With a night’s rest and packs full of traveling provisions, there was little stopping us from returning to the Stone Sea in our enforced mission to put an end to the traitorous Cairn, the former Archon of Stone. That he had been able to survive an Edict of Kyros directed solely at his destruction was impressive, frightening even, but it was my hope that his efforts and energies were spent attempting to resist the magic coursing over the area, leaving little for his own defense against more mundane threats such as Verse’s knives.
We made sure to visit an armoury while in town, reforging broken weapons, honing well-worn blades, and making sure our equipment would be well-suited to the next leg of our journey. Barik particularly felt humiliated by the poor performance of his sword and shield at Stalwart Stand, and opted to replace them completely rather than having them re-sharpened. Eb found a new staff after some hours’ time wandering the market, and I neither asked her its source nor what made it more special than her last one. I am a man of sword and law, and while I can feel magic, thanks to the Edicts and the Spires, it’s not something I focus on or want to think about.
Halfgate was an otherwise unremarkable pit stop that marked the eastern border of the Great Stone Plains. The frequent earthquakes and unpredictable upheavals destroyed most of the town, leaving it a barren shell of its former glory.
Our welcome to the hamlet was a Scarlet Chorus war-party headed to nearby Jagged Maw in order to chase down a small group of Disfavored that had made a defensible position therein. Verse asked excitedly if they needed more help, while Barik scoffed at the idea and crossed his arms, a sour expression furrowing his features.
“If we go with them we can help keep the fight from escalating,” I said to him, though in truth I had no desire to actually go out and hunt anyone, particularly other soldiers loyal to Kyros. These blasted lands may have been given to the Scarlet Chorus after Cairn’s betrayal, but that didn’t automatically give them the right to murder anyone who displeased them. Until the region was officially under Kyros’ command, a full and recognized state of the Empire, laws were more loosely-defined and far less-binding than elsewhere on the continent. If nothing else, it was my job to try and encourage the Chorus to the realization that, even though this may be a wild frontier, Kyros’ word is law and I am here as a servant of that law.
As the warband marched off, hooting and hollering into the night, I caught the attention of a nearby trader, a local by the looks of him. Seeing that I wasn’t strictly with the Scarlet Chorus, he confided that most of the townsfolk only supported the Chorus because they said they had a plan to kill Cairn – an act they hoped would stop the earthquakes and allow them to start rebuilding their shattered lives.
He also revealed that both of the Spires in this area were well-defended. To the North lay the Beastmen, wilder and more savage than those with whom I had dealt before, I gathered, and to the East lay the Earthshakers and their ward the Archon. Part of the reason I didn’t complain when the Voices of Nerat gave me this task was that it would give me an opportunity to explore this area, and hopefully find my way into the two spires thereof. What secrets they held, I could only guess at.
We continued into the city in order to find the Scarlet Chorus commander, appropriately named “Misery.”