Note: Up until this point, I have been getting the name of "He Who Spits at Chaos" totally wrong, it's actually "He Who Spits at the Devil." So, from this point onward, HWSAC will be HWSAD.
In our last session, the party traveled on from the Block to the Paps, with a brief stop at Tourney Altar. Before leaving the Block, HWSAD took part in Storm Bull's seasonal holy day ceremonies. He entered the Eternal Battle, and witnessed the Bull grappling with the Devil himself. I debated whether or not this should involve a Battle roll or something, but I decided against it. The party then pushed on, leaving their insane young friend Argwaha behind. The journey to the Paps took three days. I wondered if I should be rolling up more random encounters for the travel between locations, but again it seemed inappropriate. Sea Season is one of the only "peaceful" times on the plains of Prax due to the calving season celebrations, so any nomads that the caravan saw in the distance were not interested in raiding.
When they arrived at the Paps, they immediately noticed the landscape becoming more green. Dust and chaparral were replaced with palm trees and cool springs. The temple complex itself was vast, and thronging with pilgrims of various sorts, including Praxians, merchants from Sartar and Esrolia, and even a party of Aldryami. I couldn't find any illustrations of the Paps temple itself, so to give my players a good visual, I showed them some pictures of the rock-cut Kailasa Temple.
They were unable to enter the temple itself, due to the terrifying Babeester Gor initiates guarding the entrance, but there were numerous shrines around the oasis to be visited. As it was Windsday, Garkar tried to find a shrine to Orlanth in which to pray. He found one as part of Ernalda's lineup of Husband-Protectors, but was unable to reach his god due to a rhino wandering into the worship space (explanation for a bad roll). As he left, he noticed the group of Aldryami watching him, but they were uninterested in talking. Their great height, reddish skin, and needle-brush hair suggested that they were from the Redwood Forest to the north.
Egajia was nowhere to be seen at the temple or oasis. Instead the party was greeted by her shaman teacher, Mok. Her mentor has often been mentioned in previous sessions, but this was the first time the rest of the party had met him. Egajia's player decided Mok should be an eccentric, stern Llama Rider who had been somehow "magically enlarged" in the past. He was over twelve feet tall, and did not have a riding beast. He simply ran across the plains like an Agimori. He lead the party further up into the hills, to a narrow canyon littered with broken statues. Here, Egajia was found meditating inside the shattered stone head of an ancient, nameless goddess. She had been fasting and preparing for her journey into the Spirit World for many days, and was in no state to greet her comrades.
Mok explained that she would pass into the Spirit World in a few days, to undergo her shaman trials. During this time her physical body would be vulnerable, and her enemies could potentially be drawn to her. As her kin and comrades, it was the duty of the party to defend her, until she either returned or died on her journey. Mok himself could not stay to help. Even though he was also Egajia's kinsman (uncle actually), he was not allowed to interfere with any part of her initiation directly. Before he left, he gave Garkar a spirit charm to use, a simple painted stick. He claimed that it contained a fragment of Oakfed, the Great Wildfire, and that it would follow the instructions of whoever broke it. Mok then left by scrambling up the rock walls.
The canyon in which Egajia was meditating was easily defended. The rocks on either side were insurmountable, and she was well protected inside the stone goddess head, which mostly blocked the side facing the hills. Everyone in the party knew that worship rituals, heroquests, and other gatherings were often disrupted by enemies, and so they expected trouble. HWSAD used his maul to knock down a few statues, to serve as extra cover. Garkar hid himself among the boulders further away from the stone head. Erindros went about instructing the baboons on how to properly defend a confined space.
Before long, one of the baboons spotted a group creeping up the hills toward the canyon. Garkar recognized them as the same Aldryami he had seen at the Paps, and counted six of them. Their leader introduced himself as Onakal, and said that his brothers and sisters had come to bring Egajia to justice for crimes that she had committed. He explained that years ago, she had led a group of llama riders into the Redwood Forest on a raid, and burned many trees and elves. The PC's knew that Egajia hated elves for killing her father, but not that she had feuded with them on other occasions. HWSAD attempted to appeal to their sense of honor, asking for them to wait until she returned from the Spirit World, but his words fell on deaf ears. They prepared to attack.
The Spirit World
Egajia had discorporated a few hours before the elves showed up. She entered the border regions of the Spirit World, and saw the landscape around her come alive with genius loci spirits, and other strange beings. She wandered for a short time, until she saw a huge man, as big as her mentor. His skin was covered with swirling runes and patterns, and a large pair of bison horns grew from his head. She knew him to be the Horned Man. They greeted each other as if they were old friends. He gestured for her to follow him, and she did so.
They traveled through the Spirit World (I described it as combination of stumbling, flying, and dreaming), and arrived at the edge of a new place. There was a vast oasis, surrounded by desert and scrub land. In the distance was an enormous mountain, big enough to warp the horizon itself, the Spike. The Horned Man stopped, and asked Egajia if she was ready and willing to give him her gift. She said she was. She reached into her own chest, and pulled out her heart. The heart turned black, and crystallized into something resembling obsidian. With a gaping hole in her chest, she gave the Horned Man her heart, a sacrifice of 15 POW! He accepted it gratefully, and in return gave her a set of chimes, carved from human bones. He left, telling her that she must find her own way to the place she sought. She turned and walked to the oasis, where she saw many people and herds gathered.
Meanwhile, at the Alamo
Everyone on both sides took cover behind the rubble, and began casting protective spells like Shield and Protection. It was six against five (counting the baboons), so Garkar wasted no time in breaking the magic stick over his knee. Immediately, a huge fire elemental flowed out of the charm (medium-sized), and stood ready to fight. HWSAD also summoned his air elemental to join them. Four of the elves drew swords and spears, and each cast Aldrya's spell Chameleon on themselves. They immediately became very hard to spot. Onakal and another elf stood back and cast Arrow Trance, becoming stiff and focused.
Initially everyone stayed behind the boulders, as the Arrow Tranced elves used multimissile to blacken the sky with arrows. The elves with melee weapons quickly moved up the canyon to close in, hoping their stealth magic would protect them. Unfortunately for them, Garkar had very sharp eyes, and a high Scan skill. He directed the fire elemental at them while they were close together. It closed in for a fiery embrace, and two of the elves were incinerated at once. Two more managed to make it past the elemental, but were confronted with Erindros, HWSAD, and the baboons. They proved very difficult to hit, due to the Chameleon spell. No one was able to scratch them until Garkar ran back with his broadsword in hand, and slashed one across the belly for a crippling blow. As soon as he left his cover however, he was hit in the neck with an arrow. His helmet thankfully saved his life. Eventually He Who Spits also landed a hit, crushing the the remaining elf's leg.
Before the fight began, HWSAD had built a bonfire near the stone head, thinking that Aldryami were weak against fire. He then asked his air elemental to pick up the burning embers and drop them on the archers. It did so, and managed to badly wound one of them. The fire elemental took care of the rest. Two elves still survived but were badly wounded. They yielded and asked for mercy, and the PC's allowed them to live. The elementals then dissipated.
Back to the Spirit World
Egajia came to the oasis, where she found the spirits of her ancestors, and their herds, all gathered around the watering hole to rest. She met kinfolk that she had summoned in the past, including kindly Uncle Dimalag, Aunt Sadesh, and Cousin Abjal (who everyone hates). The Founder and Protectress of her tribe were there as well, but she couldn't get close enough to speak to them. Suddenly a strange figure rode up to her. He was thin, almost skeletal, with dry leathery skin. He had golden teeth and bulging eyes, and rode a strange animal that Egajia had never seen before. He wielded a spear, and a dagger-axe that looked more like a scythe. She had seen him before at the Battle of Hender's Ruins, where he was last killed (at least in my version of the timeline). It was Jaldon Goldentooth.
He asked her, "Who are you? A Praxian, or a Sartarite foreigner? You are caught between two worlds, and I cannot decide if I should kill you, or embrace you as my kin."
Egajia's answer, "I am a Praxian woman of Sartar. If you wish to cut me in half with your blade, do so. One half shall stay here, the other will hop to the Cave on one foot."
Jaldon seemed very satisfied with this response, and let her go. He pointed to the spirit of a strangely dressed woman before he left. Egajia went to speak with her. It was her grandmother Sebayok (the one we created in her Family History). She was a philosopher from Pavis, and an initiate of the city cult. She died before Egajia was born, but her own people told her stories about how she died valiantly at the Battle of Grizzly Peak. Sebayok embraced her granddaughter, and they chatted for awhile. She then showed Egajia a vision of her comrades fighting off the Aldryami. She asked-
"What do your companions mean to you? Would you lay down your own life for them?"
Her answer, "They are my friends and kin, thus they are a part of me. I would have no choice but to sacrifice my life for them, for in losing them I would already have lost myself."
She was pleased with the answer. She then pointed to another spirit, this one very familiar. It was a man of the High Llama Tribe, tall and thin, and riddled with arrows. This was Egajia's father Harjoon. He had been killed by elves only a year before the start of the campaign. He praised his daughter, and she gave him honor. He then asked her-
"What would you sacrifice to see your enemies defeated? Your life? Your friends and family? The world itself?"
Her answer, "They are my enemies alone, and so I could only sacrifice myself to see them destroyed."
He nodded, and at last pointed to the base of the Spike. There, among tumbled rocks, Egajia saw the Cave. She bade her ancestors farewell and walked toward it.
When she entered, at first there was only darkness. Egajia's player then described the Cave as having it's own light. It was made up of narrow rock passageways that spiraled and fed into each other. It was a labyrinth. Eventually, she came to an open chamber. Here, she felt the open wound in her chest throb, and something felt as if it was trying to escape from inside her. She vomited out a white, smoky substance, and felt as if what remained of her soul was escaping her. She performed a Spirit Dance, attempting to contain the power leaking out of her, and it formed into something more solid. Her fetch, when it finally materialized, appeared as a large snake, wearing a wooden mask.
Finally feeling complete, she continued on through the Cave. As she felt her way through one of the tunnels, she noticed that the walls became increasingly tight. Soon she was trapped, and the light of the Cave faded into total darkness again. She became aware of another, malevolent presence nearby. Someone grabbed her arm roughly, and dragged her through an opening into another chamber. This figure was a living shadow, human-shaped. It's only distinguishing feature were it's red, bloodshot eyes. Bad Man then pulled her into a private hell of his own creation.
Spirit combat with Bad Man lasted for four rounds. Each round, he pulled her into another vision, and tormented her by making her live out her worst fears. Her spirit combat skill was 125%, and Bad Man's was 175%. This was adjusted to 50% vs. 150%.
- In the first round, Egajia was with her old Praxian clan, surrounded by elders including her father and brothers (now dead). They accused her of betraying the clan's traditions, of turning her back on the gods and consorting with foreigners. They condemned her to exile, and severed her spiritual connection with her people. She was unable to say anything for herself, as Bad Man had stolen her voice. Bad Man wins, taboo: Never eat Bison meat.
- In the next round, Egajia is trapped in a burning forest of redwood trees. They fall and crash around her. A giant Aldryami, at least 50 feet tall, appears and chases her. She calls on her fetch, who coils around the giant elf, and crawls into it's mouth and nostrils to destroy it from within. Egajia wins, shaman ability: To be determined later.
- Next, Bad Man takes her back to the Battle of Hender's Ruins, where Lunar magic and demons are tearing her comrades apart. She runs from the carnage, only to be confronted by the pulsing glow of the Moon itself. It fills up her vision, and she is forced to relive the temporary madness that consumed her during the battle. Bad Man wins, Taboo: Sleep outdoors once a week.
- Egajia finds herself back outside the entrance to the Cave. Suddenly, a giant version of Bad Man appears from behind the Spike. A horde of Chaos monsters follows in his footsteps. He directs the horde to attack Egajia's ancestors. She stands helpless as her ancestors are devoured, and their souls annihilated by Chaos. The Spike implodes, leaving only a gaping hole in the earth, and she is sucked into the blackness. Bad Man wins, taboo: Make a pilgrimage to Daka Fal's Fire once per season.
Finally, Egajia reappeared by the real entrance to the Cave, still in the Spirit World. Bad Man was gone, but Horned Man was waiting for her. He accompanied her back to her body, and she and her fetch returned to the mundane world. She awoke, and left the broken statue to see her comrades, standing over two terrified looking elves. They explained to her what happened, and she both thanked them and apologized for putting them in harm's way.
The party went back to the temple complex at the Paps, where Mok awaited them for a celebration.
Next time, the party will finally reach Pavis! Thanks for reading.