The heroes heard about a mysteriously flooded village, Misty Valley, from a wandering Guild merchant and took off to investigate. They took the Lion’s Roar overland, allowing the animating intelligence to keep a basic straight-line navigation while everyone else slept.
Red Lion woke up to the sound of blaring klaxons!He called on the Lion’s Roar to find out what was going on. As it turns out, in the Siege of Celeren, the warstrider had taken structural damage that had never been repaired, causing the legs and living spaces to take on water. Struggling at the controls, Red Lion and Venomous Spur manage to get the warstrider to shore and begin making jury-rigged repairs. Blazer starts cobbling together an aquatic module for the warstrider, using his Solar crafting skills to materialize components and put them together as fast as his hands can move. The limited space slows him down, though, so it still takes several hours.Rather than waiting for Blazer to finish his efforts, Venomous Spur changes into her giant platypus form and carries the whole group through the flooded valley.
Arriving in Misty Valley, the group discovers that the place has seen better days. Flooded up to the roofs and filled with floating corpses, only a few dozen elderly men and women remain as the survivors of the flood. Red Lion approaches one of the old men, who spurns his aid. Fortunately, Red Lion is quite charming, so he was able to convince the villagers of his sincerity in short order. Gideon started interviewing the villagers while Blazer offered medical aid and food. Ven jumped back into the water, changed into kaiju shape again, and started gathering the bodies for proper burial. Seeing this, the villagers once again began to freak out, but some quick talking from Ven convinced them of the party’s divinity. Prism of Truth flared his anima to send the spirits of the deceased into their next incarnations.
Finally, the story of Misty Valley’s woes came out: About a year ago, the city-state that the village pays taxes to came and conscripted most of their adults for the army. After a hard year of working the land with only children and the elderly, a large gang of bandits came marauding into town, stole everything of value, and carried off all the remaining women and children as slaves. Then, a few days later, the river overflowed its banks and filled the valley with churning water, killing many of the remaining old people. The old man they had spoken to, Farmer Yang, and his wife, Shen-Yi, posited that their river god, Okoto, had gone mad and rained destruction down on them for no misdeed. The circle decided that a mad god was perhaps more dangerous than slavers, and went up into the mountains to confront Okoto.
On the way, they decided that since the soft approach had worked so well with the hawk-riders, it might work as well with Okoto. They spoke a bit about the nature of Celestial and Terrestrial gods, and the elemental courts, and started making plans about what to do about the various lesser deities and elementals that might serve Okoto. They also decided that, since Okoto asked young girls to come up to his shrine every year, it might be beneficial to bring an offering and perform the proper rituals. As the resident lore expert, Blazer knew rituals for propitiating small gods. Snapdragon noted that he was as pretty as a girl too… and everyone slowly looked at Blazer. After some arguing, the party got him into a shrine maiden’s dress, so that he could work better at luring the god from his sanctum.
The mountain shrine was clearly old and maintained by people with a lesser engineering ability than the ones that had built it, standing on a cliff overlooking a great waterfall and the pool below it. Blazer performed the dance of the shrine maidens, luring the god Okoto from his sanctum with his dancing and beauty. Okoto was a massive being, ten feet tall and black-scaled like an ancient river crocodile. Okoto came to greet Blazer… only to swiftly discover that he had been tricked! “How dare you try to trick me!” he bellowed, summoning his massive jade trident and lashing out in fury.
A battle on the cliffside ensued, with Okoto’s ally, the river dragon Swift-Flowing Chundereth, joining in the fray. Okoto slashed open Blazer’s dress with his mighty trident, Shimmer, while Gideon leapt from hiding to pepper him with shots from the Twin Dragons. Red Lion jumped into battle, pounding on Okoto’s scales with his powerful fists, and Venomous Spur charged toward Chundereth—one mighty beast versus another. Snapdragon snarled a threat at Okoto, unable to reach Okoto quickly enough to prevent him from using the waterfall to sweep Red Lion and Blazer off the cliff and into the pool far below.
Red Lion sputtered water, frustrated by his inability to quickly rejoin the battle, while all around him rose up watery women with the heads of fish—Okoto’s elemental minions, the koi-koi. Blazer summoned his glowdisk, pulled Red Lion aboard, and zipped back up into the fight. Prism of Truth attempted to end the fight with a social-fu masterstroke, but Okoto was far too enraged to be willing to listen. Ven darted past Chundereth, tail-slapped Shimmer out of Okoto’s hands, quick-shifted into deadly beastman form, and caught it before it hit the ground. In his fury, Okoto snatched up Ven one-handed and twisted her into a crab clutch, bending her painfully.
It was finally Snapdragon who brought the fight to an end, belittling Okoto and bullying him verbally until something finally got through to make him realize that the villagers were in trouble. As he spoke of his loneliness in performing his duties with only river dragons and koi-koi to keep him company, he began to slowly weep, making the river overflow its banks once more. Red Lion finally had enough of Okoto’s crap and slapped him one, telling him to man up and start being the god his village needed. He responded that he asked for so little: once a year, he asked seven maidens to come up the mountain and sing for him for a night. Since they hadn’t come this year, they had finally forsaken him, just like the rest of his court, who had all run off to find better jobs. The circle assured him that they only missed his festival because of misfortune rather than malice, and now realizing that he faced Solars (and a Lunar), Okoto begged that they rescue his people from the slavers.
Intending to do as much anyway, Gideon scouted out to the edge of Misty Valley while Blazer used the Tome of the Great Maker to enchant small animals as his eyes and ears. At the valley’s exit, Gideon came across a splatter of blood and used his postcognition to see the passage of the group—30 or so slavers and 50 or more women and children. His guess was that they would be moving slowly from the coffles and general size of the group. Prism indicated that a group of slaves so large would have to be taken to a suitably large outpost for sale, probably a Guild waystation, so the group piled back into the Lion’s Roar and took off at all due speed, with Gideon remaining on foot, ranging ahead as a forward scout.
Gideon finally came across the slavers as they prepared to set up camp for the night, then returned to fetch Snapdragon so that the two of them could sneak in under cover of darkness to “eliminate” threats before freeing the villagers. As the rest of the circle took up positions some ways off, Gideon moved into the camp and started untying the slaves from their bonds. Snapdragon scouted the edges of the camp, but was unable to prevent herself from taking the initiative to slaughter a pair of bandits that had left the camp to hunt for dinner.
Realizing that some of their number hadn’t come back yet, the slavers started gathering together to take a look around the camp. Gideon decided that things were going to slowly and dropped his charm to start freeing villagers more quickly. Like a bloody wind, Snapdragon emerged from the forest here and there, murdering slavers without a sound until an unlucky swipe only disabled one of them, letting him send up a warning scream. At that, Gideon stood and used his precision with his chosen weapons to blow the coffles off the slaves without so much as scorching any of them. Now, the slavers rushed about for weapons and to take defensive position, their general poor training contributing to the chaos. The others rushed toward the sound of the screaming, finding Gideon herding away the slaves while Snapdragon slaughtered bandits.
The bandits’ leader came out of his tent, picked up a hunting bow, and shot Gideon, who managed to roll with the shot. His return fire missed the bandit but blew away his tent. As Blazer entered the battle, riding his flying disk with Prism accompanying him, the bandit chief realized that things had turned perhaps worse than he had feared. Ven charged from the woods, cutting down bandits in deadly beastman form, while Red Lion pursued the fleeing bandit chief into the woods. Gideon’s burst fire from his Twin Dragons seared and ashed bandits. By this time, Snapdragon was covered head to toe in the gore of her many victims, her orichalcum billhook all but screaming for their blood. A lucky shot at Blazer felled him and Prism from the platform, sending them rolling across the rocky ground. Prism came up cutting down a bandit with his mighty daiklave, the God-Cutting Shard of Divine Radiance. Blazer darted away, summoning the Tome of the Great Maker to begin calling forth his mighty array of anima-forged First Age weaponry.
Red Lion caught up to the bandit chief, kicking him in the chest with his crude imitation of Solar Hero style and sending him flying into a nearby tree, cracking the tree and crushing the man’s ribs. As he lay there, the circle mopped up the last of his men and began moving toward him. Red Lion, his anima blazing around him like his namesake, uprooted a tree with one hand and threatened to crush the bandit chief if he didn’t tell them everything.
His men dead and his spirit broken, the bandit chief babbled out the story: They sometimes bought supplies from a wandering Guildsman, who mentioned in his rambling complaints about a village he was traveling to that had lost all its adults to conscription, causing them to have poor food and be generally less useful to him. The bandit chief had come up with a brilliant idea—get there ahead of the Guildsman, enslave the village, and sell the slaves for coin before coming back to the village and spending their coin to buy supplies and weapons from the Guildsman, essentially paying him with his own money. They had not expected the flooding, and the bandit chief was able to confirm that the Guildsman—Cho Pang, in fact—had not been in on the plan, just unwittingly inspired it.
The bandit chief plead for his life. After all, he had told them everything they wanted to know—surely, they would spare him. Prism stepped forward and declared that they had never promised to spare his life. “Find grace in your next incarnation,” Gideon intoned, before blowing his head off at close range with a plasma repeater. Venomous Spur found herself somewhat troubled by the exchange…
By this time, the villagers were cowering and weeping, now realizing that they were in the hands of the Anathema. Picking out a woman who looked like she was in a position of authority, Prism approached her and assured her that the circle meant them no harm and intended to take them home safely. While Red Lion tried to cut a rocky ledge with his bare hands so that they would have something to carry the villagers home on, Venomous Spur used her actual crafting skills to put together a wooden sled that the villagers could ride on, dragged by the Lion’s Roar. Upon their return home, the villagers were reunited with their survivng elders, and the circle took a day to rest and help Misty Valley rebuild its homes and fields. Gideon managed to entice Okoto down from the mountain so that the people could see that he still cared for them, and they for him.
Venomous Spur still had Okoto’s trident, however, and when the villagers showed their doubt for her sincerity to return it, as well as their inability to survive without powerful protectors, she cast Shimmer at Farmer Yang’s feet, declaring that the Exalted had done much for them—now, the villagers must show that they can stand for themselves! Ven berated the village for its weakness in the face of hardship, pushing them to take up the mantle of protecting themselves instead of relying on others. Yang was moved by her words and seized the trident, struggling to lift it from the ground, and finally managing to pull it upright by using all of his strength. He declared that the villagers would find a way to survive, no matter what Fate might throw at them. Singing with a clarion voice, the villagers gave praise to Okoto and the circle.
As they prepared to leave the village, the circle discussed its next move. Gideon snarled that he would like to pay a visit to the Guild’s waystation—any slavers he met were going to have a very bad day. Red Lion consented, on the condition that their next stop was the city-state of Delsinar, the home of the tax collectors that had conscripted Misty Valley’s men and women. Red Lion stated his intent to end the war, and get those folk home to their loved ones. Armed with a plan, they circle departed another grateful village.
Their next destination: The Guild waystation at Ocho-Rin Hill!