Come after that day of daring deeds
when that cult of malice cold evil evolving
was righteously crushed by the powerful Pilgrims
and gouged from the ground of the town Crimson Girth
One brother of that band the daring Dragon Face
Awoke in his bed dawn-stirring, slow-breathing.
And fixed his copper-forged mask dragon-forged to his face.
Moving out to the morning air he started strange movements
stretching and straining his many-grooved muscles
And all the while breathing each breath slow and softly.
For as Sigil-carving Swayers bake Mana in mortar and clay
And Harper strings shape Mana through music and humming
The Wrestlers manipulate Mana through breathing
stored up their belly to strengthen their body.
After Dragon Face ended his exercises
he met with his friends his Party of Pilgrims
The Witnessing Uuco moustached and magical
Wind-blessed V’vendy the dreaded Deathweaver
The Dinosaur Corax cool-headed, a hidden god.
And the chronicler, unnamed, not noteworthy.
They stood on a village steered by hoary ghosts.
across the sky setting down in a valley
Bearing spoils of wars they rode off with the wagons
From steep canyon edge to flattened foothills.
The Brave Band came to Baruck’s Charging Walls
To the binding gates at the heart of our World
At the sight of the Temple, ever-growing, high-rising
Each Pilgrim’s soul in awe grew still
Then came thunderbolts blasphemous blasts
The Temple face shattered Rocks raining down
All faces blanched at this sleight to the Gods
one cursed throat laughed with lanquid thrill.
“I know who caused this,” The Priestess cried
she who was rope-bound, a prisoner of war.
“My counsel can lead you to this catastrophe’s cause
if you swear well and full to let me go free!”
Each breath of his was drawn in hot.
Dragon Face’s fiery soul flickered bright.
Eager to grapple the wretch that had wrought
On this holy city cruel cataclysm
“Be he sorcerer or swordsman keen,
evil beast or mutant the evolving knave
that cracked the Infinite Temple ill
shall feel the wrath of my tight-gripping grapple!”
Suddenly a shriek pierced the sky
Sunlight flickered struck out by shadow.
A soaring eagle swooped down from on high.
a strip of bark born between its talons.
Clamped claws opened the bark strip fell
down to Dragon Face into open fingers.
The eagle soared off on a southern wind-stream
The masked wrestler unrolled the bark with fear!
For on the dark bark, crudely carved with blades.
Was a map of the land, marked with one sole symbol
Of a roaring lion, mane-rich, fang-leering.
The sinister sigil of Dragon Face’s sworn rival–”
“The Main Man!” Dragon Face exclaimed, crushing the strip of bark between his hands.
“The Main Man?” Lady Ira said, glancing over her shoulder. “Dragon Face, what’s wrong?”
“My rival summons me,” Dragon Face replied, dropping bark fragments on the ground and brushing his hands clean. “I must go,” he said, turning his back on Ira, Corax and V’vendy.
“Go?” Lady Ira repeated incredulously. She glanced over her shoulder at the City Guards, the gawking merchants and the hogtied Priestess currently being loaded into a Chariot for transport to the city prison. “Hold on a moment,” she said to the Guard Captain. “We’ll be right back.”
Lady Ira strode after the masked wrestler as he walked over to the wagon and threw its tarp open. “You cannot go, Dragon Face,” Lady Ira said urgently. “The Zealots of Evolving Evil has blown up part of the Infinite Temple, and may have worse planned!”
Corax stepped up and rested a claw on Dragon Face’s shoulder. “Surely your rival can wait, Dragon Face,” he said. “Your presence here could mean the difference between victory or death against these Zealots!”
“I know that!” Dragon Face shouted, breaking free of Corax’s grip with a shrug. He bent over the wagon and pulled out his rucksack and cloak. “I know that Baruck itself is in danger!” Dragon Face slung his sack over one shoulder, and his cloak over the other. He turned to face his fellow pilgrims: the eyes behind his mask were haunted. “But my hands are tied,” Dragon Face said miserably. “I have to wrestle!”
Ira blinked. She drummed her fingers along the bridge of her harp in thought. Her brow furrowed. “Wait, what?” She said. “You’re not making sense, Dragon Face!”
Dragon Face crouched and set his hands palm-first on the ground. “I will make my way back as soon as possible, my friends,” he said.. ‘Look for my coming at first light!”
Dragon Face breathed deep. “Stride of the Bronze Coils!” he shouted. Purple-hued steam rose from his body like smoke from a green branch burning. His feet carved furrows in the dirt road as he sprinted off to the east,
“Dragon Face, wait!” Ira called out, raising her harp and setting fingers to its strings. “I order you to come back, you selfish fool–!”
V’vendy rested a hand on Lady Ira’s shoulder. “You cannot solve every problem with music, Lady Ira,” the feather-haired archer said. “Let him go. That wrestler has his reasons.”
Ira slid her Harp back into its case and sighed. “What reasons?” Ira asked. “Honor? A geas? Or perhaps his rival is a threat as dangerous the Zealots of Evolving Evil?”
V’vendy coughed into the folds of her hood. “Truthfully?” she replied, “I think he really likes wrestling.”
Corax groaned and rubbed at his snout with his talons. “Regardless, now our little Pilgrimage is under-strength,” he groaned.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that!” A grizzled voice declared. Ira, Corax, and V’vendy looked around to see where the voice had come from.
Uuco the Witness dropped his invisibility spell and reappeared in a burst of static electricity. “Short one wrestler? No big deal!” the moustached Nobble chortled. He lifted a linen pouch and shook it: metal jangled inside. “We’ll use Dragon Face’s share of the loot–that I just stole from him, I might add–and hire a guy just as strong!”
It was Ira’s turn to rub at her snout and groan.