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Old 06-12-2020, 03:22 PM   #3
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 greys 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; 02-14-2021 at 11:22 AM.
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