The Enmity of Scolrys, Part XIX: Blood Runs Red

Satisfied now with the conclusion of the Hammer of Dawn’s ritual, Duiran turned their attention towards their own.

Preparing over seven weeks, the Heartwood secured willing sacrifices and planned out an elaborate ritual to beseech Vo’acha’s empowerment of Amitivis. When the ceremony drew nigh, the Speakers fed Amitivis vast quantities of flesh, blood, and bone to bolster him for the energies and efforts to come. This act almost spoiled the planning outright when one of the councillors fell to the grim experiments lurking within the serpent’s den, alerting the North to the suspicious activity. Though most of the Theocracy did not concern themselves with the revelation, Doctor Pietre Marcelli endeavoured to stand guard – a fact that hampered Duiran’s preparation in small ways, requiring them to find a new route into the Den of Shadows so as not to rouse further suspicion.

When the moon revealed itself, Duiran’s ritualists cleansed themselves in the Moonglade, dressed in honour of the Shadow, and ate meals that would fall in line with rites constructed to show the proper respect to a Guardian spirit. After eluding the Syssin’s lone sentry, the council urged the Den’s experiments in one final offering to Vo’acha before delving deeper to find Amitivis within his deep abode. Invoking darkness and fervent cries to the serpent spirit, seven of the Heartwood severed flesh from bone and divorced blood from veins for the powerful magic to come. When prompted for his own sacrifice, Amitivis shattered one of his fangs upon his den’s wall and claimed he would give power for power, strength for strength, and blood for blood – a unification not unlike the Sentinel Pride’s bloodsworn oath.

The council soon set about scrawling glyphs of blood upon Amitivis’ hide. Each scrawled rune shined like emeraldic fire in lightless voids, dappling the colossal serpent in the manifest fury of an ominous avenger. Daubed in Dia’ruis, tattooed in tribal frenzy and shamanistic protection, the serpent lifted his head to look upon something unseen. Blessed and cursed with the ability to project his powerful thoughts, Amitivis’ vision rippled outward along the serpent’s psychic pressure: a spirit, slithering serpentine, shadow-shrouded and painstakingly patient.

“Strike,” the serpent intoned in his mind. “Kill. Consume!”

Amitivis’ lipless maw split into an eager grin when he heard these words bequeathed to a council before the horrors of Night. The effulgent essence of a lirathyar renewed swept down the serpent’s coiling body, digging into his silver scales and peeling them back like the hand of a god sworn to tend a living garden. Noting the beginnings of this metamorphosis, Speaker Gyrinno called for the ritual to proceed to its penultimate step. Five of the council’s eldest gave gifts of life unto the serpent in honour of the other Guardians of the Valley, and one by one did they fall to great Amitivis. The colossal serpent lunged forward to consume each one who stepped forth, his jaws gleaming with blood, his scales awash with misty Dia’ruian energy. As his jaws snapped shut, yet another layer of scale would peel away, the profound transfiguration continuing from moment to moment.

As the sacrifices began, Legionnaires Tzarentesh, Sheryni, and Sepyhie had set into motion an attempt to interrupt the proceedings. Covering for their Strategos, the two Spireans attempted to fend off hordes of snakes whilst Sheryni strummed the first notes of the fell Song of Oblivion – a performance cut too short, for Valorie and Valeria departed the ritual with weapons drawn, intent upon preserving Duiran’s efforts at the cost of their own lives.

While violence raged in the Den of Shadows, Amitivis exulted in his newfound power. Sanctified in truth upon a bloodied altar, the massive serpent reared his head back and tasted the air with his forked tongue. Made now into the eye of a Dia’ruian storm, the tremendous serpent gathered into a tightly bound coil and trembled amidst the thrill of newly conferred power.

A dry rasp cut through the air as the serpent began to exuviate.

The ritual tension heightened and pressed in further, and Amitivis’s silhouette vanished within the surging tempest of emerald power. The weight of a Guardian’s gaze hovered there in a place of serpentine darkness, assessing avenger and offerings both in one final pass of She Who is Life’s fastidious regard. Judged and found worthy, the Shadow sealed the last bloody rune with His guile and strength. Faint flickers of Dia’ruian energy surged forth from the depths of the Den of Shadows, each sheet of wild power glowing like the distant light of an approaching thunderstorm. Multitudinous hisses filled the realm’s hearing as Vo’acha, the archetypal serpent spirit, turned His heavy gaze to the Prime to consider something handcrafted to resemble every shard of His myriad kin.

Deeming this monument to arrogance worthy of His aid, the ancient Guardian accepted the Heartwood’s bloodied offerings and made of them a flurry of transformative force that washed over the Den’s depths. The Dia’ruian power sloughed away, falling like scales moulted, flesh shorn, and blood sloshed down upon stone altars. Brought now into the wild world and given the gift of life, Amitivis burst through the mists to reveal a body made whole by the ritual’s magic. Psychic power roiled from him still, but his every shared thought was of freedom, of vengeance, of appreciation for a world’s beauty never once revealed to him until this moment. Transformed by Duiran, the serpent now possessed red scales in honour of the Ithmian tribes, his gaze burning with the power of a lirathyar’s blessing of Life and a guardian’s approval.

“We strike imminently,” the serpent declared to the Duirani. “And then I shall return home with you.”

Like the crack of a giant’s whip, the sinuous motions of rune-daubed Amitivis thudded through Den and Tundra both, filling the realm with the tectonic rumbling of a now burrowing serpent. Soon, the Theocracy felt the terrible tremble of earth and stone as something shifted beneath their streets – a latent threat of an enemy come to collect his pound of flesh for vengeance unleashed.

As Amitivis tore through the Tundra’s subterranean levels, Faceless Madness continued to threaten the Prime Material…

Penned by my hand on Falsday, the 23rd of Slyphian, in the year 3 AC.