Our most recent session was very eventful. Three of the heroes fought in the Battle of the Queens and survived, only to see Prince Kallyr cut down by Lunar assassins. In the aftermath of Queen Leika leaving for Boldhome with her entourage, Erindros, Garkar, and He Who Spits at the Devil contemplated the future of Sartar. Upon hearing the rumor that Kallyr could not be revived from death, even with the most powerful magics, HWSAD wondered if there were some way to succeed where others had failed. Short of attempting their own Lightbringer's Quest, which was beyond the party's abilities, no one could think of any solutions. They trudged off for home, hoping that things had not fallen apart in their absence.
Egajia Finds the Garlic Man
Egajia's player decided not to participate in the big battle, since it didn't really play to her skills. Because she had to sit out for much of the last session, I gave her some extra screen time as she attempted to cleanse the Bardori tula of disease spirits. She was approached by the clan's own Chalana Arroy healer, a man named Durri Kind-Eyes. He was a soft-spoken man who had endured life as a Lunar slave for much of the exile period. Durri had been trying in vain to drive off the foul spirits that had been plaguing everyone since the last broo attack. He told Egajia that he knew of a powerful healing spirit that had helped the clan before, but it could only be contacted in the Spirit World. The spirit was known as the Garlic Man, and he (it?) could create charms that would protect the people from further infection. Egajia agreed to travel into the Spirit World to find the Garlic Man, and bargain with it for help.
She spent some time preparing to discorporate. She rubbed herself in rancid butter and garlic oil, and also chewed enough garlic cloves to make her breath deadly. Her fetch stayed behind to guard her body while she journeyed. Without the fetch present, Egajia's POW score was much reduced, making her magic weaker. I also ruled that she could not bring her bound spirits or charms with her to the Spirit World. She could still draw on her fetch's magic points however, so she wouldn't be helpless.
The journey began in Egajia's hut. Although her senses were dulled in the Spirit World, she could detect the faint scent of garlic, drawing her on towards distant mountains. She followed her nose, and flew towards them. As she went farther beyond the border reaches, which resembled physical Glorantha, the landscape became more twisted and Seussian. She was soon drawn to a canyon, and then a dark cave. The area was festooned with garlands and garlic charms. Egajia looked within the cave, and saw a humanoid figure, tall and musclebound in a loincloth, with a head resembling a massive bulb of garlic. The strange being was wrestling the largest disease spirit Egajia had ever seen. This creature resembled depictions of the goddess Malia: spherical, with many limbs, and a gaping, fanged, vertical slit for a mouth. This was obviously the Garlic Man, so Egajia prepared an ambush.
Egajia was alone in the Spirit World, without her fetch, so she only had her reduced POW to draw on for casting spells. In past battles with otherworldly entities, she has used spirit magic in conjunction with her powerful spirit combat skill (now also reduced) to bring down her enemies quickly. She attempted to Befuddle and Disrupt the disease spirit, but both spells failed. The spirit was alerted to her presence, and charged. The Garlic Man seemed incapacitated, so it was a one-on-one spiritual duel.
The disease spirit proved very powerful, after a few rounds, Egajia had to draw on her fetch's magic points to stay in the fight. She managed to fire off a few Disruption spells to even the odds. Because both entities were in spiritual form, their combat was envisioned as a simple wrestling match, with Egajia also using her deadly garlic breath to great effect. Eventually, Egajia was reduced to a mere 4 magic points. She had to face the choice of fleeing, or being defeated and likely possessed by this vile spirit. Thinking of her clan (and her Passion, Loyalty: Bardori Clan), she chose to stand her ground. First she attempted to rouse the Garlic Man, hoping he could help her. She used her Sing skill, but was drowned out by the shrieking of the disease spirit. She had to withstand one more round of spirit combat, but managed to win by a hair's breadth (92 against a 94). The disease spirit then chose to flee, inflating itself like a balloon and floating off to the horizon. Egajia let loose a parting shot with a final Disruption spell. She couldn't finish it off, but she did manage to pop a hole in the spirit's skin, which made it's escape much more undignified.
The Garlic Man eventually recovered his strength, and stood before Egajia. They negotiated in Spirit Speech. She asked him to inhabit the Bardori tula and help protect the community from further infections. He was grateful for being rescued from the disease spirit, so he agreed. But he did ask to for "flesh" to inhabit while he stayed in the physical world. Egajia assumed this meant possession, but the Garlic Man assured her that he just needed a single limb. She popped off her left arm, and gave it to him as a fetish. Back in the real world, Egajia's physical arm actually came off at the shoulder, her skin healing smoothly. When she came back to her body, she wrapped up the arm in bandages and gave it to Durri to use. The arm was still warm, and pulsed with a heartbeat. The Garlic Man bade her farewell, and assured her that she would get the arm back after the tula was fully cleansed.
A Rude Welcome
The other three heroes returned from the Battle of the Queens, bearing the bad news about Prince Kallyr to the clan. Afterward, they reunited with Egajia and retired to Erindros' farm to rest. As soon as they arrived, one of Erindros' cousins ran to intercept him. He explained that a stranger from the Blue Jay clan had come to speak with him, and seemed angry. The man soon materialized, a young warrior, handsome, but clearly drunk and worked up into an impressive rage. He staggered up to Erindros, took a swig from a wine skin, and spat into his face. He then unleashed a tirade of insults, claiming that "the woman Oranvale" was his alone to marry. That "she had already chosen him", and should Erindros pursue her, then they would meet on the dueling ground. He also claimed that he had defecated in Erindros' boots, pointing to a pair of boots that belonged to someone else. Erindros had only an inkling of what the man was talking about, remembering a certain encounter with a Togarth woman back in Storm Season. The man stormed off, climbing onto his horse, falling off first, then successfully rode off.
Erindros' cousin then explained that before the Blue Jay man showed up, a woman from the Togarth clan, "lightly pregnant," had arrived with servants and asked to speak with him as well. Wiping his face, Erindros decided to pay this woman a visit at her own farm. He donned his finest hat, and mounted his ostrich. His companions joined him for moral support. They passed through Togarth farms, and the patrols recognized him immediately as one of the heroes of the Rastorling raid. They directed him to a rich farm owned by a woman named Oranvale. They noticed fat herds, sun-ripened crops, and many tenants working in the sun. They found Oranvale with her servants, weaving a tapestry. She was a classic Sartarite beauty, in fine clothes and with a healthy Ernaldan figure. She was unmistakably the same woman that Erindros had a fling with after the big raid in Storm Season 1625 (see the end of this post for more details).
They greeted each other in an almost business-like manner. Oranvale told Erindros that since their last encounter she had been with child. Divination had shown that the child was his. She was the only daughter of an exalted bloodline, who traced matrilineal descent back to Orgorvale Summer. Because of her wealth, beauty, and magically powerful ancestry, she had had many suitors for marriage after she had come of age. Now that she was pregnant, she was ready to choose a husband. She informed Erindros that she planned to marry a man of the Blue Jay clan named Andrinorth (the same cad who spat in Erindros' face). As a renowned warrior and skilled rider, he embodied the qualities of Ulanin the Rider more than any other suitor. However, as the true father of her child, Erindros had a right to be also be considered as a marriage prospect.
After a pregnant pause (pun intended), she asked Erindros if there was something he wanted to ask her.
With as much awkwardness as possible, he doffed his hat, and proposed to Oranvale. While I don't remember the player's exact word choice, it was something romantic like, "I would like to enter into a marriage contract proposal with you!" She asked him if he had brought her a gift (he hadn't). He presented her with the ostrich feather hat, and promised her a pleasant life on his farm with the Bardori clan. She accepted his gift, and informed him that if he was serious, she would sponsor a series of contests between him, Andrinorth, and anyone else who wished to compete for her favor. She explained that as a descendant of Orgorvale Summer, daughter of Vingkot, she sought a husband who displayed the qualities of Orgorvale's husband Ulanin. Namely, his skill in riding, great strength, and a mix of cunning and bravery. She proposed three different contests, of which Erindros would have to best Andrinorth in at least two-
- A race to display skill in horsemanship. Or at least skill in riding some kind of animal.
- A wrestling contest to prove strength.
- A contest to outwit or defeat Oranvale's fierce family guardian, a giant pig with skin made of bronze.
She informed Erindros that she would announce the contests to her clan, and they would start preparations immediately.
The Great Togarth Race
A week went by. Erindros received word that the Togarth were preparing a race course, and inviting folk from other clans to witness the event. Oranvale announced that anyone who wished to take part in the race could do so for their own glory and renown. But the choice of her future husband was between Erindros and Andrinorth. Garkar, Egajia, and HWSAD all decided to participate. Erindros was anxious about this particular challenge. Andrinorth was reputed to be an excellent rider, while he had middling skill at riding an ostrich. Egajia had an idea at how the odds could be evened. She proposed contacting one of the clan's Pol-Joni ancestors, and asking them to "help" Erindros with his riding. By this she meant have the ancestor temporarily possess his body, and win the race for him. Erindros was reluctant to accept this plan, not because it seemed dishonorable, but because it was dangerous. He considered the next two challenges. He was a fairly good wrestler, and the contest with the Bronze Pig could be solved any number of ways. After realizing the race was his weakest prospect, he assented to the possession plan.
Everyone traveled to the Togarth race course. Hundreds of people were gathered to watch the event, and some two dozen Dundealos folk would be racing. The riders were mostly on horses, but there were a few exotic Praxian beasts as well. The party gathered in a tent near the race course. Egajia summoned a powerful ancestor from the Pol-Joni tribe named Jekk, who claimed to be a master of riding every animal in Prax, including ostriches. He assured Erindros that as his ancestor (or distant cousin?), he would take good care of his body and steed. Egajia then cast Incarnate Ancestor. Erindros felt as if he was floating out of his body, and then observing himself in the third person. Jekk took charge, and swept out of the tent with great panache. He mounted his ostrich, and headed for the race course. The riders were gathered at the bottom of the chieftain's hall, where Oranvale and her household servants stood watching. Chieftain Arnsulva welcomed everyone to the event, and wished luck to all those racing. Erindros (actually Jekk) flashed a roguish smile at Oranvale, who smiled back confusedly. HWSAD decided to harass Andrinorth with insults saying, pointing to Erindros and saying "he's the father!" Andrinorth pointedly ignored him.
I ran the race using the chase rules from the core book. Everyone made Ride rolls each round, with the degree of success determining how far ahead they got each round. We used six counters: four for the PC's, one for Andrinorth, and one to represent the other competitors. When I made Ride rolls for "the other guys" I gave them a very high skill to make it difficult to actually come in first place. Erindros was not expected to win the whole race, just beat Andrinorth to the finish line. The race track was basically just a herder's path that went through some woods, near the Willow Beck, and then back to the chieftain's hall. The race went as followed-
- Oranvale threw a sheaf of barley onto the track, and everyone took off in a cloud of dust. HWSAD rolled a critical, and blasted ahead of everyone else on his horse. Egajia on her llama had a bonus to her rolls, so she kept up, and so did Erindros and Garkar. Andrinorth failed his initial roll, and trailed behind.
- The race passed through some pasture land. As soon as Erindros passed near some cattle pens, a group of men with sticks opened up a gate, and began driving cows right into the race! Things ground to a halt as everyone was caught in a slow stampede. Those who were trailing behind soon caught up, and Andrinorth was now neck-and-neck with Erindros. HWSAD still held a strong lead.
- The competitors passed through a wooded area, and the track began to wind. I imposed a light penalty on rolls, but everyone succeeded except for He Who Spits. He now had lost his lead as other racers got ahead of him. Erindros was floating above his body as a spirit, and saw a strange, grotesque thing flying toward him rapidly. Egajia saw it too and recognized it for a Fear Spirit. She cast Befuddle, and then convinced it to fly at Andrinorth instead. It complied, and his horse began to buck and kick.
- The race passed near the river. Andrinorth kept pace with Erindros in spite of his spooked horse. HWSAD had now fallen behind the rest.
- The chieftain's hall came into sight. Andrinorth had apparently shaken the Fear Spirit, but still fell behind Jekk's peerless riding. Erindros' ostrich practically flew along the ground.
- As the finish line approached, there was a great clap of thunder, and an incredible gust of wind kicked up dust. Some were thrown from their mounts, and most were slowed in the dust and wind. Erindros brought out his trump card. Since he had incarnated Jekk the Pol-Joni, he had access to all his spells, including Rune magic. He cast Decrease Wind to create a pocket of calm around himself. He saw that Andrinorth was also shooting ahead in spite of the wind, but he couldn't beat Erindros to the finish line.
None of the PC's actually won the entire race, but Erindros defeated his rival, and so won the first contest. Andrinorth cursed and spat, and had to endure more insults from the PC's. Before Jekk left Erindros' body, he swept Oranvale off her feet for a kiss. She assented, but reminded him that he had two challenges to go.
Next time, mud wrestling and pig wrangling! Thanks for reading my recaps!