Surviving the Marsh

Berra — Water Sign 04

????, Fire Season, Movement Week


Fire Season, Movement Week, Godday [[[s01:session-41|Session 41]]]


After giving a quick run-down of the Heroquest, Berra says, “Mind you, the battle captain has to be you. So let’s go through scenarios, like someone being dragged away, or the mist coming in. People dying. People falling out of the Quest. You need to be able to deal with all of them.”

He groans a little. “Can’t the captain say, ‘Carry on, Sergeant?”

“If he’s trained the sergeant, yes.”

“Go on then. Tell me the options.”

“You want to keep us all close. Don’t send out scouts. Know how many people you’re willing to lose in any engagement, because if you decide that first, it’s easier when it happens. Indrodar loses half his people. So hopefully, people can get out of the Quest when they are wounded. They’ll need to know that. If someone’s dragged off and their buddy can’t save them, they’re dead already. Consider roping up. If mist happens, an attack’s going to happen and it’s going to be bad. Get to the firmest ground you can, pack into the tightest circle you can, and people on the inside grab on to people on the outside. Don’t move, unless you’ll starve if you stay. Zombies don’t need to eat and they are waiting. Durulz won’t be friendly, although they’ll be less friendly to the Undead. If your friends die, it’s fine to carry the bodies with you, but understand it can happen. This is… this is the Marsh. Wounds should be dealt with as soon as possible, but without wasting magic. You’re going to need all you have. Do you know how long it took Lord Eril?”

From the point where the ground softened and you started wondering, until the point where the mists drifted in the distance and you knew, it took about ten minutes. After that, a couple of hours of compressed fighting, running, killing, dying. Maybe a quarter of that had real, complete danger in. The rest was just peachy by comparison – Humakti burying their dead in the Marsh have to do it quickly, striking off heads to be sure they cannot be used, taking weapons to bury with what remains. If you’re lucky, there will be wood around for a burning, but luck does not feature in planning.

Certainly, under a day to get to the haven and back, and to emerge to the circle of laughing warriors and order the charge on the left flank. Your blade magic held out that long.

Irillo digs into his memories, and then tells this to Berra.

“That’s… mostly good. I can put blade magic onto your sword, if you want? It would be instead of mine, but I have my spirit to depend on. It would make you into something closer to what you should be. I can’t make you a better swordsm… well, I can temporarily make you a better swordsman. And the ritual will help. But I can make your sword into a representation of a Broadsword.”

He gives a little nod, although there’s doubt there. “Should it not be you?”

… Most of the way, there was a path. It was only the last bit where you got wet. Pity Havvin, who was a foot shorter than you, uncomplaining….

“I… if I’d been him from the start, then yes. Which is a reason this all worries me. You’re – and this is not an insult, believe me – very unlike the High Sword. I would have thought a Humakti would take the role, or a Noble. But you? I… if I hadn’t seen what happened with Prince …” her shoulders sag a bit. “With Prince Kallyr, I’d have tried … well, offered to try to take it from you. But it has to be you being him. Ultimately you’re echoing a god doing this, and so was Indrodar, and so was Initiate Eril. Remember that. You may be able to find a god who suits you, to make the right steps.”

He makes a little nod, “Yes. I don’t do things as a Humakti would.”

You’ll have to change it, as you go. Not enough people to die. Criminals deserve execution. They know this. They, at least, do not need to volunteer.

Is it wrong to do this? Hard to tell. But here is a secret of Death: it can be made into a long, long moment. They can start to die now and end when Death comes to them.

Cruel. Practical. Fucking cold, surprisingly so even for that part of you which helpfully provides such things. But then again, given what YOU are about to go through, it’s more sending people on before than anything else.

If you know you will be badly hurt for transgressions, and you transgress, is that any comfort for the dying?

Are you creating undead? That would be BAD. But you’re not doing that. You’re just creating spirits that will not move on. Two slit throats, and it will be done.

Criminals. Deserving of execution. And this stain will be wiped from you. (Do not think about that. Today’s ordeal is enough. Survive today, then panic about tomorrow.)

“Well, I knew one Humakti who was a lot like you. My first captain.” Berra talks blithely on, like there is no sudden ringing in Irillo’s ears. “She was amazing. I’m only just taking in her lessons, to be honest.”

His mouth opens and shuts. “Human sacrifice? Of prisoners? To make ghosts?”

“Uh…. no. We wouldn’t do that.”

You would, though. If you were questing. If you were desperate. If you hated the Lunar Empire so much that just this one thing that was in your way seemed… it’s not a Humakti quest, but it’s close enough. A curious aside in a scroll on the nature of Separation and shamans. Hate hard enough, be alone for long enough, and you can decide to do this. It’s the path of a Hero, after all.

“Eril, on the other hand?”

“He’s a Humakti. We do sometimes make ghosts… but only from volunteers. To protect things like our temple grounds, or a sacred area until another expedition can be sent. He wouldn’t.”

Irillo raises an eyebrow.

Berra’s slow expression of realisation is like a prisoner’s when they understand what the knife in your hand means… You’re going to deserve everything you get, after this. If only you were bright enough to find another way. Where’s the brilliance that has always saved you?

It’ll be a year. Just a year. You’ll be back. Just a year.

“He… I think he meant to return. In a year?”

And they’ll be locked into a Quest. Surely that will mean they don’t know? That’s… unclear, admittedly.

Berra looks miserable. “If they were not Humakti, I… that…” She looks close to tears. “He shouldn’t have. Please not?”

Execution methods can be anything judged necessary, and these men belong to you now. In law, it’s fine.

You’ll be judged for this. You’ll suffer for it. In terms of your own spirit, it will be paid for. Surely that counts for something?

There’s a slight shrug, “Expect to meet ghosts.”

Berra nods, and packs away the emotion, and it all goes under a mask.