(Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has).
(Another note: we didn’t have another session this last weekend because I was sick and Androgenus’s player’s partner had a death in the family, so I’m posting the rest of our last session now--sorry for the delay!)
Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to Takakia, the Goddess of Moss. She holds the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris is the supposed leader of the party, but finds that bossing around a bloodthirsty Duck, an erratically insane Trickster, and a somewhat gormless volcano priest to be a tad more difficult than nailing Jell-O to the wall with an office stapler. Right now, she’s also finding that staying conscious is just as hard, but more on that later.
Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. Creator of Waddlestomp’s Big Ol’ List Of Humans That Need Killin’™, and now seriously considering adding his fellow adventurers to the list after being captured by mythic Sun Empire soldiers. In fact, the party got their butts handed to them so badly by the onrushing troopers that he did the previously unthinkable and surrendered!
Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They’ve found themselves trapped in Myth with the rest of their companions, and capture by Sun Empire soldiers who sense a strange, unknown (to them) power in the weird little Trickster. They’re utterly convinced that their “best friend Waddlestomp” (their own words) will come save them--despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary.
And, of course:
K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude). A warrior priest of Vestkarthan and the Lowfires, K'dud holds the Fire, Truth, and Mastery runes. Though and through them has mastered the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul styles of unarmed combat. His player, after two weeks struggling to define a personality trait for K’dud beyond “Vaguely helpful and a bit dumb,” has decided to embrace it, renaming his core trait Volcano Himbo. And he’s going to make good use of that trait in the second part of this session…
...because we came back to the action (after the first half of the session’s argument over whether or not a Hueymakti warrior would ever surrender) with Iris drowning in a sacred pool beneath an enslaved river-dragon, and K’dud (barely) fighting off fish spirits under the command of, to his astonishment, the same Merfolk hero that the PCs had thought they’d slain in the last session! Stunned by this revelation, K’dud failed in a contest against the hero (using his Fire rune versus the hero’s Water rune) and was trapped in a bubble of crushing, ice-cold water. The Merfolk introduced himself...and I realized with horror that I forgot to name a critical NPC.
Immediately, Androgenus’s player suggested “Fssh,” after a fish-man barbarian hero from a Dungeon World livestream performed by the Canadian comedy group LoadingReadyRun. Everyone groaned. They then suggested “Bruce,” after the shark from Finding Nemo, and decided to try a supposedly Australian accent that sounded more vaguely South African than anything else. Everyone groaned louder. Then Iris’s player suggested “Sashimi,” and weirdly enough, everyone agreed.
Thus, the Merfolk hero was named S’shiim, holder of the Water, Storm, Death, and Mastery runes, hero of the vile, slimy, fangly-jawed Ysabbau, Breaker of Ships, Drowner of Cities, and current questor for Magasta. Well, to put more of a fine point on it, questor for Brastalos, Goddess of Waterspouts and spouse of Magasta. I gave Iris a Hero Point for coming up with the name, which she promptly used to barely regain consciousness and struggle to shore while S’shiim was distracted with the fire priest.
“What do you want from us?! Why harry us like this, fishman?!” exclaimed K’dud.
“Me?!” burbled S’shiim, “You worthless dirt-crawlers are hunting me through my people’s most sacred story! Your interference will ruin everything!”
“Huh?” asked K’dud, rolling (and getting a decent success with) his Volcano Himbo Trait to convince S’shiim to monologue about what’s going on and give the heroes an exposition dump.
Meanwhile, (as I cut back to Androgenus and Waddlestomp and made the other two players groan with anticipation), Waddlestomp and Androgenus were being brought to the island’s governor, Iramat. Androgenus was in fiery chains, Waddlestomp was being warily surrounded by soldiers, but otherwise unmolested. The bickering twosome were dragged before Iramat’s marble throne in the center of a garishly-painted, palatial villa overlooking the waterfall (which, close up, could be seen to be a captured Water Dragon!).
I described the throne “room” as an opulent, gold-and-jewel-set pavilion of sorts, with two sides open to the courtyard, one to the cliffside, and one leading deeper into the palace. It was the governor’s meditation garden as well as seat of governance, with a rock garden, reflecting pool (in fact a spring, with a small stream flowing out from it that left the throne room and rushed forth to join the raging cataract beyond), and elegant mural depicting Yelm’s Celestial Court and the birth of a solar deity.
“Barbarian filth,” drawled the governor, barely able to look up from the sand painting he was working on, “You stand accused of violating the sanctity of Secret Cradle Island. Before executing you, have you anything to say?”
“Secret what nrrfghg--” began Androgenus, before being gagged by the nearest guard. They glared at the guard, struggling against the chains.
“We apologize, O mighty lord,” quacked Waddlestomp, to Iramat’s evident amusement, “But we had no idea where we were. Our ship was run aground of the reef during a storm, and we came ashore to gather supplies and repair our vessel before continuing on. We meant no trespass.”
I had Waddlestomp roll his Truth rune’s breakout ability Zone of Truth versus Iramat’s Arrogant Sun Empire Bureaucrat ability, and Waddlestomp scored a respectable success. Showing his Truth rune shining forth, Iramat scratched at his beard and considered this. “You speak truly….obviously, but still, I know not why a….mutated Keet? Whatever you are, you and your….”
Iramat stared quizically at Androgenus.
Waddlestomp managed to choke back a violent response (with a bare success against his Humakti Geas: Suffer No Insult Without Violence Flaw, as Waddlestomp would see any intimation that he would be intimate with any human, much less this human, as a deadly insult) and Androgenus went from grumbling to laughing uproariously behind their gag.
“...or whatever they are, you have no right to come here. By decree from the Sun Himself, any but those without his personal authorization on this island must die. It has ever been thus since the creation of this island. I see no harm in telling you, for you will die anyway, I suppose: in ancient days, Yelm once favored a concubine called Tihs, a minor goddess no people pray to in these times. Yelm’s affection sparked vicious jealousy among his Court, who sought to hurt the object of his affection since they could not hurt Him. When Tihs was with child, she was hidden away—here—and though she died bringing the Forgotten Sun into the world, neither she nor the holy child were ever found by their enemies. To this day, the most important treasures of the Golden Empire have been hidden here. Any outsiders must be slain, by order of the Sun Himself.”
Waddlestomp considered this. It certainly explained all the finery around the place, and the heavy guard.
...meanwhile, at the bottom of the cliff…
Exasperated (and somewhat entranced by) K’dud’s handsome cluelessness, S’shiim launched into the story of How Magasta Won the Hand of Brastalos.
Before the Sea claimed the world, Magasta was alone, and sought companionship. No lord or lady of His domain would join with him as his spouse, or even his mate. Magasta loved many, but few loved him in return. Then he met Brastalos.
(“Who?” “Shut up and the merperson will tell us, K’dud.” “Oh.”)
Lady of the No-Wind, Queen of the Cyclone, Daughter of the First Storm, Spray-Twinkling, Still-And-Moving, Umath’s paradox daughter. Magasta saw her frolicking in the clouds above his domain and knew he had to have her. Singing a song of roaring beauty that reminded her of her own lusty brothers’ cries, Brastalos came to the edge of Magasta’s waters and sang back.
The two loved one another from their first glance. Magasta desired her for his spouse, not merely a mate of convenience. Brastalos desired this, too, but knew that proud Umath would not consent to give his daughter to an upstart Water Lord. “But there is another way,” said fair Brastalos.
(“Wait, I thought ‘there is always another way’ is an Earth Goddess thing?” “That’s a lot of gods’ thing, K’dud. Shut up.”)
Magasta whistled in confusion. “The Bad Emperor seeks stillness in all things, and punishes my father by stripping his greatest treasures from him. He refuses to allow the Air People to have a place in the way of things. To cow my father and my brothers, he took our peoples’ regalia to a secret place. Find the treasure stolen by the Sky People. With it, my bride price will be paid, and my father shall have no choice but to let us claim one another.
Brastalos accepted this, and with a kiss soft as a breeze set off to reclaim his love’s treasure from the Sky People. Foolishly, they set their dirt-loving hovels at the edge of His domain to taunt him. With crashing waves and rushing torrent, he drowned them, swept their huts into the sea, and picked through the remains. He found a few baubles, but not a treasure worthy of the Storm.
Magasta went to the Gull People and demanded they repay the favor he had done by saving them from famine. Eagerly, they told of the Sky People sending boats of all things--
(“Wait, I thought Merfolk’d like boats, ‘cause, well, they’re water things, right? Both of them are water things?” “...Neither of us have time to explain how wrong that is right now. Shut up..” “But--” “Shut Up!” “Thank you, S’shiim.” “Don’t mention it. Now where was I? Ah, yes…”)
Magasta went to the Gull People and demanded they repay the favor he had done by saving them from famine. Eagerly, they told of the Sky People sending boats of all things across Magasta’s realm, furtively sneaking treasure stolen from other peoples they had oppressed for too long. Magasta went in search of the boats, led by the young scouts of the Gull People.
He called Six-Mouthed-Deep to devour the boats of Admiral Savatilan and spit the treasure out into Magasta’s grotto, but no Air treasures were to be found. He chased the flagship helmed by Captain Never-Runs-From-Battle into the Dragon Eye Atoll and sucked it down to the seabed, but although the cargo was rich with strange spices and pelts, it had no Air treasures.
Finally, Keehar, youngest scout of the Gull People, found a ship hidden by powerful magic. It was found by looking at where a ship should have been, but wasn’t. Magasta called his kinsman Charax, he of the many rows of teeth, and bade him chase the ship to its destination. Charax did so, but the captain was too wily, and sailed in a wide circle around the port they sought until Charax got tired and swam away to seek prey. Magasta howled in frustration--if the Gull People could only barely find the ship, if his fearsome cousin couldn’t track it, and if they wouldn’t stay still to meet him in battle, then how could he find the bride price? He wept, and hearing his sobs, Brastalos stood at the edge of his realm and sang. She sang of lost hope, of a happy life with Magasta that may not be, of her rage at how she was kept from having a place in the cosmos--not only by Yelm the Bad Emperor, but by her father, Umath. The rage in her song became a storm, and the storm trapped the treasure ship on a reef just before it reached its destination. Magasta and his warriors stormed the ship and found one of the treasures, Umath’s favorite arm-ring. The others had already been hidden away, but Magasta learned from the captain where they had gone: Secret Cradle Island, where a forgotten solar god was hidden as he was born.
No island was hidden from Magasta. He went to Secret Cradle Island, and befriended the dragon--
(“Wait, this dragon?” “Yes, that dragon, now shut the hell up!”)
He went to Secret Cradle Island, and befriended the dragon that was enslaved to guard the place--
(“I’m sorry, but how in Magasta’s holy name can you stand travelling with this man?” “He’s handsome, and he punched a hole all the way through your chest like it was nothing.” “....Fair point. Where was I?” “The dragon?” “What dragon? Oh, that dragon. The dragon. Yes. A-hem:”)
He befriended the dragon that was enslaved to guard the place. Its name was Oraka, and it was the dragon of a secret spring deep under the Earth. A creature of great Darkness and Water, the island’s governor cruelly forced it out into the light to serve as would a hermit crab use an anemone growing on its shell. Magasta took pity on the great beast, and with a mighty pull snapped the chains binding to dragon to the cliff side. In gratitude, Oraka swore a life debt to the lord of the deeps. He let Magasta swim up him to his source, where the governor had reshaped a holy spring to a reflecting pool for his own vanity.
The greedy governor, puffed up with his own self-importance, was set to guard Yelm’s most coveted treasures, here on an island that nobody knew of. He saw himself as Yelm’s most trusted servant, and his arrogance knew no bounds. But yet, he was bored. Guarding a treasure hoard that was not sought after led to no challenges save wringing recognition from a distant Emperor, and he always craved distraction.
Wily Magasta, hidden in the spring, took on the form of a beautiful water nymph. He sung a song that inflamed the governor’s lust, and, beguilingly, called the governor to tryst with him in the spring. The jaded man leapt into the water, where Magasta drowned him and stepped out from the spring, wearing his shape.
Magasta then had the governor’s guards lead him to the vault. There, he found astounding wealth! Treasures robbed or extorted as tribute from all manner of the world’s peoples and gods. There was Lodril’s first Spear, still smoldering with heat. There was the Crown of Mastery, surging with such power that even Emperor Yelm could not wear it without risk. There were Rastalos’s Rings, used by the primeval trickster to amuse the Celestial Court. And, of course, in pride of place, was Umath’s tribal regalia, as cold as the wind, as bright as lightning. Magasta took the treasures he sought and fled the palace, leaping atop Oraka as the palace guards found the drowned corpse of their lord.
Magasta’s laughter and Oraka’s roars of rage sunk the island beneath the sea, drowning the Sky People and their stolen treasures forevermore. Magasta rode Oraka across the sky to Umath’s grotto, where he was greeted coldly by his son Storm-Thane and belligerently by his other son Hurt-Everything. “I have come for the hand of Brastalos!” He called, and when the Air gods laughed, he threw Umath’s stolen treasures at their feet. “I offer a bride price: your honor, so long ago taken from you by the Bad Emperor.”
Umath scowled, for he was loathe to let his daughter marry such a lowly Water lord, for such was Magasta at this time. “Trinkets cannot buy the heart of my daughter,” he growled, and made to turn his back.
Storm-Thane saw his sister’s dismay, and said, “I guess we won’t be getting the Bag of Winds back, father. Oh, or the Widebrew Cauldron, too, we’ll miss that at feasts. And oh, look! You’re rather generously allowing Magasta to keep your favorite arm-ring, the one that duplicates itself every season?”
Umath made a strangled noise in the back of his throat and looked at Brastalos, who was beaming at Magasta with loving pride. “They are beneath you,” he rumbled, like a thunderclap.
“And they always will be,” whispered Brastalos, taking Magasta’s hand, “But they will ever be my equal. The fates of Sea and Storm will forevermore be joined, for good or ill.”
Umath saw that he could not disobey his daughter’s heart-wish, and allowed the match. Magasta took Brastalos to their grotto. Although she could not stand to live beneath the Water, she ever stayed near her spouse, circling around him as currents encircle the whirlpool. And there she remains to this day.
“That was...beautiful…” breathed K’dud, after a while. Then he looked confused. “But what does it have to do with—“
Iris groaned and slapped her forehead. “The myth, you, you—rragrh! We’re stuck in the myth! S’Shiim was—is—heroquesting to re-enact the myth, this myth, the story of Brastalos’s Bride Price, yes?”
“Yes,” Burbled S’shiim, still staring at K’dud incredulously. “The attack on your ship was when my lord Magasta attacked the hidden ship in a storm, and found the location of Secret Cradle Island. Though you fended us off and wounded me terribly, I still learned of the island. And now, I must navigate the rest of this sacred story with you dirtcrawlers in the flotsam, messing everything up.”
“Oh. Oh,” said K’dud, realization dawning. “Oh, my. I’m so sorry! How can we help?”
S’shiim and Iris looked at him, dumbfounded. I had K’dud roll for his Volcano Himbo Trait again, opposed by S’shiim’s Haughty Merfolk Hero Trait, and he got a critical success against a critical failure! Despite himself, S’shiim began laughing. He couldn’t help but like the empty-headed firehunk, and said, “I...I don’t know. But any assistance you can grant in freeing the dragon so I may resume the story would be gratefully accepted. I admit, the wounds you dealt me almost threw me from the storypath. And now—“
All of a sudden, there was an almighty roar, and the water dragon thrashed above—
—as the governor of the island called Oraka to heel.
I moved the action back a few minutes, and gave the PCs a chance to explain themselves.
Waddlestomp had decided that blunt honesty was the best way of things. “We were traveling by ship to a distant land,” he said, “And were attacked by merfolk. Water people,” he continued, looking at the governor’s incredulous expression. “They stranded us on the reef out there—“ he pointed a wing to the She’s One Of Ours, Sir!, now surrounded by Golden Empire longboats bearing warriors, “—And we came ashore only to gather supplies before heading on.”
“Ah, the cargo ship,” said Iramat, the myth easily slotting the She’s One Of Ours, Sir into the role of the treasure ship. “Bearing the latest addition to the vault. Why didn’t you say?”
“Cargo...ship?” Asked Waddlestomp, looking at Androgenus, who wordlessly gestured for the Duck to play along.
“Right. Yes. Cargo ship. The ship indeed carries cargo, and we are here,” finished Waddlestomp, lamely.
“Yes. If you had but sent word, you would have received aid, not spears. Now...water people, you say? They attacked you?” Waddlestomp nodded.
“Ah. In that case, there is a risk, however slight, that they have tracked you here. No matter, however. Let me call the guard—“ and with a wave of his hand, the waterfall started falling upwards, spraying ice-cold water over the palace. Oraka’s chains tightened, the dragon RRROOOOAAARRED, and reared above the palace, circling it in midair, sniffing and snuffling for signs of intruders.
“Oraka, the dragon of this place. He serves Yelm now, as do we all. He shall find these water people, and devour them! Have no fear, little Keet. Your diligence does you credit.”
Below, S’shiim started screaming in anguish.
We ended the session there, on a cliffhanger, and me desperately trying to figure out where to take the game from here.