Friday, July 23, 2021

House of Worms, Sessions 232–234

Aíthfo's visits with various government and religious officials, as well as his calls on the great clans of Béy Sü have generated a great deal of interest. The House of Worms clan, otherwise unknown as a purely local clan of Sokátis, soon became the talk of the social elites of the imperial capital, resulting in much gossip – and more than a few invitations from the city's great and good. Among those who did so was Elué hiDlarútu of the Green Malachite clan. Called "the Belle of Béy Sü" for her beauty and extravagant parties, she asked Aíthfo to come to her opulent palace in the northwest of the city.

When Aíthfo finally was able to do so, he found Elué to be quite unlike what he had expected. As a devotee of hedonistic Hriháyal, Aíthfo was prepared to be shocked by her appearance and demeanor. Certainly she was beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, but she was also oddly restrained in her dress and demeanor – which in fact contributed considerably to her impressive natural gifts. Dressed in a plain and unornamented gown, her hair hanging loose rather than in one of the elaborate styles favored by the noblewomen of Béy Sü, Elué invited Aíthfo to partake of any of the refreshments her slaves brought to him. He thought this odd and demurred, stating he would only do so if she would join him. She agreed to do so and ushered him into a chamber set aside for dining, one of many in her immense home.

Once there, the slaves brought in all manner of food and drink, setting it on a table between the two of them. Elué once again asked Aíthfo to partake of whatever he wished. He asked her what she would recommend and she replied, "The purpose of this visit is to see what you will choose." After some hesitation, he decided to start with a wine, as the House of Worms clan was known for its winemaking back in Sokátis. Aíthfo sought out the darkest red wine he could find and then, as he prepared to drink it, Elué told him, "I wouldn't choose that one if I were you; it's poisoned." Aíthfo instinctively put the wine down and then asked, "I suppose they're all poisoned, yes?" Elué smiled broadly and replied, "Indeed. You learn quickly – but, in Béy Sü, one is rarely warned of danger ahead of time, as I have warned you." She then elaborated, "You are new here and must watch yourself. Many who appear to be your friends are no such thing, while many appear enemies might simply be competitors. Until you learn to distinguish between them all, you must be careful." With that, she summoned her head slave and had Aíthfo removed from her palace.

Baffled by this, Aíthfo returned to his clan mates and told them of his experience. Both Znayáshu and Keléno agreed that Elué had done him a favor. They already feared that the Temple of Ksárul had marked Aíthfo for death after he made it clear he wished to return to Linyaró rather than accept some more important position in the capital or elsewhere. They surmised that she might have been attempting to warn him about imminent danger – or perhaps she was playing some other game. With priestesses of Hriháyal, who could say? In any case, in the ten days remaining before Nebússa's wedding, Aíthfo should be on his guard.

Another invitation came from Táksuru hiViridáme of the Cloak of Azure Gems clan. His cousin, Alída, was a young priestess hoping to produce a book on the flora of the Southern Continent. Táksuru hoped that, owing to their having lived there for the past two years, the characters might be able to provide Alída with firsthand knowledge. In exchange, he promised that he could be "of immense use to them" in Béy Sü, as they navigated high society. Aíthfo agreed to go, accompanied by Keléno, Kirktá, Znayáshu, and Grujúng, though the latter questioned whether he served any purpose in doing so. He was, after all, a soldier and had little knowledge of and indeed interest in such esoteric matters. Nevertheless, he came with the others, who were soon introduced to Táksuru.

Táksuru was handsome, witty, and sophisticated. He was also a devotee of Lord Ksárul, which immediately raised fears among the House of Worms clan mates, fearing that his true purpose was to harm Aíthfo. Those fears were quickly allayed, however, as it became apparent that, if anything, Táksuru shared the characters' opinions of the Temple of Ksárul. Throughout their conversations with him, he regularly hinted that, though a worshipper of the Doomed Prince of the Blue Room, he had little sympathy for its more overtly political factions and secret societies, such as the dreaded Ndálu Clan. With their minds put at ease, the characters agreed to assist and would return the next day with notes and other materials that might assist Alída.

When they returned, Táksuru took great interest in the characters' plans. He probed them repeatedly about their intention to return to Linyaró. Aíthfo played coy with him initially, suggesting that, as a group, they had not yet made up their minds. Táksuru expressed mild disappointment at this, as he hoped the characters were determined to upset the plans of the Temple of Ksárul in the colony. In fact, he was prepared to lend them whatever aid he could, keeping in mind the logistics of traveling to such a far-off location. For he reasons he did not elaborate, he too had a score to settle with the Ndála Clan and outright stated that he would be "very grateful" to the characters if they dealt a serious blow to their plans. With that in mind, they left his company and promised to be in touch after the marriage of Nebússa and Lady Srüna.

Meanwhile, a Pé Chói priest of Keténgku called Chtík p'Qwé approached the characters, claiming to warn them about the "folly" of employing Ninggáya hiKadárta. Chtík explained that she was a "fraud" whose methods not only contradicted "centuries of tradition" within the temple but, more importantly, simply did not work. If the characters took her with them to Linyaró to fight against the plague, they would soon find her remedies did not work. To that end, his temple was prepared to offer them a larger donation to their efforts than originally stated – provided they left Ninggáya behind. This turn of events caused Znayáshu to wonder what was really going on, since, until recently, the temple seemed keen to pawn Ninggáya off on the House of Worms, given her status as a "troublemaker."

Kirktá then invited Ninggáya to meet with him. He wanted to subtly inquire about these matters, but found it difficult to do so when in her actual presence. This led to his decision to attempt to employ ESP on her while discussing related matters, hoping that the psychic spell might reveal something words did not. Unfortunately for him, he failed to cast the spell successfully on his first attempt; when he tried a second time, Ninggáya noticed what he was doing and immediately left his company, seemingly angered by his lack of trust in her. Distraught, he quickly composed a letter of apology,. aided by Keléno, which he sent off to the temple dormitories. Znayáshu likewise composed a letter to the temple, suggesting that it would take more money than offered to reconsider taking Ninggáya with them.

While Kirktá's letter went unanswered, Znayáshu received a prompt reply. The Temple of Keténgku agreed to a higher sum. which only emboldened Znayáshu to ask for more, in this case money and a replacement for Ninggáya. A subsequent reply indicated the temple had no one available to accompany them and, further, that their original offer of a donation was now rescinded. Speculation then abounded in the House of Worms clan. The Temple of Keténgku was behaving very strangely. Given that Ninggáya had not responded to Kirktá's letter, some thought something ill might have happened to her. A suggestion was even made that perhaps Ninggáya was somehow more important to the temple than originally known and the sudden reversals were an attempt to protect her from harm.

Nebússa, extricating himself from wedding preparations, agreed to infiltrate the dormitories of the Temple of Keténgku to look for signs of Ninggáya. Initially, he found no evidence of her presence: her cell was empty and her belongings few. However, he eventually found her within the temple's precincts and approached her, asking what she was doing. She replied that she had "been wrong to flout tradition" and "knew better now." She would no longer be accompanying the characters southward when the time came as "my temple needs me." Reporting this back to the House of Worms clan raised further suspicions that she had been affected by a mind bar or similar spell to control her behavior. Kirktá then despaired that he had somehow brought about this turn of events. He headed to his Temple of Durritlámish to immerse himself in study. 

Less than a week remained until the wedding.


  1. Before or after the events of *Man of Gold* ? I always have wondered if Chtík p'Qwé survived.

    1. The current year in the campaign is 2356, but it's an alternate timeline from Tékumel Prime, so it's well before the events of Man of Gold (assuming those will even occur in my Tékumel).

  2. “As a devotee of hedonistic Hriháyal, Aíthfo was prepared to be shocked by her appearance and demeanor. Certainly she was beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, but she was also oddly restrained in her dress and demeanor – which in fact contributed considerably to her impressive natural gifts.”

    How did you handle this in game? An explicit description? And how did Aíthfo’s player convey his reaction?

    That episode with Elué baffles me too. All that to teach what was hopefully already obvious? No implicit threat or offer of assistance, either, so what was the point? Perhaps Aíthfo should have been a bit more inquisitive.

    1. I handled it through a combination of explicit description and building on the player's reaction to the scene.

      As for what Elué was actually up to, I couldn't say – not yet anyway. With luck, Aíthfo might be able to learn more before he and his clan mates depart Béy Sü.

    2. Thanks. Physical attraction between a PC and NPC is an awkward thing to game.

  3. On the subject of fishing, I was looking at the fourth issue of The Dragon again and ran across something I had failed to recall: page eleven consists of an illustration titled, “Ahoggyá out fishing one Sunday morning.” It’s using a spear.

    Of course, that doesn’t directly apply to what we were discussing but it’s presumably canonical.

    1. I recall seeing that at one point, but I am grateful for the reminder.