I put a spell on you because you’re mine
You better stop the things that you do
I ain’t lyin’, no, I ain’t lyin’
— Nina Simone
Ben: Rough (to say the least) notes from this week
C: adding in extra detail from my notes, will be doing sporadic saves, will bookmark how far through I’ve got!
The four are ushered into the receiving room, to see a desk. with a high-backed chair turned away from them. As they enter, the chair turns, revealing a Dwimmerlaik – one horn intact, the other cracked, that side of his face scarred. Like the humans of the city, his eyes are slit-pupilled, red-hued – draconic. As he speaks, steam (or perhaps smoke) emanates from his jaws.
“What are you doing, bringing a weapon of war here?” he asks.
Sail and Pieter ask in tandem, What weapon?
He gazes at the four of them, assessing. “That ship, the Spearship!”
Nyx steps in to reassure, “We’re travellers…” – but Sail and the Dwimmerlaik have already locked eyes. It’s unclear who starts it, but both continue – the psychic conflict between them is immediately visible – Sail staggers to one knee, while the Dwimmerlaik gasps and steadies himself against the desk; the balance in skill leaving each unwilling, or perhaps unable, to either overpower or break away.
Tom lays a hand on Sail’s shoulder – asking whether she’s OK, and taking the opportunity to raise an Umbral defence around her. Pieter lays his hand on his sword hilt, advising the Dwimmerlaik not to try that again, re-iterating that they are travellers.
With their intervention, the Dwimmerlaik shakes himself free of the contact, “You are mostly certainly on a Journey…I apologise. When someone brings one of those here…” he massages his scarred temple & falls silent.
“Bad memories?” (Didn’t catch who asked that, sorry)
The Dwimmerlaik offers wine – stories – introductions, as he stands up and steps out from behind the desk. He is 7" tall, wiry – disturbing. Even to those who are not superstitious, his appearance evokes a primal discomfort – harking back to the devil-myth archetypes found in virtually every world. He pours wine into glasses for both himself & each of them, raising his glass in a toast, “Hospitality!”
Nyx is untrusting, but accepts the glass of wine. Tom raises his mental defences, while Pieter outright questions the change in tack, “A second ago, you were demanding answers, assulting one of our party – now you are offering wine!? Is this the Dragon City way?”
“I over-reacted. Now I offer hospitality. If you accept then you will be my guest. I am Theydon Bois, Menhir of the Cariach”
They introduce themselves in turn,
“I am Tomascal, a traveller – it is what I have been doing for as long as I can remember.”
“I am Nyx. I am.”
“I am Captain Van de Brauweller.”
(Sail presumably also introducing self, or possibly just massaging own temples & nodding a greeting?)
They all sip a nominal mouthful, upon which Theydon Bois speaks again, “There is now hospitality. Now I am safe from you.”
“Were you ever in any danger?” (sorry, again didn’t catch who asked)
“There have been stirrings – I will have no part in it. I have seen your mark before…” he nods to the bracelet on Tom’s wrist.
“Do tell…” – Tom, smoothly speaking of balance, etc.
Theydon: “I fought in your [Tom’s] war – I will not fight again”
“Where good men do nothing…” – Tom.
Pieter, “Tell us about the War. Why was it fought?” – he again pleads the ‘ignorant traveller’ card, “Discovering only now that this ship is for war…”
Theydon: “You’ve fought wars. Why did you fight?”
Pieter: “I’m a soldier…”
Theydon: “So was I. Once. What is any war for? It was for power, control, dominion. But not for just territory – for reality itself…”
Tom: “So who’s starting it? Everyone says the others…”
Theydon: “This [dragon] was mine, she was the largest of her kind. Together, we rode through the abyss. And we saw the light. And you. And what you were should not be. So, we fought – the Cariach, the Queen, decreed it so. We fought, and you fought, and we died, and we died again…"
Tom replies, suggesting that whoever would make such a decree must surely be mad…
Theydon: “She is our Queen. Our mother. She is eternal, undying…if she calls for war – and she will call, she always calls…”
The group talk over one another with their questions:
“She is mustering the troops, even now?” / “Is she just seeking our eradication?”
Theydon: “Come with me, take a walk through the city…” – he leads them out into the streets.
Tom: “You seem to have found some sort of balance, here in the city…one-sided, maybe though – you are the only one of your kind here…?”
Theydon: “The life of men tends to be short and brutal. Unbelievable to see one of those ships here again…”
He speaks of the battle fought here, long ago – between his dragon and the spear ships. How they crashed into her hide, killing her. How he in turn killed hundreds, in anger and revenge – and then wondered why. Falls silent, implying another path chosen.
The group query this – could matters change so easily, peace be found so quickly?
“Yes, of course” – Theydon admits – “there was fighting in the initial generations – but time passed. Now is it our home.”
Pieter expresses concern about the implications of travelling in a Spearship – “Will we be assumed to be warmongers, that we are an initial assault force? We have no desire to be attacked on our journey…”
Theydon points out that this is assuming they wish to press on – they could stay, There is a place here for the four’s skills…
Tom: “I won’t find my answers here. I’m unwilling to make the same mistakes twice – and until I know what mistakes were made, it’s hard to avoid them…I’m sick and tired of war, of fighting – but I’m unwilling to lie down and die because your people don’t think our should exist. Even if you’re not fighting, they are – there;s got to be another way…”
Theydon: “You have some promise, at least…”
He continues to show them around the city. It houses perhaps two thousand individuals, and is built from bone. The four notes that the city clearly has defences, but does not appear to be on a war footing.
Referring to the draconic characteristics of the citizenry: “It seems to have changed you…” – (sorry, didn’t catch who)
Theydon nods. “We have lived within her bones, eaten of her flesh…it changes people, over time…” he changes the subject, “Will you stay, for a short time? The dignitaries of the city are most keen to meet you. A formal dinner – you can rest, we can re-supply you, perhaps make some trade arrangements…”
Back in Shatterlight, some 3 months earlier…
After a brief return to The Garden – where each takes the opportunity to set pen to paper – Michael and Sylvia begin their travels on the Stair to reach Shatterlight, talking as they go (OoC: More wordcount-heavy between-game emails, which will eventually get uploaded as a separate doc/linked here!)
They move through the castle, (giving their names to the guards as ‘Michael of the Stair’ and ‘Garridan of the Garden’) – reaching the throne room where they find Vala and Dayle.
“What have you done?” – Vala.
“Is this the right place for this conversation?” – Michael, with a glance at their surroundings.
They move to a solarium/ante-chamber, where Garridan asks whether they’re free to talk here (the stresses in her query making it clear she’s talking not only about the privacy of the room, but about Vala/Dayle’s freedom to answer questions). She is assured that “Safe, yes. Free…” – Vala pauses “Promises were made. Terrible things were done. We will find a way…”
In reply to Vala’s questions, Michael explains journey from the Garden to Finisterre – how Nyx and Tom both felt that what was beyond the hidden/overgrown doorway in the Garden was significant. How they had seen the line drawn in the sea, between Gossamer and Shadow – this far and no further.
Michael: “What happened to the Lighthouse?”
Vala: “It was lost into shadow…”
Michael/Garridan: “So, the Lighthouse didn’t cause the separation?”
Vala: “No. we did. We set the boundaries between the two – we set them, we shut Them out, changed things…The beacon of the light, we cast free to shine into the night. We didn’t shift the Gossamer there, we moved it. We expunged them, we changed the rules: we made it a place that the Dwimmerlaik Could Not Be. We blinded the Cariach with light. We used Finisterre and a thousand other worlds…there isn’t just one Finisterre – what you saw…it wasn’t just there. There are an infinite number of Finisterres. We made a place that we and they couldn’t touch.”
Michael and Sylvia continue their questions, asking about the Cariach – is she free once more? What’s changed?
Vala: “Now they can see again. They’ve found something that allows them to step through – this is a cycle: we defend, they counter, defend, counter…”
The two ask about Vala/Dayle’s predecessors. With something of an evasion, Vala confirms, "Oh, it has happened before, we weren’t the first, maybe not even the third…”
Michael, prompting, “…and every time, there’s the Sixth…?”
Vala: “Every time, one remains. The Sixth…I CAN’T. I can’t speak of this, we’re bound by oaths…you’ve got to walk the Mausoleum. Whoever wears the Ouroborus is the one who has done it before…”
Garridan asks, were they forced – or tricked – into taking these oaths? Would they make the same choice again if they could?
Vala looks frustrated, “What point is there to asking that? We cannot re-make our choices!” She pauses, openly weeping, and continues through her tears, “We chose to, we killed – sacrificed – millions, billions! We were, you are, children playing at being Gods, and now the Cariach is stirring, now she can see again…”
She collects herself, “The Cariach – the Queen, the Empress – she cannot come through herself. They cannot come back, we at least ensured that, we we changed the rules. They cannot open the door – but it can be opened from within. By those they corrupt.”
She looks at Garridan. “Your Academy. Something…odd…there. Lucien’s been looking into it.”
Michael continues his questions, seeking confirmation on his theories about Drake’s behaviour on the Ashen Path, his insistence that Michael open the doors. Vala and Dayle confirm – Drake was an assassin, bound by the same oath that they were. Yes, he’d have been bound against opening that door (hence need for Michael). Michael points out that the Doors between the worlds of the Ashen Path had been rearranged. The Dwimmerlaik, they’re told, are unlikely to use Stair (or by implication, have the ability to manipulate Doors?) – they’re scared of it. Therefore – yes, they may have corrupted a Master of the Stair.
Back in the city, +3 months
Trading occurs – barter based, no common currency.
They trade a copy of a map (one of the maps they’ve been making of the region of Shadow they’ve been exploring?) in return for a letter-opener with hilt made from dragonbone – the bone has similarities to gossamer, but it’s not of the stair.
Nyx makes an observation: there is underlying control and order to city.
Moving on to dinner – the four are presented as guests of honour, brought before the council for introduction. They are presented in a wood-lined chamber, beneath a faded banner – on closer inspection, it’s made of a flag, which has Bastianos’ ‘Red Fist’ symbol on it – and is stained with old blood, appearing to have been repeatedly dipped. (NB: Think the wood wasa identified by someone as being re-purposed spars of Spearships?)
The councillors arrive one by one – dressed well, but from piecemeal items of clothing – remnants of old glory, heirloom clothing worn as if it were court regalia:
- Del-Dechie – thick white beard, aged.
- Marcello – a young buck in his twenties, swaggering in leather trousers.
- Sir Le Pont – a naval officer.
- Renalle – wearing an ornate chain of mixed metal, with a blasted crystal shard at its centre
- Sir Antonius – military bearing.
- Lady Katrina von Bach – dowager-lookinh
- Lady Targon – all the inhabitants of this dragon city have a slightly reptilian look to their eyes – but this woman takes it to a whole other level. Her skin almost scaled, nictating membraneous eyes…
- Commodore Sinclair – Tall, with an eyepatch & shaven head. Commander of navy.
[Most influential in bold]
Tom has a sense of recognition at seeing Renalle’s chain: the crystal/glass looks as though perhaps it was from the Lighthouse.
Nyx has the feeling that someone, somewhere here – close, in the room – is the reason she needed to be here.
The councillors are acting very pleased to meet the four – very willing to show off and promote themselves and the city, treating the four as if they are a diplomatic mission. They remain deferential to Theydon Bois. Observing the interactions between the council, it’s clear that Del-Dechie, Renalle & von Bach are the most highly respected/influential.
Tom begins to ask Renalle about the chain he wears – it’s one of office: he is the mayor. Is it old? Oh yes, the chain has been in use since the earliest days of the city. Since the ‘Oath in the banner of blood’.
Tom brushes a finger along the chain, following the different segments – Does it tell a story, he asks, as he does so. As his fingers pass the crystal, he is blinded by light (visible only to him, and to Nyx), as though he had stared into a lighthouse – and stumbles back….
Nyx sees the flash – and can see pinpricks/threads of light passing from the necklace to everyone, and to Theydon Bois, connecting them all. Whether Theydon controls everyone through the necklace; or whether the wearer is controlling everyone including Theydon, isn’t quite clear – but someone here is the puppet master…
On Shatterlight, 3 months earlier, in the Solarium
Garridan says she & Michael will take the long walk in the Mausoleum. First though, she asks Dayle whether she can track the Icons she’s made – specifically, the ones on the Gallowgate Lad. Not without danger…but Dayle is at least able to locate it/identify its bearing roughly enough for them to be confident the Gallowgate Lad is making its way towards ’Sail & co, rather than having disappeared for some othere reason. They continue to talk about the Spearships – the Gallowgate Lad is the oldest existing ship (last one left?).
They ask about the new ship(s) being built in The Garden – Sylvia is concerned that the ship-building could strip the Garden bare. It’s indicated that it wouldn’t be quite that destructive – but it’s warned that Gardens can wither, fade – how does her Garden grow? (Implication that she needs to look into what sustains the Garden, to avoid this?) Dayle reveals that she once had a garden of her own – she found it, and lived there when the rest of her own six turned up – it’s not the same one.
After the two have left:
Dayle: “What do you think they’ll do, when they find what we’ve done?”
Vala: “Probably try to kill us. You should go…”
They embrace & Dayle departs, leaving Vala sitting alone.
[editted to here]
Tom bluffs blindness away as migraine, altering eyes – sight replicated anyway by bracelet – now also sees, feels and hears the threads of light
People here were sworn soldiers to the Bloody Fist (Bastianos) – we dipped the banner in the dragon’s blood to agree peace
Other banners in room are of captains of other ships – Tom buttering up guests with stories using their family names, Nyx notices how this changes social dynamics
Targon, Theydon and Renalle are only connected directly to light
Targon approaches Tom – noted his testing room with tongue – finds him familiar,
Nyx spots Renalle being the controller
Commodore – things out there, darker things moving out there – starts commenting on the rest of the party “why are you with this group?” –TB steps in and joins us (me and Comm) – comments to Comm “You will be missed when you’re gone” Nyx notices thread snap.
Talk to Commodore – blah
Marcello – conversation with him, bring sword down in front, Marcello collapses
Theydon examines and calls end to evening
Sword out – sever link, knocks back Theydon and Renalle – Sail calls “Die”, he collapses and bubbles as body changes form
Theydon’s horn regrows
Tom psychic battle, I sword-sweep to decap, cuts off wrist, Nyx plucks chain, second sweep decap, chain free
Body change reforms, Theydon charges in and stamps on body – calls in guards “take these parts and burn them”
Theydon, less civil – more sense of menace now
“I do have to listen to her – that was the price we paid…I do not want to fight again”
“I can hear her again – from the mountain of skulls to where the dragons are birthing”
“take the shard, hold it to my head” – Tom does so, forming link, offers to return the connection – TB declines
Tom notices that icons return to power and can sense lighthouse