Hallowed Ways

Festival of the Daughter

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As all roads lead to Rome, everyone somehow seems to be swept into Castilchas as the Spring Festival gets underway. John and Chris are both exploring the town, moseying along and seeing what there is to see (with ale in hand), while Leera sets up a makeshift shop. She takes to dancing in the square, earning her some small coin and the attention of the other two. John gets bumped into in the crowd, and soon finds himself distracted by a conversation with himself. He comes back to himself to find a strange man watching him. The dance ends, and the three part ways after a few words.

Leera returns to her carpet to find a potential client. He hires her to draw out a detailed map of Heartland, some of Ibra, and whatever she might know about the Jokan Provinces.

Time passes, and all three find themselves in a tavern. No real surprise, as it’s the only one left in this district that has much of anything left. They run into some footpads looking for trouble, and manage to deter them without much indecent. They return, however, with city guards in tow. They accuse John of stealing a ring, which he is surprised to actually find in his pocket! John, with help, manages to befriend the lead guard, and he allows John to pay a small grievance fee and leaves with the upstarts. Before turning in for the night, they happen to see a different set of guards run down a lone rider. As they turn back to the Keep, the group sees that it is a very distraught Royesse – presumably, the same young lady who will be playing the Daughter of Spring in the festival tomorrow.

The festival day arrives, and everyone’s out to watch the parade. The Royesse doesn’t show any sign of her midnight escapade, and is escorted by a haggard Father of Winter to the main temple. It seems that the whole city turns out to offer their gifts to the Daughter and the temple today. The loose party falls in line, taking their places at the end. They see the Royesse deny the gift of a judge, who (almost purple with rage) is led into a side alcove to discuss the matter. The procession of gifts continues. Chris makes a heartfelt offer of his arms and services to the Lady – whether he means to her personally or the Daughter herself, she makes no indication as to the acceptance. John conjures a pretty flower to try to alleviate some of the hidden sorrow behind her mask of dignity. The group finds themselves surrounded by halberd points with extreme efficiency.

They are led out behind the Mother’s alcove to the Bastard’s tower, and find the same man who was watching John there. He explains that he is a sort of petty saint of the Bastard, and that John’s use of magic [read: demon magic] in a holy temple set off some wards. They were known to the honor guard, and the citizens who were left there, and it would be best if they left Castilchas until their faces were forgotten. He has just the solution, and prepares to send the trio on a journey.

The Story So Far

The world still likes to feel that it is young. I suppose it is, for every day youth blossoms on its face in the new green sapling and the fawn taking its first trembling step. But it has the worn signs of care carved into its skin as well. Monuments to the fiery strength of the past now lay in shambles, forgotten whispers of what once was at the end of a forgotten path, that sleeps in the shadow of a land where no men dare to tread anymore.

The Season of the Great Sorcerers has long past. Magic is mostly forgotten; those who remember it fear it (and not without reason). Sorcery is outlawed in all the civilized lands. Even in the unending turmoil of the Jokan Provinces it is hated with a vengeance (demons being of the Bastard’s domain, and He himself considered the master demon of evil incarnate). Other countries have been preoccupied with recuperating from that dark time. Some have managed to grow their roots deep, and finally have begun to drink the rewards of all their effort.

Heartland flourishes as a center of trade – all good routes walk through one of her gates. At the center, Castilchas shines at the epitome of modern masonry. Gilded arches welcome the weary traveler. Verdant gardens spill over the walls of private gardens. All basks in the golden glow of fortune and plenty.

At least, it had of late. There is a thread of tension, barely visible throughout the city. The Royina had passed almost a decade ago, and now her consort Roya has taken to his chambers. The capitol bravely continues its preparations for the Spring Festival, and the Royesse shall play the part of the virgin Daughter for what may be the last time. She must be wed, and soon, if the country is to avoid a civil war. For the merchants, naturally, would prefer a certain other leader that would favor their pockets. A royesse is perfectly capable of being the single crowned monarch of a country, but one so young (and with whispers of such, ahem, eccentricities as hers) would be challenged every given moment. The current Prime Minister offers much in the way of support and guidance for her.

So there you have it. A cheery festival in the making – garlands or fresh flowers on every nook and cranny of stonework, the sweet smell of holiday foods, and the cries of taskmasters while the gayly colored tents are raised. But the smiles are a little strained, and never quite meet the eyes of most who try.

The Battle of Holy Tree

The last real stand of the war in the Season of Great Sorcerers. There, the banner-carriers of magic united against the Golden General. Despite their amazing strength in numbers and desperation, they still lost. Now, all free magic left in the world rests in the Lion of Jokan, and the ghosts of the banner-carriers haunt Bloodtree until their leader makes them whole once again.


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