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Blue Thunder

Aberrant: Theomachy - Prologue: Kalukatesh

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Location: A roadside shrine in Taralogan

"...and I shall chant your hymn for good fortune on my way to Konark, ancient one." The trader placed some incense on the tray beneath the dragon idol and lit it. He always stopped to pray at the Ancient One's roadside shrines when he passed through Taralogan; the monks said it lived here during the dry season and that it flew above the clouds and kept an eye out for lost souls. One could never be too careful.

The trader exchanged gossip with the shrine's monk and climbed back atop his horse. He made sure his packs were secure and then continued along the mountain path. The thick trees and fog from the marsh below made navigating hard for most people but he had been along this route so many times that he could do it blindfolded.

The trader's horse took him down into the thick of the fog and then across a small stream. He finally emerged into the enormous valley known as the Trail of the Great Serpent, which created a wide road for several kilometers. Then something in the fog caught his eye. He stopped his elk and squinted to see.

"Eh, what's that? I don't remember a hill being there..."

**********

Location: The roof of the Chamber of Light, Silgaea

It is early morning, and the sun has yet to fully come over the horizon. The Pantheon Fortress is mostly built inside of Mount Silgaea, with parts of it extending outward and upward from the rock. There are various balconies here that can support Kalukatesh's weight, and it is on one of these balconies that he is waiting patiently. This particular marble balcony is an extension of the Chamber of Light and has a small canopied pool with seating cushions, but nothing Kalakutesh could use in his natural form.

"You're early."

A booming voice calls behind Kalukatesh. The dragon turns to see Ojin, the Living Shield. His layers of heavy armor make every footstep sound like a swordfight. When he gets near Kalakutesh he reaches out to hand him a sheet of vellum; it displays a hand-drawn map with notes on it.

Ojin speaks in his usual brusque manner. There is little emotion in his voice, just impatience. "Šile Amûnan rangers were seen near Enicaar beyond the current armistice line. We already knew they were sending more soldiers and supplies to their border citadels. This just confirms their intention to start another push. The Archon feels they will be pushing harder than usual this time due to the amount of troops they are moving, and Lady Samaethir has requested I station more of my warriors in the area as a defense. I'll be at the battlements by this evening and will remain until the Archon summons me back to the western frontier."

Ojin steps away and turns his back to Kalakutesh then continues. "The Lady has requested your aid. You know that Šile Amûne has two citadels on their side of Cibura. One of our griffon riders recently scouted them building the foundations for a third, hidden deep within a rocky region. This citadel cannot be allowed to happen. You are to find the construction site using that map and determine the best course for destroying it. You can take a unit of soldiers from Enicaar when you make your assault."

Ojin walks away but continues talking. "The Lady says you should take as long as you need. She says she does not expect you to return here for at least a week. And that the Archon is too busy to see you."

And with that Ojin leaves the balcony the way he came onto it, abruptly leaving Kalakutesh alone again.

((Ojin was at Cibura during the decisive battle that ended the first war. He fought alongside K at the time and respects him as a warrior but he doesn't care for him as a friend. He meets with K in person instead of sending a messenger out of respect for his past deeds. Ojin is now an extension of Samaethir's will and if Samaethir wishes for K to be away from the Archon as much as possible -- and she does -- then so does Ojin. This explains his coldness and lack of pleasantry.))

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When Ojin appeared on the balcony, Kalakutesh dipped his giant head in a sign of respect. Taking a moment to concentrate, his form seemed to shimmer without shimmering, and to diminish without actually diminishing, and then suddenly, in place of the dragon, there stood a man – or something that was man-like anyway.

The man-shaped being was exceedingly handsome, with slanted eyes of yellow-gold color with vertical irises, long unbraided and untied hair that was clean but not combed, and a thick beard. He was wearing robes of exceptional quality but very simple design, with the outer layers predominately black with white edgings and the inner layers (mostly hidden) predominantly red with gold edgings, and all of it immaculate in the extreme. His robes descended to the floor, but they did not quite conceal the legs of a reptilian predator under their folds, nor did they hide the dragon’s tail as it emerged from under the robes behind him. His appearance was an almost unsettling combination of refined and wild, unkempt and perfectly put together, entirely civilized and utterly dangerous. If the most fearsome primordial beast of the Wilds were to spend a thousand years meditating in a cave and successfully faced one thousand and sixty-six trials of the mind, body, and soul, until enlightenment finally descended upon that primal animal and transformed him into a true Sage of Creation, the result would likely appear precisely as Kalakutesh did as he stood before Ojin. In fact, this was one of the oldest legends told by the Dragon’s Cult.

Taking the vellum sheet from Ojin’s hand, Kalakutesh examined the map inscribed upon it as he listened to the Dux’s orders. He was used to Ojin’s less-than-pleasant tone and took it in stride. After all, a Warden’s life was one of Duty before Power and of Sacrifice before Glory, so why should the Dragon care if his lords demanded much of the former and offered him little or none of the latter? In truth it hardly mattered to him; he had held the Mandate of the Creators since before any of his current lords had been sired, and he fully expected that he would still be holding that Mandate long after they had gone to the Underworld (though he refrained from telling them as much).

Kalakutesh’s position within the Darmathian pantheon was dubious at best. Officially, he held a position as one of the most highly honored and respected Legates within the Domain, and there had even been talk in times past of his taking a position as one of the three Duces, but the reality was that he was an outsider with titles and privilege and little more. He held no lands and possessed no great wealth (nor wanted to), commanded no one unit or company of the Darmathian military, and his exact responsibilities changed more often than the courses of Taralogani rivers. If it was dangerous, dirty, and needed doing, chances were high that he, Kalakutesh, the son of the World Serpent, the Undiminished, the Starless Sage of the Westerly Shores, the Great Dragon on the Mountain, would be the one sent to ‘deal’ with it.

But again, it mattered little, so long as the Darmathian Second Gods did not interfere with his Mandate of protecting the Middle Realms of Gaea, and so long as they did their best to fulfill their own Mandate of guiding, caring for, and inspiring the mortals he himself protected, Kalakutesh saw no harm in letting them play their petty games of power.

As Ojin finished with his orders and left the balcony, Kalakutesh dipped his head once more and said, "As you wish, Dux of Samaethir." And while Ojin’s voice may have boomed, Kalakutesh’s voice positively thrummed as he spoke, and this despite the fact that he made no effort to raise or project his voice. Though Kalakutesh could disguise his true form behind that of a Champion, such a frail form was simply not capable of fully containing his divine nature, and so his voice – which was deeper than an Earth Giant’s voice – remained that of the Great Dragon. Even through all of his heavy armor, Ojin the Living Shield could likely feel the power of the Dragon's voice as it seemed to vibrate up from the very ground itself.

After the Duce had left, Kalakutesh tucked the map into the folds of his robe and turned towards the edge of the balcony. Taking a moment to concentrate a second time, his form once again seemed to shimmer without shimmering, and to expand without changing size or shape, and yet in an instant he was himself once again, no longer a man-sized Champion but an enormous creature of reptilian grace and lethality. The Great Dragon took a single stride towards the balcony’s edge and then leapt off of it into the wide expanse of air below it, diving down the face of Mount Silgaea and over the city that bestrode it, and then with a single great *snap* his mighty wings expanded fully and caught the wind and his enormous bulk lifted slowly on the air’s currents as he directed himself towards Cibura and his objective.

((OOC: BT he'll make whatever rolls are necessary - Navigation, I assume - for reading the map and directing himself in the right direction. I'm leaving it open so that you can insert whatever events you're planning on here, or simply fastforward to Cibura.))

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((We'll go ahead to Cibura. K doesn't have any super-speed to get him there quickly aside from Enhanced Movement + Wings, but he doesn't need to sleep thanks to Adaptability so that helps. The trip takes almost two days, unless you decide to detour or rest. Since Wings go at walking speed you'll be going at x4 your walking speed while gliding and using Enhanced Movement.))

((EDIT: Nevermind, he does have superspeed. Wings go at running speed, plus your Sizemorph: Grow raises running speed due to size. Combined, it all gives him the equivalent of Hypermovement at one dot. Instead of two days, he's there within an hour or two...))

Cibura has few landmarks and they are spread far apart. There are long expanses of clay and mud, with the occasional shambled mountain cluster or shallow canyon. Further hurting navigation on the ground is the optical distortion caused by rising heat. Then there are the hidden rivers of mud which have swallowed several hundred soldiers over the years. But from the sky Kalukatesh is able to see everything from afar and doesn't need to worry about terrain hazards.

*****

Kalukatesh:

Navigation (Per 5, Navigation 2, M-Per 1): 1, 1, 2, 7, 8, 8, 8 (Mega: 7)

6 successes

*****

It takes Kalukatesh almost two days to reach his destination from Silgaea even though he goes in a direct line; he leaves during morning and arrives during the evening of the next day. Kalukatesh arrives at his destination before noon. The rocky outcropping is easily visible from the sky. It is a hill made of rust-colored rock that juts out from the mudflats at a slight angle. There is no vegetation or fresh water in sight. On the highest part of the outcropping Kalukatesh can make out what appears to be foundations for a building, but he can't be sure without a closer view.

((You can see more detail by either flying in closer or using EMV. You can choose to make an assault by yourself if you feel you can handle any defenses you see, or you can go to Enicaar for soldiers. If you feel you don't need soldiers you don't need to send them in. The distance from Enicaar to this hill would take over a day by foot due to the heat, and several soldiers would likely die from exhaustion. Asking for griffon rider assistance is an option.))

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Kalakutesh was moderately surprised at how quickly the foundations of the enemy's tower were discovered, but then he cautioned himself, and was reminded that he did not yet know for sure this was the tower that Ojin had spoken of - though there seemed little doubt of it. Further, he did not yet know how heavily fortified or guarded it was, and finding it so quickly might only turn out to be one small mercy in an otherwise difficult and dangerous mission. Time would tell.

For the time being, Kalakutesh remained high in the air, and tried to be as stealthy as one could be when one is an enormous dragon flying through the skies, while attempting to discover as much as he could about the enemy's "construction project".

((OOC: He'll activate EMV for now, and keep to the skies. If he feels it's appropriate however, he'll land and change into his champion form, which should allow him to sneak closer without being detected. He'll also make a Military Science roll in an effor to understand just exactly what he's seeing and how best to deal with it (I'm assuming Military Science is appropriate? If not, he'll use what is - if he has dots in it).))

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Kalakutesh was moderately surprised at how quickly the foundations of the enemy's tower were discovered, but then he cautioned himself, and was reminded that he did not yet know for sure this was the tower that Ojin had spoken of - though there seemed little doubt of it. Further, he did not yet know how heavily fortified or guarded it was, and finding it so quickly might only turn out to be one small mercy in an otherwise difficult and dangerous mission. Time would tell.

For the time being, Kalakutesh remained high in the air, and tried to be as stealthy as one could be when one is an enormous dragon flying through the skies, while attempting to discover as much as he could about the enemy's "construction project".

((OOC: He'll activate EMV for now, and keep to the skies. If he feels it's appropriate however, he'll land and change into his champion form, which should allow him to sneak closer without being detected. He'll also make a Military Science roll in an effor to understand just exactly what he's seeing and how best to deal with it (I'm assuming Military Science is appropriate? If not, he'll use what is - if he has dots in it).))

*****

Kalukatesh

Awareness (Per 5, Awareness 4, M-Per 1, +3 from EMV): 2, 2, 2, 6, 6, 8, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10, 10 (Mega: 3)

Successes: 7 (phenomenal)

*****

As Kalukatesh descends he sees that the site is deserted. There are no laborers or novas in sight, and no actual construction seems to be taking place. There are no labor camps and no proof that any ever existed. Kalukatesh cannot even find any footprints. The foundations for the citadel have been laid out and a few walls have been erected. This structure differs in size and shape from the other two citadels; it is smaller and uses rounded walls, unlike the sharp angles of the other two. But there are several other odd things that come to Kalukatesh's attention. The first is that this citadel is being constructed out of thick, solid wood whereas the other citadels are made of rock and iron that are shaped into sharp angles. Some of the walls look 'incomplete' to Kalukatesh; part of a wall will be missing, as if the wood used was too short or not thick enough. But the most important observation ((thanks to 7 successes and telescopic vision)) is this: When Kalukatesh gets close to the walls, he can see that they are actually expanding and enlarging at a very slow speed. It appears this citadel is "alive" and growing from the ground up. This explains both the lack of workers, and how it managed to appear so suddenly and without warning. Obviously a nova and/or some form of magic are involved.

*****

Kalukatesh

Military Science (Int 5, Military Science 5, M-Int 1, Ability Mastery): 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (Mega: 8)

Successes: 5

*****

Like stated before, sending a unit of soldiers would take a day by land and be risky. But if Kalukatesh does go to Enicaar there are some griffon riders there and a good possibility of finding a nova or two willing to accompany him. But that is all assuming he wants to bring combatants here. There are no enemies to fight, and no defenses that he can detect. He could probably annihilate the structure on his own right now from what he can see, but something seems wrong with the situation. It is strange that Sile Amune would command a new citadel be constructed, and not put up any defenses or guardians. Nertartaral typically swarms masses of soldiers into places he wishes to advance into. That's how he built Talon and Claw Citadels.

Kalukatesh could destroy the foundations now and report a success to Samaethir, or he could leave it as is and tell her of his findings. He could also choose to investigate more in whatever way he feels necessary. He has a week after all. There doesn't appear to be anything near the structure to provide any clues, so going elsewhere may bring an answer. Someone at Enicaar or the gardens at Silgaea may be able to help, if Kalukatesh decides to involve anyone else.

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None of this was what Kalakutesh had expected, and it was beginning to trouble him. There were too many oddities and uncertainties. For one thing, how was it that Ojin's report contained such accurate information regarding the location of the tower, and yet it had nothing to say concerning its unusual nature? And just what was the nature and purpose of this tower, exactly?

Intrigued, Kalakutesh descended to the earth some discreet distance from the growing tower, so as not to be detected. Once he had landed, he shifted again to his Champion form and began to cautiously approach the strange tower, taking care to remain undetected as he did so. It was time, in his opinion, to take a closer look.

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