Episode Forty Three - Ichtaca and his Íxahal
Episode Forty Three – Ichtaca and his Íxahal (Level 16)
(Much of this session dealt with events during the day leading up to the evening of the party)
*It’s the day before the party, and Ambassador Losoran Anelathem has not replied to any of Vash’s messages through the sending pouch. The heroes are worried.
*Vash has a scene here.
*Darius receives a note from King Halden Thandemar. He was a trusted friend of the king growing up, and Halden relies on him for advice. He asks him to bring Ichtaca to his quarters, to discuss a delicate matter. Once there, they learn that the King has just received alarming news. His uncle, the former Duke-regent Alben Bergeth, has escaped from prison and is here with a small army of loyalists, desecrating the tomb of Ichtaca’s grandfather, Chief Icarasla, posthumously declared Emperor and Husband of Empress Xoco. The tomb is a sacred place of meditation for the spirit elders . People come here to commune with their ancestors, and say they can hear the voices of the dead speak to them. Many priceless and historical cultural artifacts are stored in those caverns, making the tomb a sort of heritage museum as well. The duke’s actions are a blatant attempt to start a war. They have a few days before they absolutely need to act, because everyone is busy with the coming election, and the rain has been keeping people away from the treacherous climb up to the tomb, but it’s only a matter of time before the desecration is discovered, shattering the hard-won peace between the Norlythe and Trentsmund. King Halden asks the heroes to resolve this matter delicately, without drawing attention to the events. He wants to come with them when they go, to defend his nation’s honor. They agree to help him, and set things in motion with the crew to after the party.
*Darius heads off to check on Carmenith, and spends a while entertaining her with lockpicking instruction and stories of his greatest heists, while she is still resting in bed. They’ve developed a strong, plutonic friendship. A non-sexual bond with a gorgeous woman is something entirely unique to Darius’ adult life, and he realizes that he’s developing tender, brotherly feelings for his vulnerable protégée.
*Ichtaca meets the beautiful Princess Izél, with Lali and Halítzl in attendance. Princess Izel of Haracuraquét wanted to thank Ichtaca personally for saving Lali, and Ichtaca takes the opportunity to impress her, flirt with her, and make his hopes of a political marriage clear. Izel, although impressed and obviously attracted, talks to him for hours before she commits, wanting to get a good feel for who he is and what sort of emperor and husband he would be, and watching his interactions with Lali and his sister Halítzl. Quotal, Tlacat Coszcatl, and a half-hearted Imba, have all been courting her, but she has been formal and distant with them all. As Ichtaca honestly discusses his ideas and history with her, he displays his true self, and she likes him far better than the others. She warms to him, and agrees to appear on his arm at the party tonight, wearing the ceremonial armor of Xoco. It is a tacit agreement to marry him after his election. He can tell that she will hold back her heart until she’s sure he will be emperor. She’s willing to marry for logical reasons, and thinks love will grow naturally out of respect.
*Princess Halitzl Boláq (im’Tlacat ‘litzl to her men), is a tomboy warrior-princess and a decorated im’Tlacat in the army, has been given babysitting duty by il’Tlacat Lonumec Coszcatl. (Prefixes indicating rank amongst Tlacats are, top to bottom: il, im, ix, ic) Guarding a visiting royal is beneath her, and smacks of sexism. She is angry, but she does take it seriously, however. Ichtaca finds his sister Halitzl to be open-minded, frank, easy to talk to, intelligent, and full of useful information. She hates court functions, politics, and has no love for her brother Quotal or her sister Zurin. She has no desire to do anything but lead a military unit, and is a military strategist of note. She tells Ichtaca her frank opinions of his competition. Her sister Zurin is nothing like their grandmother, despite the familial resemblance she so banks on. She’s vain, shallow, jealous, and scheming, but has a flair for drama and keeping the public eye on her. She’s immensely popular with the people, and her resemblance to Xoco is seen by many as a sign that she is meant to rule. Quotal is a bully, poser, and a liar, with no head for military strategy. He’s an inconvenience to keep alive on the battlefield. Izel dislikes him too. She strongly dislikes Quotal, and confides in Ichtaca that she, Halitzl and Lali were just discussing their theory that his “spirit magic” is a show, a farce put on by his vassal Utlíl, who may be a wizard. Lali quietly adds that Quotal has repeatedly attempted to force himself on her, under the excuse that it is “the will of the spirits.” Halitzl goes on to describe Imba Tlaxmetl as a steady, dependable sort, who would make a fine emperor, but doesn’t really want to. He is rumored to be in love with a girl who is half-colonial, and if he takes the throne, he will not marry her. He could but he wont, because for him, his duty is before all. Her military commander, Tlacat Lonumec Coszcatl, Hali describes as very competent in the field of battle, and a fine leader of men. He would make a good emperor, in her opinion, but now that she’s met her brother Ichtaca, she may just change her vote. (She winks at him.) Hali is emperor Icarasl’s favorite child, and was her grandmother Xoco’s favorite as well. She would be pretty, in an athletic way, except she has a fine scar from upper right temple to lower left chin, crossing her nose and lip. Some scarring on her neck and collar-bone indicate vampire bites, and yes, she got over the illness without biting anyone, because she was tied down the whole time, out in the field with her men. It’s a productive, interesting meeting for Ichtaca. As Lali leads him back to his own suite, he realizes that she’s even more quiet than usual. He speaks with her privatelyl, and realizes that she’s fallen in love with him, and though she fully expected him to choose the princess over her, she’s brokenhearted now that it seems certain that will come to pass. He spends a while with Lali, making his romantic interest in her clear, and hinting that he’d like her to consider being his wife as well, the first and most important of the concubines. When Lali leaves, glowing with happiness, Ichtaca heads into Carmenith’s room and apologizes to her for his involuntary attack on her person last night. He stays with her a while, making sure she’s all right and entertaining her for a while to try to make up for the assault. When he leaves her, he sets Snowball as a guard on the foot of her bed.
*Tobias and Vash, meanwhile, take Kashma on the promised outing to the bookstore. There, she makes a mess and stares at a display of local art, then goes through book after book, looking for ones dealing with this perplexing concept; love. Vash keeps her out of trouble, while Tobias mollifies the shopkeeper. She has seen children on the way to the shop, and in it, she encounters an old woman, and an old man, the shopkeeper. Kazhma is visibly disturbed by the concept of aging and age-related death, especially since it seems clear to her that Tobias “has the old”. She doesn’t understand why children should stop growing bigger, since bigger is better, and she causes an incident by trying to straighten out the wrinkles of the old woman’s face. Vash and Tobias handle the situation with diplomacy and ample cash, and Tobias purchases the Cabin on the Hill series for her (a sappy series of books revolving around a happy frontier family), along with two anatomical texts, and a book overviewing the tenets of the Jharric faiths, including concepts related to familial and romantic love, and human intimacy. Vash buys her enough art supplies to finish her huge painting project. She peppers Tobias with questions about “the old”, but Vash distracts her with an offer of a ride on his reindeer. She converses with it first, but is successfully distracted.
*When Kazhma is safely back on the ship, painting again, and with a pile of books to read, Vash and Tobias go to the rendezvous point in the warehouse district to find a note left for Vash by Master Temu Jenmai. They meet him in the forest, and find him with his two young charges, Mozral and Casimir. He is keeping his students busy slaying vampires, especially Casimir, who is in love again. When they came into town to leave the message for Vash, the romantic young daemon monk laid eyes on the Princess Zurin in her palanquin, the same day that Vash leaped over her on his wild reindeer ride through Maricualatan. To keep the moody young man from pining or sneaking off to meet his new true love, A firm Master Jenmai is keeping him busy every waking hour. The mimmessarch monk-psion agrees to Vash’s every request. He still wishes to meet with Losoran to finalize details, but the trio plan to stay with Losoran and Inalenderil until they are ready to depart for Telgard. The monks will escort them there safely, and remain with them to keep an eye on King Enarran Amraseth while Inalenderil reasserts herself as the long lost queen, not dead after all , but very much alive. Once Losoran deems that the queen is well enough established in the court, the king will be publically declared to be dying of an illness that is taking his sanity as well. He will sign over all claims of the throne to his wife, and be “sent away to a private asylum.” Jenmai will take Enarran back to Always Falling, where psionic healers can keep his mind peaceful and sane, so long as he remains in isolation with them. Jenmai tells Vash that he will leave notes for him in the same place each time they move their camp, but for now, they will remain in the forest, hunting vampires night and day.
*Meanwhile, Tobias and Vash decide to try to get some answers on how to deal with Kazhma, from the gods, if they can. Unable to get a prayer through the worldfire, the two decide that the best place to attempt it will be the Cuapetezco hill, where the starborn are camping, awaiting the rapture of the in a few days time. They contact Darius, who is still on bad terms with Tobias, but who reluctantly agrees to help them. He leaves Carmenith sleeping, and meets them near the Cuapetezco hill, where the starborn are congregating. He makes a point of ordering the two men to stay behind him and to follow his lead, and then he takes on the role of “the purifier” again. Kanac and Rilone, two prominent starborn leaders, believe him utterly, and the group are given the central tent to “conduct private business” in. The tent is right under the starlight burning a shaft through the worldfire. It’s not quite a clear channel, but it’s getting thin enough that Tobias and Vash can each establish a connection with the gods they wish to pray to.
*Tobias and Vash want to find out if the drinking blade (Kazhma) can be ‘re-written’ so she is no longer a chaotic evil artifact, but a good one. Failing that, they hope to find a way to make her at least less dangerous to those around her. They also want to find a way to help her live a happy, normal life, if that is even possible. Tobias prays to Senfaer, who tells him that the drinking blade is the oldest artifact in known creation, but not necessarily the best-crafted. He thinks Daemoth’s will was unconsciously branded on the weapon, imbuing it with its original directives with the force of his will and what he used it to do; the first recorded murder. Daemoth was young, and inexperienced, which suggests that it could be “re-written” by a master crafter such as Senfaer, who has spent millennia crafting the ultimate artifacts; the stars. He warns Tobias not to act rashly, because Daemoth would have invested a substantial portion of his energy at that time into the blade, so any tiny mistake could be catastrophic. World-ending. Best not attempted by mortal hands. Senfaer, logical but little concern for Kazhma’s feelings, thinks that when the war over Morvugol is done, given centuries of careful study, he could ‘re-write” the weapon. If she can be controlled until the end of the week, he will take Kazhma with him and imprison her until such time as he can begin the “re-write.”
*Tobias prays to Iala, who listens raptly to his story and is sympathetic to the plight of Kazhma as a real and fascinating person. She very much wants to help, and offers to do everything in her power to not only “re-write” Kazhma, but to help her find a happy life, in a way that will keep her from harming others. Iala, in terms of raw power and Kazhma’s best interests, is a good choice, but the young goddess readily confesses to her inexperience. She also tells Tobias that if things don’t work out, if Kazhma becomes an enemy or a danger that cannot be diverted from taking innocent lives, her friend Lord Rhuyem is one of the few capable of destroying her.
*Vash speaks to Rhuyem, asking him his opinion on the Kazhma matter, and on how best to protect Carmenith in the coming ritual with Senfaer. Rhuyem briefly entertains Vash’s questions, irritated that he’s jumping up the chain of command to speak with him instead of Olumarsilein, or better yet, one of the subordinate angels reporting to Olumarsilein. The god of shadow is in battle, and keeps his replies curt and to the point. Iala is managing the thing with Senfaer. He will destroy Kazhma if needed. Now quit bothering him and take the next issue to his inferiors, he’s in battle right now. That prayer-connection cuts off abruptly.
*The heroes gather now to attend the evening’s party. Izel shows up in the ceremonial armor of empress Xoco, which is sure to cause a stir. It’s a public declaration of intent to marry him, a gesture of political alliance, and a display of the return of a priceless historical artifact, on the person of a Norlythin woman once again. Carmenith is decked out in her “handmaiden of Hjotra” apparel, in true glory form, barely keeping on her feet, but ready to stand by Ichtaca, specifically in that form to remind the people of the old stories of a “winged spirit” who guided Empress Xoco, and to draw another cultural / historical connection between her friend Ichtaca and his famed grandmother. Ichtaca will be introduced by Spirit Elder Mahua, and his friends will appear with him, members of his Ixa’hal, or spirit-vassals under his protection and guidance.
*The party begins, and Emperor Icarasl makes a stir by showing up, supported by his daughter Halitzl. He proclaims that Ichtaca is officially listed among his children now, and that this newest son of his has brought home a cure for the Nemelethe. It’s a shocking announcement, and as Ichtaca and his Ixa’hal line up to be presented, people are buzzing.
*Mahua lists deed after glorious deed that Ichtaca has accomplished. Each of his Ixa’hal step forward, one by one, relaying some adventure in which Ichtaca shines as the heroic lead character. Snowball and Chamanaltia sit at either side of Ichtaca’s feet, a creature of raw primal magic and a magnificent animal. They are taken as signs that Sarnoss, the spirits, and perhaps nature itself may be with Ichtaca.
*Mahua speaks of how Ichtaca impressed him at their first meeting as a “chosen child of Sarnoss.” Ichtaca had set out to learn more of the worldfire, and of the imbalance in primal magic that so troubles the spirits of nature. He tells how before he met Ichtaca, he had already earned the title Champion of Chayrshellech, for his many great deeds done for their respected visitor King Tolebesh Buthe. He gathered to him companions there, who sought to answer questions of their own. Seeing worth in these companions, he took them to him as Ixa’hal, thus making himself Atchcautlihal. (A commoner who has been called upon by the spirits to declare his own nobility by taking vassal-lords and then proving his worth and those of his vassals to the spirits and the people through trials of passage and great spirit-quests. An Atchcotlihal is expected to dispense wisdom to his Ixa’hals, to guide them.) This is an old custom, but Ichtaca’s Ixa’hals are foreign; there are murmurs of protest. Mahua calls on precedent. Did not the warrior lord Uremallach Archál, a stranger to our kind, do the same, in service of the empress Xoco? As a Tlacat, did not he push back and slay the zombie hordes in Caraquetularác, in service of our people? What of his ixa’hals? Did they not march into Yk’hel to carry out the stolen children of the Toltihatma, and pacify the dwarves?
*King Tolebesh Buthe and Prince Chor Buth step forward to tell stories of Ichtaca in Chayrshellech, defeating dragons, aberrant monsters, and destroying the evil plans of the local heathfolk mafia.
*King Halden Thandemar steps forward to describe how in Forteth, Ichtaca led an army into battle, many of them his kinsmen from the Norlythe. He won the favor of King Halden Thandemar, and was offered a position as the il’Tlacat of his armies, though in honor, he refused. He and his friends prevented war by exposing and capturing Duke-Regent Alben Bergeth, who planted lies between two great nations.
*Quotal steps forward, interrupting. He says these stories are his own, that Ichtaca is stealing them. A norlythin woman, secretly an Avan, who was there at the battle under Ichtaca’s joint command, steps forward to back up King Halden’s story, and Quotal is made to look a liar and a fool. He’s furious, but he sits down when his father angrily orders him to do so.
*Mahua relays how he sent Ichtaca on a spirit quest to retrieve the lost whip of Imbakao, last wielded by the legendary primal hero and Tlacat, Uremallach Archál. Not only did he return the whip, he laid to rest the troubled spirit. To do that, he calmed the raging spirits of the demons plaguing Ithachol, balancing what the worldfire had thrown out of balance, and aiding Spirit Elder Imha in the ritual that caused the bonewalkers across the valley to fall lifeless to the ground.
*Catzin speaks of how Ichtaca stopped the train, and of the dramatic fight he had with his childhood friend Nuslec, a sad story to which the Norlythin court are entirely sympathetic. Many have lost loved ones to the vampire plague. Hearing how Ichtaca was forced to slay the best friend of his childhood years, people are rapt, some in the room are weeping.
*Vash speaks of how Ichtaca gave a warrior’s death to Vash’s childhood friend Glenmarel, who was a noble warrior of the wild elves, much like the romanticized Ahuic Calli of the Norlythe. Glenmarel was dying of the Nemelethe, losing his memory and his honor slowly, in a city where he had come questing to find a cure for his people. It’s a sympathetic tale, like that of Nuslec’s tragic death was; everyone here knows people with the same terrible illness, and many have lost loved ones to it as well. People cheer and clap when they hear how Glenmarel died honorably, his spear in hand, and his name still his to shout out in battle. Vash describes how he slew the dragon outside the city, making it sound like he owes all his training to Ichtaca, and also trying to impress them with his own valor and worth, so Ichtaca will seem greater for having him as a vassal and student.
*Tobias speaks of when Ichtaca led him and Vash into the fires sweeping a neighborhood of Athelshoth after a spate of fallen stars left buildings in rubble and people in danger. He describes how Ichtaca broke through burning walls and leapt over open flames to rescue endangered civilians, focusing on the children he saved.
*Darius speaks of Karfallun, of a flying, sacred city of winged spirits, crashed to earth and broken, swarming with wicked men set on murdering every man, woman, and child. He tells of how a spirit warrior appeared, (Abasi Dhambizao) the slain comrade, and former Ixa’hal of Ichtaca, to guide him into battle, to lead him to each pocket of refugees. He dwells on how due to Ichtaca, all the survivors, including the lost brothers of “the winged spirit (Carmenitih) were found and rescued. Jodram Zabir Ouleithe is present, looking furious to hear such a dramatic retelling of a military defeat and humiliation of men under his command, and the thwarting of a military operation he was directly responsible for. Darius takes pleasure in Zabir’s displeasure, dwelling on details best suited to impress the crowd, and infuriate the Ouleithe.
*Quotal steps forward again, saying there is no proof of this ridiculous event, that this is a lie. Then Tobias prays to Iala, using the meteor bracers to try to get a message through that Abasi is needed. His friends join in the silent prayer, trying to punch a message through the worldfire, and hoping the goddess is not in battle; that she can respond. The projection of Abasi’s spirit appears, faint and hazy, and unable to communicate except by touching someone and establishing a telepathic link in that way. He draws awe from the assembly, some of them dropping to their knees. He takes on a solemn expression, dramatically touching each of his friends so he can commune with them. Though he’s actually regaling them with his latest exploits and catching up with theirs, he gives the impression that he is sharing sacred spirit wisdom with each of Ichtaca’s Ixa’hal, and that the party is truly blessed to witness such a sacred event. He spends the longest time “communing” with Ichtaca, then at Ichtaca’s request, turns with a look of fury and disapproval on Quotal. He strides up to Quotal, touches him, and tells him only, “Your lies are known, and revealed to all. You have lost the favor of the spirits.” Abasi vanishes, and Quotal is visibly shaken, dropping back into his seat without a word.
*Lyda testifies to Ichtaca’s pure heart, painting him as a spiritual advisor to the group, the moral compass who keeps them on a higher path when they have been faced with terrible choices and dark situations. She illustrates that point by telling how two dark spirits have hunted them, one seeking to possess Vash’s mind and body, another seeking Tobias’. She tells several stories showcasing Ichtaca, but focuses on two. First, how Ichtaca once took Mathis into his own body, so that Vash could stab him, though that meant taking a terrible wound. She tells them how when Vash was bound by Revikoth, forced to the top of a dark tower to bring down all their enemies on them, Ichtaca tore that spirit into two, freeing him from domination, then summoned a great dragon to bear them safely away. There are murmurs at this story.
*Ichtaca summons a great pearl dragon using the pearl of Lakhi, and the dragon flies up from the lake and lands on the terraces outside, making a big impression, then flying away and plunging back into the lake.
*Jennish speaks of times he’s seen Ichtaca fight, times Ichtaca has saved his life. He tells of the events in the “wild-zone” jungles south of Imminaron, and details Ichtaca’s role in rescuing him from both the mafia, shape-shifters, and a serial killer in Dulunum.
*Chamanaltia speaks of her visions of the future. She says she has seen Ichtaca on the throne of the Norlythe, and that only he can defend this great land from the dangers to come. She says nothing else, in her cryptic and often abrupt manner.
*Mahua adds more tales, including how Ichtaca fought a fleet of pirate ships and won from them in battle the pearls of the twin sea goddesses. With them he can call forth a great sea dragon to serve him, or command the mighty beasts of the sea to heed his will. He saved the stolen daughters of the elven Ahuac Calli Red Arrow, he was given a name of honor in their tribe. He tamed as his companion a great snow leopard, saving her from city-dwellers who would have slain the mighty beast. He calmed the man-eating jungle, and harnessed it’s out of control power to open a gate of roots, through which he passed from one great forest to another far distant. In the wilds between Dorgard and Svilden, great spirits of wisdom, totem animals, fused themselves into his very soul. He spirit-walked into the worldfire itself, and saw the spirits of the dead, and met with Sarnoss himself, who charged him with many sacred things. This whole way, an evil spirit of old magic pursued the ixa’hal and their Atchcautlihal. Many times they have fought this creature, and its legions, the last time casting it to the heavens. Many times more will they fight it. (Stories of Norlythin legendary heroes often involve a story cycle involving a nemesis or recurring enemy.)
*Carmenith, a winged spirit like the one that once guided Xoco on her own spirit-quest, speaks of when her soul was rent by that evil spirit. Her story is the last, and her voice is weak, so people have to be quiet and lean in to hear. They do so, raptly. They hear how when her soul was torn, Ichtaca gave her a piece of his, and each of his Ixa’hal did as well. Her description of the ritual they used is unintentionally reminiscent of an old local custom which, by implication, makes her either his sister or his wife, but whe Mahua points this out to him, Ichtaca is quick to step forward and declare Carmenith as his sister, now closer than any blood relation could be, because the ritual bound their spirits as kin.
*The story-telling introduction of Ichtaca is a resounding, unquestionable victory, personally and politically. Most of the people here are convinced that Ichtaca is a sacred spirit hero, well worthy of the throne. His brother Prince Imba comes to him immediately, offering to withdraw his candidacy for the throne, and to support Ichtaca in his stead. His sister Princess Zurin plies him with complements, angling to be seen with him and improve her public image. Tlacat Coszcatl corners him to discuss war strategy and vampire combat techniques. Ichtaca’s father, Emperor Icarasl, retires for the night, but first proclaims Ichtaca as his personal choice for the throne. Ichtaca’s thwarted brother Quotal sulks, told publically to sit down by his father, as if he were a child.
*The party shifts into displays of martial prowess and spirit magic, storytelling, ritual dances by the spirit elders, socialization and political posturing, and plentiful food and alcohol. Everyone wants to talk to Ichaca and his likely bride-to-be, Princess Izel of troubled Haracuraquét, who seems likely to settle the political discord in that region by marrying Icthaca.