Perhaps all of us are swans going into the oven, and coming out turtles.
Returning from a conversation with Mouthsong at her home south of town, the groups snaps out of a sun fugue at the edge of the bridge over the Sludgewater.
There was a tall, strong boy in an enormous and ridiculously decorated hat, hanging little people made of pea pods and other knick-knacks from the bridge. At least one (but perhaps all of them?) looked like the mayor. Examining the dolls, mostly hung by their necks from the bridge, Sanction become interested in them, muttering about the Essence.
The boy, introducing himself as Builder Goodson, told the party that the town was gearing up for an early Fire Celebration, “to try and distract you all from what’s going on”. Sanction showed the boy how to make a more effective version of the little dolls.
All things in Haven seem to start and end in the Inn. The Tavern. They could call it the Strangely Nice Place. If that were the case, then surely all the secrets of Haven would find their way to unravel there.
The group found Grayn Ghostblood in the grape arbor behind the Inn with an untouched jug of WineVinoPinyinVinumNabeet, clearly in some kind of fugue. While the group was off learning about the indiscretion of Mayor Mnemnon and Sweetwife Highgrass, and a manse and a lake sunken beneath the earth many many years ago (and perhaps more importantly the ripeness of peppers and tangerines), Grayn had his own strange adventure with two sisters who had married the same man. He found a drawing of a skyship from the first age (possibly at the Ancestory shrine of the town), and somewhere else saw a head with the eyes wrapped in the spiky vines of a bouganvelia.
Oakskin had a vague recollection of seeing bouganvelia somewhere near Haven….
A tall, blue-white spirit with an enormous head and long, spindly arms, called a Cloudwalker, showed up, looking for Sanction. It seemed he had very important messages from the Night Driver of the Endless Caravan. First, the Caravan would leave for the Sea of Grass in 8 days, on the 21st day of Fire Descendent. Second, Sanction should be careful of the town Haven, as it was probably a trap.
“Oh, fortified wine….!” cried the Cloud Walker, vaguely listening to Sanction’s return message, as he evanesced….
After a sumptuous repast where Sanction continued to reveal virtually limitless powers of consumption, the group decided to go and check on Light Over Water, the local priest whom Brother Splendid Father Abundant had gotten to know and not altogether trust as he seemed to have “an unwholesome interest” in the Mayor, and if anyone knew about unwholesome interests, it was surely Brother Father.
At the rundown little shrine in town, Sanction ate all of Light Over Water’s bacon-wrapped dates, while finding out that in the two years since arriving in Haven, he noticed that the people of Haven seemed a little too interested in the rites that honor and give gifts to Ancestors in the afterlife, and that the people might unwittingly be participating in a forbidden Ancestor Cult (clearly outlawed in the Immaculate Order since all devotion should be given to the 5 Dragons who strengthen and protect the world).
Armed with this information, and ham, the group made their way across town near an old apple grove behind the schoolhouse (a very psychologically-altered-thanks-to-Sanction Grayn Ghostblood leading the way). The Ancestor shrine was an old oval piece of granite in a small grove of shriveling willow trees. Dozens of masks, symbols of beloved ancestors, hung from the trees. Numerous small offerings adorned the granite altar, old and new. Beaded trinkets, small tools, flowers, etc.
Grayn explained there were no ghosts nearby because the shrine could hold or bind them or be used to banish them. Sanction carefully examined the scene, began to rearrange things hither and yon, adding many old, dry willow branches and a few chunks of olivewood. Then he suggested everyone stand back, as he lit the whole ensemble carefully and thoroughly on fire with nothing more than, “Well, and isn’t that quite enough of that.”
Probably an act of vengeful spirits, a huge willow branch fell, nearly crushing Sanction and Grayn. Quick action saved them both.
The group returned to the Inn to think, to worry, and to go to bed.
Unable to sleep, Onyx bothered the others a bit, and finally, unable to let things go, decided to go and confront Mayor Mnemnon, a powerful Earth Dragon-blooded alone, at night, in his place of power. No one has yet to claim that Onyx doesn’t have balls.
Banging prodigiously on the vast bronze doors of the obelisk, Onyx roused Mnemnon, who did not bar him entry. In Mnemnon’s study, he found the Dragon-blood drinking tawny liquor from a massive snifter. A small glass was set nearby on a modest stool, which Onyx ignored.
Launching accusations and everything short of furniture at Mnemnon, Onyx succeeded in rousing him. “Who do you imagine you are, coming here like this?” Mnemnon’s anima flooded out into the room, full of the terrible solidity of the earth, the unshakeable, unmovable fixation of things that stills and thickens even the air itself til it seems one could no longer breathe. But Mnemnon’s anima seemed to rouse Onyx’s own, and the floor began to tremble, and the small stool began to quake as it seemed Onyx’s wordless response was the shaking, quaking, shattering of the earth that must eventually follow too much solidity.
Without a word, Mnemnon’s anima receded and he said to Onyx. “So. We are related. That is who you are, well then.”
And Mnemnon revealed to Onyx how he had been sent to Haven many, many years before has part of the Wyld Hunt, to await a time when an Anathema, one of the dreaded Solar Exalted cast down at the end of the First Age (Beginning the Second Age, the Age of Sorrows) would rise in Haven.
In the years that passed, Mnemnon got caught up in the goings on of Haven, and the life of the small folk. In time, he wove himself into a doom from which he could not escape.
Mnemnon told Onyx if he wanted answers, he should speak with Light Over Water, the false priest, the agent of the All-Seeing Eye (the spy arm of the Empire), who had been sent, Mnemnon assumed, to monitor him and assure that he did his duty.
It seemed also, that a contingent of the Wyld Hunt was nearby in any case, and they might be coming for all of Haven.
Mnemnon also confessed that it was a guardian demon, called a Void Knight, that had beheaded the statue. The Knight fed on the summoner’s blood to maintain its service, and could be called forth even by some very skilled mortals. Why, yes, he had books from which one might deduce this process, and no, no one had access to his books except his secretary…. Sweetwife Highgrass.
In the morning, they came to sad grips with Oakskin’s unexplained transition from woman to man.
Onyx told them … his version of what Mnemnon had drunkenly and sadly related the night before. Sanction heard the news and left the group to confront Mnemnon alone. The remaining group decided to head off and confront the ‘priest’ about what Mnemnon had suggested.
Wanting to get a tiny piece of information, Chain lingered and suprised Brasspenny in the kitchen, where he was lovingly crafting swans to put in the oven. The last batch of malformed turtles – the muffins for lunch – sat nearby, sad. For the first time, Chain realized he had never truly seen Brasspenny before. “What… are you doing?” he asked the quiet creature made of a slender light.
“Trying to do my small part. It’s hard, being discovered,” he said, and melted away, leaving only a chef’s hat, and the smell of fresh flour.
Sanction used his own powerful being to cast high shadows on the four walls of Mnemnon’s office, blotting out the light through the amber Windows. Mnemnon drew a massive hammer made of black jade (earrth dragon’s prefered material) from the Elsewhere. The brief standoff ended with Mnemnon dropping the hammer to his side and confessing, perhaps gratefully, to Sanction.
It seems that the Anathema was his very own young son, Builder Goodson, the fruit of his affair with Sweetwife Highgrass. How could a man live in such a position? What was he expected to do. Without asking for help, Mnemnon pleaded for Sanction’s intervention. Otherwise… Mnemnon would stand against the Wyld Hunt himself, perhaps dooming poor Haven, which none of them seemed able to leave.
The rest of the group went to confront the ‘spy’, Light Over Water. The spy, confronted, immediately used Air powers to leap onto his abode and leap prodigiously away. Onyx and Oakskin took immediately to the hunt.
Oakskin shot him out of the sky with an arrow through the shoulder. He immediately recovered, dodging Onyx, and leapt away again, toward the open plain. Onyx kept him from fleeing to higher ground where his leaps might be more useful, and Oakskin managed to end his flight permanently, with a green-feathered broadhead arrow through the throat.
Among his possessions, they found an enormous crystal tear hidden in his wineskin. At his home, Chain found a hidden moonsilver badge of the All-seeing Eye.
Re-convening, and with the fire festival decorations happening all around them, the townsfolk active as none had seem them thus so far, the group decided to waste no time.
Oakskin finally recollected where he/she had spotted Bouganvelia – on a farm on the outskirts of town – and they headed for it.
Surprising no one, it was the farm of Builder Grey, Sweetwife Highrass’ husband.
There they found the terribly burned son (old scars from childhood, from which it seemed Mnemnon had saved the boy, but for which the boy hated the Mayor), and his overprotective mother. Sweetwife screamed at them to go away, to leave them in peace.
The demon, first only shadows and hints of steel, began to approach and to become more real with each step, until it crossed the bridge (very lovely detailed wooden bridge) over the wash at the edge of the farmyard.
A battle ensued, with a few injuries on the party’s part, and the eventual sundering of the demon, which dissolved into iron shavings and old blood.
Snatching the boy, they took him to where he had found the wonders he had been exploring – it was he who had drawn the skyship and left it as an offering to his ancestors, hoping to spirit his family away from Haven and their troubles.
They found the bronze statuehead in an ancient dead willow by the site of the cave at the edge of the farmyard. Taking it, they carefully descended the stairs into where step-pyramid lurked, turned on one side in the earth. A huge skyship from the first age was crushed against it, and what water there had once been in the town’s river, plummeted down into the earth.
Onyx and the boy set to trying to press open the door of the pyramid, marked with a sun symbol.
The water seemed to attack them, the light grew, the boy Exalted. Sanction grew armor.
Chaos and pandemonium beneath the earth, and the opening of a door long shut.