Saturday, November 23, 2013

Khareo's Tale #7 - Fairies and lizards

Shadows in the night

Karim, self-portrait.
Karim was shuffling in the dark on his way back from a day's work. He knew that something was wrong, but couldn't explain why until he heard the muffled steps of feet on the pavement. He slipped behind a pile of refuse and let the shape of two hooded men walk away. Something was indeed wrong: He could smell danger. 

They came back a few minutes later as he resumed his walk. This time, there was no way to hide: the hooded men came from ahead and from behind. Karim climbed up a waterspout and reached the roof of a building. Four hooded men arrived and saw him slip away. Karim was scared. He peered down to try to find out who his pursuer were. 

Leila was a tree fairy. She had little to worry about for as long as her plum tree remained a secret. That night, she was fluttering over the sleeping city when she spotted a panting boy on the roof of a house. Below, there was a number of agitated hooded men. 

Curisosity got the best of her as she flew down to see what was going on. She could see three men. She flicked her fingers an lit the nose of one of them with a bright light. The light revealed the face of a lizard. Leila felt the cold in her hands, but mustered enough mana to summon more magic. Dust flitted from her hand but got swept away in the wind. The lizardmen were startled by this sudden light and stopped paying attention. Karim took advantage of this distraction to climb down on the other side of the house. 

Leila guided Karim through the streets without showing herself. When they got close to Kassandra's home, she became visible.  She led the way through dark streets until they were safe as the hooded lizardmen were converging all around. Kassandra shut the door, hid Karim under the table and held her breath. The footsteps grew distant down the street. 

There was something about this boy that she couldn't put her finger on. 

Kitchen party

Once that the hooded lizardmen had wandered away, Karim came out from under the table. Kassandra, offered him something to eat. He accepted gladly. Leila made herself visible for a moment and the three properly introduced themselves. 

Karim as a cat.
From the upper level, they could hear footsteps coming their way. Karim, in panic, involuntarily turned into a cat. He left behind a small pile of clothes on the seat as he darted into another room. Kassandra immediately figured out that Karim had, like her, faeric ascendency. The abduction attempt thus was anything but a random act. She, herself of faeric blood, remembered well how how parents forbid her from wandering in the streets at night.  

The Lothal sisters and their bodyguard, Horatio, joined Kassandra. Once that Leila figured out that the Solaans boarders were good people, she revealed herself. Kassandra gave Karim his clothes back, and invited him to stay as a guest. 

She caught a glimpse of the lizardmen walking the the street from the safety of her 2nd story window. The hooded creatures were temple guards. It may be a good time to interrupt this narrative for a brief lecture about Xia, the oracle of Lorthalen.

Historical notes on the Oracle of Lorthalen

Xia was an oracle that lived in a tall stone spire beside the island of Lorthalen. She had a strong following in the Lehland nation: a nation from the Southland with a culture similar to that of North Africans. The island itself was inhabited by the Xonos people, akin to ancient greeks. Xia used to make a single oracle per year, and usually her omen suggested a way to bring down the Solar empire. The Solar Emperor, fed up after decades of relentless threats, moved in with an army and established the Governership of Lorthalen. The emperor since forbid to enter the temple and collects taxes on the inhabitants.

The spire was sealed and no one could get in or out of the building for about 10 years. Despite this, each year on oracle day, Lehland pilgrims pressed against the gates in hope to be let in once more. Kassandra had never see a temple guard before. However, she guessed that the lizardmen were coming out of the spire in search of something or someone.

Oracle day was to (convenienly) be on the following day. 

Costume parade into the temple

The temple guards came back once or twice, but the friends decided to keep still. There must have been a good number of them in the streets that night. They decided that they should try to investigate the temple on the following day since there was a chance that the door may be opened. Martha interrogated the stars, but didn't get any answers.

They left Kassandra's home in the morning and headed for the temple. The bazaar was incredibly busy. Leila was sitting on Kassandra's shoulder, keeping invisible. There were hundreds of Lehland people pressing against a thin cordon of Solaan soldiers. The soldiers, visibly intimidated by the crowd, broke rank and let them pour through the bridge towards the spire. Suprisingly, the gate of the temple opened and people began to rush in. 

The company decided to purchase colorful Lehland outfits and follow the crowd inside. The market was full of places to buy clothes, this was the easy part. Things got trickier when they joined the crowd and tried to blend in. Someone stepped on Martha's foot and she loudly exclaimed in Solaan to back off (she also said something about waffles?). Horatio, sensing danger, pulled his sabre partway off its scabbard. Kassandra used her faeric magic to "erase" Martha from the scene and whisked her away from attention. Horatio threw a mad eye at the crowd. He showed enough resolve that the pilgrims meekly turned a blind eye and resumed their shoving march into the temple.

Into the temple of the oracle

The temple beyond the door was one large circular room. The room was probably as large as the base of the spire. There was no other doors, but a circular pool in the centre with crystal clear blue water. Lights were shining from its depth. 

Leila. The weather outside is partially cloudy, with
a few lunar breakout!
Horatio, mindful of security, realized too late that the company was drawn deep into the hall, away from the door. The pilgrims formed concentric circles around the pool. They began chanting. To most pilgrims, the light in the pool was uneven. However, Kassandra, Karim and Leila, could see small blue lights coming out of it. The light wandered up over their heads. Kassandra, a skilled singer, picked up on the song and joined the chorus. The beautiful singing attracted the lights to her. She could then see that the light were small fairies.

The fairies looked sad, there was something terribly mournful about them. When the blue fairies saw Laila, they seemed agitated. Leila flew to one of them. The blue fairy first didn't want to talk, but gestured strangely. Leila used her best fairy charms to persuade the fairy to talk. This was when the blue fairy urged Leila to leave because she was in great danger. A burst of bubbles puffed from the surface of the pool. The pilgrims were mostly oblivious to this, although some were startled. Horatio was then making concrete plans to find a way to get everyone out of the hall. 

Leila, still invisible, flew down to Kassandra's ear and passed the warning along. Kassandra attracted the other's attention. By then, a giant snake made of water rose from the pool. The snake was sniffing the air, searching among the pilgrims for something

The snake found it: Leila felt very small as the snake darted forward with its mouth open.

Great game for new players! Lets see where this will go in the next session! Thanks a bunch for the artwork!

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