Episode Forty Eight - Ichtaca's Tale - Into the Worldfire
Episode Forty Eight- Ichtaca’s Tale – Into the Worldfire (Level 17)
Ichtaca – Played by Jared
Owl – Played by Mike
Tayyid – Played by Arick
Zyrr – Played by John
NPC’s – Played by Kristy
*Read this story first!
*Ichtaca has received a mysterious note from an unnamed person who knows of his quest to go into the worldfire and fulfill his promise to free Sarnoss and the spirits trapped there. Whomever this mysterious person is, the note promises a way to reach the worldfire. The note is written in a suspicious tone, making odd demands and posing a test that feels like a childish game. Ichtaca can reply to the writer by writing on the note in his own blood, (or dictating while Lali writes, since he is still illiterate.)The mysterious note, and what Ichtaca wrote on it in his own blood
*Ichtaca listens carefully to the advice of his three favorite wives, and decides to attend court that day after all, and try to catch the mysterious wizard in his own trap, if it turns out to be one. He invites his fiery wife-concubine Lady Pashi to court with him today, but the rest of his wives are with the children, under close guard until this matter is resolved. Ichtaca readies himself for adventure, packs his bag, and kisses his large family goodbye, just in case he is swept away immediately to the worldfire when he meets this wizard. Standing around his throne with him, ready to join him in his quest, are three loyal vassals of his Ixa’hal, men bound to him by fealty and friendship. Pashi stalks through the courtiers and petitioners, in and out of the throne room, the great entry hall, and all the waiting rooms, expecting trouble.
*Ichtaca places the whip of Imbakao on his lap, in plain sight and ready to use in a moment. Then he meets with petitioners as normal, listening to and resolving issues from the mundane to the grave. He’s uneasy; something about the vast chamber feels off today. He can’t be sure it isn’t just nerves, however. Then, his court assistant whispers in his hear, bringing three particular persons to his attention. A young man claims to be his son, and wants to meet him and petition for legitimacy. A member of the eitharmos seeks to meet privately with him. A strange man, possibly a sorcerer, dressed in an owl costume, is walking in the front gates of the palace complex, and the guards have stopped him, and would like to know if he may be admitted. He wishes to be presented to the emperor. Ichtaca shifts into his spirit-vision, ready to solve this mystery, and demands that all three persons be presented to him here, in court, right now.
*Zyrr Aduren is a handsome young man of twenty, half Trentsmunder and half Norlythin by descent, with dark brownish-black hair, tan skin, and striking blue eyes. He walks with the grace of a trained warrior, and carries two striking, jagged black swords crossed on his back. He’s terribly shy and awkward however, stammering when put on the spot. He’s dressed simply, in worn leather armor and homespun clothes suitable for what he is; the half-breed son of a peasant miner, raised outside a remote village out in the mountain wilds of the Norlythe, somewhere between the Sundered Valley (Iquetzalarátl) and the dwarf stronghold; Ykhel. He is terribly nervous to be presented in front of all the court, but shyly introduces himself as the grandson of Rom Aduren, of a family that has mined silver outside of the Norlythin mining town of Notozlapi for generations. The family are Trentsmunder by descent, but Norlythin in nationality. His mother was Vesma Aduren, and this name Ichtaca remembers fondly. She was a sweet, beautiful young girl of 16 when the Maquetl tribe passed through that area, the summer Ichtaca turned 17.
When he asks why Vesma never told him he had a son, Zyrr explains that she died just after giving birth to him, with time enough only to give him a name, after the Goltalamir pirate captain in her favorite romantic adventure novel. Zyrr is a self-educated bibliophile, but also hardened and fit from a solitary life spent mining, tracking, and hunting in the mountains. He carries all that he owns with him in a pack. Ichtaca sees much of himself in the boy, but also much of his lost mother. It’s confusing how such a one could have learned the sword, but he doubts that this young man is sophisticated enough to have written that note. Looking through his spirit-vision, however, he’s alarmed to find that Zyrr’s soul is encased in red-orange flames. It bears further study, but he believes Zyrr to be honest in his declared intentions, and he feels a familial connection. He acknowledges Zyrr before the court as a legitimate offspring, and invites him to sit at his feet, on the lower dais around his throne. (A cultural gesture of familial acceptance.) Snowball flops down by Zyrr, keeping an eye on the young man.
*Tayyid Aru’je is a member of the eitharmos, dressed and hooded in black, with ceremonial black bandages over his seven sacred wounds, marked in sacred red embroidery. He seems displeased to be presented publically in court, but submits to the scrutiny wordlessly. He hands Ichtaca a letter. Ichtaca pretends to read it, then calls Pashi to his side, asking her what she thinks, so she can lean in and murmur her council privately in his ear. She’s actually reading it to him, of course. It’s a letter from his holiness Chorrom Caral Viln. Viln says that dangerous times are upon them, and the Lord of the Winter Fallows is prophesied to rise again soon. He would be remiss in his duty to his god, if he did not provide some protection for each of those whom Daemoth has declared to him to be essential to his great work. To each of these “protected vassals” of Daemoth, Viln has sent a bodyguard, hand-picked from among the eithalim who are loyal to “daemoth’s chosen mouthpiece in Vinramar.” Tayyid, Viln says, is a decorated Aru’je within his order, a man both accomplished and pious. His extensive experience, impressive skills, and absolute devotion to Lord Lachmarum’s holy will will make him the ideal bodyguard for Daemoth’s chosen emperor, Ichtaca. Ichtaca reviews that message with a sour taste in his mouth. He’s been thwarting the Daemothite sects in and around the Norlythe, but Viln as an “ally” remains both an asset and an annoyance. He questions Tayyid carefully, knowing that the eitharmos do have divine magic, through Maruma’e and her exarch, Mezeliar Wroth. His soul does have the faint mark of divine, aberrant magic about it, but Tayyid is close-mouthed and mysterious. Pashi is glaring bloody murder at the member of the organization that has massacred those of her faith for generations, and which killed her first two husbands. She wants to kick in his head. Ichtaca might humor her in this desire under any other circumstances, but this man has been presented to him publicly in court, as a gift from an “ally”, Chorrom Viln. He can’t refuse without causing a diplomatic incident. He also can’t decide if this man is the person who wrote the note. He asks Tayyid to stand quietly to one side while he deals with the third strange person of the day. Tayyid looks suspiciously around him at everyone present, already on the lookout for threats against the man his sacred oaths require him to protect.
*The Owl is 7 feet tall, broad-shouldered, vaguely humanoid beneath a concealing cape, but with the great, feathered round head of a white barn owl. He has great round black eyes and a hard grey beak, and a way of looming over humans and holding perfectly still, while turning his head upside-down or sliding it bonelessly off to the side to examine things. A cape of feathers flows down from the face the guards thought to be a mask; black and white flecked, with feathers flowing around and past his arms and legs so his hands or feet are hidden unless he reveals them. The cape is closed entirely in front, with vaguely wing-like sleeves. He moves with an unnatural blended gait, mingled between something like an eladrin’s grace and an owl. His left hand and right foot are talon-like, and his right hand and left foot seem humanoid, eladrin perhaps, but are completely covered in a flecked glove or boot that blends in with the feathers. He speaks in a dry, whispery voice like wind, difficult to understand without concentrating. He answers Ichtaca’s questions briefly and cryptically, as if certain topics (like most of his past before this moment) are forbidden to him under holy oath. He seems loathe to touch anyone, hissing when someone brushes against him, as if it burns him.
When questioned, he claims to be a paladin of Forlortha, of no particular religion. He seems to have been sent by one of her exarchs because Ichtaca helped cure the Némelethe, as a thank you bodyguard on this particular quest. He implies that he was an eladrin once, before he became only “The Owl.” He also implies that although he must assist Ichtaca, and will die to protect him on this quest if needs be, the exarch who “bound” him to this fate, and ordered him to do this, is not a pleasant or sane person. He seems under a curse of sorts; unable to speak of his past and other forbidden subjects, unable to touch others without pain, and unable to use proper nouns, except for the words “Forlortha”, “Némelethe”, and a few others directly related to this story. When Ichtaca looks at The Owl with his spirit-vision, he sees a soul that mirrors the shape of the Owl’s body, but with something a bit off about it, a strong arcane-divine magic that he’s not seen mark a soul before. This could be his wizard, but if so, how did his note use specific names, which this poor creature seems unable to use?
*Ichtaca intensifies his spirit-vision now, seeing, in a three-dimensional overlay, all the souls in the palace, but focusing on those of the three strange characters before him now. He studies Zyrr’s flame-wrapped soul, Tayyid’s, faintly marked by aberrant divinity, and The Owl’s, marinating in both arcane and divine magic. Then he notices a sort of subtle energy moving just at the edge of perception in his spirit sight, like mist around the feet of everyone in the room. He focuses on that and sees, not mist, but great piles of glassy tendrils, heaped up around everyone here, on every surface, and running into and out of the heads of most of the persons here. He recognizes it with disgust and horror. It’s the hair of Mezeliar Wroth. Wroth wrote that note; the note Ichtaca had Lali write on for him, each answer written in his own blood.
*Ichtaca dismisses his court, so that only himself, Pashi, Snowball, the three vassals of his Ixa’hal, and his three strange visitors remain in the throne room. Along with Mezeliar Wroth, or at least the exarch’s hair. He challenges Wroth in a loud voice, angry with the mad exarch, and angry with himself for playing along with the exarch’s mad games. The sound of Wroths’ amused, laughter resonates in each of their minds, the aberrant nature of that voice causing pain. Wroth teasingly answers some of Ichtaca’s questions, broadcasting his telepathic replies to each person left in the room. Wroth snakes out a filament to touch the foreheads of Ichtaca, Zyrr, Tayyid, and the Owl, speaking to each of them in a voice the others are meant to overhear, despite several dramatic stage whispers.
*With Icthaca, he elaborates on what he said in the mysterious note, that he knows of three ways for mortals to reach the inside of the worldfire, besides the dreamscape, which is no longer safe for anyone, mortal or not. That an exarch of Sarnoss told him of Icthaca’s neglected quest to go there and free Sarnoss.
*Tayyid reacts to Wroth with reverence and submissive devotion. Wroth says he has an entire scrying window dedicated just to Tayyid, because he’s so enjoyed watching his work. He calls him a truly gifted artist of extraordinary talent, and a joy to watch. He then whispers loudly, “Does the Emperor know about your ‘intimate’ relationship with his beloved sister?” Tayyid merely smiles and bows his head at that.
*Wroth treats Zyrr as an object of extreme interest, and openly wishes that he had met him first, some other person he refers to as “an unsubtle interloper” discovered Zyrr’s potential. “What a pair we two might have forged!” He mourns.
*When Wroth touches Owl, he laughs in delight. He tells him he’s loved watching him, and hopes he will be just as amusing in the future. Then he asks him, “Have you told them who you really are? Oh, I see you can’t!”
*Ichtaca, tired of being toyed with, demands to know what Wroth is really here for. Then, Empress Izel comes running into the throne room, shaking and pale. The children are gone, she says, all of them, and Lali too. They vanished into thin air. Wroth reminds Ichtaca of the wording of the note. When Ichtaca put the whip of Imbakao in his lap openly in court, he apparently agreed to the abduction of all of his descendants able to fit through a particular hole Wroth found in the worldfire, including his pregnant wife.
*Ichtaca demands to be taken to his family at once, but Wroth sighs and explains that sadly, only those under a certain size, perhaps 150 pounds, could possibly fit through that hole and come out the other side unharmed. The edges are sharp, and only someone of his skill could have gotten even the “little” ones he took through safely, wrapped in tendrils. He sighs again, saying he thought Ichtaca might object to that method, as he’d hinted in the note. Perhaps he’d like to hear the other two?
*Trapped now, Ichtaca demands to know what the other two promised means of transportation are. Wroth promptly demonstrates one by killing the three loyal warriors standing ready to accompany their lord into the worldfire. As his tendrils rip through them, Wroth tells Ichtaca not to fret, that his men are flying to the worldfire even now, as do the spirits of all the dead these days. Ichtaca is furious. Wroth chides him with the words of the note again, that he warned him the journey would be a deadly one. He promises to send him still with three companions, but ones he finds “fitting,” meaning more interesting ones.
*Wroth feigns surprise that Ichtaca doesn’t like either of the means of transportation demonstrated, but soothes him with the offer of one “befitting his demanding specificity”, meaning a method of of transportation by which grown mortal men of any size might enter the worldfire alive and unharmed, with no negative or lasting effects of any kind applied to them by the means of travel. As Wroth complains about how he’s trying to help, and how difficult to please Ichtaca is being, the Emperor can almost feel the unstated price for all of this increasing. Carmenith (a frequent visitor) has told him about what happened to Vash and Tobias when Wroth carried them to his throne room, and Ichtaca specifies that the tendrils should be “non-intrusive.”
*Wroth now offers to wrap Ichtaca, Zyrr, Tayyid, and The Owl in “non-intrusive” tendrils, carrying them to Icarasla’s tomb, where the veil between the dimensions is thin, and one of Ichtaca’s spirit power can pass through into the high realm. He will then provide a single filament for them to follow, leading them through the wilderness to a high mountain, and lending them speed and a “measure of protection” along the way. In the high realm, this mountain is far larger than it is in the material realm. At its peak, the heroes may cross into the worldfire, with breathable air to enjoy the whole way up. Ichtaca questions Wroth suspiciously, seeing no other choice but to agree. That awful nightmare he had makes sense now. His children, at least little Xoco, could be in immediate danger from “the great hunt.” He doesn’t know if it was a foretelling of the future, but he can’t risk it, and Chamanaltia is not here to consult. He doesn’t have time to wait for Tobias to arrive with better options.
*Ichtaca, Snowball, Zyrr, Tayyid, and the Owl are enveloped by tendrils and swept away to Icarasla’s tomb, where Ichtaca calls on his spirit magic to carry them into the high realm, where the spirits of the honored dead roam, solid to each other, but ghost-like to the embodied heroes. The high realm is an unspoiled wilderness version of the same landscape, unmarked by civilization, and with a few differences, like the huge mountain. It’s a harrowing journey through the wilderness, following that glassy thread. Wroth is true to his word, they seem hastened and partially sheltered by some magic, coming to the peak of the mountain in only three days, and avoiding the full freezing brunt of an early blizzard on the mountainside. Zyrr, Tayyid and Owl all repeatedly prove themselves willing to risk death to save Ichtaca. Zyrr is anxious to impress his father and win his affection. He’s a quiet but efficient tracking companion, never complaining, and showing a hardy, athletic determination. When a rockfall threatens Ichtaca, he dives to push his father aside to avoid a rockfall, only to have the bad luck to be struck in the head himself. Ichtaca, simply standing against the tide, has to save him. Tayyid is devoutly following the command of Daemoths “chosen” Chorrom, and is convinced his god wills Ichtaca to live for reasons he has no need to know or question. He takes out a huge snake that threatens the party, making a show of his skill, while pretending (unsuccessfully) that he has no idea the group is watching him. Ichtaca asks him about his “intimate” relationship with his sister (Ichtaca has many of those), but Tayyid lies, refusing to identify the sister or say a word on the matter. Ichtaca knows he’s lying, but, unwilling to force a confrontation, lets the matter drop. The Owl’s motivations to protect Ichtaca are less clear. He’s bound to the quest by the command of some unknown exarch, but he seems genuinely devoted to Ichtaca. He is creepy and alien in his movements, daily activities, and conversation, but proves his worth as a scout. He nearly falls from the mountain-side, Ichtaca catches him with spirit-vines, getting another impression of the arcane-divine magic in his strange-looking soul. Snowball likes Zyrr, hates Tayyid, and treats the Owl with the same predatory fixation she might a feather dangling on a string.
*Through these three days, they stop only to sleep a few hours each night, pushing themselves to the limits of human endurance. None of his companions are particularly prone to conversation, and Ichtaca has ample time to think. Maddening though it is, he realizes that Wroth is doing him a favor, and surely considers himself to have already done at least two more since Ichtaca put the whip in his lap and unknowingly agreed to this infuriating deal. Thinking about the price he might demand in return makes Ichtaca’s skin crawl, but he feels that he has no other choice. As he follows the tentacle thread through the wilderness, Ichtaca keeps thinking of the words of that letter, and what Wroth actually meant by them.
*Finally, they reach the worldfire. They pass through a mass of viscous threads of multi-colored light, some fine as hair, others thick around as buildings. It’s beautful, but pulsing with primal magic, and difficult and disorienting to pass through. They get separated, though Tayyid manages to stay by Ichaca’s side through the passage. On the other side, they find themselves in a vast, primeval forest, stepping right into the path of a huge boar. The boar’s body teems with long black worms, writhing through its eyes, mouth, nose and flesh to create a horrible monstrosity. The worms endow it with strength and power, and erupt out of it, piling up to form dangerous swarms that seek to infect the heroes. They find themselves fighting twelve worm-swarms along with the massive boar. They manage to defeat it, but all have been infected by the worms, and they have been traveling hard with little rest for three days straight. They are in desperate need of a full night’s sleep.
*They make camp for the night, each with unanswered questions about their companions.
*Wroth’s note for Ichtaca
*Ichtaca’s new Ixa’hal: three companions to quest with him into the worldfire! What a treasure!