Exiles of Sartar
I'd like to share reports from an ongoing campaign of Questworlds.
In this campaign, the players are playing as members of the Tenth: a portion of the Maboder Tribe who were deported to Furthest in 1602 to secure peace with the Lunars. Over the campaign, we will explore how the Tenth adapt to their foreign home, as well as their experience returning to Sartar in 1625.
The main characters for the first year are:
- Aralla Brightspear, the Proud Huntress, Apostate Sun-Domer, Initiate of Mal (Daughter of Yelmalio and Sedenya)
- Taravor Wolflover, the Warrior, Exile from the Bright Hills Clan, Initiate of Humakt
We're currently playing-by-post over Discord, and we are using a simplified version of Questworlds. Every two weeks in real-world time corresponds to one in-game year. The first year is the long journey from Jonstown to Furthest.
1602: The Journey to Furthest
Beginning the Journey
The Maboder tribal leaders organized a great festival to ask the gods to bless this journey. The runic results were disturbing: Beast and Spirit and Disorder.
When the Tenth left Jonstown, the long train stretched as far as the eye could see along the Royal road. The Lunar officials, Cleo Peacemaker and Agar Warmaker, positioned themselves at the fore and rear. For those in the middle, it was easy to break away.
The Disappearance of Jeno Tall-Teller
It has been a week since the departure, and the Tenth have just passed the bridge at Dangersford. Jeno Tall-teller, a worshipper of Vinga known for her excess of Air, disappeared yesterday, and before setting out the tribe gathers to decide their next step.
Aralla senses an excellent time to show up the leadership of the tribe. She resolves to retrieve Jeno Tall-teller herself, and sets out in search of Jeno's trail.
Taravor takes advantage of the delay to go wandering outside Dangersford. Taravor walks, avoiding the farms and households, walking in the wild places that the locals fear. The spirits plaguing the Tenth are, no doubt, there, but they pass her by. Perhaps their quarrel is with the Tribe and they see she bears no true tie to it, perhaps they fear her, perhaps she just doesn't appear as something alive to their eyes. She grows calm, and by the time she returns to the Tenth, she is at peace and even makes brief conversation with some of the others about what is happening with Jeno.
While the elders argue, Aralla ventures into the wilds and quickly finds Jeno's track. The tracks slowly transition from bipedal to quadripedal. Finally, Aralla finds Tallteller - unconscious but alive - beside a forest stream.
Aralla brings Jeno back to the tribe in the evening, just as the elders have decided to pause and send a search party. Conversations spread through the camp this night: How should we read the signs? Can the old ways of the elder circle still function?
Affiliates of Agar Warmaker pass through the camp, soliciting endorsements for an alternate system of tribal deputies (answering to him, of course). Taravor will speak with one of Agar's people, greeting them as a fellow warrior, and trying to get a sense of what sort of person they are, and what they think of the Warmaker.
Everyone in the tribe knows that Taravor is a great warrior. The Lunar soldiers know too. In the late hours, Agar sends them to find the best warriors to establish discipline over the tribe, so Agar's lieutenant Staku Spearmaker finds Taravor and offers the rank of deputy. The two converse and develop a firm mutual respect.
When Staku brings Taravor to Agar, however, Agar takes one look at Taravor's Humakti tattoos and dismisses her. "She will be good for killing, but do not let her into the higher ranks. She does not understand Yelm's order and resurrection from death."
Outside, Derordros Ravenhair watches. Soon, rumours spread that the Lunars are favouring the Humakti and overturning the proper order of things.
The next morning, tensions are high. Agar announces that his system of deputies will make decisions to protect the Tenth on their journey. The young Orlanthi cultists cry foul and demand to crown Derordros as tyrant for the journey. The elder ring is startled and paralyzed by the disorder.
The next morning Aralla steals away to get a secret meeting with Jeno, hopefully while they are still sleeping (at least at first). When a private audience is secured Aralla will invoke Mal, Seeker of Justice and Crucible of Falsehoods, to shine the reflected moonlight of the truth rune on Jeno TallTeller in a Speak Only Truth spell.
Aralla's tent is guarded by members of the Green Stones Clan, but they recognize her and make way. Cleo Peacemaker's cultists have spent the night spreading the story of her achievement as a model Lunar Maboder.
Within the chamber, Jeno lies recovering on a makeshift sickbed. Aralla gently, but firmly, coaxes a story out of Jeno: Two days ago, she fled into the wilds to try and escape the journey. She encountered a great mass of animal spirits who descended upon her and possessed her. Her memories while possessed are patchy - and you can tell how she earned her epithet by her attempts to add more colour. Occasionally, she comes up against the barrier of the Truth.
Anogo Three-Legs, the Green Stones' shaman, thanks Aralla for her aid to their clan. "Are these our spirits, coaxing us to return to our homeland? Or the hostile spirits of the land we pass through? I do not know - there is great uncertainty."
On the strength of her newfound respect for Staku Spearmaker, Taravor does accept the position, though she will be cautious about what oaths she swears. Agar disrespected her, and, although disrespect toward Taravor doesn't mean Agar necessarily is unworthy of her own respect, he has given her little reason to believe him worthy of her loyalty.
Aralla will give Jeno a polite invitation to attend a seven mother's worship, just to watch if she wants. Afterwards, put in mind of her by the recent business and Jeno's transformation, Aralla will seek out Taravor to ask her what she knows about spirit possession, and then politely try and sway the conversation to the existence of new deputies. Who do they respect? What do they think of Cleo Peacemaker?
The conversation grows hot, then turns cold. Aralla and Taravor depart convinced that the other is aligning themselves with the "wrong" Lunars. Bitter griping spreads among the Seven Mothers Cultists and the Lunar soldiers (of whom many are Pelorians).
Agar is cheered when he hears of the falling out - perhaps Taravor will be more useful than she appears. He offers her a simple oath: "I will obey my officer and protect the Maboder Tribe." Cleo is disappointed at Aralla's impatience. She lets Mother Venethusa know.
At the morning meeting, Agar reveals his deputies. They are folks known for competence, but also tend to be deviants like Taravor. The Derordros faction protests, but the Bright Hills vote with Agar willingly and the Green Stones back Cleo. The council of elders remains in place, but the deputies are in charge for the journey. Finally, the deputies gather to discuss how to best protect the Tribe as it continues the road to Alda-Chur.
Aralla goes to meditate in mother Venethusa’s tent and face her ire directly. Her truth rune abilities don’t provide directly for oracles, but the ambit of the moon rune does include self improvement. She seeks counsel and insight.
Taravor advocates for a policy of keeping the Tenth moving even if somebody goes missing. The more sensible people will take fewer risks, and those too careless to stay with the group aren't worth delaying the others to try to rescue.
Mother Venethusa informs Aralla that Agar’s position is less steady than he thinks. As a committed Pelorian, he cannot offer the correct Lunar Army worship.
Taravor speaks at the meeting of the deputies. She is unpersuasive, even with Agar’s approval.
The Deputies decide on a slow and safe course, bunched up rather than stretched out. Of course, your supplies will not hold out, so the tribe must forage from the surrounding farms as you travel. It is a month before you reach Alda-Chur, and the reception is hostile. At the gates, the city ring demands: you have taken much from Far Point. What do you have to offer?
Taravor proposes to the other deputies that the Tenth should offer a handful of our warriors to serve a year as a force of mercenaries, as either town guards or in battle, for the city of Alda-Chur.
Taravor's oration is crude and direct, but the Alda-Chur warmly welcome the offer of Maboder warriors. They open the gates. The Deputies enter first as guests of honour; everyone else follows. Agar is impressed: Taravor has intuited the Lunar policy of occupying lands with soldiers from other Tribes.
Inside, the city is visibly bare and hungry, but hospitality demands a celebration. The sun worshippers in the tribe - and the Pelorian soldiers - find easy company. Around the feasting tables, you hear that a strange curse has fallen upon the local cattle: cows grow twisted horns and fur, curse vocally at their owners, and escape into the Woods of the Dead. Many Far Point warriors have been lost trying to retrieve the possessed cows.
At a high point in the feast, Tangabo the Blind - a Far Point princeling of the cult of Danfive Xaron - leaps upon a table and shouts: "Your presence here is an omen! Help us recover our cows, stay and join our confederation!" That night, the tribe is caught up with the question: Who, and how many, will stay in Far Point?
Taravor argues to the other deputies and to others of the tribe that will listen: we have sworn to go to Furthest. A temporary term of service for a few warriors before they join the rest of the Tenth in Furthest complies with that oath and preserves our honor, but to abandon the journey part-way would be shameful.
Seeing a window of opportunity, Aralla goes forth to the cloistered Sun Dome women (and whoever else the Sun Domers cloister) and attempts to convert them to the cult of Mal. She exhorts them to rise to the task of defending the Maboder now that some of their warriors are staying behind. Simultaneously she also puts herself forward as another candidate for deputy, bringing along her new converts.
The Maboder spend a week in Alda Chur, during which a tense negotiation occurs between the local officials and Agar's deputies, while Peacemaker and the Orlanth Cult are marginalized.
Finally, the two sides reach an agreement: the Maboder will accept a population of troublesome Sun Dome anchorites, while the Far Pointers will accept a share of the Maboder warriors. The transfer will last for five years, after which the transferred members may return to their original communities. Aralla burns her already-frail relationship with Mother Venethusa to take on the role of deputy for the Sun Domers. Agar's faction is clearly ascendant over Cleo's.
On the first day of Fire Season, the Tenth begins the journey again. The heat begins to rise. The Tarsh Road descends steep steps from the Sharl Plateau down to Dwarf Ford, and the tribe moves slowly. When about two-thirds of the train is at the bottom of the cliff, shouts are heard from the top: spirits have possessed some of the stragglers, and they are attacking and consuming the others! Derordros Ravenhair cries, "Storm Bull strikes us for cavorting with Chaos!", and rallies his loyalists to leave.
Taravor argues to the other deputies that Derordros is an unreliable coward who is dishonestly seizing upon this misfortune to serve his predispositions, and that she intends to briefly declare to Derordros' followers that that's complete nonsense and Derordros knows it and then get to work subduing the possessed people until we can exorcise the spirits.
Taravor lost the contest, and as consequence, Derordros denounces her as Chaos-tolerating wolflover and attacks her. She fights back, trying to kill the rival warrior, and demands of the gods "Humakt, Orlanth! Let live the one of your warriors who speaks the truth! Strike down, through our swords, the one who lies!".
Aralla is aggrieved and rootless, since her plan to advance the lunar cause has distanced her from her adoptive mother and temporarily emboldened the Yelmian faction of the lunars. When the evil spirits strike she feels a black despair, on the day of the dying moon she feels powerless, with only the barest hint of the moon's power flowing from Tarsh.
In the pit of her despair, she has a realization. The black moon is the phase associated with Illumination, and Rashorana, and the phase Illuminates use to adopt other moon phases. And there is one more kind of magic that she can draw on when her glamours are at their weakest. She hastily gathers her new Mal cultists and attempts to enter the god time, invoking a dangerous and untested combination of Heroquests--the Hill of Gold, The Goddess Quest and Elmal Woos Redalda. She ventures into the God time with her spear, armor, a stolen horse and the encouragement of her naive acolytes.
- Aralla as Mal meets the goddess While she Frees Nysalor from Gbaji, and receives their blessing
- Orlanth Ambushes Yelmalio on his way to fight chaos at the hill of gold. He steals His Bright Armor and Lightning Spear
- Mal Meets her father Yelmalio and hears the tale of Orlanth's cruel assault. Yelmalio gives her his Cloak of Brilliance and seeing the goddess's wisdom on her he passes with it his authority.
- Mal Rides down Orlanth and though she does not defeat him, she forces him to leave behind the Lightning Spear and Bright Armor.
- Now burdened with armor and a heavy spear, Mal seeks Redalda, the pole star and her mother, for aid in taking Yelmalio's place fighting against chaos on the winter hill. Redalda provides Mal with the horse she gave birth to after her wedding night with her father
- Mal rides the horse to victory against chaos on the hill of winter
The gods are present today. At the floor of the plateau, Humakt is seen taking Death back from a deceitful Orlanth. At the roof of the plateau, the people witness Mal unmask the pretend-ancestral-spirits to reveal Chaos Beasts which she drives away.
At the end, Derordros and a few others are dead, but the tribe survives and manages to complete the descent. That night, the deputies acclaim Aralla as defender of the tribe and first among deputies. Jeno Tallteller spins an epic of the day’s events as a sacrifice to Yelmalio/Mal.
Agar Warmaker and the lunar soldiers slink around the outside of the celebratory circle. They did little to protect the tribe - Yelm appears to descend as his children ascend. Without the leadership of Derordros, the Orlanth faction flounders.
Under the Malite leadership, the Tenth cross Dwarf Ford and enter into the limits of Tarsh a month later. Here, they must choose: take the longer route along the Tarsh road, or cross the mountains at Dendrogi pass? The former risks the journey extending into a later season, while the latter would require negotiating with the Bear-men who control the pass
Taravor convinces the other deputies to travel the shorter route. We negotiate a deal with the Rathori to travel through their pass in exchange for a bit of work from some of our artisans and blessings from our earth priestesses. A small group of Rathori lead us through the pass and keep us warned of the dangers.
Along the way, a young (30-something) bear-woman among our guides by the name of Raganor Redbeard (so-called for reasons not apparent in most circumstances) befriends Rana Allmother. By the time we make it through the mountains, Rana has convinced her to marry. The bear-woman joins the Tenth for the remainder of the journey after two quick marriage ceremonies according to the customs of each tribe.
After the mountains, the remaining journey through Lunarized Tarsh goes relatively smoothly. We arrive at Furthest before Dark Season can begin, at just about when we were originally expected, and the remainder of the year is taken up by the administrative work of settling however many new people in an existing city.