Friday, February 26, 2021

House of Worms, Session 214

The final preparations having been made, Aíthfo decided that their was one last thing he needed to do: pay a visit to Chánkoru hiKhánuma, his new wife's great-grandfather and, more importantly, the administrative and ritual high priest of the Temple of Ksárul in Linyaró. Unlike many other guests to Aíthfo's nuptials, Chánkoru had brought no gifts to the governor and his bride. Instead, he rather pointedly suggested that they "had much to talk about," going so far as to suggest that he and his temple could "offer assistance in your current endeavors." This piqued Aíthfo's interest – and perhaps his suspicion – as few people outside his immediate circle in the House of Worms clan knew what he was preparing to do, not even his wife, Ta'ána. If Chánkoru knew the mission that lay before him, it suggested that the wily old priest had spies within the colonial administration and well placed ones at that.

Aíthfo, along with a small retinue appropriate to his station, visited the Black Stone clanhouse and asked to speak with Chánkoru. The old man appeared quickly and ushered Aíthfo into a secluded room, where he offered him refreshments. He quickly got down to business, admitting that he knew that the governor and his compatriots were planning to travel via nexus point to one of the Planes Beyond where the apocalyptic Battle of Dórmoron Plaine still(?) raged. He added that he knew that, in the past, there had been some "misunderstandings" between his clan and his temple and the colonial administration. He apologized for those and explained that, until recently, he had no reason to trust the governor. Now that he had married his great-granddaughter, he looked on him more fondly and understood that Aíthfo ony had the best interests of the Tsolyáni colony in mind. To that end, Chánkoru offered the assistance of the Temple of Ksárul.

The conversation between the two men was thoroughly polite and mannerly, each one employing the appropriate honorifics and observing the niceties expected of them. Nevertheless, Aíthfo remained suspicious and worried that he might be walking into a trap laid by Chánkoru. He was, after all, a priest of Ksárul, the Rebel of the Gods whose actions against his fellows had led to the Battle of Dórmoron Plain in the first place. Why would he wish to help and, even assuming he did, what did he hope to gain? As if sensing these concerns, Chánkoru admitted that his temple was, regrettably, riddled with factions and secret societies, some of whom, alas, were engaged in activities that might undermine the stability of not just the colony but Tsolyánu itself. For that reason, he felt an obligation to aid the governor in the only way he knew how: by offering a team of expert sorcerers steeped in the hidden lore of the temple.

Aíthfo was unsure how to respond to this offer. As a devotee of Lord Ksárul himself, he knew there were few who could compare to priests of Ksárul when it came to magical prowess. Yet, the idea of embracing these sorcerers, taking them with him onto another plane, far from Tékumel, did not sit well with him. Unfortunately, there was no easy way to avoid accepting Chánkoru's offer – not without offending him and perhaps making him an enemy. More to the point, Aíthfo had no idea how long he would be gone or if he would even return to Tékumel. The last thing he wanted to do was disappear just after having offended the high priest of the Temple of Ksárul. Who knows what sort of mischief he could wreak on the colony while he was gone, especially with his young protégé, Telék, being left as acting governor in his absence. 

Reluctantly, Aíthfo accepted Chánkoru's offer. The old man provided him with the names of the sorcerers and said that they would be at the governor's palace by sunset. Upon returning home, Aíthfo asked his wife if she recognized any of the names. She did: the leader of the sorcerers was her cousin, Lára hiKhánuma, a woman older than herself and reputed to be quite significant within the Temple of Ksárul. She was also one of her great-grandfather's favorites, news that strangely gladdened Aíthfo. If Lára were in fact one of Chánkoru's favored descendants, would he send her off on a mission he believed would end in failure? In any case, the governor spent one more night in Linyaró before marshalling his forces to depart early the next morning.

The wizard Ketém opened a nexus point to the ruined city of Pashkírigo and, once there, directed everyone to pass through another nexus point that he said would lead them to Dórmoron Plain. The group, consisting of Aíthfo and his companions, along with a large contingent of Shén mercenaries and human soldiers, made their way into the unknown. The experience was no different than previous jaunts through nexus points – a momentary sensation of cold, a brief flash of light – except that the group found itself divided. Aíthfo, Nebússa, Lady Srüna, Ketém, Mitsárka, the Ksárul sorcerers, and all the troops found themselves on a rocky, blasted plain surrounded by a large wall seemingly made of a bluish-white mold. The rest of the House of Worms clan were nowhere to be seen. Whether they made it through the nexus point to this plane or were spirited away somewhere else could not be determined. Mitsárka argued that it did not matter; they had come here to seal the nexus point from this side and they should proceed, regardless of what had happened to the others. Nebússa agreed and the rituals began.

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