The ziggurat opened, milky glowing mist flowing out under the door slowly grinding open. Inside was a dessicated servant of Creation, its left arm severed half way down, wrapped in ancient jade armor. Without discussion or pause, battle began. With the puissance of Onyx and Chain allayed against him, it is no wonder it called its brothers from their rest in the broken earth. The battle was hot and furious. Eventually, Onyx launched himself onto the undead lieutenant. He threw himself upon the giant armored mummy in a whirling, binding, falling attack that would have felled any mortal twice over. The mummy staggered and failed to fall.
Sanction lurched forward into action, whirling between falling shambling dessicated corpses. He fell, and supporting himself, he slapped his staff in between the spaces of the hip bones of the knight, falling backward. The others destroyed the risen dead. The dead jade-clad knight spun, unable to walk, and then fell forward onto the basalt. Sanction leapt backwards, kicking his staff. Onyx leapt forwards, twisting, rolling, yanking off the head of the lieutenant with a fancy martial arts maneuver.
With the crashing fall of the armored figure,with his failure, the remaining few supporting warriors fall into pieces.
A moment of silence, and the door is open. The door is open. This would come to mean more later, and more later.
After the battle, there was a parade of “helpful” mortals. Brother Splendid led them, with the 1st Age Skyship hanging in the air, dirty and burning in the daylight. He wanted to know what was happening, which seems to be the first stage that all mortal beings pass through. He took Sweetwife Highgrass with him, to the doctor, Four Petal Harmony.
Half of them went into the ziggurat, into the broken memory of the past. Half of them stayed out in the filtered sunlight, calling back the broken memory of the past.
Outside the ziggurat, the skull of the armored mummy served as the center-piece of a ritual conducted by Grayn and overseen by Sanction. Using the skull of the lieutenant, they were calling back his soul before it got to the Pool of Reincarnation, to answer their questions, to continue the conversation Sanction began with the being before it was discorprated.
Inside, there were broken rooms and a massive golden gate cracked open and a jade pyramid surmounted by a snake, eating up the light from the gate and giving out a glowing fog pouring out the door. Looking over it, Chain turned it until its horrible light when out. Then he drew his jade sword and hacked at the pyramid. The snake was broken and then beheaded by the pair, who stood panting over the pyramid as the golden light faltered. And Goodsoon who had been burning with golden light from his forehead, attracted their attention. A green light burned in his eyes as he said, “You know, you should really stop that. It’s irritating.”
There was a burning blast of electrified sand particles and a few martial swipes from a wounded Onyx, and then Goodson looked away, blinking. When he looked back, the innocent expression was back on his face, eyes clear and forehead burning. “What?”
The guardian who had inhabited the troubling jade-clad mummy had been resummoned. He talked about a duty, a millenium old, to contain the soul of an Anathema, one ‘Fist of the Righteous’ of the first age, which it did until some time ago when the residents of the ziggurat invaded the tomb of the Anathema, and the resultant catastrophe swallowed the lake, the pyramid and the dead, weakening them with battles again and again until they were vanquished by the party.
The group gathered inside and a kind of madness overtook Sanction when he saw the massive golden sigil on the wall, glowing. Chain explained what was happening, ignored as Sanction examined the Portal, as Brother Splendid described it. When he was challenged as he began to monkey with the Portal, he grew mad, and enraged, and powerful. His shadow gathered burning power, and he drew the light of the portal, dripping, and threw it into Onyx, healing him, demanding to be supported as he worked.
Astonished, the others watched as he worked the flanges and golden signs on the face of the portal, slowly opening the portal, as the light mellowed, and congealed. In converging silence, they watched as the image of a golden doorway, flanked by simple ferns in pale flower.
The door opened quickly and a light burned through as a lovely small woman in red slipped through and pulled the door closed behind her. With her white nails clasped across her red ruffles, she looked across the assemblage and spoke with Sanction, briefly. She expressed sympathy for their roads ahead, and sadness for their past.
Builder Gray muscled his way into the ziggurat, exclaiming about his son. There was some prior engagement between the red-dressed woman and the Builder. He talked about Building and Building for her. She seemed sad and inquired about his health, and inquired about Saction’s well-being.
Sanction seemed to come apart at the seams, his powerful demeanor lost. He fell to his knees before the Red Woman, speaking to her in the old language of Creation itself. She replied in the low tongue of the Empire that he had done this to himself, and that it had to be undone the same way. That this was not what was meant to be, as the Unconquered Sun had closed all the gates to Heaven, but this was a wild skein fallen across the warp of Fate. She did not anticipate seeing Sanction, but that it made her glad to see him, and she gave him a red copper coin with her image across the face of it. It would help him on a hard road when he needed it, she claimed.
She spoke with Builder, who asked her if it was still the case that one life could pay for another, that all his building could pay for a change to Goodson’s fate, could pay for a reprieve for his life. She became genuinely sad then. She agreed that a life for a life was the way it had always been. He stepped forward while the others hung back.
Chain told her about the jade pyramid and what it was doing with the gateway. She confirmed some demon of the 2nd circle’s taint was upon the ziggurat. She had Buildergather up the broken-topped pyramid. She ushered him through the door, a quick goodbye, so that nothing of the light showed through.
She admitted they had a dark road before them. She checked that they knew they weren’t going to only guard a caravan out there across the Sea of Grass. Quietly, they nodded. She nodded back, solemn, all the roads across her fingernails gleaming.
Then the door wasn’t a door anymore, only a reflection in broken water.
Then the golden circle was closing, and Sanction was on his feet.
Then the light was gone from the center of the circle.
Then the circle was gone, and the gold was gone, just a rumor on the basalt wall. As if Heaven had never been real, and the red woman was only some rumor along the way.
There was a quiet flight in the lightly ruined Skyship, with Goodson at the helm in his found Orichalcum gloves, their Sunstone burning bright.
He dropped them off, he spoke with Chain, who’d become almost disturbingly decisive, and Lieutenantish. The ship sailed away, gleaming like a second sun. Anyone would see it. Even the Wyld Hunt.
At the doctor’s office, Four Petal Harmony, they found Sweetwife Highgrass, and revived her from the demon’s blood consumption. She admitted she knew her husband always loved another. It was why she cheated on him. Why she cursed the town and bound the spirit of Haven in a willow tree, to keep him from wandering, using the knowledge and blood of her tribe, and the knowledge she stole from Mnemnon’s library.
They moved into the early moments of the Festival of Fire. They began the rite to reconstruct the spirit of Haven, to end the curse, to restore the town. Of course, it was not so simple.
The demon, Hope of Deserts, returned. It took the Deputy Sheriff. He came with Grayn’s dark sword, and attacked them. It used wild desert sands and fire, then it used the blade. Then it fled, into some older citizens. And again into some other simple citizens of Haven. A sad battle ensued. Grayn knew how to use a cudgel.
Then the Mayor came, growling impotence and sadness, and the demon could not resist.
Full of green fire in his eyes, he challenged the others to defeat him. He would carry the demon with him into the Underworld.
A sad battle started, but a burning meteor intervened, falling into the battle. Embers of Coal stood up, swords burning. He would defeat the demon, find the Anathema, complete the true mission of those bearing the Dragon Blood.
The Battle was fast and terrible and dark. They murdered another agent of the Empire. He fell, blades still burning, in the dust of Haven.
After a moment of silence, they surrounded Mnemnon Krelix, the mayor of Haven. He growled and challenged them. A green fire burned only bound, inside the black of his eyes.
The battle was dark and awful, the jade hammer swinging and cracking on bodies and armor. Eventually, the hammer was broken. The mayor was broken. Mnemnon fell in the dust. In Haven.
They turned amid the flickering fires, and the slack gazes of the townsfolk. The statue was whole and invisible hands seemed to be smothering the two burning buildings. The group moved away from the town square and what needed to be done. Brother Splendid came out of a side street, leading horses and a cart.
They mounted a cart, the Night Guard, turning north, turning toward the Endless Caravan before it left the Kingdoms, before it entered the Sea of Grass. The long road stretched before them.