Episode 3.8 – The Globe of Judgement
The Wayfarers are travelling north to Thaeling Lake; having left Jon not-the-Blacksmith in the care of Nelsed the Healer in Leydan. After witnessing the aftermath of a Vape attack on a caravan of Queb they pressed on and, cresting a low rise, saw Thaeling Lake and its leaning tower in the distance.
17th Vaen, Wane
They had been walking for some time, Thaeling Lake was further away than it had seemed. The valley had become steeper; it was as if they were walking down a smooth surface.
‘That’s odd,’ commented Fluke. ‘It should be dark, yet we’re still in twilight. And, it’s warm. This is Vaen, it should be cold.’
They arrived at a small pool, surrounded by vegetation and small creatures. They looked like purple chickens with tentacles. Edgar picked one up; it didn’t try to escape.
‘Squid-chickens? Squickens. I’ll call this one Jeremy.’
A short distance from the pool was a woven wooden hut with a thatched roof. Standing by it was a figure wearing a black-cowl and carrying a tipped staff. The cowl covered the face of the figure. Edgar called out to them but there was no answer; when he approached the figure they merely turned, entered the hut and closed the door.
It was still twilight but they decided to make camp, on the opposite side of the pool from the hut. Fluke objected to sharing a tent with Jeremy but Edgar sneaked the squicken in when she was asleep
They all awoke to find that it was still twilight and warm, even though they knew twelve hours had passed. The black figure was standing by the hut. They ignored it, packed up and headed for Thaeling Lake. After a short distance they came to a small pool, surrounded by vegetation and small creatures, near to the pool was a hut with a black figure standing by it. Some experimentation proved their suspicions, they were caught in a pocket dimension.
El Greco and Edgar approached the figure; this time it did not move away. As they got closer they were aware of a buzzing, like mental static, in their head that made concentration difficult. El Greco got a good look at the figure.
‘Ahhh! – That’s not human. It’s a Mud-bird, a Murden.’ She caught a glimpse of more moving inside the hut.’
Edgar held out the ghost voices box he had picked up on the Krai ship.* The Murden made to take it off him, then pointed to each of the Wayfarers and scratched three lines in the drit with its staff, then pointed to each of them again and held out its hand.
‘It wants a cypher or something.’ They handed over some of their oddities they were carrying; the Murden entered the hut and closed the door.
‘What the …!’
Just then the sky cleared and became morning daylight and a wave of cold air washed over them. They grabbed their stuff (and Jeremy) and ran towards Thaeling Lake.
18th Vaen, 405th Cycle AF
Thaeling Lake was a moderate-sized village, wooden thatched huts clustered around the leaning tower of the monastery. The villagers were out in force, many putting up decorations around the houses; several were fishing in the (impossibly blue) lake, and here and there were blue-robed monks.
‘Where is the nearest tavern?’
‘There is no tavern,’ was the reply. ’We have a communal hall where food and drink is readily available; help yourself. It is customary to leave a gift of shins, or food you have caught, or a cypher, or pledge service for a job.’
‘A shin obligationthen. I see.’ **
Edgar was looking at the decorations that the villagers were putting up around the houses.
‘We are preparing for the holiday – the Swimming of the Maidens,’ said a villager. ‘I am Garlin the fisher, my daughter Tonni will be taking part.’
‘Young maidens swim out into the lake; the spirit takes one of them and her family enjoy special privileges for the coming Cycle.’
‘Yes, there is a spirit that lives in the lake that watches over us.’
Edgar was outraged. ‘You appease it by human sacrifice?’ Garlin was confused. ‘No, the girls volunteer; no-one is forced to take part.’ ***
He stepped closer. ‘In fact, we’re trying for an advantage. I always pay a toll of one fish I catch back to the spirit. Tonni will carry a fish with her when she goes into the water; the spirit will probably notice her.’
Edgar was lost for words.
At the communal hall they ate fish, caught locally and seasoned with herbs with root vegetables. Edgar talked with the village blacksmith and explained that he wanted a gem made out of stellarite set in the haft of his axe. The smith advised him to speak with the monks as gem cutting was not one of his skills
‘I am Milo, an explorer.’ The speaker was a dark-haired man wearing travel clothes and carrying an explorer’s pack. ‘I’m going west into the Purple Valley to meet with my companions; I stopped off here to see the fabled monastery.’
At the base of the tower they were met by a blue-robed monk who led them into the robing room.
‘All visitors must wear blue robes.’ ‘What are the grey robes for?’ ‘They have another purpose.’
They passed two aneen harnessed to a rotating shaft powering a series of gears, from somewhere came the rattle of chains and machinery. The monk led then to stairs leading upwards; El Greco looked back to see a group of Murden being dragged into the room and through a door at the far end.
“What’s all that about?” she thought, then hurried to catch up with the others.
The stairs led up along the slope of the tower; there were glassed-in windows and at intervals the stairs opened out into rooms. They say sleeping quarters, a refectory, a locked room of records and a library. Eventually they came to a cloister-like area; a large pool held many lit floating candles.
‘There is one candle for each of us,’ explained the monk. ‘It only goes out when we die.’
El Greco glared at Edgar. ‘Don’t even think about it!’ she warned.
‘Above here is the Hall of Judgement. There will be a judging later, for the moment feel free to pass your time in the refectory or the library. I am afraid that access is not permitted to the room of records.’
‘What do you know about the Swimming of the Maidens?’ asked El Greco. ‘Is that anything to do with you?’ The monk shook his head. ‘That is a ceremony the villagers have devised.’
‘How long has the monastery been here?’
‘I believe it was built around one hundred Cycles ago, but no-one really knows. Our Order was founded by Queen Whenith Sarromere around fifty Cycles ago.’
The refectory served fish stewed with herbs; then they went back up to the library. Fluke found some texts with general information; then she came across an illustration.
‘Look at this.’
The illustration showed a huge sea creature, serpentine with a huge maw surrounded by five tentacles. Facing it was an armoured figure carrying a mace. In the background was a city.
‘We’ve seen this before,’ said Fluke. El Greco cast her mind back to the passages underneath the Gourd – “A large 3-level atrium containing a huge statue of a serpentine sea creature with five thick tentacles surrounding its mouth. Facing it was a statue of a man wearing armour, holding aloft a serrated mace.” ‘What does the book say about it?’
In 364 AF there was a revolt against the Queen, led by the current King’s father Rabbar tiKalloban. The Queen had become obsessed with the power of dreams and was ruling by them, sending dreams as rewards and dreadful nightmares as punishments. It was said that the nightmares were so bad that they could kill. Rabbar tiKalloban raised an army in Rachar; the Queen caused a sea monster called the Skarasen to attack the city in 360 AF. It was driven off by a hero called Granith wielding an artefact mace of power. The Skarasen attacked Rachar again in 380 AF, again it was driven off but this time Granith was mortally wounded. ****
‘It’s 405 AF now. Did the Skarasen attack Rachar in 400 AF?’
‘It doesn’t say so.’
A loud bell chimed and the monk returned. ‘It is time to take our seats in the Hall of Judgement.’
The Hall of Judgement was in the top part of the tower, overhanging the lake. There were banked circular tiers of seating; in the ceiling was a suspended globe of white crystal surrounded by a complex arrangement of chains and pulleys. The room filled with blue-clad monks; finally the High Abbot entered and took his seat at the Bench.
There was a clanking of chains and a cage containing a Murden was hauled out of a chute, to hand suspended in the centre of the hall underneath the globe. The High Abbot spoke in a sonorous voice: –
‘Foul creature. You are here to be judged by the Globe of Judgement under the laws of the realm of Iscobal. You are charged with larceny and robbery of honest travellers by means of foul deceit and trickery. You will now be judged.’
The globe flashed electric blue.
‘The judgement is guilty.’
The bottom of the cage opened, at the same time the floor opened up a moon pool down to the lake far below. The Murden fell and vanished beneath the surface.
Twice more the cages with Murden entered the Hall and the sentence was guilty.
‘Has the globe ever flashed any other colours?’ Edgar asked the monk. ‘No,’ was the reply, ‘why would it? Either they are guilty or not guilty.’
The Judging over, Edgar finally got to ask about his axe and the stellarite, it was agreed that the monks could do the work, the agreed price was what was left over of the stellarite.
Outside, it was Wane and growing dark. They passed Garlin the fisherman who was packing up, he took one fish from his catch and tossed it back into the lake.
‘For the spirit,’ he explained. ‘By the bye, have you seen Tonni, she was supposed to meet me.’
They rested overnight in a spare house.
19th Vaen 405 AF
They awoke to an uproar. The body of a man had been found by the lake, stabbed several times. His name was Delnar and he was a farm hand.
‘They’ve arrested Milo for the murder and he’s been taken to the monastery for judgement!’
To be continued …
*His term for the translator device the Krai used.
** A shin obligation is a pledge to undertake a job or render a service in return for something; they are often used to settle debts. They are very common in the Steadfast and to break one would be out of the ordinary to most people.
*** I have to say, I was a little unsure when I set this up.
It came off a random roll to see what was unusual about the village- a ritual or custom that outsiders might be unfamiliar with. Then I decide to see where the PC’s went with it.
Lisa –‘It’s the Hunger Games’
**** This is a major plot point and revelation!