Friday, 27 November 2020

PARIAH DISCORD SESSION 19: THE TEMPLE OF WATER

This is a continuation of events in the EIGHTEENTH session of the ongoing PARIAH campaign on the Atelier Hwei discord server. This session took place on Saturday 14th November.

Eugene https://twitter.com/eakiselev playing as Nervously-Rides-the-Grave
- Oisín https://twitter.com/OisinoftheHill playing as Earnestly Wooded
- Semiurge http://archonsmarchon.blogspot.com/ playing as Witheringly-Footed-in-the-Point

To find out more about PARIAH please read this post:

https://aloneinthelabyrinth.blogspot.com/p/pariah-proto-neolithc-psychedelic.html 


DAY 21 (continued)
(CROW MOON WANING)

Wither swiftly caught up with the two pariahs, who has spent most the morning attempting to reach the Temple of Water. A spectacular sight greeted him: a broad 30' moat of rectilinear precision surrounded an inner wall of cut stones. 

The construction was far superior to anything any of the pariahs had yet witnessed.

They crossed over the causeway, and were unobstructed from entering until they arrived at the inner square. A young man in a blue cloak stood in front of a set of steps leading up to a raised platform. He answered many of their questions, apparently believing that it was some kind of test organised by his superiors, though they had officially announced themselves as envoys of Etau's settlement.

The blue-robed guard asked them first to keep their donkey, Dust, outside of the temple grounds, lest it eat their valuable plants. Once Dust was told to graze on the scrub around the temple,  the guard let them enter. He revealed the following information:

  • His name is Four, a priest of the Temple of Water.
  • His superiors include Twelve, Seven, Nine... but not all of the priests are named for numebrs.
  • 12 brothers and their followers founded the temple.
  • All the priests are male.
  • When a priest dies, an acolyte in wait takes his name.
  • The most senior priest is either 12 or Aiduk, neither of whom readily avails themselves.
  • All the priests are male, all the acolytes are boys..
  • Four does not understand questions about the Temple's age, purpose or construction.
  • The villagers they seek are located at the rear of the temple, where the non-priests are stationed.
  • Today is a funeral.

Four ushered them in a clockwise direction around the raised central square, to the rear of the temple where a funeral was taking place.

Hopelessly-Stalks-the-Pike

The pariahs soon uncovered some more information, after it was revealed to them that the funeral was for the person they had been coming to visit: Hopelessly-Stalks-the-Pike. They caught sight, briefly, of the mysterious Aiduk, looking down for a moment on the scene, but also spoke to an ancient and decrepit who it turned out was none other than Twelve.

Twelve revealed some more information, some explicitly, some implied:

  • He explained his role in the temple as a collector of stories.
  • 12 is of a similar standing to Aiduk, but the latter wields more day-to-day power.
  • The priesthood is keen to recruit more members.
  • Membership entails ritual castration (a priest forgoes the possibility of ever siring children of his own).
  • 12 appeared to view himself as a superior being (culturally) to both the pariahs and the "layfolk" (the term he used for the non-priest members of the temple).
The ritual of the funeral involved an elder leading a long and mournful chant in an unintelligible language, before a second figure painted with chalk decapitated the body, wrapped the head in cloth and took it to a special "house".

Food was placed before the pyre, and pyre ignited. Once fully ablaze and the odour of cremation in the air, the food was shared amongst the mourners. Rides interrogated the elder, finding that the language was one of the distant past, and the words connected to the passage of the ancestral spirit to its rightful resting place

It emerged that this elder had been the husband or partner of the deceased, and that before she had died Pike had been acting "crazy", speaking poorly of Aiduk and of the Water Priests in general.

Raising suspicions, the party inquired as to the cause of her death, to which he stated he awoke one morning to find her cold beside him, and though saddened he was relieved she had been put out of the misery of her "madness".

It also emerged that most of her accusations against Aiduk began when he started carrying a spider on his shoulder. He had not been seen without it since it joined him at some point around the previous moon.

Throughout the feasting and prior rites, the pariahs had noticed several occasions during which a young girl had been watching them. They decided not to approach her.

Leaving the Party

With many of the mourners distracted by the wake, and with no sign of the blue-robed priests the party thought they'd take a look around. The party decided to test the reactions of the priests to an invasion of the raised central square, initially by attempting to get Flute the mynah bird to land between the 3 towers. This was followed by a pause... and then the emergence of an angry priest. Wither encouraged the party to pretend to be drunk so they might avoid intense scrutiny... this merely antagonised the guard who called for Four, instructing him to fetch Seven.

With the pariahs feigning drunkenness, the guard-priest was anxious to get them out of the compound lest they empty their guts all over the sacred site.  As they made their way, they ran directly into Seven and Four. Seven was angered by their presence and they way in which they'd disingenuously interrogated Four. They were warned no to return without good reason, having paid their respects to Pike.

They collected Dust and left.

Setting Camp

The pariahs were unhappy and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of the irrigation channels, with fingers pointing towards Aiduk's pet spider being at the root of the sudden sabotaging of the rice paddies. It was felt by all 3 that the creature must be asserting special influence over him, with Rides resolving to conduct a ritual to partly unveil the truth.

The party crossed large tracts of deserted arable land,  electing to set up a small camp on the fringes of the jungle, with the temple visible faintly in the distance. While clearing some groundcover and building a firepile, they were alerted to the sound of someone approaching, and bows were drawn in defence.

The young girl from the temple, perhaps only 11 or 12 years old, emerged from the undergrowth, her hands held high.

She explained that she wanted to help them... to help her. 

Despite best intentions, the initial conversation ran aground when EW explained that he had witnessed the Lake Spirit. The girl as incredulous: the lake spirit lived in a mountain "at the top of the world" and laughed at EW's claims he had taken a canoe u pa  mountain.

Perhaps thinking the girl was in a state of panic (she wasn't), Rides-the-Grave invoked a spell-spirit to manifest as a delicate orchid. Explaining that they have done and seen some unreal things, he impresses her though there is a hint of fear. 

Presenting herself as Lion, she explained the following:
  • Pike was murdered: she's not sure how, but she suspects that it was the priests.
  • She believes this because only Pike was brave enough to speak out about the priests unusual behaviour... especially that of Aiduk, not least due to the unnaturalness of his pet spider.
  • Most importantly, she explains that the temple serves as an enormous shrine to the daughter-of-the-river, the spirit of a deep spring within the temple complex.
  • She explains that there is a western entrance to the temple, but that it is guarded.
  • There are several drains which can be used to access the temple from the moat. They are used as toilets.
  • The moat in the southwest corner is the safest, as the moat which runs the rest of the perimeter is patrolled by an enormous carp-like fish that eats anyone who isn't a priest.
The pariahs thank her for her assistance. She promises to come back and see them tomorrow, explaining she is perfectly safe to and free to leave the temple grounds during daylight hours. They wish her luck... but Rides takes back the flower, allowing her to keep a petal only.

They watched her leave and then did their best to rest: Rides-the-Grave made plans to perform a ritual that very night.

The Ritual

Rides had learned the ritual of invocation long ago, and had previously used it to invoke a spirit of nature in the hope it might reach Lake-in-the-Mountain and Fox-through-the-Spring.

This time he planned to invoke the spirit of the moon. The moon is the realm of knowledge and divination, and the pariahs had a question... many questions, actually, but they only had the power to ask one.

By the light of a waning, gibbous moon Rides gathered the following items:

* a bowl of milk (from Dust).
* a bowl of water.
* jasmine.
* the orchid he manifested for Lion.

He made a small fire and burned some sorcerers' sage. The smoke filled his lungs, and he became temporarily dizzy, the world shimmered with a faint white glow. As he turned his head he caught sight of ghosts dancing in his peripheral vision.

Holding his flint blade between his teeth he drew his the palm of his only hand across its edge, dripping blood into the milk and water.

It was midnight.

The liquid in each bowl trembled and shook, before forming two columns of liquid which intertwined in the air in front of Rides. The two columns formed a spinning disc, within which the image of the moon was visible, and within moments, a face... like an enormous head pushing at a sheet of fabric, its features obfuscated

What do you wish to know?
 "What is Aiduk's spider's nature?"      

It is the servant of the Great Spirit of the Forest

The liquid-disc collapsed into the two separate bowls, unspoiled by Rides' blood, of which no sign remains.

In the faint light of the fire, Wither sees something hanging from the trees... an enormous spider,, perhaps the size of a dog.

Arachnophobia

Wither alerted his comrades, and braced his spear for a charge. A second spider appeared to lower itself. Rides-the-Grave was weakened from the ritual and his recent spate of injuries, but he was able to summon the strength to invoke The Beyond by calling on the power of the band's ancestors  (specifically, Wither's ancestor) sending it towards the second spider as it made to charge him. The creature squealed as the spirit attempting to tear away its face, but still it continues.

A third spider descends: Earnestly-Wooded releases an arrow, which disappears into the undergrowth. The original spider reaches Wither but is impaled on his spear; the other two snap at Rides and EW with terrifying jaws, though both evade their attacks.

Wither expertly flicks the corpse of the spider from his spear, sending it careening into the giant spider facing Rides. With the creature prone, Rides was able to unleash hell with his flint knife, but the creature sank its jaws into his forearm. He was able to pull away before it released its venom, and a yellow trail of mucus spurted fruitlessly onto the ground.

Even at point blank range, EW was unable to land a shot with his bow. He too suffered a bite from the spider, but it was able to sink his venomous fangs into him. Disgusted, he finished the creature with his spear as Wither stabbed it from the back. Rides gutted the remaining creature.

Earnestly Wooded had good knowledge of poisons, and had a vague notion of what to do:

"Look, I don't have long, help me tighten the blood flow to my arm and..."

"...and?" 

"Suck the poison out."

Earnestly Wooded guts turned to jelly and his consciousness wavered: Wither clutched his shoulder as Rides worked on the wound, spitting out yellow venom and attempting to clean the wound with his wineskin.

Finally, EW collapsed. He was horribly sick, but he had survived.

They had survived.

* * *

The campaign continues at 

https://aloneinthelabyrinth.blogspot.com/2020/11/pariah-discord-session-20-isle-of-eagle.html

Purchase digital print edition of PARIAH at Soulmuppet:

https://soulmuppet-store.co.uk/products/pariah-volume-1

Download the art-free edition of PARIAH for no charge at the following well-known digital RPG stores:

https://atelier-hwei.itch.io/pariah-art-free

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