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1603: Entering Furthest


Bahntah

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The main characters for 1603 are:

  • Aralla Brightspear, the Proud Huntress, Apostate Sun-Domer, Initiate of Mal (Daughter of Yelmalio and Sedenya)
  • Rana Allmother, Busybody and Terrible Cook, Charmer of Men and Vingans
  • Helma Quick-Handed, Herbalist, Healer, Doesn't Get Jokes

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1603: Entering Furthest

A Death in the Camp

The Maboder begin 1603 in temporary camps outside the walls of Furthest, as parties within the city negotiate over where to settle the Tribe. At Sacred Time, the augury results are terrible: Moon, Chaos, and Illusion.

On the night of the augury, after the people scattered to their tents to mull over the runes, a scream is heard. The deputies rush in to find Mother Venethusa dead of a spear wound. No one else is found in her tent, but someone heard that Jeno Tallteller made a visit to Venethusa's tent earlier.

Aralla yells and screams as she mourns openly, pulling bloody streaks down one cheek with her nails. She was only just beginning to repair her relationship with mother Venethusa, and now she may never be able to. She also fears that she has further distanced herself from her own birth mother, who remained cloistered when Aralla was trying to convert the local and Maboder Sun Domers. Aralla may now be motherless twice over

But now is the time for swift action. First, she approaches the local scholars of Lhankor Mhy and demands that they reconstruct what happened with magic. Second, she orders the deputies to investigate, but makes clear that they should follow the same procedures they would for anyone else. Third, she seeks out the local Seven Mother's cult house, and humbly petitions for Mother Venethusa's resurrection. If they deny her completely or ask an improbable price, she will go next to any clan Devotees of Challana Arroy, and if that is ineffective, she will seek the Bent-wing Herbalists of the Mothwing Clan. Fourth, she humbly asks that Taravor preside over the scene of the crime. In spite of their differences Taravor is a mighty warrior of unimpeachable honor.

Aralla also goes looking for Jeno Tall-Teller. Rana also goes looking for Jeno Tallteller, who is of course, her third daughter's second son's spouse's mother's younger sister's firstborn child.

Rana steps through her dense network of connections. She finally finds Jeno hiding and terrified in the Tent of Eavara Swiftwind. After some time, and gentle nagging, Tallteller begins talking: She and Venethusa had been debating the relationship between the Seven Mothers and Mal. Venethusa Then her memory fails - the next thing she remembers is seeing Venethusa dead and running away. Jeno swears that she didn't kill Venethusa.

Meanwhile, the deputies are diligently searching through the camp. Their search, however, is interrupted by the arrival of Lachool, Tarshite Serjeant-Investigator. "You are in Tarsh now, not in Sartar. We believe in justice and truth, not clan vengeance. One of our citizens has been killed; we will handle the process."

Cenkar, the local Seven Mothers Cult, accompanies Lachool. "We will not resurrect anyone until we get to the bottom of this situation. There are rumours that you Sartarites are heretics and spirit-possessed. We must ensure the purity of your cults before you pass into our walls."

In the midst of the ensuing argument, a mysterious stranger steps into the circle. They introduce themself as Matech, wandering shaman and curer of all ills. "Do you need healing, my friends?"

Rana tells Jeno that she can't run away, and she can't hide for long, or it'll reflect poorly on her family. "Here's what we're going to do. I know a sage who can be trusted. I will go to him and bring him here, and he will help you remember. When we know what you've forgotten, then we will know how to break the news to the tribe."

And she leaves to go see Forshator Quillwright and ask him to sneak back with her to Eavara's tent.

At the circle of assembled people, Helma speaks up in response to Matech. "The Mothwing Clan has many capable healers. But we would welcome among us any who wish to share their knowledge--or learn." She is careful to leave out the shamanic practices some in her clan use; Helma is worried that Cenkar's speech was a subtle threat against their ways.

Helma is also worried that this Lunar investigation will not respect the Maboder way of doing things. The Mothwings are also responsible for preparing the dead body for the afterlife with herbs and oils. With permission from Petoria Weal-Bringer and Lamesh the Soother, leaders of the Mothwings and Bent-Wings respectively, she will approach Lachool and ask to be a cultural liaison for the Maboder in this matter; not to intervene, but to treat the body.

In Eavara's tent, Forshator studies Jeno's mind. Little more can be gleamed from Venethusa's death - but he does find a memory from earlier in the day when Jeno ate a worm because she thought it would make a great story.

Lachool is impatient, but Helma's words and political backing convince him that the investigation will be more effective if he accomodates the Maboder customs. The Serjeant-Investigator hands the body over to Helma.

That evening, Helma prepares the body for the afterlife with the assistance of other tribal members. Cleo Peacemaker and other members of the Seven Mothers cult are present. When the holy oils are poured over Venethusa's body, a worm covered with Sun, Moon, and Chaos runes crawls out. Before anyone can catch it, it slithers away into the darkness.

Matech walks in and says: "Friends, it looks like you have spear-worm problem. Chaos demon typical used by heretic Lunar cults. You don't have a problem with that, do you? No matter. Find me tomorrow with anyone who might have been contaminated. I have a cure."

Rana scolds Jeno for a fool, but she has the right angle. She drags Forshator (figuratively) and Jeno (literally) to the Serjeant-Investigator and tells them "My grandniece here was with Venethusa before she died, but she's been bewitched and her memory taken from her. She's here to cooperate with your investigation but she's done nothing wrong."

Lachool interrogates Jeno and, with Rana's spin, clears her of immediate suspicion. "She may or may not have wielded the spear, but darker forces are at work here. That stranger, Matech, they mentioned heretic Lunar cults - but you Sartartites are all despicable Orlanthi Lightbringer cultists, aren't you?"

Rana secretly takes offense, but plays it conciliatory. "Well, no, Serjeant, some of us have converted to Lunar cults. Why, Mother Venethusa herself was the head of our tribe's Seven Mothers cult. I don't think any of them are heretical, though. Well... I'll keep an eye on the grandniece here for you. You come see me if you need her, or if you want to have a chat, I know just about everybody around here, you know."

Rana twists around Lachool's questions, until he finds an opening and pins her to reveal the rapid growth of the Mal/Yelmalio cult - especially aided with the addition of the Alda-Chur anchorites. When Lachool departs, Rana gets the impression that his investigation is going to focus on the Malites.

Helma has heard whispers of Jeno Tall-Teller's visit with Mother Venethusa. She goes to Aralla and asks her to bear witness during Matech's examination--Helma knows that Aralla would do anything to ease the loss of Venethusa's death, and hopes being actively involved in solving the murder might ease her suffering. The next morning, Helma visits Jeno to convince her to see Matech.

House Merd

Elsewhere in the camp, an envoy dressed in luxurious red clothes (decorated with felt bats) seeks an audience with the local deputies. "I am Chaker the Chit-Chatter, of the Lunar Tarshite House of Merd. We have secured a place for your tribe within the walls of Furthest. You may begin packing - be ready in a week to move."

Aralla acquiesces to see mother Venethusa's body prepared, deciding that confronting things head on is more appropriate to the aspirational virtues of her cult. Head spinning with the various responsibilities that have been thrust upon her, she prioritizes the audience With Chaker the Chit-Chatter, and asking Helma if the cult of Medenya has any resurrection rites.

For the audience with Chaker she will be bold, and demand an explanation of of the source of his authority, as well as an oath that he doesn't know anything more about the recent death of Mother Venethusa.

Chaker reveals himself as a low-level lackey. He's also a chatterbox and gives an extended description of the political situation in Furthest. Chaker and House Merd gain their authority as first among the four houses, with the highest share of blood descent from Honeel and the heaviest corn cobs as proof. Of course, the other houses contest this claim - they state that other features of their corn crops, such as height of stalk or number of ears, are the true measure of the favour of Honeel. This has descended into all-against-all dart competitions, known as the "Corn Wars."

Merd offers your tribe a position within the walls, under their protection, if you agree to assist them with the famed Maboder warriors (they have heard good reviews from their contacts in Alda-Chur).

To Helma, Aralla inquires if Medenya has any secrets of resurrection, or barring that, ways to speak with the dead. She is open minded to alternate ways of acquiring supernatural aid, as any good Lunar should be... Or so she tells herself

Matech's Examination

The next morning, Helma and Aralla bring Jeno to Matech. Matech performs an examination through a bewildering mix of shamanistic rituals and prayers from a dozen cultic traditions. Finally, they pronounce: "There is a spiritual infection passing through your tribe. Jeno here is one infected, but there are likely more. Ordinary magic is useless here.

There is one way I can help you. I must first ask something of you, though. The disease gives messages of: "I fall and I rise, I rise and fell". What could it be talking about?"

The words of Matech send chills down Helma's spine. She thinks of the old stories her father used to tell, of ancient dead crawling from their graves to haunt the living. The fallen, rising. She turns to Aralla.
"Aralla, what do you think of this? I have my suspicions, but I beg the gods they are not confirmed. Can you or your god divine anything from this?"

Aralla grits her teeth. “Mal is a god of the pursuit and execution of justice, of the hunt, and riding in defense of the righteous. With oaths, truth, and pathfinding I have some ability. Perhaps I could learn to detect chaotic influence, but chaos is notoriously good at hiding and few have the trick of rooting it out. But perhaps Rana, you or your ex husband could divine something? Lankhor Mhy or the earth itself could answer our plea.”

“Helma, I had meant to be more delicate about this, but do you know of a way we might speak with mother venethusa?”

Helma's brow scrunches in a frown. "There are ways to speak with those who have passed on. It is...not my area of expertise, though I have been taught. Lamesh would know better." She twists the amulet around her neck nervously. "But I think we had better move quickly. Especially with an infection spreading," she says, glancing at Jeno. "But I need some answers first."

Helma turns to Matech. "This infection. What does it have to do with the spear-worm? How does it spread?"

Matech: “Social infections - disorders in your tribe, such as kin strife - cause chaos creatures like the spear worm to manifest. The worm then causes more disorder, in a cycle of disease.”

This unsettles Helma. Disease has spread through the Maboder before, but none of such origin. "We should speak with Mother Venethusa. If we can. Aralla, I will need some personal item of hers, something she valued in life."

Aralla provides a worn copy of the writings of the first incarnation of the Red Emperor, with a forward by (possibly channeled through a priestess) Queen Deezola, one of the Seven Mothers.

Helma mixes together a vial of alcohol and magical herbs. She sets it on the ground next to Venethusa's item, then scratches into the dirt magical sigils and the runes of death, illusion, and spirit. She chants for a few minutes, then drinks the contents of the vial, now (hopefully) charged with magic and a connection to Mother Venethusa.

Venethusa's spirit is called and answers Helma's questions: "I was in the middle of a heated argument with Jeno Tallteller about the proper process into the Lunar Way. I saw a hooded figure step into the tent. They sent a bound spirit to disable Jeno Tallteller, stabbed me, and laid a spear-worm-larva in my wound to grow. I do not know their identity, but it must have been a shaman with connections to Chaos."

Arrests Arrested

Finally, Lachool makes his appearance with a cluster of Tarshite soldiers. "We are arresting all Yelmalio and Mal worshippers, under the crime of kinslaying and abusing Chaos."

Rana is very concerned. She doesn't exactly care for the cult of Yelmalio or Mal, except for her kin who're in them, but they're still Maboder. She doesn't think her charms are working on Lachool, so the only thing to do is to go over his head. Chaker the Chit-Chatter's attire is disturbing, but maybe this House of Merd can intercede.

She goes to Chaker, and tells them: "Youngling, my word carries great weight with many of the Maboder, and many of my children and grandchildren are leaders among us. If you're inviting us in, I'm sure you want something from us, and you're not going to get it if I speak against you. This investigator from the city is arresting many of our people, on the vague proclamations of some stranger. Now, it may be that your investigator is right to investigate the cult of Mal, or it may be that he's not, but arresting all of them, and the Yelmalions too, is not the right way to go about it. If you want the Maboder as your allies, you'll see that we're all free to actually go to you, and soon."

With uncertain continuity Aralla will see that Chaker doesn’t heed Rana’s words: “Listen here you felt covered frumpy fop, listen to our honored mother here and delay the Sergeant a day or so at least or there will be no deal at all, and I will make it clear that it was your fault. If you can give us this we will consider your offer”

Rana and Aralla confront Chaker. Aralla's directness surprises Chaker, and forces him to promise to delay the arrests for a week through back-channel politics. However, this request will weaken House Merd, and they will have to delay the entry of the Maboder into Furthest. Chaker mutters a prayer to the Bat before departing - he has much work to do today.

Lachool's soldiers just begun to make their rounds, when they get some strange orders from deeper in the Lunar bureaucracy to pause the investigation. Lachool mutters about Dart Competitions getting out of hand - politics needs to be contained to prevent the spread of uncontrolled Chaos. The tribe has a moment of peace.

Another Posting

That afternoon, another detachment of Lunar troops arrives in Furthest, from some vague posting in the Heartland. Their commander, Palato Foodbringer, is decorated in war medals and Lunar finery. She proclaims: "Tenth of Maboder, you have new orders. The empire needs you to help pacify Dorastor. Begin packing." Agar Warmaker is bewildered - you can hear angry shouts in the Lunar tents between Agar and Palato.

Aralla barges in to Agar Warmaker's tent. "What is this about us needing to pacify Dorastor? We have oaths to uphold that will not let that stand."

Agar: "I do not know where these orders come from, but their seals are valid. I suspect politics and subterfuge in the Heartlands. My mission is to protect the Tenth in Furthest, and I will strive to carry that out until I get new instructions."

Rana is horrified by this news of Palato Foodbringer's demands. That land of Chaos? We won't go there! We aren't soldiers to be ordered around! The Maboder tribal ring agreed to send us to Furthest, but we are free people! Some general can't just come here and tell us to pack up and go elsewhere!

Rana goes amongst the Tenth and says her piece and wheedles and cajoles people into refusing to pack or leave. She invokes that classic Orlanthi law "No one can make you do anything."

Rana rallies the people of the Tenth. They have decided to go to Furthest, and that is where they will go. In the face of many Sartarite warriors, united across divisions of clan and cult, Palato backs down. She shouts: "You stubborn Storm Tribe cultists have your reprieve. I shall return next year - and beware Glamour's fury then!" Her troops march off to the Northwest.

Agar Warmaker is encouraged by the show of unity. The Lunar troops of Furthest (most of whom are actually Solar worshippers) invite the Tenth to lodge, at least in part, in the Military Quarter of the city.

Rana Allmother is pleased with the offer, and with the warm reception her tribe has had to her call to action. However, this "at least in part" bothers her. She brings her second son Targian Iron-Worker and her grandchild Sarorth Shieldbearer, a steadfast vingan warrior, and pays a visit to Agar Warmaker, bringing an amphora of Maboder mead, and a steel armband Targian has made.

She and her descendants express gratitude to Agar Warmaker and make a gift of these fine things. However, Rana shares her concern about dividing the Tenth, when we have all seen the good that can be done with the Tenth working together. Of course, there may be practical difficulties in lodging so many, but there must be an alternative to splitting us up ("There is always another way", as the Orlanthi say, but she probably does not say this to Agar).

Rana’s show of force works - Agar is reminded of how useful the Maboder may be in supporting the Lunar army. He spends some political capital (already bolstered by the departure of the other Lunar army) to secure lodgings in the neighbouring Guild district - its not pretty but its close.

However, the Guild district is also dominated by House Sanso, rivals of House Merd. When Chaker returns to the camp that evening, he is livid. House Merd called in the favours with the hope of gaining Maboder warriors for the dart wars - and now its ability to levy those favours is curbed.

Setting a Trap

Then shouts break out: the spear worm has struck again! A few assistants carry out Anogo Threelegs, bleeding from a spear-like wound. Matech chuckles - “time to get working on solving that riddle!”

Aralla hearing of all the trouble that has been called feels torn in several directions. She throws silver tokens with her runes on a mandala in her tent: Truth-by-moon, Fire-by-moon.

Aralla stares agape at what her Rune tokens reveal. The influence of the Moon Rune is present in her next action, but the lunar divination method says that for Aralla the majority of that moon influence will express itself through truth, with an unusual amount of fire influence as well.

Meanwhile there is a touch of the illusion rune, and no movement. Aralla's mind whirls. The moon rune expressing itself mostly through through the truth rune, but with a stronger influence from fire than average but still... Balanced by the illusion rune?! How...

Of course! The moon reveals the truth by telling a truth that seems a lie, or a lie that leads the way to the truth, and it is all dependent on what 'phase' the moon is--what is your perspective?

To a hunter, a snare is a prayer, to prey, the snare is a trap.

Aralla shouts to her deputies guarding her tent outside "Announce to the clan ring that I have uncovered the source of the spear worm, and I will prove this fact in a half hour [gloranthan units?] hence! And busy yourself letting people know and find some task other than guarding this tent, I need not your protection and must meditate until then! Go!"

She extinguishes any candles or tapers in her tent and makes a quick mannequin bent in prayer out of her magically powerful armor and some bedsheets, and her clothes, difficult to distinguish in the low light. She whispers a command to the armor: A spear length is far, protect all without from who would your sheen mar. Aralla then covers herself and her spear in mud outside her tent (with the flap ajar). She has laid a potent trap--hopefully it will uncover the perpetuator!

Aralla waits. A few minutes later, a hooded figure appears as in Venethusa's testimony. Aralla intercepts them before they are able to disable her, and unhoods the assassin to reveal Targian Ironworker. Before the assembled deputies and elders (clan ring is disbanded, remember), Targian shouts: "The Lunars are not our friends! They have only divided us against each other, and corrupted the minds of so many of us. Like a disease, it mutates and spreads. Orlanth and Kolat and our ancestors have abandoned us. Hail Mallia, the only one who can save us from the Lunar infection!" Lachool and his guards quickly seize him.

With Targian's arrest, Lachool seems satisfied to admit the Maboder into Tarsh. The tribe settles into the Military District and the Guild District under the protection of Agar Warmaker. The dart competitions continue to rage, but this is less visible to the Maboder as they focus on finding new professions and new lives in Furthest. The Tenth end the year in much more comfortable and stable conditions than they began in, although some wonder whether Targian was the only devotee of Mallia.

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