The Brotherhood of Virtue

The New Lord of Somchai

Rakios and Shadow Edge conferred with Second Brother Tiger about how best to aid the Nine Flower Rebellion, and shake off the yoke of the Realm. They learned that the Wyld Hunt responsible for White Tusk’s death was currently in the nearby City of Resounding Bells, and that this would be the Realm’s strongest seat of power in the area. Being thus, they resolved to go aid the resistance there. These were called the Star Jasmine rebels, taking the star jasmine as their symbol.

First, however, Second Brother Tiger asked them to aid the Chrysanthemum rebels in Somchai. Only two noble families resided in Somchai at this time; House Rangoon, who swore loyalty to the Realm, and House Hanyun, who did not. Because of this, Hanyun had been stripped of their lands and made to work for their living, using their mighty elephants to haul timber for the Realm. Their eldest male, Gurinder Hanyun, had accepted his fate and bowed, and Second Brother Tiger thought him a spineless coward. Nevertheless, he was the only one with legitimacy to oppose House Rangoon.

Shadow Edge and Rakios went to see this man, and to impress him, Rakios helped him free a heavy tree from the sucking mud caused by the monsoon. As strong as any elephant, Rakios won the admiration and gratitude of Gurinder as well as his men. Gurinder, however, was reluctant to overthrow the Rangoons, for he was worried about the safety of his family and his many servants, who all greatly loved him. It was his fear that the Realm would retaliate by having everyone who served him executed; though he feared not for his own life. Finding this admirable, Rakios promised to aid him and protect him, but he was still not convinced.

To make a point, Shadow Edge entered the forbidding jungle south of the village, the jungle at the edge of the world, beyond which only raksha live. With a bow and arrow, he hunted and slew a bunyip, one of the great beasts that dwell in the trackless wilds. This took him close to White Tusk’s secluded village, which was hidden not far from Somchai; by the smell, he could immediately tell that the Wyld Hunt had burnt it to the ground, leaving nothing and nobody alive. With a heavy heart, he knew he was the last of White Tusk’s villagers left alive.

Yet a strange scent caught his nose, as he focused his Essence. A stranger, smelling of the ocean, had been near, investigating the village. Shadow Edge was curious, but resolved to first call for Rakios’ aid in getting the heavy animal he had hunted back to the village.

Awed at the great feat of courage, Lord Hanyun ordered the creature cooked and served to his men. Though skeptical, he accepted his fate as Lord of Somchai, but still refused to risk the lives of his men or his elephants. Only if the peasant rebels could defeat House Rangoon, he would accept their endorsement as Lord, and the enmity to the Realm it would mean.

Rakios and Shadow Edge returned to Second Brother Tiger. They discussed strategy, and eventually decided that Shadow Edge would assassinate the two cousins vying for headship of House Rangoon; meanwhile, Rakios would distract their bodyguards. He requested no peasants to aid him in this, and both Shadow Edge and Second Brother Tiger were convinced he would die, sacrificing himself for the greater good.

But Rakios did not die. Through sorcery, he turned his skin into living bronze, and the spears of the bodyguards could not pierce it. With his mighty thews, he scattered them like leaves, killing their commander and leaving only those who surrendered alive. Meanwhile, Shadow Edge entered the palace, where the two lordlings were duelling. He swiftly killed the younger, and his cousin turned his blade upon the assassin, calling for the small retinue of faithful guards allowed to witness the duel.

Before they could cut Shadow Edge down, Rakios burst through the door, his golden Essence coalescing into a great wheel, marking him beyond doubt as Chosen of the Sun. Shadow Edge used the moment to mortally wound the other duelist; though the mothers of the lordlings grieved and screamed, their words went unheeded. The two Solars demanded the unconditional surrender of House Rangoon; then they withdrew, putting the dying lordling out of his misery.

Presently they summoned Gurinder Hanyun, and he answered. Riding on his great elephant Raja, he proclaimed himself Lord of Somchai, with the blessings of the “Elephant-Riding Ghost Generals”, ancestral heroes reborn, as most of the villagers believed Rakios and Shadow Edge to be.

Second Brother Tiger had learned from his spies that the Dragon-Blooded were distracted in the City of Resounding Bells; for someone, possibly an ally of the Nine Flowers Rebellion, had summoned a demon to attack them. Though the Dragon-Blooded had defeated it, they were busy searching for the sorcerer who had commanded it. Knowing this, Rakios believed that the village of Somchai would be safe until the culprit was found; a minor lord being overthrown was nothing next to a demon. Intending to aid whatever sorcerer lay behind the summoning, Rakios and Shadow Edge set out for the City of Resounding Bells, on a barge belonging to a dead merchant.

Shadow Edge brought his close friend Ririka along. A member of the Rebellion, she was born in Resounding Bells, and knew it well. As Rakios mustered his great strength, doing the work of six men to propel the barge forwards, Shadow Edge focused his Essence once more. He sensed the person from White Tusk’s village nearby; no doubt, they had been drawn to the impressive display of Essence when Rakios attacked the palace.

The person, it turned out, was a Lunar Exalt. Disguising herself as a bird, she could not fool Shadow Edge’s keen senses, for he heard her transform as they drew near. Thus she turned back into human form – a tattooed Lintha pirate, with many piercings. Her name was Little Rainbow Claw, and she had been an ally and apprentice of White Tusk. She had come to seek his advice on a crew of ghost-worshiping pirates, who had abandoned White Tusk’s teachings to instead serve their ancestors.

Learning that White Tusk was dead, she offered her aid in avenging him. She stole into the forest, to hunt a forest animal and wear its skin; for she came from the ocean, and had only learned to take the shape of creatures from the sea and sky. She would meet them by the gates of the City of Resounding Bells.

And so, Rakios leaned on his staff, and breathed in, and continued the hard work of pushing the barge through the canal. After a night of ceaseless toil, he finally saw the City of Resounding Bells, by the first light of dawn…

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