Gyrfalcon Dawn

Session 7 Recap: (9/6-7/2014)
Kibu goes towards the light.

The story picks up at the fountain in the carnival, just before the party splits up. Everyone except Yachak and Nhymeri heads back to Vastavika’s townhouse. After Septimus nearly falls into an open manhole, Kibu tires of the man’s verbose descriptions of the surrounding buildings and runs ahead. He bounds up the steps and bursts into the apartment. The following scene ensues, in which we learn the origin of the name Kibu intends to bestow upon his future mount:

As evening darkens into night, Vastavika sips her “medicinal” tea on the balcony of her flat on Commerce Street, overlooking the approach to Victory Square. The sounds of the carnival waft over the bustle of the street below, particularly the musicians belting out a lively dance tune. How funny that such sounds no longer tug at her to rush out and join the fun as they once did. So much has happened recently that she’s relieved to be able to just sit and watch the world go by for a while, without having to be in the middle of everything.

A shout from the square catches her attention. Interesting how familiar a voice can become in so short a time – she’s sure that must have been Kibu. She leans toward the railing to get a better view, and sees the figure racing toward her door, followed by the familiar outline of Septimus and the rest of their party.

In what seems like an eye-blink, the lad has burst into her chambers and seeks her out on the balcony. “Why hello, Ki-” she start to say, but they’re the only words she can squeeze in before he starts.

“did you see it? did you see it? the carnival, did you go? it was AMAZING. I’ve never been to one but Sept was right so much stuff! hey.. how did you get down here?…” he pauses for but a moment to catch a breath. “

“I rode down with Yachak this afternoon. I had some business to attend to. But it sounds like you had fun!”

“It was amazing, it was amazing! when we got there they let us pick out costumes! they had all kinds look! look at this lion mask!” he retrieves the mask from around his neck and shoves it in her direction. “I had a tail too but i lost it, not a big deal, was kinda long. Trink had a tail too but hers was different, something black, I don’t know what it was. have you ever seen a lion? they had some there! they were so big, bigger than what i thought they’d be. I bet they’d eat more food than I could too. So I was a lion today! after we got the costumes we got to look at everything there was to see..” he pauses to compose his thoughts and recall everything they ran across.

“Ha! I’d like to see the lion that could eat more than you! My cook was starting to get worried this morning. I’ve always loved the carnival, especially the dancing.”

“Dancing? yeah they had lots of that. I was gonna show them how it’s done, they did all kinds of dancing, weird dancing. so I was gonna show em, but I got busy and missed it but i hear that sept and Marina showed them how its done instead. but that was after we found the gambling, i didnt win anything though, but they had food! did you know that they give food away at these things? you’d think it was nasty if they gave it away but it wasn’t bad.. they had meat and more meat, lots of it.. and some kinda cake pie things.. ‘pakes’ with fruit in em. I took a few of those. Iv’e.. got one left.. if you want it..” he swiftly reaches into his bag and produces a small tart with bits of black fur clinging to the fruit filling and presents it to vasta. “don’t know what fruit it is.. kinda a surprise” he shrugs.

“Why thank you. I’m full now, but I’ll set it on my night table for a midnight treat. What did you think of the elephant?”

he takes a seat near her as he slowly starts to come down from the initial excitement of seeing her again. “It looked sad, they all did, all the animals. but wow I never thought they’d be so big! Could you imagine riding something like that? can you even ride those? have you ever ridden an elephant? i’d bet you could see over all the houses when you did. how do you get on those things? do they make ladders for elephant riders, ya think?”

“Actually I did ride one once, when I was much…”

“What?! no way!” he interrupts

“…younger. They don’t go very fast, but the view is marvelous.”

“Did Gary get it for you to ride? He was always gettin’ me stuff too. did he steal it for you? I could get one for you too ya know. want me to get you an elephant?”

“Ha! If anyone could pull that off, Kibu, I’m sure it would be you. No, this was well before I knew Gary. But I know just what you mean, he always comes up with the best presents doesn’t he?”

Kibu nods in agreement as his ego inflates “Yeah, and i’m even better at it. I’m going to steal the Zebra instead though, its much cooler, I like its hair.” he tosses up a hand above his head to mimic the mohawk mane of his target. ”I think I’ll name him Spot”

Vasta lets out a shriek of laughter. “Oh yes!” she exclaims. “That is exactly what you should name it! It will be the talk of every salon in town. You’ll be giving Septimus a run for his money.” Seeing her friend inside, she calls in, “Do you hear that Sept? You’d better watch your back!” Septimus looks her way and nods without catching onto the conversation.

That settles it in Kibus mind. The game is on. He has to prove to her he can be better than Sept! “Yep, I’m going to steal Spot.” he reconfirms with her.

“What’s he on about?” asks another voice from inside the doorway, probably Trink’s.

“He’s going to steal the spot, whatever that means.” says Marina.

At that moment, Vasta notices a quiet figure standing in a corner. “Good grief, Kibu, whatever happened to James? Where did he get that bandage?”

“he got into a fight, a few of em.. but they were for prizes or something.. Marina did too. I almost made a handful of coins off her but she ended up winnin’. James though, he beat a few guys up pretty bad with his stick sword. I only got to see a few of the matches though, meri came back on her medicine, she doesn’t like lots of people around, and wanted to go off somewhere and have some fun, so we did for a while. When I woke up most of the other matches were finished but I got to see James beat this really big guy, really big. It was alright, I could have done it. But they weren’t very happy about it, his friends, and they shot at James….

Vasta now leaves the balcony and goes inside to greet her guests. The conversation proceeds, with Vasta questioning the circumstances of James’ injury. She then shows them their rooms, but Marina finds a surprise in hers. There is a small lump under the covers which she gingerly liberates, and which turns out to be the prize fox kit she had admired in the livestock pens earlier that day (with odd bits of jelly donut sticking to its fur). Kibu beams at her expression of appreciation, and everyone else is charmed, including Vastavika. No one seems disturbed that now, some rich lady will never have the chance to wear this black and white bundle of energy and cuteness around her neck.

Vasta informs Septimus that she has received the summons to her competency hearing, to be held late the following day. He is sobered by the prospect and decides to conduct his charges on just a quick survey of the nearby surrounds instead of the grand tour he had envisioned. Leading Kibu and Trink, he passes the Police Headquarters, and heads down to the docks. Skirting the Market District, Kibu glimpses a couple of familiar and not entirely friendly faces, but he is confident in the efficacy of his lion’s mask. They head back towards the carnival, past the Banking District, across the central square, and up the northeast avenue towards the government buildings. They take particular note of the Hall of Records, where documents relating to Vasta’s ownership of her estate are supposedly kept. It seems like a fairly secure building, though not heavily guarded. Heading south past the Theatre and Plenum of Burghers, Septimus completes his circuit, and excuses himself to return to Vasta.

Trink and Kibu go a block further south to take one more pass by the bank buildings, watching for alleyways, sewer entrances, and other useful elements of the terrain. Suddenly there are some hoarse shouts, in which Kibu hears his name, and there are now several toughs running toward him from behind and the side. He glances at Trink slyly, says “Run,” then takes off in the direction of the town square. The goons run past Trink, clearly not having noticed she had been walking with Kibu. As Kibu rounds the Counting House, there are even more pursuers than he was originally aware of, including a couple of guards who join the chase as he hurtles into the square. The grate is still open next to the statue in the center, and he sprints to it, disappearing into its depths.

Trink makes it to the corner of the plaza just in time to note where Kibu has gone. Seeing the rest of the pursuers converge around that spot, she begins to look for another sewer opening where she can catch up to his position and help him. Dashing up past Vasta’s, she finds a likely grate near the blacksmith’s shop that looks like it’s moveable, though too heavy to do herself. Luckily, she remembers James is right inside doing something at the anvil, and she enlists his help. He also has some trouble lifting it with only one good hand, but they find a crowbar with which they are able to jimmy it open. She drops into its depths and begins running back in the direction of the square, but as she approaches that area, she confronts a barrier. It seems to have been intentionally built out of miscellaneous crates, beams, rocks, and tools, and completely blocks her passage. Beyond it, she can hear muffled shouts and sees glimmers of torchlight.

When he drops into the sewer in the square, Kibu races east towards the church, and encounters the same barrier from the other side which Trink will reach a few minutes later. Turning left, he soon plunges into complete darkness, feeling his way along. He looks for passages and possible hiding places, and hears the shouts of the men organizing their pursuit, which echo from an unknown distance behind. Finally up ahead, he sees a shaft of light, coming from a side passage. Peering around the corner, he thinks it might be from a lamp or fire. He pauses to assess his options. If he keeps stumbling forward in the darkness, he will eventually be caught up by the men who will have torches and therefore can move more quickly. Not knowing the sewer layout the way he did in the city where he grew up, he has no idea how many branches or hidey holes there will be, and there is a high probability of getting trapped in a dead end. On the other hand, the light might indicate a way out, though it, too, could turn out to be a trap. Rolling the dice of fate, he makes a snap decision to head towards the light.

The light gets brighter as he heads down the side tunnel, and just as it’s about to open into a room, he finds an iron gate that covers the passageway. Upon examination, he discovers the gate has been pried up from the bottom, and there is enough room for him to shimmy through. He is now in a rough-cut stone room, although the far doorway seems to be more finely crafted. Another short passage ends at another grated gateway, this one in much better repair. He pushes, it swings open, and he goes though. He is now in a workroom with benches and masonry supplies, and he can see that the light is coming from around the corner of a passage at the far end. He checks for hiding places and other exits as he approaches the next gate, but there seem to be no other options than to move forward. As he reaches this new gate, he can see the lantern, hung about ten feet further down the tunnel ahead. But this gate does not budge. There is a very secure locking mechanism that looks like he won’t be able open from his side. In addition, he detects some movement in the passage ahead, though what it is, he cannot tell.

He decides this is a dead end, and turns to double back, but when he reaches the gate he had just pushed through with no trouble, he discovers that it, too, is now closed and locked. As he begins to realize he is trapped, he hears the shouts of the pursuers up the tunnel, and sees flickers of torchlight that tell him they have reached the side tunnel and are now blocking his retreat anyway. He begins piling things in front of that gate in hopes of preventing them from coming into his room if it should turn out they have a key. But after a few moments of this, the lantern behind him goes out. He listens in the dark, but can hear nothing besides the sound of the pursuers getting closer. He goes to the gate near the lantern, and whispers, “Is anybody there?” There is no answer, so he finds a hiding spot within the room. Voices from behind reach the broken gate, and someone shimmies under into the first room. Calling to his comrades, the lone man examines the room, comes up to the locked gate and shines his light through. Finding no sign of Kibu, he reports to his buddies (we can assume) that the fugitive could not have come this way, and retreats. Kibu remains silent for a long while after all sounds of pursuit have receded into the distance.

Trink has no trouble creating an opening in the debris barrier that she can squirm through, and can hear echoes of the men who have headed in the direction she figures Kibu must have gone. Hoping to distract them from their quarry, she gathers some small, heavy objects that she can throw in their direction. She begins to sprint towards them, though she pauses at a side tunnel from which no sound emerges. Making a note of it as a possible escape route, she continues toward the voices, and is able to catch up before long, since they are being very methodical and thorough, pausing to search every side passage they come to. She determines that there are at least five men ahead of her, and she pitches a couple of her makeshift missiles in their direction. This has the desired effect, causing three of them to chase her back the way she had come. She slips back through the barricade before they see her and quickly fills the opening she had made. Staying silent, she listens from her side of the barrier as the men who chased her reconnect with the sentries in the market center. Soon, a number of men come back and begin dismantling the barrier, so she retreats towards the grate where she first entered the sewer. There, James helps her back out, and they decide to report back to Vasta’s apartment.

Kibu sits in the darkness and munches on the provisions he has collected from the carnival and Vasta’s place. After a while the lantern light does come back on, and he moves to the inner gate to see if there is someone there who can help him. A figure is standing near the light, wearing baggy trousers and a jacket, which suggest that he might be some sort of workman. He is immediately aware of Kibu, and approaches in silhouette, putting a finger to his mouth in a shushing gesture. Kibu wars with himself whether to act innocent and friendly, but the man doesn’t appear to be armed, and looks like he would be easy to handle in a fight, once the door was opened. The man is reaching a hand towards one of Kibu’s, and looks like he wants to shake. With deep reservations, Kibu slips one of his readied knives back into his pocket and gingerly extends the hand through the bars, ready to snatch it back at the sign of sudden movement. As the man grips his hand, Kibu’s fears are confirmed, and the man’s other hand darts up. Kibu has the advantage of strength as he yanks his hand backwards, but the man is able to hold on just long enough for the object he has been concealing to jab into the flesh between Kibu’s knuckles.

“So, you may want to welax a little bit, because you’re going to be passing out here pwetty soon.”

“What?” Kibu says as he staggers back against a wall, feeling the wound in his hand.

“Youah ok. No one can come in, no one can get out. Just sit theah, welax, you’ll be fine. You may fall asleep, but you’ll be all wight.” (Or did he mean white?)

“Wha-what did you do?” Kibu stutters.

“Well, it’s a twanquilizah…a twanquilizah, y’undahstand that word?” Kibu says nothing. “It means youah gonna fall asleep. So lay down so you don’t fall down.”

“Why?” Kibu says, feeling not the least bit sleepy. In fact, this speech pisses him off, and he charges at the grate, weapons now clearly in evidence, and slashes out through the bars.

The figure jumps back, a little shocked that Kibu hasn’t passed out yet. “No, now look. I made the lock on the dooah myself…”

“Then open it!” snarls Kibu.

“It’s not opening!”

“Oh…open…it…” and with that, Kibu stumbles back, and – splash, thunk, clink clink.

“Heh,” says Weed to no one. “Yeah, well I, um, made it myself.”

Septimus and Vasta listen with growing concertn to the frantic and disjointed account of Kibu’s disappearance and Trink’s attempt to help him. As the story unfolds, Septimus connects this development with the poster Kibu had so proudly shown him in the carnival that day. “I see,” he mutters, “so in his short time, he’s managed to draw the attention of the authorities, ok.” Someone points out that these weren’t policemen but tough guys chasing Kibu. “Ok, so, even more impressive, he has managed to draw the attention of the criminal element in town.”

As they head out to the square to assess the situation, they see policemen standing around the sewer grate in the square. Septimus recognizes the Sergeant in charge and engages him in conversation, taking a gauge of what the authorities know. The officer does indeed confirm that Kibu is who they are looking for, describing his scar, and Septimus admits to having seen the fellow earlier that day in the carnival. He promises he will go to the Police station and file a report there, and asks if there’s anything he can do to help. The officer is quite confident that the situation is in hand and doesn’t provide any opening for the civilians to enter the sewer.

At this point Nhymeri and Yachak appear, and the two contingents fill each other in on recent events. They discuss what their options are, but there doesn’t seem to be much they can do. They persist in brainstorming ideas, however, and Septimus points out that the sewer drains into the river near the docks, suggesting to Trink and Nhymeri that they might go down and watch for Kibu to emerge. Before they leave, however, Yachak’s sensible questions lead to the suggestion that Sy might be able to track Kibu. But this doesn’t immediately lead to a plan of action, so they decide to fan out, watch the sewer grates for a couple of hours, and then meet back at Vasta’s.

However, perhaps it is the mention of Sy (or perhaps other reminders) that prompts Nhymeri to remember that Momo has been residing in her hair all day, or at least since she and Kibu shared a certain lovely trip in a hay wagon. She puts Momo in her hand as they stand peering into the mouth of the tunnel that empties into the river, but Momo merely hops down, circles around, and jumps back into her hand. They decide to enter the sewer here and follow it back to the square, where Momo might have a better chance to catch Kibu’s scent. Nhymeri finds a piece of driftwood to serve as a torch, and off they go. When they pass under the open grate in the square, Momo does indeed suddenly jump down, and leads them on a path that precisely retraces Kibu’s route. They start to lose him as they slip through the broken gate, and by the time they reach the next gate, which is still locked, they can only barely glimpse Momo as he disappears into the darkness. By this time, Trink’s tunnel sense has seen enough to calculate that the passage Momo has taken leads directly under the big church.

Session 6A Recap: (8/30-31/2014)
Carnival Coda: Shamans' Night Out

As the rest of the party disperses, Yachak is drawn to the nearest of the menagerie pens, which he has not yet had an opportunity to examine. He has seen others like it though, and often feels bad about the range of unhappy emotions the animals exude, something which he seems to be the only one able to detect. What catches his eye on this occasion is the aura of shear boredom emanating from one of the most unusual creatures he has ever laid eyes on: a small black and white striped horse. Unable to read a sign warning against such action, he slips a hand through the slats of the pen. Curious, the horse steps over and lets him stroke its muzzle. It seems friendly and interested in the attention.

“I think he likes you, sir.” The voice at his side belongs to Mully the stable hand, who has been at the carnival all day, quietly pursuing his own interests but checking in with the party from time to time to see if he is needed. At Yachak’s unvoiced query, he adds, “It’s called a zebra.”

They chat for a few moments, but Mully’s eye is really on Nhymeri, who is lost in her own thoughts a few yards away. Shyly, he asks her if she’d like to see the prize livestock kept in an area further into the park. She agrees, and the three of them set off together. They view the farm and commercial animals, and observe without comment an anguished hubbub surrounding the furriers’ hutches, where it appears that a very valuable animal has disappeared.

From the far side of these tents, the beach and the ocean are visible, and there is a large crowd of people gathered along the water’s edge. To Mully’s delight, Nhymeri is indeed quite interested in watching the horse races taking place along the beach, where a quarter mile course has been laid out.

Just as they arrive, a new heat is underway and a motley pack of about a dozen riders go thundering past them, hell bent to reach a painted pole at the far end. Jostling and shoving, they round the pole and come galloping back toward the starting point. This is the second of three qualifying heats, Mully explains, and the fastest three of each heat will race in the final match. Nhymeri asks if she could join the final heat, and gives a distinctive whistle as Mully goes to inquire whether there is still room in the roster for one more rider. When he returns to tell her she can race, Yarroman has appeared out of nowhere and is stamping his foot, raring to go.

Nhymeri and Yarroman easily win the heat. Perhaps all the more competitive riders had crowded into the earlier heats to give their mounts more time to rest before the final contest. Before long the bell is rung for the nine finalists to line up. Mully looks them over nervously, recognizing an obviously rougher crowd than the slim girl had faced in the qualifying heat. How good is this strange desert duo that has suddenly so captivated him?

Yarroman appears to have his work cut out for him as they take off for the distant pole. Most of the other horses are sprinters, while he is built for endurance. Far from being worn out from the recent race, he runs as if that had only been a casual warm-up. As they reach the pole, he adroitly avoids the tangle and gains several positions toward the lead. On the return trip, most of the horses ahead of him begin to fade, and he passes them all one by one, leaving only one horse in front, a highly bred racer belonging to a different desert lineage than the brumby, one which Nhymeri once got a chance to observe up close during a tense encounter with a nomadic tribe the previous year. They manage to catch up to this horse only at the very end of the race.

The finish is so close, the judges have to put their heads together before announcing the red-headed waif in the boy’s togs to be the winner of the competition. Her exhilaration is such an adrenaline rush that she forgets to be freaked out by the crowd of well-wishers pressing around, seeking to pat her horse and give her ankles a congratulatory squeeze. She is presented with a purse that sounds just as jingly as James’ prize, and a wreath to hang on Yarroman’s mane to boot. Mully is beside himself, jumping up and down and yelling in excitement.

As the people disperse, one of the other riders approaches Nhymeri, and seems to want to communicate with her. He’s good-looking and well built, the leader of a group of three that she and Yachak had noticed earlier as rivaling her own outlandish departure from the local styles. While they wear no face paint, their arms and throats are covered with tattoos, and their hair is gathered into top-knots that sprout short, spiky pony tails. Their clothes are roughly sewn sheepskin, and their saddles and weapons sport colorful beadwork. But they are all expert riders, and the leader seems to have recognized Nhymeri as a fellow denizen of the wild open spaces.

He is trying to call her attention to another sporting activity that is taking place farther down the beach. This one appears to be an archery contest that involves the release of pigeons into the air. The event seems almost to have been designed to showcase more of her skills, but there is something about the situation she does not trust, and she declines the invitation. The rider shrugs and gives her a cheerful salute before riding off with his men. The daylight is quickly fading, and the three start walking back toward the carnival.

From further down the beach, however, they suddenly hear a scream. From what they can tell, a woman appears to have fallen off a horse, and a handful of people have gathered around her. Nhymeri hoists Yachak up behind her and the two gallop to the scene, leaving Mully running to catch up. The two healers jostle through the gathering crowd, exuding the confidence of ones who know what to do in such a situation, needing no words to tell the people that competent help has arrived.

The woman is lying in the sand with one leg twisted under her at a bad angle. Nhymeri immediately moves to soothe and calm her, while Yachak gestures to secure the woman’s permission to touch her leg. She nods readily, and he probes gently for any sign of worse injury than the obviously broken leg. Satisfied that this is the main problem, they work together to get her straightened out. While they have no anesthetic that can put the patient to sleep quickly enough, they give her a twisted cloth to bite on and a whiff of some spirits to make her light-headed before attempting to set the bone.

Translating through Mully, they send the onlookers to find some sticks for splints, while they confer together over herbs and procedures. In this case, Yachak’s supplies seem better suited to the occasion, but they both select a few chants and gestures from their repertoires of ritual mojo, which are designed to impress on both patient and witnesses that mysterious and powerful forces are being brought to bear on the operation. Soon they are ready to set the bone, apply poultices and layered bandaging, and tie the construct securely to the splint poles. The woman seems not in too much pain at this point, but they give her some herbs to brew in tea that will help her get through the next few days. By this time a cart has arrived, and they supervise getting her loaded into it. Through Mully, they issue detailed instructions for continued care, and send the woman on her way.

The sun has set during this episode, and they walk together back towards Vastavika’s townhouse, lost in discussion of the finer points of their respective practices, sounding each other out as to relative strengths and weaknesses, and catching a glimpse of what it might be like to collaborate in the service of a diverse band of travelers such as the one it appears they are now in the process of adopting.

Session 6 Recap: (8/23-24/2014)
Carnival Chase

We left our heroes in the middle of a rush to catch the miscreant who had just shot James. The archer has darted up past the cook fires, unknowingly straight towards Yachak who is dining at one of the picnic tables, having just entered the carnival a few minutes before. Yachak notices the fleeing man is being chased by several of his own party members who are taking various routes over and around the bar to gain on their quarry. Though he doesn’t have time to rise from the table and face the fugitive personally, it’s a simple thing to issue a command to the alert dog at his side. Nhymeri is just about to put an arrow into the fleeing man when Sy takes him down with a mighty leap. At the next moment, Kibu is also there and immobilizes him with a knife to the throat.

James arrives and finds that he is the only one who can understand the man’s babbling. He was a peasant from the area of Asterhelm, whose family had been killed by the marauding military forces of which James had once been a member. The archer had recognized the fighter in the ring as one of those same soldiers by the style of his swordsmanship. Enraged, the man had taken his pot shot, hoping to be lost in the crowd. In disgust, James strides forward and nicks the man in the arm with his sword in stubborn compliance with his grim soldierly code of honor.

By now the townsfolk are gathering, led by the chief judge of the sword contest, Sub-Magister Bukumar. Feeling sure that it would be a bad idea for his new friends to come to the attention of the authorities under such circumstances, Septimus springs into action and musters the full force of his charisma to charm, distract, and befuddle the impressionable official, who is only too happy to be convinced that the incident is well in hand and requires little further effort on his part. He pompously orders his flunkies to escort the foreign troublemaker to jail, and the party quietly lets this happen, even though there is some feeling among them that there is more they could learn from this unfortunate soul, and that he might even prove a useful ally.

The crowds disperse, and the group talks quietly for a while. The question is brought up whether James or Marina should opt out of the final bout between them, but Marina is keen to give it a go, and James’ new wound is bound up sufficiently for him to continue, albeit without a shield. The bell sounds, and the contest is quick and one-sided, though honorably fought by both. Marina gives it her all, and James doesn’t insult her by pulling any punches. When she comes to, Marina is helped off the field by her friends, while James is awarded the winner’s purse, and pays his respects to a now enthusiastic crowd of onlookers.

Marina’s stalwart bravery in the arena against formidable odds has not gone unnoticed. During the final bout, Kibu has slipped away and gone on a mission of his own. Taking advantage of the buzz generated by the final dramatic swordfight, he cases out the livestock pens watching for a moment when a certain cage is unattended. Later, as the party gathers by the fountain after the fight, he shows up with the lively fox kit in his satchel that Marina had admired earlier in the day. This inspires James to spend a bit of his winnings and the rest of his evening creating a gift of his own, a beautiful fox pendant to commemorate the adoption of her new pet.

Session 5 Recap (Yachak, pt 1) (8/21/2014)
Eagle Eye

Yachak greets the dawn with his usual round of deep, melodic invocations, seeking to align himself with the Astral realm. The Voice is not talkative today, yielding only a few cryptic impressions: “Attend the beasts and serve the Lady; frivolity will have its uses in due time.” He rises from his ecstatic reverie refreshed and ready for the day.

On his way toward the house, Yachak runs into Mully, the stable boy, who is hurrying to complete his chores. Mully’s excited because he’s just found out he’s to go to town with the guests and show them around the carnival. Yachak accompanies him to the barn to help out, and while there, looks in on Ginny, the gyrfalcon. Her leg is still bandaged, but she seems to be hopping around on it and in high spirits. Mully agrees she looks ready to fly today, and the two of them take her out to the falconry ledge, from which she takes off in a shot to hunt for breakfast, disappearing fast along the bluffs to the east.

Yachak and Mully talk about the bird, and the boy’s recollections of Nimmo. Ginny is short for Geneva, and Nimmo brought her here about four years ago, injured and barely fledged. Together they nursed her to health and learned how to fly her. The bird was always amiable, never needed to be tied up or hooded, and always came back. She seemed to have a special affinity for the man, and sometimes the boy even fancied they could talk to each other.

Ginny returns and seems to be coming in to land on top of Yachak. Instinctively he puts an arm up for her, and she settles onto it, with a remarkably gentle grip for such a large raptor. She bobs at him and he holds out a hand, noticing there’s something in her beak. She drops into it a small key on a ribbon.

“Where did you find this?” he asks her, though not, of course, expecting a reply. However, the bird immediately jumps off his arm, and flies back the way she had come in. She lands on a tree branch not far away and nods to him, letting out a trumpeting “scraaaw.” Intrigued by the Ginny’s apparent responsiveness, it occurs to Yachak to ask her, “Can you go back to where you found this?”

The bird hesitates and seems to step from one foot to the other, almost as if confused. Suddenly, she gives him a look, and launches off the branch, heading back into the sunrise. Yachak apologizes to the stupefied Mully for needing to concentrate for a few moments, then closes his eyes and seeks that mental connection which over the years has become as second nature to him as taking a deep breath.

His mind’s eye opens, and he is soaring above the mountainside, about half a mile up, he reckons. He directs his gaze along the forests until he finds the chateau and the distinctive road leading up to it, already familiar sights to him as he begins his third day on its grounds. Much further beyond, he picks out the white spot hurtling past the crags and treetops at a dizzying speed. He has to coax the eagle to top speed to keep up with the falcon, who even to these sharp eyes is threatening to disappear into the distance. Seldom has he ever encountered a target that his totem could not effortlessly outpace, but today the great golden eagle has to work hard to keep her in sight. Just as he thinks Ginny is gone, he catches a glimpse of her rising before a vertical cliff face and landing in the mouth of a cave about halfway up.

The eagle keeps soaring in that direction, but the connection is growing weak. Yachak knows he can’t maintain it beyond a range of about a mile and a quarter, while the cave seems at least three miles away. Just before the link severs, he coaxes the eagle to turn and fly laterally in order to maintain contact. From that distance, he’s still able to watch Ginny take a few steps at the lip of the opening, then launch off again in his direction. He studies the towering cliff and the sheer rock wall, rising many hundreds of feet both above and below the cave. There is a spot on the inside that for a moment Yachak thinks might be a door or inner passage, but on extended examination, he can’t be sure it’s not just a darker patch of stone. Nevertheless, there is no path to it and no apparent way to reach it for a human. It seems to him that if that’s where the key came from, Ginny herself (or some other bird) must have left it there in the first place.

He opens his eyes in time to watch Ginny land on Mully’s arm, and the boy looks at him in bewilderment as to what just happened. Yachak explains as well as he can on his way back to the barn, then continues to the chateau to join the others for breakfast. The meal is lively and cheerful, and there are sympathetic sounds when Yachak informs them he will not be going with them, although he may be able to reconnect later. Vastavika seems grateful to have his company, and after they wave the daytrippers off, she invites him to join her on the outer veranda to chat and enjoy the view.

Yachak decides to tell her about the key and the story behind its discovery. She is amazed and tells him she never knew the bird was that smart, but isn’t so surprised where things of Nimmo’s are concerned. She’s never seen the key, and is inclined to think some hiker dropped it. This leads Vasta to inquire in more detail about Yachak’s powers and how he came by them, as well as his relation to Nimmo.

He tells her about his father, Tarkau, from a long line of shamans, and his mother, Deneb, who had her own, quieter healing lore. He relates the day he was sent out, at age seven and drugged to the hilt with his father’s mushroom potion, to find his totem. He wandered until he came to a tree with an eagle nest. On climbing it, he found two eggs. One had died, but the other hatched before his eyes, and gazed up at the boy, as if imprinting on him. In an ecstatic state, he left the bird where it was, climbed down and fell asleep, curled up at the bottom of the tree.

In his dreams, or so he remembers, he saw a white-haired man appear in the middle of a nearby field and walk toward the tree where he was sleeping. The man was interested in the nest, but when he came near and saw Yachak, he sat down next to him and stayed there a long while. Finally he reached into his bag, set something beside the boy’s head, and walked away. When Yachak awakened, there was a small carving of an eagle lying near his face, which he still carries with him. He got up and walked home, and about a year later a young eagle showed up in a tree near their door. He found that if he concentrated in just the right way, he could see through the eagle’s eyes.

His father was beside himself with joy, and from that moment began to train his son in every secret of the shamanistic art. His mother was more reserved about the event, allowing herself only a sly smile when she thought he wasn’t looking. The eagle is one of the greatest totems a shaman can connect with, and he tried hard to live up to the honor. He traveled the plains with his parents and learned to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of the horse clans and shepherds. They visited some of the larger cities far to the east and bartered for powders and aromatic oils from faraway lands. He learned how to find and preserve herbs and natural ingredients from all across the northern continent, and he memorized every detail of his father’s exhaustive pharmacopeia . Under the rigorous tutelage, he eventually started hearing the inner voices of the Astral plane during his trances, and their guidance, while uneven, has often helped him diagnose his patients and continues to shape his path.

Life was good until about two years ago, when his mother left a note one night telling them she had to leave. She hoped she’d be able to return, but couldn’t say when. She was a tall, somewhat frail, but very beautiful woman with such exotic looks that sometimes she frightened the superstitious country folk, and had taken to wearing a long cloak with a hood to hide her face. Yachak supposes that’s where he picked up the habit of dressing that way. His father was inconsolable, and though they tried to carry on, the older man’s heart was less and less in it. A few months later he started showing signs of the madness, and refused to travel any further. When Yachak felt there was nothing more the proud old man would allow him to do for him, he left him in the care of friends and set off into the west lands, where he had never before traveled. He had an idea that was the direction she might have gone, and he still hopes it’s not too late to find some trace of, and maybe even help her.

Vasta is moved by the story and asks how he came to join the group that has now gathered in Timble-tain. He replies that one day, while doing his morning meditations near a wilderness trail, he again had a vision of the white-haired man appearing in a field, only this time he was carrying a wounded young woman. Yachak emerged from the trance to find the man standing before him in the flesh, laying the woman down and asking for his help. The man said little as they worked together to save her. She was badly burned, and had broken bones and possibly internal injuries. When she was stabilized, he introduced himself as Jeroman, and asked if Yachak would stay with her until he returned, which would be as soon as he could. He told him her name was Marina, and that she was very precious to him. Yachak promised to keep her safe, and has accompanied her all the way to Timble-tain, collecting James along the way.

Yachak then asks Vastavika what she can tell him about this man with many names, about whom he has heard such fragmented scraps of information since he has arrived. He’s also curious to know what she can tell him about the other members of the group. She sits pensively for a few moments, and decides to trust him with everything she knows, beginning with her own story. [But that is a story I do not have time to write for this installment. I will work on it during the two-week hiatus until Session 7.]

Session 5 Recap: (8/16-17/2014)
Carnival Day, Part 1: Fun? Wow!

The humble citizens of Timble-tain don’t know it yet, but their beloved spring festival is about to get well and truly Kibued. The band sets off bright and mid-morning-ish in a light and carefree mood. Yachak has been led by his spirit guides to elect not to join them in this initial foray. (Due to the unexpected availability of Septimus to join these proceedings, we have revised the narrative of the previous session such that no messenger has yet arrived summoning Vastavika to town.)

Immediately upon entering the gates, our intrepid travelers, whether intrepid in the conventional sense or somewhat differently couraged, are assaulted by waves of swirling colors and clashing sounds. The group is directed to some of the booths to their left, where guests are invited to enter into the spirit of the occasion by adopting masks, costumes, and painted faces. Unbeknownst to Nhymeri, one of the clowns breaks off from his street routine and follows her for a short distance, pantomiming great wonder and astonishment at the magnificent vision of her coif. He is destined to become famous for shortly thereafter inventing a wig that will become a standard in the clown profession for centuries to come.

As they circle a large dance floor that has definitely caught Marina’s eye, they pass an area with many exotic wares on sale, and arrive at a section of the park devoted to games and gambling. Septimus has found his element, and dives in with alacrity. Trink attempts to convince him of the inadvisability of such activities, but her argument loses force as he shows her a handful of coinage that he has somehow managed to win before she has even had a chance to finish her sentence.

Kibu has at last found a venue with sufficient sensory over-stimulation to occupy even his fluttery attention span. He crams his bag with food from the extensive spread at the picnic area, probably enjoying it more than he would have if he’d realized it was all donated to the festival by local merchants and free for the taking. He takes an interest in some of the con artists working around the fountain, then notices someone seemingly walking in thin air over his head. This turns out to be an acrobat traversing a tightrope stretched across the park, which Kibu immediately resolves to try for himself. He locates one of the termini behind the menagerie and almost gets across before the troupe spots him and hollers at him to get down, forcing him to do a dive onto a nearby tent canopy.

While near the fountain, he finds a poster which puts a damper on his showboating, at least for a few minutes. It’s printed with a stunning woodcut likeness of his own distinctively marked face. While he can’t read the writing, he has a pretty good idea what it says. His recent employer, Edibal Spekso, has wasted no time putting out a public alert for the kid who stole his prized necklace. We can conjecture that at this point, Kibu decides it was a good thing he had put on a mask at the entrance, and he may even be wishing he had picked one that covered a little more of his cheek. On the whole, though, he seems more amused than alarmed, and shows off the poster to his friends.

Further along the trail, the group finds an outdoor arena with a crier making an announcement about the events scheduled to occur in that space. Septimus translates for them that there will be a combat tournament taking place in four elimination rounds throughout the day, substituting wooden swords for the real thing. James and Marina are keen to try their hands at this, and both sign up, creating the tension of a possible face-off between them at some point in the match.

Beyond this is an archery range, where Nhymeri practices a few shots while Kibu tempts fate by standing just beyond the target she is shooting at while throwing knives at the next one in line. One fatefully botched throw hits a nearby hay wagon, causing two indignant heads to pop out of the hay. When Kibu comes over to retrieve the knife and looks over the edge, the man and woman hastily pull their garments together and stalk away.

Circling back towards the entryway, the festival-goers race past an oddly drab little tent near the arena, which is filled with black drapes and seems to be abandoned. Beyond that is the aforementioned zoo, featuring a variety of exotic but rather forlorn animals, including an elephant, a bear, a lion, a cougar, two wolves, two alligators, a snake, some monkeys, a camel, and, last but not least in the gratuitous ostentation department, a zebra. Finally, there is a rather shabby arcade lane with vendor and sideshow wagons that have not yet engaged the interest of the group.

The first tourney match is called at 11 am, and the contestants are paired off. James makes short work of the valiant but drastically under-prepared youth who was unlucky enough to draw him. But Marina’s foe is a bit more skilled, and doggedly connects with a string of solid blows. When close to her punishment limit, she rallies and hits her stride, making a brilliant come-back and soon knocking the impertinent yeoman into the middle of next Tuesday. Badly bruised, she seeks out Nhymeri who has been watching the proceedings from a tree, and receives a dose of the magic anesthetic that was so effective at calming Vastavika’s nerves on the preceding day.

Speaking of which, Nhymeri has been doing a bit of self-medicating with the very same wondrous panacea, having experienced some trouble of her own dealing with the proximity of so many strange people. As the day wears on, this gets a tad out of hand, causing her at one point to climb into the zebra’s cage and attempt to ride it. This creature, while smaller than a wild brumby, turns out to be rather more ornery, and sends her flying. Although temporarily defeated, Meri is just sober enough to recognize a worthy challenge to her legendary equine training prowess.

The second round of the tourney proves to be a cakewalk. James clocks his unfortunate opponent in two blows, and Marina only takes a few more to dispatch hers. To celebrate, she joins Septimus on the dance floor, and the two dazzle the onlookers with an acrobatic performance that wins them a spontaneous prize by audience acclaim. Meanwhile, Kibu has joined Meri in her altered state, and the two have repaired to the vacated hay wagon, where various activities are engaged in, the nature of which there later emerges no clear consensus.

The third and semi-final bout arrives, with a newly invigorated Marina deftly handling a considerably more imposing foe than she has yet faced. Then it’s James’s turn. It’s not clear whether the hulk that enters the ring is wearing an unusually ugly mask or suffers from a horrific skin condition, but he is not the pushover that previous contestants have been. He hits hard, and it takes a reasonable amount of effort and skill for the warrior from Asterhelm to fend off the blows. Finally, James gets impatient and goes for an all-out attack, taking the ruffian by surprise and landing a punishing whack. Ugly responds in kind, however, and James suffers his first bruises of the match. Now thoroughly ticked, James delivers a final round of powerhouse blows, and the bout ends with the unnatural brute driving his deformed mug into the gravel as he collapses.

The crowd erupts into a cacophony of cheering and booing. As James look around at them, he realizes that he’s probably upset some of the local gambling interests, but it was a fair fight and he feels no remorse. Slowly he moves towards the weapon racks to exchange wood for his own trusty steel, but is met on the way by the congratulatory contingent he has so recently begun to recognize as his friends. In the bustle and noise, his usual alertness is compromised, and he fails to detect or block an incoming arrow from the west. It catches him in the left arm and thunks into the back of the shield he was just starting to set down.

Several in his group do witness the perpetrator of the dastardly deed, however, a smallish figure lurking near one of the supply wagons, which he quickly ducks behind. Septimus and others immediately give chase, and the crowd explodes into complete pandemonium. Had our group ever entertained thoughts of keeping a low profile, those plans would by now have been hopelessly demolished.

Session 4 Recap: (8/9-10/2014)
Vastavika Redux

The day begins with strains of sonorous chanting from the grounds of Chateau Karradevelia. It is a sound our company will come to associate with the dawn. The smell of bacon cooking from the kitchens below provides an even more compelling lure to face the morning, and has an immediate effect on everyone except Septimus, whose ambitions to play the perfect host meet their match in the downy depths of one of the estate’s many sumptuous pillows.

Kibu is one of the first to arrive and wastes no time digging into the hearty fare. By the time the guests are mostly assembled, he is sufficiently sated to pursue other clandestine objectives, and slips out of the room. Nhymeri notices his departure but sees no reason to sound an alarm, unburdened by any pangs of responsibility for her friend’s actions. The discussion proceeds along the lines of the previous day, dominated by speculations about how to rescue “Gary.”

Nhymeri enquires into the nature of Yachak’s spiritual practices, noting that for her, communicating with spirits implies talking to dead people. Yachak, on the other hand, is convinced that he is gaining access to beings from “The Astral Plane,” creatures apparently connected to the stars, who for reasons not explained, seem to have useful knowledge of Yachak’s plane and immediate circumstances. This is the process he engages in each morning on his woven-rush mat, aided by a pinch of hallucinogenic mushroom powder, and he generously shares with the group the fruits of this morning communings:

The ground you walk upon is becoming unstable.
The path ahead has many forks.
Remember that the quickest route between two points is not always a straight line.
Work toward the solutions to immediate problems first.
This will bring the remote problems into better focus.

Ok, then. Somewhere along there Septimus puts in an appearance and time passes. Then a vision appears in the doorway. Vasta has awakened, and introduces herself properly to her new guests. She apologizes profusely for their having had to witness the spectacle of the previous day, and offers some explanation of the distress which brought her to such an impasse. And she expresses wonder at their having traveled such distances, especially Nhymeri.

At her first appearance, Nhymeri had raced upstairs to get the package she had brought from her homeland. Overwhelmed, Vasta opens it to find a jewelry set, tiara, earrings, and necklace, which she takes in stride, apparently being used to receiving such dispatches in the past from her paramour. The fact that they were brought by the girl seems to impress her much more, and she tries to be as effusive in her gratitude as she can.

She speaks to Marina and Trink in turn, recognizing them by name, obviously having been told about them by Nimmo at some point. She also introduces herself to James, and tries a bit of a flirtatious joke on him, but he is politely laconic in his response.

Then Kibu arrives, and she apologizes all over again for the impolite thing she said about him. She plies him with her gracious flattery, asks to meet Momo, and gets him eating out of her hand before lowering upon him a necessary boom: she asks if he would be so kind as to allow her staff to give him a bath, so that he can take part in civilized company without making it unpleasant for her to be near him. To his credit, Kibu accepts the request and submits to the treatment without requiring her to express her objection in the uglier form of an ultimatum.

Vasta has little new information to contribute to the story behind Nimmo’s disappearance, though her obvious mental and financial distress emerges as a strong reason why he was so anxious in his delirium to get back to her. She hasn’t seen him in almost a year, and had concluded that he must be dead, hence her despair that his artifacts, which she had vowed to protect, might fall into hostile hands. She reports that the political winds have changed in Timble-tain recently, that a stranger has been allowed to buy up one of the great estates, that her sanity and ownership of the Chateau is being challenged, and that she has been pressured to sell the property before it is taken from her.

As they discuss this, the three girls begin a braiding party, aided by the amiable Yachak, who generously offers specimens from his extensive feather and pretty stone collection to festoon the fanciful coiffures. There is also a decision to search Vasta’s house for clues Nimmo might have left behind. Kibu launches into the project lustily, and at first is extremely thorough and inspired in his efforts. When he reaches Nimmo’s small study however, his haste and cavalier attitude betray him, and he all but destroys his friend’s writing desk in his search for hidden compartments. He and Nhymeri then raid the kitchens and make a huge mess, which disgusts the staff and causes them to quit for the day. (I may have the exact order of events somewhat confused.)

The group decides to go out and comb the ruins of the burned house. In order to join them, Trink must retrieve her mica goggles to withstand the bright sunlight, but discovers they are missing. Suspicion automatically descends upon Kibu, who casually denies responsibility. Trink keeps her cool, and explains to him that she needs them because she comes from a place with little light, and the sun hurts her eyes. Kibu notes the inconsistency of this condition with the sun-worshipping “Pure Ones” he hates so much, and he begins to waver in his suspicion of Trink. Reluctantly, he produces the goggles and agrees to a tentative truce.

The excavation identifies some of the relics Nimmo had collected, though nothing of value is recovered, except for a collection of small gems. No sign of other notebooks is found, either intact or destroyed, and no evidence of trap doors or hidden compartments is detected. Kibu later notices a similarity between the gems hidden in the burned house and some of the jewels in the tiara Vastavika received from Nhymeri. At first glance they look like flawed crystals, but the internal latticework is not random. It seems rather that there are complex patterns of facets and tracery within them that do not look natural. Vasta has no idea what this might signify.

Toward the end of the afternoon, a messenger arrives with a formal summons for Vastavika to appear at a hearing in Timble-tain the next day. Septimus agrees to accompany her, and proposes that they all go into town, where a carnival is in progress. Yachak offers to take over the task of preparing dinner, and the group continues to get to know each other, while Marina keeps the discussion focused on the practical issue of rescuing Nimmo. As the travelers discuss their pasts, more and more details about their individual histories will be revealed, yielding further clues as to Nimmo’s movements before being captured. For instance, James has a chance to explain the doctrines of the faith that he has abandoned, which may be useful when devising a plan to invade the city he fled, called Asterhelm.

Session 3 Recap: (8/2-3/2014)
Vastavika's Rant

The fire appears to be under control, and someone finally points the disheveled figure of Vastavika looking down at them from the precipice lookout more than 50 feet above their heads, pointing a large kitchen knife in the general direction of her heart. As Septimus starts up the trail, she calls out sharply:

“Don’t you come any closer, Septimus. I’ll be dead before you get here. I mean it! I did what I had to do. What he made me promise to do for him. I couldn’t let his things fall into the hands of those gargoyles. There’s something evil going on, Sept. The peerage, they’ve all become cowards. They never granted ME title, but now they’re letting strangers buy the estates. Nim would have known what to do, but he never came back! He’s gone, Sept, I haven’t seen him since last year! And now I’m starting to lose my grip – I can’t do it without him! And they can tell, they can see me slipping, the vultures! Counting the years and getting ready to pick over my carcass. They’re coming today, Septimus, they sent a messenger. I had to act! I couldn’t wait for you. It would have been too late! But I fixed them. They can’t use it against him anymore, or stop the work he was doing. Not if he’s already dead, right? How can he not be dead by now? Why else would he go away and leave me to make decision like that! Damn you Nimmo, why did you go without taking me with you?”

As the knife veers back toward her chest, Septimus tries to distract her with his legerdemain routines.

“I know what you’re doing, Sept, you old fraud! Maybe I can’t follow your hands, but I’ve always seen right through you. I see your heart! Do you think it’s the parlor tricks I loved you for, all those grand flourishes, the ones I taught you how to make? You’re more than that, you just don’t know it. He knew it, though. He backed you and built you up. He never wanted attention – he let you be the Magic Man, the big world traveler. Well you know what? You had a REAL wizard right under your nose, and you never saw him. He asked me to keep his secrets and I did! I never told anyone, not even you. You have no idea what I’ve seen…”

At this point she’s distracted by the movements of the others who have gathered at the base of the cliff.

“Who are all these people? YOU! Pumpkin-head! What are you doing here? Aren’t you that little witch-girl he keeps going on and on about? ‘So clever, so talented, she draws and reads.’ BIG DEAL! I would have learned to read his bug scratches! Why did he teach you and not me? And that has to be the sewer brat next to you with the rag on his neck. I thought he was just making up stories about! Where did you all suddenly come from? Why now, when it’s too late? Septimus, what’s going…on?”

Then she notices Septimus thinking about making a move to run up the trail.

“Stay where you are, Sept! You don’t get to stop this. I won’t go into that loony bin; I vowed that a long time ago. I would never have let it get this far, but he PROMISED me he would always come back, and I believed him! (Sobbing) He said he’d find a way to fix it. He said I would never have to go through it. I won’t die like the rest of them, like a raving animal in a cage! I swore, when I went it would be with dignity, but now it’s too late even for that. I can barely hold onto myself anymore. I WON’T become an ANIMAL! I’LL DIE NOW!”

She has the knife pointed back at her breast, but just as she starts to plunge it in, a streak of white comes hurtling out of the sky and strikes the blade, sending it spinning out her hand to clatter down the rocks. She screams and reaches after the knife, losing her footing at the edge and pitching off the cliff into mid-air. But someone in the crowd, one of the last riders to reach the scene, had seen what was happening and stationed himself directly below her, and he catches her as she falls. It’s James.

Blearily she stares up at him with eyes that manage to look coquettish even in this extremity, and says “Who the hell are YOU?” and then passes out in his arms.

Kibu follows the white object into the trees and finds a gyrfalcon, which is now clinging to a branch along the lower path. It’ standing on one leg, holding the other one limply out at an odd angle. The feathers on that leg are stained bright red from a cut it received from the blade as it struck. The bird doesn’t resist Kibu’s gentle handling, and he brings her to Nhymeri who is unsure what herbs to apply, but successfully binds the wound and turns the patient over to the groundskeeper.

Vastavika is likewise checked by Yachak, who detects no serious internal injury beyond some bruising caused by the fall. By general consent, she is brought into the Chateau and installed in her downstairs bedroom. Septimus assumes the role of host and orders refreshments for the group, who assemble in the front atrium to discuss their situation.

Marina again demonstrates her knack for keeping the conversation focused on the most important issue, how to rescue their mutual friend. Various strategies for infiltrating the Church of the Star-Crossed, but no clear plans emerge at this earlier stage. There is room for each of the characters to reveal more about themselves, and get to know each other.

Towards the late afternoon, four riders are detected approaching the Chateau. Yachak detects a feeling of foreboding that intensifies as the riders get closer, and resolves into an impression of extreme danger coming from the one non-uniformed member of the expedition, a hunched, pinch-featured man introduced as Inspector Feltus Crimner. He is accompanying three uniformed members of the Timble-tain constabulary who have come to investigate the fire observed from down in the valley. Their leader, the Chief of Constables, is an acquaintance of Septimus’, who receives the group in the Chateau common hall after having advised the others to conceal themselves.

He speaks to the visitors in the language of Timble-tain, which, he notes, is spoken with a heavy accent by the visibly suspicious Inspector Crimner. Septimus is very firm that the Lady of the house is well but presently indisposed. The Chief is apologetic for having intruded, and relieved that the fire has not been any more destructive than it was. As they leave, Crimner implies that it will still be necessary for him to speak to the Lady at the earliest opportunity, and hints that there are matters that require settling. As he mounts his horse, his eyes cast around the compound, and it’s clear he sees more than he is letting on. Nhymeri makes an odd observation from her hidden spot in a nearby tree just before the visitors ride out through the gate. We will assume that Septimus communicates the gist of the visit to the others.

One more thing happens a bit later in the evening. Scanning the area, Yachak detects a white object flapping in the trees near the Chateau. Kibu retrieves the piece of paper, which appears to be a leaf from one of notebooks kept by Geron/Gary/Jeroman/Nimmo. Nhymeri is the only one able to read it to the group:

Day 1.

Well, that’s it. My ride’s disappeared and we all officially screwed it. Those idiots in “Sonton” have no idea what’s happened here, and it’s as much as my life is worth to march back into that snake nest to try to make them understand anything. I’ll have to try somewhere else.

They can’t all be complete and utter morons. My God, how did things get this way?
I’m conflicted about starting this record. A lot of damage could be done if I say too much and it falls into the wrong hands. But I need to write – I’ve always needed it, as much for my own sanity as posterity. If something should happen to me, it’s unbearable to think that no one will ever know what went on here. These events are too important to die with me.

But I can’t talk about what happened before…what was it, only 3 days ago? That part of the story has been preserved anyway, if there’s anyone left who can find it. All I need to do on these pages is keep track of the here and now. For the reader who knows the backstory, this will all make sense. And for anyone else, they’re better off not knowing what I’m talking about.

2. Enough of this skulking. I need to move. People around here seem oddly unsuspicious of a strange-looking drifter in their midst, but no one’s welcoming me with open arms, either. They just kind of stare sullenly, like they’re waiting to see what I’m going to do. But not with what I’d call curiosity. I walk away, they appear to forget I was ever there.

Choices: north or east. I can’t go south for a while yet. The bay’s a lot bigger than I remember it. Those mountains look kind of imposing, but north is a complete unknown. East it is, then. Preserve your options.

5. I must have been through a dozen hamlets by now, all the same story. Different haircuts, same sullen stare. Not the kids, though. They’re a lively enough bunch, but unruly as hell. Just as soon smile at you as throw a rock. Absolutely no sign of adult supervision, far as I can tell.

Communication’s not as much of a problem as I expected, at least when you can get anyone to string more than two words together. It’s been a while since I’ve really had to put my language knack to the test, but most of these dialects are pretty similar. It’s just strange to find so many variations in such a small area. It’s as if almost nobody travels anywhere, not even to the next town. So, ok. I’m done pounding my fist on the

Midweek Dialog: 7/30-8/1/2014
Kibu finds out what's up with that James guy.

The group piles out of the Dog and Pony Inn, mounts up, and sets off after Septimus, who is pushing his horse as hard as it will bear. As they pull away from the city they string out, with the slower riders taking up the rear. James’ mount is a solid, long-winded, well-disciplined warhorse, but speed is not its strongest feature, especially when burdened by a rider in full plate. Kibu, on the other hand, is one of the lightest riders in the group, yet his horse barely looks as if it will survive the trip up the mountain at all. Appearances can be deceiving, however. One would never guess to look at it that it has just crossed half a continent.

Kibu: ::as Kibu steers his trusty nag Uma up the winding path towards the burning home he realizes he will never catch the others. He reckons it would be a miracle if Uma even makes it at all. as his mind starts to wander, as it often did on these trips, he catches a glimpse of something shiny riding behind him. It was that quiet guy from the tavern. apparently his horse must be old too for him to have fallen so far back as well, kibu decides. he pulls of to the side of the path allowing Uma to munch on some grass as he waits, watching, as the armor clad man draws closer::

James: ::James did not want to tire his horse out by galloping after everyone. As he trots after everyone he notices that the kid with the red scarf stop on the side of the path. As he gets along side him James nods in greeting::

Kibu: ::Kibu grins at the dark haired stranger. His mouth starts to droop open in sheer delight as he examines the warriors armor. “yer horse almost dead too?” he inquires reaching out a hand to touch the polished metal::

James: ::James slowly shakes his head. “No, he just has to carry a lot more weight than most. It looks like everyone else has a handle on the situation so there is no point in my horse getting tired to for no reason.” this is said while James just stares at kids hand wondering what he is doing::

Kibu: ::he runs a hand along the edge of james’s back plate, peeling back the edge of the tunic a little. almost falling off his horse as he extends his reach only to catch and right himself. He chuckles a little “Where did you get all that?” he points a grubby little finger towards his armor once more::

James: :“Don’t fall… The armor is given to everyone that fights in the army.”::

Kibu: Kibu quickly retracts his hand and retreats slightly of the other side of his horse “Are you some kind of guard then?”

James: ::James gives kibu a questioning look. “I guess you could say I used to be. But I had to leave.”::

Kibu: He furrows his brow a little “you’re not with the ‘pure-one’ are you?” he slides a hand past his face to communicate the pale one he speaks of

James: “The one from the tavarn? No that was the first time meeting someone like her”

Kibu: The boy processes his response for a moment, quirking his head to the side.“And yer lookin’ for Gary too? Why? you gonna arrest him or something?”

James: James raises a eyebrow. "I have no real personal interest in this “Gary” person. I am just along for the ride. Plus I am not a Guard or anything anymore. I left the order."

Kibu: “The Order?” he inquires

James: James points to the cross on his shield. “Order of the Star Cross. A religion of the city I come from South from here”

(GM): [Actually, North from here]

Kibu: “A religion? so you’re some kind of monk?” he tilts his head around to look at the shield lowering a hand to absentmindedly trace some of the battle scars with his fingers as they ride.

James: "There is “Priests” but no I was manly a Solider tasked with keeping the peace… By any way the Order asked… But that is in the past now"

Kibu: “well, I guess if yer not working for the pure-one we..ah..we..” the boy pauses his face contorting as he lets out a tremendous sneeze, all manner of nasty escapes his mouth and nose, some finding a resting place on the back of his horses neck others drip down his face and on to ‘the scarf’ a garment so vile it appears to have a life or its own, in fact one might swear it moves on its own! “ugh.. big one..” he wipes the mess from his face with the back of his hand and offers the palm side towards james. “I was gonna say, we can be friends if you want, names Kibu!”

James: ::James stares at the hand for a long moment… “Sure. the names James.” James quickly gives Kibu a high five instead of a handshake. Then quickly wipes his hand on his horse::

Kibu: Kibu becomes thrilled at the new ‘slap game’ they were now playing and wanting to return the favor he slaps James on the back and quickly spurs on his old horse, or so he thought, as Uma refuses to go much faster. “Maaan, I could walk faster” he complains

James: ::James cracks a smile. “When we get the chance, we will get you a new horse” :

Kibu: “nah, I don want a new one” he says as he pets and rubs the side of her neck “we been through a lot, this old girl and me. seen things in all kinds of weird places. I stole her a few seasons back, didn’ have a saddle though.. tore my ass raw” he leans back pulling a bit of fabric from his rear, examining it. “where’d ya get your horse?”

James: “Me? I got him from the Order as well, Everyone did so we could ride in to battle together. It was a good intimidation tactic against enemies. Heaps of men in full armor riding on big horses towards you makes a lot of people cower in fear, and fearful people makes mistakes.”

Kibu: “Is it a boy or a girl?” Kibu inquires enthusiastically as he leans over pressing himself against his own horse to get a better angle at james’s horses undercarriage. suddenly an agitated squeak erupts from the ‘the scarf’ sending kibu jolting back up and with a quick examination he offers his apologies seemingly to the scarf itself.

James: “Di… Did your scarf just squeak?”

Kibu: Kibu grins wide “thats jus’ Momo. he gets kinda grumpy during the day.. or when I try and squish him.. or when I get him wet.. or if I jump too much.. he gets angry a lot” he nods to himself as he pokes at the scarf eliciting another angry squeak followed by a small face peaking out from within the folds of the scarf.

James: James smiles “Hes cool… What was his name? Momo?” James slowly brings the back of his hand up to momo “Hey there little guy.”

Kibu: In a flash of agitated fur the little critter leaps from its hiding spot and onto james’s hand it then proceeds to leap and climb its way very quickly to the top of his head. It squeaks in agitation as it rummages around though his hair. Kibu can only watch his mouth propped open as if about to give warning, a finger lifted as well. he shrugs a little “Told ya he was angry”

James: :James just sighs. “as long as he doesn’t bite me I guess it is fine.” James says this while trying to keep his head still. It is a long fall to the ground:

Kibu: Kibu makes a few quick chirps and squeaks as he opens the hidy hole in his scarf the little squirl emerged from. as if on que the small agitated critter leaps from the mess of hair he had left on top of james and glides home to his scarf-nest. Kibu carefully closes it back up and goes about as if rodents exploding from his clothing was nothing unusual. “So all the horses big where you come from? your kinda tall too, do you have giants where you live? are you a giant? you’d be a small giant if you were.. is that what your religion was about? giants? do things look smaller from up there?”

James: :James just stares at kibu while he fires off his rapid fire questions. James waits a minute before answering in order. “No not all horses are big, just the ones who got to carry a lot of weight. I have never met a giant. No i am not a giant I am pretty average height for my age. No the religion is not about giants. No things don’t look smaller from up here. its not that far.”

Kibu: Satisfied with his first set of questions he continues "That armor must be heavy, does it weigh a lot? how fast can you swim in it? can you swim? Meri can swim, but she doesn’t normally wear anything when she does so I guess its easier..can your horse swim?

James: :James just quirks a eyebrow again and keeps answering. "Yes it is heavy, but i am used to it. It weighs a fair bit. I cant swim in it. Ill sink. I can swim without the armor yes. Yes my horse can swim as well.

Kibu: “your horse can swim! I dont think mine can, I wonder if Yarro’ can swim! Whats your horses name? can he-” he pauses and leans over to look under the horse again being mindful of momo "-do any tricks? can you do tricks? how much money do you have on you? wanna see a trick?

James: :James just stares at kibu trying to look under his horse “My horse does not have a name… never got around to giving him one. Also yes he is a Male horse. No he doesnt do tricks. I don’t think i can do anything that counts as a trick. I dont have any money on me, just the clothes and armor on my back…. Sure why not? lets see a trick”

Kibu: “You should name him, it must make him sad to not have a name.” the boy says as he removes momo from his scarf. “momo is magic, he knows how to disappear!” he cups the tired squirl in his hands and shows him again to james before closing the hands. momo the magnificent! I command you to vanish!" and with that he throws open his hands revealing them to be empty! a huge shit eating grin appears across Kibus face.

James: ::James just stares for a second. “Tha… That is actually amazing.” Starts clapping. “I didnt know Momo could vanish.” James rakes is eyes up and down Kibu to see if he can spot Momo. Giving up a second later he brings his eyes back to Kibu “I never got around to naming him. I cant come up with names… What should I name him?”

Kibu: Kibu smiles and is just about to answer when there is a rustling from his scarf as Momo come bolting out and on to James again “Momo no! you’re going to ruin it!” he scolds the squirl as it takes up residence on James’s far shoulder putting the tall man between he and his master

James: :James slowly rises his hand again and tries to pat momo on the head with one finger, “its alright I dont mind at all.”

Kibu: A familiar squeaking and chirping sound emerges from Kibu as he calls Momo back to his scarf. Momo darts back towards his master without hesitation. Kibu sits there, the same shit eating grin on his face as he dangles something familiar from his hand, something James distinctly remembers having on his person. His badge denoting his rank in the order. “nice trick, huh?” he says with a certain smugness.

James: James quickly checks his sides. then sighs “Yes very nice trick Kibu” as he says this he thinks to him self. ‘I going to have to keep a eye on him’

Kibu: He contemplates keeping his new prize, but this warrior might be useful in helping find Gary, so he reluctantly hands back the badge . “You should name him slooooooow” Kibu returns to the conversation with a slight chuckle.

James: James thanks Kibu for handing back the badge. “hmmm..” Jame seems to think on what Kibu said “How about Slowmo?”

Kibu: “You could name him Mo, for short” he pauses and begins to think “nah, better not.. that might make Momo angry too, he already has it out for one horse..” he continues to ponder “Did you have any pets growing up in giant land?”

James: James shakes his head. “nah i was never allowed one”

Kibu: Kibu continues to think “well, where I come from he is Oki, you know this Oki in your words?”

James: James shakes his head. “Oki? Never heard of it before”

Kibu: He searches for the translation into their shared tongue “Big? hes a Oki horse, Big horse” kibu shrugs. “where did you get your name? I haven’t heard james before, your giant mother give you this name? its a weird name!”

James: James just stare at Kibu. “The Order gave me my name. I have never met my parents. They left me at the Church when I was still a baby”

Kibu: “I was left too” the joy seems to leave the boy for a moment “guess giants don’t love their babies neither” not wanting to feel like that he quickly changes the subject back “So what do they sell at the church store? or is it an army? do they protect the giant lands? do lots of people sell their babies to the church-store to make them warriors too?”

James: “Church store? there is no such thing… I used to think we was there to protect the people… But I was wrong. can we please drop it now?”

Kibu: “you dont protect people?” Kibu moves in closer to James, his interest perked.

James: James looks down sadly "I was bought up to protect people but… I found out that the “leaders” were doing bad things to people.. When i found out i couldnt stay so i left."

Kibu: “What kinds of bad things?” kibu softens his tone a little as his curiosity forces him to pry deeper

James: “No. I dont want to talk about it anymore” James sits up straight and looks ahead

Kibu: Kibu straitens up as well mimicking James, for a while he rides beside him in awkward silence. but his bored mind finally getting the better of him he returns to his interrogation of his new friend. “you any good with that sword? it doesn’t look that sharp (he says never even seeing the blade) and why do you use a shield? are you afraid of getting hit in the face again?”kibu reaches up and pokes the scar on james’s neck “where did that one come from?”

James: James smiles “Yes, you could say I am good with my sword. It is very sharp” James draws it out a couple of inches showing the gleaming blade, He runs a finger softly across the edge and shows Kibu his slightly bleeding finger. Then sheathes his sword again while saying “I am not afraid of getting hit in the face as you can tell. But a shield is good at protecting and attacking at the same time. I can push a persons sword out of the way with my shield and while he is off balance I can put my sword though him” James pauses for a second “The scar on my neck was from a fight with a warrior wielding a 2h sword. With me not getting out of the way fully in time.”

Kibu: “Well that was stupid! you should always get out of the way, completely! what about that one?” he places his grubby finger uncomfortably close to James’ eye and within a distance to assault his olfactory sense as he motions to the scar on his cheek.Ho

James: “That one… That one was from training when I was younger. Our master was not the most gental while training people.”

Kibu: “and that one?” he points to the one on his brow

James: “That one I got when i was shot at by a arrow. I dropped to the ground hoping to avoid it… I did. mostly”

Kibu: "looks like it still got you. Do you have any other scars? are you missing any fingers? how many toes do you have? do your scars hurt some times too?

James: James thinks about the scars on his back. He decides not to tell Kibu so he will not ask. "No i am not missing any digits. Sometimes on a cold night they can ache. How about yourself? how did you get your scars?

Kibu: Kibu is taken back a little, he wasn’t used to being asked questions himself. “This? I got this from the pure-one that killed Tanic. She had gone crazy like all the old people do, and when I found out she killed him I tried to kill her. It hurt a lot when she tore my face open with her claws.. but Gary saved me!” he says gently running his hand over the scars “they still hurt when i laugh a lot, or when i’m really sad”

James: James reaches over and gently pats Kibu on the shoulder “Well then we are just going to have to go find Gary and thank him for saving you”

Kibu: Kibu looks over at James and with a genuine smile he nods in agreement.

James: “come on. we better catch up to the others, Wouldnt want to miss all the fun now yea?”

Kibu: “race ya!” he says spurring on Uma “or.. we can just walk there.. thats fine too” he laments as she once again refuses any commands to move faster than her leisurely pace

James: “hmmm I wonder if this will get her going?” James reaches over and slaps Uma on the rear.

Kibu: She neighs both startled and annoyed and moves into a slow trot, at least it was something. “i’d bet if Yarro was here she’d get a move on! you can ride on, i’ll catch up.” he calls back to James


Session 2 recap: 7/26-27/2014
Five characters step out of a bar...

Regular session was missing two players, so we had an impromtu street brawl to introduce our newer players to Roll20.

Seven thugs apparently recognized Kibu under a street lamp and began running toward the group out of the darkness. Kibu and Trink quickly melted into the pervasive shadows and struck the thugs from the rear, while James, Marina and Yachak faced them head on. James had little trouble slicing them up, but one of them gave Marina a run for her money. Yachak tried to maneuver to the side, but was followed, and defended himself well until the cleanup phase caught up and his assailant was dropped from behind, Sy’s jaws still clamped firmly on the thug’s neck.

Session 1 Recap: 7/19-20/2014
The Dog and Pony Tavern

Septimus and Trink enter first, in the late morning. It is dark enough inside for Trink not to wear her glasses, but she still prefers to sit facing the interior of the Tavern. Septimus is keeping an eye out for his friends in the Coffee Shop across the plaza, but there are enough people in the way that it’s hard to tell for sure who’s coming and going over there. They usually have their spring reunion at one of the outdoor tables this time of year, but there has been no sign of them yet.

Two young travelers enter, and as cosmopolitan as this establishment prides itself on being, this is one of the more eccentric pairs to have passed through its doors in some time. The girl, Nhymeri, is a petit, green-eyed ginger engulfed in a runaway conflagration of bright orange curls. She’s dressed in non-descript boys’ clothes with a bow strapped over her back and several less identifiable implements secured about her person. Upon closer examination of her face, one notices an exotic design accenting the outer edge of her right eye.

Her traveling companion is a slightly smaller, slightly darker-skinned youth with a thatch of short black hair, an innocent expression, and two long scars raking down from his left eye. Kibu wears a well-seasoned tunic and trousers, accessorized by a red woolen scarf which appears to have a life of its own, especially during moments when parts of it actually seem to crawl, as if something small and furtive lurks within.

Kibu stares with unabashed interest at the other diners and the delicacies they’re eating, and eagerly accepts the waiter’s rather tentative invitation to take a table near the hearth. He is expressing an interest in sampling every item on the menu when the pair is accosted by the dashing Septimus, who upon overhearing them speak has recognized a language known only to a highly exclusive selection of his acquaintances. Addressing himself primarily to the young lady, he floridly presses his assistance upon them in choosing what to order, and draws up a chair for himself, supremely confident in the assumption that his attendance at their repast could be nothing less than the fondest wish of his newfound friends.

As it so happens, a nearby table contains yet another thirsty trio of out-of-towners, who have just at this moment zeroed in upon the very same magnetic gathering spot, as if drawn irresistibly by some plot-weary deus ex machina who has by this time thrown up his hands at devising any less contrived a scheme for bring them all together. Leading this group is Marina, an elaborately yet practically coifed young officer sporting a preternaturally precocious air of no-nonsense authority and poise. She is flanked by the looming presence of James, a raven-haired powerhouse accustomed to keeping his own impassive counsel, and Yachak, a benevolent-looking young man in a flowing black robe with a solid oak staff that he’s having a hard time finding room for under the table.

Upong being questioned by Septimus as to the nature of her quest (or some such), Nhymeri produces a skillfully drawn likeness of a man who happens to be known to the loquacious, self-appointed host, although he does not immediately inform them of this fact. Around the same time, Marina, who has overheard the preceding exchange, introduces herself and professes to also be searching for such a personage, although she has not yet caught a sufficient glimpse of the picture, which has mysteriously disappeared, to have confirmed that it is in fact the same man.

Septimus jumps up and welcomes the new group, and has tables pushed together as introductions are made. At some point soon after, he excuses himself and leaves the Inn to cross the plaza and check the Coffee Shop, to see if his friends have arrived. Discovering that they have not, he visits Vastavika’s urban apartment, but she has not been seen there either. He returns at last to find a most unfortunate stand-off in progress.

It turns out that without being noticed by the others, Trink has somehow snatched up the drawing that had fallen on the floor, and recognized in it the person that she, too, has been searching for. She and Septimus had traveled together for several months without sufficiently comparing descriptions of their mutual friend, linguistic similarities notwithstanding, to have discovered it was the same man. One is forced to conclude that a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

While Septimus is away on his errand, Trink gathers her courage and stands to address the group, returning the portrait and entreating them for information on the whereabouts of its subject. Before conversation has a chance to proceed, however, Kibu skitters backward and draws his knife, staring at the newcomer with hatred and warning Nhymeri to get away from her. The entire group is astonished and perplexed by this sudden violent reaction, and the tension level of the encounter is suddenly escalated dramatically.

It eventually comes out that Kibu is freaked out by the fact that Trink is an albino, although he is unwilling to explain why this is a problem for him. Conversation grinds to a halt, and the group sits in awkward silence until Septimus returns and announces that he intends to ride immediately up to Vastavika’s chateau to find out why she has not come to town as has always been her custom at this time of year. This decision drastically cuts short the opportunity for further interaction among the group, and triggers the now unnecessary arrival of an urgent messenger announcing that smoke has been seen up on the mountainside in the vicinity of the very same chateau, and that the place appears to be on fire.

The entire group follows Septimus up the mountain and arrives to find that it is not the chateau itself, but another large outlying building that has gone up like tinder, and is now in the final stages of utter destruction. Servants and local farmers are engaged in the effort to keep the fire from spreading to the rest of the compound. Septimus barks a query as to the whereabouts of the Lady herself, and someone vaguely point towards a trail that leads up the mountain to an observation point.

As Septimus charges up the trail, followed by the rest of the group, Vastavika appears on the precipice above them. She is holding a long knife, and looks more disheveled than she has ever appeared in Septimus’ memory. As she takes note of his approach, she begins to rave, and his worst fears are confirmed: she is clearly in the grip of the madness that she has so long forestalled, having seemed up till now to be unusually immune to its advancing symptoms despite her age. As the episode draws to its cliffhanging conclusion, she is threatening to do herself in if he advances any further along the path.


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