Tuesday, September 1, 2020

House of Worms, Session 196

(My House of Worms Empire of the Petal Throne campaign began in March 2015 and has been ongoing ever since. I regret that we haven't been keeping a regular campaign journal, as Tony Bath recommended in his magisterial "Setting Up a Wargames Campaign" (about which I shall write more later), because such a chronicle would, I think, be useful not just as a record of all that has happened over the course of the campaign, but also as evidence that Tékumel is not nearly as impenetrable as its reputation would have you believe. Nevertheless, what follows is in medias res and thus might not be immediately intelligible to the uninitiated. It's my hope that, as more of these entries are written, readers will find them easier to understand.)

The player characters found themselves in what they believed to be an alternate Tékumel, after having passed through a nexus point beneath the Temple of the Ages, an ancient ruin southwest of the Tsolyáni colony of Linyaró. The alternate Tékumel was seemingly devoid of any life besides the characters, its sky red from the light of a swollen Tuléng (the sun). There was also a strange black obelisk floating atop the surface ruins, covered in strange glyphs that bore resemblance to no known language. Rather than deal leaving the Temple, the characters chose to go back through the nexus point, hoping that they be returned whence they came.

Passing through the nexus point, their plan seemed to be working. They were once again in an other-planar space consisting of several chambers seemingly made of odd black stone flecked with blue and purple. Previously, they had explored two passageways leading away from the central area; this time, they opted to explore a passage they had avoided before. The corridor was oppressively dark, so much so that it swallowed up the light of their torches and lanterns. Only Kirktá's light spell could penetrate the darkness and, even then, it operated at a much reduced efficacy. The priest of Durritlámish accompanied Aíthfo into the unexplored room, while their comrades and clan mates waited nearby.

As the pair made their way forward, the light spell's illumination caught the glimpse of what seemed to be arms and armor against a far wall. This piqued the interest of Aíthfo, who had lost his Engsvanyáli enchanted steel sword on an upper level only hours previously. Though he had found a replacement – a magnificent two-handed blade of unusual design – he preferred a smaller weapon that would allow him to use a shield while fighting. Just as the duo came close to the far wall, a two yellow points of light winked into existence, looking like eyes staring at them. After a few moments of apprehension, Aíthfo got closer to the points of light, which soon revealed themselves to be floating in the center of an insubstantial cloud, roiling with energy, like a tiny lightning storm.

Znayáshu, ever on alert for danger, asked his servant, the priest Akhúd, to employ his ESP spell on the mysterious cloud. Akhúd succeeded in casting his spell and explained that he sensed both curiosity and hatred in roughly equal measure. Armed with this information, Znayáshu urged caution, believing the cloud to be a demon servitor of Lord Ká'in, the Striker of Spheres. Aíthfo, as is his wont, paid no heed to such concerns and stood his ground against the creature, even as it began to advance. Kirktá moved aside, while Grujúng and Qurél, two warriors, made their way into the room, hoping to protect Aíthfo (who, after all, is the governor of Linyaró and thus more important than either of them).

Aíthfo told his companions to stay back and let the cloud reach him. Grujúng, however, disobeyed and attempted to interpose himself between the governor and the strange creature. He was not quick enough and, in a flash, Aíthfo disappeared, seemingly disintegrated by the touch of the cloud. This led to a series of ineffective attacks by Grujúng in response, while Qurél somehow succeeded in striking it, despite its misty form. His sword struck something within the cloud and it briefly flashed red as he did so. The cloud continued to move forward, ignoring the attacks, heading straight for Keléno, a priest of Sárku, who chose not to recoil before its movement. Qurél landed several more blows on the thing but not before it reached Keléno and he too disappeared, like Aíthfo before him.

The loss of two of their number proved too much and there was soon a flurry of blows launched against the creature, who retaliated with bolts of energy against Grujúng. Qurél struck true once more, this time causing the cloud to shrink briefly before expanding and exploding into a shower of sparks, leaving behind three small nexus points spinning about the room. The points were rapidly shrinking and would soon wink out of existence. Thinking quickly, Znayáshu leapt through one of the nexus point, hoping he would find Aíthfo or Keléno. He did not, so he returned through it to test a second nexus point. This one proved successful and discovered not only his two clan mates but also the Lady Srüna hiVázhu, the daughter of the previous governor, who had been missing for some months prior to this point (and was, in fact, one of several reasons why the characters had set off to the Temple of the Ages in the first place).

Srüna is a lay priestess of Ksárul, the Doomed Prince of the Blue Room and Ancient Lord of Secrets. Like most of her coreligionists, she is cagey about her activities and high-handed in her dealings with others, all the more so because her Iron Helm clan has an ancient and aristocratic pedigree, far above that of the middling House of Worms clan. Rather than thank her rescuers, she accused them of having followed her here from Linyaró, having spied on the expedition of which she was a part. The only person she was happy to see was Grujúng. She had grown to like the burly warrior long ago, as, in her eyes, he seemed to be the only person who not only treated her with appropriate deference and seemed genuinely interested in discovering the murderer of her father, the previous governor (a crime still with no resolution after nearly a year of investigation).

Znayáshu wished to know more about Srüna's activities and those of her fellow Ksárul worshipers. He hoped that she might be able to shed some light on their recent predicament, shifting as they were between alternate versions of Tékumel. Likewise, he kept in the back of his mind a warning they had received in the past, which heavily implied that the Temple of Ksárul intended to use Srüna – willingly or no, he was unsure – as a vessel for the monstrous other-planar being known locally as Srúvar Gét, or "the Azure Queen in Glory." Unfortunately, such matters would have to wait. Much more pressing was returning to their own version of Tékumel.

Srüna hiVázhu, in better days


  1. Where did the art come from? I want to do more to illustrate NPCs and haven't found good sources yet, but that seems awesomely Tekumeli.

    1. The portrait was specifically commissioned by me. It originally appeared in issue #8 of my Tékumel fanzine, The Excellent Travelling Volume and is drawn by Juan Ochoa.