Campaign of the Month: July 2011
Sins of the First Age
The Legion of the Fallen Dragon
“You want what?” Mnemia asked.
Rhythm set aside the hammer she was working with within her forge in Nexus, giving the other dawn caste solar her full attention and assuming the Tya had not asked the question because she had misheard the request. “The Realm has attempted to invade Lookshy on a number of occasions. One such effort was nearly successful. The only thing that saved Lookshy was that it detonated a soulbreaker orb just outside of the city, annihilating two entire legions. The location is now a shadowland called the Mourning Field.”
“Soulbreaker orbs are notorious First Age weapons.” she continued. “And that’s important because at the heart of each orb is a soulsteel core. And as I’m sure you know, our abyssal cousins and their deathlord masters aren’t quite that old. Which means the soulsteel at the center of a soulbreaker orb is the original soulsteel. I don’t know what would remain of that core, but if you investigate and bring back what you find I will refine your orichalcum for you.”
Mnemia considered the request for a moment, turning over the complications in her head. Her time with Zis had given her a better understanding than most of the Underworld and shadowlands and she could think of no reason why she couldn’t accomplish this with minimal fuss.
Finally Mnemia nodded. “I can do this.”
“Excellent.” Rhythm replied, a smile coming to her face. “I’ll start the process as soon as you return with the core.”
• • •
“Are you sure you don’t want any help?” Ioni asked.
Mnemia turned away from the shadowland flashing by beneath them to turn her gaze upon the other solar.
“No, I think Zis and I will be okay. There’s no reason to think this will be terribly difficult. The shadowland is still considered a part of Creation while the sun is up, so we shouldn’t be harassed by the fallen spirits of this place. And since we can never be more than five miles from a border we should have little trouble getting what we came for and getting out without incident.”
“Besides,” Menmia continued, turning her gaze back to the moving landscape outside of the partially lowered bay door of the Envy. “taking Scarlet’s sorcery to Fire Orchid is important. That effort shouldn’t be delayed.”
“Very well.” Ioni said with a nod. “I will see you back in Lookshy then.”
“We’re at the impact site.” Kadon said over the ornament, following Ioni’s words as if he had been waiting for her to finish.
“Are you sure this is the place?” Mnemia asked, her eyes still watching the earth race by. “It all looks the same to me.”
“Positive. Finding the center of a circle is hardly difficult.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
A moment later, with Mercury’s Envy coming to a stop, Mnemia and Zis stepped out of the ship. Then as it changed course and sped towards Lookshy the two turned as if they could watch the vessel retreat. Seeing only empty sky where there should be an airship was still occasionally disorienting.
Fully armed and armored both women turned their attention to the landscape around them. The heath was low and flat, stretching for a distance in all directions. The shrubs that once covered the land were still present, but now dead, blackened and twisted. The place smelled charred and rotten. And though it was day they could still hear the whispers of the dead. With the death of fifteen thousand soldiers and twice as many support personnel this was likely one of the most concentrated collection of ghosts in Creation. It was hardly surprising that such a cacophony could cross the boundaries between the living and the dead.
Also not surprising was the effect this place had on the abyssal. Though not technically the Underworld, this place was as close as Zis often got, and there was just a bit of extra energy in her step whenever they entered a shadowland; the touch of death still bringing her peace; and essence.
“So why didn’t you have Zuko or Kadon assist us?” Zis asked, the question clearly not just now coming to her. “Zuko has a good eye for finding things and Kadon has that essence sight. Either would probably see this task done within seconds.”
Mnemia didn’t immediately answer. Though when Zis turned away from examining the area to look at the solar she finally found her voice. “I asked them to leave for you.” At that a hint of a smile touched the abyssal’s lips. “It is a rare thing that we come to a shadowland, and rarer still that we aren’t in a hurry to get out or deal with some other unpleasantness. I don’t particularly want to linger here, but I saw no reason we couldn’t take our time.”
As Mnemia finished Zis closed her eyes and breathed in deep. She wouldn’t thank the solar, that wasn’t in her nature. But nothing said she couldn’t enjoy the gift.
“Though we should at least try to find this thing before nightfall.” The Tya added.
Zis’ smirk became a full smile as she turned away to return to the search.
• • •
Even without the help of the other solars of the circle, finding the spent core of the soulbreaker orb was not terribly difficult. Kadon had been correct about finding the center of the circle, dropping them off within the primary blast crater. From there it was relatively easy to follow the radial lines of force apparent on the dead foliage back to the exact center. At that point they just had to dig. Almost every piece of the orb would be scattered far and wide, but as its heart the core had simply fallen to the ground, the shifting earth burying it over the years. Even taking their time to properly scout and inspect the location, only thirty minutes had passed before Zis rose from a crouch, a dark orb the size of an apple in her hand.
“So much for my vacation.” she mused, not entirely joking.
Mnemia put an arm around her waist. “I promise to take you mortwight killing in the Labyrinth the next time we have some time off.”
“Don’t toy with me woman.” Zis was quick to retort, turning to look up at Mnemia.
“Oh, it’s no joke. No one threatens Aly and Kasi, regardless of whatever stupid shit Raxin…”
As Mnemia trailed off Zis turned to face the same direction as the Tya. What she saw was a humanoid form solidifying out of the ether, elaborate armor adorning it’s body and a well made weapon in its hand clear as it continued to come into focus.
Zis was about to say something when she noticed a second form manifesting, then a third and a fourth and…
“Now this is unexpected. Something has this poor soul and his friends very upset if they are willing to burn the essence to manifest. And…” Zis paused as she looked around at the dozens of forms now materializing. “they all seem to have eyes for you Mnemia.”
“Wonderful.” Mnemia grumbled, the words barely leaving her lips before the first ghost finished forming and immediately charged, it’s spectral spear looking real enough. Wavecleaver in hand, pulled from Elsewhere, she parried the attack easily before forming her solar grand daiklave out of the air and striking down the ghost a moment later.
Even as the form crumpled at the solar’s feet, its body dissolving a moment later, Zis called to hand two rings. With a quick motion she brought the rings together, a clear tone ringing across the charred battlefield. The spirits both formed and unformed retreated from the sound, creating a clearing around the abyssal and halting the attack for at least a moment.
As Mnemia watched the spirits quickly recovered and began circling the pair but seemed unable to approach closer than a certain distance.
“Any thoughts on what’s going on?” Menmia asked, putting her back to the abyssal’s and trusting the other woman to keep an eye on all of the ghosts the Tya couldn’t watch.
“I’m not sure. Everything I’ve heard about this place seemed to indicate that these spirits were mindless, their consciousness shattered by the soulbreaker orb. But this lot clearly has it out for you.”
“Why? What could I have possibly done to them?”
Zis had no immediate answer for the solar. A moment later the question was seemingly forgotten as one of the ethereal soldiers started pushing against the edge of the barrier, slowly making ground where it’s companions had not.
“Zis!” Mnemia called out. “Got one coming through your barrier…”
“Damn, Mnemia. What did you do to… dragon-blooded!”
Once clear of the necromantic shield the ghost lunged, his broadsword swinging in a wide arc. Mnemia parried this attack as easily as the first, cutting him down a moment later. “What are you talking about?”
“They are the dragon-blooded of the fallen legions.” Zis said quickly, clearly excited. “Their higher thoughts were wiped out by the soulbreaker orb, but their instincts remained. But it’s more than that.”
“Please get to the point.” Mnemia said as she cut down another pair. The ghosts seemed to be learning quickly and spirits were pressing through the barrier in several places now.
“It’s their hatred of solars driving them. Their indoctrination into the Immaculate faith, learning every hour of every day to hate the solars. The training is so intense it becomes reflex, instinct. They are trying to kill you because that hatred is all they have left.”
“Fascinating.” the solar replied, her body now in constant motion as she continued to easily kill the spirits. “So what can we do about it?”
“Kill them I suppose.” Zis said. “How many could there be?”
“Are you kidding me?” They were hardly threatening, but who knew how long this would have to continue. “Nevermind. Can you hold them for thirty seconds? I’m going to summon Harbinger and get us out of here.”
“Sure, no problem.” Zis said as she started to unwrap her chain.
“Don’t bother.” Kadon’s voice came over the ornament. “Help is on the way.”
Hearing the other solar’s voice caused Mnemia to pause for a moment, though not enough to actually endanger herself.
“Aren’t you supposed to be…” she began before the abyssal interrupted her.
“That is most definitely not the Evny.” Zis relayed, Mnemia still focused on cutting down the aggressive spirits continuing to push through Zis’ barrier.
Even as Mnemia took a moment to look away from their attackers a mysterious airship came in low and fast, depositing a number of dragon-blooded onto the earth around them as it got closer. It took only a moment for the solar to take in the colors on the ship and the insignia on the battle armor. The army of Lookshy had arrived.
Even as the soldiers began attacking the ghosts that were all but ignoring them another figure jumped out of the airship. Clad in power armor herself, her daiklave in hand, Fire Orchid was normally considered an ally. But the look she gave Mnemia made the Tya wonder if Kadon had misspoke when it said help was coming.
“Tya Mnemia! By what right are you out here risking the safety of my home!” Fire Orchid called out, anger dripping from every word.
“Hold your tongue…” Mnemia began, anger starting to color her own words. She wasn’t sure what had riled up Karal, but the Tya was not about to let the other woman berate her.
“Please go with it.” Ioni said over the ornament.
“What?” Mnemia hissed as Fire Orchid closed the distance between them with purpose.
“Please. We’ll explain later.” she continued.
Mnemia growled at the request, but had no chance to respond. Karal had reached her and there was no ignoring the other woman.
“What exactly made you think this place would be harmless? Do you believe we’ve just had better things to do than deal with two dead legions at our backs? Do you know what would happen if your little stunt had reminded these broken souls of what they were here to do?”
Mnemia offered no protest at Karal’s words, though Zis noticed that the solar saber was still clutched tightly in her companion’s hand.
“You have no right, this close to my city, to continue to stomp about like there are no consequences to your actions!” By now most of the dragon-blooded ghosts had been cut down, a few having attempted to fight back but most of them still intent on attacking the two solars to the point they hadn’t defended themselves. And with the end of the battle the soldier on the ground were watching the exchange play out.
“Fire Orchid.” Mnemia began, unable to hold her tongue any longer but trying to keep her own anger in check.
“No! This is not something to be discussed. You are my friend Tya Mnemia, but make no mistake, I will not allow anyone to endanger Lookshy. Not our city, not our borders and not our people. Do you understand?”
Mnemia forced herself to take a deep breath to clear her thoughts. Part of her wanted nothing more than to put this woman in front of her on her ass. But something was not right about this situation. And though she couldn’t put her finger on what it was, she nevertheless decided to play along. Not trusting her own voice she simply nodded.
“Do you need an escort or can I trust you to take your leave of this place on your own?” Fire Orchid asked, her posture seeming to relax just a bit.
“I will manage.” Mnemia said softly, her eyes still steel.
“Very well. Hessael, get the talon back on the ship. We don’t want to risk aggitating the dead any more than has already occurred.”
“Yes general.” The words coming from one of the soldiers looking no different from the others. But with clear military discipline and skill the unit was withdrawn back into the ship. Finally looking away from Mnemia, Fire Orchid followed, boarding the ship a moment before it started to rise and turn back to Lookshy.
Mnemia was silent for a moment before activating the ornament. “Scarlet…” she said, her voice still a mix of emotions.
“I’ll be right there.”
• • •
Once back on Mercury’s Envy, Mnemia found the others. “Okay, I played along. Now someone tell me what’s going on.” With the solar’s growing agitation clear Scarlet had made no move to surrender the helm to the Tya as she usually did.
“Apparently you inadvertently provided an opportunity that Fire Orchid needed to further cement her authority in Lookshy.” Kadon eventually replied.
“And why isn’t she the one to tell me this?”
“Too many spies. She couldn’t risk anyone finding out that the situation wasn’t genuine.”
Mnemia didn’t respond right away, some of her anger starting to slip away. “So why did I have to be rescued?”
“Fire Orchid has been struggling with the perception that she had no authority among the solars. Though we do not visit Lookshy often, when we do we act with little regard for the laws of the city, keeping our weapons and generally throwing our weight around. In a military city where the rules are paramount, this was rubbing a number of people the wrong way. If she was going to strengthen her position she needed to prove than when push came to shove, she was in control.”
“Not only did confronting you allow her to show her authority in a public way, but it also served as a moral boost for her own soldiers who up until now have not had the opportunity to put their training to use. You have to know that even though those were hand picked and loyal men that word of what happened will spread through the city in a heartbeat. Both Fire Orchid’s command over a powerful solar and the fighting prowess of those soldiers that fought off the broken spirits of the Field of Mourning.”
Again Mnemia met the words with silence. She hated being used like this, but she had to admit that what had just played out could significantly improve Fire Orchid’s position within the city. Finally she let out a low growl and started to storm away.
“I need a drink.”