Year, Season, Week, Day (replace as relevant)
The group is still within the underworld. Maalira does not know this, but is pulled in anyhow. Session SA3.06.
The motley set of adventurers – three warriors, a merchant, and a healer – went up a mountain and talked to a dead person. Then, following that, they wrangled on the way down about what to do about the bodies of the dead – the six people who had challenged them and fallen so quickly. Discussion demonstrated that they might not actually have been dead. Just that their bodies had been stolen. So, they were possibly murdered.
Giland finally got flattered and persuaded into telling them a story, and then making them all very high, to give them what he called in pure horse tongue ‘too much damned work’ but in Heortling translated as ‘Heroquest’. There was a smoking fire, and a tent for breathing in the smoke, but he asked Maalira to stay away from the smoke and to help look after the unconscious people.
The plan was to take only the six spirits who might have been unjustly killed – some by Varanis after they were ‘dead’ as she made sure no zombies would rise again. It was a good plan, and yet other things are happening too. A wind sweeps around and inwards slowly, making a path in the thin grass, and along it, faint figures march towards the tent. Giland opened the doors to let the air out, and the wind, and the figures are marching straight in there. Within, all unconscious, are the warriors, the merchant, and the shaman.1Maalira passes POWx3 to be hooked into the Heroquest, but does not realise that she is.
The tent looks a lot bigger than it used to. It was too small to have more than a slit for a door when Giland constructed it.
Nothing else seems to be going on. Just… the more than planned number of guests.
Maalira edges her way to the tent opening, alongside the stream of figures. “Uh… Giland?”
Past her, a man with a spear-wound walks. A woman behind him holds a spear, and looks badly burned. Everything, even them, is ghostly.
Giland’s face is a mirror. In it, Maalira sees the dying fire.
“Giland? I think I might have got a whiff of that smoke anyway… there’s… things. People.”
He breathes slow and even, like the others, who are walking into the shadows in the big room.
“Giland?” Louder and a little more alarmed. “What do I do?”
His body fails to move. The mirror that is his face reflects the fire. Varanis is blue, woad-painted. Serala glows gently in the dimness.
Maalira scrubs at her face then turns to a passing spirit. “Excuse me, where are you going?”2Pass POWx3 to be able to communicate.
The spirit shivers, and then she is clearly in a Heroquest. There is a familiar feeling about all this. She is in a throng of the dead, and the one she talked to says, “We go to judgement, White Lady. Come with us on the way?”
“As you wish,” Maalira says, gesturing for the spirit to lead the way.
They go downwards, first deeper into the hall where her friends once were, and then down rough steps, and then a path under strange stars, with a white moon above. The spirits throng around her, save for some, who have hurried ahead… There were voices. She heard Orlanth. But there are thousands of spirits, and she walks among them. They give her room, and respect. “How long has it been?” asks her companion. “The mountain woke, and woke us.” Grizzly Peak was two generations ago.
“Many years,” Maalira says vaguely. “Your children’s children are grown.”
“I had children? Thank you!” And he keeps walking. Ahead is darkness, and the crowd has mostly stopped.
Maalira scrubs at her face again, rolling her eyes at her own misstep.
There is movement up ahead, and the crowd starts to shuffle uncertainly into the darkness. The story Giland told had darkness and fire ambushing the guards of Issaries, and sweet Chalana Arroy helping, which was a grudging aside from the shaman, as if he wanted Maalira to be doing one thing but asked her to do another – or wanted her to be well clear of this.
“Giland, I could REALLY do with a clue here,” Maalira calls loudly into the air.
The spirits shuffle on. “Come on,” one tells her. It’s a woman who has scars over her chest, like a Praxian. “Time for judgement. Time to rest.”
“I’m still alive, though,” Maalira murmurs as she follows the woman.
The spirits around her stop. “Then you don’t belong here,” one says. Another tells her, “Come anyway. This way is peaceful.”
Up ahead, distantly, is a sound almost like a tiny, shouty woman yelling orders to Humakti warriors. Was that… ‘march in good order’?
“Berra?” Maalira’s shout is dripping with relief.
A little later is a call that is Vinga, but a familiar Vinga – the spirits are moving faster, into the darkness with confidence.
“Berra? Varanis? Where are you?” Maalira follows the line, looking around frantically.
Into the darkness, and then into the light beyond, after a timeless moment. Up ahead of her, she can see a crowd waiting in a hall that is just the right size to take them all. At the front of the crowd, which is still thousands strong, a small group stands on a dais before a throne, and on the throne sits a figure, with a face that is a perfect mirror. Even from this distance, Maalira can see herself.3Passed POWx5 but did not special, on seeing herself.
The Maalira that looks back at her has warm, tanned, skin. It’s a living Maalira who breathes. It’s one who is alive despite being in the spirit world. Everything else falls away. Daka Fal is what she will be and what waits for her. There will be a judgement, but it is not now, and he points one golden-fingered hand to a doorway almost closed by drifts of dust.4Pass Insight (Human) to understand that Giland is working hard here.
The other self turns to face the many thousands of spirits thronging the hall, and while the mask does not slip, the posture does. Giland’s hand briefly covers the mirror in a face-palm that helps wipe off sweat. He is Daka Fal, and there are thousands to judge here.
Maalira makes it to the door and pushes against the dust.
Somewhere else, Berra says, “Kay. Let me try this bit again. Even further right. The handholds always peter out.” And if someone as short as she is can get up, anyone can…
Varanis offers encouragement from below, but there’s little else she can do but wait and climb and wait and climb.
“I wish we had rope,” she says at one point.
Berra falls, sliding, and sighs. “It’s… it should …. I know there should be a way. But I can’t think of it.” The rock walls here are too wide to brace against them. “If I can get up, can you get Finarvi up?” Maybe she should have mentioned Serala, but maybe she thinks Serala can climb better.
“I think there’s enough room that I can scout ahead a bit and try to find better handholds,” Varanis offers.
“Or I can try to guide each of you up.”
Berra steps back. “I think maybe?” she says. then she pauses and sighs. “It doesn’t seem right. I’m… Let me do it alone. You help the others.”
“Is Humakt riding you again?” Varanis asks after peering at her friend through the dim light.
Varanis: ((Pass on insight. 👀))
BleysRex: “Yes. No. I don’t know. No-one ever rides me. I’m… here.” But to anyone looking at her, Berra is fully armoured and the armour glistens in a way leather should not.5Varanis passes Insight: Mostly, the little Humakti seems very, very distracted, like she is trying to remember something.
“Yeh huh…” The Vingan sounds remarkably like Berra with that non-committal reply. “If you say so. You climb, I’ll help the others then.”
Berra considers, and then chuckles. “Yeah, I know the way.” She takes off her sword – the fancy, elegant one with the straight blade – and after a bit of cursing in her hands and with a little wrapping of the belt around it, it becomes a clumsy hook that helps her to reach a platform a foot beyond her hand. It’s the worst grapnel in the history of climbing – but it’s a grapnel. It gives her a single handhold that is all she needs, and then she is up faster than she has been going, sure and certain, laughing as her idea works and moves her onward.6Failed a lot of things, finally criticalled Climb!
Long-limbed Varanis does not have the same difficulties and with her expertise and confidence she guides the others up after Berra.7Three rolls one each for helping them and one for her – two successes and a special.
Berra’s ingenuity gets praise from Varanis once everyone is moving steadily again.
Berra is moving fast now, humming a marching tune slightly off key, but when she realises she is getting ahead, she slows. “We get to walk uphill for a bit now.” Beside them, the rivulet that gave her so much trouble is in proper bounds. She seems to be avoiding it on purpose.
Varanis eyes the flowing water speculatively, but keeps her distance from it.
Now Berra looks like she is walking as if she wants to fight the world. There is a hint of strut to how she moves, as if she is back in the alleys of Nochet, showing off for the bravos so a tiny warrior will not be rolled for what they are armed with.
“Any idea where we are?” Varanis calls out. “Under the mountain?”
“Deep,” Berra says. “The….” She pauses, turns, and shrugs. Her long hair hides much of her expression. “We’ll find out. Then we’ll deal with it.”
For Maalira, up ahead, there are sounds. An echoed fragment of a voice pitched to carry. “Any idea where… are?” And a reply that is almost lost, but is small and determined, no matter what it says.
Maalira stops, draws a deep breath, and shouts as loudly as she can. “BERRA! VARANIS!”
And instantly, everyone is plunged into darkness.
The odd, greyish light goes out, or ceases to be. Sight is impossible.
Maalira utters several words unbecoming a white lady.
But voice? Voice is very there.
“WHOSAT? WAIT! STOP! NOBODY MOVE!” Berra shouts. “Zat you, Maalira?”
“Yes! Berra, yes! Where am I?”
Berra mutters a spell and her sword flames into life. Light! There is light! “Um… underground?”8Maalira fumbles Scan.
Maalira mutters something that might have been “bloody literal bloody Humakti”
“Berra… why is your hair long?” Varanis is staring, then she blinks and forces herself to focus. “Maalira, sing a song or something. We’ll try to follow the sound to you.”
Maalira croaks out a couple of notes, inhales dust, and starts coughing vigorously.9Fails Sing.
In the light of her sword, Berra’s hair is short, and the parts she normally shaves haven’t been attended to in a few days – she was busy. She puts a hand to it. “Ain’t?” But she is already moving forwards, the light flickering and jerking around as she moves as fast as she can without leaving people behind.
“Was!” Varanis insists, even as she keeps pace, following the light of Berra’s sword.
“Alright? I believe you. Is that Maalira coughing? I was worried Drazn’k was here for a bit, when I saw the river. Hey, Maalira? Is that you coughing?!”
“Yes,” coughs Maalira.
Varanis blurts, “I remember chopping off his head!”
They are not far from each other – a Humakti, a Vingan, a Merchant, and a Yelmalian walk together, and Maalira is in a cave which goes back and down. “Yeah?” Berra asks, and then her sword goes out. Darkness again, but this time at least they were close to each other.
“He was my enemy and I was standing on his head? Or his shoulders? Then I removed it for him. That’s… weird. It’s vivid, like a memory, but maybe a dream? Also, Maalira, where have you been?”
“Uh, maybe Yelmal… Serala can make some light…” Berra leaves it to the experts.
Maalira makes a noise that might almost be a growl. “I don’t know,” she says, coughing again.
“We took… well, maybe Varanis can tell that. Serala, hold off on the light? I think I see something.” Berra interrupts the process.10Berra passes Scan. Maalira and Varanis fail it.
“How cough can you see cough any cough thing without light cough?” Maalira asks indistinctly.
“Quite. That’s the important thing. But my eyes are seeing different things and I want to make sure I’m seeing it before we make a light that would destroy that.”
Varanis peers through the darkness. “I don’t see anything, but I trust you. Tell us what you need.”
“I think we just need to know that I think there’s light the way I’m facing, and go that way. If I make the light again, I can control it, but I can’t do that for too long, and I don’t … say, Maalira, how well do your bandages burn anyhow? If Serala runs out of magic?”
“Berra, how would I know how well my bandages burn? I don’t burn them!” Maalira sounds exasperated and rather frightened.
Berra pauses, says, “Sorry,” and then casts her spell again. “This way.” She points. “I’ll have to keep the torch… oh. It should be Torch but it isn’t. But we’ll be fine, Maalira. And Finarvi. You’re holding up well.”
Maalira gives a short, sharp laugh. “I’m glad you think so.”
“I can light the way for a few minutes at a time too,” Varanis offers. “And it will be ok, Maalira. Come here.” The Vingan opens her arms to offer the other woman a hug.11Critical on Hug!
Berra turns for long enough that the others can see she is keeping her left eye closed – night vision maintained.
Maalira practically dives into Varanis’ offered hug.
Berra pauses for a brief moment to let hugging happen instead of escape. 12Insight: She is genuinely happy for them.
The hug is warm and comforting and seems to promise to Maalira that everything really will be ok.
Maalira gives a little sniff. “Thank you, Ranie,” she mumbles.
“Of course, dear one. I’ll always have hugs for you!”
Maalira sniffs again then straightens her shoulders and lifts her chin. “Sorry, I just got so lost for a bit there. Where are we going?” Her voice is a tiny bit wobbly.
“Up and out,” Berra says. “C’mon. Let’s get to where I can see a bit more before this runs out?” And then, a little later they emerge in a place familiar to at least some – a circle of six big stones under a dawning sky. There is, a moment later, no sign of how they arrived. This is, apparently, Indrodar’s Necklace, a temple of Humakt. It’s in Sartar – they have moved.
Their animals, and their belongings, have not.
- 1Maalira passes POWx3 to be hooked into the Heroquest, but does not realise that she is.
- 2Pass POWx3 to be able to communicate.
- 3Passed POWx5 but did not special, on seeing herself.
- 4Pass Insight (Human) to understand that Giland is working hard here.
- 5Varanis passes Insight: Mostly, the little Humakti seems very, very distracted, like she is trying to remember something.
- 6Failed a lot of things, finally criticalled Climb!
- 7Three rolls one each for helping them and one for her – two successes and a special.
- 8Maalira fumbles Scan.
- 9Fails Sing.
- 10Berra passes Scan. Maalira and Varanis fail it.
- 11Critical on Hug!
- 12Insight: She is genuinely happy for them.