ALONE IN VAARN 5.1 day five

Image by Kilian Eng

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, but will not dispose of it.

The Tale:

Leif and Faulk wake up, breaking fast in the bruise-grey morning light. The worm pollen has stopped, but now a dust storm moves in from the northwest. Their treacherous route southwards, covered in pollen, is further slowed by the encroaching storm. Today, they pass by Xrax’s Lair. So they thank the gods for the storm’s covering.

They encounter nothing on the morning trail, but pass by the beautiful, massive Hand of Metis, a well-known landmark. It looms in the thick, dust-choked air. Her finger points skyward as if divining the just-visible stars. The travelers stop for a short rest. The giant hand is known to be about two days foot-travel north of Eigin. It means that they are on the right path. Nullseer, the troton, settles into a small notch in the base of the Hand while they stop.

“I have a stone in my stomach,” says Faulk, barely eating. “Xrax will be pacing his the slate floors of his cavern. No doubt he has a hatchling taking wing to look for us.”

Leif takes a pull of water. “With the pollen over our trail and now these clouds, he has no way of finding us.”

“Hatchlings make up for their lack of stamina with eagerness. It’s only a matter of time.”

Leif shakes his head and gets up, shouldering his pack. “Either way, we’ll sell what we can in Eigin for a couple of dromedaries. Then it will be a quick flight into the desert.”

Faulk looks stolid, unattached. “We’ll be dead before then. Xrax will instruct his servants to disembowel us and return with our heads and the crystal. We should have . . .”

“No, we carry on.”

The new-ibis stared at Leif with blood-couched eyes.

“Remember that nightmare you carry,” Leif snapped. “Remember who put it in that box for you. As long as we have to lug it around, I call the shots.”

Without saying another word, they retake the path to Eigin. At noon, they open a pouch of flaked old-yeast, bitter and delicate. The storm’s fine dust soon cakes their mouths and nostrils as they try to eat. Then, as they plod onwards, they feel the rasp of it choking their lungs. Luckily, it covers their movement across the waste. No souls, hatchling or otherwise, run into them.

Faulk and Nullseer strike up a conversation about dreams and the soul. Null mentions that his previous master, a cacogen named Yazira, had once been tormented by a flock of thirty-three demons when she was young. But ever since she had come into possession of the troton, he had used his powers to cease her afflictions. Faulk asks Null to provide him with a clean, dreamless sleep that night. Null tells him he can do nothing without a sky stone, the fuel for its innards. The troton is running on the dregs of its power reserve.

They are about to break for supper on the edge of a skeleton-littered plain. The dust storm subsides just enough for them to see a small band of wanderers, crouching in a circle under a rudely constructed shelter, singing lost psalms. Leif, Faulk, and Null approach them, and the group of odd men and women, all wearing patched fuligin robes, cease their chants.

It is a group of ascetics. They call themselves the Monachs of the Weeping Fig. The headfather, Calbus, after hearing Leif and Faulk’s story, tells them that they are all ex-addicts, previously enslaved to the yellowed foliage of the karwat shrub, which they abused to solicit drunk orgies with opulent fiend-princes. There was dancing as well.

But now there is peace, as they have forsaken all worldly ways.

Calbus invites the three into their windbreak. A small evaporator prepares a crystal of anodyne salt. Once it finishes forming and takes shape, the ascetics remove the thumb-sized crystal and rub it on he skin of their neck, wrists, and foreheads.

“It’s a treatment. Given from God. We call it atma. Piece of his soul that mend ours whole.”

They invite Leif and Faulk to partake. Do they? [No but, Shame Dependency]

At first, they are reluctant and declare a desire to move on towards Eigin with what daylight is left. But after the repeated prompts from the ascetics, they feel guilty for denying God his blessings and start rubbing themselves with the crystal. They sense the depth of a great dependency. Faulk’s ceaseless anxiety subsides for a while-even though it shames him to think of Azathoth’s jealousy.

After the ceremony, the two groups share water and food. The ascetics mention that they are looking for revenge against the doomsday-cult bandits that camp at Bent Gully. Well, not exactly revenge. That would be the flesh speaking. Calbus only seeks to have something of theirs returned. The Monachs had a small library of Psalters and Epistles. But they were stolen by the bandits. If Leif and Faulk are able to return those books to the hands of Calbus, they would gift them a small portion of atma-crystals.

Leif and Faulk agree, and ask for any knowledge on the location of Viridis. Calbus does not speak, but thinks for several minutes. He says that once the feral orphans of Fallingtree Dome owned a thin book named A Caller Amongst the Water-Chiefs. But now it is most probably amongst the book-horde of the bandits, who are rapacious readers.

The two bands of travelers pitch their tents and sleep under the dust-choked coral moon.

For once, Faulk’s nightmares abate.

End of the fifth day

Afternote: Kind of a more narrative-driven day. No antagonist encounters were rolled, so no combat. I feel as if Leif and Faulk might grow too soft unless they sharpen their skills against the blade again. But it’s been satisfying getting to know them a bit more. Once they return to Eigin they will advance a level. Hopefully it will be an interesting time looking for clues as to the location of Viridis or the book that Calbus mentioned. I have no idea where the Monachs are going in the morning. And no one thought to ask. We shall see if their paths continue alongside Leif and Faulk, or whether they will separate for the time being.

5 thoughts on “ALONE IN VAARN 5.1 day five

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