Image by Kunrong Yap
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. His soul was taken by Azathoth, but his body remains on this earth, undecaying.
Nullseed, “Null”, a floating drone-companion, known as a troton. Rescued from a lizard lion attack.
Snow Child, an ash-coloured mycomorph, constantly shedding spores. Saved from a tumblesnare.
The day dawns; a wind arises from the north. Veils of dust cloak the horizon as their formation threatens dust-storms.
The travelers strike camp. Snow Child’s mycal-yurt folds up into a sponge-like cylinder that she places in a hollow cavity in her chest. In the cool of morning, before the giant red eye climbs too far, Leif and Snow take Faulkner’s body, still in burial caul, to the Traveler’s Graveyard.
Leif and Snow manage to dig a grave, even though their bodies are wracked with pain from the ferrosteel memory of the tumblesnare. Nullseer goes about the Oasis, searching for the small chance that a morsel of sky stone might fall into his gorging-chamber.
After Faulkner’s undecaying body is covered in his shallow resting place. Leif says an old hegemonic litany, Snow thanks the Great Cycle and wishes Faulkner well on the Path Renewed, then they bury him.
The two tour around Eigin, to refill provisions, drink from the oasis, and find Nullseer. As they walk, they talk about how they came to wander the azure-wastes.
“I was a servitor,” Leif says as he sidesteps a band of cloaked Faa Saccharans. “On an estate somewhere between the Badlands and the Quag. The Khedive Abdulam bought me as a child. From Faa slavers. I worked his harvesters but I was also a keeper of the hunting grounds. The Khedive was very religious, very decorous, and loved affluence. But his estate was impoverished.”
They stop under the shadow of a windbarge and discuss with the merchant owner, a stunted cacogen named Nashir. While they haggle drystuffs from him, he casually complains about the pitiful amount of active sky-seeking stone he has left aboard his craft. As they walk away, Leif and Snow note the blue marks along the hull, where Nashir’s vessel must have scuffed a few dunes.
“How did you arrive at the blue sands of the Interior?” Snow asks Leif.
“Because of the Khedive’s poverty, the bondslaves often went hungry for days, meanwhile the hunting grounds were well-stocked. There was a revolt.” The gigantic man paused as he declined a beggar. “The manor house was burned down. All the trophy beasts slaughtered. I didn’t stick around for any Hegemony troop. I ran far into the desert.” Leif looks at Snow. “You?”
[I consulted an Oracle here–I haven’t had to think about this yet. I rolled: Locust (Hunger, Destruction) and Falling]
“In my last cycle, I was a cacogen. I was very sick. I remember looking for a panacea against the illness that was eating me. Fate brought me to the Great Wall. I once heard of a favourable draught flowing from a spinal tap in God’s Backbone. So I climbed. Whether inside the Wall or outside, against weather and denizen alike I struggled to summit the structure.” Snow pauses as they reach the shore of the oasis. Both travelers drink deeply, then refill their water-flasks.
“And?” Leif asks as they walk away.
“The draught at the summit was tainted.” She wipes her lips. “I encountered this.” She scrapes a handful of ash-coloured spores off of her forearm. “I received another chance at life. But not real life. The panacea . . . it was a half-truth. Which is much worse than a lie. Now I wonder the dunes, constanstly shedding myself in painful molts. I feel as if I am always falling. Never landing.”
“Come with me, then. To Viridis.”
“Viridis?” Snow’s shedding spores betray her nervous curiosity. “What is that?”
“The ancestral home of my people. A hidden vault with great, pure cisterns. The legends tell of the water giving life anew, but I don’t know whether I believe them. Still–perhaps you will find something there to restore you.”
They find Null in a row of bushes on the edge of the settlement. They ask him why he is hiding. He says he might have found a tad bit more than just a morsel.
They hear shouts of alarm from Eigin. As they look back, they see Nashir’s doomed windbarge slump and dive into a tavern beneath it. Several screaming figures escape the building through doors and windows. Flames erupt and broil into plumes of smoke.
Snow asks Leif when they leave. Without another word, they march into the desert, setting off for Bent Gully, as Leif keeps an eye out for a giant crystal, where they might meet the mysterious Amir Pallak.
In the afternoon the travelers encounter a thunderstrike fledgling soaring through the dust-squalls. Even through the deluge of fines, it spots them. After avoiding a deafening flash of white-hot lightning, they spot a squat, dark structure nearby.
Atop the structure is some dangerous-looking machinery–a turret or weapon. The dust storm picks up just enough to obscure them as they approach the building. They hear several booms alongside white snaps of light, but the thunderstrike’s barrage fails to hit them.
Leif and Snow stumble into the closed door of the structure and recognize it as an autarchy bunker. Leif tries to unlock the terminal, but fails and calls on Null. The troton unlocks the blast door easily and they tumble inside. It closes behind them. Leif recognizes the hegemony tech inside the bunker. The thing on top must be an auto-turret. Meanwhile, the thunderstrike shoots a bolt right at the door, making the metal oscillate.
Leif recalls his inherited true-kin knowledge and turns on the generator, yelling for Null to activate the weaponry. They hear the kinetic rounds discharge and burst in the air. Ear-numbing shrieks signify that the thunderstrike must have been hit.
Leif and Snow decide to wait and see whether Xrax’s bounty-stalker has died or left for good. Meanwhile, they scavenges for supplies.
Inside some locked cabinets, they find a meager-looking, munition-less pistol as well as a rusted book written by Ultra Muscato. At first, the book appears to be an opulent historical, but once they open it, they find that it is simply a container for drugs.
Snow identifies it as a psychoactive fungus, noting that Ultra is no historian. She’s heard of his cartel, whose regular clientele includes Hegemony troopers. She pockets it. Leif also gives her the gun. She thanks him, putting it next to her black whip.
They exit the bunker cautiously, only to find an unrecognizable pulp strewn across the sands. But they seen no thunderstrike. Thankful for the Hegemony’s blessed armaments, they walk across featureless dunes as cerulean dust-columns whirl in the heat.
At night they sleep soundly and safely in a mycal-yurt beneath the Vaarnish stars.
End of the eighth day.
Afternote: I’ve digitized all my files so now I can sit at my computer and write a blogpost in one shot. We will see if this continues (I like rolling physical dice, writing on physical paper), but if this is quicker, I might have to do it this way. For this session, it seemed decent. I’m stoked that I got to place the Great Wall somewhere in this post because I would like to have a reason to go there. Or at least have it connected to someone’s backstory so that I can rationalize sending the party to go explore it eventually. Maybe you can tell, but I can’t wait for the next Vaarn zine to arrive. A final note–I want to include more artwork.