1628, Storm Season, Movement Week, Windsday
Boldhome, Adventurous Temple. After Wedding planning and a bar fight??? (Session Sartar Arc 14).
The message came to report to the Adventurous Temple – the one where Varanis practices with the spear. Please be there to be ready to wake early.
Varanis says her goodbyes at the house then climbs the steep path up to the Temple by Boldhome’s West Pocket. I’m good weather, the view is wonderful. This evening, there is not a lot to see.
Various members of the Temple are sloping or striding in. A Eurmali is selling sacred trinkets while his friend watches the crowd idly, but there is no trouble. A young and rather spotty initiate bows to Varanis and tells her, “Thane, you’ll not be wanted before a few hours before dawn, but we don’t know exactly when.” She looks nervous, and her new henna is still shiny and bright.
Varanis gives her a reassuring smile. “It’s all good. I’ll help out where I can and pray when I can’t help.”
“I’ve been told you can get some sleep?” she says, and her voice squeaks a bit. She gives a smile to say that she’s sure she got that right.
Varanis grins and gives the young woman a wink. “Bit early for that, yet. I’ll visit the shrines and pray a while then. But can you show me where I’m meant to sleep and then I won’t need to bother you later.”
She nods, and bows, and says, “This way please.” On the way to the room she relaxes a little, and helpfully points out the dining hall and the various shrines. She is dead on about the uses of each, at least. Over-eager, but well-learned. There is a small altar she had overlooked, to Vinga of the Thunder Brothers, which is just a large, flat rock with a flint on it, tucked into the corner of a room.
Though Varanis has seen them all1Save for one, because she failed Cult Lore, she listens with interest. It is both a good chance to practice her Heortling and to hear the youngster’s learning.
Her room is comfortable, her assigned youngster hardly jumpy at all as she waits to find if it is suitable.
It is well set out for sleeping in, and little else, with the traditional Sartarite solution for a door; hanging hides. Berra loves being able to crawl into her room to sneak up on Haran, and as Haran enjoyed kicking his door in the mornings a little too much… this is almost like home!
Varanis smiles with the thought. “This will do well, thank you,” she says. She tosses her small bag into one corner and leans her spear in another. She glances around for a peg for her ridiculous cloak.
There is a hole in the wall where a peg probably went once, but it is empty. Ah well.
She shrugs and drapes it across her sleeping pallet instead, carefully ensuring the wet side is up.
Varanis spends the evening visiting each of the shrines in turn, praying and leaving offerings of food or drink. When the opportunities appear, she helps others out with the preparations. At last, she begins to feel tired and decides to seek out her bed.
She wakes in her room to the knowledge someone is there2Passes Listen, just as a cloth is pulled over her face. She has a moment to see that it is done by someone all in dark wrappings.
There’s a moment of panic. A kidnapping from within the temple was not something she’d anticipated. She goes for the weapon under her pillow, but she hadn’t bothered to put it there, having felt secure in her place here.
“Sit,” orders a rough voice. Female. Not one she knows, unless they disguise it well.
Varanis chooses to obey, biding her time. She sits.
The cloth is tightened, softly, around her neck. It is some kind of bag, and must have been brought here unfolded.
She is silently hoping to feel a hand on her somewhere, something to give a clue as to her attacker’s location. She also listens carefully, trying to determine if the woman has accomplices.
“Stand,” says the same rough voice.
She calls on Vinga, casts a spell to let her know where enemies are.
The spell tells her that nobody here means her harm, but nothing about how many people that might be.
She relaxes ever so slightly, but frowns under the cloth as she tries to remember if people can shield themselves from that spell.3INTx5: You can shield yourself from any spell, given enough magic.
“Stand,” the voice repeats.
She rises, careful to maintain her balance. Her knees stay slightly bent, her feet naturally shifting into her fighting stance. She keeps her arms loose and ready. Her breaths are slow within the stuffy confines of the sack. She strains to listen for any tell-tale sounds, but everything feels muffled. After trying to peer through the cloth and finding only darkness, she closes her eyes. “Vinga,” she prays under her breath, “I won’t go easily.”
“Forward,” is all she hears, and the voice is moving away from her.
There will be more room to manoeuvre in the hall. What was the layout?
Her mind presents a picture of a hallway wide enough for two abreast, stairs at one end, doors at the other, and all the way along. There are lights along it, or should be. None show through the dark cloth over her face.
She pads carefully toward the voice, bare feet on the cold floor. She shivers a little in the thin linen tunic in which she slept. Her hands are unbound, at least.
Her hands are unbound, her feet free. As far as she can remember only the cloth went around her neck, nothing more.
If the voice is moving away, she might be able to… she reaches for the cloth.
“No…” the woman warns loudly. There is a cough from behind her a moment later, but it might or might not be too late already.
There are more after all. Unsurprising, given the woman didn’t seem too concerned about making sure she’d follow. This means going the other direction is also not an option. She shrugs and lets her hands fall. She continues to follow the woman, but now she is attempting to lengthen her stride, without tripping. Trying to close the distance between them and possibly increase the gap between her and those who follow.
They turn right, towards the doors, which is arguably a good thing, as they are not heading towards the exit. The ground under her feet changes from flagstones to wide cobbles, from cobbles to… grass? Some kind of inner courtyard? A wind blows, although it is not a cold one.
Varanis can feel the hum of power4Pass POWx3 to notice the feeling., that electric feeling on her skin that says mighty magics are nearby.
She searches for the source of it, trying to extend her other senses to help her. At the same time, she is trying to get close to the woman who has hooded her. Unable to let go of the idea that she’s being kidnapped just yet, she’s hoping for a weapon.
As she moves, the hood is pulled off her… She is in a clearing in a grove of trees.5Pass POWx3 Mountains are in the background, so distant that even the Spike looks small. Her brothers lounge around; Urox is cooking something that he caught, or maybe something that proud, cold Humakt caught. Vadrus is sulking. Ragnaglar is teasing Humakt with a feather on a stick, as the godling tries to sleep. “Hey, brother. Did you find father?” Urox asks.
She glances around, looking for Umath.
She can name herself as Orlanth, and Vinga, as easily as she can name herself as… as… there was something. And no, Umath is still away.
She shakes her head. “I didn’t find him. What is Urox cooking? It smells good.” She strides over to her overgrown brother to peer at whatever he’s got.
One of the nearby trees leans over and offers a soft catkin to Ragnaglar. A rock moves into her way to make a good seat. “Humakt caught this hare by throwing a sharp stone at it. We’re going to eat it before it comes back to life,” Urox says. “And… hey, I think I see someone.”
Big shapes6Passes Scan are moving in the forest, towards them. People she vaguely knows from her father’s camp. Humakt sighs and rolls to his feet, picking up his spear and his club. Ragnaglar sticks to Humakt, his favourite brother, the one who has never played a practical joke on a small godling since he was created. Urox sighs. “Go see what it is, Vingorlanth?”
“Youngest always has to do the work,” Vadrus tells her, but there is little storm left in him. They have been alone for some time now.
Vingorlanth grins and leaps into the air. She’ll check it out, but on her own terms. Time to fly.
And thump. Her landing reminds her that she is a godling, without power. A child of Umath who has not yet grown to be a god. Vadrus peels in laughter. “He’s playing at flying again, the little kid!”
Something in her reminds her of how her dangerous, fickle father always kept his word, to these people as well as others. Kin of his… Genert who is a giant of the Earth. Lodril, whose hair and skin burn the trees that walk too close to him. Kalt, who grows new trees in his footsteps. Magasta and Dehore and Subere and Softwillow and … others her mind cannot quite grasp.
She grumbles and swears, but this is her task and besides, she has to look after her brothers. They may be older and mostly bigger, but she knows what’s best and will look out for them despite their teasing. She heads towards the forest, seeking a tree to climb.
This is the Mutable Forest, and there are dozens of trees, some faster than she is, but there is Kalt, emerging from one of them. “Little one! Child of my brother! Felicitous day!”
“Uncle!” Vingorlanth exclaims. “Something is coming. Let me climb your trees so I can look?”
“It is more of my brothers,” says Kalt, and lifts Vingorlanth up into his highest reaches, so he can see how the moving rocks are letting Genert into Urox’s camp, and Dehore is casting a shadow under Humakt’s pale form.
“Have you seen father?” she asks Kalt. “We’ve been waiting. And what are they doing? Why is it all dark under Humakt?”
“Dehore does not like to be out in the open,” Kalt replies. “But as you are related to us, we have prepared tests for you which will make you into gods. Then you can seek Umath, where he wars with Shargath for a place of his own.”
“We’ll help him when we are strong,” she proclaims. “But what are these tests? I shall take them and be the best!” The young godling is boastful and proud. She holds onto Kalt’s branches with only one hand, while her others wave about, fighting imaginary foes.
“Dehore says she has a fine test for you,” Kalt says. “I will take you there.” He walks through the forest, explaining that he has a test for Ragnaglar, that Magasta has a test for Vadrus, and so on. Before she can remember or listen to the rest, they are there. Kalt leans over a pit and shakes, and little Vingorlanth… falls. A branch breaks off in her hand, and she falls into the deepness.
She yells her indignation as she falls.
There is darkness. She is shattered to pieces. After a while she sits back up again. Soft lights play about her, entirely unlike the sun. They move, and they are of different colours.
Well, that is odd. “Hello?” she calls out.
There is a chuckle. “Not afraid of a new thing, little one?” says a voice, and a woman whose eyes are multiple floating lights peers at him.
“Not afraid of anything,” she replies. “Who are you?”
“New things. We are all new things,” she says. “Young gods, great spirits, people who have been here forever, because we are new, and not wanted. This is the forgetting place.”
“Oh no,” Vingorlanth replies. “My uncle must have made a mistake. I’m not someone who will be forgotten! I will have to climb out and tell him that this is the wrong test.”
“The way above is closed,” says the woman. “You will be trapped here forever.”
“Don’t listen to her,” says another voice, this one deep and low. “Listen to yourself. What do you say?” There is a massive red-grey beast there, lying down because it is too big to carry its own weight. It hauls itself up, painfully, to regard Vingorlanth.
“I say I shall go up,” she declares. Then she looks around. She hadn’t noticed the beast – who else has she missed? “Are you here to stop me? Or help? We could help each other if you want to go up too. But if you try to keep me here, I shall have to fight you.” She flourishes her branch.
The beast lowers itself to the floor again. “It is not us who will,” it says in its voice that shakes the ground. “Up is hard. There is a door but things worse than us guard it.”
“We should eat the newest of the new things and get big and strong,” says another voice, from a puddle of darkness.
“We should ignore it. New things are terrible,” says a red-skinned woman. “I should know.”
“Do you want to stay here? Forgotten?” Vingorlanth looks confused. “We can go together. You, red beast, you are big. You could lift us up, maybe. And Shadow.. what are your strengths? Can you provide Darkness to let us get close?”7Critical on Orate. GM assumes that there is more talking here to be persuasive.
“I can lift anything but myself,” the beast tells her. “For I am Balance on which the world will turn when one day it decides it must. So now I must caution you, having urged you on. There are terrible things here, which you may release, if you escape.”
“I have powers,” says a new voice within the pool of darkness. “And any hope is better than none.”
“But will you go back, or on?” asks the woman of many glowing eyes. “Whichever is the way, I will follow you.”
“New things are bad,” says the only unconvinced one there, the red woman. “I will not help.”
“Back or on?” Vingorlanth does not seem to have considered that there was a choice other than back. “There are new things to find… oh! Finding things. Have you seen my brothers? They may be here too! I should find them. They may need help.”
“I have many secrets,” says a new voice in the darkness. “And gifts for each of them. Now lead on, little new thing in this world.”
The beast says, “When you go, try to stick to one thing at a time, to win at it… I will roll after you and destroy the trail, so enemies cannot find us.”
“We have a plan then,” she says with a toothy grin. “So let us proceed!”
She strides into the unknown, wielding her branch, confident that others will join her now.
They follow, until before them they see a door made of bone, and things neither alive nor dead standing there. The door is etched with glowing marks of power, and is itself a Rune, two leaning uprights and a lintel across them, which say FATE to anyone who knows writing. Bless the marks-on-bark singers, who invented it only a few days back. Another new thing.
The monsters and demons before it are made of bones and stone and sharpness and hardness.
“I can cover the bright magics that seal the door,” says the darkness, in yet another new voice.
“I can charge it,” says a bull with a star in its brow, and no eyes. “But someone will have to guide me.”
“I can tie up the delicate one…”
“I can jump high and hit the one that flutters above us…”
Everyone volunteers their strength, while Balance slowly labours up behind them, blocking off return with his bulk.
“I will guide you and protect you,”Vingorlath promises. “I will fight fiercely – all the more so because I know that I fight alongside you.”
“But who will lead us,” asks another voice from the dark pool. “We are ready, but who will start us off?”
Behind the huge bulk of Balance, the red woman is now complaining that she wants to go too. Balance does not move.
Vingorlanth considers, then grins her broad, toothy grin. “I will!” Then she launches herself forward, brandishing her branch in one hand, her sword in another, and lightning in the others. “With me!” she calls out.
Again, the sword fails to exist, the lightning is mere sparks, but… the branch is sharp and crackles blue and white8Special on POWx3. One hand alone, the power of the child of a god summoned despite powerlessness.
The darkness flows over the Runes, and there is fighting, and then the great bull hits the doors, splintering them open as Orlanth stands, Vinga-like, over the scattered parts of an enemy.
“I think I should have a sword,” Vingorlanth announces. She checks the scattered parts, just in case. “Or something to throw?”
Around her, the strange beasts and gods flow out, but the many-eyed woman pulls one of her eyes from where it floats, and hands it over. “You will bring great noise and light when you come,” she says. It is heavy in a young god’s hand.
“Go seek your sword,” says the darkness, which is just pooling at the bottom of the now-pristine and unmarked doorway. “It shall be as a brother to you.”
Vingorlanth stares at them, a tempest in her eyes. “I’ll remember you,” she promises, then charges forward. “To me! We shall find our freedom!”
Beyond the door, there is more forest, and sky, and Air. Vingorlanth finds herself back with her brothers, or most of them. There are five holes in the ground here; Three are still sealed with wood and bronze lids, one has a cover that is splintered beyond repair, and one has had its seal neatly cut off. “We just need Ragnaglar now,” says Humakt. He still has all his weapons on him, and the look of someone who has been fighting.
“There was screaming coming from that one,” Vadrus says, pointing to a closed hole. “And we know which one I came from, because I’m clever, and we know which one Orlanth came from, because he can tell us.”
Urox is punching a tree nearby.
“That one,” Vinga says, pointing. “Let’s go see if our brother needs help. He is the smallest and we have to look out for each other. Come, Urox! Let’s look in on Ragnaglar.”
Humakt takes his sharpest sword and cuts at the wood, until Urox picks up an axe and destroys the top in a few blows. Even Vadrus kicks a few bits of bronze away.
Within, Yelm’s light shines on something horrible. Flesh and trees and rocks fight to grow through each other, changing faster than the Mutable Forest itself, throwing out new sorts of meat and wood and stone, all of which look wrong and unnatural and overgrown. Somewhere in there is… is… a brother whose name is at the tip of her tongue. She’ll remember in a moment.9GM rolled POW, and failed.
She howls out her protest. “No! This is wrong! We must fight it! My brothers, will you aid me again?”
Humakt shouts something that slips past Vingorlanth’s hearing.
“Yes! Come up! We are here,” Urox bellows.
Vadrus, who for all he boasts of being clever, is, says, “We must defeat this or help him defeat it, but not take the test for him. Let us use all our powers and sing all our songs, and call him like we call our friends at other times.”
“Then sing with me.” Vingorlanth begins to sing. It is a song of brothers against all. Of friends who stand together. Of boasting and battling and boasting again.10Special Sing
Suddenly there is a new scream from the pit, and a bloodied hand reaches up.
Vingorlanth reaches for the hand.13Special DEXx3, the same as Urox. Humakt passes. Vadrus does not.
Vingorlanth and Urox grasp the hand, and the wrist. Urox is strong, as well as fast. Then Humakt reaches over as well, and between the three of them they haul out the missing godling. His skin is marked and scarred and half-melted, with black blotches and brown smears that seem to be under the surface, but he is alive. He sobs in Humakt’s arms, and his patient elder brother holds him.
Vingorlanth looks suddenly uncertain. “Did we win? Do we need to go fight it?” She peers into the pit. “I don’t like it. It’s wrong.”
“We’ve all been tested. That is what matters,” Vadrus says. “And Humakt knows where our uncles are. We can go claim what they said we could have.”
“Let’s cover it over, to keep those things in,” she says. “Then we’ll find our uncles. Humakt is helping our brother anyway. We’ll do this and then our brother will be fine and we can go together.” She beams. She has made a plan.
That is done, and the giant uncles welcome them, and feast them. Humakt and… the name will be with her shortly, it’s fine… do not spend long there. Urox and Vadrus get very drunk. One by one the gods begin to slip away, until Varanis finds herself as a youth, still aching from her first tattoo, speaking to the last giant in the hall1418/20 to pass onto the next stage.. “I am Hengall,” he says, “Known as Second Son. You have been given much knowledge and power tonight, but little advice. Would you like speech, or another gift of power?”
She thinks. Power is nice… but knowledge… something tells her knowledge can be useful. “Speech, please,” she says with the grave courtesy of student to teacher.
“Then first, this.” He pokes her solidly in the chest. “Your heart is a star, for your father was born of the Sky and Earth. He died while you ate, but he was always proud, and violent, and generous. Help those who cannot help you. Help those who cannot defend themselves. And when it comes to the finality of all, help yourself so you may help them. You are a warrior, and a protector, and to be as he was, and as great, you must be gentler or you too will be challenged and overcome, but when challenged your fury must rise as the fullness of the storm.” The huge giant winks. “And go out of the back door, not the front one, when you leave.”
She blinks at him. “The back door? Wait, my father died? Why hasn’t he come back yet? I want him to see me and my brothers and what we have done. We won against the challenges and he’ll be pleased, maybe even proud!”
“Ripped apart. His parts made you all, child, or how could you learn what lightning and storm-rage are?” Hengall settles down towards sleep. “He was killed by one called Destruction, but do not worry. His destruction made things that are great.”
There’s a frown as she processes the notion that death could be permanent, but then she shrugs it off. Perhaps it is time to see what she can do! “Sleep well,” she calls out, even as she is already moving towards the back door.
Outside is a strange place. The world is dim and cool, without a sun in it. Urox and Vadrus are snoring on each other after a boxing match. Humakt took their littlest brother away. She is on her own.
She sets off to explore this new place. Curiosity draws her forward. Plus, she has new powers to test out. Maybe someone needs saving or leading or something. It’s an adventure. Vingorlanth strides off to see what she can find.
The darkness closes in around her, cold. The last bright lights in the sky wink out…
The cold and dark threaten to destroy her completely, and she is alone. Alone, but she still lives.1519/20 to go onto the next stage.
She’s not so keen on alone. It’s lonely. But still, there is exploring to do.
Exploring? No. This is more than that. It is trying to kill her, pressing in harder and harder, taking her warmth, trying to destroy her.
“No,” she tells it, fighting back. “I will not be destroyed! I am a protector and I cannot protect if I am dead.” She draws her weapons.
There is nothing to fight. Nothing but coldness and howling things… and a tiny spark in her breast, the star that is still there, that has not gone out.
She begins to glow, a rich, vibrant blue. A nimbus of crackling power surrounds her.16Pass Spirit Combat.
Back and forth goes that battle, until she is exhausted, until she knows that there is nothing left but her. Then, in the last moment before all is destroyed, the darkness and the cold ease just a little. A phrase presents itself to her… I Fought, We Won.
And then the darkness lifts on horror…1711/20 means she gets no further.
She wakes with the taste of vomit in her mouth, on a hard stone floor. Her face seems to have been washed lately, and is still damp. She is in a light linen sleeping shift, in a room with natural light.18In theory this madness and horror would take a long recovery time, but in practice the GM decides not to KO Varanis for half a year. In return, she will not gain certain passions.
She lifts her head, searching for water to rinse out her mouth.
There is water nearby, on a low stool that will do as a table, and beside it is a suit of new clothes, blue with gold embroidery. Next to it is a sword, one that she recognises well; a rapier form of the blade that Berra won in the desert of Prax. It is the sword she brought back from her Heroquest.
Enough water for drinking and washing. A comb.
There is only one door to this place, but it is solid. From outside she can hear the noises of a quiet crowd. Murmuring. A polite gathering, maybe.
She cleans herself, each movement mechanical. Her hair is unplaited and she combs it out. There is enough length now for a single, Sartarite-style plait and this is what she chooses. Every now and then, her thoughts drift and she flinches. After a particularly wrenching moment, she takes a slow breath and washes her face again. At last, she is dressed and the sword belt buckled into place.
Nothing but the door, then. And the crowd.
She squares her shoulders, lifts her chin, and opens the door.
There is building applause, and cheering, and so many people she knows…
The voice of Kallyr calls, “Is there anyone here who says this woman should not be a Wind Lord? Face me now!”
- 1Save for one, because she failed Cult Lore
- 2Passes Listen
- 3INTx5: You can shield yourself from any spell, given enough magic.
- 4Pass POWx3 to notice the feeling.
- 5Pass POWx3
- 6Passes Scan
- 7Critical on Orate. GM assumes that there is more talking here to be persuasive.
- 8Special on POWx3
- 9GM rolled POW, and failed.
- 10Special Sing
- 11Two passes
- 12Special on Love (Family), making a pass on Sing
- 13Special DEXx3, the same as Urox. Humakt passes. Vadrus does not.
- 1418/20 to pass onto the next stage.
- 1519/20 to go onto the next stage.
- 16Pass Spirit Combat.
- 1711/20 means she gets no further.
- 18In theory this madness and horror would take a long recovery time, but in practice the GM decides not to KO Varanis for half a year. In return, she will not gain certain passions.