Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Shrine of the Azure Goddess

From my Tuesday Night Group (playing Tekumel, of course).... 

Tsechelnu Flats swamp,
not far from Jakalla
 ...It was James, Dave, Tristan and myself, so we picked up with Tristan's original character, Shemek. Shemek has found a patron in the Temple of Karakan, Lady Visaya, a member of Prince Rereshqala's court. The noble lady had originally wanted to go on an Underworld expedition, and had hired Shemek for that purpose. However, a new mission arose: protect a recently discovered shrine to Lady Avanthe in the ruined city of Ngala. The lady sent along two bearer-slaves and two native guides, and Dave and James generated two new characters: a merchant-adventurer human from Mmatugual, and a Pygmy Folk sorcerer (Odd! But also the sort you might find at Rereshqala's court hoping for some mission or opportunity). The Temple of Sarku was sending a mission to "investigate" the new shrine, and that simply would not do.

Ngala city wall section
They set off on the 9th of Shapru (about 5-6 weeks behind the party in Bey Sy), taking two boats once they reached the far side of the Mssuma River estuary. Rowing through the hot, steamy mangrove swamps, the guides used a local plant to ward off predators and insects, by burning leaves in a smudgepot fire. They told Shemek that it was "good" to chew, and Shemek accepted some. After chewing it for awhile, he began to experience a deep sense of serenity and peace. Over time, this built into a seeming connection with all surrounding life. The female guide, Onne, sensing a kind of psychic change in Shemek, offered herself to him - but Shemek felt that that would not be appropriate right then. 

Ngala clanhouse courtyard
By the third day, the boats had reached a village centered around an old Engsvanyali watchtower, which was slowly sinking into the swamp. The guides went ashore with some gold to obtain information and safe passage. Shemek sensed there were 63 people in the village, and 2 of them were pregnant. Even though the surrounding jungle and swamp were teeming with life, the Pygmy Folk and Mmatuguali human noticed none of it was attacking their boats.

The misty - almost steamy - morning of the fifth day brought them closer to the ruins of Ngala. By this time, Shemek was sitting in a full lotus position in the boat, wearing little except a string of beads and his new, finely decorated steel sword over his back. As the boats were rowed cautiously through the swamp channels, the edges of old Bednalljan canal banks emerged. The faint sounds of axes thudding into wood reached the ears of the Pygmy Folk, while Shemek became aware of harm being done to the Life of the Swamp. Avoiding the troops clearing away jungle growth, the party reached the southwestern edge of the city, near to where they needed to be. The party chose a nearby half-ruined watchtower as their base of operations, as it afforded a view of the recently revealed entrance to the shrine, next to the original Bednalljan fortress. A large pack of Chnelh nearly 150 strong made it clear that they regarded the fortress and temple as their turf, and the Pygmy Folk used a spell of Calm to have them leave the party alone.

Ngala ruined temple entrance
That evening, during Shemek's watch, an elder of the Chnelh appeared out of the darkness, escorted by another four younger specimens, descending from the half-ruined roof of the tower.  Speaking in accented but clear Tsolyani, the elder communicated with Shemek - they, too, served the Azure Lady, and would follow Shemek's lead (even if he was human). We left it there.

Next week? We shall see how things develop.... 

Engsvanyali bas-relief
 (photos courtesy of Google search; their use here is purely for non-commercial purposes)