Wednesday, December 16, 2020

House of Worms, Session 207

Nebússa and Keléno decided that the best approach to dealing with the Naqsái soldiers on guard duty was to approach them directly and trust in their ability to confound them with bluster. In principle, the city-state of Pichánmush was an ally of Linyaró and these soldiers should, therefore, be well disposed toward any Tsolyáni. In practice, the matter is more complex, owing to the fact that Pichánmush has placed the ruins of Pashkírigo under a strict quarantine and no one, not even allied foreigners, is permitted to pass its walls without explicit permission of the local garrison commander. This applies even to Tsolyáni and there was some understandable concern that the Naqsái might not take kindly to the presence of the player characters.

Both Nebússa and Keléno have spent time learning the Gé Ngáq language, which is spoken in Pichánmush, in order to aid them in their dealings with the locals. In addition, Keléno's third wife, Mírsha, who accompanied him on this journey, is fluent in the tongue (her Blue Blossom clan is made up of Tsolyáni-ized Naqsái), as is his Naqsái slave, Chanchayánto. Thus, when Nebússa approached the guards, he did so in their own language and made good use of his lifetime of experience as a member of the very high Golden Bough clan to cow them with his mere presence. He asked to be taken to their commander, as he had important information to share with him. Unsure of what to do, one entered the nearby building, which apparently served as the soldiers' field headquarters, only to come back a few minutes later to inform them that their commander had agreed to see them.

Inside, they met a youngish man who identified himself as Chára Khurgó, the division commander at this location. He greeted the pair warmly with the words, "I am glad to see that help has finally arrived." Apparently, he had sent word to his regimental commander that he had need of sorcerers to aid him in dealing with the Vorodlá. His mission was to enter the center of the city and put an end to these undead beings, but his division (consisting of 100 men) was insufficient and he lost close to 40% of his men in the fight that followed. They fled to this building, which, for some reason, the Vorodlá avoid. Neither Nebússa nor Keléno corrected his misapprehension that they were in fact the sorcerers Chára had sent for, though they also said nothing to confirm this. Instead, they attempted to take control of the situation and suggest that they had a plan for how to deal with the Vorodlá. To do that, though, they would need to send word to their companions that it was now safe to enter this building.

Keléno collected the other characters, who joined them inside. The building was large and open, with a partially damaged dome above. Keléno theorized that it was probably some sort of audience chamber during the days when Pashkírigo was still inhabited. Znayáshu took immediate interest in the fact that the Vorodlá had been avoiding the place, suggesting to him that it possessed some sort of magical protection that might prove useful. He had already obtained an amulet of power over the undead to aid them, but the amulet had a limited range and power. Perhaps whatever it was that protected the building could be removed and brought with them as they made their way toward the maelstrom at the center of the city. He took out his various ritual devices and began scouring the place for evidence of this protection.

Meanwhile, the others assessed their situation. According to Chára, soldiers from Pichánmush had begun to be sent into the city – something that was previously unusual – to determine precisely what was going on within the ruins. They had been aware of some sort of disturbance for months but it was only when the maelstrom at its center had become visible from outside the walls that the regimental commander felt the need to act more decisively. Unfortunately, Chára's men were ill-prepared and did not bring any sorcerers with them, leading to their defeat by the Vorodlá. Now that the characters had arrived, he hoped that their own magic would be sufficient to deal with the undead and the maelstrom as well. 

Znayáshu discovered that, buried beneath the floor of the building, there were three dozen rectangular shapes. Excavating one revealed a box-like container made of an unusual ceramic not unlike what they had encountered beneath the city-state of Miktatáin some months before. The container had no obvious seams or means to open it but it was covered in strange, blocky writing on several of its sides. This writing, the characters had come to learn, was that of the Ancients who ruled Tékumel before the Time of Darkness, indicating that it was very likely a device of potent magical power, perhaps the very thing that had held the Vorodlá at bay. Znayáshu directed the soldiers to remove the container from its hidden location, which they did, albeit with some difficulty, as it was connected, via a tube or cable, to the floor. When severed from the cable, the container became noticeably lighter and easier to lift.

The characters then spent the evening learning more about the local geography of the ruins, specifically the fastest means to reach the center of the city. Their plan was to carry the container with them, hoping it might retain some vestige of its power, and make their way toward the maelstrom at the city's heart. This they would do in the company of all Chára's remaining soldiers (slightly more than 60), as well as their own companions. Exactly what they would do if they succeeded in reaching the city's center they did not know, but coming up with a plan after they had arrived at the place where it was needed was a hallmark of the House of Worms clan.

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