September 4, 1720
After the death of Chief Hancock at the hands of the drowned bear, and the subsequent wedding of Siclare to Chief Bittercress, there were a week of festivities and politics for the newly declared People of Freedom. Parties were had. Negotiations were made. A cairn was built for the former chief. The mothers and the Tuscaroran braves paired off as best they could, and numerous (much much smaller) weddings were held to formalize the agreement between the tribes.
Líadan, horrified at her new, undead appearance, secluded herself, conjuring numerous baths of supernatural “vegan blood” to partially restore and preserve her beauty, being unwilling to fully embrace the vampiric tendencies of her drowned, unseelie kin. Tess took the opposite approach, laying herself out by the forest and allowing the buzzards and opossums to peck her bones clean so that she could return to work.
Their first order of business was sorting out the governance of their small tribe. Much had been upset by the death of Chief Hancock and the subsequent merger of the tribes. Bittercress pulled a warrior from among her people, Achsaquareesey (whose name means “Wisest and Best”), to serve as the new War-Chief. Líadan, in an offer of good-will to their hosts, declared that Oleg and Svetlana would have control of all of their stores and the primary say in all decisions related to the fort, which was their home first. And, of course, what little dissension might arise were quickly put down by the threat of being fed to Líadan’s baby owlbears.
As the week dragged on, Bokken quietly made an appearance, leading a wagon laden with the first of his promised shipments of vegetables from his farm. Oleg and Svetlana took charge of dealing with the skittish hermit, and, once everything had been unloaded and cataloged, reported that (baring any sudden influx of new mouths to feed) they were actually running a substantial surplus. Between Bokken’s shipment, and the meat from the great bear and the herd of bison they’d slaughtered, they had more than enough food to feed the new tribe through the winter.
Of course, Oleg’s storerooms were not built to hold food for hundreds. As Rhodri continued erecting houses, he put the people to work digging cellars beneath the Trading Post in which to store their bounty.
As the week waned, Tess noted the phase of the moon. In her new state she was no longer suffering the night-sweats or fever she had been, but she did not want to take any chances. As the full moon approached, she had the others shut her up in one of the half-dug cellars and shoved a sprig of belladonna between her jaws (she obviously couldn’t eat it in her state).
Thus, she waited out the night, anxious of her inevitable transformation into a zombie werewolf…
September 5, 1720
Once her night of apprehension was over, Tess’ made a stop at the tent of Hadawa’ko, the chief’s grandfather and primary instigator of the Tuscaroran violence against the colonists. While the rest of the tribe had been moving into Rhodri’s stone huts with their new wives as fast as he could build them, the shaman’s tent was obstinately outside the walls of the rapidly-growing compound.
Lifting the flap, the skeletal women found the old shaman sitting in the mud. Indeed, the entire floor inside his tent was several inches deep worth of sucking mud, despite it having not rained for weeks. The air above the morass was thick with smoke, though no fire nor braziers were to be seen. Stepping into the mud, Tess lit a pipe, pantomimed taking a puff (for she couldn’t breathe herself) and passed it to Shaking Snow. He silently accepted the pipe.
For a long time he sat and smoked. Tess talked for a bit, describing how they wanted him to serve as the spiritual leader for the new tribe, and asked him about Chief Hancock. The old shaman casually reached up into the wrinkled folds of impossibly old neck, and pulled out an inch-long, vantablack caterpillar. “Place it on his grave,” was all he said.
With no further explanation forthcoming, Tess took the tiny, wriggling worm and headed for the dead chief’s cairn. Examining the worm carefully, she noted a small skull-like marking near the head end, ash-gray on deep black. She set the worm on one of the stones of the cairn, expecting it to borrow in towards the body. Instead, it rose up on its hind-legs, like an inch-worm reaching for a leaf, and began to…sing. Loudly.
The worm belted out a deep, mournful Tuscaroran dirge. As the song went on, and on, and on, the Tuscarorans began to filter in from their various tasks, coming to stand around the cairn, some just standing and listening, others joining in on parts of the song.
Tess sidled over to Wisest and Best and asked him to translate. “The Grim Maggot sings his sins,” he said, describing how the worm was singing of the death of Chief Hancock’s father, of the chief’s his harsh upbringing by his white mother’s father, how the chief turned the tables and brutally beat his grandfather when he was old enough, and of his disastrous war against his own white kin, leading the Tuscaroran tribe to their deaths.
When the song finally died away, Tess her a scratching noise from within the cairn. “What is that?”
“If his sins are great enough, the maggot brings him back,” Wisest and Best said.
“Will he still be Chief? Will he be like the drowned?”
“We will have no Maggot Chief. Maggot-men do not have their minds like the drowned. He will serve the maggot.”
“Should we let him out? You’re the wisest and best, what would you suggest.”
“That is only my name…”
Tess went off to find Siclare and Bittercress, who among the Tuscarorans was the only one not present to hear the dirge. She found them in the dining room of the Leveton’s house, which had become the de-facto meeting room for the tribe. Bittercress was clearly, deliberately trying to look busy and ignore the singing worm, absentmindedly staring at Bokken’s map. Tess reported that the old chief was apparently trying to claw his way out of the cairn. Bittercress seemed content to let him try to move the heavy stones, but said she’d post a guard to watch it.
Meanwhile, Rhodri was off raising more huts when a titmouse flew down and perched on his left arm, hanging on as it would to a tree, upside down and shaking its tail-feathers at him. Birds not really being his purview, he ran off to find Líadan. Together, the two of them noticed a small chip of mica tied to the bird’s tail, etched with faerie script. The message was a formal request for an audience with Líadan in her role as a lady of the Unseelie Court, asking for her intercession in a dispute between two warring tribes of earth-faeries.
After some debate, Rhodri convinced Líadan to accept the request, despite her not being in the region in any official capacity. He scratched a mark of assent on the mica chip and Líadan told the bird to return to its sender. They watched as the bird flew off to the edge of the woods to the south, and stopped.
Rhodri ran as fast as he could to the Leveton’s house to inform the others that subjects of the faerie court were coming RIGHT NOW!
They all rushed to the gates of the fort to see a small pug-faced faerie in a tall, pointed hat coming out of the forest. Rhodri groaned, recognizing the faerie as one of his own kind, but not of the courts — a country dirt-faerie, a bumpkin. The pug-faced-faerie came up, bowed to Liadan and identified itself as Seren, quickly explaining what was in the message, that her tribe was embroiled in a multi-generational feud with another tribe of dirt-faeries, and that she hoping that a high lady of the Courts might be accepted as a neutral arbiter by both sides.
Rhodri was quite short with the short faerie, arguing vociferously that it was not his or Liadan’s place to help these creatures, but the others’ desire to help (and Seren’s promise of assistance with stone-shaping) won out and they agreed to head out to meet with the chief of Seren’s people the next morning.
September 6, 1720
The next morning they packed up and set out, bringing along Zibbler and the Musketeers in case of trouble. Seren lead them over the bison-trail that ran south along the ridge of the mountains. As they walked along, Tess stepped on a walnut, slipped and cursed. A tiny chipmunk scurried over the collect the walnut and was soon riding on Tess’s shoulder as she tried to teach it to do tricks.
Seren, meanwhile, stared at the sky as she walked, unused to moving in such bright conditions. Suddenly, she noticed that the sky had turned a bit darker, and much yellower, and appeared to be getting closer. In fact, she was quite certain that the sky was actually accelerating. Falling on her even.
She let out a shriek and dove for cover under a rock.
The dragon alighted in a nearby tree and grétte them.
“You look different,” Plein-Vite said to Tess, “did you lose weight?”
After exchanging banter with the dragon for some time, they learned that the dragon was there on business, not carrying letters this time, but rather tasked by a large contingent of men in red coats with shiny muskets to inform them of the party’s location. With some circuitous discussions of how it would be ineffective to tell the red-coats where they were presently, as they were moving, Tess and Liadan convinced the dragon to travel with them until they were content to stay on one place for a significant period of time. Of course, promising to build the alcoholic courier his own distillery didn’t hurt…
They kept walking, dragon in tow, and, by late afternoon, were looking down on the cleft in the mountainside from which the acidic stream ran. As they wound their way down the hill to get closer to the opening, they heard faint banjo music wafting from the cave. Tess and Liadan looked concernedly at the sparkling, clear water flowing from the mine, then convinced Seren that she should go in and ask the leader of her clan to come out (rather than them trying to wade through the acidic stream to go in).
They waited a full hour while the dirt fairy finished his banjo playing. Finally he and Seren came out. The chief, one Mailliw McKob by name, explained how, just over thirteen years ago, after the last war between the Summer and Winter courts, one of his kin was killed by a member of the Gremfield clan. Every year since, on August the 7th, the two clans had fought.
Rhodri cut in, asking why they didn’t fight any other time.
“Can’t. We shook on it. Course, those “thrice-damned, no good, brother-fucking Grems” broke the rules this year. They kidnapped Ymmik, and took my prized pig." Of course, Rhodri pointed out, calling on his experience as a barrister of the Winter Court, their agreement to fight on the anniversary of the first attack did not include any definition of rules of engagement, so the kidnapping and theft were not strictly against the rules. Which meant sending hiring others or sending proxies to attack off-schedule was also not breaking any rules.
The McKobs would, of course, be “mighty greatful” if the party would go and “kill all those damned, no good, brother-fucking Grems.” After a long discussion, Mailliw returned to the mine, convinced that that was exactly what the party would do. It was not clear whether mass-murder was actually their plan, but they had at least agreed to head out in the morning to the “big ol’ sycamore” where the Gremfields lived.
They pitched camp well away from the stream of mine-runoff and turned in.
Tess and Liadan, not really needing to sleep in their state, were quite alert when an owlbear came prowling around in the middle of the night. The poor beast didn’t stand a chance. Seren, once awake, snagged the owlbear with an entanglement and everyone else quickly brought it down with ranged attacks.
Their sleep was otherwise undisturbed…
|Session||Current Totals||Current level|
|Star of Aslan||3233||22,469||4th|