But, it does leave one to wonder how hot it gets in the summer here! Though she has taken some time to braid her hair and put it up on top of her head. Keeping the hair off the neck is an improvement! (Even if just a little.) She takes a moment to look at the arterial blood spray on the wall. "Oh!" Like a hyperactive squirrel, her attention turns back to the group. "I saw some of those blue glowing flowers. I wonder if there could be some seeds for purchase? I have a friend that would just go ga-ga over them!"
Mikani didn't sleep the best but it wasn't the worst night either. She walked around with not one but two sets of weapons on her. Mikani though looks around curiously and tries to take in everything. Mikani moves around her hair pins to keep her hair off her neck but that just make her look more studious. "The blue flowers are very interesting .... think we can bring a sample home?" She asks seriously.
Hot or not, that leather armor is not coming off unless there's some good reason for it. Thanking her hosts and giving a more friendly upnod to any of the guard that has befriended them, the leather-clad Culler readies herself and follows after the other. A few paces behind the nobles and at Raja's side unless the lass has other ideas.
Any exhaustion felt seems to have settled upon Acacia in her rather hardened expression, her manner more growlly than usual this morning. She holds it back, though her jaw seems more set than usual. "Sangrian blue claw," she says aside to Mikani with a nod. "A very special. Perhaps if we are lucky," she muses as she eyeballs the flowers and keeps moving.
The old guard leading you all responds to Mikani and Raja with a gruff blow of air, "Pfft, lord Titus brought those out of the jungles with him. I think he'd kill anyone who would dare steal them." But Acacia says the name of the rare flower, and this makes the old veteran give her a wary eye before he scowls and offers "Maybe ask him when he's not busy." And soon you're brought to the very base of the Temple of Pyros, the sound of the drums and the hummed chant of the entire city who is here is loud.
But your host is there waiting, dressed in armour and armed with multiple weapons. One thing can be said today, there's an odd dazzling smile on the Warmonger's lips which show his white teeth. He seems very pleased you're here. Dead guests probably mean big headaches, given the group he's brought here.
Titus seems to look more invigorated from when you saw him last night, the paleness not so much on death's door and the blood red eyes gleam with intensity. He brings you up the hundreds of steps of the high Temple of Pyros to the top, which gives a mountain top view of the entire city. There is a blazing fire that is fed constantly, the heat is like a furnace as the soldier-priests have sweat on their ash touched faces. From up here, you can see the thousands of people far below and all their activity and the beat of the drums reinforces a thought: Sangris is alive. Titus introduces you each to an individual who he bows his head to respectfully “This is the high priest of the Temple of Pyros. High priest, these are all my guests. Prince Patrizio, voice of the Pravus who Conquer and Liberate. My cousin in blood, Marquessa Cassiopeia. My chosen brother from battles, lord Savio. Sisters of the Compact family who have defended and supported the safety of Sangris so that we might do our duty, lady Mikani and Raja and Acacia. Each are proven, each I would stand and fight alongside with and defend. Outsiders, and yet they may prove themselves linked to Sangris.” the Warmonger says, his voice still speaking though from decayed lungs in a whisper, but there's strength in his words, strength of devotion to the Code he is a champion of.
The old priest is a weathered and wise figure, his skin tanned and worn like leather from years of exposure to the sun. His face is etched with deep wrinkles, a testament to his many years of service to the city and gods. His hair is white and thinning, but still holds a hint of its former jet-black colour. Despite his age, his eyes are bright and piercing, seeming to hold a wealth of knowledge and understanding. He carries himself with a quiet grace, his movements slow and deliberate as if each step is a sacred act. Dressed not in fineries, the simple crimson coloured tunic he wears is faded and worn with age and a few telltale marks where blades may have pierced or sliced, the leathery skin seen underneath holds the scars. As Titus vouches for each of you individually and states why you were brought here, the high priest doesn’t smile but they don’t dismiss you either. You are vouched for and that seems to carry significant weight.
And so the high priest turns and the great drums stop their fervent beating and just go to a simple rhythm sounding like a heart beat. War horns are blown, their call waking up ravens and crows that fly upwards and out of the city towards the Valley of Flies while someone with a good eye just might see a very large fire coloured bird hovering in a slow circle above the Temple.
“Children of Sangris, this is the Day of First Bloom and to which we celebrate change. Baroness Calla has brought great change to Sangris and from centuries of wars Sangris rises like the phoenix who flies from the ashes to soar higher. And we mark over a decade since the Withering and thank our gods for thinning our numbers so that while the weak have fallen, those who remain grow stronger. Bring your offerings to burn, may it please the gods and may your deeds be seen and remembered by the Watchers.” The drums them speed up their beat, the people below working themselves to a sweat with their activities far below while a long serpentine coil of an orderly line make their way to the top of the pyramidal temple to offer their offerings to be burned. You can see that often, it’s the best of what meager things they have; crops, animals. It also might be things holding great value of the past year such as weapons, clothing, armour. Each is given, their memories added to the collective memory of Sangris.
And so with that, the high priest himself walks over to the fire and removes his old tunic to stand momentarily naked, throwing it on the fire which is consumed almost immediately before he has a new white tunic given to him to replace the old. That old one may have been white at one point last year too, showing the bloody and blighted hardships experienced here by all.
The high priest looks to each of you to see what you will offer to the gods on the fire or if you want a blessing.
There is much in the way of ceremony to observe and Cassiopeia smiles warmly at her cousin Titus, seeming pleased she can be here for him. The temple is unique and the details are something that she takes in with appreciation. There's a curiosity as to how it will unfold and she can feel the beat of those drums as they sound. The offering is something the Cassiopeia and Savio are prepared for and the young woman looks pleased to be able to give it. It is in the large sack that they brought with them, and no doubt took turns carrying. Surely.
The offering from Tremorus is not a simple one, but the Arakkoan people are known for being extra. And so within the bag that the two cousins produce is a large crocodile skull with it's mouth open and rows of dangerous teeth. The skull has been gilded, with ornate work done to adorn it with bloodstone, malissite and other jewels.
On hearing the guard's words to Raja and Acacia, there's a moment where Patrizio seems inclined to step in and say something... but there's that warm chuckle, and the dip of his head. "I imagine it cannot hurt to ask the Warmonger," he muses to Acacia more directly, before he's turning his attention, and his energies, to the climb to the top of the pyramid.
That it's a climb, that doesn't seem to faze him, even in the armour, as if he's found a rhythm to drive him forward, even as the drums have settled back into a more organic, heart-like beating. The view, from the top, is truly awe-inspiring, and he makes no effort at all to hide that reaction to it that finds his features, and that goes so far as his drawing hisses upwards to notice that bird that circles overhead.
But it's to the high priest that Patrizio's gaze returns, as he shifts, the easing of his pack from his shoulders as he draws open the flap, before he's pulling free a wrapped bundle. Gauntletted fingers open the wrappings to bare the remains of a sword, which is proffered up, before he says seriously, softly, "My first sword, prized to me at the time, when I was an up and coming soldier. I have done honour to the gods and my people with it, and may it bring honour in being rendered unto them."
There is some coordination necessary to remove this crocodile skull from its bag, and the last piece to place with it is a long rubicund blade, less ornamented than the artful skull itself - but still important somehow. "This is a beast from the jungles of Dawnsend. A crocodile," Savio explains their creature. "The animal grew of unnatural appetites, and began to seize people at the edge of a river, twisting them and drowning them under the water. We," a gesture at himself and Cassiopeia, "and others set forth to hunt the creature, to end it. It is what we had to do, to save lives. But we honor it. We honor its ferocity. We honor that it reminded us we are small. We honor that in its jaws we knew fear and courage. We honor it with treasure and with the blade that ended it. And now we honor it to the gods, in fire, in memory of the blood it shed and the blood that was shed from it. The Saffron Chain lives in such a creature. And we give it now to your flame."
Raja wasn't aware that there was going to be a sacrifice today! So, she takes a moment to pause and think. What sort of sacrifice is worthy of change? Worthy of Lagoma? She is quiet, watching as the others make their sacrifice within the fire. She reaches to her arm and pulls off a bejeweled cuff of gold, rubicund, and jewels. "Through fire, beauty is created. Through trials, we become something new. Like this cuff, forged in fire and toiled over for hours." There is noticeable reluctance as she lets go of the piece of jewelry as it was clearly precious to her. But, what is sacrifice if it doesn't sting a little?
Once the nobles and Raja are done, Acacia nods to Raja approvingly and steps forward next.
"Our gift comes in many parts. Like our house. Small but mighty with good hearts," Acacia grins easily as she draws forth her offerings.
"The a pouch contains several rare medicines. Herbs from far away isles and shores. Hard to come by, if don't know what you're doing," she smiles holding two leather pouches resting upon an older but well cared for book. "For health."
Next she draws a pouch of 13 silver coins with faded markings. "Two silver coins made through hard work of by me and mine. The goods must flow," she says reverently. "For prosperity."
Again, she reaches into her bag and this time forth a small but well-made bit of armor. "A finely made leather gorget tooled by the excellent hands of a great master. For protection."
"This second sack of herbs, the book and coin, I offer in hopes of these things visit you soon and often," she explains. "The second bag and the book of knowledge, if you will permit, " she looks to the high priest and to Titus waiting to see if she might continue before continuing. "We humbly gift to you from my house to yours."
Mikani watches as other people pull out gifts and sacrifices. She didn't know that there was going to be a sacrifice but there was always a sacrifice to be made to the spirits if one wanted to contact them. Mikani reaches into her holster and pulls out a small wavy dagger. Tears actually come to her eyes as she gives it to the fire. Inwardly she prays to the fire spirits outwardly she says, "This was my first dagger. The first thing that made me feel safe in this scary world. But I have grown passed it. There are many new beginnings." With that she gave it to the flames.
Mikani takes Wavy Dagger from Black Leather Holster Hip Bag with Crimson Accents.
The crocodilian trophy from Cassiopeia and Savio is looked on with satisfaction by the high priest who also looks over to Titus, and the Warmonger gives a nod of appreciation. "The vanquished shouldn't be forgotten, their stories of their lives and defeat are ours to safeguard. This offering you give is acceptable, it signifies the change of death and life. That with that change, we must strive to be better or else we have not learned anything and have wasted a life. Remember these words."
Hearing the words from Savio and the story, the high priest stares at the bard lord before he says "Lord Titus chose a good brother. May you find yourself challenged with even greater enemies so that you might grow stronger, or if you fall, that your death strengthens the resolve of those you leave behind."
The sword's remains from Patrizio then are next taken by the high priest and studied carefully while hearing the meaning from the prince. "War is the great fire in which all things are tested and purified. Do we lose ourselves in the heat of battle and let carnage go unchecked to destroy not only our enemies but ourselves as well and that which we hold most dear? Or do we keep our honour unyielding?" the high priest says. "This is an acceptable offering. Every life we choose to end or defend is an extension of our personal honour, and so may your honour be judged as you give life and take accordingly. Remember these words."
The medicines from Acacia are looked at, and the high priest indicates they are not to be burned. "The high priest of the wave temple passed a decade ago, and with it many healing capabilities. Our own bodies are testimonies to our ability to change, and yet change often leaves marks afterwards. These medicines from beyond Sangris will help many here, and for every single person saved by this offering, we will remember your name. Soon in time, what was just one drop will become many ripples as those people saved will have children, and those children will have children. May each who are saved do their duties so that Sangris might live on and we might be there for when the Compact needs us most. This offering is accepted."
The bejeweled cuff is looked on by the high priest, but he doesn't look much at it as he is more interested in studying Raja's face. He notes the sting he sees there. He holds and weighs the cuff in his hand, judging the value of it as he keeps staring at Raja's eyes and face. He hands the cuff back to her. "We do not have much in riches in this city, child from beyond. Our riches aren't the steel you see, the gold. The riches are here." as he touches her chest and forehead. "And so we find this hurt inside you an acceptable offering. We speak for the God of Change and Her Holy Fire and so give you a new task with this cuff. It is not yours any more, but instead it is to be used to give the very least of the tribes and families beyond Caldera a chance for change they otherwise would not have. We cannot foresee the way you will use it, that is your choice to make as lord Titus' ancestors took the ability for mortal lives to be prewritten and predetermined. Do you take this task, child from beyond?" he asks her seriously.
The dagger is taken by the high priest and studied, he looks over towards Titus who has a serious look to him and a shake of his head no for the offering not to be burned. The high priest says, "The lost wave temple is important to lord Titus, and as you might not know, so are serpents which are like this dagger. So we will not be putting it into the fire, but instead you are given a task by the God of Change and Flames. May this dagger no longer defend you, may you defend others with it. May you become the safety others need in a world that is often seen as terrible and frightening."
With that, the high priest calls them to stand before him and the great towering fire. Titus, he comes over and with a rubicund dagger, he cuts his hand and bleeds it into a silver low lipped bowl and hands it over to the high priest. "With my blood, my life is not mine but is for Sangris. May my blood strengthen those who survive me." The high priest takes the offering, and dipping his fingers, he does a flame emblem on each person's forehead, marking them. "Lord Titus lives for Sangris, and yet he is willing to shed his own blood for each of you. Should you need it, call on the son of Sangris and he will be there for you. For now, you are agents of change. May your hearts have a spark of pyros within it lit, and may your souls shine like small flames as you step away from the Temple of Pyros to other places far beyond. You came to Sangris from places we do not know, and yet in each of you I see a greatness lurking. May the ever encroaching cold not find your flame and extinguish you. May you remember though while your flame may be small and insignificant, that when many flames come together, you shine like the sun."
With that blessing given, the high priest gestures for you all to make your way day the pyramid when you're ready as Titus says "As this is First Bloom, there is a small request I have to ask of you all if you're willing."
the very least of your tribes and familiesin a way that brings the change which Baroness Calla desires to see, a peace earned by
Patrizio makes a reverence in the wake of the mark upon his forehead, not just the dip of his eyes, but his head as well, as his palm finds his chest once more. "I shall remember my words and yours, and take both to account," he says with quiet calmness, his expression placid, taking to heart the intent of the ceremony.
Though as they are all preparing to make that descent, the prince clearly dallying as if to perhaps linger in that sense of holiness for a few more moments, his head turns when he hears Titus' voice. "If it's in our power to grant," he offers mindfully, "I would be of a mind to do what can be done to see the request through, my lord. Speak of it, and let us know what we can do."
Savio seemed confident in the offering he presented with his cousin! Their teamwork is written into it, both its presentation and the felling of the grim creature. Effort and artistry went into honoring it with the gold, and he seemed to mean what he said, about the nature of the ferocious beast reminding them of their place in the world, the way its own death promises their own someday. But even so, it is a relief to have the thing accepted. Savio closes his eyes and dips his head toward the priest, accepting Titus-blood in the flame shape as though that is a perfectly normal thing to do. Prodigals aren't weird, you're weird.
When a request is asked, he promises, "You are my chosen-brother, I will do all that I can for you."
Mikani takes the dagger back with a soft smile. She raises it in reverence as she bows her head. "I will use what I have to protect others." She assures the priest. "Thank you for the blessing." She continues and smiles at Titus before she puts her wavy dagger back into her holster. She then waits for the request.
Cassiopeia stood by with a warm and confident smile as Savio explained the offering they brought. Then as the gift is accepted but not burned, she is curious and then Titus asks them a favour. Cassiopeia's expression softens and she looks at her cousin, "you were there for me and I am here for you. That is family," she says with a resolute tone.
Acacia looks incredibly honored when the high priest accepts her offerings. "Thank you," she replies bowing her head with respect, first to the high priest and then to Titus himself. "A suggestion, if it pleases, my lords, your grace. Though I suppose you've already considered it," she glances to Titus before continuing.
"Check the feverfew, the lungwort and the jillly weed for seed and you may soon gave a fine healing garden. A proper gift that will truly keep on giving. The rest is harder to cultivate, but his lordship knows how to find us should you find more in the needing," she winks with a roguish smile before stepping back to watch the proceedings.
Raja listens to what the priest has to say and her head dips towards him. "I accept this challenge." She says to the priest. "This was gifted to me by a friend. So, I will use this gift to change the lives of others." She says to the priest. She glances to the cuff of gems and gold with a new appreciation. Who would have thought something like this could change the lives of so many? She glances to Acacia and arches a brow of surprise.
The Warmonger looks on at the blood-touched flames and for a moment, there's a smile stretching the scarred face at the brave heroes. But soon it fades to that serious look. As the group are going down the hundreds of stairs down the pyramid and leaving the Temple of Pyros behind them (although there's guards and even the high priest still walking with the group) he speaks in that decayed whisper.
"I was planning on taking you not too far from Sangris, about half a day's journey, to a sacred place. But last night I had troubling reports of villages being attacked quite gruesomely. If our farmers die, then we all die. Their duty is to grow the crops needed for our people and in return our duty is to protect them so they can live their lives. So in the spirit of First Bloom, we honour the God of the Hunt and Dominion by going to the Grove of Renewal and to the nearby village to hunt. I'm afraid though what you'll see isn't what you've seen before. Since the Withering, the land has warped and changed things. Not just the soil turning red, but plants wilting and becoming toxic. And animals changing and becoming monsters. This village? It's just one of many that are attacked by a great Calderan plague bear called Morbus. If you believe the stories of the farmers and villagers, this bear leads many plague bears and is hunting the good people to attack them, or worse, consume them."
He asks them, "I need your help twofold, attend the Grove of Renewal and hunt down the plague bears."
Savio seems to have no problem with the mission to hunt and kill a monster thing, he's been nodding along. Instead the part that has him flummoxed is: "Caldera has /bears/?" The plague part is whatever, it's the bears part that's throwing him.
"I didn't think there were bears in the Saffron," Cassiopeia pipes up to her cousin, and this is a topic she's considered. "I am rather curious, I'll admit. But, if one tries to eat us...I am probably going to run away or climb a tree," she says honeswtly.
"The Saffron has all sorts of things," voices Patrizio, as if anything surprises him anymore about what might be found in the deeper portions of the Chain, though the jade eyes consider Savio for that moment, an easy smile finding him, and then the gaze shifts back to Acacia. "You missed the adventure, Captain, where we had to deal with a jungle trying to eat us, and half-dead abyssal ponies trying to drag us off. It was..." A clearing of his throat, before he looks to Titus again. "I think warped bears might be almost par for the course in my mind. But as said. We're at your disposal."
For a moment Acacia looks glib, but decidely bites her tongue. She does give Patrzio an amused look.
Glancing to Raja, Acacia looks her over. "How are you feeling? You up for something like this?" she asks quietly aside perhaps wanting to be sure the woman is willing and able.
Raja shrugs. "It could have been something cute and fluffy at one time. They did mention that the land itself changed the creatures here. It may not be a bear at all. But surely it is terrifying all the same." She glances to Titus, "I would be honored to help slay this creature." In fact, she pulls out a blade that looks more like the fang of a giant serpent than any sort of metal. "Sometimes killing a creature is the merciful act for that creature." She glances to Acacia, "I feel better than I did yesterday. I am always up for a bit of mayhem." A devious, feral grin spreads across her features.
Acacia nods once to Raja and turns back to listen thoughtfully.
"Plague bears." repeats Titus to Savio, nodding. "And hopefully we're not too deep in the jungle that the nightstalkers find us. They're like panthers, except not. Claws as long as a person's hand, two huge fangs. Silent shadows, you know they're there only by the screams of their victims. We wont' go that deep in the wilds."
And so Titus along with the high priest of the Temple of Pyros leads the group of flames out of the city gates towards the dark jungles beyond the high bloodstone walls, following what could barely be called a path away from the Red City. It doesn’t take long until the group find themselves situated in a blighted jungle, the trees are twisted and blackened as if struck by a great fire. The soil beneath your feet is a deep crimson colour, as if stained by blood. The muggy air has a slight metallic taste to the tongue. And while it’s a spring afternoon, the sun is obscured often by the dark canopy above, casting the clearing you find yourselves in a dim light. The moon, just visible right now in the sky, has a reddish hue, adding to the eerie atmosphere of the jungle.
On and on the group walk, every once in awhile pausing quickly as Titus lifts a hand up and then they begin again. As the day is going, the jungle is alive and that might be slightly concerning given the noises you heard last night.
Soon the group comes to a clearing, the clearing however has the ruins of what could have been a large home of sorts, now fallen into disrepair and half reclaimed by plant growth which chokes and strangles the stonework as it crumbles. It’s quiet, the only sound coming from the gentle rustling of the leaves in the wind. The jungle around the clearing is dark and mysterious and it’s easy to imagine all sorts of dangers lurking just outside your view in the shadows.
Titus gestures and leads the group towards the back where an old greenhouse whose glass ceilings have shattered and the foundation and tiles in the center of the verdant destruction have moved. But breaking through the destruction is an odd tree. A rare one, some might though know what it is.
Mikani laughs softly to herself. "It's always a bear." The Islander become Northerner laughs to herself as she makes sure that she has her gear ready. "If I am taken in this, make sure Lady Jan Kennex knows it was a bear that took me."
Savio checks intellect and occult at normal. Savio is successful.
Cassiopeia checks intellect and occult at normal. Cassiopeia marginally fails.
Mikani checks intellect and occult at normal. Critical Success! Mikani is spectacularly successful.
Patrizio checks intellect and occult at normal. Patrizio is successful.
Raja checks intellect and occult at normal. Raja marginally fails.
Acacia checks intellect and occult at normal. Acacia is successful.
"Yes it does," Savio agrees that the Saffron has all sorts of things, dryly replying to Patrizio. "And I am sure you will agree that plague bears are new and different." He reaches out to touch a hand to Titus's shoulder, though. "We will vanquish them." The blight of the jungle seems to unnerve him, however; clearly he is familiar with a different kind of forest. And this, perhaps, its dark reflection.
Mikani stops in her tracks of complaining about the bears as she spot the tree. "Guys, do you know what this is?!" She moves to go and clear away the clutter from the base of the tree. "This is a Dreamseed Tree!" Her voice is in an excited hush as she gets a flask of water from her holster and pours some water for the tree. Not too much and not too little.
It may not be a good idea, but Raja is a super curious person. She looks at everything! The blighted twisted wood of the trees.. the crimson taint of the soil.. the withered look of the plants. A small scoop of the crimson soil is gathered into a small jar. A bit of bark is placed in a pouch. A leaf from that withered plant is rolled up. She would tuck these samples into her pack for safe keeping. When Mikani blurts out something about a Dreamseed Tree, Raja makes her way to the tree and looks up. She furrows her brows and leans towards Mikani, "Um. What is a Dreamseed tree?"
A wry hint of a smile finds Patrizio, before he dips his head to Savio. "I'd concur with 'different'. I think the matter of 'new' is perhaps left up for interpretation with the phrase 'new to whom'." The prince chuckles softly, though... at Mikani's words, the prince's gaze turns his head towards her. "Are you certain? I've only seen one as a planting, to be hone..." And that's when his mouth clamps shut, as if he thinks he's already said too much.
Mikani reveals something to the group, that the sapling here growing and thriving is a Dreamtree in this Grove of Renewal. What might come next for the heroes? With knowledge comes danger it seems, and danger lurks close by in the twisted wilds of Caldera.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
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