The purple-hued sand blows lightly in through the unshuttered arrow slits in the walls in the spaces between the portal sections as the lizard men stand near the stone stair that descend along the outer wall. Kang draws his blade and moves to engage, striking at the closest lizard man – dealing a grievous wound – and then being startled, as, for a moment, the lizard man appears to grow translucent, and a pale-robed, blue-eyed human seems to co-habitate his space for a moment.
That’s when the angry sibilant voice returns to Kang’s mind, hissing and frothing, declaring Kang a foul servant of Xipe and the villainy of Camazotz it’s anger and fury strikes his mind like a hammer – and the rokugani is rocked back on his heels, dazed by the mental assault.
The rest of the party unleashes it’s own assault to back up Kang before the surprised lizard men can truly react, dropping one who falls down the stairs out of sight, but the other lizard men hit all repeat the visual pulse seen on the first attack.
The lizard men see the outward signs of the attack, and between javelins, mystic bolts from an apparent shaman using the stairs as cover, and the larger leader’s scimitar stroke – Kang is suddenly covered in his own blood and reeling.
Alvaro utilizes the sand and some sneezing powder to create a roaring wall of irritation among the remaining lizards – cursing himself almost before the results – the creatures nictitating membranes covering their eyes against the worst of the assault, but not neutralizing the distraction completely.
Tuxn wades in to the enemies while Briven engages in a spell duel with the lizard shaman trying to limit. Raven, seeing that the her arrows are unlikely to take down enough of the enemy and certainly not the leader before they can finish Kang, races over grabs him by the shoulder….and phases out of existence.
To everyone’s surprise – Kang and Raven disappear, but more to Raven’s surprise, she stands alone in the murky gray of the otherworld, seeing the fight go on around her, with muted colors and distorted sounds. Kang is nowhere to be seen. Kang also is confused – he has no body to speak of, he can’t really SEE anything, though he can hear a heartbeat that doesn’t sound like his, and a murmuring voice similar to Raven’s calling out to him, and then there is The VOICE. Which stops mid-tirade, it’s anger dissolving into momentary confusion. The sibilant voice returns, guarded, but curious, “You have changed and are transmuted…what is going on?”
Finally recovering mentally, Kang exclaims in his mind, “I am neither a servant of Xipe nor of Camazotz, but was forced to deal with the beast to escape from the sunken temple.” And Raven hears Kang talking…in her head….and realizes she has done something very very wrong, magically speaking.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party engages in a pitched fight with the lizards, despite being down several members. The leader strikes hard, and is a capable fighter, deflecting many of the attacks aimed at him. Briven’s elemental arrows, and Alvaro’s telekinesis and psychic weapons, however, lay waste to the shaman and the other lizardmen, while Tuxn keeps the leader busy.
In the phaseworld, The Voice, clearly hearing both Kang and Raven’s thoughts as they also hear each others and taking Kang’s statement into consideration, ends it’s psychic assault, for now. But makes it clear that he can find Kang, and if his statement proves false, it will not relent in punishing a wicked follower of the bat god.
That out of the way, Raven tells Kang that she thinks she understands what happened, and can reverse it, but it might hurt when she does so. With very little else to do, Kang steels himself, and Raven begins focusing on her power to phase.
Having heard the sounds of battle, ten more lizard men rush up the stairs to support their warleader, shifting the balance of the fight again…only to watch as Raven and Kang reappear, the Rokugani still horribly wounded, but resolute. Tuxn spins and focuses his divine luck into healing power on Kang, while the the rest cut down more lizard men. The leader lands another solid strike, one on Kang and one on Tuxn, but as Raven and Briven nail the remaining footsoldiers to the walls with arrows, the rest of the group finally scores telling hits on the leader, shattering his defenses and cutting him down.
Everyone takes a breather. Tuxn finally decides to take a look at the bodies to see if they have loot, magic or symbols, and is mildly confused for a moment. The lizard men bodies are gone. In their place are human men, somewhat short by human standards, in traditional desert garb, now hacked and bloody from the fight. Pulling off their headwraps reveals them to be, one and all, albinos with pale white skin, pure white hair, and piercing ice blue eyes. Their weapons are of sturdy make, as is their gear, though they don’t seem to being carrying much to survive in the desert on them. Of note, each bears a amulet in the shape of a snake eating itself set with crystal. Even as the magically endowed among them look with their sight, they can see some magic imbued into the necklaces fading from them,
It’s about then that they hear a voice from down in the tower, a shout, but in a language they are not familiar with. And again. Everyone looks at each other….well, nothing for it but to investigate…
Slaves. Men and women, dressed in desert attire, turbans and veils, shackled together with a train of pack camels, clearly laden with merchant wares, as well as several more lightly burdened camels, likely the pack animals of the raiders.
Seeing no lizard men, one man among the olive skinned slaves speaks up in greeting of some kind…the party looks back blankly. Again. Again. there – rokugani trade language, clearly Mantis dialect. In short order, it becomes clear that the troupe of merchants, a whole family in fact, are from Zakhara far to the southeast. There had been wild animals upon the road to delay them, and a freak sandstorm had risen with still hours from the road hostel they intended to stay at. Instead they turned into a small canyon to avoid the ripping winds, and within the hour, were found and set upon by the lizard men, Shackled, they were lead deeper into the canyon until they came to a small rise, and upon it a beautiful, if ancient and ill-kept tower. There they were forces to climb its stairs and to walk at a wall – and here they found themselves, in a new desert, in the light of day.
After chatting and considering the options, the party asks if they know what wall they arrived through. The merchant leader, Kayoun Mayut ibn Belloka, is quite sure of the direction, despite the circumstances. A subset of the company heads out to investigate the portal, and insure that it is safe on the other side, before letting the merchants pass back through.
It is night on the other side, the heat of the desert day’s just barely a memory, in a surprisingly intact tower. The stone of this new tower is ornately carved, but it is clear that anything of value has long ago been taken by either scavengers or the albino/lizard raiders. In a room at the base of the tower, a few basic supplies have been stored away under the remains of a broken door, the waterskin and pack matching the craftsmanship of the raiders.
Danger does finally reveal itself as they exit the tower’s front door onto the sand covered hillock in the midst of a small canyon. The tread of the party – even so soft as Kang’s and Raven’s, is still enough to rouse a pack of giant night scorpions, each as large as a small hound, that had hidden themselves in the sand. Vicious claws rend at the party, but the caustic poison of the stingers is avoided, while the scorpions are put down.
As a quick scout of the nearby terrain reveals no other dangers, the group passes back to the purple dust tower, and shares what they have found on the other side. The party suggests Kayoun take the raiders gear and camels in payment for their banditry upon him and his family, and the lot head back up into the tower, and soon, the Zakharans are back in a desert with which they are familiar. Kayoun offers hospitality to the group, should they ever find themselves again in Zakhara, as either of the larger cities along the trade route east of the tower bear family homes, and he will insure that both houses know of what the travelers have done for the Mayuts.
Farewells are made, and Kayoun leads his people off into the night to reach the true safety of the hostelry.
With the merchant family safely away, the group decides, with a new tower to add to their map, to see where the portals lead, hoping mostly for confirmation of connections they already anticipate. The group expects, and Kang hopes, that the Eastern portal in the Zakharan tower may lead nearer to Rokugan. Deciding that if that’s the case, he would be the best to go through, Kang pushes through the pilaster framed portal.
It is night, the moon is not visible, but the tower room around him is cracked, and partially shattered. Part of the floor is missing and descends into an unlit maw of broken stone and partial floors. The vision imparted by his mask lets him drink in the ruins, and note that the walls are covered in strange discolorations. Seeing and hearing no other beings, he lights a torch. Scrawled over the broken walls are words in a dozen languages, some rokugani, senpet, medinaati, and others he does not recognize. The black and brown stains, he begins to realize, are blood. A lot of blood. Mad gibberish mixes with poetic stanzas, but in at least 3 languages he knows sentences repeat, over and over, amidst the cacaphony of words:
“The Mother Said,
The Father Said,
NO, I Said,
Demand Me, they said.
I will NOT.
I will TAKE.
I will CHANGE.
I will BE!
BUT YOU SHALL NOT KNOW MY NAME!”
A wave of fear washes over Kang, and with haste he douses the torch and jumps back through the portal. In the party’s torchlight in the Zakharan tower, the group looks somewhat aghast at Kang – to them, oily black lesions seem to cover his skin. Before he can ask why they stare, shadowy asps that only he can see form and writhe around his wrists, snapping and biting at him, leaving black welts that the rest of the group CAN see.
Kang begins attacking himself, his jade-wrap gloves striking at the ephemeral asps, until a white pulse of light comes from Briven – and cleansing light coats the inside of the tower. The asps and lesions are gone, but the wounds remain. Kang offers thanks, then notices the growing looks of horror on the faces of his companions directed behind him. Turning around, the portal wall leading to the blood scrawled tower is slowly becoming an inky black, dull and without reflection. Raven is the first to get a brick of jade from her haversack, and tosses it to Kang, who slaps the jade on the floor just before the portal as a ward against whatever tainted power is pushing forth.
To everyone’s surprise and fear, tendrils of smoky blackness extend – touch the jade, envelope it and pull it into the portal. Once gone, the blackness disappears with an audible crack.
“TIME TO LEAVE.” no one of the party is quite sure who says it, but everyone moves, and find themselves in the purple dust tower, and then they push on through to the Rashemi tower before stopping to catch their breath.
They check again on the horses, who are fine, time passes as the group considers what they have experienced. It is during these musings and discussions that Kang’s mind is once more touched – though this time with less aggression, and what passes for a polite request for communication – from the entity in the Temple of Camazotz.
This time, much calmer, the being introduces itself as Matztoatl, a guardian and protector of the goodly T’An’Olmek. He explains that he was captured centuries ago during the height of the T’An’Olmek’s civilization – by Tamoachan, the city that had allied itself with Camazotz and the other Night Wanderers, as he refers to the gods of Tamoachan. Those of his people who he knew well and called friend and companion are now long passed, the prison he finds himself in limits his ability to perceive the world via magic unless he has sensed a mind. Thus is he able to contact Kang, whose thoughts passed close enough to his prison for him to detect.
Matztoatl grants that his assault, now that he has watched the actions of the company, was not made with due consideration, but rather, unleashed with righteous fury at the implication that they were allied with Xipe, an enemy of Matztoatl’s from that long past age. While he would appreciate being freed of his prison, he understands the need for an exchange of information and for trust, which he gladly admits that he does not fully trust Kang and his companions, but actions are certainly suggesting they aren’t servants of evil.
What ensues is a discussion akin to a young child being led through histories by an elder – Matztoatl speaks with supreme assurance, which given other circumstances could be taken as arrogance. Nonetheless, speaking of the towers and what they know convinces to share what he knows. The towers were built by wind priests of a distant land and god seeking travel, exploration, and trade. Tamoachan’s island, shared with 2 other cities was a perfect place for their tower, and trade ensued.
But the leaders and priests of Tamochan sought domination, and used the trade with these Netherese to strengthen their magic and their weapon of war. The Wind Priests were happy to facilitate trade despite Tamoachan’s imperial desires – right until the Priests of Camazotz attempted to take control of the tower for themselves by subterfuge, impersonation, and finally murder. The wind priests destroyed their attackers, and sealed the tower, depriving Tamoachan of the flow of goods that strengthened it’s war effort. It was in this furious conflict that Matztoatl was captured while freeing innocents from the sacrificial altars of the bat god.
Tamochan’s star had fallen as the other T’An’Olmek allied against them, at least, but before allies of Matztoatl could breach the Temple or the other T’An’Olmek overthrow Tamoachan wholly – the dark magics they had embraced fortifying them against defeat, something happened.
A surge of great power, and a flickering of the world’s life. And then the volcano of the island unleashed it’s fury, and destruction was visited upon innocent and villain alike.
The group considers the story as passed on to them via Kang. A story which matches their understanding of the fall of Netheril, and the destruction they have seen wrought to one degree or another at each of the towers they have visited.
It’s Raven’s keen eye though, during this, that spots the hidden watcher. Hiding in the tree branches 30’ above the forest floor is a figure – thin, emaciated, what skin shows is pale and tumourous – and then the eyes – gaping wounds in the face without actual orbs of sight.
Quietly, she signals the group. They go about their business while preparing – but Raven sees the person, the Inhuman as they are called, whip it’s head around to some sound, and then with impossible agility leap branch to branch away and down the mountainside forest.
Raven alerts the group to this, and Briven connects with the earth – people are coming, but some of them touch the earth strangely, attuned to it, while others surround them.
The Witches are come.
It has been only 12 days since the group set out from Mulsantir. Maybe now there will be answers.
End of Session