Song Of Hope, Born In Sorrow And Cruel Intent

The Life of Hopeful Anuraag

My first memories are of a family of artists nearly a hundred strong. I had a dozen mothers and fathers and as many brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles as one could wish and then more besides. I took readily to what my family taught me: strength and flexibility of limb, coordination and synchronization, and the musical legacy of a dozen tribes and city-states. Above all I excelled at the strings, and I inherited the tungana of one of my grandfathers on his passing.

My family traveled the south and east, our carts and wagons laden with stage and tent, clever contraptions devised by some inspired ancestor that could be raised and struck in an hour’s time with but a few clever hands to guide it. As the Heaven's Song Circus, we sang stories of gods and heroes, myths and legends, and recreated their feats with our lithe bodies and craft of stage.

My voice was strong, my playing precise, and so in time I came to lead the songs as ceremonial master and narrator, a position weighty with responsibility. I revelled in the challenge and looked upon my life with contentment.

The Exaltation of Song of Hope, Born in Sorrow and Cruel Intent

We did not notice the signs, caught up as we were in our performance of The Day That Ahlat Wrestled the River. And even had we seen, we would have known them for what they were, for we had not yet learned of the Advent of Brass.

Caught unaware, we saw nothing amiss until the sweat on our skins froze and shattered, silencing our song and binding us in stillness. The fabric of the great tent hid the outside from us; we knew not what god or spirit held us in its grasp as we waited to learn our fate. It was so much worse than we imagined.

As the cacophony began, a demon of immense stature flung aside the tent that had shielded us. It’s head was that of a great saltwater crocodile, it’s body covered in fur, with the horns and cloven hooves of a ram. Wrapped about it was a robe of crimson and saffron, emblazoned with a twisted emerald sun. It laughed as it saw us, doing an almost comical dance of delight, even as our minds filled with terror at the first sight of what the land around us had become.

What luck it said, its words ringing in our minds, rather than our ears. Reaching out with a great hand, it caught up one of its lesser fellows and began to twist it, reshaping its screaming form into an immense sitar of demonic sinew and bone. Let us play, it told us. Amuse me and buy yourselves a few more moments before the end.

Its words were hooks in our minds. Bound by its command, we took up its song, unleashing a symphony alien to us all, beautiful and terrible in its composition. As we played, helpless, those around us were taken, torn to bits by tooth and claw or born away whole for an unknown purpose. In time, only we players remained, our song unceasing, time seemingly meaningless in a sky that has no sun.

One by one, we began to fail, strength giving out, lips and fingers torn and bloodied from abuse, limbs weak and trembling. As soon as one ceased to play, long-limbed beasts immediately stepped from the shadows and bore them away to the same unknown as those that had been taken before, until only thirteen of us remained.

In the moment before my strength broke, I knew my end was here. I could feel my life ebb, see the gathering shadows ready to take me in the moment of my failure.

That moment never came.

I crossed a threshold. On one side, I was a man, broken and pushed to the point of collapse. On the other, I was something new. Light and heat suffused me, lending strength to failing limbs and burning away the chains that bound my mind to dread purpose.

I rose to my feet, surrounded by a bonfire that drove away the shadows. My song did not waver but was changed, no longer accompanying that of the demon, but turning back against it instead. As my fire spread among my remaining family, their instruments joined me. Words tumbled forth from my mouth in a torrent of song, my proclamations seeming to strike the demon like blows. It could not wrest the song back from us; it could not flee. Fear bound it as surely as its will had bound us moments before, for it knew what I was, even before I did.

My song crested and washed over it like a wave of fire, each word seared into its flesh, until with a last crescendo, it ended, leaving behind nothing but ash and the demon’s robe, now cleansed, the sun emblem glowing gold in my anima’s light.

The Separation of the Thirteen

We scoured the Break for the rest of our family, choking back tears and bile as we moved among the bodies, identifying the remains by whatever means we could: a favored trinket; a notable birthmark; a blessedly-intact face. We burned what remained and inscribed their names in our hearts. Of some, we could not be certain, such were the predations of the creatures upon them, and others we had seen taken away, their ends wholly unknown to us. Some of us prayed that they were dead, for the alternative seemed worse by far. Others insisted that they lived and would find their way back to us.

In our search, we met a woman of the village, a few years younger than myself, who bore a hammer that blazed so bright it hurt to look upon. We had never met, but the fires that burned in us spoke to one another, and in that moment, each of us knew the other as kin. She too searched for her family, and for a time, we took measure of the charnel fields together. When we parted, we promised to meet again, but the words were unneeded. It was clear that our fates were already intertwined, and nothing we did would change that.

I led the twelve that remained of my family from the Break and back into Creation. We spent one night in mourning for what we had lost and one day in celebration that we still lived. We pledged an oath to learn the truth of our remaining kin and do whatever we could to prevent this tragedy from befalling others. As we went our separate ways, we swore that we would gather again on that day each year, in that place, until such a time that we had found the answers we sought and could either put the memories of our family to rest or storm the gates of hell to bring them back.

Character Sheet
The Proclamations of Song of Hope

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