Mauragaaqtuq: Murder of Crows, Season 2

After our trait, etc. vote (see Season 1) we’ve moved into a new season or chapter.

Characters are:

Edited to add:

@Malloy42 will post our first writeup from the interim session where Mako was healing up.

Well diary, it’s been three months since our foray into the caverns. Three months of disapproving looks from Nils, and Mako lying in a bed. Three months of trying to get “Master” Tulok to teach me anything with no success. No sign of Altrax either. I never really thought about what happens if a spirit fails to accomplish their task, or maybe something worse. That Dvergar was able to bounce crossbow bolts right off, so maybe he can shrug off a spirit bear. The old bear might surprise us yet. Maybe he’s still hunting. I don’t know.

It’s the not knowing that bothers me most. Knowing is everything. Knowing is why I reached to the spirits in the first place. And knowing too much is exactly why Master Vilig kicked me out. “Alornek, there are things that are beyond our reach for a reason,” she would say. It was when I told her that they weren’t beyond my reach that was the final stone on the cairn. Is there really such a thing as knowing too much? Anyway, Master Vilig said that keeping a diary would help me improve my writing skills, so at least I learned something. I guess I need more practice, since no one was willing to pay me for scribing.

So, how do you occupy three months? Apparently with lots and lots of training. Nils said that he thought it was unsafe for us to venture into dangerous situations again unprepared. Never mind that I defeated that monstrosity by myself. No, only my failures count in his eyes. So now I sneak around in the woods, behind the huts, in the rocks. I have to toe walk everywhere or Nils just sighs and shakes his head at me again. I don’t know why I even put up with it, really. Master Tulok does it too. I don’t see him get those withering glances.

Oh, I almost forgot. Before we left the rook, I did get some promises from the Wizened One, Lene, and from Fasalt, that they would take care of Aanti’s story. They didn’t even want anything. I thought that, since they were being so helpful, the least I could do was return the dagger. I’m sure Master Tulok would disapprove, but if he can’t or won’t teach me anything, I guess he’s not my master anymore. Now if I can just find a way to help him reach the other side, maybe I can cross him off the list. Nils likes to tell me how unwise it is to indebt myself to spirits but forgets that I was able to tell them exactly what happened to Aanti because of that debt. I just wish that old drunk would use some of that biting insight on himself. Maybe he would put down the mug once in a while.

We did stop training for a couple of days to go and visit those Peikko from some weeks back. Shirklek, I think, was the name of their leader. He was really interested in the Dvergar dagger. He and Nils were able to make a trade. We got some weird brews and some troll horns. Mako seemed very interested in the horns. One of the brews might help Mako heal faster, but I guess we aren’t in any hurry, so Nils and Tulok said we should keep it. Oh, and Trklek said that there was a giant nearby. A real giant, like the fae stories?! I think we should definitely check that out.

Nils did eventually say that he was at least confident that Ma Tulok and I wouldn’t wake a sleeping troll five miles away, so the training stopped. Maybe we could even sneak up on a sleeping giant. Nils, Tulok, Mako, and I all started talking to each other. Right now it’s just about what we can do to help with a mission, but at least it’s something.

Tanaraq came to visit a few days ago and has been lurking around waiting for something. I can almost look at the man without cowering. I know that the Crow experiments sometimes end with unpredictable results, but I have never seen anyone with his deformities. He has a feathered tail, more like some Southern bird than a proper Crow. It looks like he has fungus over half his body, and those voices. I can never make out what they’re saying, but it always feels like its about me and it is a threat. Then that thing follows behind him. Lesser men might run screaming. At least I can keep it to hiding around a corner. Anyway, it sounds like we have another visitor, so I should wrap up for now.

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Oh, Mother Crow shelter us! It was Takret that came. He and Tanaraq argued, eventually stepping away from the camp. I only saw it from a distance. It looked like they were really getting heated, though the echoes through the rocks didn’t tell me what about. Then Tanaraq reached through the veil. He opened a rift on his own, only it must not have gone as planned, because the rift mutated him into something else. His head was like some sort of reptile with too many teeth. His body was like a huge wolf from legends. And his arms were like tentacles from the Deep. And then, just as he was reaching towards Takret, another rift opened, maybe the size of a skipping stone, and sucked him right through.

I know I wrote that knowing was everything, but I’m not sure I want to mess with those Riva. But I don’t know if I can stay away, either. There’s a part of me that wants to find what’s on the other side, even if it kills me.

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Recent events as told by Tulok Tongarsuk (@Xaegiss):

We joined the enchanter at his workshop in the Camp of Unfortunates. It wasn’t like any I’d been in before, but Mako Lox was in his element. Each of us approached him, in turn, having requested enchanted items and his willingness to prove himself, and simply to create new items to help the band, was a sight to behold. We each offered to assist where we could, Nils hunting wolves, Alornek offering advice on where to find them using his inexhaustible knowledge of goats, and I with the antecedents. It was the first time we truly acted in concert - each of us having a moment to shine - and, I felt, it foreshadowed things to come.

After a bit, Alornek, proudly wearing his wolf-skin Creepers, began dramatically hopping from shadow to shadow illustrating his newfound stealth skills. I was just as pleased with my Stalkers and both sets are sure to soften the sounds of our passing. Nils commissioned a Superior Great Bow from Klinark, offering to pay handsomely for a worthy weapon. I foresee that man shooting one of us in the leg if he continues to drink as much as he does, but he now has a drinking partner in MakoLox, so I doubt that trend will change anytime soon.

After ensuring everyone else was taken care of, Mako Lox turned his attention to the damaged arbalest retrieved from the Dvergar cavern, coming to the realization that it was beyond his skill to mend. Word of his need eventually reached the ears of a new addition to camp, Sakari Varg, an atillator of the Wolf House, who agreed to assist with working the orichalcum. He eventually managed to fix the arbalest, pushing Mako Lox out of the way as he focused his full attention to the task at hand–his ring glowing as his intensity increased. A curious item for certain.

There was something odd about Sakari. He immediately started fawning over Alornek and, when I confronted him about this, turned his attention to me as well. He was insistent that it was our band specifically that drew his admiration, not the Crow themselves, admitting that his desire for power was his primary motivation. I sent him off on a quest to investigate the rumors of the giant about which the Peikko warned us and he immediately leapt to the conclusion that we would teach him powerful secrets if he successfully completed this reconnaissance.

Alornek eventually approached me requesting my assistance in helping him summon a spirit to take with us through the Riva. I immediately agreed and the discussion began regarding whether what type of spirit we should summon and how best to bring it across. A discussion that must continue another time as we ultimately decided it would be best to speak with Takret first. We were all curious about the Riva and, more immediately, what the argument between the two men could have been about for it to escalate so quickly and chaotically resulting in that monstrous transformation and subsequent disappearance of Tanaraq.

Nils approached Takret and was immediately combative, attempting to put the elder on the defensive, but Takret took it in stride and, when questioned about Tanaraq, offered vague warnings of what happens when one dabbles in Riva magic. Apparently, Tanaraq used Riva to store things accessible only to him, also bringing things back from beyond without following proper convention. Takret admitted to using Riva himself, not having yet gone through, in the search for knowledge. He seemed to have gained some knowledge, mentioning that “the intention you have when seeking an answer, and the set and setting you’re in, seem to have a large impact on the results you receive.” This is definitely worthy of further thought. I will speak with Alornek on this.

The lad began questioning Takret about the spirits from the other side, inquiring as to whether they can be utilized and communicated with the way he speaks with ours. Takret believes that one could assume that strong spirits would follow similar rules regardless of their origin. Alornek, I believe, has the potential to surpass us all in this and I long for him to gain a teacher worthy of that talent. His ability to summon spirits could truly provide us the edge necessary to succeed in our future endeavors.

Further discussing the Riva, Takret believes that each tear created is unique in regards to what/when/where it reaches. He alluded to a desire to know more about how these Riva work, but wants to reduce the research into them as they’re a threat to the Crow and that we’re stretched too thin as a people to continue this research without more preparation. Takret provided three observations from his viewpoint:

  • We must reveal what dangers each of the Riva poses to our people.
  • We must discover what threats could come through.
  • We must gain knowledge about the Riva and the potential they hold without exploring for exploration’s sake.

“The Crow are at risk of being extinct.” Takret believes we must - as a people - bolster our numbers, establish better practices and learning, build on our community. Takret specifically called out the Roden and Peikko Riva as targets of opportunity. However, he strangely downplayed the Dvergar threat, implying that a single Dvergar is all they’ve seen or heard of in so long as not to matter and, while this single individual must be found and the threat eliminated, they’re not a primary concern.

Young Alornek questioned Takret on whether closing the Riva near the Camp was possible, which it indeed is, but it’s also currently beyond our capabilities to do so. Nils pressed Takret, questioning the elder’s leadership and willingness to rein in our exploration in exchange for the safety of inactivity. We all began understanding that Takret’s words were too self-serving and challenged him on this.

OOC: [Duel of Wits]

Nils pointed out that he’d like our band to collect items that could increase the power of the Crow and serve to raise their standing among all the houses and recruit people to join the Crow in lieu of building population through slow, natural means. Our band immediately agreed with him, but Takret defended his position arguing that he only wanted to protect & grow the Crow while expanding too much too fast would bring further trouble. Exploration beyond the Peikko Riva, and his contacts, is excessive and dangerous. The Roden Riva is an acceptable secondary option.

Feeling an urge to discern more of his motives, I opened my third eye. Immediately shocked by the revelation discovered this way, I informed the others that Takret may have been leaking sensitive information about the Crow to others and may not be the most trustworthy. It’s clear that his motives are not ours, but the argument continued with our band attempting to take the conversation off track to distract the elder, speaking about how we look to him as a leader, but desire a visionary leader that respects the risks the Crow have always undertaken for our advancement. Takret responded harshly, attacking our intelligence, and questioning our involvement in matters above us.

It was a well-spoken message and I fumed in impotent rage as we, as a group, were stunned into silence.

Takret hammered home his argument about our incompetence, unleashing his upper hand and, while Nils - with our support - attempted to dismiss these arguments, it was Takret who dismissed us. Offering no room for us to immediately continue in our exploration beyond the Riva outside of murdering the fool. It is safe to say that more questions were created than answers found and while this began as a mundane discussion on our next steps, it became clear that Takret may not have the interests of the Crow first and foremost in his mind.

Our curiosity is piqued, our band is forming stronger bonds, beginning to work together, and, while our investigation into Takret has just begun, we must now focus on this side of the Riva as we ponder what this could all mean.

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An excerpt from the Journal of Mako Lox, enchanter extraordinaire:

Alornek seems to have difficulty holding onto a teacher for his studies. It’s unclear that he actually requires one, but given that he thinks he needs one likely speaks to a deeper issue. His calls for help were “answered”, but not in the way that I think he intened. In any case, Ikiaq Qaaxlax came forward as a willing teacher, but I’m not sure that Alornek will be happy with her methods.

Good tidings and supplies arrived from the Rook via Halvar Elge. He was happy to share with our camp, which was well received. I introduced him to Alornek, but we were unable to locate Tulok. Perhaps the time with Alornek wore on him and he needed a small respite.

We continued our investigation of Takret, and learned some new things on a mundane and mystical front. First, the mundane - it seems like there are more and more topics get a non-starter with Takret these days and he is growing more and more isolationist. Second, a stone-speaker (yes, really) named Launo told us that there is a “rock” inside Takret, and the only other person he’s met with a rock inside is Sigevi Lox - who had some of my friends followed back to the Rook. If these two are coordinating, or under some other influence, it bears investigation.

Alornek wants to start a mine, as the stones spoke to Launo wanting to be released. However, if the stones that Launo speaks to are part of two suspect individuals, I don’t know how keen I am to digging them up.

OOC other notes:

Under Ikiaq’s monitoring, Alornek sent the sanctified spirit of Hedda Lummiko through the Riva that Tanaraq was sucked through, to see if he could be reached in his new form. There was much bargaining, but she will need to be given fine jewelry and clothing, befitting her station, for her service.

This was the last check needed to bump Alornek’s Reach to 4.

Our rolls indicated that over the next couple days, Alornek will be developing enlarged arms:

Troll Arms (Dt): grants +1D Power to Brawling & Boxing IMS, and +1D advantage to the Lock, Push, & Throw Person actions in Fight!

This was a particularly interesting result because Alornek also received Lifting Heavy Things (C-O) during last trait vote.

As with all these mutations, they may add +1Ob in certain situations (particularly social ones).

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From the journal of Tulok Torngarsuk

The Camp

The dawn broke and, after my morning meditation, I stretched my legs and discovered Alornek and Mako approaching. Apparently, much has happened since I last spoke with them. Launo, a stonespeaker of some renown, felt that Takret had a stone “in him” that Launo had only seen in one other. Mysteries within mysteries.

I was surprised to see Halvar join the camp. Apparently, he brought both able bodies and supplies and has always been in good standing among the Crow.

Before more than re-introductions could be made, a wisp began coalescing from the riva and formed into the ghostly apparition of Hedda who had news for Alornek. She found Tanaraq on the other side and returned with a message from him. “Call my name and pay the price. I will come.” Hedda described a scene of abandoned buildings in an overgrown land, overshadowed by a citadel standing tall in the distance. Forest everywhere with the moon and stars shining sublimely in the sky.

It seems Hedda has the makings of a poet.

The camp needed leadership and our band has other plans, but that didn’t mean we wouldn’t assist in finding the right leader. We brought together a group of potential candidates. Between them, Mako selected the one most likely to succeed in our role. We benefited from Halvar’s experience immediately. His knowledge of estate management ensured that our initial selection was capable. Who knew that such things were worth investing in?

Finally, it was up to me. Opening my third eye, guided by Halvar’s astrological reading, and relying on Alornek’s dark intuition, I looked deep into the aura of one Kanaaq Ukpik. What I saw was someone intent on ensuring the success of the camp.

Kanaaq’s Story
He began life on the streets, an urchin among the Crow, known for his shriveled leg and incredible way with people. He was blessed with a silver tongue that allowed him to get by on his wits and charm. His good fortune seemed unnaturally blessed, but his empathy for those without means was well known. There is a rumor that his motives for joining the camp involved a lost love–an Owl.

We sought out Launo and found him deep in conversation with a unique rock, bulbous and smooth, unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s his belief that the stone within Takret feels as if it’s “fed upon”. Alornek, once again reaching out to the darkness for help, Mako, and I pieced together an ancient story from the Pekko about the Dvergar machines that enslave users–linking them by the backs of their necks.

It was clear that we needed to help Takret unburden himself of these hidden mysteries. Halvar’s skepticism of the source of the knowledge taken into account, we decided to take a more indirect route. Ikiaq Qaaglax, her visage discomfiting to some, counseled against using spirits for the mundane during our investigations.

The Rook

Alornek quickly gathered our resources to buy finery as payment to Hede and was sure that the finery and jewelry he found would please her. Halvar found his mining equipment to provide the camp and I separated myself from the band. My chest has been drying and I quickly washed myself in the mystical spring, filling plenty of waterskins as well. The relief I felt was overwhelming and concerning, but everything has its price.

This done, and after discussion, we planned on gathering the people of the Rook together to offer our findings as proof. Alornek, once again calling upon his spirits, requested their aid in finding information and evidence that Takret has other masters. Lӧpa, a rabbit-eared spirit, answered the call…

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Halvar Elge
The Rook, Seventh Moon, Days 9 - 13, Year of the Great Joining

Ledger of Events, Interactions, and Expenses
9/9 - Great Joining

  • The return of Alornek’s Lopa spirit with unknown document (note 1)
  • Request for insights into Takret’s affairs (note 2)
  • Expenses: 9 Dronar worth of goat hair and meat

9/10 - Great Joining

  • Introduction to “Ragna”, Wizened One (note 3), via Alornek Qaaglaax’s channels
  • Meeting with Eikili, steward of the Fledge Hall (note 4)

9/11 - Great Joining

  • Lopa returns with Bound Peikko (note 5)
  • Meeting with Ikiaq regarding Tanaraq’s disposition (note 6)

9/12 - Great Joining

  • Summoning of the spirit once known as Tanaraq (note 7)
  • Meeting with Councilor Uki (note 8)
  • Expenses: 3 Dronar worth of sorcerous materials

9/13 - Great Joining

  • Gathered evidence and prepared comments for Council meeting
  • Council meeting held at Dusk (note 9)

Notes

  1. Per previous entries, Alornek had summoned a Lopa spirit and gave it the task of locating physical evidence of Takret’s potential treasons. It seemed a long shot at the time, but it may have paid off in the form of some written document. Issue number one: it is written in a language we cannot decipher. Issue number two: it appears to be part of a larger volume, and it may be worthless without a way to validate its authenticity.
  2. I made an inquiry with contacts and friends within the Rook, hoping to find someone with access to the affairs of Takret, and who might be disposed to assist us. I made every effort to remain secretive as to why, but it is possible that Takret could catch wind if we do not move quickly.
  3. Sources pointed us toward a young woman named Ragna as a potential linguist to assist us with the document’s translation. She was cagey on her affiliations, but seemed earnest in her willingness to be discreet. She was able to translate the document, which was written in some form of the Peikko language. I have provided a paraphrase of the text in addendum 1. Ragna, for her part, was capable, and is somehow connected to the Wizened Ones. She will likely be a good partner in the future.
  4. My search for a contact with access to Takret’s affairs yielded an unlikely result. Eikili, the Steward of the Rook’s Fledge Hall, was willing to meet us privately to discuss some strange behaviors and activities from Takret. These include regular trips away from the Rook alone, during nighttime hours, during which Takret would slink away, sometimes for multiple days. Also of note is a potential new form of sorcery being practiced by Takret involving the torture of subjects to strengthen his use of other sorcery. Could this be the rumored empowering “sacrificial magic” practiced by the First People many generations ago, or something different? Either way, it bears investigating.
  5. The Lopa surprised me yet again by returning with more “evidence.” This time it was in the form of a bound and unconscious Peikko; the same one that had written the previously discovered text. This Peikko was kept unconscious for the the next few days, but not before we found that it had a particular gemstone protrusion from the back of its neck. This aligns with previous stories (see entries dating back to Sixth Moon, days 25 - 28, and Seventh Moon, days 1 - 3) indicating that Takret and one Sagevy Laax both likely have something similar. I have provided a diagram of the stone herein, addendum 2.
  6. We met with Councilor Ikiaq today. She continues to be a stalwart ally in the training of Alornek, but more importantly in the struggle to hold Takret to account. It is good to know that the core of the Council is likely still intact, despite Tanaraq and Takret being… as they are. Ikiaq has agreed to lead the summoning of Tanaraq, or whatever he has become. Mako, Tulok, Alornek and I will assist as we are able using our combined skills in Circination, Symbology, Astrology, Emphrylea and the like. The cost could be great, if we are not able to dominate the spirit outright during the bargaining. It is all fascinating, but developing the skills to Summon is likely something to save for a future incarnation, Mother Crow willing. It was determined, after much negotiation and some clever thinking by Alornek, that the best way to leverage Tanaraq was to have him dispel the magics influencing Takret. It seemed the best course of action, provided success in the bargaining.
  7. Once all of the preparations were made, we set about summoning Tanaraq in his Atlat form. The brunt of the work was conducted by Ikiaq and Alornek, of course. Be it luck or skill, we were able to make contact, and Tanaraq made himself known. He was more horrible than at any other horrible moment in his life. His spirit form had forgone almost every vestige of humanity, save his bare feet. His legs and torso were that of a starved dog, standing upright. His head was an oblong reptilian thing, with rows of eyes on either side and a maw of sharp teeth. His ams had split into numerous tentacles, each several feet long. I could not help but swoon upon sight of him. Within a few moments I was back on my feet, and I witnessed nearly everyone else in a similar state of horror. Ikiaq and Tanaraq had begun bargaining, and we joined the effort. After all was said and done, Tanaraq seemed happy to be involved with bringing his old rival down, and he would do so during the Council meeting the next night. The cost? He would have to possess Ikiaq for the coming day, and could leverage her form as he saw fit.
  8. Mako is somehow closely tied to Councilor Uki. This will be good to know for future negotiations. Councilor Uki was willing to meet with us to discuss the pending Council meeting, and the ramifications for Takret. As expected, she required an accounting of our evidence, scant as it is. We After seeing what he had gathered, she agreed with the likelihood of our conclusions, and will be a help in the Council meeting.
  9. For details on the entirety of the Council meeting, see the notes taken by that body. Herein is a recounting of the results of the interactions with Takret. Takret appeared before the Council unawares of the events to transpire. I led the presentation of evidence and the arguments for accountability, assisted most notably by Tulok, who in his own thuggish manner made it clear that weak-willed dissension among those loyal to Takret would not be tolerated. The presentation of evidence was underwhelming, as we knew it would be. That said, Takret was also unable to make reasonable excuses. In the end, it didn’t matter… Ikiaq, bearing the spirit of Tanaraq but touched Takret and was able to easily break the device hidden behind his locks. Takret fell to the ground, disoriented, and having lost significant time in his memory. This will require further interrogation and investigation to suss out the details of his unwitting betrayal.

Addenda

  1. The Peikko text made reference to instances of meetings between the Peikko and Takret during which Takret would provide information about the goings-on at the Rook and Camp. These reports were then taken to some other entity, the name or description of which was untranslatable. While not damning in and of itself, it certainly casts doubt on Takret’s discretion and wisdom.
    2. [Marginally adequate drawing of a cut stone device]
    3. [Receipt for the sale of goat meat and hair]
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OOC notes:
In this session, Tulok Tongarsuk hit Reach B4. He gained the trait:

Sight of the Owl (Dt)

In addition, the first Deeds was handed out for this Mauragaaqtuq campaign, for removing the influence from Takret at great risk.