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Old 11-30-2022, 10:53 AM   #291
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 97 (2022-11-18)

14th of Tityra, year 412 (continued)

Packing up my belongings, I couldn’t help but notice the green and purple parasol that was strapped to my backpack. I asked Xipil if he would do me the favor of analyzing its magic properties. It purportedly granted invisibility to the person using it, but having seen how Xipil’s wish had been twisted by the Mog’s dark humor, I was rather pessimistic about how useful my parasol would be. I said there was no rush since I didn’t foresee any need to turn invisible in the near future. I had managed well enough before without that ability, and I couldn’t think of anything we’d encounter in the desert that would require it. I could tell Xipil was eager to figure out how the parasol worked, though.

Wolfram turned into a giant bear and we loaded him up. The camels I had acquired for Yana and me easily carried both us and our packs, so that was a little bit of weight that Wolfram didn’t need to carry. Xipil plotted our course, and then we were off. For being this late in the year, it was excessively hot in the desert, almost unpleasantly so.

It didn’t take long before we found the corpses of the two thieves Grogg and Xipil had killed. Wolfram stopped by the dead camel and I warned him not to eat it. He didn’t listen to me, but nudged Grogg towards the carcass. Grogg drew an axe and chopped the head off the camel, but when Xipil spelled out that the reason why I didn’t want Wolfram to eat the camel was because it was full of venom, the slow-witted bear understood and started to walk again. Xipil tasted the thief leader’s blood, which was easily accessible through the man’s shattered ribcage. The lizard man won’t eat meat, but he doesn’t mind blood. Why hadn’t I seen the inconsistency in that before?

Sunset came early, or at least it seemed so. We’d had a late start today. Xipil asked how long we would keep going, to which I replied that I didn’t think we should risk anyone breaking a leg in the darkness. The terrain was so flat that we could make camp anywhere, but with rocks of varying sizes strewn about, an unfortunate misstep might hamper our ability to travel, especially if it was Wolfram who was unlucky.

We erected our tents and watched the last bits of the sun dip below the horizon while we ate our evening meal. Xipil asked if he should study the parasol now. I fetched it from my tent and handed it over.

Wolfram warned us that we were approaching the time of year when he needed to sleep longer than usual. It wasn’t quite so bad as not waking until spring, but he might not wake in a few days when the hibernation took him. This might not happen in another month, but he wanted us to be prepared and not freak out if we couldn’t wake him. I suggested that we got into the habit of having Wolfram on the first night watch, in case we couldn’t get him up. Since we sat down, Yana had echoed my yawns, so I declared that we were going to bed. Xipil asked if he should wake me when he figured out how the parasol worked, but I said to let us sleep until it was time for our watch.

O Ashtar! We surrender our lives to Your coils. Take us while we sleep, or grant us another day in Your service, as You will.


15th of Tityra, year 412

O Ashtar, Mother of Snakes, Keeper of Death’s Door, hear my confession!

I was careful not to wake Yana when Xipil came to tell me it was my turn at the night watch. I exited the tent, rubbing sleep from my eyes. Xipil had finished the analysis of my parasol, and he said it held two spells. One allowed the wielder to turn the parasol almost invisible, another turned the wielder invisible if the parasol gave shade from a light source. I put it away. If there were as nasty side effects on this as on Xipil’s hood, I wasn’t going to jeopardize our party by experimenting alone.

Xipil sat down to meditate under the stars for a while before turning in. I walked a slow circle around the campsite, so I could look in all directions. Grogg or Wolfram might be tall enough to look over our tents, but I certainly wasn’t. After a while, I noticed a small animal watching our campsite from a distance, but when it became aware of me, it scurried away. When it was time for the next person to keep watch, I went inside my tent and woke Yana. I informed her that nothing had happened worth mentioning, and listed who had already done their duty this night, so she would know who not to wake when she was done.

Movement inside our tent made my eyes pop open, but it was only Yana, returning from her watch. Our eyes met and I lifted the blanket to welcome her back. She gave me a hug and a peck on the cheek before turning around, squirming enticingly against me while seeking that comfortable sleeping position.

We woke again when the sun rose and started broiling the landscape. Nobody was in a rush to get moving, so we took our time making breakfast and chatting over the food. Hylda thought the quiet around us was suspicious, and Xipil asked if anyone had seen or heard anything during the night, so I mentioned the little animal I had glimpsed. It had been too far away for me to identify.

Every step we took brought us closer to Pak and Groman and their aura of death. I could tell Xipil was worried about encountering malevolent spirits, for he wore the spirit-seeing ring over his eye. I was far less concerned myself, and I enjoyed the ride. Yana and I had fleshed out our sign language sufficiently to have simple conversations with our hands, and even when we had to resort to spoken words to convey a message, we talked only of light matters. Your gift would tell me when it was time to worry, but I didn’t fault Xipil for taking precautions.

When we continued after our stop for lunch, I got out the parasol and opened it. My first thought when I blocked the sun was that it felt lovely to be in the shade. Then I realized I was invisible. The camel and the parasol were still there, but the hand that held the parasol was gone, as was the rest of me.

Yana stared at me and Xipil asked what she was seeing. She oozed discomfort. My invisibility was an illusion, and the Mog’s illusions were as frightening as Xipil’s were to my dear Yana. I used the clever spring-load mechanism to close the parasol again. Yana had grown used to seeing Xipil’s illusions, and she didn’t completely freak out, but she was clearly relieved when I became visible again.

Yana wanted a talk about this, and I promised that we would have it in the near future. I wasn’t going to use the parasol again before we’d had our talk, but Yana explained that it was the surprise that had gotten to her. If I handled the parasol, preparing to use it, she knew what to expect now, so she wouldn’t deny me its power if I found it necessary. I didn’t want to put Yana through the torment of illusions, so I decided to experiment when she had gone to sleep, and then keep it stowed away until there was need for it again.

When the sun was setting and Xipil suggested that we stopped for the night, Wolfram seemed eager to continue into the darkness. Xipil told him we weren’t going to reach the lake tonight even if we did push on, and Wolfram agreed to stop. We made our camp and had our evening meal. Wolfram and Xipil remained outside when the rest of us retreated to our tents.

Yana and I got ready for bed and lay down facing each other. We had the promised talk. We could have said all we needed to in less than a minute: Yana insisted that she wasn’t terrified by my invisibility; she just wanted to see my beautiful face. I countered with a promise not to use the parasol needlessly. For some reason, the talk dragged out. After a while, I suggested that we used our sign language to carry on the whispered conversation, so we could practice, but Yana wouldn’t let me remove my hand from her breast.

We were still talking when Xipil came to wake me for my watch, and I was surprised that we had talked for three hours. Xipil gave me the spirit-seeing ring to hand over to the next guard. I passed it to Yana immediately and told her to get some sleep.

It wasn’t difficult to figure out how to activate the parasol’s own near-invisibility. I didn’t even have to open it, I just had to concentrate for a second. Concentrating so intensely was physically draining, and the invisibility only lasted around ten seconds. I might keep it up for a minute or two before I was too tired to do anything but lay down and breathe.

When I had wrought all the secrets from the parasol, I put it away, as I had promised I would. I stayed on watch duty for another hour, then I woke Yana so she could take over.

O Ashtar! We surrender our lives to Your coils. Take us while we sleep, or grant us another day in Your service, as You will.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 11-30-2022, 11:05 AM   #292
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 97 (2022-11-18)

16th of Tityra, year 412

O Ashtar, Mother of Snakes, Keeper of Death’s Door, hear my confession!

We didn’t get off to a very early start today either, and the sun beat down on us mercilessly. Still, it wasn’t as hot as it might be, and I thought I would be fine when my body had had time to adjust itself to the feeling of summer when it should have been winter. The unusually cold fog that had blown in from the north had not prepared me for this.

In the afternoon, I caught sight of three large birds circling high above. Xipil identified them as vultures, and he repeated that Munir had said an odd number of them was bad luck. I didn’t agree with that superstition and said there was no reason to go out of our way to avoid them.

We soon came into view of the great lake. Only our map told me this wasn’t an ocean, for the water stretched beyond the horizon. On this side, there was a tall cliff, a long fall if we wanted to cool ourselves in the water. The vultures circled over the beach, not far away now.

Xipil wanted to climb down to see what had caught the vultures’ interest, but Keri didn’t think it could be Pak and Groman down there, so he wanted to continue on our way before the vultures decided we were more interesting. Xipil’s curiosity forced him to investigate. Normally, I disapproved of his escapades, and I must confess I did so this time as well, but the outcome of this particular adventure made me glad I didn’t stop him from going. O Ashtar, You are the greatest. You enticed Xipil to go and make his discovery.

I suggested setting up our large tent to have some shade where we could await Xipil’s return. It took longer without Xipil and Wolfram to help, but I expected us to leave as soon as Xipil came back up, so we would save some considerable time not having to load up Wolfram. Transforming from big bear to human, Wolfram could crawl out from under the luggage, but he couldn’t crawl back and transform into the bear again, not and have the harness fit comfortably.

Wolfram had just lain down where he had stopped, so I suggested he moved around the tent so he’d have some shade. It took him some time to process whether it was worth the effort, but he eventually pushed himself up and waddled around to the shade.

Yana put her hands to use, continuing her work on our winter clothes. With days as hot as we were having, it certainly didn’t feel like we’d need warmer clothes, but once past the desert, when we were to ascend the eastern mountains, we might not survive without them. I let Hope out to play with my fingers, chatting along with Yana.

Even in the shade, it was hotter than was pleasant. A trickle of sweat ran down Yana’s neck and disappeared down her dress. My eyes followed, and I wished Grogg, Hylda and Keri weren’t there, so I could follow with a hand to wipe the sweat away. I shook my head. I had to think of something else, but it was hard, with Yana’s voice so mesmerizing. Her hands, maybe. She was so skillful, wielding the needle so deftly. My legs clenched together when they remembered what happened not many nights ago; Yana’s hands were instruments of pleasure. I stood up and began pacing, earning a raised eyebrow from Yana. Hope came to my rescue, sensing my discomfort. “Calm. Ashtar,” she hissed. I fell to my knees and prayed.

Xipil’s expedition took between one and two hours, and I had regained my composure when he returned. He had found a wounded believer who needed my help. “Bring your medicine kit,” he said, as if I wouldn’t think to take it along.

We went to the precipice and looked at where Xipil had free-climbed both down and up. He offered to bring a rope to help me, but even so, I thought the climb looked too precarious. I don’t consider myself a bad climber, but only a lizard-man could climb this cliff. We set out to find an easier path down. Xipil and I went south, while Yana took the others north. Keri stayed behind to guard our tent and camels.

After ten minutes, Xipil and I found a path down, and Xipil called to the others to turn around and follow. With an injured Ashtarite waiting below, we didn’t wait for them to catch up. The path was too steep to bring animals, and halfway down, there was a four-meter drop where Xipil took out his rope. He left it so our friends could follow, but Wolfram, in his bear shape, stayed above the overhang. He was so large, he would have no problem getting up there, but down was another matter.

As we descended, Xipil explained what he’d found. There were two people in a cave down by the lake. One was already dead and the other not far from following. The still living man had been praying to You when Xipil found him. The man spoke only Arani, and he had said something about Your sibling. I needed to hear him out so I could determine if he possessed valuable information or if he was simply delirious.

Xipil gave me the choice of climbing or swimming to gain access to the cave. My skirt was already wet from wading along below the cliff, and soaking the rest of me would only be nice in the desert heat. My vials were stoppered tightly, and Hope was a blue-bellied river striker, so nothing I had with me would be damaged by a short trip under water.

Xipil led, feeling his way through the darkness. My dress and backpack slowed me down a little, but we didn’t have to swim very far. It was glaringly bright when we emerged inside the cave, for Xipil had left the daylight stone there. A rope hung down from a hole in the ceiling; Xipil had climbed down there the first time. I saw nobody in the cave, so I asked Xipil where we were going. He pointed towards an alcove.

There were two bodies in the alcove. I checked on the unconscious man. He had no serious injuries, but was in dire need of food, water and rest. Xipil had me check him for snakebites, but of course, as an Ashtarite, none of Your children would harm him.

I took out my waterskin and got some drops into the patient. I prayed for him, obviously, and sent Xipil to meet up with our friends outside while I kept an eye on the unconscious man. I performed the burial rites for the other man.

Xipil and Grogg came up from the waterway after a few minutes. Taking the patient out underwater could prove fatal, and I wouldn’t try that when there was another way out. Xipil and I climbed up the rope and had Grogg lift up the patient so we could pull him up. Then Grogg swam out and came in the other way. There was another climb that Xipil and I had to do after lowering the patient to Grogg’s waiting hand. Grogg carried the patient back up the steep cliff path. Xipil told everyone that the southerner, before he lost consciousness, had said they’d been “taken by the invisible ones”. Yana thought spirits had attacked them.

When we came up to the plateau, Xipil wanted to look for the southerners’ tracks. I warned him not to stray too far from the rest of us, in case there were still hostile spirits nearby. Yana and I set up our tent and put the patient inside. After getting another dose of water into him, I put Hope on the man’s chest and told her to watch over him.

I left the tent to discover that the three vultures had moved slightly. Now they were circling directly above our camp. Hylda was helping Wolfram with the luggage; he had transformed back into a human after I said we wouldn’t be moving the patient any further today.

Xipil returned from his little scouting trip and asked Wolfram to erect his totem pole. The two of them discussed how best to defend against spirits. I told everyone we should stay put tomorrow. I was going to tend the patient through the night, so I wouldn’t be available for watch duty. I hoped I’d feel that it would be safe enough to go to sleep in the morning.

I went to check on the patient again, and Xipil and Yana came with me. The patient was still unconscious, but I managed to get him to swallow a mix of water and crushed traveling rations. Xipil asked if I minded him casting his aura spell on the patient. I said it was fine. When Xipil was done analyzing the man’s aura, he said something had eroded the aura. Spirits immediately came to mind. I knelt by the patient to pray for him. Yana and Xipil joined in silently.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 12-17-2022, 05:44 AM   #293
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 98 (2022-12-04)

16th of Tityra, year 412 (continued)

With the sun gone, the temperature lowered to a pleasant level, and the patient looked more comfortable. I had said I would stay up all night to watch over him, but Yana offered to share the burden. Wolfram weighed in with concern that I might not have recovered from my trip back to East Sam while the others rested, but I assured him I had caught up with my sleep and was ready for another waking night.

Long overdue, we formalized the sequence of night watches, so everyone would know who to wake. Wolfram had the first watch, then Xipil, me, Yana, Keri, Grogg and Hylda. As a dwarf, Keri had almost as good dark vision as Yana and me, so the three of us got the middle watches, when it was darkest. Of course, at this time of year, the night is long enough for everyone to get some darkness. Yana and I were excused from watch duty tonight because of the patient.

I put Yana to bed and knelt by the patient’s side to pray for him. Thankfully, this new tent was a little larger than my old one, so there was room for two people to sleep and one to sit between them. Outside, Xipil kept Wolfram company. They were talking about birds, so it wasn’t difficult to ignore their prattle and focus on You.

A little time later, a horrific stench began to seep into the tent, so I went outside to ask the night watch what was happening. It was Xipil who was on guard, and he was staring at a slimy pile of goo on the roof of the big tent. Grogg had smelled it too, and Xipil asked him to lift him up so he could scrape the goo away. Apparently, one of the vultures had sat on the tent roof and vomited. I didn’t understand why Xipil had allowed the disgusting bird to perch there, but at least he took responsibility for cleaning up after it. I returned to my patient and left him to it.

A couple of hours later, when Keri woke Grogg, the noise broke through to Yana, who opened her eyes. “Is it time for me to take over?” she asked drowsily. Concern and compassion still shone through, which made me smile and give her a hug. Since I had stayed up more than half the night already, I answered that it was her turn. I went outside to brush my teeth. The night was quite chilly, but when I crawled into the blankets, they were deliciously warm with the lingering heat from Yana’s body.

O Ashtar! We surrender our lives to Your coils. Take us while we sleep, or grant us another day in Your service, as You will.


17th of Tityra, year 412

O Ashtar, Mother of Snakes, Keeper of Death’s Door, hear my confession!

Yana’s hand on my shoulder shook me awake and my eyes popped open. There was no playfulness on Yana’s face this morning, only urgency. “What is it?” I asked, sitting up. “The patient asked for water,” Yana replied. A glance to the side told me he was still unconscious, but he was mumbling unintelligibly. Arani was unknown to me, but Yana must have discerned the word for “water” somewhere in there. I scrambled up and retrieved my waterskin, putting it gently to the patient’s mouth and pouring a slow trickle. It wouldn’t do to drown him. The water made him swallow on his own, which told me he was recovering. Yesterday, I had to massage his throat to make the water go down.

The sun wasn’t yet all the way up, so I told Yana to take my place in the blankets and get some more sleep. The sounds from the other tent indicated that our friends were starting to rise, but I had declared that we wouldn’t move the patient today, so Yana could stay asleep for as long as she liked.

Wolfram poked his head inside our tent to ask how the patient was faring and what to do when he woke up. I explained that he was exhausted, but getting better. I expected him to wake up soon. After a talk with him, I should be able to tell how much more rest he needed. “We might leave him with Keri, who isn’t going to come very much farther with us anyway,” I added. “Keri can bring him to Sam, and get him the care he needs.”

As Wolfram turned to go, the patient opened his eyes and began to speak. I hurriedly shook Yana awake. “What’s he saying?” I asked. Yana looked at the man and listened for a second. “He’s asking if ‘they’ are gone.” I told her to say “yes.” The patient started shaking. I hadn’t expected that relief that the bad spirits were gone would affect him so, but I didn’t think he was sick either, so it had to be relief. Or perhaps he now felt it was safe to give in to sadness over his friend’s demise. I set about calming him with a gentle face and soothing sounds; there was no need for Yana to translate.

By the sounds from outside, Wolfram had enrolled Hylda in another shield training session. They were considerate enough to take it a short distance away from the tents, so the patient wasn’t disturbed.

Xipil also came to check how the patient was doing. He could see that the patient was awake but trembling. I said the prospects were looking good; now that he was conscious, he could eat and drink properly. Xipil wondered if the patient had spoken. “Yes, but he has said nothing important,” I informed the lizard man.

The patient relaxed gradually, but his hands and lips still twitched from time to time. He kept mumbling incoherently, and Yana thought he was dreaming, even with his eyes open. I got him to eat and drink anyway; he needed sustenance, and I didn’t know if I could wait for him to be fully aware. After the meal, the patient’s eyes closed, and I could tell he had fallen into a normal sleep. I smiled at Yana. Now even I was convinced he’d make it.

Yana was tired after staying up half the night, so I told her to try to get some more sleep. She said she’d surely wake if the patient did, so if I had some task I needed seeing to, I didn’t have to remain inside. I gave her a peck on the cheek and stroked her hair until she fell asleep. There was nowhere else I’d rather be.

Xipil returned and asked if he could check the patient’s aura again. I told him to go right ahead, watching as he cast his spell. He waved his hands and fingers as if tying invisible strings into an intricate knot. Xipil said the aura hadn’t grown any worse, at least.

When Xipil left, I continued praying over the patient. Now that he was no longer comatose, he stirred in his sleep. He even turned over to lie on his side. Hope hadn’t moved since I put her on his chest last night, but now she did. It was as if she anticipated how the patient would shift, and she slithered to stay on top of him. “Guard him well,” I reminded her fondly.

A while later, the patient suddenly opened his eyes and stared directly into mine. “Farmir!” he exclaimed. His voice was weak; it was barely a whisper. He repeated that word several times, and I woke Yana to make introductions now that the patient was alert, and to translate. Apparently, Farmir was his friend. I explained that I had spoken the funeral prayers over Farmir, who was now safely with You. I hadn’t expected him to react with anger, but his face twisted and he muttered harsh words. Yana translated that he was cursing someone who had made it possible for souls to escape the Realm of Death. The very idea made me tremble with rage, too.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 12-17-2022, 05:53 AM   #294
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 98 (2022-12-04)

Yana and I helped the patient sit up, so he could eat and drink on his own. He thanked us for saving his life, but I said it was our holy duty to give aid to all Ashtarites in need. I had Yana ask him who had opened the door for escaping souls. I had never heard the name Tsulkan before, but our new friend was clearly from a foreign culture, so it might be we knew Tsulkan by another name in the north.

Our companions heard us talking, and both Wolfram and Xipil wanted to join in, so we moved over to the other tent, where there was room for everyone. With support, the patient managed to walk the short distance.

Yana and I had been careful not to venture into subjects the patient hadn’t brought up first, but now that I had let him out of the sickbed, Wolfram and Xipil had no compunctions about prying. Haros, as the patient was called, answered willingly, but I could tell he was a bit overwhelmed. Yana translated, of course, since only she and Xipil understood Arani. I thought she did an admirable job, for she had confessed that she didn’t have much experience with the language.

They came from the desert, Haros answered to Wolfram’s question. Wolfram asked Yana if she knew what that meant; he had expected Haros to give the name of the place they had set out from on their journey.

It was apparently not too important, for Wolfram moved on to ask how it came to be that Haros and Farmir ended up in that cave. Haros said something on the western night sky had unsettled them, and they went to investigate. “Tsulkan is gone,” Haros said, translated by Yana. Now the dead had come to the desert. They had tried to enter his body as well as his mind, and Haros and Farmir fled. Sleep brought no respite. I didn’t think I could have tried to sleep while spirits harried me, but I knew how exhausted Haros had been. The spirits must have run him into the ground.

Wolfram asked Haros of his intentions, what he would do when he recovered from his ordeal. The answer surprised me and really emphasized that Haros’s upbringing was unlike ours. He said he would serve Yana and me until he had repaid us for saving his life.

In his feverish ramblings in the cave, Haros had apparently told Xipil that You had sent Your sibling after him. Xipil asked what he meant by that. “Everyone knows that Tsulkan is Ashtar’s sibling,” Yana translated. I told Xipil it seemed like Tsulkan was the one I was looking for, so if Haros was willing to come with us, that would be beneficial since he obviously knew more about Tsulkan than anyone we had encountered before.

I had Yana tell Haros that that we were traveling south-east, to which he replied that nobody could go where the dead danced. “Tell him we’re capable to deal with whatever opposes us,” I told Yana. Haros wasn’t convinced, but he offered to come along, if only to sacrifice himself so the rest of us could live.

All this talk was wearing out my patient, so I declared that we had to take a break and let Haros rest. Yana and I helped him move back to our tent, where he promptly fell asleep. Xipil came in, almost on our heels. In Haros’s story, there was another desert, which had been taken over by the dead a long time ago. Xipil suspected this was the desert marked south of the swamp on our map, and that Odon’s brothers maybe were there. His guess was as good as any, I told Xipil. He left to look for spirit tracks around our camp.

“Can I borrow your lap and get some sleep?” I asked Yana, who beamed back that she thought that was a marvelous idea. I fell asleep quickly, and remained on that luscious pillow for hours, until Yana had to get food for Haros. I thanked her, both for lending me her lap and for taking care of our patient. She gave me a smile that said she would never consider not taking care of us.

With Haros in Yana’s capable hands, I could go back to sleep, but I was not allowed to sleep until morning. Grogg bellowed that Xipil wasn’t breathing. I burst out of the tent and ran over to where Grogg and Wolfram stood over Xipil, poking at him. I pushed them out of the way and fell on my knees beside the prone lizard man. He was indeed not breathing and obviously unconscious, but his leather hood was surprisingly absent. I massaged Xipil’s chest and teased the breath of life back into him.

Xipil gasped and sat up. “What happened?” I asked. Xipil said he was trying to find out if the dead were dancing. I told him he knew what I thought about his reckless disregard for his own safety, but he claimed that one had to take chances, to really figure things out. I walked off, back to my tent. It was getting late, and I thought I’d had more sleep than Yana lately, but she didn’t seem ready for bed. “You can keep watch over Haros for an hour or two, but then you have to wake me,” I instructed.

O Ashtar! We surrender our lives to Your coils. Take us while we sleep, or grant us another day in Your service, as You will.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 12-17-2022, 06:07 AM   #295
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 98 (2022-12-04)

18th of Tityra, year 412

O Ashtar, Mother of Snakes, Keeper of Death’s Door, hear my confession!

When Yana woke me, she reported that Haros had wakened several times for a few moments before falling back to sleep. She asked intently that I wake her if I grew tired. I spent the rest of the night in prayer, and when Hylda – the last night watch – went inside the big tent to wake everyone else, I put a light hand on Yana’s shoulder.

Haros wasn’t fit to travel afoot, so when we left today, he’d have to ride. He was no stranger to camels, so we could let him use one of them, and Yana and I could take turns riding the other. I wouldn’t put him on Wolfram’s back unless I had to. Despite his lingering exhaustion, Haros was eager to help. I was certain he possessed much information that we’d find useful.

Xipil had visited Haros while I slept, and he returned to ask Yana if she thought it was him or what he showed to Haros that had been so frightening. Protective to our patient, Yana said she didn’t want to ask him about it. Most people we’ve met have reacted with fear when they realized what Xipil is, so it’s no wonder he usually wears a disguise, complete with a false beard. Out in the desert, Xipil discarded the disguise, but from what I’ve seen, Haros hasn’t been bothered by the sight of him. It had to be whatever he took with him tonight.

Yana was concerned how Haros would react upon seeing the big bear, but I said if we prepared him for the sight and acted as if having a giant, six-legged bear for a pack animal was nothing out of the ordinary, Haros should be all right. It might be wise to have Wolfram walk in front of the party, so Haros wouldn’t feel the need to look over his shoulder constantly, but I saw no need for him to range ahead with Xipil.

Haros was still terrified of the “dancing dead,” so I sat down with him to reassure him that we really were capable of dealing with them. Yana had to translate, but my calm and my confidence were clear for him to see, and he came to trust in our ability.

When we had settled into the pace of travel, Haros worked up his courage to ask Xipil what he was and where he came from. The two of them spoke Arani, so I wasn’t privy to their conversation save what little Yana told me. She’d certainly inform me if they talked about anything important. Her eyes were mostly on me – I could tell because my eyes wouldn’t leave her either – but her ears were open.

When we stopped for lunch, I confronted Xipil about him scaring Haros last night, and he showed me a large spike, slightly curved. It clearly came from an animal, but I couldn’t tell if this was a tooth or a horn or something else. A horn, I would say if I had to venture a guess. Xipil asked if I could question Haros about it.

“What is this?” I asked, and Yana translated. Haros claimed it came from an animal called a salaskva, a giant lizard, and the only predator of fire lizards, as it was completely immune to their flames. A salaskva had many such spikes, and it was many times larger than even the largest fire lizard.

I asked Hylda if I could borrow her drawing utensils, and I made a quick sketch of the dragon we had fought on the beach. Haros didn’t think it resembled any of the fire lizards he had seen, and he didn’t think it was a salaskva either. We explained to him that we had killed this monster a few weeks ago.

Xipil knew the word for dragon in Arani, which prompted Haros to tell us about rumors he had heard, about dragons in the north. A powerful Mog had gone up north to get hold of a dragon before the Seven Resurrected could. Haros frowned as he counted us. “Are you the Seven Resurrected?” Yana translated his question. I told him we weren’t. Grogg said we had spoken to some of them, though. “Shall I translate that?” she asked me. I answered “Yes,” but my fingers flickered, telling her that I didn’t mean it. Even Xipil might not have perceived the slight movement, but he certainly heard Yana say something completely different in Arani than what Grogg had said.

As we continued after the meal, Xipil picked up the conversation with Haros again. Yana explained that it seemed he was practicing speaking Arani. After a while, Haros wanted us to confirm that we were aware that we were headed for the place where he and Farmir had been attacked. I showed him my calm determination and he drew a sigh of relief and turned back to Xipil. Yana said he was explaining to the lizard man how his people had become nomads, driven out of their ancestral home by hostile spirits.

All day, we paralleled the cliff and the lake. To our left, the rocky ground became sandy, and would have slowed our travel. When we stopped for the night, I examined Haros. He seemed in better shape than this morning, despite a long day of travel. The trauma he had endured needed time to heal, but his injury was mental, so there was no reason he shouldn’t exert himself a little.

I explained to Yana that Haros didn’t need medical attention anymore and asked if she thought we should have him sleep in the big tent tonight. “Yes, it would be nice with a good night’s sleep,” she replied. Her finger traveling up my arm left a trail of goosebumps. “Or maybe not so much sleep?” Her suggestion almost swept my feet out from under me, and I told her to speak to Haros while I steadied myself. While I stood there, trembling slightly with anticipation, Xipil came to ask if Yana and I were going to take our turns at the night watch. I said yes.

When we had set up camp and eaten the evening meal, I ducked inside my tent to find Yana waiting in the pitch darkness. She sat on the spread-out blanket, as naked as the day she was born. I hurried inside and closed the tent flaps. “Silence!” she signed, the flexing of her index finger making it a command. I nodded. “Clothes away!” Her index finger worked overtime, and I eagerly complied, but not fast enough. Yana launched herself at me and peeled away my dress, and my cloth armor followed it to the ground.

Yana was like a wild beast, ravenous for my flesh. She followed her own command to stay silent, and no sound left our tent except the soft whisper of her skin rubbing against mine. I clamped my teeth together to stop myself from crying out and I could tell Yana had the same struggle. When she collapsed on top of me, I thought for a second she had passed out from lack of air, but she raised her head and gave me a contented smile. Cold night air seeped into the tent, and I pulled a blanket over us. Sleep came quickly to both of us.

Xipil woke us when it was my turn at the watch. I dressed and joined him outside. He pointed to the south. It was hard to tell over such a distance, but it looked like a cloud of fog. Xipil could only see it through the spirit-seeing ring, so it was obviously supernatural. Maybe that was where Pak and Groman were? Xipil thought it would take us two days to get there.

Xipil said he wanted to try the hood, and I offered to watch over him. He asked me to wake him after two minutes. When I did, he said he’d dreamed about a cry of anguish, or perhaps it was an elegy. He thought a horde of tortured souls flickered over there. “How can we handle thousands of spirits?” he asked, and I promised to bring the question to You.

When Xipil went to bed, I let Hope out of my pouch and prayed. You told me something was not as it should be, but it had been like that for so long, maybe there was nothing to be done about it. Nothing is beyond You, O Ashtar, but I understood that perhaps this task was beyond me.

I woke Yana when my watch was over and passed to her the spirit-seeing ring. I showed her the spirits in the south, but said she shouldn’t worry about them unless they suddenly moved towards us. Yana squeezed my hand and nodded. Since nobody could see us, I leaned towards her to give her a peck on the cheek. Yana seized my head and guided my lips to hers for a proper smooching.

O Ashtar! We surrender our lives to Your coils. Take us while we sleep, or grant us another day in Your service, as You will.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 12-30-2022, 06:34 AM   #296
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 99 (2022-12-17)

19th of Tityra, year 412

O Ashtar, Mother of Snakes, Keeper of Death’s Door, hear my confession!

Hylda woke everyone when the sun rose. When we gathered for breakfast, Xipil informed us that he had determined that the spirits had come from the west. That was no big surprise; we more than suspected that the spirits had been released from the Kings’ Crypt when Pak and Groman made their incursion there. Where they came from wasn’t important; what we had to decide was how to deal with them. I said there were too many of them for a frontal assault, to preclude any such suggestions from Grogg or Wolfram. Grogg proposed that I sneaked in and killed them all. I knew how hard he’d cry if I didn’t make it, but I simply replied that we hadn’t brought enough food for them to wait for me. “The rest of us can just go,” Grogg offered. I just smiled in response.

Xipil asked if Wolfram knew any spells that would hide us from the spirits. The giant pondered for a moment before answering. He couldn’t hide us, but he knew protective spells. Finding out what pattern the spirits followed would give us a tactical advantage, he said. It made sense to hear him say it, but I never considered tactics in that way. My battle plans were social engineering more than military doctrine. If I could get an unknowing target into a vulnerable position, I could easily fulfill Your decree.

I asked Xipil and Wolfram if they thought my parasol would hide me from the spirits. Wolfram was uncertain. It depended on how the spirits perceived their surroundings. He proposed we test it with Kraa or his spirit bear shape.

I fetched the parasol, and then Xipil, Wolfram, Grogg and I went behind the big tent so Yana wouldn’t have to watch. I pointed the parasol at the sun and pressed the release button. I immediately vanished even from my own sight. Xipil, holding the Kabal staff, said he could faintly see where I was. He admitted that the little he saw wouldn’t help him in combat, when quick eyes and fast responses were paramount. Wolfram saw even less, just a faint shadow where my hand held the parasol. Grogg didn’t say anything, so I didn’t think he saw anything except the seemingly hovering parasol.

Wolfram transformed into the spirit bear and started sniffing around. He could still smell me, he said when he transformed back, but he couldn’t see anything in the bear shape that he didn’t see as a human.

Next, Wolfram set up his totem pole and explained he would cast the spell that let everyone see the auras of those near it. He made a tiny magic circle around the totem pole, and when he was done drawing, he told me to enter the circle. His spell revealed a faint shimmer around me. I thought my aura was harder to see than the last time he cast that spell, but if that was because of the parasol or because Wolfram’s magic circle was weaker than before, I couldn’t say.

For our test with Kraa, I activated the parasol to make that invisible too, and then I moved silently away. Grogg launched Kraa after instructing it to caw three times if it could see me and eight if it couldn’t. It flew up and was soon circling above me, but I counted eleven screeches. Wolfram suggested I move, and I did. It took a few seconds before Kraa moved after me. Closing the parasol and ending the invisibility, I proposed that Kraa might have simply traced my footprints. They were clear enough in the sand that anyone could have followed.

When I returned to the other three, Wolfram wanted to test if I became more visible if he threw sand at me. I was a little hesitant, as I didn’t want sand inside my dress, but before I could say anything, he specified that he would throw at my legs. I opened the parasol again and Wolfram threw a handful of sand. He tried a couple of times, and we learned that the grains that hit became invisible just as they touched me.

Wolfram asked if it was possible to conceal more than one person under the parasol, so I invited Xipil into the shade. He turned invisible. After some quick experiments, we discovered that the person holding the parasol was better protected. I could stick an arm and a hand out into the sun without turning visible, but Xipil began to flicker when he did the same.

Xipil suddenly burst out that he had figured out how the invisibility illusion worked, and he cast a spell, turning himself invisible. His spell wore off after one minute, and I suggested that perhaps it was time to get going.

On the other side of the big tent, Yana was talking to Haros, but she heard us coming and turned to wave me over. Haros admired our camels and our gear, she informed me. He thought it came from Anabel, a desert city in the south. Yana translated that Haros considered our animals too fine for one such as him. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was not in shape to travel on foot. I was putting him on one of the camels, and I would have no discussion about it.

It would be too harsh to say that we wasted time saving Haros, but we still had to eat even though we stayed put, and now we had one more mouth to feed. We had packed more food than we believed we’d need for the journey to the mountains and back, and if I recalled correctly, we had brought provisions for another week. We would probably have to resupply somewhere, or take a detour on the way home if there were closer settlements to the north. Unless… “Hey, Keri! How much supplies do Pak and Groman have?” Keri didn’t know. They had been well provisioned before they entered the swamp, but that was quite a while ago, and Keri couldn’t say how much remained. If they had run out of food, we would have to feed them too.

Xipil engaged Haros in conversation to learn more Arani. Yana joined in and kept me up to speed on their progress. There were apparently countless words for different types of sand dunes. And body parts of camels were named differently than body parts of other animals, if my understanding was right. Yana enjoyed herself immensely, and she was too caught up with the lesson to take the time to explain things to me properly. I didn’t mind that. Watching her happiness made me happy too.

Those of us privileged to see into the spirit world, either by Your gift or through the spirit-seeing ring, could see the cloud of spirits far to the south shimmer and shift throughout the day. The cloud didn’t move very far, and it could even be that in the evening, it had returned to where it was in the morning.

When the sun began to plummet for the horizon, Xipil wondered where Odon was. I reminded him that Odon had said he was going to the Kings’ Crypt. Maybe he had followed Pak and Groman here, I offered before I realized that he would have had to travel quite fast. When we left him, we had been even farther from there than we were now, and Pak and Groman were perhaps already there.

We set up camp before it got too dark, and Wolfram transformed back into a human and crawled out from under the luggage. Xipil proposed to look for Odon in the stars. Someone should watch over him while he meditated, I said, and Wolfram volunteered.

Haros was clearly worn out from the travel, so I had Yana send him to bed in the big tent. I wasn’t sure how literally he intended to serve us, but I wouldn’t have him drop from exhaustion because he put our needs before his own. Once Yana had brushed up on her Arani, we might get a better read of him, but at the moment, I thought the language barrier could make some issues go undetected.

Yana and I were tired after a long day, and we retired to our own tent after saying good night to Haros and the others. We soon fell asleep, and it seemed only minutes had passed when Xipil came to tell me it was my turn at the watch. Yana woke too, the disadvantage of sleeping so closely together, but her smile in the dark told me she found it worthwhile.

When I came out of the tent, Xipil sat and stared at the spirits in the south. I could tell something bothered him. “It’s much more powerful now that we have come closer,” he said, as if that should make sense to me. He removed the spirits-seeing ring from his face and handed it to me. As fascinated as Xipil was with the spirit cloud, I wouldn’t put it past him to have sat like that all through his watch, ignoring every direction but south. I didn’t make that mistake. No threat appeared, though, from any direction. It was an exceptionally quiet watch, and I woke Yana when my time was up, passing the ring to her.

O Ashtar! We surrender our lives to Your coils. Take us while we sleep, or grant us another day in Your service, as You will.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 12-30-2022, 06:44 AM   #297
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 99 (2022-12-17)

20th of Tityra, year 412

O Ashtar, Mother of Snakes, Keeper of Death’s Door, hear my confession!

Yana and I prepared breakfast this morning. It was concerning that Haros wouldn’t eat much, despite looking well rested after a full night’s sleep. Keri believed today would be even hotter than yesterday. I had no way to confirm his statement, beyond waiting to see, so I just replied that he could be right.

Wolfram asked Haros what kind of undead had invaded his people’s old country. “The living dead,” was Yana’s translation of Haros’s answer. Wolfram wasn’t sure what that meant, but it made me quite certain that these were corporeal beings. Haros said he could take us to someone with more information, some kind of lore keeper, but we had to take an oath if we were to enter his people’s secret vale. Haros clarified that it wasn’t to him we had to make the oath.

Since we were approaching the spirit cloud, I asked Keri if he preferred to turn back today, but he decided to come with us one more day south.

Xipil thought the spirits were weaker during the day, and he wanted to put on the hood. I thought he was just afraid of the dark, seeing no reason why the spirits would care one way or the other whether the sun was up, but I said nothing, just asked what help he needed. Xipil said to wake him after one minute. He put on the hood and strangled himself and I counted sixty heartbeats before removing the hood. Xipil had heard only noise, nothing he could comprehend.

We packed up camp and started traveling. My companions commented that they could make out something before us, even without the spirit-seeing ring. They said it looked like the weather was different there. I wasn’t sure if this was good or bad. Being able to see the spirits to avoid them was clearly beneficial, but the spirits had to be powerful to force their way into the physical realm. The cloud was too far away to pick out individuals, even when we stopped for the night.

While we made camp, Xipil pointed out a vulture watching us from atop a small boulder. It wasn’t close enough to be a bother, but Xipil decided to “investigate”. He started digging while the vulture eyed him, and after a while, he came back to camp to say that the vulture helped him find water. Another vulture had joined the first, and the two of them sat in Xipil’s hole, drinking. Xipil thought we should let them finish before we started filling our water skins. The spring was tiny, and it would take minutes to fill even one skin. Yana and I offered to take this chore. It gave us the opportunity to talk freely, without having to resort to our sign language when we wanted to convey something the others shouldn’t hear.

While the talk was refreshing, we were still tired enough to fall asleep easily when we returned to our tent. We weren’t allowed to sleep long, though. Kraa went berserk, flapping around screaming. We could also hear Grogg, Xipil and Wolfram talking calmly outside the tents, so there was no reason to panic. Yana turned around to look at me, but when I made no move to leave, she just turned back around and snuggled against me, wrapping my arms around her.

Yana dozed off quickly, but I listened to the talk outside. It became clear that Kraa wanted Grogg to go north. Keri protested that it was a bad idea to split the party, but he wasn’t able to convince the others, so Grogg, Wolfram and Xipil followed Kraa. Hylda declared that she was staying behind to keep watch while they were gone.

I had just fallen asleep again when Hylda bellowed for Grogg. I hurried outside to see what was happening. Hylda pointed to the big tent, so I rushed in there. Haros tossed and turned in a lake of cold sweat, so I woke him. He said something in Arani, which Yana had to translate. “He’s asking if ‘they’ are back,” she informed me. “He has seen ‘them’ in his dreams and thinks ‘they’ have found us.” Yana emphasized the pronouns, so I knew Haros was worried about the spirits. I sat down to soothe him.

When Grogg, Wolfram and Xipil came thundering back, I explained that Haros had a nightmare. “However, if something here actually invades dreams, we must take care,” I added. “Xipil or I should lie down to sleep while everyone else remains awake,” I proposed.

Xipil wanted to study Haros’s aura first, so we went outside into the starlight so he could more easily cast his spell. Xipil said the aura looked like before, but I sensed that there was something more, something he wouldn’t say out loud. When he noticed me noticing, he eyed me meaningfully, picked up the Kabal staff and looked around. “Something was here,” he declared and asked Wolfram to cast his tracking spell. Whatever had gnawed on Haros’s aura had been here, Xipil said.

I took Yana and Haros back inside the big tent. Yana didn’t think Haros was very willing to sleep, but I said I wasn’t planning to allow him to lie down. I sat us down so I could watch the goings-on outside while Haros could not. If Wolfram was going to set up a magic circle or turn into a demonic spirit bear, Haros might not react favorably in his fragile state. I tried to elicit some information about Tsulkan from Haros, but that proved a sensitive subject, as Tsulkan’s abandonment of his post was what allowed the spirits to wreak havoc in the land of the living. I sensed that Haros wasn’t as knowledgeable about Your brother as I had hoped, so I decided that delving into the topic now would do more harm than good; I hoped to find time later to pick Haros’s brain.

I revealed to Haros that You had tasked me to find Tsulkan, and he said if I could do that, his entire people would be eternally grateful. Yana’s translation indicated that they might all just decide to up and leave, in order to follow and serve me. I told Yana that maybe not alerting them could be a good idea, if we pulled it off, although this would be such a cataclysmic event, they would probably learn about it soon enough.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 12-30-2022, 06:57 AM   #298
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 99 (2022-12-17)

After Xipil and Wolfram had gone on for some time outside, Xipil asked me to come watch him while he used the hood. “Would you keep an eye on Haros while I’m out?” I asked Yana. Xipil only wanted one minute this time too. Grogg had taken out his crows’ toes and was stuffing his pipe, and Xipil asked if he had enough to share. Wisely, Xipil decided not to partake in the hallucinogenic drug before using the hood.

I counted sixty heartbeats again and woke Xipil. He had heard a seductive voice inviting him to follow. We definitely had to test whether it was safe to sleep here. Grogg thought I should be the one to try. Wolfram suggested I slept in his magic circle, as it would protect me for the hour his spell lasted. If they waited slightly longer to wake me, we could test sleep both with and without the defensive magic.

“Yana, can you come and help me, please?” Yana hurried outside while casting glances back at Haros before turning her full attention on me. “We’re going to test if it’s safe to sleep, and I need my pillow.” I tilted my head to the side and looked pleadingly through my eye lashes at her. “Of course, Nuur-Karif, but what about Haros?” “I can take care of him,” Hylda declared. “Make sure he doesn’t fall asleep before we know it’s safe,” I instructed.

Yana sat down where I indicated, right next to Wolfram’s totem pole, careful not to disturb the magic symbols drawn around it. “Should we wake you if the spirit dust returns?” Xipil asked. “As long as it doesn’t attack me and I keep sleeping calmly, you can let me be,” I responded, lying down in the sand with my head on Yana’s lap. It was hard to fall asleep on command, so I asked Yana to sing me a lullaby. I closed my eyes and felt her fingers stroke me gently over the hair while her voice caressed my ears.

We were on a spring meadow, Yana and I. She wore a simple, yellow dress embroidered along the hem with red and blue flowers, as beautiful as those growing on the meadow. The green grass tickled our bare feet as we glided along in an intricate dance, our steps following the rhythm of Yana’s serenade. An unseen voice spoke, alluring and enticing, offering me to come, to join the speaker. Yana and the meadow disappeared as I turned around to see who had interrupted our dance, but there was nobody there, yet the voice beckoned still. I remembered my task and understood who the invisible speaker was. “Begone, foul fiend! I walk with Ashtar!”

I sensed unease nearby and wondered if I should get up. I had just decided that unless someone actually tried to wake me, I should continue the experiment, when a familiar hand on my shoulder made my eyes pop open. There was concern in Yana’s gaze as she looked down at me, but not so much I worried. Grogg was chanting and beating the ground with his maul, but everyone else just looked alert. Xipil informed me that the spirit dust was coming, and I asked if we should take cover inside the tents. He didn’t think that would work.

I stood up and pulled Yana to her feet. I was just about to tell her that we would just have to wait and see what happened, when Xipil suddenly stumbled towards us. I caught him before he fell and helped him stabilize, looking to Yana to see if she had seen what happened. She shook her head. Xipil said his ears were ringing and a bunch of lights made it difficult to see. I asked if it was the Kabal staff that afflicted him, and I could tell he got a lot better when he dropped it.

Xipil asked if I noticed anything while I slept. I said it was probably unsafe to sleep where we were. We should backtrack a distance, find a place to rest, and then some of us could enter the spirit cloud to search for Pak and Groman. Xipil said he could trace Pak with magic, now that Grogg had his tooth. Instead of bothering Grogg with questions about where he found it, I suggested that while Wolfram and Xipil did their magic to find Pak, the rest of us should pack up the camp. Keri leaped up, eager to get away, and offered to pack up everything himself. I said it would go faster if we helped him.

I had expected Pak and Groman to be in the center of the spirit cloud, but Xipil said Pak at least was nearer the edge of the infected area. In fact, he was on the water, so near the surface that he couldn’t be on deck of a ship. Xipil asked Grogg if he thought Pak could swim.

Hylda had prepared a tea of crows’ toes and Xipil took a cup with him when we started moving. Grogg was walking backwards so he could watch what happened in the south. He thought it looked like the northern lights, and he said that was very wrong. Between sips, Xipil distracted him with talk about camels and horses and got him to turn around so he wouldn’t slow us down.

After two hours, I declared that we stop to check if it was safe to stay. I would try to sleep again, and if Xipil could see the spirit dust approach, it meant the spirits sensed me and we had to go farther. Keri would have preferred if we kept going a little longer, but I overruled him.

Wolfram set up his magic circle, and I lay down on Yana’s lap again. Both Xipil and Grogg were high on crows’ toes by this time, but Yana’s lullaby was so powerful I fell asleep despite their noise. Yana woke me after a while. I couldn’t remember any intruder in my dream this time, and the spirit dust made no move against us.

We agreed to set up camp and that in the morning, Grogg, Xipil, Wolfram and I will venture back into the spirit infestation. Wolfram suggested that those of us that wouldn’t be going should divide the night watch between them, but Keri was so happy that he wouldn’t have to go, he offered to watch the whole night through. Xipil and Grogg weren’t interested in going to sleep, and Wolfram asked if we could give them something to calm them. Hylda didn’t like the idea of mixing drugs. I said a tea of river thistle would have the desired effect on them, and it would be quite safe, but Hylda wasn’t convinced, so I dropped the subject. Yana and I went to bed.

O Ashtar! We surrender our lives to Your coils. Take us while we sleep, or grant us another day in Your service, as You will.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 01-17-2023, 11:11 AM   #299
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 100 (2023-01-07)

21st of Tityra, year 412

O Ashtar, Mother of Snakes, Keeper of Death’s Door, hear my confession!

Waiting for Yana to wake up, I started the day with a prayer, kneeling on the ground. Hope joined in as usual, but when I was about to return her to her home in my pouch, she bit me. A small yelp escaped my lips, more from surprise than from pain. No snake should want to bite me, Hope least of all. Yana bolted upright at the sound and we locked eyes.

I tried to smile so as not to frighten Yana, but the shock of what was happening made it difficult. Your blessing should render Hope’s venom impotent in my veins, but a sharp tingling sensation spread from the bite, as if insects crawled all over me. Yana’s eyes grew as she watched me. “What’s going on, Nuur-Karif? No, no, no! You’re melting!”

The tingling only lasted for a few seconds, and Yana stopped babbling, her mouth dropping open and her fear turning to wonder. Hesitantly, she reached out a trembling hand and touched my cheek. Her other hand followed, and she felt my face, just like that blind man had done when he visited the Temple three or four years ago.

I lifted my hand to give Yana a soothing caress, but I realized that Hope still had her fangs sunk into the back of it. I looked down and saw that my hand had turned dark. The darkness was not the burst of colors that usually spread from a snake bite, rather it was the dark brown common among Yana’s people. If I hadn’t felt the two pinpricks of Hope’s fangs, I might have believed it was Yana’s hand I was watching.

Yana’s hands were still caressing my cheeks, of course. She tilted up my face and leaned towards me. “May I…” I closed my eyes and puckered my lips in anticipation. A familiar warmth spread from Yana’s kiss, but it was over before I had time to savor it. Yana leaned back. “How strange,” she breathed.

“What’s wrong with my face?” I asked, absentmindedly pulling Hope loose. Yana opened her mouth to speak, but Hope was faster. “This is Ashtar’s gift. Use it wisely,” the little sister instructed. Yana didn’t know the tongue of snakes, of course. “Oh, there’s nothing wrong with your face,” she said. “It’s just that it isn’t your face. Somehow, you’re wearing my face!”

I explained to Yana what Hope had said. While I talked, my own understanding grew as well. “If Hope bites me and I fix an image in my mind,” I told Yana, “the divine venom transforms my appearance. I should be able to look like whoever I wish, or I could take on an entirely new appearance. I don’t think I can change my shape or my size. The gift only allows me to make superficial changes.”

“Can you change back?” Yana asked. “Your natural form is more beautiful than anything you could dream up.” My face grew warm with the compliment. I looked down. “I now wear the most beautiful face in the world,” I whispered.

Yana threw herself at me so forcefully I fell backwards. She lay on top of me and studied my face. I waited for her to kiss me, but she sat back up. “This feels weird. I know it’s you behind that mask, but …” Yana regarded me thoughtfully. “Sit up. I want to check something.” I did as she asked. “Now, open up,” Yana instructed, her finger gently touching my lips. I gaped, wondering what she was looking for. “Aha! Your tongue is still forked!” Yana exclaimed, then stuck her own out to display that it was not. “I think I should be able to change my tongue too, but I’m not entirely sure, and it feels sacrilegious to try,” I told her.

Besides showing my tongue, which I was hesitant to do in public, there was one way I could identify myself to Yana, if I had changed my appearance without her knowing. Only two people in the world knew our secret sign language, so if Yana spotted a stranger signing to her, she would know it was me. I wouldn’t put it past Xipil to have picked up a few of our signs, but I didn’t think even he was clever enough to have learned so much he could hold a conversation. Anyway, Xipil’s body was so different from mine that I might not be able to copy it, and besides, a lizard man body would hardly be a good disguise unless we went to his homeland.

“Before I change back, do you think we should show this gift to our companions?” I asked. Outside, we could hear their voices, so we knew they were awake. Wolfram and Keri were discussing if Keri should lead Yana, Hylda and Haros further north when the rest of us went into the spirit cloud to look for Pak and Groman.

Yana didn’t like keeping secrets from our friends, and I thought it was better they learned now, so they wouldn’t freak out if I started “melting” without warning. That didn’t mean we couldn’t have some fun, though. “Let’s see if I can mimic your voice,” I said, doing my best impression of Yana. Yana thought I didn’t sound exactly like her, but it was close enough to fool everyone but Xipil, in her estimation. “Should we do something about our clothes?” Yana asked. “No, it isn’t necessary. We use each other’s clothes often enough that it won’t give anything away when one Yana wears Nuur-Karif’s dress and cloak.”

We went outside and wished everyone a good morning. Understandably, they stared at us. Keri was the first to speak. He believed a mage had cast a spell to create an illusory double of Yana. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Yana is terrified of illusions. At first, I only thought it was Xipil’s illusions that scared her, but Mog Arif’s did too. Wolfram asked if he could touch us. If one of us was an illusion, his hand should pass straight through. I told him to go ahead, and Yana, standing closer to him, reached out a hand.

Xipil didn’t say a word, he just started casting spells at us. Wolfram turned on him and recommended that he asked what was going on instead of using magic without warning. Xipil came to touch us too, and I perceived that he noticed my hidden armor and knives. “Are you Nuur-Karif?” he asked. I didn’t actually answer his question, but I stopped imitating Yana’s voice.

Wolfram wanted to know how this ability worked. I explained what I could do and what I couldn’t, but I didn’t explain how I activated the transformation. I thought they should witness the transition, so I put my hand into my pouch and hissed to Hope that she should bite me. I fixed my own appearance in my mind, and two or three seconds later, the tingling in my skin subsided. My hands had resumed their original appearance, and Yana’s tiny nod and smile told me the rest of me was back to normal as well.

Wolfram proposed that we waited for a while before going south, so we’d enter the spirit cloud when the sun came up tomorrow. He thought the spirits were weaker during the day. He also suggested that Xipil and I ride on his back, since as a six-legged bear, he’s much faster than we are on foot, and with his size, our weights are negligible.

Yana promised to take care of Haros, and their group began traveling north. Watching Yana growing smaller and smaller, I realized I had conflicting feelings. On one hand, I was pleased that she wasn’t following me into danger, but on the other, I was sad to see her go, even though we’d only be apart for a couple of days. Wolfram had set aside food and water for three days for us, but the rest of our supplies were loaded on Magda and the two camels.

I asked how long the rest of us were going to wait before leaving, but Wolfram had changed his mind. We could get where we were going before dark, he said. He changed into the giant bear shape, and Xipil and I put on his harness and climbed up. I got the impression that Wolfram held back so Grogg could keep up.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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Old 01-17-2023, 11:32 AM   #300
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Session 100 (2023-01-07)

When we reached our previous campsite, Xipil called for a stop, and he hopped off the bear’s back and started looking around. I didn’t see what he did, using the Kabal staff, but I could tell it disturbed him. Xipil said there was more spirit dust present than before. Then he took out the magic coin and flipped it, saying that we should turn back. Wolfram gave him a nudge towards the south, and I said we had a job to do. Wolfram didn’t wait for Xipil to climb back up; he just started walking. Xipil decided quickly to come along with the rest of us, and he scampered up on Wolfram’s back.

After another couple of hours, Xipil asked what we were going to do when we got there. I reminded him that we had to find Pak and Groman. When we heard their story, we could decide how to act.

Xipil directed Wolfram to go out to the cliff’s edge, but a promontory further south blocked our view of the bay where we believed Pak and Groman had to be. A short run later had us at the promontory, and we saw all we needed. A few hundred meters from the beach at the center of the bay lay a wooden raft with a large tent upon it. We saw no people aboard the raft, but Xipil detected magic emanating from it. I gathered Pak and Groman had set up protective spells, for the spirit cloud was held at bay.

Xipil was concerned for Kraa, since the spirits had tried to attack it before, on the outskirts of East Sam, but Grogg was confident that Kraa was safe on his shoulder. Xipil suggested that Grogg hid Kraa inside him, which he did. The bond between Grogg and his familiar vitalized Grogg’s dead left arm. I understood that the nerves had been damaged beyond what Ælios could repair, but somehow Kraa could get the arm to do what Grogg wanted.

When Xipil unwrapped the Kabal staff, he could barely hide the terror that struck him. There were no spirits immediately nearby, or I would have seen them, but they had obviously been all over, leaving enough tracks to frighten the lizard man with their numbers. The spirit cloud above seemed uninterested in us, but to soothe Xipil’s fear, I suggested we tried to get down to the water, pointing towards the place where it was the shortest from shore to the raft.

Xipil wanted to cast Mage Sight before we proceeded, so he asked Wolfram to stop and wait. I don’t think Xipil could see anything new after he cast his spell, for he looked rather disappointed. However, as soon as we started moving again, the spirit cloud descended. The spirits had sensed Xipil’s magic, but they ignored us since we had left the place where the spell was cast before they arrived. As we continued on our way, the spirits seemed to search the place. When they found nothing, they dispersed. Casting spells was probably a bad idea, I told Xipil. The magic items we carried with us went undetected for some reason.

We found a way down to the beach and I handed out food. We had traveled light, but we still had a few things that it would be wise to leave behind for a seven-hundred-meter swim, like Grogg’s and Wolfram’s metal armor. I found a crack in the cliff wall that would suit.

Wolfram had been staring out over the great lake while he ate, and he pointed out something black on the horizon. He thought it was a sail, and Xipil agreed. I trusted Xipil’s eyes, even though my own couldn’t make out what the black dot actually was. Xipil suggested that Odon might be on that ship. He had tried to divine Odon’s location and believed this might be the same ship as he had seen in his vision. Wolfram was afraid that the ship was instead carrying Odon’s brothers. We had no way to ascertain what was the truth, yet the two of them went on for some time, arguing whether to expect allies or enemies. The possibility that this ship had nothing to do with us didn’t occur to them.

Xipil wanted to scout ahead and check out the raft alone. He argued that he was a much faster swimmer than us “apeoids”, which is true, but he is also clever enough to realize that if Grogg, Wolfram or I was needed on the raft, us waiting on the beach for his “all clear” signal would only delay us. I think his curiosity was getting the better of him. Still, waiting a few minutes would hardly matter, so I didn’t protest too vociferously.

The lizard man launched himself into the water. Grogg and Wolfram took out their weapons to inspect and clean them by the looks of it. I knelt on the beach in prayer, but the connection was poor, almost as if I tried to pray to You while being on another divinity’s holy ground.

I looked up when Grogg said that Xipil had reached the raft. I watched while he sated his curiosity, and after a little while, Xipil waved for us to come. I opened my pouch and asked Hope if she could give me webbing between the fingers to help me swim. Two pinpricks and a few seconds later, I admired the almost translucent webbing that had grown between my fingers.

Wolfram stripped to the underwear, but Grogg insisted on keeping his armor. With both his arms working, Grogg could just keep his head out of the water. Hope, being a fresh-water snake, wasn’t going to enjoy a prolonged immersion in the slightly salty water of the lake, so I told her she could seek refuge in my hair. I left my cloak behind, but kept my dress on, for decency’s sake. I double-checked that all my vials were stoppered properly, patted the knives on my back, and followed into the water.

The swim went fine, even for Grogg. When we approached the raft, we heard Xipil talking to Pak. Pak was clearly exhausted, and he struggled to make full sentences. Xipil had obviously not told him that we were coming, for Pak was surprised when we climbed on board, maybe even frightened. He said we had to get away, but he clawed eagerly for the waterskin that Wolfram produced.

I looked inside the tent, and a tangible stench assaulted my senses. I didn’t know how long Pak and Groman had shut themselves inside, but their sweat didn’t account for all the smell. From what Pak was saying, they had to remain where they were, for as long as possible, to keep the spirits trapped. One glance at the shriveled dwarf told me he clung to life as much as to that red-glowing stone on his chest. Groman had the dwarven resilience, though, so I thought he could hold on for maybe two or three weeks before he succumbed.

My medical skills couldn’t do much for Groman, but I could make it slightly more bearable to remain inside their tent. I went through their food supplies and tossed out what had gone bad, and I took the night pot outside to wash it.

Groman’s stone came from the Kings’ Crypt, according to Pak, and it was the prison keeping the spirits from going on a world-wide rampage. Pak said Groman was the only one strong enough to carry the stone. Wolfram expressed doubt about that, and Grogg even went so far as volunteering me to take over the duty.

Pak repeated that we had to get away before nightfall. He thought the spirits would find us then, and by extension, him and Groman. Xipil, Wolfram, Grogg and I went over to the side of the raft to confer. There didn’t seem much we could do. Pak and Groman had tried to outrun the spirits but failed. In a few weeks, Pak and Groman would die, and then the spirits would be free.
__________________
You don't need to spend 100 CP on Status 5 [25] and Multimillionaire [75] to feel like a princess, when Delusion [-10] will do.

Character sheet: Google Drive link (See this thread for details.)

Campaign logs: Chaotic Pioneering / Confessions of a Forked Tongue
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