ALONE IN VAARN 4.1 day four

Image is Bronze Valley by Vera Dochich

Our Travelers:

Leif, a gigantic, white-haired true-kin. Escaped servitor. Wields a dyad rifle. Owns a singing crystal that wails in cryptic song.

Faulkner, “Faulk”, a golden-black new-ibis. Believes he is human. Refuses to wear a mask. Owns a nightmare box, of which he suspects nothing.

The Tale:

Faulk and Leif wake early. They slowly try to make their noiseless way out of the wreck of the Cynosura and exit without any trouble. No yurlings or despondent janitor-synths challenge them. When they finally crawl through a half-shut garbage disposal chute, they enter the dull peach light of morning. The worm pollen has kept falling and is now threatening to engulf the landscape.

They decide to collect rations from the edible pollen before heading back to Xrax’s lair. While they are bent over their work, Leif’s singing crystal comes unwrapped and strikes against the memory crystal that the strange blue child had handed to him yesterday. The tune, an aural chime of caelecosmic words, sings quietly. Leif, bothered more than anything, wraps it in yet another bolt of dense cloth. But the singing only gets louder. Faulkner is irritated, his feathered talons sticking to the mass of worm pollen.

“Shut that off,” the new-ibis squawks.

Leif only looks at him, holding up the thickly wrapped singing crystal. Its song grows louder. The words become clearer. The crystal begins to sing a haunting tale of the Cisterns of Viridis, which make both travelers stop and listen.

It sings of cisterns in the drylands, cisterns deep and sweet. And of the water-chieftains that sit atop great blue-clay thrones which in turn sit atop keys to the cistern vaults. And of warlords that dress their armour with the scapulae of slain foes, ready to protect their chieftains against all manner of violence. The elder and the adult and the young all have nothing to fear for their generations will extend in front of them like a trackless field of stars in the young night. All of this because of the water, lying deep and sweet in the Cisterns of Viridis.

This cant toils on and on, singing from Leif’s darkest pocket until at last Faulkner, in frustration, starts to walk away southwards without Leif. The true-kin follows him but stops short when the crystal’s tone shifts and new words well up from within its framework.

Now it sings of Leif’s lineage, recounting his father and forefathers and their fathers before them. After some time, Leif begins to recognize these names. The names of his forefathers are the names of water-cheiftains of old. Leif pulls the crystal out of his pocket and uncovers it. If the singing crystal is true, his blood is noble and he can claim heritage on the Cisterns of Viridis, wherever they might be. But the crystal, once out of his pocket, and away from the memory crystal, stops singing. He pulls out the other and the song starts again.

Faulkner shouts at Leif, tells him that Xrax is waiting and will soon grow impatient, for he is an oracle, and he was a Thunder-Rider.

Leif runs up to Faulk and shouts that they must not return the Cynosura memory crystal to Xrax, but use it to find a way to Viridis. Faulkner barks angrily, and takes out his mask, throwing it at Leif, who swipes it to the ground with a brush of his hand.

“We should have returned to Xrax already. And the worm pollen will only slow us. The erasure of our water debt in Gnomon rests on Xrax’s boon.” Faulk crosses his arms. “If we do not return the memory crystal, we will never leave the Dry List and never set eyes upon the fair City of Shaded Markets again. We will only live hard days as doom-wanderers and vault-ghouls.”

Leif explains that with the vast treasures of Viridis, they could build ten Gnomons of their own. And they would never have to toil for water again in this calamitous waste. Bandit-kings would come to worship at their feet. Mystics would serve them in their courts. The Faa themselves would visit to revere them and shower their thrones with the hard-won sacchar of the sandworms.

Faulkner, having heard of the untold bounty of Viridis before, is willing to search for these age-old Cisterns, but he does not wish to anger Xrax.

“Xrax will never know any better.” Leif says. “He will believe we perished in the bowels of the Cynosura.”

“Until he hears that we sit upon the Dais of Viridis.”

“And what will an old, retired Thunder-Rider do? Stare into some scry-pond and weep that he is not us. That is all. Our allies will be thick around us.”

Leif holds out his hand. “Come. Let us go to Viridis.”

Faulkner looks between Leif’s scarred eyes and the true-kin’s hand several times before clasping the man’s arm with his black-feathered pinion.

“If Xrax sends a bounty on our heads, I’ll be the first to kill you.”

Leif winks at the new-beast’s humour; Faulk makes plans in his head. They smile grimly at each other. The crystal’s song finishes. So is the agreement made between these two path-worn vagabonds of Vaarn.

Faulk picks up his knight’s-mask. Not knowing where else to go, they head south to Eigin Oasis, making care to circumvent Xrax’s Lair. Perhaps some long-stretched whispers shared in the adobe huts of the watering hole could guide them closer to the Gates of Viridis.

The day shines carmine hues as they wade through massive drifts of worm pollen. They stop at midday to tear gluey chunks of pollen out of the ground and stuff them down their throats, then reshoulder their packs. They pass without seeing anything all day, but in the evening they come upon a wadi, in which two lizard-lions are preying upon a beleaguered troton. The floating troton severs the head of the first lizard lion with a single hum of its laser. The second lizard takes its opportunity and smashes the troton out of the air. It tumbles through a mound of worm pollen.

The second lizard then notices the two travelers as Leif fires a shot from his dyad rifle and Faulk levels his adderspine pistol. They both score hits, leaving burn-scars deep in the lizard’s flesh. The beast rushes in and rams into Faulk, who sprawls unconscious in the pollen. Leif raises his rifle over his head and brings it down, crushing the skull of the lizard. Leif drags Faulkner to safety under the looming edifice of a famed carnifex. Then he goes out to look for the troton. They are said to be valuable companions and pesky antagonists.

He finds the automaton and tears it from the viscid pollen. It is torus-shaped and the colour of a lapis dune during the day. On the bottom of its form are several mechanical claws, each one housing a different instrument to grasp, cut, pierce, shoot, or saw. He tucks it under one arm and returns to Faulkner’s side.

Leif revives the troton with words of ancestral command, which inherently spring to his true-kin mind. It awakes and retreats to a safe distance, its laser-arm ready to rive the gigantic man. They stand still as stones, discussing their paths, both past and future, and whether it might be good for them to travel together. The troton confides that it is weak. It needs to consume the energies of a sky-seeking stone to regain its vitality. About a week ago, its master was killed and their possessions stolen, so the troton has been wandering in hunger for several days. Leif promises to aid the automaton in its search for a sky-stone as long as the troton helps them traverse the dangerous sands of Vaarn.

Bonded by a friendship of need, they share names. The troton was entitled N0L7-33R in the auto-forge. But his master took to calling him Nullseer, or Null.

Both troton and true-kin labour to tend Faulkner’s wounds and finally put a soft bundle beneath the newbeast’s head. The coral moon appears to walk among the gaps in the clouds. Faulk’s dreams scatter like flies from a carcass, being chased by the devouring night-horrors of Azathoth.

End of the fourth day.

Afternote: I had a lot of fun re-writing this (I took the building blocks of my playthrough and added some depth) but I also found that I didn’t use the Oracle at all today. As for the the lion-lizard encounter, I replaced a stumbling drone with my troton. I’m looking forward to exploring its usefulness, both mechanically and narrative-wise. Finally, I really like the revelation of the crystals. It wasn’t borne out of an Oracle roll, but just made sense, since Leif had both a memory crystal and a singing crystal, that after rubbing against each other the singing one would start out in song. That was exciting to dive into. And even though its as old as the hills, I love throne-reclamation tropes, and it seems like it will fit well as an over-arching narrative. I wonder if Xrax will grow resentful and reappear later in the story to seek vengeance against Leif and Faulk.

4 thoughts on “ALONE IN VAARN 4.1 day four

  1. Exciting! I enjoy the new larger quest blooming from the original task. I’m a bit like you in that I find myself rolling fewer dice when my solo sessions kick into gear; I find they start to blend into my process for writing fiction straight up. It’s fun to see one of the trotons appear as well, very curious what else will happen on their route to the Cisterns.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks! Yes I’ve found it more akin to writing fiction than anything else. It’s at least nice to have the narrative momentum going and leave the die rolling to things like tables and combat in order to oddify things.


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