After two days in Taimor the adventurers try to make sense of Dadrauth’s dreamscape as they prepare to continue their journey north toward Pike’s Watch. The party returns to recognizable ground and familiar faces, but are faced with a number of new challenges both in the realm of the Echrile and in the waking world. The group wastes little time in tracking down Kalousk, the old Pelmoran seer to whom Etirys of Taimor referred them. Kalousk is incredibly perceptive and poised; she is able to provide many answers for the adventurers, but the added knowledge and possibility presents everyone with more difficult choices to ponder.
The following player characters directed our session:
- Sookta, the Djenndan blacksmith, played by @xSubNuke
- Lemur-o, the kahlnissá ghost, played by @Terri
- Ts’uviti, the viantu savant, played by @saelbrin
- Aurelia, the kahlnissá procurer, played by @Judy
Early morning on their third day in Taimor they saw the sun break through the clouds. Hodjai was already up and out by this time. Etirys relayed a message to the rest of the party that Hodjai would meet up with them in Pike’s Watch. The word was that Eliana Hevas, officer in the Commander’s Watch, had commissioned the Djenndan warrior’s help in a local task. A nearby huntsman and stone mason, named Pwil, brought word just before daybreak to the Commander’s Watch that several bandits had kidnapped the Bradur family and had taken up residence on their lands. He had brought this information to the attention of the Peacekeepers in Pike’s Watch last night, but they demanded payment in order to take action, so he found the Commander’s Watch. According to Pwil, the bandits had killed Shayliss, the owner, as well as two farm hands, and were now sequestered in the winehouse with the rest of the family. Most of the other Commander’s Watch soldiers had begun preparations to move camp south, and Eliana thought it unwise to bring a large retinue anyway, so she conscripted Hodjai and two of her elite soldiers to join her in a covert operation to rescue the Bradurs, kill the bandits, and take back the winehouse.
While Hodjai was keeping himself busy, the other adventurers had their own mysteries to solve. When they awoke, Lem’ turned to Ts’uviti, befuddled. Dadrauth had just ceased their dream with little more than a cryptic “Thank you.” What did this mean? What had just happened? Lem’ and Ts’uviti began discussing the elements of the dream that stuck out to them. Apparently a flaxen-haired noble became the subject of both of their dream explorations. Perhaps that man was the key to this mystery? Even Kishsahat, who had spent the night out in the wagon again, had seen the flaxen-haired noble both as a boy and as a middle-aged tyrant. What was his connection? If only they spoke that foreign language.
Aurelia checked on the wagon coverings she had made, and they seemed to be holding. The wagon’s interior was relatively dry. Sookta and Kishsahat checked the lashings of the burned and cracked ox wagon, and made a few last minute repairs to the fittings that bind the wagon front to its ox rigging. There was a renewed momentum among the adventurers to leave Taimor and make it to Pike’s Watch. Still, Kishsahat seemed incredibly troubled and unusually quiet. When Aurelia tried to offer her a drink of water, the Bosenite survivalist spit it from her mouth and asked for wine. Aurelia stopped trying to connect with Kishsahat at that point, and mounted her horse for the trip.
Ts’uviti asked Dyrakos if he was okay to travel, and the man answered with a question of his own: “When are we ready to leave?” Etirys helped the group get him situated in the gurney that Aurelia made. Ts’uviti thanked Etirys for helping treat Dyrakos’s burns, and Aurelia gave Etirys a small leather pouch she fashioned from her remaining animal hides. As the group left a mostly abandoned Taimor by way of the north road, they discussed where they might go first once they get to Pike’s Watch. It was still just over a day’s ride away so long as the weather held.
When they settled down to camp after a long day on the north road, the adventurers were restless. It took most of them a while to fall asleep. When they did, the former dreamwalkers had strange nightmares that left them feeling exhausted the next day. Lem’ dreamed that she was alone in a vast, cold ocean. She called out to see if someone could hear her, but her voice was lost in the darkness. No echo could be heard. Ts’uviti and Kishsahat each dreamed that they were in a vast fire, alone. Wherever they meandered in the fire, the earth beneath their feet was unstable. They called out but no one could hear their voices. There was nothing but roaring flames and emptiness. When they woke they each had bruises on their bodies.
Breakfast was quiet and contemplative, and the group broke camp as quickly as they could to set out on the road. Luckily the weather proved quite good, and the pressed on to Pike’s Watch, arriving at midday. The first person they encountered in the outskirts of the township was a teenage boy. Kishsahat pointed at him and commanded him to take them to Kalousk. The frightened boy whimpered in shock and ran away. Kishsahat shrugged. It was the most like herself she had seemed in days.
As if to provide a solution to Kishsahat’s short-sightedness, Sookta recommended that they seek out Itoar, the blacksmith, a man with whom they had collaborated back during the plight of the Ad’Tai when they were first searching for Lady Grilea. It seemed like an excellent plan, so the caravan with the wobbling wagon headed west into the residential district, catching a curious glance from time to time. At the blacksmith’s cottage they found Itoar, working at the anvil in the front yard near his modest forge. After a moment of squinting in thought, a smile broke across his soot-smeared cheek. He wiped his hands on a dirty towel and greeted the adventurers warmly. The group spent a good deal of time catching up with Itoar, especially Sookta, who wanted to share trade practices and experiences including the intricacies of the design he had made for his hammer glove.
Two Peacekeepers stopped by while the group was visiting. They were curious of newcomers, but luckily did not act overly inquisitive. After a few well-placed words from Itoar, the Peacekeepers went about their business in the residential district. The blacksmith began to tell the group the long story of what had transpired since the Pelmoran Knights had disbanded, Lady Grilea retreated to Valadagal, and the Ad’Tai fled to the north. He told them that the Peacekeepers had increased in number in the surrounding area but that their presence had little effect on the high level of banditry surrounding the township of late. Pike’s Watch called on the help of the Commander’s Watch; without them these would be dark times in Pelmoran Lands.
Kishsahat, however, felt no nostalgia or concern for the local blacksmith in this ghetto of a township, and coldly hurried the group along. Sookta apologized for her rudeness, but asked if Itoar knew where they might find Kalousk. The blacksmith pointed them in the right direction, and Sookta decided to remain and catch up some more with Itoar. The rest of the party headed to the northern-most rise in the township to where Itoar said they might find the seer’s hut. Kishsahat left the wagon with Sookta and the group headed east on foot.
They passed through the town center and heard a familiar festive sound from “The Pond’s Edge,” the local tavern where they had once conferred with Dezeva and other adventurers when searching for Lady Grilea several months ago. But the goal of finding answers and help with their dream afflictions gave them a particularly one-track momentum. Soon after leaving the square they found the path that Itoar described in a row of canopied pines. The path led to a large yard riddled with patchy grass and pine straw, and at the front of a modest house stood creepy statues of wood, root, bone, and skull. At the top of an entryway stairwell stood a thin woman of medium height with whispy white hair and wide eyes. She surveyed the group quickly and calmly.
“We’re here to see Kalousk,” someone from the party called out. “This way,” the woman said, turning her back to the adventurers. She walked indoors leaving the door propped open. The adventurers followed her inside.
Beyond the door was a common room with a table at the center. There were dried leaves and dried animal entrails hanging about the outer rafters of the space. Jars and sacs full of other varied ingredients, components, and charms could be seen accessible throughout the cabin. On the right side of the cabin there were bone charms nailed to the wall, and to their surprise they noticed a strange but familiar relic nailed between the charms: it looked like an Echrile. The old woman stood at the cabinets in the far part of the room. With her hands behind her back, she calmly welcomed the party in her home. “You’ve sought out Kalousk, and now you’ve found her. What can I do for you?” she said softly.
Meanwhile, Sookta and Itoar worked on the Djenndan’s hammer glove, improving on its design quite a bit, making it faster, more secure, and more durable. This would make it ideal for combat. The blacksmith offered to procure parts to help repair their damaged wagon, to which Sookta graciously agreed. They would want to pay Itoar for his work, but how much they would need to discuss. Sookta drank with Itoar for a long time, then a pidgeon landed on the central work table of the yard. The bird carried a message for Sookta: Meet your companions at the seer’s house. With promises to return, Sookta took his leave and headed toward to find Kalousk.
In the main room of the cabin, Kalousk could tell that there was something different about the dreamers in the group. She reached her hand into a pouch and blew a shimmering dust into the air. It was remarkably light and quick in its aeration, and the dreamers each felt a burning in their palms. A runic symbol appeared on their hands. “You’ve been marked by an Echrile.” She asked the party to sit around the table while she prepared them tea.
The seer is an incredibly poised and perceptive person, someone who has a quiet intensity about her, an obviously towering intellect tempered by many years of experience that have given her a deep wisdom and a calming patience. As she served them tea, she listened to Ts’uviti describe their encounters with Dadrauth and the Echrile. Kalousk revealed to the adventurers that the Echrile is a relic of Torlish origin, a device that induces a ritual dream that links those who are marked by the device itself to the realm of the Echrile. This realm is void of any specific time and space; consciousness is said to exist here in a sea of simultaneity where past, present, and future ebb and flow into one another. The dreamers hone in on memories as directed by the controller. The controller sees only those consciousnesses in proximity to those who bear the mark of the Echrile.
Essentially, the controller of the dream can only direct the dreamer where to go, and to connect to other characters in the dream. Events in the realm of dreams cannot be changed or altered, only witnessed in myriad ways. But dreamers who bear the mark of the Echrile can mark others within the realm of dreams, allowing the controller to delve deeper into the sea of consciousness. The more dreamers who bear the mark of the Echrile, the greater the power of direction that can be wielded by the controller of the dream. Those who are interacted with in the dream become likewise linked in memory and time.
Dreamers feel as they are experiencing time normally, but often jump through time randomly, and in each time-space, the power of the Echrile allows them to link actively in the dream space of other consciousnesses. Eventually they lose sense of time in the waking world altogether, and it is said that dreamers often become lost in the realm of the Echrile as their waking bodies wither and die.
Kalousk was eager to help provide the group with what she knew, especially since she seemed intrigued by Ts’uviti’s power to sense when the controller was about to move the dreamers into another part of the dream. It was clear from her interactions with the group that she saw wisdom and understanding in the savant. She identified some of the language that Ts’uviti recalled and etched out as Ardonic, the language of the central Siadagal province. She also offered that the flaxen-haired noble they described might be Ansrantas, though she couldn’t be certain. But the seer mentioned that it was most fortuitous that the adventurers traveled through Weyell and sought her out, considering there are only twelve known Echrile relics known to exist in the Empire and the secrets of the ritual are lost to all but scholars of Torlish Incantation. And it so happened that she collected an Echrile and was familiar with the Rite of Control.
But the seer made it clear that they must get out of this situation on their own. Those marked by the Echrile are linked to the controller for life, and when the controller ceases the ritual they are left scarred mentally, experience withdrawal, and are said never to sleep well again. The only way to sever the link and return to normal is to destroy the controller within the realm of the Echrile–or, some say, to kill the controller in the waking world. The bright side of their life-long link was that it works both ways. Any one of those marked in the waking world could engage in the ritual so long as they had access to an Echrile. Kalousk counseled caution, above all else; she seemed deeply concerned that any sorcerer powerful enough to manifest himself physical control over other dreamers within the realm of the Echrile was unnaturally powerful.
The adventurers reunited with Sookta who arrived after his visit with Itoar, after which time they discussed their options at length. Kalousk made her accommodations available to the group, saying she would help them so long as Ts’uviti would consider staying on as her apprentice once they successfully defeated Dadrauth. She said that she had long admitted the days ahead were far fewer than those behind, and she wished to pass her knowledge and practice to a capable and worthy pupil. She could see in the viantu the potential to impart her discoveries in a meaningful way. This took Ts’uviti by surprise, but he said he would consider it. The seer made the preparations for the ritual while the adventurers discussed their plan to meet Dadrauth in the realm of dreams.
After much deliberation, the group all decided that they would join the dream together. Sookta, Kishsahat, Ts’uviti, Lem, Aurelia, and even Dyrakos accepted the mark from their comrades. If none of them made it out alive, at least Hodjai would be able to avenge them, whenever he tracked them down in Pike’s Watch. Ts’uviti decided to find a benign memory, a place they could invoke Dadrauth’s consciousness on their own terms. They chose one of Lem’s memories of an evening camping under the stars during their adventures.
Kalousk etched some common phonetic transliteration of a Torlish incantation and placed it in front of Ts’uviti, who the group decided would be the dream’s controller. Ts’uviti gathered one more look around the room and then read the incantation aloud:
FELICITAR QUAEE VARTOR,
RAEONNA ECHRILORAVEN PUFARDIANTOR.
And thus the dream began. Ts’uviti’s eyes fogged white as he knelt near the Echrile, and everyone else fell into a deep slumber. Somewhere in Slab Alley across the Empire, Dadrauth fell asleep as well. They found themselves all sitting around the campfire. Though he looked like a Djenndan warrior in this instance, the dreamers all recognized Dadrauth was there with them. The sorcerer was surprised, but immediately knew they had come to sever the link. He began to negotiate for help getting to the heart of his own mystery. Dadrauth claimed he had the power to sever the link without the group killing him.
The group was intrigued, and demanded an explanation. Dadrauth told them that for the last seventy years he has been trying to track down the person or people responsible for the death of his sister in a fire that claimed his house and ruined the course of his life. But the sorcerer seemed impatient and not willing to speak openly about these events of his life. Instead, he brokered a deal with the adventurers. “Help me,” he said, “and I will sever the link.” Though he did not seem forthright, his presence was one of a position of knowledge and authority. Though Ts’uviti was controlling this dream, Dadrauth had demonstrated what Kalousk described as an “unnatural” ability within the realm of the Echrile. If it served their purpose to sever the link, it made sense to play along for the time being.
Immersed in the dream world, Dadrauth began to take the adventurers down the path of memories and into a dark world of bribes, sacrifices, and suffering. Where would this road lead, and how long would the controller and the dreamers allow the sorcerer to lead it? We find out in our next installment; join us then!