The North is chilly, as always. But the normally clear Northern skies, lit by the dance of native Fire Elementals with so little else to do they join in dances with the Air..they are heavy with clouds and not even the Sun's light breaks through. For several days this unhappy weather has persisted, giving the natives a sour attitude. Sour attitudes rub off, and K has grown irate and rather touchy during the earlier stages of the mission. That's probably why he spent a few nights huddled by a guard's fire, rather than in an inn.
While the guard was nice enough to share his fire for a modest fee, he seemed a bit too distracted by expensive liquors to do his job. Twice as he slept, Kin was jerked awake by disturbances near the guard station, but he could find nothing either time. Finally giving up on sleep, Kinqueduran posts himself on watch, deciding that staying awake might at least give some slim chance of accomplishing something, while restless sleep just made him less pleasant.
Once again, for the third night in a row, a disturbance comes from below. A shuffling, scuttling noise and a clinkclinkclink.
The noise is quiet and hard to follow. It fades in and out, almost aware that someone has heard. Despite the attempts of the sound-maker to hide, Kin can easily locate them. Directly below the tower, the sound is fading. The rear end of a group? In the shadows, Kin can see a few people gathering away, as if waiting for a straggler. A dark shape moves past and nothing further moves on. The end of the train.
An all-too-cliché tap comes on Kin's left shoulder.
A green-haired man smiles at you. "Shouldn't follow them, you know. It'll end badly."
Kinqueduran: "Everything ends badly for someone."
Makod Issev: "You're right. But this would end badly for you. It'll end better if you just turn around, you know."
Kinqueduran: "Why would I take your word for that?"
Makod Issev: "Because I was nice enough to stop you before you got eviscerated, emasculated and fed to hellhounds."
Kinqueduran: "Why would you do that, exactly?"
Makod Issev: "I'm rather fond of my nuts, guts and life. I assume most other people are and I hope someone else would want to save mine."
Kinqueduran: "You didn't answer me."
Makod Issev: "Why are you all pushy about why I saved your life?"
Kinqueduran: "Because I'm an asshole."
Makod Issev: "I'd agree. Are you going to follow them anyway?"
Kinqueduran: "Thinking about it."
Makod Issev: "I wouldn't. Especially in red armor."
Kinqueduran: "Yes, we've already clarified that you wouldn't."
Makod Issev: "You're not doing a very good job assuring me of your intention to keep yourself intact, you know."
Kinqueduran: "I wasn't really trying to assure you of that."
Makod Issev: "Guess not. Carry on then."
Kinqueduran: "You still haven't answered my question."
Makod Issev: "Which one?"
Kinqueduran: "Since you've forgotten, I'll add another to your tab. Who are you, and why would you want to prevent me from injuring myself?"
Makod Issev: "Makod Issev. I'm with the city guard. It's my job to save people and all."
Kinqueduran: "I see. And the people who don't need saving?"
Makod Issev: "You did. Those guys would kill you."
Kinqueduran: "Bigger chaps than you have said that."
Makod Issev: "Trust me. We hired some god-spawn mercs a few weeks ago. We're still finding them."
Makod Issev: There is none, he wears nondescript garments of a farmer, but he wears a well-cared for blade at his hip that makes him more then your average field-plower.
Kinqueduran: "I'll keep an eye out for their remains, then."
Makod Issev: "You're being stupid, you know."
The guardsman who stopped Kinqueduran is still watching the Red with a cautious eye. While no stranger to combat, with a few visible scars and a tough body from his labor in the frigid farms of the North and extra duty as a watchman, the peasant knows he would be no match against a warrior like Kin in his shiny red armor and with his fancy weapons. "I just think you should let it drop."
In the distance, the signs of the train of people are fading away into the darkness. But given the snow on the ground, it should still be possible, if difficult, to follow them.
The guardsman stands off in the shadows, shaking his head sadly. As Kin follows after the train, he walks home, muttering about foolish, showy soldiers.
The trail in the snow is easy enough for Kin to follow, left by at least nine different people, probably more obscured under later feet. Some walked in nearly single-file, only faint traces showing of their footprints under those that came behind.
Judging by the odd gait displayed in the tracks, many of the walkers were hobbled with heavy chains, that would have been the clinking noise that woke Kin on the previous nights. Splatters of blood appear occasionally along the path as well, as it winds away from the city.
Kinqueduran: Frowning, K quickens his pace a little, hoping to catch up with the group.
Despite his long delay with the guardsman, Kin soon hears the clinkclingclinkclonk of chains being dragged through the snow. With so many bound travelers and so much snow, movement is very slow at night.
As Kin moves closer he can make out that the hobbled forms are rather short. Children? Possibly. Some are taller, but not much. A pair of larger shapes move with the train, guiding it. Occasionally a whip crack shatters the silence of the night, but it quickly fades to nothing and no sound comes from the one struck.
Kin hears someone moving behind him, a sheet of ice-crystals in the snow makes a muffled snap under a heavy foot maybe three yards distant.
Pausing for a moment, stunned their approach was noticed, two women are standing only a few feet away, both carrying heavy cudgels and light shields.
In a thick, heavy voice totally unsuited to her lithe body, the closer of the women speaks. "If you leave now, there won't be trouble."
Cultist: "We will take you to her and she will deal with you."
Kinqueduran: "Mhm. 'Her', you say? And who might 'she' be?"
Cultist: "Are you leaving or not?"
Kinqueduran: "I'll tell you when you answer."
Cultist: "You'll find out who she is when you're brought before her! Now leave or we'll take you!"
Kinqueduran: "Why don't we cut a deal? I promise to cause no trouble, and forget I saw any of this, if you'll take me to 'Her', but not disarm me."
The two women exchange glances and rush at Kin quietly, each bringing her cudgel down on his head with a heavy CLONK. The one with the thick voice also delivers a nasty kick to the groin.
Cultist: "Nem! Nem! Nem ada zevoudinza! Nem! Nem! Nem ada zevoudinza!"
Flushed with rage, the two attack again, but this time their clubs glow a sickly red-brown.
The first woman is knocked aside once more, but as Kin's spear simply helps the second aim her attack better...he is clobbered very solidly on the head. With a ringing in his ears, he can hear the women chanting as they think him vanquished.
Cultist: "Nemda! Nemda! Viczic Xyimininsh! Zevodin aburara!"
The bodies fall to the snowy ground with muted thuds, spreading brain, bone and blood across the formerly virgin white snow. In the moonlight, Kin can make out tattoos covering their mostly-naked bodies and what remains of their faces.
The marks are those of an ancient Yozi-cult dedicated to Adjoran’s daughters, the Four Lesser Winds. These women would have been ritually mutilated to prevent pregnancy and sold into her service as infants. After emasculating their first male slave at 13, they began serving their four mothers and the tattoos on their backs keep track of each male so dealt with. These must be new recruits, for there are only a score of marks on each woman.
In their cloaks, all the clothing they wore even in the frigid Northern night, Kin found lists written in the demonic dialect of Old Realm. Names of children and numbers beside them. 732 was the first. The last was 798.
The train of children is far in the distance now, but Kin should be able to catch up with some hard running.
Eventually Kin does manage to reach the side of the caravan and he spies the woman in the lead. She appears to be just another cultist, but as her cloak flaps he can see vague shapes of far more tattoos then the two dead women had.
When the caravan should be coming into sight, Kin hears a horrendous CREEEEAAAAGRRAAAAANNNGGGH noise and then, nothing for several minutes. When he wonders what the noise was, it comes again, louder then before, and followed by an equally loud CRASH and a plume of snow.
Kinqueduran: Blinking, Kin moves along the path, towards teh caravan, his spear at the ready now.
There is no sign of the caravan, only a great deal of disturbed snow in the path they were following. Perplexed, the Sidereal begins pacing around the site, looking for any sign of where they've gone. The disturbance of the snow was caused by a large falling object, but beyond that Kin is fairly clueless.
As he investigates the area of greatest disturbance, Kin finds what appears to be a crack in the snow, recently formed. It extends for some distance and shines at the bottom like metal.
It becomes obvious fairly soon. There is a massive plate of metal, a door, set into the ground.
Even once he clears the snow off the metal door, nearly 15 feet square, Kin is faced with the problem of actually opening such a huge portal.
The gate lifts up with a loud creak, not as loud as the first though. The lance quivers and Kin's arms strain, fire dancing along his muscles. But the door is open.