A season of mushrooms
She trailed off. Even as she watched, the one remaining wall was shifting, cracks spreading through its weakened stones, mortar seemingly turned to nothing but mud and mould.
"Get back!" She raised a voice that had cut through battlefields from Karsk to Spiral. "Get back! It's coming down!"Clouds of amber and violet dust burst around her as the wall came down.
A wave of fertility sweeps Reikos consuming the broken and the blighted.
The bodies that were abandoned where they fell disappear first. Everything that has died is devoured by the fungus - but it does not end there.
Vast swathes of ivy tear up the side of buildings, while the timbers that once held them up disappear beneath a riot of brightly coloured mould.
Like the bodies, everything that is lifeless falls prey to this river of life.
At first it seems that the territory will vanish beneath this tide of life, but finally the waters recede a little. The fungus and moulds die back, as impossibly fast as they sprung up. In their place they leave a natural landscape transformed by their passage, washed clean not just of the foul touch of the Druj, but of every touch of a mortal being. Gardens have become wild meadows, orchards have become forests, hard stone roads turned to muddy trails. Of the poison and diseases seared into the land by the Druj there is no trace - now the ground teems with life. The poetic imagine that this is what Reikos must have looked like before the Highborn first tamed these lands.
Although everyone is happy to see the marks of the Druj erased, many Highborn are not sanguine about the loss of their own legacy that accompanies it. As soon as they realize what is happening, these inhabitants attempt to defend the structures of their chapter houses from the encroaching tsunami that threatens them. Working day and night they strive to preserve what they can of the Highborn history accrued from the centuries of life in Reikos. Only constant Vigilance suffices - each inhabitant can save only as much as they can clear in a day - for after a nights sleep the moulds and the fungus are back and the back-breaking work to save something must begin anew. Only by such constant diligence can they stem the flood and only the most prized monuments and buildings can be saved - anything that is lifeless that does not have someone to protect it is consumed.
There are also rumours that the Highborn are not the only ones fighting the transformation - there are reports of other forces holding out. There are orcs, pockets of Druj that remain and others who have never been anything more than bandits, hiding out in the barren places of Reikos, the hills, the wetlands and the forests. Those who take the time note that these folk, are fighting almost as hard as the Highborn to hold on to what little they have. And in some places there are reports that the magic has disturbed things other than orcs - though none can spare the time to find out exactly what the force of magic may have roused.
Reikos is a territory in the process of transforming from a broken wasteland to something else. Despite the claims of the superstitious, many magisters say that it is a powerful Spring magic, and that its effects have been further heightened by the Hallow of the Green World enchantment currently spread across the Empire. They also believe that the magic is somehow being directed by the eternal Llofir.
The magic has not entirely run its course. In many places the fungus that has consumed the ruin of Reikos has been replaced by new life, fresh grass, and even new woodland, the mushrooms, mould, and heralds of Llofir are still actively working to break down and rejuvenate several locations in each region. The magisters do believe that the magic is running its course, however, and will most likely have faded away entirely by the start of the Autumn equinox - leaving Reikos transformed.
Lucifer of Highguard, with the aid of Nina of Cantiarch’s Hold are to be sent to Reikos to save those who have been abducted and maimed, and bring them back to the light of Courage. They are entrusted with 100 liao for this.The Assembly of Courage 380YE Winter Solstice
Two priests have come to Reikos with the authorisation of the Imperial Synod to address the problem of Golan and his heretical teachings. A third priest, Lucifer Son of Cyrus, of Felix's Watch, was sent here with a different mission; to offer succour to those damaged in body and spirit by the domination of the Druj and bring them back to the Empire.
His efforts could not have come at a better time. His charge to aid the people of Reikos, to help those who have lost purpose or become too accustomed to living in fear, are quickly turned to helping the people to preserve what they can of the history of Reikos. Like the return of the First Empress, there appears to be a strange serendipity about Lucifer's arrival. The auras of Courage he creates are critical, granting the Highborn the spiritual strength to go out to do battle every day with the sorcery that seeks to take their history from them - something which helps them to find their own salvation from the terrors of the past.
The Grand Ossuary and the Guardians of the Past
Sister Aella frowned down at her slate. "Unless someone's been doing our job and lying about it, brother."
He crouched down and peered at the ground. "It's just that this hole is only a foot deep."
He took his spade in his hand, reached down, gave the soil an experimental poke. "You certain we-"
His voice cut off in a strangled shriek: the spade was wrenched from his hand as the black and noisome roots coiled their way up and around and about it. He frantically scrabbled away from the pit as the clearing echoed with the decisive crunch of the wooden haft as the splintered tool was drawn into the pit.And the ground there rippled hungrily.
At the same time, there are a dozen independent captains who have brought their retinues to Reikos to help support the creation of a great ossuary there. Over the last three months, the names of Exarch Solomon, Inquisitor Courage, Guardian Maya, and Unconquered Jada of the Shattered Tower; Guardian Amon of the Raven's Watch; Guardian Cayleb of Felix's Watch; Cataphract Jericho of the Suns of Couros; Lucifer of the Cohort of the Winter Bear; Obidiah Rockborn, Ciaphas Dekar, and Arnulf Fuch, and Skywise Kray of the Imperial Orcs become known across the territory.
They have arrived just in time to help prevent the tide of green magic overwhelming the ruins of Highguard. The spring magic that breaks apart corpses does not differentiate between those who died at the hands of the Druj, and those who have rested in the tombs of Reikos for centuries. It does not care that a document is dusty because it is hundreds of years old, or that the mortar of a tomb is crumbling because of time and not because of any inherent weakness. They are quickly caught in a desperate fight to keep the (apparently well-meaning) servants of Llofir from devouring the history of Reikos alongside the lingering Druj taint.
The End of the Druj Miasma
But there is at least one very positive thing about this sorcerous "invasion". Between the captains fighting to protect the legacy of Highguard, the survivors motivated by the power of Courage, and the rampaging power of Llofir, many of the Druj miasma pillars have been located and destroyed.
While some surely remain active, their aura has been greatly curtailed, reduced to zones of terror a few scant miles across. Many of these sites are now buried under supernatural forests or partially sunken in magical marshes - quiescent for now but potentially creating enclaves appealing to certain threats that might creep into Reikos that do not fear death.
OOC Note: You are free to roleplay that if you have been in Reikos this season you have helped to destroy some of the Druj fear pillars, especially if you are one of the dozen characters who have lead their military units to Reikos, or have accompanied Lucifer, Son of Cyrus.
The New Forest at Tamarbode
From up ahead there came an eerie creaking noise. Zellah held up her hand. They froze in place.
With a couple of curt gestures, Jebediah silently asked "What that noise?"
Zellah didn't know, shook her head. The heavy clouds of spores hung like a thick fog, this close to the heart of the old regio. In the days when their chapter had stood watch over the Laughing Well, they had kept the entire area clear of plant-life taller than the long grass, and carefully monitored access to the enchanted waters. But none of the chapter had been in a position to do so for over a decade. Now the power of the regio had been unleashed, and what had once been an open field was a dense forest, full of fungus an ferns.
The noise came again, closer.
"Coming. Cover." she signed quickly. The two scattered, drawing the long-bladed knives they favoured for close combat.
A creature as tall as one of the northern mammoths was suddenly between them. Roughly humanoid, with squat bandy legs and long forearms, it moved like a mountain gorilla but with the kind of serene, unhurried patience that reminded Zellah of the whales she had seen as a child in the waters north of Meade. It had a small head, with large liquid eyes, and its back was covered in dark purple and golden mushrooms of all sizes. Perched between its shoulderblades was a little figure in a black robe.
For all its size it was surprisingly quiet. It passed between the two Unconquered, and disappeared eastwards away from the regio.Zellah and Jebediah exchanged wide-eyed, blinking stares. Almost simultaneously looked down at their long-bladed daggers, and then with a single smooth motion, put them away."
Finally, there is a new force present in Reikos. Something has taken residence in the region of Tamarbode and claimed it for itself.
Perhaps it is a harbinger of the force of magic that has scoured the territory - there are reports that the first surges of the spreading Spring magic began here. Perhaps it is simply taking advantage of the situation - possibly even some dark thing snuck out of Brocéliande to the north-west. Either way, something has taken control of Tamarbode. A significant portion of the plains have been overrun by a new forest, a dark wood where the trees grow so close that the light cannot penetrate. The new woodland has completely engulfed, and seems to spread out from, the mysterious Sign of Tamar.
At present no-one knows for sure what manner of creature dwells there, and strange myconoid soldiers patrol the borders, turning back any who come in force.
The region of Tamarbode was not under Imperial control to start with, having been claimed by those barely organised Druj remnants left behind from the fall of Urith Barath. Several of the orc camps in Tamarbode had been destroyed by Imperial forces during the cleansing of Gray Charge. Yet there were also several settlements that had not been cleared.
Of those camps, and the orcs who once dwelt in them, there has been no further sign since the forest appeared.
Instead he slammed the trapdoor of the old cellar closed and took a second to breathe. Like his mother had taught him, he named seven Virtues and four Exemplars under his breath to give himself time to calm himself.
There was the sound of cracking and something collapsing below. He gingerly lifted the trapdoor again.
The creature was still there, gazing up at him with liquid black eyes, surrounded by the rotting remains of what until a few moments earlier had been a sturdy oak ladder. The beast favoured him with a gormless, toothless, lopsided grin.
"Hello!" it called up, its voice soft and breathy. "I'm here to help! Please don't try to eat me again! I taste terrible!"He shut the trapdoor again and sat on it. From below came the sounds of the beast enthusiastically chewing up what he hoped were the broken pieces of ladder. He wondered what he was going to tell his mother.
Any Highborn group based out of Reikos can choose to roleplay that the inhabitants of their chapter or similar have been struggling to hold back the tide of new growth which has spread quickly across the territory. No chapter has been left untouched by the magic - every group has lost some history to the ensuing wave of powerful magic but how much has been lost is a roleplaying choice for the group. They may have saved the essential buildings and belongings, the documents and books that they want to keep, they may have lost everything to the change - or anything in between.
For those making a future in Reikos, the territory has been transformed into a more natural landscape. The villages and towns have been kept clear of growth, but the countryside, once a rural idyll, is now a haven for wild plants and animals. Copses have become woods, woods have become forests. Reikos is fundamentally changed in the passing of a single season - becoming either a natural paradise or else a blank canvas depending on your point of view.
An exception to the general destruction are the spoils of war - the key resources identified by the civil service in liberated Reikos. We assume that sufficient force has been present to ensure that these resources are protected from the aggressive power of the Spring enchantment.
She gave the thing a kick and it creaked alarmingly. "Ruined, I call that. Half a season's crop up in smoke."
"Up in spores, actually." Corrected Sister Dinah, peering closely at the mycelial mass where nothing but good vinum should be. She carefully turned over what had once been a leaf with a gloved hand, marveling at the way the tiny white moulds covered the underside.
"Well, I'm glad someone's finding some mirth in this situation-"
"No, no. Look." Dinah had found what she was looking for - carefully she lifted the little purple cap for Brannan to see. "Here's one again. This isn't regular blight. Never seen this variety before or since. A ring'll get you a crown this thing's nowhere in my books."
"So we've got some kind of new, superior vinum blight rather than regular vinum blight." Brannan scowled. "Should I send for the Pledge-"
"D'you not think it's odd, though?" The alchemist fished a little bottle out of her pocket, held it up beside the offending mushroom to catch the light. "That this thing grows on vinum and vinum alone, and it's the exact same colour as liao?"
The scowling sister's expression darkened further. "That's beyond foul. I'll get a fire going."
Dinah raised an eyebrow. "Without even having had a proper look at it? This is a problem, and we can solve it, if we put our minds to it. Where's your Wisdom, sister?"
"Behind my Vigilance, sister."The two glared at each other in silence.
Regarding Previous Opportunities
The opportunity to rebuild the Garden of High Chalcis has not been impacted by the burst of Spring magic - quite the contrary. The apothecaries of Peakedge Song are keen to see what new medicinal plants the spreading wave of magic and decade of Druj domination might reveal. Likewise, the opportunity to construct a fortification at Broken Ride is if anything of even more interest to the Vigilant as it would also be in a position to keep a watch over whatever is happening in Tamarbode.
At this time, the Civil Service are uncertain what effect this magical wave may have had on the supply situation but it seems clear that the sudden cleansing of the Druj corruption from Reikos will have gone some way toward helping it to support a fourth Highborn army - assuming that the bounteous new life can be properly harnessed in the service of humanity.
There's a lot going on in Reikos this season. You may also want to look at some of the following sections:
- Winds of War
- More details of the fight against heresy
- An opportunity for the Imperial Synod regarding the weird fungi growing in parts of Reikos.
Most of the more supernatural elements of the wave of fecundity have died down by the time of the Autumn Equinox. Almost all the ruins that once dotted Reikos are now gone, and the settlements that preceded them been replaced with healthy, natural vegetation.
Over Winter we will be adjusting the map of Reikos, and the details of the page, to reflect its new, verdant state.