Witness, as three figures approach the simple, iron wrought gate that guards the entry to (and soon, flight from) Hysteria, protectorate of the Lily Dynasty.
Walking no more and no less than nine steps ahead of his trailing companions, a man with an iron fist strides as a man who has walked this path before, though if one were to inquire, the man may scoff, maybe even hork and spit at such a thought, sending the inquiring soul scurrying far far away with a flung knife hard on their heels. Notice the criss-cross of the scars upon his face, the black stain of the spider web tattoos spiralling along his bared arms. A simple, sleeveless unadorned ebony felt tunic covers his chest, and matching trousers, tight against waist, thigh and calf. Barefoot he treads, nary a sound heard as he moves.
No less than nine strides behind him, what appears to be a tiny simian with crimson fur glides atop a tiny black nimbus cloud. It’s eyes are closed shut, narrow slits revealing nothing of the irises beneath. Sinewy and taut limbs are crossed, in a manner one would describe as standoffish, no argument is it willing to brook. It’s tail, almost three feet in length, and three inches round, is wrapped around a simple staff of willow, its length covered in a spiral of interlocked weaves of ivy. In place of ears, a halo of molten silver sits half an inch above the top of its petite head.
Beside the odd imp, a robed and hooded figure of tall stature leisurely keeps pace. As of that moment, to describe the figure would be a difficult thing to do, for a goddess chooses upon a whim how she wishes to be seen. The only thing with certainty that can be said, is that wherever this figure touched the ground, fungi would sprout, birds were seen suddenly taking wing south, and leaves would fall even during the heart of Spring. For what else was Kali, the goddess of Autumn’s Embrace, supposed to herald, but well, Autumn?
When one pictures a god, or goddess (especially a goddess), arriving to the gates of such a storied city as Hysteria, one would expect a certain amount of excitement, celebration, by the Servants, at the very least a festival lasting a month. Or three. It is agreed upon by scholars, priests, and everyone in between, that never should one greet a god, or goddess, with naked steel.
Knight Herald Dylone, one must assume, never learned this lesson growing up.
His blue-steel katana drawn, and held aloft in his mithril gauntlets, the Knight Herald of Hysteria blocked any further passage past the city’s gates.
“Halt! Declare your intention for entering this holy city, or my righteous blade, Masamune shall relieve all of your heads from your shoulders!”
Not one for threats of decapitation, Ji, the First of the Fallen’s Seeds, lashes out with it’s willow stave. Watch as the staff bends but does not break from the velocity of the strike, not unlike the tree from which it was carved from. With a satisfying thumpf, Knight Herald Dylone collapses to the ground.
Take a moment to note this singular event, for during this action, Ji found a new activity in which it took malicious pleasure.
The man with an iron fist, whose name is unknown as of this time in this tale, reaches down, grasps and crunches the fallen knight’s breastplate in his grip, then proceeds to toss the unconscious man from the path. The three continue unopposed.
Ji placed its chin upon its tiny paw, its cloud keeping pace with its companions. “The last protectorate we showed up to had a full orchestra prepared for us.” The imp paused, considering. “I didn’t get to smack anyone there. I believe I prefer this.”
The man with the iron fist grunted what may have passed as a laugh. “Never did like Dylone. Dry old prick always had a stick up his ass.”
“Language please, my dear manservant.”
A muttered off-colour retort was directed the hooded-figure’s way. Clearing his throat, the man with an iron fist continued, speaking clearly. “His soul is going to find its way back to his body isn’t it?”
Kali’s shrouded head bobbed an affirmative. “I believe we left my elder sister ten miles or so back outside the city. She was enamoured by the news of Duunc’s Lord being caught with two wash maids, a visiting priest, a wash bucket, a vat of iced goat’s milk and a bottle of fire liquor.” A long pale finger, its nail painted a burnished bronze, flitted in and out of the hood in a tapping motion. “I do wonder what the wash bucket was for. Alas, no raven will be coming for the knight’s soul and such the soul will return to the body by the morning.”
“What good is having a personification of Death if the duties are ignored?” The man with an iron fist shook his head. ” Who even chose her to uphold such a position?”
Ji, arms crossed, shifted slightly up and down upon its bleak cloud. “When has having not the proper skills stopped a godling from being chosen for an important position in the pantheon?”
Leaving the question unanswered, for such a question was rhetorical in an age where those chosen to places of power was strictly from who was known, the three continued towards the gray, ugly stone fortress and seat of power of Hysteria.
“A brief thought.” Kali’s covered face turned to the man with an iron fist. “Why are you not in your formal attire, dear manservant? I picked such an exquisite neck tie for this occasion.”
“Can’t well fucking fight with a stupid piece of cloth wrapped around my throat. Just asking to be strangled.”
A goddess sighed deeply.
An imp giggled childishly.
A man with an iron fist grinned wickedly.
Were Hysteria not just a city, but a living entity, the entire land under their feet would have shivered in cold fear.