Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Hourglass of the Silver Sands: Session 4


Zenith Joanna as Mara, Travelling Monk
Jon C as Spectre, Sorcerer Supreme
Bill as Isandlwana, Travelling Matchmaker

Game Mastered by Krzyƛ

Release Date:

As the diplomat of the group, Isandlwana took over talking to the major. Without releasing his bonds, she moved the chair he was on outside and leaned it over his blazing house. The distance between him and the fire changed according to the usefulness of his answers. The sight of Mara with her bow drawn up on the rooftop scared off anyone who wasn't killed or captured yet.

The (ex)mayor of Daiyu told the Eclipse of the horrifying ease with which the Wind-Cutting Whirlwind slaughtered the people of Maret. He told her that he was the True Prince of the Earth, a title currently used by the Dragon-Blooded who usurped it from the Solars many centuries ago. However, this man was no Terrestrial Exalt. The mayor revealed that like the townsfolk of Daiyu, he served Cecelyne.

Spectre's knowledge of demonology proved useful here. Cecelyne was also known as the Endless Desert, sister to Malfeas, the King of Yozis. The Yozis were the beaten and imprisoned Primordials that the Chosen of the Gods fought at the Dawn of Time. Yet he has never heard of the Yozis to create Chosen of their own for this power lied only within the Highest Gods.

The (ex)mayor said the Whirlwind always walked with his face covered and spoke very little. Similarly to Spectre, he carried a scimitar with him. Apparently, the massacre at Maret was part of a ritual to summon Bahamut, a demon closely tied to Cecelyne. A little singeing later he said he heard he was heading to the Temple of Zun and swore this was all he knew. Taking pity on the man, Isandlwana dragged him to safety. Unfortunately, neither of the Exalts knew anything about Zun or its custodians nor did they knew what happened to the mysterious Exalt that helped them fight the demons.

When they told Mara what they found they were surprised to learn she was actually from Zun. She grew up in the temple and knew its history. It was once an ancient fortress built at the top of an artificial mountain placed thousands of miles away into the Southern desert. As expected, the monks therein practised meditation and martial arts but also made it their duty to store dangerous artifacts left from the glory days of the First Age. Mara was very displeased knowing the people she considered family would face imminent danger while the other two Solars were worried what Whirlwind would get his hands on if he were to successfully attack the temple.

Velvet Fist, who until now was fighting on the other side of town, felt there was no time to waste. She jumped onto her horse and went off into the sunset!

The more composed Spectre drew a pentagram on the sand. He took a trinket giving to Mara by her mentor and proceeded to call out his name and chanting the Dirge of Shadows. After he said it 55 times and the moon finally set, he threw his knife into the centre of the pentagram thus pinning down the shadow of Mara's mentor. She told the shadow of the danger to the temple. The shadow was released from its binding and it flew back to its owner who may now have a very unsettling nightmare warning him of a demon attack.

Meanwhile, Isandlwana went from door to door, kicking each one open and giving the people a piece of her mind. She tore down any blasphemous icons, carvings and anything else that was even remotely connected to the Yozis and ground them under her heel while wagging her finger at the occupants. She lectured them on the wickedness and folly of bowing down to demons, particularly those that take the shape of vermin. She reminded them that their ancestors must be ashamed of them. Her condemnations were usually very effective in inflicting taboos but she wasn't sure if the Unconquered Sun's blessing was strong enough in this case.

The ritual was hard enough that after all was done, Spectre turned to his fellow Solars and said:
"Now I must rest," he crossed his arms in front of his chest and his body fell down. His bodyguard was quick enough to catch him before his back touched the desert sand.

The Solars went to bed at dawn to rest before the ardours labours of the next day. When they arose from their slumber, Spectre asked how far away was the temple of Zun, to which Mara replied it is located on the top of an enormous artificial mountain in the far South, very close to the border dividing Creation from the powers of chaos.

"It will take us a day to reach the temple," Spectre calmly said.
"It took me THREE MONTHS," Mara was simply astonished.

The Twilight summoned forth a chariot made out of a shard of the sky, pulled by steam-breathing steeds of pure white and manes of sunlight. They had to wait until Isandlwana finished her business. She was in the process of picking a new mayor for the town and making him swear an oath to uphold the law and to have no traffic with demons. Her anima burst into life, forming Old Realm runes sanctifying the oath in the eyes of Heaven. Fate itself would strike against oathbreakers. Although it was a strong measure, she felt it was a necessary step in ensuring the safety of Daiyu.

With the ceremony finished, Spectre, his bodyguard, Isandlwana and Mara climbed on board the chariot and the horses galloped across the square and up into the sky. The speed with which they raced through the heavens was four or five times as fast as the quickest horse on land. Between Spectre driving and Mara navigating, they reaches the temple in time for the sun to set. Interestingly enough, it wasn't hard to find a place of land at the temple. It had stone blocks in a square pattern near the centre of the temple grounds that was ideal for landing from high above. Fortunately, they did not met with any resistance from the monks who could have fired First Age weaponry that could decimate cities at them.

They were greeted by the monks, among them Mara's master. Spectre was quite surprised that her master seemed very stoic today. In his experience, the targets of last night’s ritual were left with disturbing dreams throughout the night. It is then that they noticed Mara’s master has an earthy scent about him. In fact, nearly all of the monks had a hint of one element or another about them. Spectre and Isandlwana were worried for a moment that Mara might not have told them everything about the temple. Introducing Solar Exalted to a group of highly religious and martially formidable Terrestrials may have been something they’d rather avoid.

Ignoring their concerns in face of Mara’s utter trust, they began to research the literature on Cecelyne and Bahamut. They found a passage in one of the demonology tomes about Bahamut. The demon had the shape of a giant fish and he is the foundation on which Cecelyne, the endless desert, lays. The Exalts minds gave them a glimpse into the past, to the times when they fought the Primordials for control over Creation. Cecelyne, the sister of Malfeas, was the Principle of Order. After the war she was imprisoned in the body of her brother that became the Yozi's prison. Her defeat caused her to bow to the Solar for they were strong thus she now enforces order through power, rewarding those with the strength to force their will onto others.

Meanwhile, Spectre was on the lookout for any potential traits beyond the temple walls. It is when the two women came back that the Copper Spider noticed someone crossing the desert. It was a lone woman, seemingly unarmed but he could not make out much else other than the rich and worn down clothing before she collapsed, most likely due to heatstroke. Mara and Isandlwana descended down as quickly as possible. Mara tended to her before moving her back to the temple while Isandlwana stood guard. They remained vigilant in case this was some clever trap set up by the Wind-Cutting Whirlwind.

Bonus Material: Storyteller's Commentary

This session had some of my favourite moments. Isandlwana wagging her finger at the Yozi cultists and giving them a lecture, Spectre literally falling asleep and the reaction on Mara's face when she heard how long her journey back would take.

This session also explains what Velvet Fist was doing. Taking into account she was a Dawn, I decided she took on half of the town on her won... and then rode off into the sunset, in a very western way, because the player disappeared off the face of the Earth.

Another missing player was Whisper. A similar strategy was implemented here. He is a Night Caste so he simply didn't want to be found by the rest. They are the super-sneaky Solars.

Other than that, this session had a lot of exposition. I hope I managed to write up what's going on without confusing anyone who doesn't know the setting. I was quite happy to get the opportunity to add the Temple of Zun to the story, which is Joanna's creation. I love introducing player created elements into the plot only to let the player who created them describe them to the rest. I think it adds a certain realistic feel to the game.

I should probably give a little bit of info on the different titles the Solar Castes have. I am fond of using synonyms for them so here it goes:

Dawn - Ascending Sun, Child of the Dawn, Lightbringer, Bronze Tiger, Sword of Heaven, The Forsaken (derogatory)
Zenith Zenith - Resplendent Sun, Pillar of the Sun, Solar Thunder, Golden Bull, Hammer of Heaven, The Blasphemous (derogatory)
Twilight  -Descending Sun, Child of Twilight, Solar Lightning, Copper Spider, Arrow of Heaven, The Unclean (derogatory)
Night - Hidden Sun, Concealing Shadow, Nightbringer, Iron Wolf, Dagger of Heaven, The Wretched (derogatory)
Eclipse - Crowned Sun, Harmonious Voice, Solar Wind, Quicksilver Falcon, Quill of Heaven, The Deceiver (derogatory)

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