The Serpent Amphora Cycle

The Serpent Citadel, Part 2

The seasons turn, summer turns to autumn, the Verdant Lord welcomes heroes into his home, and the Serpent Amphora is destroyed. Denev’s spirit is saved, and the Song of Unmaking is kept safe by the Choir of the Ages. For the first time in many generations, the threat of Mormo has been diminished to the point of obsolescence.

As the leaves change to the warm autumn colors, Denev’s spirit is at peace and has blessed the Ganjus once more. Great flowers are blooming and the elves are in resurgence. Save for the djinn trapped in the Elemental Planes, the Earth Mother’s children are in harmony with Scarn.

What other adventures await the intrepid warriors who felled the Serpent Amphora? Only time will tell, but it is likely their story is far from over, for in the depths of Khet, the Bringers of Autumn revel in their success. While the trap they had labored for nearly a year had failed, it had also succeeded, in a sense. The Amphora and modified Song of Unmaking had not destroyed Denev yet.

Yet, the Autumn King had proven his theory: mere mortal magics could destroy a Titan, if properly amplified. With but a little more planning, perhaps even an immortal could die, and the Ancients could at last have their revenge for the Time Before.

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The Serpent Citadel, Part 1

Hielaa the Hag howled in laughter as she rode upon the Woodwrack dragon. After too long chasing the fools who thought to keep the Amphora from her, the Daughter of Mormo had finally recovered mother’s sacred relic. The plan had been simple, but elegant: instead of chasing the Amphora across the countryside, let the fools bring it to the doorstep of the Hornsaw.

Once so close, Hielaa knew she could simply reach out and pluck the Serpent Amphora from the fools. Unfortunately, the Blood Crone would not return to Annot Kalambath for some time, meaning that Hielaa and the others of the Dar al Annot would have to keep the damn thing safe.

“Soon,” Hielaa hissed, “soon you will be free again, Mother of Serpents, and the Scarred Lands will have her queen once more!”

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The Serpent and the Scepter, Part 2

In the ghost town of Vauldell, in the foothills of the Kelder Mountains, deep in Black Dragoon territory, a company of Dragoons and Calastian soldiers milled about in the mid-morning rain. The Archfiend Fiarun, with his red hair up in a warrior’s queue and his wide-flanged mace bouncing against his blackened full-plate, watched as his men searched the foothills. He knew this was an exercise in futility – the men had seen the great harrier birds rise above the mountains with many riders upon their backs.

“Damn the Urian elves,” Fiarun swore. “Damn Coreanites…” Really, Fiarun was angry with himself for getting too zealous when telling the story of Marilvaz, and telling the adventurers from Vesh about the town of Vauldell.

One of the Calastian soldiers approached the Archfiend. “Sir! The orc, elf, albadian, cleric, and druid are gone. We found traces of a scuffle in Marilvaz’s tomb and several of his tomes are missing.”

Fiarun’s cheeks turned as red as his hair. “Burn the village. Slaughter the elderly farmers who remain.”

“Yes, sir!”

“Oh, and corporal… when it’s over, submit yourself and your men to the Black Dragoons to be executed.”

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The Serpent and the Scepter, Part 1

It is a strange thing to die. At least, it felt that way to Colonel Ghijan, as he felt the electricity coursing through his body – the witch’s powerful arcane magicks doing him in after the Coreanite priest had failed and the half-orc’s blade had tasted little more than air and Ghijan’s shield.

The worst part was the Colonel couldn’t even remember their names. He didn’t really care too much about these strangers that had interrupted his Chardun-sworn duty of upholding the Duke’s justice in Lageni. What had they come for? Why were they here? Why had they tried to help the deserter Zedran? Didn’t they know better?

Zedran had fled. He’d refused to follow orders and rape the farmgirl as Ghijan had insisted. Of course Ghijan was right to put him to death! Yet these five strangers seemed to take it upon themselves to administer what they felt was a higher justice. Perhaps this was a subtle jab from Corean, Madriel, and Tanil. Perhaps it was a sign from the Great General that Ghijan simply was not strong enough.

Why these strangers were in Lageni, Ghijan did not know. Only now, at the end, did he even truly care – perhaps all men wish to know those who slay them. Perhaps soon he’d be allowed to ask Blesameth the Slayer if that were so. Perhaps these fools would be stupid enough to continue on to Castle Durm and seek an audience with the Archfiend Fiarun, High Priest of Chardun on Ghelspad.

The Archfiend would know what to do with infidels like them…

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Serpent in the Fold, Part 2

Beyond the starry expanse, in the Timeless Vault at the edge of infinity, at the center of Aureon where lay Hedragos, Palace of the Lawgiver, the Taurosphinx returned to his Master. Though wounded, with no less than three broken ribs and a shattered horn (which would regrow), the beastial oracle had been victorious.

“Perhaps,” the Taurosphinx spoke to the Great Law, “you were right, and they are heroes… of a sort.”

No audible response came from the Throne of Law, only Certitude.

“Yes, Master. I have served faithfully. I request permission to rest for a time, for the Zantar’ios was a dreadful foe, and I could not vanquish the Woodwrack. I should desire to go hunting him, once I am healed.”

The implacability of the firmament was all which greeted the Taurosphinx in response.

Bowing his bull-head, the Herald of Hedrada replied, “As you command. The heroes who saved the Vigils and stopped the Amphora’s theft will have your blessing.”

+++++++++++++++++++++

Kelemis Durn sat behind his desk in the Home Office. In the six days since the attack, the people of Vesh had made great strides in repairing the city, but reconstruction would take years. Durn himself fought to avoid falling into a deep melancholy, for returning from beyond the grave was not always an easy experience.

“Commander!” Erem of the Huntress, high priest of Tanil in Vesh, called out as he burst into Durn’s office. “We’ve found something in the book.”

“What is it?” Durn asked as he looked up from his desk. “Is it about the Amphora?”

Erem gave an excited and terrified nod. “Sir… the Serpent Amphora is… it holds the very essence of Mormo. As she was sundered into several parts – her body, her heart, her essence, and her soul – she was scattered and bound. This is part of the Hag Queen herself and is most dangerous.”

“Well, then we should leave it be, should we not?”

Erem shook his head, “No, sir! The Amphora will be targeted by the followers of Mormo, for it is with the Amphora that the Serpent Mother herself could be resurrected.”

Durn stood from his desk. “By the gods…”

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Serpent in the Fold, Part 1

In the land of Khirdet, under the mountain of Khet, there was a cave where the vines had grown over all that is or once was. They spread like a blight upon the under-mountain, and all who knew of this place called it accursed. Yet none would ever challenge who claimed dominance over those caverns, for he was an ancient being, far too old to be mortal any more.

There, on a throne of mulch, compacted earth, and shattered stones, in his fleshless body, did he sit. He was Ilkusthra, the Autumn King, and that he was a powerful druid none could deny. No one knew where he came from, nor how he’d come to be called the Autumn King, but he had memories from before the Titanswar… indeed, some said he held memories before Lede was a power, when the Ancients ruled the world.

“Why do you watch them so?” a woman asked her master, Ilkusthra.

Ilkusthra did not speak, but his voice emanated from his bones, “It is of my will to do so, that is all you need know.”

“But why did you send six Vinedead to them just to plant a token on them which you could scry?”

“It is of my will to do so, that is all you need to know,” came the Autumn King’s response once more.

“They have eluded Heilaa once more. The Dar al Arnnot’s servants may be close to the Vault of Chardun already, but I am not certain that the slithern will finish before their little band arrives. If it hadn’t been for the Taurosphinx, they would still be heading to Hedrad and no concern to the Serpent Mother’s plans.”

“I do not care about the Serpent Mother’s plans,” spoke Ilkusthra. “The Dar al Arnnot seek to save a dieing world by bringing back its old masters.”

“But you don’t?”

“It is not of my will to do so, and that is all you need to know…”

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Red Sky In Morning

In the land of dreams and nightmares not under the purview of Erias, there sat a conclave of women ’round a firepit which seemed to burn nothing more than swamp gasses. No wood, no other fuel, and no method of containment neither kept the fire burning nor prevented it from engulfing the conclave in sudden conflagration.

The women were all tall and thin, with hair ranging from stark white to pale blonde. Their clothes hung below their shoulders and seemed to fit their subtle curves, yet they did so without clinging. Such clothing must have been held on by magic, for any seamstress would be able to tell you there was nowhere that the clothing actually held to the women’s bodies. Gravity should have done its work, yet here, in the Blood Bayou, nothing was ever certain.

One with of the swamp chuckled and spoke to her sisters, “I don’t think Amelia is going to return.”

“The king said her little infection has failed, and that the Knights of the Morning Sky spared Mezzel,” said a second.

“Pity,” quipped a third. “I was so hoping we might have some more wretched to join the Krewe of Plagues.”

A fourth nodded in agreement while a fifth seemed distracted by something in the woods. The first then spoke again, "Foolish little man, Ivan was, for his actions would have damned all of Mezzel. Take note, girls, that men are easily swayed by promises of power and strength. Even those who seek the arcane arts can be so swayed by promises that they will be strong, fit, and toned.

“In his desperation to win strength and power, Ivan found our father-king and made a wish of the Momus, and he paid with… this,” a little girl walked forward from the crowd. A half-elf. “Who will be one of us soon.”

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To Vesh

“And you’re saying they brought this from the Blood Steppes?” the young Tanilite cleric asked the Home Commander.

Kelemis Durn, leader of Vesh and Commander of the Vigils, gave a solemn nod. “They carried the amphora through the Kelder Mountains and the Mourning Marshes. What I’m surprised about is that, frankly, they weren’t assailed by more Titanspawn trying to carry it here. It’s obviously some sort of relic sacred to the Serpent Mother.”

The Tanilite paused to think, rubbing his cheek with his left hand, feeling the tiny bits of stubble between his fingers. The amphora was a mystery to him. What secrets did it hold? Why was it in the hands of a Hag to begin with? The jar shouldn’t have been anywhere near the Blood Steppes.

“What are you thinking, Erem?” Durn asked, breaking a heavy silence.

The priest, Erem, turned and replied to the commander, “The urn should have been in Amalthea. In a museum. I know that much – I’ve seen it before, there in Amalthea, when I was passing through last. Why it was with the Hag, I do not know, but I do believe we need to find out more.”

“It will take some time to muster the resources to hire researches,” Kelemis interrupted. “Perhaps those adventurers who brought it here will be willing to help.”

Erem chuckled. “For a price, I’m sure.”

“For a price,” came Durn’s reply.

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The Serpent Amphora

An excerpt from the log of Eochaid, Vigil of Vesh:

Tanil be praised, my mission to recover the Serpent Amphora was a success… barely. I escaped the Storm Hag, Haileea, and her venomous creations. Unfortunately, I was the only of my Vigil brothers to so do, and Haileea’s poisons would have felled me if not for the actions of some brave warriors in the village of Trela.

When I came to Trela, I was too dying. A young priest of Corean helped me through the night, and I made him, and the others in the common room, swear that they would carry the Amphora to the Home Commander in Vesh. Unfortunately, the Asaatthi stole the Amphora in the night, yet the brave warriors – a half orc from Zathiske, an Albadian sorceress, a forsaken elf courtesan, and the acolyte of Corean – managed to recover the Amphora.

Since I am not well enough to travel, the warriors, the Amphora’s new guardians, have offered to take the vessel to Vesh for me. They will need to cross the Kelder Mountains, and the Mourning Marshes. Hopefully, they will make it.

-Eochaid

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