Storyteller The delivery of the first message from the Black Viper Cult had come as a surprise, but not a very big one. Every so often governments were handed threatening letters signed by unknown cults. They had a special division that investigated them and, like so many times before, nothing came of the Black Viper Cult's letter. So the demands to submit to the Great Serpent of Shadows went unheeded and all proceeded normally.
Storyteller Until the first day of Fire Descending came and the Isle of Abundance fell from the sky, plummeting thousands of feet to crash into the Inner Sea. Everyone one the isle and thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people dwelling on the northern coast of the Blessed Isle and the edges of the Hastlanti League were drowned beneath massive tidal waves from the sudden impact of the formerly flying island.
Storyteller Not two days after the destruction of Abundance, while the waves were still crashing against sunken villages, another missive was delivered to the Plutocracy and surface coastal governments. The Black Viper Cult had taken responsibility and demanded over 100,000 talents of Silver and 10,000 of Jade to be delivered to them in a neutral meeting place a month hence and five temples be built, one for each aspect of the great Serpent they worshipped.
Xar'Rex "That's a lot of money."
Myrrh "And alot of effort to go through to get five temples..."
Corve The Assessor nods slowly at Xar's... incredible deduction. "Yes, it is... I don't think this is it," he murmurs. "There's got to be more. Bringing down Abundance must have taken a lot of power."
Xar'Rex "Hmmm I bet there is much to get from the island that fell."
Corve He shakes his head and leans back. "All I know is that it's got everyone in government throwing fits. This will probably have Creation-wide ramifications. They can threaten anyone under us with dropping us on them, and if those people don't care enough, we're dead whether we like it or not." He scratches his slightly grown beard.
Carmine "...How do you even do something like that, though?"
Xar'Rex "Maybe a ritual, many people. Sacrifice."
Myrrh "Well...i'm not sure. I might have to do some research on it. They might have just hit it hard enough to knock it down...or they could have just snuffed whatever makes the islands fly."
Carmine "So, what is known about this cult then?"
Corve "Whatever makes the islands fly is older than anything any of us could imagine. They've always been there. They came around with the rest of the world, according to all the proof. So whatever happened, it was big, and powerful." He turns to Carmine and shrugs. "Nothing, yet. The preliminary search the government did didn't turn up anything--but I suppose they must be conducting a much more thorough investigation now."
Carmine "... Oh."
Corve "I don't intend to wait until they come up with something. I have a daughter and friends on these islands. I'm not about to let some demon worshipping lunatics kill millions of people 'cause their god isn't important enough to the rest of us. We need to find them, and stop them."
Xar'Rex "Is there a reward?"
Myrrh "I'm with Corve. We can't sit by and let these lunatics do whatever they like. I'm not sure where to begin though..."
Corve The Solar looks at Xar and raises a brow. "The reward is that people don't die, both up here, and down there."
Xar'Rex "The people who do not die should be grateful. It is much work, much danger, to save them."
Corve "There'll probably be a reward, and I'll take it, gods know there's more than enough money to go around in Brume, but that's not the point. People shouldn't have to die because of some damn lunatical cult."
Xar'Rex "Gods must be appeased, but this is too much."
Corve "Besides," he says, snarling. "Who the hell do they think they are, anyway?"
Xar'Rex "The Black Viper Cult, yes?"
Corve "..." Corve smiles at Xar. "Sun bless you, Xar, I was speaking metaphorically."
Myrrh "I think that was a rhetorical question Xar."
Xar'Rex "Oh, I apologize. I wondered why you did not know their name" He smiles.
Myrrh "Well let's check with the Plutocrats and see what they know. I'm sure they'd be greatful for any help right about now.."
Carmine nods, in vague agreement. Myrrh probably knew what he was talking of.
Corve "Probably. We need to do that, and see if they're recruiting people to help with the investigation, though if I know them, they probably think they have it all covered, which just scares me more."
Xar'Rex "If they say no, then what we do?"
Corve "We take it into our own hands."
Xar'Rex "We disobey laws? That will be trouble, yes?"
Carmine "Less trouble than an island falling."
Myrrh "Only if we don't manage to stop them. And by that point we might all be plumetting to our dooms anyway..."
Xar'Rex "Not me. I fly."
Xar'Rex flexes his wings
Corve "Also, I'm a member of law enforcement, and have the right and priviledge to deputize anyone I see fit."
Xar'Rex "Until you are, what do they say, pink sheet?"
Corve The Night Caste sighs for a moment and then taps his fingers on the table. "So, plan: go to the Plutocrats, see if perhaps we can set up a meeting with Crosus. If we can, we try to wrangle our way into the solution of this problem, and if they don't let us... we go and we solve it ourselves. Or try."
Corve He looks at Xar and smiles. "If they pink slip me, I really won't care what the hell they think about me being a vigilante anyway."
Xar'Rex nods, "Yes, lets go then, to the Plutocrat."
Xar'Rex gets to his feet, and heads out!
Corve He nods and stands up. "Right then, lets go," he murmurs, kicking up his rifle to his hand and swinging it over his shoulder after putting on his golden coat. "Not a second to lose, after all."
Myrrh nods and grabs his gear, hurridly dragging the August Revolution behind him. "I think I need to do some research on how they did this later. It just doesn't make sense..."
Carmine slings her sword on her back.
Storyteller It takes a considerable time, and all of Corve's authority and persuasive powers, to get them into the Plutocratic Retreat, Luxury's capital building. A massive, sprawling afair of white-veined blue marble and snow granite the huge palace reeks of opulence, wealth and intimidating power. Inside a receiving hall large enough to be a whale's swimming tank a young woman smiles politely as she informs the group that Plutocrat Crosus is not taking vis
Secretary "I'm very sorry Assessor, but the Grand Plutocrat is most busy, you understand. The nation is in a state of emergency and he simply isn't seeing anyone today. Maybe you can check back in a few weeks?"
Corve "Tell you what, sugar... you tell Grand Plutocrat Crosus that Assessor Corve is here with special friends, and willing to help. When he gets that message, and responds, then I'll consider it. Because, as you know, we live on Brume also."
Secretary offers a sad, sympathetic smile that she probably gets to use at least 50 times a day. "I'm sorry, Assessor. He is simply not taking any appointments today. Maybe when the crisis has passed he will be able to see you?"
Corve "It's about the crisis, sweety." He offers the girl a charming smile, leaning on the desk. His voice changes, maybe a bit smoother, perhaps a tad gentler, more respectful. He just wants to go see the Grand Plutarch for a few minutes, how bad could it be? "Please. I'll owe you one. A big one."
Xar'Rex flexes his wings nervously. He doesn't like being here, in this room, surrounded by people who don't like him. He was a leader, but that is gone, and this, being reminded that he is no longer in charge or important, does not sit well with him.
Carmine is looking around the room in some wonder. She wasn't used to quite such grand buildings, this one of the most impressive she remembered. Well, aside from the hideout
Secretary smiles back a bit more friendly then before. "Well, I can send him a message but I still don't think he'll see you..."
Secretary bends down to scribe a quick missive and sends it off via small child.
Corve He smiles a bit wider, leaning forward. "You have no idea how much I appreciate your help. What's your name, anyway?"
Amber Silk "I'm Amber Silk."
Corve "Lovely name. Fits you perfectly," he says, apparently patient in his wait for the response to the message. Crosus better get his act together. Most people knew who Corve was, if anything because they bugged him to take care of anyone remotely dangerous.
Amber Silk flips back her long, silky, congac-colored hair. "I know." She smiles brightly.
Corve It's not that he's not interested, really. It's just... he'd rather not start anything that might end with the entire island plummeting to Creation. But he does make a mental note to repay her for the favor--someway. It's never good to leave favors hanging. "So are you a Luxury native or..?"
Amber Silk "Oh, I'm from Pelf. Ah, here's your response." She accepts the returning child's missive and flips it open. She scans the words written on the scrap of paper, then crumples it up and tosses it into a waste bin. "Well, it seems you're very fortunate today; the Grand Plutarch's Assistant, Muriel, will see you."
Corve Assessor Corve grins at her. "Seems I am fortunate," he says, grinning and looking at his companions. "Come on."
Amber Silk returns to her duty of cleaning her fingernails while waiting for other people to tell "No".
Plutarch Muriel opens the door to her welcoming office herself, having sent her secretary and clerks off to do menial tasks for a while. Muriel, unlike most Plutarchs, is fairly young. She's been married twice and very well each time, but currently lives unmarried with her long-time companion, Midnight Pearl. Midnight normally sits in on these meetings but is off dealing with other issues at the moment.
Plutarch Muriel smiles as she ushers everyone into her sitting room, a strongly colored inferno of red, yellow and orange furnishings and junk. "Please, take a seat and tell me what is on your minds." The plump woman settles onto a pouf of shimmering gold...stuff.
Corve "Plutarch Muriel, it's been a while," he says with a smile as he moves inside and takes a seat. "I'm here to talk about the Black Viper Cult." Straight to the point.
Carmine seats herself on the sofa, lying the sunlight blade beside her.
Xar'Rex stands off in a corner, observing.
Plutarch Muriel "I had assumed as much. Do you have news about them?"
Myrrh sits on the couch, leaning the massive rifle against the side of it. He smiles nervously at the Plutarch.
Corve He shakes his head. "No, but all of us, Myrrh, whom you know, Glorious Carmine Elegance, and Xar Rex," he motions to each as he introduces them. "... and myself are very concerned, and we want to offer our... unique services to help in the investigation and the solving of this terrible crisis."
Corve "Besides, as one of the most requisited Assessors when it comes to matters of magical nature, I'm a bit put off by the fact that I wasn't recruited for this already."
Plutarch Muriel "We are fairly sure that the Black Viper Cult must have agents here on Brume and possibly here on Luxury itself. If we were to openly assign you, or any significant portion of our resources, to resisting them they may well destroy another island."
Plutarch Muriel "But, if you were to undertake this responsibility completely on your own...well, I'm sure you would be able to keep it quiet."
Plutarch Muriel "And if your...friends were to help, they would be totally unaffiliated with the government which is even better."
Corve The assessor smiles slightly. "I would most certainly try my best to do so, Plutarch," he says, thinking for a moment. "What do we know about the Black Vipers? Has anything been filtered on the way down? Do you have any information that could be of some... assistance?"
Plutarch Muriel sighs. "We know very little. As you may be aware, our original investigation turned up only the smallest bits of information. We know they hail from the South and make their base of operations somewhere in the deep dunes, but where we do not know. We were unable to discover any rumors or legends telling of a power great enough to do as they threatened, so we ignored them. We know now that they do indeed have the power to enforce their wishes."
Plutarch Muriel "The neutral meeting place they requested that the money be sent to is also in the South; a small ruin from the last Age about 100 miles due south-east of Chiaroscuro.
Plutarch Muriel she turns around and hefts a wooden box, laquered black and marked with metal and wax seals of secrecy and importance. "This is a complete report from the first investigation. The top two pages are a summary."
Corve "Mind if we take this with us?" He grins, hopeful.
Plutarch Muriel "Not at all, you may keep it forever if you wish. It was obviously deficient."
Plutarch Muriel "We are, in fact, investigating to see if the researchers were bribed."
Xar'Rex looks over at the box with interest
Corve He nods. "You'll let me know if you find out any of them were, won't you? Interrogating them might be beneficial to the investigation."
Plutarch Muriel "I'll see to it that you are informed if anything I think you might need to know comes up."
Xar'Rex "Will there be a reward?"
Corve "..." He looks at Xar, and resists the urge to slam his head into his desk.
Myrrh "Well...how do we get to them? We don't own an air ship."
Plutarch Muriel hesitates, then offers a bright smile. "I'm sure something could be found to compensate anyone capable enough to defeat the Black Vipers."
Plutarch Muriel turns to Myrrh, looking grave. "As I told Corve, the government can not be seen as assisting in efforts to prevent the Black Vipers from reaching their goals lest they attack again. Transportation will have to be an issue you solve on your own. But remember, there are numerous commercial and passenger flights to the major southern cities every day."
Corve Corve wonders about something for a moment, and then nods. "We'll take care of it, Plutarch, I think I have a way to solve that." He pauses. "Anything else we should know?"
Plutarch Muriel "I can't think of anything else I'd tell you...I'm sure you'll find the truth out on your own Assessor." Her smile has a hint of something other then just kindness behind it....
Corve "Undoubtedly, Plutarch." He smiles and stands up. "Thank you for you help... we'll get right on this..." he says, hefting the box with the files.
Myrrh "You can count on us Plutarch." Shoulders his rifle and gets up off of the couch.
Plutarch Muriel "I do wish you all the best."
Storyteller Studying the records of the first investigation into the Black Vipers is far more fruitful then you'd originally expected. There isn't much, true, but there are some vital details that might not be of use to Brume's massive government, but are certainly handy for a bunch of Exalted and a Dragon-King.
Storyteller The names of a few key Cult members turned up, aside from the name signed to the demands sent to the Plutocracy before the first attack. Two are known to live in Chiaroscuro and one is even fairly well-known there, though it doesn't say what for.
Storyteller Information on the cult's belief structure and the actual being it worships are significantly harder to come past. There's almost nothing on this Great Serpent of Shadows at all, in fact one researcher made a note on the paper that it might not even exist at all.
Storyteller Of course, if the Great Serpent of Shadows doesn't exist, what destroyed Abundance? And if it does, how could a being of such power go so totally unknown?
Storyteller The exact location of the neutral meeting place, a former outpost of the now-lost citystate of Stzara, is mapped out in the report. It shouldn't take more then a few days to reach from any of the major port cities. A week from Chiaroscuro itself.
Xar'Rex "So, to Chiaroscuro then?"
Carmine looks blankly, the info passing her by thanks to the lack of context.
Myrrh "That definitely seems like our only lead. Should be easy to charter a flight."
Corve The assessor puts down the last bit of paperwork and leans back in his chair, kicking his feet up. "Seems like the best place to go right now. It's the only lead we have. We also have names. That should be enough to get us into the investigation. Myrrh, you think Calidreh can watch Sun?"
Xar'Rex "Let us do so then, and go."
Myrrh "I'm sure she could. And if worst comes to worst I'm sure one of the servants could."
Corve He nods a little. "Alright, I'll go take care of that while you fix us up with a flight to Chiaroscuro," he says, rising and stretching.
Myrrh nods and heads to the sky docks.
Corve Corve goes to take Sun to her babysitter for a while.
Xar'Rex needs very little, thus brings very little. His implements of war, and a small bag of his things.
Carmine has almost nothing, so and so really doesn't need to pack.
Storyteller It's fairly easy to find a ship leaving Brume for the South. The trouble is finding one that isn't already full of panicking people trying as fast as they can to escape the islands for inland areas safe from further falling landmasses. But eventually the three Solars and the Dragon-King are able to find passage on a ship.