The Daiklave Brigade

Part IV: Black Sails

The Solar Exalted turn the tide of war, but at a heavy price.

Beya is woken up from her sleep by a foul smell.

Barrels full of rotting body-parts are floating ashore at Petraya. They are the bodies of dead pirates, their ghosts anchored to them, sent as a scouting party. From each barrel, invisible, immaterial spirits emerge to spy on the island. Beya and Hurricane can see them, and arrange for the bodies to be burned, ensuring that the ghosts will be destroyed when the sun next rises. In horror, though, Beya discovers that some alien entity can speak through one of the ghost, and can see through its eyes: She must assume that the scouting force has been successful. The Exalted return to the Daiklave to discuss strategy, but little is decided; after resolving a dispute between the locals and the sorceress Tiana, they again go to sleep.

When day comes and the ghosts are banished, they do all they can to prepare the natives for war. As the local men do war-dances and war-chants, the Exalted prepare defenses in the hallowed grounds around the Great Tiki, the massive stone head that serves as a temple to the Ocean Father. They consider moving this head to the top of the mountain, to grant the mountain’s gift of Essence to the Ocean Father in hopes that he will aid them. Since Rudra claims this demesne, though, they decide first to ask this spirit.

Again they scale the mountain, and Lin Kuei meets Rudra for the first time. This mighty Dragon of Air tells them, that if the demense is claimed by someone else it will not be able to return and rest at this mountain. Beya, who trusts Rudra better than the Ocean Father, opts to let Rudra keep it, and asks the spirit for a favor – to spy upon the incoming fleet. Rudra gladly agrees, and takes the form of a mighty storm-wind to fly above the black sails of the enemy. It counts twelve large war-ships, three of such a size that they rival the huge barges of the Realm.

Knowing their enemy somewhat better, the heroes of the Daiklave bide their time and wait. Soon, a deathly mist rolls in, concealing the ships of the enemy. Beya has instructed Rudra to summon a mighty storm when they approach, and the spirit does so: As the massive fleet approaches the shores of the island-kingdom, a sudden divine wind rises out of nowhere, and a massive storm thrashes the great fleet. Ships are smashed against the rocks or capsized as easily as were they little rowboats; only one ship cuts through the storm unharmed, resisting both the storm and the incantations of two sorcerer-women.

Through the storm cuts a horrid screech: Unliving chains of bone fly towards the island, propelled by some magical force. These chains are quickly disposed of by Beya, Lin Kuei and Hurricane, but they are but a fore troop; even as the enemy ships are dashed against the rocks, undead soldiers are clawing their way ashore and advancing through the jungles.

Soon, the enemy is upon them. Zombie sailors with rusty cutlasses swarm over the local population, and towering over them are two enormous abominations, each stitched together from eight corpses. These monsters attack the natives despite Lin Kuei trying to draw their attention, and before his very eyes an unfortunate soldier is devoured by the beast. Hurricane seems to spot something in the jungle, and vanishes.

Beya spies someone controlling the monsters, though, and lets an arrow fly towards this shadowed enemy. She hits, and out of the darkness steps the Deathknight called the Exquisite Flower of Carnage. This horrid woman is nude but for ugly piercings of rusty metal; scars cover her naked form, and she wields two chains of soulsteel as her weapons, one of them attached to the eight-corpse beast. Lin Kuei moves to defend his companion, and receives a kiss of the chain-whip meant for her: His legs are paralyzed, and he sinks to his knees. Just as this happens, some foul necromancy causes hundreds of clawing, skeletal hands to burst from the ground; they nearly grasp Lin Kuei, but in great fury he tears them from the ground and throws them at his enemy, along with everything else he can reach: A stone head, a coconut, a handful of gravel. The Abyssal, though she is hurt, merely laughs at his impotent fury.

Beya disarms the deathknight of one of her soulsteel whips, to keep her from further hurting Lin Kuei – but she discovers to her horror that the Abyssal Exalt is quite as deadly without her weapons. The Exquisite Flower of Carnage uses a secret technique to brand Beya’s face with a rune of ownership, nearly breaking her will. Only Beyas’ great strength of will and epic conviction allows her to fight the utter submission imprinted in the wicked rune, and she attacks the deathknight with renewed force. Even Beya can only resist for a short time, though, and she flies into the jungle to escape the evil presence of the Abyssal.

As this happens, a new foe enters the battlefield. A great hulking beast, some awful cross between man and angler-fish, lurks in the shadow luring mortal soldiers to their doom. Horribly, Lin Kuei and Beya recognize it as a Lunar Exalt. It is the Casteless monster named Blind Eyes of Hunger, bound to serve Exquisite Flower of Carnage, and as she follows Beya into the jungle she instructs the monster to destroy Lin Kuei.

A brutal battle ensues. Lin Kuei kicks out the monster’s teeth, and though he is nearly swallowed whole he manages to destroy it, killing it as thoroughly as he can to make sure it never again rises. Then, he rushes to Beya’s aid: Despite doing all she can to resist the influence of the rune, Beya’s will is being broken. Through a great feat of self-control, she has struck her ears with her palms to destroy her own eardrums, so that the Deathknights cannot command her: The Exquisite Flower of Carnage, impressed with her self-inflicted mutilation, grants her the gift of sweet pain. When Lin Kuei arrives she is chained to a tree and covered in what seems like a thousand tiny cuts, delivered by the barbs on the soulsteel chains.

A memory from the First Age surfaces in Lin Kuei’s mind. Just as Beya calls out to Rudra for aid one last time, he rushes to her side and strikes her, the Essence of his anima flowing into hers as thunder breaks through the clouds! Beya is freed from the force of the evil rune, the true light of Lin Kuei’s Essence releasing her mind – but not her body – from bondage. Beya instantly breaks free of the chains, cutting herself with her switchklaive to use her own blood for lubricant as she slips free. She draws her bow and fires one shot at her former owner. The deathknight merely laughs, catches the arrow, and uses it to stab Lin Kuei in the chest, nearly killing him instantly.

Beya Tsufit and the Exquisite Flower of Carnage face each other in the storm that is Rudra, having come once more to its former masters’ aid. Beya draws the last weapons she has: The twin flamepieces she found aboard the Daiklave. As the Deathknight lashes out one last time, Beya shoots, and the storm that is Rudra becomes a deadly wind of fire: It kills the Deathknight in an awful fashion, grinding her still-laughing form until nothing but blood and ash remains.

Beya walks through the jungle, back to the Daiklave carrying the lifeless form of Lin Kuei. Rudra says a last farewell – which falls on Beya’s deaf ears – and then disappears in a sudden squall, returning to its duties as monitor of Western winds.

As he sees them approach, Doctor Daojian calls for Natala, and she flies him to the beach. He gestures for Beya to set down Lin Kuei and defend him: He must perform surgery. On the war-torn beach, surrounded by zombies and with the Essence cannon blasts of the Daiklave exploding everywhere around them, the doctor opens Lin Kuei’s chest with his scalpel and begins to remove the arrowhead. Beya, still deaf and with tears in her eyes from the awful pain she suffered at the deathknights’ hands, keeps watch, and sees a blood-red anima approach from the jungle, resembling that of her former captor. In hate and anger, she fires a well-placed shot at the figure – only to discover that she has shot Captain Hurricane.

The Captain falls to his knees, dying, and Beya – overcome with the horror of the situation – walks, without a word, into the jungle.

When Lin Kuei wakes up, he is in the medical bay of the ship. The Doctor is there, and so is Hurricane, alive but even more gravely injured than the Solar himself. Lin Kuei speaks with him, and Hurricane says but a few words: “One of them got away. You must stop him before he reaches Skullstone. I’ll appoint you Captain in my absence.”

Then, speaking a mystical phrase, Hurricane disappears in a wisp of red Essence, leaving his clothes, bandages, and sword behind.

Lin Kuei takes his hat and sword, and meets the crew members. He learns that Beya is still missing, and that he has been unconscious for four days. Sending Pearl to search for her, he begins to prepare the Daiklave to set sail, almost four days behind the escaped Abyssal.

Pearl finds Beya atop the sacred mountain, where Rudra used to be. As they speak, Beya breaks down in tears, Pearl trying to comfort her as best she can. Then, a change comes over her, and she heads straight for the ship.

The Daiklave sails. Lin Kuei learns from one of the Maws of Siakal that the escaped deathknight is headed not for Skullstone, but for the manse of Suman Tzung, a strange manse that has been lost since the First Age. How the deathknight knows its location, and why he’s going there, is unclear, for the manse is a secret known only to the gods of the sea, and they are forbidden from telling anyone but a Lawgiver. Lin Kuei learns from Pearl, that Suman Tzung was one of the greatest sorcerers of the First Age, and that he practiced a mysterious kind of sorcery based on cryptic runes; as he hears this, strange memories come over him. He suspects some tie to this manse in a former life, but he cannot recall more than strange words and symbols.

As both Beya and Lin Kuei search their minds for memories of what they once were, the Daiklave sails inexorably onwards, headed for a manse that has been lost since the First Age… and for a deathknight so powerful, even Hurricane could not defeat him.

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