The Serpent Amphora Cycle

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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Belemir, Renewer of Denev

Word came to my Circle—an artifact of the Mother of Serpents was in the hands of the men of Vesh. Such things are fraught with peril for those that hold them, for ever the servants of the sundered titan strive to obtain the things of their mistress, much as they ever seek to overcome my people. Though it was far from our borders, any artifact of the Defeated could not be safely ignored; it must be evaluated and a report carried to the elders of the Circle.

I was chosen.

There are many long and dangerous miles between the Ganjis and the capital of Vesh, yet I am not afraid of that road. The earth mother, though she sleeps, is present throughout this scarred and damaged land, and I would not travel alone. Huan, as always, will go with me.

In other times, travelling light in order to make the best speed would be advised, but given the state of the land, I can not count on finding what I need in the wilderness. And the bandits and titanspawn that infest the empty miles ahead dictate that I go well-armed. The elders apparently agree, for they gifted me with a bow of exquisite craftsmanship. Like many things in nature, its beauty belies its deadly nature.

I spend this evening in quiet contemplation amid the glades of my home. Tomorrow I set forth for the far human kingdom. I have never left the woodlands, although I have long studied under those with decades of experience in what lies beyond our borders. The human cities are said to be unpleasant; crowded and stinking. Yet, if that is the worst I shall encounter before my return then I shall count myself blessed.

Red Sky In Morning
 

Valda picked up the tattoo pen, looking at the design on paper and remembering what Jean told her about the spell that would be cast into the tattoo, sealing the magic in the pattern of the skin for the tattooed person to use again as he willed. Soon she would have her own magical tattoo, the glorious sun of Madriel’s mercy and light marked on her body for all to see.

Not too long ago, the young sorceress helped another make a magical tattoo on a warrior, on the eve of a battle.

“Start casting as I make the first mark, Valda. Do not worry about his cries, if you lose focus we have to start all over,” the Helliann just a few years older than Valda told her, who had asked for the storm-eyed sorceress’ help.

Valda nodded, tossing off her cloak, baring herself to the skin in the fur and hide tent as the wind howled outside. She focused on her magic, watching the tattoo artist stand over the young warrior, her tattoo needle poised over his left hand. The Helliann nodded at Valda, then made the first mark, inscribing a jagged line in black ink on the back of the man’s hand, and Valda reached out to her, touching the end of the tattoo needle with her finger, just lightly, and electricity sparked in the small tent, her hair flying out all around her.

The man grit his teeth but stay still as the two women worked on him, the hairs on the back of his fingers singing from the energies focused there, blood mixing with ink, until finally they were done, and a trio of jagged lightning bolts marked the back of his hand in black ink. He flexed his hand, then held it out as if to push someone away, and sparks flew out from his hand. Valda smiled, she knew how powerful that felt, to have the power of the storms at your fingertips.

“Your names will be sung around the campfires tomorrow night, after we win this battle,” he said in a hearty voice, smiling at the two scantily clad women.

Valda laughed as she remembered that night, and the battle that followed. Soon she would return to her beloved cold northland and the people she knew best, but now she had a mission. And that barbarous half orc needed more strength in the coming days, strength from her, the cleric, and even mighty Chardun. She wondered if he would cry in pain at the tattooing.

Red Sky In Morning
taninwulf taninwulf

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