Sunday, October 12, 2014

D&D Session #43: Dead Ma'ari

Last session ended with the arrival of a familiar face aboard the party's airship. Just as the party was about to enter the Gate heading toward the Realm of Stone, a tall, gangly man named Miles appeared. Miles was chamberlain to Mal, who was a prince in the Realm of Air. Mal's true father, a powerful wizard, switched Mal with the newborn child of a king and queen. Mal's father planned to use Mal to take over the human kingdoms, but was thwarted by the Hot Water Party.

Kirtan kidnapped Mal and brought the cunning child to the Nexus, along with the Hot Water Party. However, apparently Mal's true mother, a powerful wizard in her own right, wishes for her son to be returned to her. Miles is searching for Mal on her behalf.

Also, Miles is a Ma'ari demigod, though he doesn't really act the part.

Upon arrival on the airship, Miles looked around and immediately fainted, just as the ship entered the Gate. The strange, extra-dimensional trip through the Gate caused almost everyone to fall unconscious, including Kirtan, the one piloting the ship. Only the cleric, Ere-sat, kept her feet and resisted the mind-bending effects of the void.

Usually the Gate causes a brief bout of insanity in its victims, but this time was different. Instead, the victims had a dream. The dream was identical for each person.

They awoke lying on their backs in a crystal tomb. Before they had a chance to panic, they suddenly knew that they knew how to open the way out of the tomb. They raised their hand, but it wasn't their hand. It was thin and delicate, the slender hand of a man. There are no tattoos on the hand but, again, before they could panic, they knew that it was okay. They had no need for outward magic, tattoos, or weapons. They had the magic within themselves. They were Ma'ari.

They drew a rune in the air and sang it aloud. The side of the tomb opened, and they exited. Standing outside, they found themselves in a massive mausoleum, filled with crystal coffins like the one they just came out of, all stacked one on top of the other all around.

They caught a glimpse of themselves in the crystal, and the reflection showed them to be Miles. They checked a nearby coffin and saw the woman they loved resting within, and they smiled. But then they noticed that something was wrong. These were not to be coffins, but stasis chambers. The people within were supposed to be alive, yet she was not breathing. They saw their reflection again and realized that they were old, and they were not old when they entered the stasis chamber. Ma'ari age very slowly, so a very long time must have passed. Yet the woman in the coffin had not aged.

Something had gone wrong.

They ran from one coffin to the next, hoping against hope that someone, anyone was still alive. Yet it was all in vain. They collapsed on the floor, alone in a crystal mausoleum.

When they woke up, the ship had left the Gate and was now being lit by an orange light. The ship was surrounded by fire, and this ship which had flown between the suns of the Realm of Fire without worry was starting to overheat.

Kirtan took control of the ship and tried to make sense of what was happening. The ship eventually emerged from under a river of lava, flowing quickly down a long, winding cavern. After navigating the river and crashing through a stone column or two, Kirtan found a "shore" where he could land the airship.

The party rounded on Miles. They had all shared that vision (except for Ere-sat), and they were trying to sort everything out. In the end, they seemed to determine this:

The Ma'ari sundered the world and sent Kirtan's people, the Valryn, into a sort of prison intended to rehabilitate their race. According to Kitan, that prison became a hell, which focused on trying to slaughter his people. According to Miles, it was supposed to be a firm but fair place, designed to, after a few generations, maybe create a race of Valryn that knew how to work together and value life, become a more soft-hearted people. Kirtan said that they certainly did learn to work together, since that was the only way to survive. They had by no means become soft.

Miles seemed shocked to hear this, but he admitted that he was not involved with the Sundering and didn't really know what was planned for the Valryn. All he knew was that he was alone in the Realm of Air, and seemed curious about whether the party had seen any other Ma'ari. They had not.

In the end, Kirtan decided to bring Miles along while they explored the Realm of Stone. He seemed confident that Dog could keep an eye on him until they could return to the Nexus and present Miles to his lord.

Meanwhle, the party conferred amongst themselves. They found themselves questioning their purpose, as they suspected that the Lord of the Nexus was planning to take over the worlds, and they weren't necessarily okay with that. They didn't entirely side with Miles, though, either. In the end, they decided to at least finish exploring this Realm of Stone.

They exited the ship only to find that the air was completely unbreathable. Luckily, Miles knew a spell that would protect them from the poisonous air. Unfortunately, he would need to reapply the spell each day.

They traveled across the dark land, lit only by the light of the nearby river of lava. The ground was rocky at first, but eventually gave way to a dark, oddly cool sort of dirt. Soon they were in an area that looked cultivated, with the dirt raised in rows like a field of crops. And then, they started seeing plants in those rows, though the plants did not seem to be in good shape.

Then, a couple of figures appeared a short distance away. They shuffled toward the party in a strange fashion, and they seemed to be holding farming tools. Upon closer inspection, they turned out to be walking corpses.

However, these walking dead did not seem interested in the party at all. They walked right past them and began working the field. Poorly. The party proceeded to experiment on these corpses, which did not seem to react much to their antics. In the end, one of the corpses was left pantsed while the other was left in pieces.

Miles was horrified. Not at the party's treatment of the corpses so much as the fact that they were walking around. Necromancy is taboo among most cultures, and Miles explained why: when life is given to that which is dead, an equivalent exchange happens in which the life of someone else is taken untimely. Death's ledger, it turns out, must always balance out.

Specifically, the life taken is usually of something along a similar destiny. Returning life to an unskilled human laborer destined for nothing more will likely cause the death of another unskilled human laborer. Returning life to an elven king, on the other hand, would likely cause the death of another elven royalty. His young son, for instance. The true value of life is unknown, though, and the life of a peasant can sometimes be worth the life of a king.

And so, the practice of necromancy is far too dangerous to be practiced. Yet here were a couple of corpses, plowing a field poorly. What lives were lost in exchange?


MVP this session is Buck, who led much of the discussion about what to do with Miles. He also led the effort to understand the walking dead, as well as talking to Dog to come to an understanding regarding himself, his master, and the Ma'ari.

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