Deadly Skies

Accounts of the Adamant Codex, 2

Chapter One, Scene Two

In the Pole of Wood, the sun doesn’t really rise. With a continent of trees between the ground and the sun, it is brightest at dawn when the sun rises from the elemental pole, then twilight at noon, and returns to pitch black shortly afterwards. So the camp was lit entirely by torches burning in the near endless night. The company still kept to a day night cycle to keep their sanity, which was all the more important this deep into the endless Wyld.

Sometime before dawn, while the camp slept, the air was split by a series of inhuman screams. The trees warped to give way to a pack of Niljake – monstrous saurians with too many teeth and spikes – steered by war decorated Goblins. The inhabitants of the camp scrambled to arms and armor, throwing together a hasty defense.

A Fair Folk Lord revealed himself with dramatic flare: a tree split in half and he stepped from within its core, its glowing sap backlighting him and dripping like blood from his hands and the hems of his clothing. Sniffing the air hungrily, he cried: “You poor mortals have fallen under the domain of the Veridian Mantle of Eternal Sunset! I shall enjoy cracking open your exaltations and drinking your souls. Surrender and I will make your deaths enjoyable. Struggle, and you shall find that dying is no simple matter in the Wyld.”

With that, the Fae Lord gestured for the goblins to charge. He slashed his twin hooked blades across his arms and covered them in caustic green gelatinous bands, then sprouted a pair of iridescent dragonfly wings and took flight.

Raksi turned and looked at Zaela. “Your call, Zaela. I’m just here to help.” Then she smiled. “You know, it feels good to say that. I don’t think I’ve ever meant it before in my life.” Then she ducked as a blossoming poisoned arrow flew over her head.

Zaela had frozen the moment the goblins charged, half-in, half-out of the ship’s hatch, looking around like a rabbit surrounded by wolves. Then she caught sight of the Raksha and straightened, a spark of recognition in her eyes.

Her anima banner and caste mark flared with the brightness of the Sun at Meru’s midday, and, drawing the edges of her sleeping robes about her as she would a formal gown, she stepped out onto the deck of the ship. Zaela’s eyes blazed golden as she turned coolly to Raksi.

“Lady Raksi, would you please help in whatever way you feel appropriate? If you could start with the trash, I would be obliged.” She inclined her head to the elder Lunar, then strode to the bow, facing the Raksha.

Raksi smiled, pointed teeth gleaming predatorily, and dove silently off the side of the ship. A moment later, a silver-eyed jungle owl that could easily match the ship in wingspread beat its way towards the approaching clawstriders and their goblin riders. Their screams shortly turned from intimidating to terrified.

“Lord Veridian. My, it has been quite a long time, hasn’t it. I’m sure you don’t recognize me or my Circlemates any more. But oh, we have met. We had a bargain once, you and I.” Zaela smiled broadly and folded her arms across her chest, her stance wide and confident and entirely unlike her usual timid self.

Veridian paused in mid-air, hovering just out of bow-shot. It was clear he was confused and determined not to show it. “Do tell, dearie. I just love to run into old friends and invite them over… for dinner.”

“I am Prismatic Lotus, Queen of Waterlily Reach and the Malachite Steppes, Representative of the Righteous Solar Deliberative to the Eastern Territories, and Chosen of Sol Invictus at Zenith. And these are my lands.” The titles rolled from her lips boredly, as though she spoke them everyday. “Though perhaps you will also remember my Circlemate, Iniquity’s Swift Demise, Chosen of Sol Invictus at Eclipse?”

Veridian Mantle tipped his head back and laughed. “Do you really think you’re the first neophyte Solars who have come to me simpering ‘our previous incarnations were great and will beat you up’?!” He finished the expression with a condescending sneer. “You’re not on a diplomatic mission to the Fae Folk so your laws hold no sway. But I’m not here to give you a lesson in law. I’m here to give you a lesson in war and death.” With another gesture a seemingly impossible number of goblins began pouring out of the woods from every direction.

Prismatic Lotus ground her teeth in frustration and subsided, leaving Zaela disoriented, overlays on her vision showing the landscape – and the Fae Lord – as they were then, not now. There had been a binding, and Lotus had been sure that the wording had included through all incarnations, but apparently not. Or maybe this was a subtly different Fae, claiming the same names and titles as the last. It wasn’t impossible – nothing was, out here in the Wyld.

“Lesson in War?” shouted Raksi. “Watch what you ask for.”

The Lunar shed her owl guise and slipped into a whip-thin snake thirty feet long, moonsilver spines running down her length. The serpent dove into and through a lumbering niljake, out the other side, and into a second. Then her whole form began spinning like a drill as she bored through victim after victim, twining across the battle field. The goblins, which didn’t technically have souls or feelings, still seemed horrified by her lesson in bloodshed.

A whisper reached Caiden’s ear; the sound of a moonsilver bell. They were here.

Normally the harbinger would watch on a prayer strip to see events within an area. Unfortunately this far east was outside the jurisdiction of fate, and most of his abilities would be ineffective. However, forging a path where there was none was a gift of Mercury’s Chosen, and one didn’t need a charm to see the fruits of the past day’s labor.

A trio of Lunars dashed into the fray. Once they heard of Raksi’s cleansing a day ago, their curiousity aroused at the chance to meet her. Watching her fight now with such ferocity against the Fey rekindled a fire not felt since centuries past as they tore through the Niljake.

It was clear they were all accomplished fighters, executing brilliant form that complimented each other’s position in the battle. The speed at which they made it to Veridian Mantle was inspiring, as deadly leaps and bounds left a trail of goblin corpses in their path.

The first Lunar took the form of a great eagle – three times the size of the Fey Lord. She swept down, clawing his upper torso which tore him in half, evoking an otherworldly scream as it burst into a miasma of wyld energy.

The remaining half swirled into the form of a horrifying tree beast, with huge slits for eyes
that seemed to spill endless amounts of blood into the surrounding area. The scream came back again, this time much deeper and more cacophonic.

A great bear emerged from the crowd, throwing off a dozen goblins as moonsilver tattoos swirled to accompany the new size. Massive claws reached for the tree, pulling it into a deadly bear hug. Not even a second passed by before a series of cracks could be heard, followed by another scream and an explosion of blood.

The blood slithered up the hill where the Fey Lord originally stood, only now it took the form of a small child – eyes devoid of any color, and skin as pale as the snow. With a deep breath, he let out an ear-splitting scream, crippling his own goblins and shattering nearby plantlife into crystalline sculptures.

Caiden had to use a charm to prevent incredibly powerful shaping magic from doing the same to him.

The scream, however, didn’t last long, as a great wurm burst from the ground beneath the Fey-child. It was painful to imagine what happened as the wurm’s many teethed maw closed down before slamming back into the earth. One final assault of wyld energy blasted through the battle before all became silent.

Lunars were adept at dealing with Fair Folk Lords, and it was generally assumed that you deal with them swiftly before they worked their glamours. This was certainly a testament to that…

The Fae Lord’s scream was a physical thing, racing through the foliage and across the ground towards her. She briefly got a glimpse of Raksi grabbing a Niljake in her massive talons and using it as a shield: crystals burst out of the reptile and its rider, cutting off its agony in mid-shriek.

Zaela could only stare in horror as the shockwave approached; she started to turn and run for the ship, knowing she had no Charms that could save her and nowhere near enough time to reach the dubious shelter of the first age vessel.

Caiden was so pre-occupied with the entrancing Lunar battle that he almost missed Zaela, who was clearly not going to make it to the ship in time. As in times of old, the Sidereals were destined to be in the right place at the right time for their Solar allies. An acrobatic leap brought the Sidereal between the Zenith and the encroaching glamour wall. With the mantra of Unwavering Well-Being Meditation, a ring of prayer strips surrounded the two Celestial exalts as Wyld energies washed over the sphere of reality surrounding them.

The ever stubborn slippery essence of the Fae Lord coalesced once more across the battlefield, struggling to hold onto a darker, more frayed physical form. But he was no stranger to this region of the Wyld and he knew all to well the horrors of Dawn.

The people of Creation will often tell stories, and a rare few have stayed up for dawn to actually see the faint green flash in the East as the Daystar rises up through the Pole of Wood at Dawn. It’s a flash that is faint because it’s seen across Creation from a thousand miles away. But this fight happened almost directly on the Pole of Wood at sunrise. The green flash was a strangely silent explosion that suffused the Exalts heads with evergreen essence as the potency of the sun connected with it. The flash left that battlefield suddenly still, as if everyone was waiting to hear a far off noise. Then the trees began to glow with tinges of the sun. Fire vine spirals blossomed into the air and ascended from the ground.

The Fair Folk howled and recoiled at the touch of the Unconquered Sun’s undiluted essence. Unfortunate goblins exploded into cinders as the others fled for their lives. The Solar’s caste marks became glowing beacons of purified light as the Chosen of Sol Invictus were overfilled with his presence. Eyes lifted inevitably to the sky as the Daystar emerged overhead creating brilliant orange and red horizons, as if the eastern skies themselves were in flames.

Veridian’s dark and gaudy form shuffled off into the comforting darkness, with no energy left for even a witty reply or a promise of revenge. The creatures of madness and darkness cannot stand in the presence of true light.

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