9th Day of Descending Wood, 768th year of the reign of the Scarlet Empress
On the trail to Naranbaatar
At a well worn spot where many a traveler to the Dojo of 15 Masters has rested, the travelers from Featherdown hill stop for lunch – the food caught by Nisha, and prepared by Djoh – when they are greeted by Kisa, a traveler who says she is looking for her friends – with the implication that the assembled solars might be those friends. Especially when all of them find something familiar about her, though they all know that they have never met. Kisa joins them as they travel further south along the familiar goat trails that lead to Naranbaatar.
11th day of Descending Wood
The solars arrive at the watchtower to Naranbaatar, noting first the silence (Pula has five kids) and then the smell of rotting bodies. They soon discovered the bodies of Pula, his wife Mira, and their oldest child Beni. Pula and Mira had been cut down, while Beni had been shot with arrows apparently as he cut the rope bridge crossing the gorge between Naranbaatar and the watchtower.
As the solars inspected the scene, discovering that there were five travelers and a strange horde of bare-footed forms that came out of nowhere, they eventually found Pula’s remaining children in hiding. The eldest surviving child, Nuri, told them of a strange man in a dark cloak who arrived two days prior, just as the sun was setting. Her father had not trusted the man, but as Mira went to send up the signal to Naranbaatar, the black cloaked man attacked, summoning a horde of ghosts as well. Nuri took the younger children into hiding and Beni went to cut down the bridge. Since then, Nuri came out to see her parents killed and the village across the gorge silent but for a plume of smoke, and returned to hiding.
Djoh quickly rebuilt the bridge across the gorge and the solars took the children to Naranbaatar. There they found the village ransacked, with a public pyre in the village square.
After attacking the Watchtower, the cloaked stranger – called by many in Naranbaatar the Necromancer – summoned his ghosts to form themselves into a bridge so that he and his lieutenants could cross. The sentinels attempted to fire on them, only to have their arrows stopped in mid air. Once across, the ghosts rushed forward to attack the villagers, the lieutenants took on the various Dragonblooded students of the Akara, while the Necromancer squared off against Kala herself. The details are fuzzy, for no one was able to watch the whole of the battle, but the Necromancer was in the end victorious, and upon Kala’s death, the Necromancer and his forces withdrew from Naranbaatar – taking three children of the village, including Nalini’s eldest daughter, as they went.
Of Kala’s dragonblooded family, only Chianda and Harinder were in good enough shape mentally and physically to depart on a rescue mission for the children, which they did the next morning, taking two mortal villagers with them. That night, some of the dead that had not yet been burned rose again as hungry ghosts, causing more damage and destruction.
After Djoh prepared a meal for the village – so that for at least one meal, no one had to take the time away from reparing the village or bringing the dead to the village pyre – the solars and Kisa set out again, knowing that Chianda and Harinder were probably in over their heads.
While Nisha was able to follow the tracks of both the Necromancer’s party and the rescue party, travel through the mountains was difficult, and they were only able to keep up with their targets, never quite gaining ground.
12th day of Descending Wood
Come sunset, the solars found themselves looking down at an inn beside a road that they had never seen before. Beyond two skinny, flea-bitten nags in the stable, there didn’t appear to be much action going on at the inn, but Nisha felt unable to quietly enter the inn without drawing at least some attention.
When the circle entered the inn, they found the large space mostly empty, except for two attractive – yet androgynous – women and a trio of uncouth brutish mercenaries. There was no sign of the Necromancer or the rescue party. The hostess of the place, a short plump woman with a pinched face, welcomed them and promised to see to rooms for the travelers. One of the hostesses’ many children brought them water and informed them that two pigs had just been slaughtered, allowing them to offer pork for dinner.
It was only after they had ordered that Djoh had an uncomfortable thought about the source of that “pork.” Fears which were confirmed when the food arrived and Djoh took a whiff. The “pork” was human flesh.
While Djoh was subtle in his reaction to the food, Ishanvi reacted loudly, drawing the attention of the other two tables. it was then that the Travelers discovered that all the inhabitants of the Inn already knew the nature of their dinner… and were demons.
Chaos quickly followed as the mercenaries turned out to be Blood Apes, the women were actually Neomah, and the Chef and his family turned out to be a kind of Rat Demon. A Rat Demon skilled in Orichalcum Chef and wielding knives of Orichalcum originally forged in the First Age by one of Djoh’s previous incarnations.
The Neomah tried to flee, but Djoh claimed one of them as his Familiar, leading the other to attack him. The blood apes were less picky about their opponents, though Tafari mostly danced around them. The others concentrated on the Rat Cook and his progeny, eventually defeating him.
Within the inn, they found the source of the “pork” to be the two mortal villagers, while Harinder’s body hung from a rack, the fluids draining out. Chianda still lived – though she was wounded and drugged. The brand on her shoulder from her long ago enslavement marked her as having value alive. The children were found in a pen behind the kitchen, presumably to be fattened up before becoming part of the menu.
Outside, the circle interrogated the Stable master – the only surviving rat demon, learning that the Necromancer had traded the children for several large Yasal Crystals, and that the inn itself was part of a network of master-less First Circle demons throughout Creation.
Kisa elected to go with Chianda to bring the children home to Naranbaatar, while the Solars traveled on, hunting the Necromancer.