Entering the Jagged Maw Shrine, we came across a peculiar sight – the Scarlet Chorus and DIsfavored were almost equal in number, each bristling with violence. Whereas the Chorus usually preferred to harass their prey to the point of exhaustion, it seems they may have underestimated their prey this time and had been lead into a fight on equal footing; something they did not want against the powerful Disfavored soldiers.
Bodies were strewn about, evidence of earlier fighting, but it seemed that two commanders were holding the rest of their meager forces at bay, content to shout insults at each other instead. The Chorus promised ugly and “relatively” painless deaths, compared to if they were captured alive, and the Disfavored swore to wipe out their red-frocked foes to a man, in order to send a message.
They both turned toward at our approach, arguing that one another had called me in to tip the balance. The Disfavored had been a constant thorn in my side, sometimes literally, since I sided with the Scarlet Chorus at the Well, but I was no monster calling for their deaths. They sought to serve Kyros’ will as much as anyone, and I often found their tactics much more palatable than the Scarlet Chorus’. I crossed my arms and shrugged. “I am an adjudicator of the Courts. It is within my jurisdiction to freely step in – or not – as I decide.”
“If you’re not here to aid us, I’d kindly ask you to stay out of it, Fatebinder,” the Disfavored commander offered with a half-hearted salute, his eyes never leaving his foe across the field.
“Meddle in this and it’ll be your blood, Fatebinder. We’ll kill these dogs and then come for you,” the Scarlet Chorus barked. I found his threat hollow – even if the Disfavored lost, there wouldn’t be enough able-bodied Chorusters left to make good on his promise.
Both accused the other of attempting to subvert Kyros’ will, and the shouting rose in intensity as each side returned to battle formation. The Voices of Nerat’s lieutenant Misery had demanded our stepping in to help decide this little skirmish, ostensibly in the Chorus’ favor, and by staying out of the fight, I certainly helped decide its outcome – the Scarlet Chorus were no match for the war-weary but well-trained Disfavored soldiers.
“I owe you my life,” said the surviving commander, his salute anything but half-hearted this time. With the Scarlet Chorus dead, I needed a guide. He was all too happy to assist. Barik did much of the talking, happy to be in the company with fellow Disfavored, while Verse wisely kept her thoughts on the battle’s outcome to herself.
I learned that the Beastmen considered the Jagged Maw Shrine something of a holy place, inhabited by the ghosts of powerful warrior ancestors. The Earthshakers claimed it was a place of powerful magic, and it had been the DIsfavored’s task to take a man named Radix to the Archon of Stone when the Scarlet Chorus fell upon them. Radix had been sent on ahead, out of harm’s way.
The Commander wouldn’t say just where Radix was going, but did remark that the Beastmen weren’t as ignorant about the Archon of Stone as the Scarlet Chorus may believe.
With one proverbial door closed, we turned our attention to the upcoming battle at Howling Rock, where MIsery’s second-in-command waited to strike at the Beastmen. I wondered how quickly news of the Chorus’ defeat here would spread, and whether the camp would be violent or merely hostile at our return.