Episode Fifty - Ichtaca's Tale - The Great Hunt
Episode Fifty – Ichtaca’s Tale – The Great Hunt (Level 17)
Ichtaca – Played by Jared
Owl – Played by Mike
Tayyid – Played by Arick
Zyrr – Played by John
NPC’s – Played by Kristy
*In the clifftop camp, Owl, Tayyid, Ichtaca, and Lali discuss matters while Zyrr tosses and turns, in and out of consciousness in a high fever. Owl and Ichtaca go off to track down this mysterious druid Nahualle, who has been helping Lali and the children. They come upon him in the woods, using druidic magic to make the tracks and scent trail of the children lead in a different direction, to divert the great hunt. Owl hides, watching, as Ichtaca approaches the druid and talks with him. Nahualle was running with the great hunt, he says, when Sarnoss turned on Ñandu (the spider exarch) as well as Ñandu’s vassals, Nahualle and his sister, Iquitini. Ñandu and Iquitini were infected, so Sarnoss drove them from the hunt and made them prey, and drove Nahualle away with them. They’ve split up and are running from it. Nahualle doesn’t say much, but invites Ichtaca to hunt with him. They catch a huge elk to bring back to the camp, and Nahualle turns into a huge spider to carry it back. He gives Ichtaca the wrong impression at first, telling him how beautiful Lali is, telling him that he noticed this right away, and that is why he befriended the group. When Ichtaca asks him if he’s expecting favors in return for his protection, the great spider laughs. He explains that he caught his sister, Iquitini, tracking a large group of children and a beautiful woman. Iquitini was burned as a child, and has always been jealous of beautiful women, he warns Ichtaca. Now, she has the corruption worms, and the madness is making that jealousy murderous. He would feel personally responsible if he did not prevent his kinswoman from attacking Lali, so he has taken the group under his protection, and warned Iquitini off. He warns Ichtaca to be cautious as well. Iquitini is completely mad, and dangerous.
*Tayyid, meanwhile, takes advantage of Ichtaca and Owl’s hours long absence. Lali is caught up with the 350 young charges, and can’t possibly watch all of them at once. He picks out a 10 year old boy, an orphan from the Avan enclaves, who is hauling water in hide water-skins back and forth to camp, and is alone in the woods by the stream for part of each trip. Iamtli does not recognize Tayyid as a member of the eitharmos, as Tayyid has been cloaked for most of his time in the camp. Tayyid wins his trust by helping with the chore, and answers questions craftily enough so that Iamtli thinks he’s speaking with an Avan Agent, one who works with “mamma Pashi”, and who helps protect the orphans on their annual pilgrimage to Maricualatan to visit their adoptive father. Tayyid questions him about routes and distances and means of travel, all in ways that seem as if he already knows what he’s discussing. Over the course of a few hours, he gains useful information about an Avan enclave near Binbarra, including key landmarks nearby, and general defenses. He also learns about an Avan enclave being constructed under Maricualatan, and several other waystations used as teleportation hubs along the route from Binbarra to the enclave nearest Marcualatan, a days march for children from the city, passing landmarks he knows. The child doesn’t know passphrases or map coordinates, but he does know enough to seriously compromise his protectors without realizing it. Tayyid tells the boy he was being tested, and that he failed the test. Iamtli, desperate to impress his adoptive father, is told how disappointed Ichtaca will be, and how furious mamma Pashi will be. He’s convinced to not say anything about his failure, but runs off crying.
*Zyrr tosses and turns in his sleep, scratching at his chest, as fate twists around him. In the distance, the great hunt, tracking the adventureres, is meeting with bad luck, though the heros won’t discover this until later. Now, as Ichtaca and Owl return to the camp with Nahualle, Owl goes to check on Zyrr, Nahualle begins work on a protective web around the camp, and fate brings Ichtaca directly into the path of his weeping orphan son Iamtli, in a camp of 350 children.
*Iamtli cannot keep a secret from his much-admired father, and confesses all. Ichtaca masks his fury with Tayyid, and chides the child for revealing so much. He’s not too harsh. After a lecture, he sends Iamtli off, telling him to go to Pashi when they return, and she will set him a chore as punishment for discussing such matters with anyone unknown to him. He goes to find Lali, explaining what’s going on, and asking her to warn the children not to talk to Tayyid. She agrees, but Tayyid is still at work. Over the next few hours, he’s deceived and grilled four more children, all about ten, old enough to know telling geographic and demographic information, but young enough to be easily manipulated. During his watch, Owl notices Tayyid speaking to the children, and follows him closely enough to annoy Tayyid and disrupt his information gathering. He reports the eitharmos hunter’s activities to Ichtaca in the morning. Tayyid, meanwhile, takes time to pray to Daemoth, thinking Chorrom Viln truly is divinely inspired, for sending him to guard Ichtaca, and truly sending him into such a goldmine of information. The Norlythe has been difficult to breach since the new emperor took over, with his cagey Avan wife Pashi. He will likely be promoted for bringing so many coveted targets into the reach of full military assault.
*After the first real night’s sleep they’ve had in days, Zyrr is much better. He’s taken Tayyid’s medicine, and Owl has tended him through the night. Nahualle has woven a dome of spiderweb over the camp, and remains to guard the door. Ichtaca kisses Lali goodbye, telling her that if he doesn’t return, he loves her. The adventurers set out to hunt the great hunt, and find them before they are found. They manage to loop around behind the pack, and find tracks of huge predatory animals, dangerous herbivores, and human hunters, all running together as a great pack. The tracks include those of a lion the size of a house. The hunt seemed to lose the trail sometime in the night, around when Zyrr’s chest was burning, and lost about six hours, from the signs.
*Despite Zyrr’s distraction and Tayyid’s taking advantage of it to quiz him about the kithari spring near his home village, Ichtaca and Owl are closing the gap, with Snowball a valuable tracking help. They come up behind the hunt without being seen. Ichtaca shouts out a challenge to Sarnoss, and the animals wheel around, closing around them in a terrifying circle of hungry predators locked in the bloodlust of the great hunt. Any predator or dangerous animal native to the Norlythe is present, and those who have run longest with the hunt have grown to massive proportions. Sarnoss leaps forward, thundering into the ground before Ichtaca with a mighty roar. The god of nature is furious with his would-be savior. He’s waited ten years for Ichtaca to fulfill his promise and free him from the worlfire, and has devised his own method. He will devour every soul here, growing in power until he is able to devour the worldfire himself. Ichtaca argues well, but Sarnoss confronts him on these railroads he has brought into a land consecrated to the nature god. Ichtaca speaks of how his civilization has been an example to others on how to live in harmony with nature, but Sarnoss roars out that all nature would be better off if he devoured all civilizations, as he tried to do a hundred years ago and was interfered with. The companions try to speak up and defend Icthaca, and Ichtaca himself speaks eloquently, but it is little use. Sarnoss notes that Tayyid reeks of Daemoth and Wroth, that Zyrr reeks of Gauren, and that these are poor allies. He approves of Owl, who smells of his ally Forlortha, but this does not temper his fury with Ichtaca. Snowball stands in her human’s defense, but whatever she says does not impress Sarnoss.
*Sarnoss devours Ichtaca, and Snowball, Owl and Tayyid leap to defend him, but are batted aside by the god. Zyrr can only stare in open-mouthed horror as his father is eaten. For the first time, he willingly draws on the fate of his contract, asking for luck to intervene on his father’s behalf. It seems to have no effect. Ichtaca is devoured whole, leaving only a smear of blood behind. The huge lion turns on the others, but does not touch them, telling his ravenous pack that these ones are not “ripe" enough yet, and that out of respect to Ichtaca, they will leave them alive for now..
*Green spirit mist rises up from the bloodstain, and drifts off through the forest. Snowball charges after it, and the three shocked heroes have no other idea what to do except to follow her.
*Ichtaca feels himself die, then his spirit drifting to some far off place, about to rise up from the soil as a reborn spirit made flesh. Then the luck of Zyrr intervenes, pulling his spirit to be reformed near the place of his death, instead of leagues or continents away in the vast worldfire. He feels his body reforming, his gear lying around him on the forest floor, solid and real, but drenched in the primal energies of the worldfire, more potent and powerful than he was before. A spirit-projection of Sarnoss appears to him, apologizing for the necessity of eating him, but telling him that he earned it. He then explains that by eating him, Sarnoss has absorbed the worldfire energy within him (from eating meat here) and also given more back to him, linking the two of them together as if with an invisible umbilical. Now, when Sarnoss leaves the worldfire, Ichtaca, like the other souls who have been devoured, will be drawn safely along behind Sarnoss, arriving in the high realm of Vinramar. Sarnoss is a great predator, and is driven partly by an instinct to survive, devouring these souls to gain power, yes, but also to bind them to him so he can save them. His method will take years, though. Ichtaca can free him much more quickly, and Sarnoss still wants him to do so.
*Sarnoss chides him for dealing with Wroth, who has been teasing the great lion in his captivity, and whom he despises. He offers to take Ichtaca’s contract to himself, becoming his new debtor, in exchange for removing this railroad system in his lands. Ichtaca talks him down into simply greatly reducing the run-times, and re-building to make the lines passable by animal migration routes. Sarnoss takes Wroth’s note, placing a bloody pawprint on the paper, and all of Ichtaca’s words disappear. His debt is now to the great lion, who willingly challenges Maruma’e’s annoying exarch.
*Sarnoss now offers him a new bargain. He will not devour his family, or his new Ixa’hal, distasteful as they are. He will instead send him to hunt the sovereign stag, Mazati, who is the source of the corruption worms. Ichtaca must find out more of the details of Mazati’s bargain with Wroth, and then kill the stag, freeing him from the corruption’s madness. Ichtaca must also seek out Nahualle and his sister Iquitini, both of whom were infected by their master Ñandu, the spider-exarch. Nahualle has a magical net he and his sister made with Ñandu, the Ñandu’ti, an artifact that could be used in conjunction with the whip of Imbakao to bring Ichtaca’s family, and all of the souls in the worldfire whom Sarnoss has not yet devoured, safely down to Vinramar, releasing the spirit of the worldfire at the same time. Sarnoss must leave, the great hunt is on the track of the corrupted exarch of eagles.
*The others arrive to see a resurrected and glowing Ichtaca, putting on his gear and talking to what seems like thin air. Snowball knocks him over to greet him with her raspy tongue, and the others are all glad to see him, but react with varying enthusiasm.
*Knowing that Nahualle is corrupted, Ichtaca sets off at once to go back to his family, telling the others what’s going on on the way. Nahualle is still guarding the dome over the camp, and the family is unharmed. The druid insists that he’s fine, but says that if Sarnoss believes he is, it explains why he too was driven from the great hunt. He listens to Ichtaca’s tale, allowing Owl to flood his body with radiant energy, and several worms do writhe out of him, alarming him greatly. His body has been fighting it off, but he does indeed have the corruption. He immediately demands first that Owl purge him again, and, knowing what Sarnoss will have demanded of Ichtaca, removes his cape and calmly asks him if there is anything he wishes to know before he beheads him. Ichtaca questions him about the Ñandu’ti, which Nahualle says was stolen by Iquitini. Nahualle promises to try to come find him with whatever souls he can gather, and Ichtaca kills him quickly, knowing that his spirit will rise up again elsewhere in the worldfire, free of the corruption. Suddenly, Owl and Ichtaca realize that Zyrr and Tayyid are not with them. They fell behind and got separated. They charge off to find them.
*Meanwhile, Zyrr and Tayyid were barely missed by a fallen log, and then took the wrong path while trying to catch up with the other two. They find Iquitini at the same time Owl and Ichtaca find Nahualle. “The weaver” has been completely taken by the worms, her body half-spider, half woman, but entirely corrupted with teeming parasites. She launches webs full of worms at them, and tears at them with lances of hardened spider-silk. She’s taken over a muddy hill and surrounded herself with a moat of corruption worms. it’s a tough fight, even after Ichtaca and Owl catch up. The heroes must reach her without sliding down the mud and into the worm-moat, all while being snared in webs, showered with gouts of worms, and struck with lances. When pressed, Iquitini turns into a huge swarm of spiders and worms, enveloping all but Ichtaca and Snowball, who strike as they can from the outside while Tayyid blinks away and carves a path through the spiders, Owl burns with the sacred light of Forlortha and Zyrr erupts in flame, searing his allies as well as his foes. Finally, Iquitini is slain, her spirit freed to be reborn elsewhere in the worldfire, whole and uncorrupted. Ichtaca finds the Ñandu’ti in her posession, a silken net the size of a head scarf.
*The adventurers head back to camp to rest and heal, with both Tayyid and Zyrr re-infected with the worms.
*Ichtaca has been noticing some odd things about Owl, these clues to Owls Secret are being emailed secretly. (Everyone can see them later, but Jared gets first crack, since he’s about to leave us for Dental School!)
*The Ñandu’ti, or Nahualle’s net.
*Ichtaca was reborn with a boon from Sarnoss (+2 bonus to his defenses.)
*Tayyid has gathered intelligence on Avan Enclaves and a Kithari Spring. Will he get this information to the Eitharmos before Ichtaca gets a warning to the Avans?