Friday, October 16, 2020

House of Worms, Session 202

The player characters continued to attend to their various social obligations and duties in Linyaró. The most immediate of these concerned the arrival in the colony of Ku'óchan Chadíj, the ambassador from the Naqsái city-state of Pichánmush. He had been sent, in the company of an entourage of priests of Hánmu, the tutelary deity of his city, to speak to Aíthfo regarding certain rumors about him that had reached the ears of Pichánmush's rulers. 

It should be noted that Pichánmush, like most Naqsái city-states, is dedicated to the worship of a single deity (the main exception being the city-state of Miktatáin, whose people have largely abandoned belief in any gods, a situation the Tsolyáni characters found equal parts baffling and horrifying). The deities worshiped play some role in determining natural alliances and rivalries between the city-states, but this is not the whole story. Pichánmush, as the pre-eminent city-state of the coastal region of the Achgé Peninsula has many rivals, despite being devoted to Hánmu, the distant "high" god of the loose pantheon of Naqsái gods. This is largely due to its monopoly on the harvesting the jájnekursh shellfish whose ground-up shells are the raw materials for the creation of a ceramic called rushqá used by the Naqsái all over the region. Rushqá plays a similar role in the Peninsula to chlén-hide back in the Five Empires.

In any events, Ku'óchan wished to ascertain whether there was any truth to the "tall tales" he had heard that Aíthfo had been favored by the god Eyenál, tutelary deity of the city-state of Mánmikel (and a rival of Pichánmush). Aíthfo openly admitted that he had; in fact, he explained that Eyenál's power had, for a time, dwelled within his own body. Ku'óchan initially assumed Aíthfo was jesting, but, after being assured that the governor was speaking truly, he inquired into the matter further. The characters then recounted the story of how this came to be, events which took place many months ago and culminated in Eyenál, through Aíthfo, expending all his power to close an otherplanar prison located above Miktatáin – though not before three entities escaped, one of which the characters just recently returned to the pirson.

Needless to say, Ku'óchan was quite taken aback by these stories and was still somewhat unwilling to believe them. His primary interest, though, seemed not to be their veracity but what they meant for Linyaró's diplomatic position. Traditionally, the Tsolyáni colony had been an ally of Pichánmush. If Aíthfo had indeed been favored by Eyenál, did this signal a shift toward an alliance with Mánmikel? Znayáshu assured the ambassador it did not. In fact, he suggested that, now that Eyenál had completed his task on Tékumel, Linyaró would no longer have any need to be involved with Mánmikel. Further, he suggested that there was in fact a matter of mutual interest on which Linyaró and Pichánmush could collaborate.

Znayáshu brought up the contentious issue of the ruins of Pashkírigo, an ancient city under the protection of Pichánmush. Pichánmush formally forbade anyone from entering the ruined city, believing it to be "cursed." The city had, in the past, been dedicated to the goddess Kírig, whose unpleasant characteristics reminded the Tsolyáni of the Goddess of the Pale Bone. Despite the interdiction of the site, the characters had in fact entered the ruins and explored it, following in the footsteps of previous expeditions sent there by Aíthfo's predecessor as governor. The characters' efforts yield some information, most notably that the ruins are riddled with nexus points and that there is a tubeway car station beneath it, but they were ultimately forced to flee, owing to the dangerous creatures that also dwelt within it. There was also evidence that the Temple of Ksárul had launched its own expeditions into the ruins.

Ku'óchan reiterated that the ruins were off-limits to everyone and that Pichánmush had matters well in hand. There was nothing to worry about and anything happening within the ruined city was "under control." Znayáshu's wife, Tu'ásha, questioned one of the ambassador's assistants on this matter and learned that this was not the case at all. Emboldened with this information, Znayáshu continued to ply Ku'óchan with Tsolyáni wines and brandies, eventually getting the ambassador to admit that there were "a few small problems" in Pichánmush, but "nothing we can't deal with." He sensed an opening for further discussion, but, rather than pressing the matter, he thought it best to wait until the next day to continue the conversations.

Meanwhile, Kirktá, with the permission of Keléno was busy copying the pages of the Book of Ebon Bindings delivered by the mysterious young woman a few days prior. Keléno questioned the slave who had received the original package, hoping to learn more about the identity of the young woman. He described her as "young and not unattractive but strange." When pressed, he added that she was "well dressed but in an old fashioned style." This immediately suggested to Keléno that the woman in question was Toneshkéthu, an advanced student at the College at the End of Time, who has occasionally helped the characters in their work by providing little "pushes" in the right direction. This alleviated some of his concerns, as Keléno had worried that the pages were delivered by someone far more sinister.

Keléno continued to study the pages, which he noted were carefully selected so as not to provide full information on any of its rituals. Instead, the pages seemed to have been selected to draw attention to lost city names, cities whose locations are unknown to modern scholars, though some argue they are in present day Livyánu. Keléno was starting to believe otherwise, based on linguistic similarities between the city names and those of cities reputed to be on the western side of the Achgé Peninsula – a region reputedly populated by a people called the Hinákho (or so the Naqsái called them), who worshiped "bloodthirsty" gods and employed peculiar magic. This fired Keléno's imagination and he began to consider how he might convince his clan mates to journey to their lands.

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