Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 – Ascendant Catch-up!


July is Camp NaNoWriMo, which means I typically pick a single project and focus on it until I hit either 50k words or the end of the month.

This year, with my longest-running serial suuuuper close to being done, it wins the lucky award of being picked xD I’m going to try and write some for Silvertongue in the midst of it all too, but finishing this is my #1 priority so that I can move on to other projects guilt-free!

If this was something you wanted to read, I’d highly recommend reading the source material and not my notes here, but I wanted to provide something in case someone wanted to just jump in and follow along.

Plus, this will actually be useful for my editing.  So, no regrets.

Anyway!  This is the Flameweaver Saga, also known as Chosen, in short form xD I did this for Library last year as well, it was just a muuuch shorter project.

Should you read it, kudos!

chosenBook 1 – Chosen

Available Here!

The series opens in Goldenvale, a rural village in the middle of the farming nation Drenwell.  Season by season the peace is threatened by a distant mountain range, and the evil contained therein.  The god Rellan has a hero, though, a young man named Darren. He lives in Goldenvale with (among others) his friend, Jas.

Eventually, the Order (Rellan’s worshipers) comes to collect Darren and turn him loose on his grand mission to the mountain.  Darren panics. Fighting a mountain is a bit of an abstract mission, after all, and all of the signs point to this being a one-way trip.

Rather than going with them, he enspells his friend Jas, binding him against his will.  The two magically trade places, and Jas finds himself enslaved by a spell that has taken control of his body itself, propelling him onward to fulfill the destiny of the Chosen.

Without another option, he leaves the village with the party that has been sent to collect him.

Three priests are sent – Maester Yaun, Hanta, and Bartrow.  Yaun, an old man and a high-ranking priest in the Order, has been sent to chronicle the trip.  Hanta is younger, only a year or two older than Jas, but is skilled at healing with Rellan’s magic and magecraft in general.  Bartrow has been sent as the Order’s bodyguard for their Chosen, to make sure he reaches the mountain.

Alongside the priests is the short-tempered Captain Olan – the head of Drenwell City’s guard – and a squad of his men.  The Order’s administrator rides along to lend the event a bit of authority and import.

The trip to the capital city and the mountain beyond begins well enough – but is rudely interrupted when their party is ambushed by bandits drawn to their flagrant display of wealth.  Several guards are killed, but they drive the bandits away.

As a parting gift, though, they shoot Jas.

Stuck with three poisoned arrows in his lungs and with Hanta drained and tired from the fight, their options for healing him are limited.  With no alternatives presenting themselves, Hanta puts Jas into a magically-induced coma and they ride for the capital as fast as they can.

Upon awakening, Jas finds himself healed – and still trapped by the binding his ‘friend’ put on him.  It pushes him relentlessly, forcing him back onto his feet and out the door as soon as the party is ready.

With the ambush fresh in their minds, Olan has abandoned his squad of guards and instead (with stealth as the goal) brought his two lieutenants along for the journey.  Kelice is quiet and serious, entirely business. Her partner Lionel is exactly the opposite, full of life and energy. Together and ready at last, they set out for the mountain.

The trip continues for two weeks.  With one final interruption coming in the form of a band of Narai camping in their way – bandits, vagrants, and wanderers – the party arrives at the base of the summit.

Yaun finds the way on, happening across the entrance to a tunnel network in the mountain.  Readying themselves for a fight, the party enters.

They find what looks like an abandoned city inside the mountain, chambers left empty and half-filled storage rooms.  Carvings and etchings cover the walls – and torches light their path. Someone lives there still. They find the residents soon enough as the guards find them.

Jas is torn, struggling with the idea of their going into these peoples’ home and killing them unprovoked, but the binding doesn’t leave him room to argue.

It seizes him when it spots a preteen girl trying to flee with her escorts, putting him on the attack.  After a short battle, the residents of the tunnels have died – and Jas kills the girl.

At her death, the mountain shakes, the tunnel system fracturing.  The party flees, but Jas lingers a moment, hearing a strange voice whispering in his mind.

Moments later, he’s caught by a fiery hand, reaching out from deeper in the mountain.  Despite his best efforts to break free it pulls him in, splitting him from his friends even as the tunnels collapse around them.

He’s whisked all the way down to the heart of the mountain, torn and bleeding from flying across the rocky floor of the tunnel.  Without slowing, he’s plunged into a room filled with fire, burning him alive.

The strange voice returns, recognizing that something is wrong even as the flames vanish.

Jas’s senses return as his pain vanishes, leaving him in a crystal-filled cave alongside an unfamiliar girl.  Tiny and delicate with fire-red hair, she declares herself Shiina, the goddess of fire – as she threatens Jas’s life for killing her young Ascended, her Charred.

Jas convinces her of his innocence by showing her the binding placed on him by Darren – Rellan’s Ascended, the Chosen, Jas learns.  She agrees to spare him – if he’ll become her Charred. She’ll aid him in taking his revenge on Darren, if he helps her take her revenge on Rellan for sealing her away a century past.

Seeing the chance for power and revenge, Jas agrees quickly.

With her power filling his mana-well and her presence in his mind, the two clear a passage in the rapidly opening crater and leap free.  Jas realizes at the same time that his friends are still inside – that they’re still in the tunnels, buried under the rock.

Shiina doesn’t care.  She turns them towards Drenwell, first riding a flow of ash and rock and then flying on wings formed from fire and the obsidian scales that cover Jas’s skin.

She informs Jas that with the surge of power that accompanies his ascension, they’re going to settle things.  He argues, but she’s uninterested in listening.

They reach Goldenvale soon after, flying over what had taken a roundabout path to cross on foot.  They find the village in chaos, villagers trying to protect their homes and crops.

And they find Darren lurking on the outskirts of town, still wearing Jas’s face and hiding, knowing that trouble is coming.

The two fight, exchanging attacks fueled by their respective Divines.  With Shiina’s help, Jas can keep the binding in check, allowing him some level of freedom.

It all goes awry, though, when Darren deflects one of Jas’s fireballs into Goldenvale itself.  The village is aflame in moments, driven onward by the binding’s ceaseless attempts at control.

Before long, both Jas and Darren are exhausted, and the village is an inferno.  Seeing the situation escaping their control, Shiina steps in, launching Jas skyward on a plume of fire and whisking him away before the Chosen can cause further harm.

Landing in the very outskirts of Drenwell, the two have their first honest conversation.

Shiina explains the reality of their world, telling Jas about the Four – the four gods that rule over their continent.  Alongside Rellan and herself, there is also her ‘brother’ Efren (the god of water) and Rellan’s ‘brother’ Solune (the god of darkness).  They’d coexisted as allies for millenia, up until Rellan’s armies invaded Shiina’s country, massacring her followers and finally sealing her into her mountain.  He’d hoped for her to fade away as her believers died out, vanishing entirely when they could not sustain her divinity.

She did not.  Her people survived, fleeing into her brother’s lands for sanctuary, and thus so did she – but Shiina and Jas would not be able to win against Rellan alone.  Both agree that they need allies.

Taking his past identity away as a bit of foolish sentimentality, Shiina renames Jas as Takio, reminding him of the promise he made to her.  The two set out into Ondria – her brother’s country, Efren’s home.

charredBook 2 – Charred

Available Here!

Takio sets out for the capital of Ondria as quickly as he can – Aramoor.  Darren will be looking for him, trying to finish the fight. They don’t have time to waste.  But he’s got nothing to his name, only a battered pair of pants and the scraps left of his tunic after the violence of the mountain.

A quick run-in with a trio of bandits leaves Takio a bit more well-equipped, but it’s still a long walk to Aramoor.  As they go, Shiina asks him to look for her children, the Narai. They wander throughout the river-laced wetlands, without a true home since their exile.  Shiina confirms that Drenwell is occupying Ondria, and likely has been since the fall of Naraan, her country.

He finds the remains of a Bonfire, the camps they travel between, but the clan itself is long gone.  The locals say that the Narai have been acting strangely since the volcano exploded – a notion supported as Takio spots a messenger from Drenwell galloping towards Aramoor.  All of the players are circling, trying to gain an edge over each other.

Running low on food and exhausted from the walk, Takio stops to resupply at Mistharbor, an Ondrian town.  There are guards at the door, and word has reached Ondria about him. They’re armed with sketches, searching for whatever monster came down off the mountain.

With Shiina’s help, he forces enough of an illusion over himself to make it through the door, but his mana seems to reject the spell.  It’s unstable, and he knows he won’t have forever.

In fact, it lasts long enough for him to gather a bit of local gossip, confirming that the Order is looking for the reanimated, possessed body of their Chosen which is wandering the land – Takio himself, he knows.  More importantly, he learns that word of what had befallen his party reached the Order, carried by the survivors who escaped Shiina’s wrath. Before he can learn any more, a passing priest scents the mana bleeding off his failing illusion, and shreds it.

Takio is left fleeing, Ondria’s guards on his heels as he runs deeper into Mistharbor.  Shiina, much to his irritation, forbids him from harming her brother’s soldiers. She then vanishes, leaving him alone.

Without her there to keep it in check, the binding still on him springs into life, setting the city around him aflame.  Takio fights for control, but can barely manage to keep himself from casting anything fatal on the cityfolk around him.

Shiina returns, taken aback at the destruction he’s caused and ordering him to run.  Furious but without an alternative, he does. His flight is ended when two men grab him, pulling him into a cellar.

The goddess claims the men as her children, and they lead Takio through a tunnel hidden under the floor.  Within minutes, they’re outside the city, exiting from a hillside into the middle of the Bonfire built outside its walls.

The two men are Narai, Takio realizes – and so is the clan around him.  A woman approaches, berating the two men for their disobedience and identifying them as Tanian and Petrim respectively.  She names herself Shaio, and reacts to Takio’s declaration of himself as the Charred with steel. Leading the clan, she is well aware that they already had a Charred, a girl very much not him – and quickly realizes that she’s dead.

With the interference of the scrawny, devout Tanian and the arrival of one of Shiina’s shamans to back up the story he tells of hearing the goddess speak to him, Shaio relents, taking Takio back to her tent and allowing him to explain.

She finally acquiesces at his story, reluctantly agreeing to call a clanmeet and organize the wayward Narai.  She warns that Ondria has treated their people well in exile, and that Takio must protect that relationship.

She also tells Takio that the Order has announced the birth of a new Chosen – Jas.  His once-friend has fully adopted his new identity even while retaining all of his prestige and power, and sworn to end the new threat that has risen up.

The next morning, with Mistharbor still smoking under them (but the fires extinguished by the city’s seers, clergy of Efren) Takio sets off, no longer alone.  Shaio sends the two brothers along with him as guides and bodyguards, while she hunts for her counterpart clanleaders.

The three head for Aramoor with all speed, but it’s still a slow trip.  They’re left hiding from the Order’s sweeps, the priests still hunting after Takio.  Takio pieces together a few things, realizing that the ambush in the forest that had nearly killed him had been an early attempt by Shiina’s people to take out their rival’s champion.  Little by little, Takio grows accustomed to the eccentricities of his goddess and the stubbornness of his two bodyguards.

When at last they arrive at Aramoor, they find they’re too late to get in.  The gates have shut, leaving them in the cold for the night. Takio can feel Shiina’s anxiousness, though.  Rather than spend the night waiting, he slips away from Tanian and Petrim, swimming out into the ocean to evade the eyes of the guards.

Finding Efren’s temple in the heart of the city, Takio is saved from the panic his presence caused by the arrival of his counterpart, Efren’s Ascended – the Tideborn.  Natalin is older than he expected, silver-haired and stern, but agrees to let Takio and his mistress speak to her master.

Shiina’s request to ‘speak’ to the broad-chested, cheerful god turns immediately into a brawl as she confronts her brother about his inaction, about how he let Rellan seal her away, about how he let Drenwell massacre her people.  He accepts her attacks with patience and good humor – up until only a hasty save by Takio keeps his Tideborn from taking one of Shiina’s rage-fueled attacks to the face.

As the two gods set into each other, Takio and Natalin escape from the Sanctuary to let them fight – and to have a conversation of their own.

With a bottomless bottle of booze to share, the two begin a back-and-forth question and answer session.

Natalin reveals that she was Efren’s Ascended back during the fall of Naraan, granted immortality by a combination of her own refusal to accept how things had played out and Efren’s magic in her well.  At Takio’s questioning, she lays out how Drenwell seized control of Ondria, taking hostages and threatening violence until the ruling council agreed to remain neutral in the fight.

Unable to protect his sister with his followers in danger, Efren’s compromise was to safeguard her people, offering them sanctuary and keeping Shiina alive through their continued belief in her.

Takio asks about Solune, the god supposed to keep Rellan in balance just as Efren balances Shiina, but Natalin tells him that unless Solune’s prosperity is threatened, him and his Nightsworn will likely remain distant.

The strong alcohol and exhaustion of travel catching up to him, Takio falls asleep on the dock and is carried back into the Sanctuary by Efren when him and Shiina come to collect them, no longer fighting.

The next morning, the four talk.  As Efren’s magic encompasses the healing arts, Shiina is hopeful that he might be able to remove the Chosen’s spell once and for all – her own magic is too violent and caustic to cleanse it from Takio without also killing him.  Upon inspection, though, Efren informs the pair that the Chosen’s spell is too deeply embedded in Takio, deep enough that removing it as it stands would damage Takio’s soul. He doesn’t want remove it without first taking care to completely exhaust him, draining his mana.  The process would have a lengthy period of recovery, leaving him helpless as Drenwell’s forces (and Darren) continue to push deeper into Ondria in their pursuit.

Upon consideration, Takio decides that leaving Darren to roam Ondria unchecked, able to attack the Narai as he wanted, would be more of a threat to their mission than continuing forward as he is.  He decides to wait, leaving the binding as an issue for the future.

The negotiations continuing, Efren agrees to aid Shiina, promising Ondria’s resources in support of her fight against Rellan and Drenwell.

Their agreement is interrupted by the arrival of the Riverlord, Ondria’s nonreligious leader.  He objects, continuing to state that Ondria must remain a secular nation and that their neutrality keeps them safe.  He says that Efren may order his clergy to do whatever he wants – but Ondria’s soldiers are not his to command. He then kicks Takio out, ordering him gone before Drenwell notices he’s in the city.

Takio leaves, furious.  Returning to Tanian and Petrim outside the gates, he meets with the three clanleaders at the Aramoor Bonfire – Enril, Draen, and Nuat, respectively.  Without the army at his back they hoped for, the three clans will have to be enough for their rendezvous with Shaio.

Their departure is interrupted by Natalin, with a horde of seers in tow.  She introduces Takio to Kolros, a Diviner and thus one of the highest-ranking seers in Efren’s service.  He is ordered to follow Takio’s instructions, that him and the other Seers are under Takio’s command until she says otherwise.

With her apologies for how things went, she gives Takio the sword that had been in her care, a relic of the previous Charred and crafted to withstand the hottest flames he could use.  Without any time to waste, they leave.

The situation grows more dire as they race back towards Shaio.  Here and there, they receive word of Drenwell’s men raiding Bonfires, scattering the Narai and merchants camping outside the city walls.  Talk of violence begins to spread.

The talk becomes reality when they find a band of refugees fleeing, battered and bloodied and with Drenwell’s forces on their heels.  The clans rally to face the attack.

At its back, Takio comes across an unexpected challenger – Lionel.  The guard, once his friend and traveling companion, rejects any attempt at truce.  Takio finally traps him by accepting an attack, allowing Lionel to stab him so that he can pin the man, knocking him out.

Wearing an illusion crafted by Kolros and enchanting Lionel enough to make him malleable, Takio confronts the guard.  Lionel tells him of the mountain, of the collapse. Despite the loss of some of their party, Takio is elated to hear that Olan and Hanta survived, escaping the tunnels alongside Lionel.

Takio pushes further, attempting to soak information out of Lionel, but all he learns is that Darren is close, an army in tow.  The illusion fading rapidly, Lionel breaks free, lashing out at Takio for serving something as evil as Shiina and the Narai. When he attacks, pulling a hidden dagger, Takio is forced to kill him.

Upset and angry, Takio confronts Shiina over what Lionel told him, and learns the things she’d left unsaid – that the Four only exists as four solitary gods because they do not allow other gods to take root in their territories.  That Shiina took it upon herself to act as the enforcer for that strategy, wiping out any population that would believe in another god.

The two separate, both sullen and resentful.  Shaio’s arrival, the Narai clans with her, interrupts their argument.  She announces that Darren is close behind her, and the joined clans prepare for the larger conflict to come.

Shiina confronts Takio, using images and memories from his predecessors to demonstrate how destructive an all-out endgame conflict can be between two vested gods.  She tells him that it’s better to eliminate the possibility for such mass bloodshed early, even if it requires unpleasant acts. Takio argues still, refusing to accept such a thing as necessary, but there’s no time for resolution before Darren arrives.

With Darren’s army trapped on one side of the river, pinned by bridges they destroyed, Takio, the brothers, and Kolros slip across a river and make for the back of the army.  Shaio and the clans attack at the front, creating enough of a distraction for them to reach the tents at the back – and Darren.

Takio and Darren fight again, as two Ascended.  The fight between them is evenly matched, as they continue to grow into their power.  That balance is disrupted as Natalin arrives, riding a tidal wave down the river nearby and carrying with her several boatloads of Riverguard.

Ondria’s presence turning the flow of battle towards the Narai, Darren changes tacks, and turns his full power towards the binding still lurking inside Takio.  Ordering him to commit suicide, with the full weight of Rellan’s magic behind the command, he goes to try and prevent Natalin from destroying his army.

With narrow intervention from Tanian and Petrim, Takio is pulled from the battlefield and carted to where Shiina and Efren wait on the riverbanks.  With the suicide order still in effect, their options had run out. With Takio’s trust in Shiina pushed to the very edge, Efren and Kolros plunge him into the river.

Surrounded by the medium for Efren’s magic, the god reaches into Takio’s core, tearing away at the binding within.  But it’s still too deep, and Takio’s mana too bonded with it. When he finally cuts loose, breaking the binding away, Takio’s soul fractures and shatters alongside it.

Left in the in-between and his mind fading fast, Takio is stranded, waiting as Shiina desperately tries to put the pieces of her Ascended back together.  At the last, she finds him, pulling him clear before he can be lost to the void.

He returns to the river, whole and unbound for the first time since their story began.  Relieving Natalin and allowing her to return to finishing off Drenwell’s army, he squares off with Darren once again.

The fight between the two continues – but with Shiina no longer forced to babysit the spell at his core, she can aid him as never before.  Between Natalin pressing into his army and Takio gaining ground, Darren quickly realizes they’re at a disadvantage.

Just as Takio fled from Goldenvale on a plume of fire, Darren reacts instinctively, refracting his image into hundreds of replicas.  They scatter as he flees, hiding as part of his illusion.

Unwilling to let him escape, Takio and his allies destroy as many of the images as they can.  Running out of time, Takio finally unleashes as much fire as he can summon, pinpointing Darren’s location just as his rival was about to escape into the trees beyond.

Tearing loose everything he has left, Takio turns the land around Darren into an inferno.  Knowing that the Chosen would escape even still, he finally relents, letting exhaustion take over as the Narai and Riverguard mop up the rest.

Their battle won, Shiina and Efren’s armies return to Aramoor, gathering their strength for the final push.

Nightsworn.pngBook 3 – Nightsworn

Chapter 1 Here!

The combined forces of the Narai and the Riverguard set out again, bound for Drenwell.  Natalin’s armies split as the Tideborn goes up and down the border, seizing the fortresses there and reestablishing their control from Drenwell.

Takio, Tanian, Petrim, and Kolros go north, sliding into Drenwell itself and making for the capital city.  The only unknown left in the war is Solune – Rellan’s brother, the god of darkness. His support on their side would make them an indomitable force.  His support for Rellan would make the god of light an even stronger opponent than he already is. Their goal is to find him and his Nightsworn, securing his aid or neutrality.

They sneak into the capital, rapidly establishing themselves in the Lower City and beginning the search of the bars and dens there.

Takio has a search of his own, a pressing need to learn what became of his lost friends.  Somewhere in the city are Olan and Hanta. Even if he can’t see them again – him being the Charred, the supposedly-dead Darren and their sworn enemy – he wants to at least know that they’re safe and well.

Their mission runs into a snag almost immediately when they’re ambushed on their way home.  Takio and Tanian were drugged, Kolros quickly discovers, and they’re being tailed by someone.  Spotting him behind them as they flee, they quickly turn the tables. The man is forced to abandon the party, disappearing into the city.

Concerned but still with a job that needs doing, the others continue their search.  Tanian and Petrim leave Takio and Kolros behind, headed to search Rellan’s Cathedral for a route in when the time to attack comes.  Not wanting to waste their time, Takio convinces Kolros to accompany him, wanting to walk the city.

Under an illusion to hide his appearance, Takio searches the city, trying to find any trace of where Solune or the Nightsworn might be.  Things in Drenwell City are worse than they’d expected, they quickly learn.

The eruption of Shiina’s volcano devastated the areas surrounding its mountain range – much of which was Drenwell’s farmland.  The season’s crop was ruined, putting the common folk in a desperate position. That position is made worse by the Order’s war with Ondria, normally a key trading partner they’d be buying food from.  Instead, the Order now has an army to feed, taking even more from the villages surrounding the city.

With their mind on the worsening situation, Takio and Kolros are attacked by a man appearing from the shadows.  Knowing that Kolros is too important to their cause to risk, Takio takes the forefront of the fight. The man is skilled, but quickly finds himself on the defensive.

That changes when a second man appears, much more at ease and quickly taking control of the fight.  He goes to his friend’s aid, removing him from the battle quickly with a shadowy portal. Following suit, he ends by hurling a dagger at Kolros before vanishing.

A poisoned dagger, the two quickly realize. With bystanders calling for aid and Kolros growing worse by the second, Takio carries his friend towards home.  They don’t make it far before the aid catches up with them – in the form of a few helpful citizens, and a priest.

A priestess, rather.  Takio is left both overjoyed and wary as Hanta closes in on the two of them, stepping in to heal Kolros.  She quickly pieces together that something’s off, shredding his illusion as they try to make their escape, and freezes.

Rather than kill her, as Kolros attempts to do, Takio intercedes and tries to win Hanta over.  She is more receptive than Lionel was, although still confused and afraid. Takio asks her to consider meeting with him later to hear the full story, and they escape into the city.

That night, Kolros and Takio spot the two men from before outside their inn, readying an attack.  They ambush them instead, knowing that the evidence is irrefutable at this late stage that Solune’s men are attacking them.  With Solune laid out as an enemy, their mission grows more dire.

They chase the two men away, finally following them to an old safehouse.  When they follow them in, the doors lock – and the building ignites. With his friends fading fast, Takio realizes that the flames aren’t responding to his call as true flames should.  Figuring out that it’s an illusion, he uses his mana to burn it away, but the pair are long gone. With the lingering feeling that he’s being watched, he joins his friends in fleeing to find a different, safer inn to hole up in.

The next evening they wait at the designated meeting spot.  Although late in appearing, Hanta arrives, demanding answers from ‘Darren’.  With the help of a truth charm and a lot of patience, Takio tells her the truth of what happened back during their trip.  She refuses to join his side, but had been aware that something was wrong since she’d placed him into a magical coma – his mana was entirely too mundane to have been that of an Ascended.  Guilty over having convinced herself it was in her head, she apologizes, and promises to search out answers on her own.

As they leave the rendezvous, Takio is split from his friends, something draining away his energy even as it closes him off from Shiina’s presence.  Someone grabs him, dragging him away as his friends continue on. He finally passes out, overcome.

He awakens blinded and chained, unable to reach Shiina and hollow without her there.  A man is nearby, coming over as he awakens – the Nightsworn, Solune’s Ascended. He asks Takio about why he’s in Drenwell City, about what Shiina’s plans are.  Takio argues, snarking more than answering, and is rewarded with knife-wounds. After hearing that Kolros informed his god about the attacks from Solune’s men, summoning the Tideborn to come join them in preparation for rushing Rellan’s sanctuary, the Nightsworn focuses in on Natalin.

When Takio flat-out refuses to give the Nightsworn pointers on fighting his counterpart, the Nightsworn agrees, and moves to end things, cutting Takio’s throat.

Solune steps in before he can complete the act, leaving Takio bleeding and the Nightsworn annoyed.  At Takio’s polite request, Solune removes the magic blinding him, leaving them face-to-face.

Takio appeals to Solune directly, asking for the god to meet with Shiina and work out some resolution of their conflict.  The Nightsworn argues that Shiina is too unstable, that the loss of their secrecy is too high a price to pay.

As they argue, Takio glances up, realizing that the Nightsworn is Olan.

Piecing together immediately that as an Ascended, Olan would have known from the start both that Jas wasn’t the Chosen and that they were moving to bind Shiina, Takio reacts by attacking him both verbally and with the tools he has available, which are his teeth.  Olan refuses to apologize.

Ignoring Olan, Takio again appeals to Solune, but the argument drags on.  Lost in thought about Shiina and how angry she’ll be, Takio doesn’t realize how fast he’s fading until Olan wakes him up.

The god and his Ascended have finished their argument.  Takio realizes that he’s still bleeding, still throat-cut and covered in blood.  Olan tries to stem the flow, calling for his men as he knocks Takio out again.

Waking up back with the others, Takio finds Hanta and Tanian close at hand.  The priestess had been called by Olan’s men to heal Takio, alongside Kolros. He finds a slip of paper in his pocket left by the Nightsworn, saying that he’ll contact Takio again.

Shiina is predictably furious, but Takio convinces her that it’s worth meeting with her cousin before launching into an unwinnable war.  She gives up, sulking.

Before she leaves, Hanta passes off what she’s found – gaps in the Cathedral’s library, missing texts and pieces notably absent, all based around Shiina’s mountain and what would have been Naraan.  Enough evidence of Rellan’s systematic erasure of Naraan from their history to begin to convince her of Takio’s story.

Worse still, she carries with her news that the Order has begun triage, cutting aid from villages deemed less important and allowing Ondria to claim territories around the border.  Those villages will be left defenseless and hungry.

It’s also an opportunity for them, though – with Shaio leading the clans north through the mountains, moving to retake Old Naraan, they have men and women accustomed to hard living stationed around those villages.  Drenwell’s hardship can act to provide them a chance to lend aid, winning over the villages with or without the Order’s approval.

Hanta also tells them of the summer festival, which has been moved forward to accomodate Drenwell’s armies.  Armies which are soon to depart – for Aramoor.

In the following days, Takio and the others search, desperate to find a way to curttail the attack.  With Natalin moving north to the city at their request, the border is weakened. Hanta pulls through again, leading them to where she’s heard word of a warehouse, stocked full of the supplies that will keep the army moving south through the weeks to come.

Watching the soldiers work, they also find Solune’s men waiting – Aden, the younger man, and his more experienced, skilled companion Niles.  Among other things, Solune is the patron deity of many merchants, after all, and Ondria has been an excellent trading partner. The two seem to approve of their party having found Drenwell’s cache, and depart.

The day of the festival, their mission is clear.  Cutting through the crowds, Takio and the others make for the garrison where the army’s supplies are stored.  Accosted by drunk soldiers on the way there, he sees an opportunity.

They need a way to destroy the supplies, and yet, simply setting it aflame would be a beacon to Darren that he’s in the city.  Watching the drunks play with fireworks, staggering about, Takio spurs the sparks on. Hot and dry in the summer sun, it doesn’t take much to find kindling and set the storehouse aflame – with a city street full of witnesses to the soldiers’ carelessness.

Pushing through the flames, Takio and the others pull out what they can, distributing the food and supplies to both Solune’s men and the common folk of Drenwell.  The soldiers are late to arrive but react with anger at the sight, driving them away at last.

Encountering Hanta on the way back to their inn, she leads them up to an overlook to watch the Chosen speak for the festival.  Takio watches Darren from afar – noting that his once-friend’s arm remains ruined from their encounter by the river. They withdraw afterward, climbing up to the rooftop of their inn and cutting loose for a bit of fun of their own.

Their plans are cut short when word hits them that Darren is touring the Lower City for the festival – spontaneously.  They realize immediately that he wasn’t fooled, and that he’s looking for Takio. Unsure of where to hide, they begin to panic.

Olan arrives before they can try to run or flee on foot.  Calling a truce, he agrees to escort Takio to Solune’s Sanctuary, allowing Shiina and Solune to meet.  Takio steps into the shadows with him, leaving the others behind.

True to her word, Shiina doesn’t attack Solune immediately, entertaining the idea of talking to her cousin.  The two finally exchange words. The truth quickly becomes apparent – even if Solune’s men did not actively participate in killing Shiina’s Narai, they were on Rellan’s side in the conflict.

The conversation escalates, Shiina and Solune sniping at each other, until finally it breaks out into open violence.  Takio knows that if things get out of hand, Olan is going to end the threat – him. He acts to keep things peaceful, putting himself between Shiina and Solune, to mediocre success.

Finally, after angry words and blows, the scene begins to settle.  At Takio’s pointed prodding, Solune gets down to business – he’s nothing if not self-interested.  War is better for his people than peace, and he can directly benefit from the goods produced by a revitalized Naraan.  He will not support Shiina openly, but agrees to not stand against them, in return for Drenwell City remaining his and favorable trade terms.

Shiina wants no part of it, but Takio convinces her to agree.  Olan forces Aden to apologize for attacking them – the man having been acting in defense of his Ascended, not realizing that he was attacking the Charred and thus sparking a war of the Divines.  The Nightsworn then returns them to their inn, advising them of a location they should visit the next day.

When they do, they find Natalin emerging from the river, ready to go.

She reacts with rage upon seeing Hanta in their rooms, attempting to kill the priestess as a spy.  Takio pulls her off, allowing Hanta to deliver the information she’d been able to glean from the Cathedral’s libraries and offer the idea of planting rumors and old ballads to stir up old legends of Naraan.

Seeming as good as anything while they waited, they head out into the city to see what they can do.  Running into Niles and Aden again, Takio asks them to help plant some rumors.

In doing so, though, the agents hear something far more pressing – word of enemy soldiers, Ondrian or Narai, held by the Order and awaiting execution as a demonstration.  Hanta returns to the Cathedral and confirms it, along with their location. They agree to meet the agents the next day to put a stop to it.

The next day, the agents don’t show.  Takio and Natalin push in anyway, leaving the brothers and Kolros behind to wait.  Sneaking into the garrison where their soldiers are being held, the two Ascended find only clerics and soldiers lying in wait.

They run, narrowly escaping with the aid of Tanian and Petrim, and make it into the safety of the alleys.

Waiting there, trying to figure out what’s going on, Takio is sent a note from Olan, urgently ordering him to the wall.  Natalin gets him there at speed – abandoning all attempts at secrecy as they openly use magic, no illusions in place.

They find the Order dragging Hanta along the wall, clearly intending to kill her there.  Both Takio and Natalin charge in – and are stopped by Darren.

Leaving Natalin to fend off his rival, Takio heads for Hanta as fast as he can, aware that seconds are precious.  With Shiina’s aid he uses his fire to augment his jumps, just as she did in Goldenvale.

Cutting Hanta free before they could throw her from the rampart, Takio checks to make sure Natalin can escape before fleeing, the priestess over one shoulder.  He spots Olan nearby, lingering at the base of the wall, and jumps.

The Nightsworn opens a portal as he falls, transporting Takio and Hanta to safety.

The two land in a safehouse, but Hanta is clearly distraught.  Letting his armor fall, Takio shows his face – and Hanta attacks, stealing his knife.  He realizes immediately that there’s a spell on her, just like Darren placed on him.

Unwilling to harm her, he’s forced to pin her down, waiting for Natalin or Kolros to arrive and help him dissipate the binding.  When they finally show, freeing Hanta, he pulls her into an embrace, trying to offer a bit of comfort as the shock and fear leave her trembling.

Olan arrives shortly after.  With Takio furious and champing at the bit to go on the attack, the two descend into words.  Olan warns Takio to not be so eager, the two dancing around the truth until Takio finally says it – that the act of sealing Rellan will cost the life of the caster, a victim of the trapped god’s anger, and he’s aware of it.

Before long, the group is united again – and Takio realizes that thanks are in order.  Leaving Hanta in the care of the brothers and Kolros, he convinces Olan to take him and Natalin to see Solune, the better to show their appreciation for the god’s aid.

When they arrive, though, they quickly realize they weren’t the only ones to notice Solune’s interference.  Darren and Rellan are both present as well, putting all four Ascended and Divines in the Sanctuary together.

Predictably, negotiations break down before long, and Solune throws the whole lot of them out onto the street.

With nothing left to hide, Natalin and Takio go to the people of Drenwell City directly, announcing the presence of the Four and the lies of Rellan to the masses – and beginning the war in full.

Book 4 – Ascendant

Chapter 1 Here!

With Darren tearing the city apart looking for him, Takio decides it’s time to leave.  The Riverguard are sweeping north, meeting up at the capital to push in and take the Cathedral.  Escaping the city with the aid of Natalin and a sewer, Takio takes off into the villages surrounding Drenwell City with Tanian and Hanta.

Natalin quickly tells him to leave, though.  Takio is confused, until Shiina spills the surprise – the Narai are here as well.  Shaio’s clans have moved south at last, having established a foothold around Shiina’s mountain, and are rejoining the fight alongside the Riverguard.

Takio, Hanta, and Tanian cut north to look for them, leaving Natalin to deal with her soldiers.  They find them at last when they happen across a skirmish between a Narai band and an Order supply train.  Coming to the Narai’s aid, they follow them back to their headquarters.

As they go, Takio finally figures it out – the Narai are operating out of the ruins of Goldenvale.  Frustrated with Shiina’s lack of warning him yet again, he steels himself against the fear and guilt, with Hanta’s aid.

Shaio is waiting for him in the wreckage of his hometown, ready and waiting to move south.

She’s not alone – an old childhood friend survived the inferno as well, leaving Takio battered emotionally and physically after their meeting.  Hanta comforts him yet again – after a long and lengthy chat with Shiina. The once-priestess has fully changed sides and signed on as one of the goddess’s shamans, much to Takio’s dismay.

Turning away at the last, they push south again.

The Riverguard are ready and waiting, Natalin at their head.  With the aid of the seers, their army slips in the same way Takio left, rushing the city.

Their combined forces scatter as soon as they emerge in the Lower City, flitting between gates as they rush to seize the district.  Takio, Tanian, Petrim, and Kolros run the line, opening the gates for the rest of their forces to sweep into the city before charging up the curtain wall.

Darren is there, though, racing them every step of the way.  Neither wants to commit to a prolonged, drawn-out battle, knowing that the real battle is who can seize the chunk of the city as their own.

They exchange blows over and over, aided by the shamans and soldiers dispatched to each of the gates, but in the end, the Order was simply caught off guard.  Darren knows that a one-on-one fight with Takio up close would be a challenge, and so he’s left at a distance, trying to pick them off. It doesn’t work. Takio’s forces claim the Lower City, pushing the last of the Order out of the district.

It’s a victory, but there’s still work to do.  Takio and the crew are left licking their wounds and trying to strengthen their control on the district before Darren mounts his counterattack.  Olan confronts Takio as he’s moving about the Lower City with Shaio, confirming again that Solune’s followers are to be protected from the often-violent Narai’s games.

Takio is assuring him that they’ll be protected when their conversation is interrupted.  Olan vanishes, leaving Takio watching as Darren’s image wanders the city.

The two talk briefly, after Shiina assures Takio that it’s merely a projection.  After reminiscing over their friendship and appealing to their past relationship, Darren offers Takio sanctuary if he would only surrender, returning to Drenwell’s side where he belongs, where he was born.  Takio refuses, instead offering for Darren to escape the conflict alive should he allow them to move on Rellan unchallenged. Darren refuses, threatening that he can’t spare Takio any longer. Takio destroys the projection, ending the conversation.

Returning to their base, tired and shaken, he finds Hanta practicing her new shamanistic spellwork, and takes the opportunity to vent.  Their conversation ends – as Hanta stops Takio’s downward spiral with a kiss. The two share a corner of courtyard, finally letting their feelings take form, until Natalin interrupts them as she comes looking for Takio.  The moment lost, they scatter.

The fight continues as Drenwell tries to retake the ground they’ve lost.  With his mind on the fight ahead, their need to push into the Sanctuary and finish things, Takio goes to aid Natalin at the barricades.  Watching her finish off a Drenwellian patrol and helping dispatch a few priests, she directs him north to a weak point in their defenses.  Brothers in tow, he goes to try and push their line out, punching through the Order’s offensive.

They never make it.  Halfway to the gate, they’re caught off guard in a deep crowd as Order assassins appear around them.  Petrim shields Tanian, taking several blows in the process – and Takio is grabbed in a chokehold as he goes to aid them.  Before he can fight free, the assassin stabs him twice.

(Current, as of Part 48)