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Old 06-12-2020, 01:13 PM   #1
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Campaign log: Report to Great Priest Ixanama

Greetings forum.

Some of you may be following Confessions of a Forked Tongue by coronatiger. I'm playing in the same campaign controlling Xipil the lizardperson. My character has more of an outsider perspective on things, so expect a lot of world description. We have now had 25 sessions, so I will start up with a recap of how Xipil ended up in mammal land and the campaign so far. I joined in session 3 or so, so this won't cover the very beginning. Things written in italic are the words of Xipil.

Warning: All members of our group are adults, and our game features topics that some readers may find inappropriate or disturbing, like sex, religious fanaticism and slavery. My character has little interest in such things and will merely state that they happened. Please be respectful in your comments. Explicit descriptions of sex/nudity are not allowed on this forum, and will be deleted.

See Confessions of a Forked Tongue for a different perspective on this campaign.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 06-12-2020 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 06-12-2020, 02:16 PM   #2
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Re: Campaign log: Report to Great Priest Ixanama

Great Priest Toltecatl is dead. On the 66th day of the expedition, they and all in their retinue of worth fell in battle against the foul creatures residing in the forest. The forest and all that dwell in it have been corrupted and it is no longer green but brown and rotting and I have reason to believe the star children are responsible.

I am Xipil, writer for Great Priest Toltecatl and I will write down my observations from the lands of the mammals in this report, hoping it will reach The Homeland at some point. I am not concerned that the mammals will obtain these notes. None of them have any knowledge of our language and even if they did, their mathematical understanding is primitive and they would not be able to decipher the encryption. However, it will contain some awkward details and discretion is adviced.

The travel from The Homeland was uneventful. Upon reaching the coast, which took 10 days, we boarded a ship in some minor mammal town and set sail. After 44 days travelling north east along the coast, we arrived in a large port city called Omar at the intersection between the sea, a desert and a vast saltwater marsh. Under the cover of darkness, we transferred to the barges of a type of mammals called the barge folk who live in the swamps and seems more adapted to life in the water than the other speaking mammals. They transported us through the swamps in 6 days and appeared to use some kind of communal magic and songs to control the currents. When we neared the forest, they were not willing to go any further and we continued on foot.

From the moment we entered the forest, we were followed by large flocks of black birds known as ravens. I was of course not privy to the discussions among the Priests, but I believe some attempts were made to communicate with the birds who appeared to be sentient. I also overheard some talk of shape shifting. The air was thick with the smell of rot and decay and while the trees were not dead, they were not really alive either. I also had an unpleasant feeling of some kind of power in the forest, and it felt wrong. On the 6th day after entering the forest, the expedition made camp by some ruins and I was sent on a particularly long scouting trip. I found nothing of interest on the trip, and in hindsight, I believe Great Priest Toltecatl suspected something and wanted someone to survive to report. When I returned in the evening, the campsite was strewn with bodies. Our People had fallen and among them lay dead mammals of the non speaking kind. It made little sense because these beasts should not have posed any threat to the expedition. However, the air was thick with magic and the beasts had already started to decay, unnaturally fast. Near the centre, I could see the body of the Great Priest, surrounded by their fallen bodyguard and a host of dead beasts. I was starting to make my way to them, but near the edge of the forest I found the body of Champion Huxapotl. Their blood tasted of fear and I fled into the forest.

I made my way north through the forest, sneaking through the stinking undergrowth to avoid the ravens sometimes flying overhead. After 2 days, I felt a flash of some kind of power a bit to the north east. While it was a strange power like nothing I had felt before, it was a sharp contrast to the smothering sense of decay all around me and I made my way towards it. In the evening, I arrived at a small clearing in the forest and a met a strange party consisting of a mammal as big as a Priest, whose name was Grogg, a small hairy one called Krupik and a star child called Lunari. The big mammals are called Trolls and the hairy one is called a dwarf. The star children are called elves here and I believe this is a better name because their connection to the stars seems tenuous at best. For most of them, the stars are only shining dots in the night sky. I naturally assumed Grogg was the leader of the party, but was shocked when it became clear they were subservient to the little elf. The mammals have a pathological obsession with parents and offspring and Lunari had somehow hijacked this to control the great warrior. The burst of power I had felt was the dwarf attempting to repair some equipment, but instead all their metallic items had gone flying. None of them were injured, which must have been extremely lucky considering the strength of the burst of power.

The party was on some kind of mission to the east, but there seemed to be little trust between them and the dwarf used secrecy to maintain control. It was very unclear what they were doing in the forest in the first place, considering that it is generally shunned and can easily be bypassed through the swamp. Despite this, it was better to be with a party of some kind than alone in that forest. We made our way eastwards, with a large flock of ravens following us and sometimes flying overhead. We observed some ruins, but stayed well away from them, not knowing what could trigger an attack and we made it unmolested to the edge of the forest after 4 days. The ravens did not follow us out of the forest.

We arrived on the sparsely vegetated foothills of a vast mountain range to the north, while to the south, a lush jungle spread out beneath us in a great river valley. For the next 14 days, we traveled east through the jungle. The jungle was reminiscent of The Homeland, except humans lived there and I saw a bizarre creature that looked like a mix of a huge jaguar and a lizard. The humans had a very unbalanced sex ratio with many more females than males and they worshiped a god called Matapl that looked like one of The People. We were followed by two ravens and Grogg seemed to have a relationship with them. In exchange for food, they were given a silver needle and a silver ring. We later learned that the ring makes it possible to see spirits and the needle puts creatures in a healing sleep.

We eventually reached something that looked like a great mesa from the distance, but turned out to be an enormous crater when we reached the summit. On the approach, I saw stars falling from the heavens into the crater. The others, being blind mammals, could only see the falling stars through the ring. Krupik announced that this was the destination and produced a glass cube with tubes and cavities inside. The tubes appeared to be fixed, but they moved slightly when the cube moved, almost as if they were floating in the glass. The plan was to charge this device with star energy after night fell.

While Krupik was preparing, I scouted the crater. There was clearly some kind of energy in the crater and Lunari claimed it was plant energy, but in the centre was an area of star energy. There, I found a camp of humans which were all male and some of them looking strangely grey. The leader drained the life from everything they touched. There was also a bizarre creature looking like a round, grey blob on four feet with huge eyes and an enormous maw. I was later told that this was a Saplurp which can gather up unfortune around it and unleash it on a victim. The humans were planning to sacrifice something, presumably us, but their advance was halted by a magic accident from Krupik and a few arrows. Krupik cancelled the charging of the box and after a few skirmishes the next day, we left the crater the next morning.

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Old 06-12-2020, 03:22 PM   #3
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Story so far, part 2

We traveled north from the crater and on the 2nd night, a star rose up from the crater and sped towards the brown forest leaving a trail of star dust in its wake. The following day, we reached the river. According to Krupik, it was not necessary to charge the cube at the crater as long as it was on a high place with a clear view of the sky sufficiently far east. Krupik was installed at the top of a tall tree and just to try it, I attempted to channel power into the cube. Surprisingly it worked, but drained a lot of energy. Luckily, there was still star dust in the sky and I was able to recover some energy by focusing on it. Krupik and I charged the cube and it shone intensely with starlight until it suddenly was full, closed itself up and only shone with a dull light.

The light of the cube had alerted the native humans and we hurried south along the river in the morning. At night, we could see that nine new stars had appeared in the sky over the brown forest, dancing in circles. Lunari thought this might be related to the legend of the nine daughters of Azura. The mammals believe Azura is the mother of the stars but they seem to be very confused because they do not associate them with Amna. Instead, depict them as a human female while Amna is called Tiri and is associated with protection from malevolent forces. This is common among the mammals. They depict Mitra, their answer to Ajaw, as a male human in a chariot. It is like they have never looked up at the sky. According to the myth, nine of Azuras daughters were taken at some point and kept locked away, causing great sadness.

To travel down the river, Lunari hollowed out a tree and we floated down the river. At one point, the ravens that had been following us appeared very upset and cawed incessantly while Grogg started shouting out something in the language of the forest elves. This went on for a while, but eventually we heard the flapping of wings flying away and Grogg passed out. We did not see the ravens again for a long time. When we were nearing the swamp, I slept with the silver needle and got strange impression that the nine stars had been away for a long time, somehow entangled with earth energies, but now they were released.

After 4 days floating down the river, we reached the swamp. Krupik caused a minor diplomatic incident and we escaped into the swamp where we intercepted a small flotilla of barge folk. They were willing to transport us to the area known as the Cities of the Prince, the homeland of my travel companions. When traveling past the brown forest at night, I fell into a trance and had my first vision. It was divided into three parts. First, I was among the stars, but they were quarreling about whether the wild star dance was a good thing or not. Afterwards, I was in the forest when it was still green and the elves living there had green skin. They saw animals in the sky that then appeared among them on the earth. Finally, I was at a vast, empty plain and a large four legged mammal called a horse appeared. It was closely connected to the land, running over it and ruling it until it somehow collided with a spear.

We reached the Cities of the Prince after 4 days and stayed with the Salt Guild, an organization Krupik works for. For some unfathomable reason, the mammals price salt highly and will pour large quantities of it in their food, baths and on all sorts of things for preservation. One must be very careful with what one eats here. The production of salt generates great wealth for the Salt Guild, which is the only thing that matters to the mammals in this area besides who is the offspring of whom. The status of an individual appears to be solely determined by their material wealth, which they pass on to their offspring when they die. This results in them being ruled by groups of wealthy individuals, called noble families, solely based on familial relations and with no relation to the stars or their capabilities. Nominally, the land is ruled by the prince who controls the military, but in practice it seems anyone can buy an armed force. Other important institutions are the aforementioned Salt Guild, The Company, that Lunari was somehow working for, The Academy of Magic and the Temples. Because none of the mammals know their proper place, they have created large volumes of rules written down called laws and transgressors are punished. They even have a god for these laws. The majority of the laws seems designed to to allow those four institutions to control all the wealth and power.

The average peasant in the Land of the Princes appears rather weak and sickly. No doubt because they don't have any concept of population control, but instead breed with anything and anyone and spend a lot of effort in keeping every single offspring alive. They also cower up their bodies, presumably because they are rightfully ashamed of them. Due to their materialistic nature, they have advanced quite far in metallurgy. They have access to large amounts of iron and have found ways to improve it to make it as strong as our volcanic bronze. The improved iron is mostly reserved for high quality weapons and armour, but even farm equipment is made from normal iron.

They have an interesting cyclic calendar with time being divided into periods of fixed duration. The shortest period is the week, which is 7 days. 4 weeks makes 1 month and 10 months makes a year before it starts over again. Each month is dedicated to one of nine gods, with Mitra getting two months. The year roughly correspond to changes in the weather, with the beginning and end of the year being colder and darker than the middle. Currently, it is the year 412 since the founding of the third empire. The Cities of the Prince seems to have been part of a larger empire before, but it is now long dead and forgotten.

Upon reaching their homeland, relations between Lunari and Krupik broke down almost immediately into a squabble over payment. As a result, we spent 23 days traveling around in circles, at one point getting caught in an earthquake I suspect was caused by Krupik and Lunari may or may not have killed a female who was mating with others in exchange of money. This is a very common profession for the female mammals. On the 12th night, a lead star appeared in the west and stayed for 3 nights.

Eventually, the cube was delivered to the temple of Azura. The priests of Azura are exclusively female and are focused on gathering knowledge above all else. Naturally, they were fascinated when they saw me, but I made sure not to give them any details about The Homeland, instead telling them about the travel with Krupik, Lunari and Grogg. In exchange for giving them the cube, which they considered knowledge, we got some information in return. They claimed that the forest had turned brown because the elves living there had been shape shifting into the animals in the sky. Somehow, they had been trapped in their new forms and driven mad, cursing the entire forest and could only maintain some control in the form of ravens. This happened during something they called a cataclysm which are events that seem to happen roughly every 300 of their years and are marked by great strife, both among the stars and on earth, and one is beginning now. It seems that these may have coincided with the disappearance of the Gargantuans and the Tail War.

Unfortunately, they were very vague about the purpose of the cube expedition and only told us that they had sent one in each cardinal direction and they are no longer able to make the cubes themselves. Eventually, they are planning to send someone into the brown forest. The humans we met in the crater are known as grey men and the Azura priests were horrified when they heard we had met them. They also told us about the Saplurp and advised us to stay away from such creatures.

We accepted the task of traveling west to search for the cube and the expedition that had gone there. The area is called Arland, but is also known as The Land of the Stone Circles. While Lunari and Krupik were quarreling, I found a book discussing the stone circles and their connection to the stars and I wished to investigate. Lunari also had an ulterior motive, as they had been invited to come work for a noble family. Krupik, however, did not join us. Probably for the best as houses here are not built to survive earthquakes. Instead we were joined by a female human native to Arland called Nuur-Karif who offered to be our guide. Two colleagues of Lunari also joined us. Their profession was selling weapons against the rules written down in the laws.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 07-05-2020 at 07:14 AM.
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Old 06-14-2020, 11:57 AM   #4
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Story so far, part 3

Arland is controlled by seven noble families, one of which is the king's family that the others are supposed to be loyal to. The peasants are even weaker and sicklier than those in the Cities of the Prince and the land is a wasteland with every tree cut down and almost all of it used for growing grain. This behaviour is similar to that of their hairy cousins, the apes, but I have not yet observed any cannibalism, even though they do not have any concerns about disease and will happily eat other mammals and birds. The majority of the land not used for grain is used for growing small fruits called grapes which are quite delicious. Unfortunately, most of the grapes are crushed and the juice placed in barrels to ferment, becoming a disgusting beverage called wine. Wine is highly priced among the mammals for its intoxicating effect and they will imbibe it in large quantities.

Most of the work here is done by slaves, individuals who are somehow considered the property of another individual and forced to do whatever the owner decides. Trolls are kept in similar arrangements the Cities of the Prince, but the owners are called guardians. Lunari is the guardian of Grogg. Naturally, the slaves are not happy with such an unnatural arrangement and are prone to uprisings, one such uprising was under way when we arrived. The whole area seems to tether on the edge of civil war and I wonder if war is their only effective way of population control. In any case, it is a brutal affair with farms burned and cities ransacked.

To the north of the Cities of the Prince and Arland are mountains and forests dominated by mammals called orks. They have green skin and come in a range of sizes with the smallest about the size of a human and the largest considerably bigger and stronger. They live in tribes controlled by whoever defeated the previous leader in single combat. While an unstable form of government, at least it ensures a strong leader. Overall, the orks are just as savage as the other mammals.

The Land of the Stone Circles is dominated by a great river with fertile plains around the river and arid deserts and mountains surrounding the plains. Our destination was the city of Guling in the far south west corner of Arland and we intended to travel by wagon to the river and take a boat from there. In the first city we reached, which took 5 days, I shadowed Nuur-Karif into an underground chapel dedicated to a god of snakes and death, Ashtar. Not expecting anything to happen, I agreed to join their cult in an initiation rite involving lying down on the floor with snakes. That night, I lost consciousness while studying the stars. My surprise was great when I regained consciousness the next morning and my tongue had forked. Clearly, I had come into contact with a power. Nuur-Karif seems to be quite fanatically devoted to Ashtar, but they are one of the least hysterical and materialistic mammals I have met. Physically, they have been blessed with poison fangs and night vision, but more importantly, they have been rewarded with a more reptilian temperament. I now believe that Ashtar is the god worshipped as Ssuxxakan by some of the Small People. A curious difference is that Ssuxxakan is depicted as a two headed snake or two entwined snakes while the Ashtarites always refers to Ashtar as a single female deity. I have also spoken with an ancient ork which claimed to have seen them and talked of two and I wonder if Ashtar is one of two or if the mammals are just confused.

We traveled further west, but already the next night I had a new vision. I was traveling with Kama and Taxini to hunt a great power they sensed in the far east. When we reached it, we found that it was the eastern wind itself. It was chasing the clouds westwards and was bringing destruction and chaos. When I told the others in the morning Grogg proclaimed that it was Palo, a dragon their ancestor, Orga, had defeated and chased away to the east. A dragon is an enormous creature that looks like one of us, but with wings and breathing fire. Lunari did not take my vision seriously and we traveled on in the sunny weather. Around noon, the horizon to the east darkened and we could see clouds coming towards us with an unnatural speed. We took shelter at a farm, but the roof would have blown off had it not been for Grogg. They seemed to be possessed by the spirit of Orga and held the house together. Through the ring I could see what must have been spirits in the wind. The wind passed as quickly as it had appeared. In its wake came a massive downpour which lasted for the rest of the day. Incidentally, this was the day of Mitra, which is held sacred in Arland. There had also been an assassination of a Mitra priest in Sulla, the city we reached the next day, resulting in the entire city being closed down and we proceeded to a small town in the area.

When observing the stars that night, my view was blocked by the clouds. Through the ring, I could see magical energies flickering in the clouds. Soon after, a dying raven came flying with a shining coin in its beak. Grogg was very upset, but there was nothing they could do and the raven passed on. I secured the coin, which Lunari and Grogg claimed to have seen in the forest. We spent 2 more days in the area and the second night, Grogg woke up with a silver key, also from the forest, and had heard cawing in the night. Looking at them through the ring, I could see a strange shimmering that had surrounded them in the beginning, but stopped the day the ravens left. It appeared that the spirit of the dead raven was now in them. Keys and locks, flimsy mechanical contraptions, are used by the mammals to keep intruders out, but are easy to open without a key. On our way back to Sulla, we were approached by a priest of Mitra that claimed a Mhalak had told the priest to tell Nuur-Karif that they must go to the prophet in the south. We still do not know who the prophet is, but a Mhalak is a creature that is supposed to be closely connected to Mitra. 4 days after the raven had died, I could see a spirit raven on Grogg's shoulder through the ring.

Close to Sulla there are three stone circles and I could tell they were in good positions to observe the stars from a days travel away. Nothing grew in and around them and the circles themselves were stone floors inlaid with mosaics. While the mosaics were broken, they reminded me of star charts and they were made with stones I had previously seen in the Azura temple. These stones appear to absorb star energy, or at least react to it. During daytime we could see spirit priests through the ring wandering around doing manual chores like cleaning. They did not react to us, but maybe to the spirit raven Grogg had named Kra. At night, we could see the spirit priests clearly without the ring. In the first we reached, I sat down and had a very clear view of the sky, as if the circle magnified my view. In the second, something seemed broken and Lunari claimed a magical spell must have gone wrong in it. We hurried on to the last and I remember nothing until Lunari woke me in the morning and I exclaimed "You must not disturb the threads of fate!". While I was out, my eyes had been glowing with star light and the spirit priests had seemed to notice me. The threads of fate is the concept the Azura priests use to describe the stars' influence on our lives.

After the experience in the stone circles, we found a ship going down the river and left the Sulla area on the 8th day after the great storm. I spent most of the journey under deck, except for a night and a day in a rowing boat because we had to evade some soldiers looking for Nuur-Karif whom had killed someone important to them as part of their duties to Ashtar. The reason Nuur-Karif was in the Cities of the Prince in the first place was to kill someone and bring their head back to Arland. We spent 3 days on the ship and got off at the southern city of Sam. On the last night on board, I could see a strange shimmer in the northern sky, but it was gone the next night.

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Old 06-20-2020, 01:31 PM   #5
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Story so far, part 4

We spent 2 days in Sam. On the second night, I spent the whole night in an Ashtarite temple without seeing the stars, but I felt no ill effects in the morning. Before it reaches the sea, the river of Arland branches out into a large and wetland. The plan was to travel west from Sam by wagon around the wetlands through a dry area to Guling. However, one of the noble families, called the Larma, had started a military operation in the area and burned an Ashtar chapel, including the worshippers in it. To avoid their troops, we made our way into the wetlands. The wetlands were much more fertile than the rest of Arland with trees, large bodies of water and slowly moving rivers. Naturally, the mammals are busy trying to destroy it by chopping down the trees and digging drainage ditches, but their population is still somewhat limited and the destruction is not complete yet. We found an Astharite guide to show us through the wetlands and the second night, I had a vision, but not from the stars. I first got a feeling that something had to die when meditating under the stars. When I went down in the dirt cave we were sleeping in, I lost consciousness and when I woke again, I felt very sick and was certain some mammals in the area had to die. After sleeping, the vision became clearer and the mammals became more recognizable. Our guide took us to the mammals on their own initiative and we slew them. Unfortunately, I was not able to investigate and determine why they had to die, but they seemed to be particularly violent and savage.

The day after, we encountered a party of mammals, including a human-elf hybrid called Lunas. Lunas is a member of the noble family controlling the Guling area, the Alderas, and they and Lunari knew each other. Grogg and Lunari had rescued Lunas from a losing fight once. We travelled on towards Guling together with Lunas, but it was slow-going as mammals are barely able to swim. After 1 night and 1 day we reached a larger branch of the river and a boat they had hidden there. There, we were nearly ambushed by a creature reminiscent of the bizarre panther-lizard hybrid in the jungle. This one was much smaller, but very fast under water. We were able to defeat it and its blood tasted of dominance. These creatures clearly consider themselves the lords of the wetlands and I got the impression they are one of the reasons the wetlands haven't been completely ravaged by the mammals yet.

Sailing down the river, I saw that the burrowing rat had appeared in the sky on the 2nd night. Even the mammals have realized that this is a bad sign. In the morning, we could see the end of the wetlands and the bare lands of the mammals. Lunas left us and we traveled the last part of the journey by wagon. Looking through the ring, I noticed something was off with the burrowing rat. Sitting down to meditate I had a new vision where I was trying to hide myself and someone else from its malevolent gaze. I was woken by Nuur-Karif and my eyes had been glowing again.

We reached the city of Guling early in the morning. The Alderas live on a fortress island outside Guling called The Evening Fortress, which is clearly much older than the Alderas. To get to the fortress, one has to cross a causeway that appears when the sea recedes for an hour when Ajaw reaches the sea. While the fortress is quite dillapidated, it is built using techniques similar to ours and have withstood the test of time. There is also some kind of protective spell surrounding the whole island. I have later been told that it stops all attempts at spying from the outside using magic and the mammals are no longer capable of making spells as long lasting and durable. For some reason, one is not supposed to swim out to the island, but it is unclear why, besides being unpleasant to swim in the salt water.

When Ajaw touched the water, we walked to the fortress and were not questioned by anyone, which was strange, considering that they were in a state of pseudo war with another family. As we were climbing the stairs to the central fort, we were approached by a jaguar like creature called Nujan that could talk and reason. These creatures are native to the desert west of Omar, but they seem to travel around and seem less hysterical than most mammals. They do not need laws for example. Except for Nujan, the fortress was strangely empty and we only met a few servants and guards, including a human called Marcus who is in charge of the armed forces of Aldera. We were given rooms in the fort, but we were not allowed to enter the inner courtyard of the fort.

In the evening the next day, I noticed a strange whirlwind around a tower in Guling that was only visible through the ring. This tower was in a part of the city controlled by the Larma family and I was told it usually held a light beacon as part of a propaganda campaign, but this night it was dark, at least for the mammals. To me, it was shining with star light, similar to the light emitted from the cube when we charged it, and through the ring I could see that the whirling shadows had started to extend from the tower towards the sky. The light was blinding, but I found a shaded corner to study the stars and I could see that something was affecting the burrowing rat.

While I was studying the stars an elf appeared from the inner courtyard which had to be Isa, the youngest member of the Aldera family. They exclaimed that what was going on in the tower was awful, but did not elaborate and went back to the inner courtyard. Soon after, we were summoned inside because Nuur-Karif's medical skills were needed. The leader of the Alderas, Madan, was lying on a bed, writhing in pain and screaming with a strangely distorted voice. When closing my eyes, I saw tendrils of something reaching in through the windows and it appeared that Isa could see them as well and claimed a being called Tuza was back. Madan was moved to a dungeon underneath the fort and placed in a torture chamber in order to get them away from the tendrils. This appeared to calm them a little, but they were clearly losing against whatever was affecting them and we decided to strike at the source of whatever was going on, the tower.

Using a boat and a secret exit, we made it to the city, sinking an escaping ship on the way. The ship was crewed by hired soldiers and other bands of hired soldiers were rampaging through the city, burning both houses and temples. Marcus had been contacted by someone who must have been an Azura priest, possible from the Cities of the Prince, and was already besieging the tower when we arrived. Grogg led a frontal assault while Nujan and I climbed up on the outside and attacked the defenders from behind and we took the tower with few casualties. At the top floor, we found a dead elf with someone else's blood on their hand, several magical items and an Azura cube. The blood of the elf tasted of dominance and submission, but no fear of death, and I also got the impression of malevolent magic. Among the magical items was a small black box that could summon a swarm of bats, a lantern that changed colour when someone that had not touched it before got near and a rope tied in a circle that blocked light from leaving the circle. There was also a sealed jar, that felt like it contained something malevolent when I touched it. Scattered around on the floor outside the rope were about 40 clay tokens. According to Isa, these had been used to hold the spirits of dead mammals that were now swirling around the tower. Together with the star cube, they were used to power the ritual that had somehow guided or taken control of the burrowing rat, making it attack Madan. Interestingly, Isa is able to see spirits unaided.

We secured the magical items and took them to the Evening Fortress. A number of priests of Rama, a god of animals, spirits and self inflicted pain, possibly related to Tzacol, took charge of the tower and the swirling spirits. Unsuccesfully, it would later turn out. While we were rowing out, a downpour started, extinguishing the fires in the city.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 07-01-2020 at 12:33 PM.
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Old 06-26-2020, 02:47 PM   #6
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Story so far, part 5

The next day, we were invited to eat with the Aldera family. However, it turned out that Madan was so debilitated it would be better to put them out of their misery, Lunas was still gone somewhere and the final member of the family, Mir, was a decoy, leaving us with only Isa. Where the real Mir was, was secret, but I deduced that they were somewhere to the far west. After the meal, we received word from Lunas, that they had an issue with some goblins to the north west. Goblins are similar to the orks and also have green skin, but are much smaller, more devious and generally quite pathetic. The mountains to the north west seemed like a good place to charge the cube we had found in the tower, so we agreed to look into the problem. Looking at the stars, I got the impression that a leader had died. Interestingly, the mammals claim that rain in the month of Mitra means the king has died and it has later been confirmed that the king has in fact died.

We could not leave before the evening the next day, so the cube was placed in the dungeon to discharge it. In one of the cells was the ancient ork, Krull, whom I mentioned earlier that had seen Ashtar/Ssuxxakan but claimed they were not allowed to die. Unfortunately, this made Lunari hysterical and they ordered Grogg to forcibly drag me out of the dungeon. Most mammals are terrified of death and react poorly when reminded of their own mortality. While Grogg was carrying me out, the ork told me to tell Nujan that it was time for something to begin, which I did. Luckily, I got the chance to talk to them again later when we picked up the cube. They were familiar with the jungle to the east and pointed out the unbalanced sex ratio of the humans there and they knew about the Saplurp, claiming that it can only be harmed by attacks that can harm the dead. On the way out, they told me to tell Pakk, a troll living in the fortress, that it was time to go backwards. I believe Krull has some kind of prophetic abilities, or at least believe they have.

When the water receded from the causeway we left and traveled north west through the night in a wagon pulled by horses. The next night, we slept in a small village and there were lots of animal signs in the sky. We were woken by the animals in the village making lots of noises and wandering off towards something to the north west. After tracking them, we decided to continue on our journey, but I lost consciousnes while studying the stars. I do not remember anything before waking up from a horrible nightmare the next day, standing in a field surrounded by various animals. In the nightmare, I had been some kind of mammal and had apparently been affected by the spell that was attracting the animals. I believe the magic ritual must have been amplified by the star signs and the signs then affected me. The animals continued north west, being herded by giant ants while I slipped away without the ants noticing and intercepted the wagon with the others. A bit later, we reached a small fortified village at the edge of the Aldera territories.

In the village, it became clear that Lunari was both acting and being treated differently. They had an air of unfounded confidence that seemed to affect the mammals, making them follow Lunari's orders unquestioningly. Grogg and Nuur-Karif seemed more or less unaffected and Lunas, whom we met in the village, also seemed unaffected. Presumably because they knew the real Lunari. I was definitely not affected and I doubt it would work on anyone of The People. Through the ring, we could see some kind of spirit in Lunari's spear that Grogg claimed was a horse. It had not been there earlier and it seemed likely that some enchantment on the spear was giving Lunari their confidence. They were also more skilled with the spear and handling horses than they used to be.

Lunas informed us that the ants I had seen were controlled by the goblins through scents and the whole goblin situation was probably part of some scheme by one of the bickering noble families. Of more interest is what they told us of the wetlands. In the middle of the swamp are some hills that used to be the island capital of some forgotten mammal realm. On the far side of the wetlands, a mighty river comes down from the south. Guling is almost directly north of The Homeland, slightly to the east, and it seemed quite likely that the river is Haxiaxi. I have since found further evidence that seem to confirm this. The strange hybrid creature we fought in the wetlands is said to be the guardians of the hills and the area to the south is said to be the land of the dead. It is unclear what the mammals mean by this and they do not seem to know themselves.

After a bit of rest, I was woken by Grogg who had received a bottle with a foul smelling reddish liquid from Kra. It appeared to be of goblin origin and we speculated that it might be related to controlling the ants, which later turned out to be true. Following the trail of the charmed animals was trivial and we found a group of goblins and ants in the evening. Oddly enough, I could see both Ajaw and Amna in the sky at the same time. Lunari, under the influence of the spear, challenged their leader to a duel and won, becoming their new leader. It was clear Lunari was becoming increasingly unhinged and Nuur-Karif and I killed the goblins in the night, except one we used for information, and we took control of the ants. The goblins had cast some kind of spell on the animals that was supposed to bring suffering to the mammals under Aldera. Being of little concern to us, we left them for the Rama priests to deal with and returned to the village the same night.

In the morning, Ajaw did not rise, but Amna stayed in the sky. The mammals were panicking, screaming for Lunari to bring back Mitra, the poor creatures. Around midday, a lead star appeared in the north east, close to a sign the mammals call The Horse. This would place it above the plains to the north were Lunari's spear was from and I suspect it was connected to the awakening of the enchantment in the spear.

The next day, Ajaw was back to the relief of the mammals and we seto out to charge the cube. I believed, and still do, that it would be better to do it at the hills in the wetlands, as this would place it directly west of the Azura temple and is said to be a place of power. However, Lunari was lazy, Grogg only did what Lunari said and Nuur-Karif did not care, so we traveled 2 days north into the desert. We killed the last goblin on the 1st night, despite Lunari babbling on about how the creature would teach them magic. The ants turned out to be very useful beasts of burden. Unfortunately, their meat tastes of salt, but with enough watering and the right preparation, I believe they could be quite delicious. On the 2nd night, we climbed on top of a mesa and charged the cube. This time it went much easier and I suspect we might have been too far away from a place of power. The trip back to the village was also uneventful and took 2 days. After spending a night in the village, we returned to Guling with the wagon.

By evening, we returned to the village were we had seen the animals escape from and decided to spend the night. I climbed a roof to observe the stars, but I lost consciousness again and I was woken by Grogg in an Ashtarite chapel under the ground. When I woke up, I proclaimed that I would become a mage. I have meditated on my experience and I believe I am supposed to combine the powers of the darkness and underground with the powers of the stars. I also have the impression that I would turn into a snake if I devoted myself fully to Ashtar/Ssuxxakan, but I might lose contact with the stars. I find both ideas profoundly disturbing, but also exhilarating.
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Old 07-01-2020, 01:46 PM   #7
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Story so far, part 6

In Guling, there was much more activity than when we left. A small fleet of ships we had observed sailing from the west when moving out had docked in the harbour and construction and repairs were happening on the walls. The real Mir were on the ship and I suspect that the lead star in the west was related to their departure. We reached the causeway just in time to make it across and were invited to meet Mir and Lunas. Mir was an odd character, prone to rambling and with a highly inflated sense of self worth, even by mammalian standards. In the west, they had served as a warlord in the Dragon King's Star army, but there was no explanation what a Dragon King or a Star army is. Presumably empty titles. They did tell us about Lunari's spear, however. It is considered important for the nomads from the wasteland in the north and is supposed to control the urstallion, the horse deity I saw in my vision. The threat of 10000 mounted warriors and the promise of large amounts of gold convinced Lunari to relinquish the spear, to everyone's relief. They were becoming increasingly unstable and annoying as long as they held on to the weapon. The mammals were celebrating into the night and got quite intoxicated. Around midnight, I observed the stars and saw something that looked like a flash of lightning, but with star light. It traveled away from me towards the east.

Nuur-Karif had gained favour with Lunas by mating with them, and the next day they showed us an Ashtarite chapel in a closed off part of the fortress. The chapel was dusty and mostly unused, but there was a large snake there, almost as large as those in The Homeland, but poisonous. Lunas also told us what they knew about the cube. It had been brought to Guling by a party sent by Azura, but there had been internal conflicts and they had disagreed on how to proceed. I believe one of the members was a traitor and sold the cube and the others to the Larma family. Presumably they are dead by now. Lunas also wondered why we trusted the Azura priests. I agree that their motives are unclear, but they seem to be the only mammals that have any clue about the stars and what is happening in the sky. If only they were better at choosing collaborators for their missions. Lunari, on the other hand, seemed to trust them completely. I did observe an Azura priest affect Grogg's thinking at one point and the spear demonstrated that Lunari is susceptible to mind magic, so perhaps Lunari had been enchanted. Lunas recommended that we got Pakk and Gromann to study the cube. They are scholars, a troll and a dwarf respectively, living in the Evening Fortress. Gromann was the author of the book I discovered in the Cities of the Prince, but it had so far not been possible to get anything intelligent out of them. The dwarf had been irrationally angry and the troll had been constantly sad for no apparent reason and I had the impression they had acted like this for a long time. While we were away, they had stopped this silly behaviour.

When they saw the cube, they were fascinated and claimed it not only contained vast amounts of star energy, but also the connections in the sky. After some initial study and consultation with their books, they decided they needed to know exactly where we had charged the cube. We told them about the mesa in the desert as well as the crater in the east and that Azura had intended to send cubes to the north, south and the brown forest as well. They suspected that Azura wishes to understand and possibly possess the powers at certain places, the crater being one of them and the hills in the wetlands is probably another. They also asked if we had seen any birdlike creatures in the crater, which we had not, only the grey cultists. The discussion was cut short when they realized Kra was in the room, and they packed up their books and left. A reasonable reaction considering what happened in the brown forest. I got hold of them again later and they agreed to identify the magical items from the forest to prove their abilities, which they were able to. The coin Kra had brought can gather small amounts of star energy while the key that had appeared can lock a door until the next full moon. Pakk mentioned a story about earlier Alderas traveling up the river and visited a land with a volcano in a great lake inhabited by lizards. The tale was considered a lie, like most of the things the mammals in Arland write. That seems to be the case because the Alderas claimed to have seen Gargantuans, even though it happened after the last apocalypse. I later found a book with the tale and I believe the Alderas found a text from before the tail war and copied it, possibly without even leaving Arland.

We also got more information about the ork in the dungeon. Madan's mate, Varja, had been struck by an illness known as king's fever. Lunas had been sent to the forests in the north were Krull was leading an ork tribe while Mir was sent west. Next to a lake known as the Night Mirror, which is claimed to be connected to the stars, Lunas had met Krull and the latter agreed to come to to the Evening Fortress. On the way back, Krull and Lunas had been ambushed by orks, but Grogg and Lunari had showed up and Grogg defeated the ork leader in single combat. Krull had not been able to cure Varja, so Varja died and Krull was put in the dungeon. Pakk and Gromann appears to get upset when Varja is mentioned and I suspect they were supposed to cure Varja as well.

King's fever is a disease that seems to mostly affect the nobles and is somehow related to malevolent spirits known as demons. The mammals are reluctant to talk about demons and I do not think they know much themselves, but it seems that demons can take control of the minds of mammals, especially if the mammal is seeking it. Why anyone would seek this is hard to comprehend, but the mammals' blindness and hysterical nature probably makes them vulnerable. Mir and Isa claimed that a demon named Tuza had taken control of Madan and this was the same demon that had attacked Varja. In the Cities of the Prince, the followers of Tiri are responsible for protection against demons. I wonder if it is Amna or Sebak or both the mammals are praying to for protection. In Arland, an organization called Tivito has the exclusive right to deal with demons. They appear to be controlled or allied with Larma which means they are enemies of Aldera who claims that they are controlling and helping demons instead of stopping them.

At night, we went to Guling and the spirits around the tower were gone. I spent the night at the Ashtarite chapel with Nuur-Karif, but they disappeared into the hallways in the back. They were back in the morning, but covered in blood and with bite marks on their neck. Despite their wounds, they appeared to be in good health. They claimed to have been to the realm of the dead, but were unwilling to say anything more, beyond that they now had a higher rank in the Ashtarite hierarchy. Back at the fortress, we visited the chapel and they appeared to speak with the snake. I have observed Ssuxxakan followers appearing to speak to snakes, but Nuur-Karif had earlier claimed that Ashtarites can not do this. The snake bit Nuur-Karif in the throat and they were slightly intoxicated afterwards. At night, I could feel star energy from the rooms of Pakk and Gromann. They were experimenting with the cube.

The next morning, Nuur-Karif presented a human called Yana that would help us with disguises. Lunas had asked us to investigate a burial ground a bit to the north were the villagers had seen ghosts and the disguises could be convenient to avoid attracting attention. As Isa can see spirits, it would be interesting to bring them along. They have been kept at the Evening Fortress their whole life, not having had any opportunity to grow. This is especially unfortunate because they hinted that they were born under exceptionally powerful stars. I was a bit surprised that Lunari agreed that we should take Isa with us, as the Alderas certainly would not like it and it could jeopardize Lunari's payment. However, they went along with the plan and contributed enthusiastically by arranging a distracting party while we snuck Isa out.

We left immediately after the causeway appearead, traveling by wagon through the night. I observed the stars and I could see Amna exceptionally well, including how the stars reflected their mother's light. I could also see that Amna is not alone, but Sebak's spirit is still there, wrapped around and in Amna. I must have passed out at some point, because I woke the next morning in a small hut feeling exhausted. Isa claimed I had been using too much magic and that was why I had lost consciousness. Thinking back, I had done something with the energy from the stars, knotting it together like ropes. Trying something similar on Grogg, I got the impression of a bluish light and the taste of clean, strong metal.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 07-04-2020 at 09:10 AM.
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Old 07-04-2020, 01:23 PM   #8
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Story so far, part 7

Nuur-Karif revealed that they could now make spirits materialize by stabbing them. This was a bit of a relief, because otherwise we would only be able to observe them through the ring, but not defend ourselves. The burial ground we were supposed to investigate was in a small forest, a rarity here in Arland. It was some peasants in the the nearby village that had claimed to have seen the ghosts. There were also some human-elf hybrids living in the forest, known as The Elves, that were tasked with guarding the burial ground. An entity known as Gritt was sleeping there and must not be disturbed. The Elves led us to one of their settlements and told us that their Medium, a kind of sorcerer that was supposed to be in contact with the forest and the burial ground, was dead. They had died too early and their apprentice had not learned enough to become a new Medium. As a result, they did not have any way to contact the forest.

The corpse of the Medium was still lying in their cave and showed clear signs of torture. Entering the cave, I felt a shiver from some kind of energy. There were also the corpses of some forest creatures, that appeared to have been sacrificed in some kind of magic ritual. The Medium's blood tasted of pain and terror, consistent with the state of the corpse, but the other creatures seemed to have died peacefully. 4 days earlier, a party of lost spirits had arrived in the forest and the Medium had died sometime around then, but the Medium's corpse appeared fresher than it should. There were also various herbs and a purple incense scattered throughout the cave which showed clear signs of a struggle. In the middle of the cave were footprints that were from a two legged mammal that were a perfect match with the boots of the dead mage in the tower in Guling. Lunari had taken the mage's clothes in order to impress females. The Medium's apprentice was very young and not very useful, but they claimed the spirit of the Medium was in a crypt in the centre of the forest and that most of the spirits had traveled on. Nuur-Karif buried the corpse in the ground, which is the custom among the mammals, and we proceeded towards the burial ground in the centre of the forest.

The burial ground was a square area of about 30 times 30 meters, surrounded by a low, partially collapsed stone wall and the ground was covered with flagstones. Nine crypts were placed in a square formation inside, facing towards the central crypt furthest from the entrance and all of them had been opened recently. Nothing grew inside the burial grounds, but through the ring I could see the flickering of spirits in on of the crypts. Reaching through a whole in the wall, I felt a shiver similar to, but not quite the same as in the cave and a spirit appeared soon after to investigate. When the others arrived, Nuur-Karif and Grogg would try to engage the spirits and possibly capture one. It went well initially and two spirits were materialized and killed, but they were severely outnumbered and had to retreat. We then tried to shoot them with arrows dipped in a poison we had received from an Ashtarite priest. However, we were not able to lure the spirits out again and entered the burial ground to investigate. The crypt the other crypts were facing had been closed while the others all had an empty sarcophagus, a type of chest the mammals puts their dead in. Sitting in one of the sarcophagi, I felt a strong chill and like someone tapped me on the shoulder and said come, but there was nobody there. Soon after, Isa and I felt a surge of power coming from the closed crypt. Isa donned the white clothing, hoping that they would confuse the spirits, while Grogg broke down the door.

Inside the crypt, we first entered a small room with an altar to some unknown deity. Continuing down, we entered a large underground chamber illuminated by a faint purple light coming from incense burners. In the centre was a large sarcophagus and eight human corpses were placed next to columns along the walls. Nuur-Karif rushed forwards, stabbing in the air, and the Medium appeared, but seemed to be about to die and completely panicked. The white clothes worked and the other spirits tried to flee. They were all ended, with the last one being chased down by Nuur-Karif. In the purple light of the incense, it was possible to see the spirits faintly. Nuur-Karif returned, but soon got a horrified expression on their face and sat down to pray loudly and hysterically. It was a bit disturbing and they were asking for forgiveness for having left the realm of the dead without permission. They then claimed it was difficult to contact Ashtar in the chamber and went to the top of the stairs were they passed out. Praying to Ashtar/Ssuxxakan for guidance, I got the impression that Nuur-Karif needed help. When they woke up again, they insisted we had to open the sarcophagus and when Grogg pushed the lid aside, Nuur-Karif snatched up a gold crown from the head of the corpse it contained.

The corpse started to disintegrate, while Isa, Grogg and Lunari fled while I stayed with Nuur-Karif and we left the crypt together. At the entrance, Grogg tried to ambush Nuur-Karif, but instead they stung themselves with the needle and fell asleep. Nuur-Karif had cast a spell on them, which Nuur-Karif had not been able to do before. Another demonstration of new powers happened when we reached Isa. Nuur-Karif reached out to Isa, but Isa threw some kind of protective spell that Nuur-Karif had no trouble penetrating. Lunari had fled, apparently after trying and failing to use some kind of mind control on Isa. The rest of us took the wagon back to the Evening Fortress and reached it in time to cross the causeway. I wanted to take Nuur-Karif to the Ashtarite chapel, but they said they could no longer enter. I got the impression that Nuur-Karif was dead to Ashtar/Ssuxxakan. When looking at Nuur-Karif's aura, I saw a bright light around their head and the crown. I also experimented a bit, using magic on the crown, and it was clear that it was enchanted, but whatever the enchantment was doing, it seemed to be containing Nuur-Karif's aura. Lunari ran away whenever I approached them, but Pakk was willing to examine Nuur-Karif. They said the crown was a powerful item and had to discuss with Gromann. I did not trust Nuur-Karif to sleep alone, so I stayed with them through the night.

The next day, I went down to talk with Krull. They were not very coherent, rambling on about how Gritt and Tivito was coming to get them, but they explained that Tivito had captured Gritt by placing the crown on one of their own and putting them in a permanent sleep in the crypt. Apparently it was not possible to kill Gritt and Krull because they were somehow outside Ashtar's powers and Krull should travel north to the Night Mirror. Krull also claimed they could smell the jar from the tower in Guling and seemed to know whatever was inside. Pakk and Gromann wanted to investigate Nuur-Karif and the crown, but Nuur-Karif wanted to meet Mir instead. Probably an early sign that they were not rational any more. Lunari and Grogg had been doing drugs all they and were quite useless, especially after even more wine. Ebsalon, a human mage Mir had brought to teach Isa to control their power was there, as well as an elf called Nulius that Mir had brought from the west. Nulius claimed Mir was a reborn prophet of war called Zeta that would restore the empire or something, because it went so well the first three times. Eventually, I informed Mir of Nuur-Karif's affliction and unlike the other mammals, they had the sense to fetch Gromann and Pakk. They confirmed what Krull had told me and elaborated. A long time ago, there had been seven warlords known as The Immortals. Somehow, they obtained supernatural powers and it was not possible to kill them but Tivito had captured some of them in crypts like Krull told me. These crypts were close to star circles and at least five had been constructed. Gritt was said to be very charming and able to control other mammals easily.

At night, I brought Pakk and Grogg with me to the Ashtar chapel. I stayed a bit longer than them, and when I left, I found the tracks of Pakk ascending the stairs further up. Following the tracks, I reached the top of a tower and a sealed door in the ceiling. There seemed to be some kind of star magic keeping the door closed, so I prodded it carefully. The next thing I remember is waking up on the floor with Nujan and Lunari there. They had followed a burst of star light to the tower that I must have triggered. I wonder if it was supposed to be a seal or a trap, but either way, it was shoddy work that did not perform as it was supposed to and the door was now wide open. Ebsalon and Isa also showed up the latter claimed that the spell was completely gone. The mammals in Arland can not use star magic. The chamber above looked like a star observatory and, according to Ebsalon, it was a Tivito observatory. There were a large number of books there and some strange contraptions there that would be interesting to study, but Isa announced, after a reminder from Ebsalon, that the tower was closed until further notice. Lunari stole a book on the way out though, claiming they wanted to study it.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 07-06-2020 at 01:59 AM.
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Old 07-05-2020, 11:41 AM   #9
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 172 since leaving The Homeland

It is now day 172 since we left The Homeland. I will try to keep a log each day, hoping that this report will reach The Homeland somehow someday.

I was woken in the morning by Grogg who informed me that Pakk and Gromann was there to discuss Nuur-Karif's condition. We had arranged this the day before, but I had forgotten with everything going on in the tower. Gromann had been awake all night studying and proposed an expedition to some ruins in the desert east of Arland. These ruins had been abandoned in a hurry and Gromann hoped they would contain Tivito secrets. They considered it to be too dangerous to open the Tivito chamber in the tower and got quite annoyed when they heard I had already done it. However, they calmed down when Grogg offered them the needle and Pakk carried them away.

Yana showed up with clothing they had made and they and Nuur-Karif started prattling about such things. I left to find Lunari, who was complaining about Nuur-Karif being unpredictable. To some extent I agreed with them, but it is irrelevant now. Trying to get access to the tower, we went looking for Isa, but were informed we were no longer welcome in the inner courtyard. Instead Lunari wrote a letter to Mir that we sent with Kra before Lunari, Grogg and Nujan went off to get high. Drugs seems to have been Lunari's coping mechanism when faced with things they did not understand and this seems to be quite common among the mammals. I studied Lunari's aura, but something strange happened. Instead of the usual short impression, they lit up up with a silver light and a smell of flowers and some kind of animal that Grogg said was a fox. The Fox is the mammal's name for the Slurping Toad, which was Lunari's star sign. Kra also appeared with something that looked like a rolled up paper slip, but it was clearly magical. Since we were not able to open it, Lunari put it in their pouch.

Returning to the Fortress, I found Yana and Nuur-Karif still in deep discussion, but the subject had changed and Yana was saying Nuur-Karif should come with them to the north were they belonged. This seemed very odd, so I decided to visit Krull again. To my surprise, Mir was in Krull's cell when I arrived. They would be heading off somewhere when the causeway appeared and sort of gave us permission to enter the locked tower and left the key to Krull's cell when they left. Yana's behaviour made much more sense after I talked to Krull. Gritt is able to control other mammals and would use them to get to The Night Mirror. Consequently, we should not leave Nuur-Karif alone and I rushed back to them. Nuur-Karif still appeared to be in control of themselves, so we agreed they would send off Yana while I got hold of Lunari and Grogg. In the evening, we would contact the Ashtarites in the city, hoping they could help. In hindsight, this was foolish. Without Ashtar's blessing, Nuur-Karif was just as irrational and unpredictable as any other mammal. Had it not been for Grogg's keen nose, we would probably not have realized that Nuur-Karif had brought Yana to their room and started mating. Yana was sent off and Lunari and Grogg pacified them with the needle.

We still wanted to investigate the tower and got hold of Pakk and Gromann with a bit of persuasion. While we were no longer welcome in the inner courtyard, it did not seem anyone were willing to force the issue. The guard at the entrance to the tower had not gotten instructions to let us in, but they did not stop us either, possibly because of Lunari's magical influence. On the way up, Pakk identified the symbols of two other cults, Kabal and Elik, over hallways leading off from the main staircase. The top chamber was more or less unchanged from the day before, except a drawer had been opened. Inside were what looked like rolled up paper slips, similar to the slip Kra had found earlier. Pakk was insistent that we not touch anything and Lunari was poorly hiding their guilt when Pakk pressed the issue. I did not bother to hide anything, Pakk appears much more dependable and is much larger than Lunari, but we were interrupted by a wail coming from downstairs. Nuur-Karif was sitting in the staircase, completely hysterical.

It was clear they had lost it completely and Nujan and I escorted them back to their room while Lunari and Grogg wanted to continue their exploration of the tower. I kept watch outside the main door, praying loudly to Ashtar to calm them down, while Nujan kept watch over the window. After a while, Nuur-Karif calmed down and wanted to borrow my writing kit to write a letter to Yana and entrusted me with their weapons and poisons. Having learned from my previous mistake, I insisted on reading the letter, but it only explained the situation and was not too emotional. Perhaps the information could make Yana more resistant to Gritt's influence. The situation was clearly untenable and I considered our options if the Ashtarites could not help. Presumably, the crown requires a living wearer to contain Gritt, but the Tivito in the crypt had appeared to be a dessicated corpse. Perhaps we could trick Nuur-Karif into a cell under the fortress and wall it up. I do not think a locked door would contain them for long.

Nuur-Karif came out of their room for dinner and we, Nuur-Karif, Nujan, and I, went downstairs. It was a muted affair, suddenly interrupted by a rotting branch hitting the window next to us. Outside, the courtyard was littered with broken branches that looked like they belonged in a swamp. A passing worker did not know where they had come from and speculated that it had been dumped by a storm, but there was no wind, so this did not make any sense. Thinking back on Krupik, I wondered if this could be the result of a magical accident. Nuur-Karif had initially been uninterested in the branches, but they came along when we pointed out that they seemed to have come from the inner courtyard. Before we could reach the gates to the inner courtyard, a howl of fury and pain that could only come Grogg split the air.

Reaching the inner courtyard, Mir and their soldiers were already there and ready for combat, rushing towards the tower when I told them Lunari and Grogg was there. The rest of us, as well as Ebsalon, followed on their heels. In the staircase we met Grogg, Pakk and Gromann and the trolls looked to be near death, especially Grogg, and Pakk proclaimed that Lunari was dead. Mir grabbed Gromann and continued up the stairs to the Kabal hallway were the gate had been forced open. Realizing the fight was over, Mir seemed almost disappointed and left Gromann and Ebsalon to deal with the fallout. They clearly did not intend to let a magical mishap delay them.

Ebsalon and Gromann intended to put a magical ward on the gate, containing whatever was inside. Before it was sealed off, I wanted to investigate a little and recover Lunari's corpse if possible. I sneaked in through the broken gate which was wide enough to let a troll through. The chamber was entirely of stone, with small windows in the ceiling that all had been broken. Splintered branches and twigs covered the floor as if some massive force had ripped through them. However, in the middle of the room was a copse of trees that appeared untouched and were clearly magical. At the far end of the room, I could see Lunari's corpse. While it was still in one piece, it had been badly trampled, with the chest collapsed in and the clothing more than anything else identifying it. Next to the corpse was a flock of clay birds that appeared to be eating from a lump of clay on the ground. It would not be possible to retrieve the corpse without the birds noticing and whatever was in the room had just defeated two trolls, so I decided to withdraw. After I got out, Ebsalon started a complicated magical ritual to place a ward on the room. I would have liked to stay and observe, but Ajaw was getting low on the horizon and we would have to get across the causeway. Nuur-Karif would not last long in their current state and loosing one companion in a day is more than enough. So far, I have let the mammals lead, as we are on their home turf. This will not do and I will have to assert a more rational leadership from now on.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 07-09-2020 at 09:34 AM.
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Old 07-05-2020, 11:55 AM   #10
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 172 since leaving The Homeland

Grogg was in no condition to go anywhere, but Nujan joined Nuur-Karif and me and we headed to the causeway. Soon after we had crossed, Mir and their company crossed and rode off, presumably to some military campaign against the Larma. We were planning to head to the Ashtarite chapel, but a priest of Ashtar was waiting for us when we reached the mainland and signalled for me to approach alone. They had received instructions from Ashtar that they should now be wearing the crown. Despite being fully aware of the consequences, they were willing to accept this sacrifice, but begged us to send 'them' where 'they' needed to go. It was clear that they meant Krull and that Krull needed to get to the Night Mirror. They did not want to say this in the presence of Nuur-Karif and the crown and I hope I have not accidentally revealed information to Gritt they did not know beforehand. In a short ceremony on the dockside, Nuur-Karif knelt and the priest snatched the crown and placed it on their own head, before walking away. They had promised to contain Gritt as long as possible, but we have to do our part.

On our way back to the fortress, Nuur-Karif told me what Pakk had told them about what happened to Lunari. They had been exploring the Kabal chamber, which had been completely overgrown with trees. Being much smaller than the trolls, Lunari had explored ahead on their own while Grogg and Pakk was waiting outside the trees. They had grown increasingly concerned as they heard strange thumping sounds from the trees, despite Lunari's assurances that everything was fine. Having made their way along an overgrown path and looping around statues in the correct order, the inner trees opened themselves in time to see Lunari running away from a moving clay statue. While the passage had been about to close itself up, the branches spread themselves for the statue, even when Lunari tried to close the passage with magic. Despite failing the first time, Lunari tried to close the passage again among the outer trees that seemed to not be enchanted. Pakk claimed that this had triggered a trap, but to me it sounds more like a Krupik incident. Either way, the whole copse had exploded with branches and twigs flying everywhere. Even worse, the two statues in the outer forest started making sounds and came to life.

Pakk insisted that Lunari had fought to the end, but they were very vague on details from this point on. Possibly, Lunari was knocked out or killed outright by the explosion. The trolls had fought against the statues who seemed especially focused on getting to Lunari. While a fully armed and armoured Grogg could probably have dealt with the statues on their own, both Grogg and Pakk were unarmed and they were fighting a loosing battle. All three might very well have perished if Gromann had not shown up. Together, Pakk and Gromann were able to force open the gate while Grogg fought the statues and felled one. Initially, Grogg refused to leave Lunari behind, but when the light from my spell went out it was clear the elf was dead, making Grogg scream out. Fighting their way out, the statues had not followed them out of the room, but apparently retreated into the magical copse.

Returning to the evening fortress, we went straight to the chapel which Nuur-Karif could now enter and was greeted by the great snake. I told them what the priest had told me and we planned how to proceed. We clearly had to release Krull, but Nuur-Karif first wanted to check on Yana in case they were still under the influence of Gritt. When we approached Yana's workshop, we could hear them banging on their door and screaming that they had to leave together with Nuur-Karif. Lunari had locked them in, but the needle had been removed, presumably by Kra. Nuur-Karif attempted to calm down Yana and seemed to succeed, so I checked on Grogg. They seemed very upset and had not noticed that Kra was there with the needle, but took it and stung Pakk with it when I reminded them. I also had time to take a look at the stars, and I got the impression a lead star would appear.

I found Nuur-Karif and Yana holding hands in the courtyard. This is considered a sign of affection among the mammals and I found it a bit disturbing, considering that Gritt had just used Yana to influence Nuur-Karif. While Nuur-Karif should be more reptilian again now that Ashtar/Ssuxxakan have accepted them back, I will be much more careful with trusting their judgement for the foreseeable future. In this case it turned out to be lucky that Yana was there. Lunas had asked them to prepare a disguise and travel kit for Krull, which should be useful for them. It would be preferable if we could get permission from an Aldera before releasing Krull, so we sent Nujan to contact Isa. Unfortunately, they refused to talk to us and we had to sneak Krull out. This turned out to be quite easy. Nuur-Karif and Yana distracted the guards with promises of mating, while Nujan and I smuggled Krull to the secret boat. The guards should have been demoted to ape killers. The only locked door on the way was easily picked open. Mammals put too much faith in their locks and Nujan mentioned they had not learned to pick locks because it would make breaking in too easy. When saying goodbye to Krull, they told us that the father of Isa is a Larma and for this reason, the Larma thinks they own her. Isa's mother, Varja, was what they called a king's mate, which apparently means something important to the mammals and this further infuriated the Larma. None of this makes any sense, but Krull claimed there was a prophecy that meant Isa had to be kept on The Evening Fortress and nobody could arrive by boat. They seemed very concerned when I told them we had both traveled with Isa and arrived by boat. Whatever the prophecy says, I doubt it is worth crippling Isa like they are doing. When we were walking back, a lead star had appeared right above the fortress.
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