A bridge over troubled waters
Freya Ashwren and a new soldier for her guild Karek Greyiron departed the ‘Laughing Hog’ trading barge and traversed through the tiny seaside shipwright village that sat on the northern coast of The Kingdom of the Blue Heron. For over two years the reports have been that the Jade Eyed Emperor had lost his mind and was ruling out of fear. Raising army’s to attack enemies that did not exist and suppressing rebellion where there was none.
Tales of a flying beast of scale, wing and claw that raided villages that were not under the ‘protection’ of the Jade Army were spreading since the previous year.
Trade and diplomatic dialog with the Philosopher Emperor are long halted while the unsanctioned black markets are a booming business. Selling to the populace the necessities of food and medicine.
Another ship was undergoing repairs, the ‘Lightning bug’ and with it was a girl of elven and human parentage. Hasyn wore the grey robes trimmed in green of a Monk from the island of Zulf. The ‘Lightning bug’ was a collegiate vessel that held sailors, a ships master and a half dozen scholars who dredged up and cataloged everything they could from the depths of the Cerulean Sea.
Hasyn took the trade of passage for work, and after several years of sailing every corner of the inland sea she stepped off of her most recent home to seek an answer to the questions that she was unsure to even ask.
Spending an evening in the common room of the Sea Hag, an unoriginal name since every port had a tap room named as such, she encountered another half elf. This woman of dark hair and keen eye was more self assured of her place in things than Hasyn had ever felt. An evening of talking and sharing tales of travel between the two daughters of parallel peoples and a son of stone from the east led to an invitation to help them change the world. How would they do that? None of them had a clue.
Two day’s later upon the northern boarder road the trio found a group of Jade soldiers raiding a farm. The farmer lay dead upon the threshold of his house, and the grunts were gathering the hard worked for spoils of a lifetime of toil. One duly appointed member of the Royal Army was filling a scuttlebutt from the stream next to a bridge. For a moment he didn’t see the group but when the Monk stepped forward and shouted at him in the language of the Elemental Chaos he balked. Throwing his charge to the water and drawing his sword a bellow of alarm went out. Answered in a heartbeat by the entirety of his patrol emerging from the house, barn and cellar. The three took up defensive positions on the far side of the bridge which was quickly blocked by soldiers. Two groups of crossbowmen took range and let fly with volleys that drew first blood.
Freya’s bow found true targets while the Zulfite darted about striking deathblows upon the soldiers. Her mothers ring gave her a glimpse of the truth of these ‘men’. And she believed them to be no such thing. The Warlord Dwarf threw a weapon that was meant to carve mountains and caught it again as if it were not but wind.
The creatures were quick to realize they faced not terrified farmers and despair stricken villagers but warriors, ones who had weathered many storms. When the Captain of the patrol stepped out from the shadows of the hovel he rippled with power and shouted a challenge. Strengthening his soldiers with orders he struck at the warriors from beyond the sea.
Much blood was spilled but this was a simple fight between trained soldiers and tempered warriors. Until the coldest scream of terror and pain echoed from the house. A woman cried for mercy and for release from torment, and was even quicker cut off. Silence over took the farm, turned battle field.
As the captain shed his guise of humanity to reveal a beast of larger than human proportion with bright blue skin and dark blue blood. The shadows of the home expelled a more ghastly creature of hooked claws and bloodied lips. This thing called to his compatriots and they fed on determination from the sacrifice of the farm wife. With a question for which he expected only one answer Karek rushed forward to meet this new foe with his mountain forged hammer. The metal upon it glistened an iridescent purple in the early light of day. The same for the twined blades of the Ashwren as they flashed through the air.
The monks bare fists found their own glitter as they struck lighting fast again and again. Soldiers were flung from the bridge as she danced upon the railing dodging there every attempt to lay a blow. Some blades found purchase and the trio regrouped and rallied one another as a long time militia would. As another bellow from the captain urged his remaining men to attack the creature at his side wove another bloody spell with the dwarf’s blood upon his lips. Each of the would be heroes were inundated by despair and an oppressive air. But quickly shook it off as the tide began to turn. The Shaman was sticken from the world of living things. A lone soldier stood toe to toe with Hasyn as his captain had his head bloodied by the dwarven hammer and throat cut by the quick blades of Freya.
Looking over the bodies the group determines them to be Oni, creatures used as mercenaries upon the elemental chaos in its endless wars. Who summoned them, how were they paid and why were questions for a later time.
Hasyn found a halfling traders wagon in the barn along with a halfling. A big one who Freya named Teahumble, a friend from many years back who first showed her the greater world and placed her on a path that has brought her thus far.
Teahumble collected his wagon and obstinate burrow Jack. Performed a quite but poignant service to inter the farmer and his wife. Who attempted to defend Teahumble from the soldiers and her husband respectively.
The four set out upon the road with a few more supplies and a little more knowledge of the troubles at hand. Teahumble explained that the halflings have increased trade to get the peasant what they needed but to also find information and work as go between for those who opposed what was taking place.
On the road the trader left a message at a roadside shrine to Avandra for those who might need it.
The others took this as the state of things that secrecy and subterfuge would be necessary to survive.
While making camp Teahumble fed and gave comfort to his friends. After a while Freya was sure of the security of there chosen sight and related their own tale to her host. Long contemplation of events and outcomes followed.
Teahumble told all to turn in for a good rest while he took the watch. But before there eyes closed he told them a story about The Cost of Grief.
After a short discussion about paths and destinations was punctuated by Teahumble by a question.
“Freya, what do you do if you meet a snake?”
“Cut its head off. Or walk away.”
“And if it strikes you while your back is turned?”
The conversation is cut short by a draconian cry that shatters the peace of the hills.
With the dwarf chiming in “I like mountains.” the course is set. Slay the dragon that one way or another is aiding the Jade Eyed Emperor. Then on to the center of all thought and power in the land and face the Emperor.