Join Alex, Helen, Bryn, Lydia, and Ben as they share knowledge with the Council of the Ursans. This week Zolf is delegated to, Cel isn't an expert on everything (yet), Hamid does some casting, and Azu receives some startling news.
[Meta mechanics note: a Druidic spell, share language, has been cast on the entirety of the party so that they can all understand- but the spell does not cover idioms. As such, conversation is relatively stilted as everyone is being very careful to be understood.]
The party has been greeted by a younger member of the Council of the Ursans as they begin to hold a meeting with the entire Council. The young member, named Khantu (who identifies as a representative of Kaltes), seems to be quite nervous, but welcomes the party into the council chambers and explains that there a few things that they need to discuss. One of the elder members of the council stands up (Kondha, representative of Numi-Torum), asks the party why they have come to the Ursans, and then sits back down. Earhart looks at Wilde, who gestures for her to go ahead, and then repeats the same with Zolf. She stands and hesitates before removing her hat, and introduces herself before explaining the events that led to the crash and their appearance at the Ursans’ city. The council have a quiet discussion while the party sits there.
Khantu, the youngest, is incredibly expressive, and it’s very easy to read their face as the council discusses the reasons that Earhart provided. A different, also old, representative stands (Shoshva, representative of Kaltas'ekva), and thanks them for their offer of aid in recompense for the resurrection ritual. She mentions that she knows they need to repair their ship and offers to provide them with a way to accelerate their journey. Zolf and Hamid thank them for the offer, because their mission is time-sensitive, but Shoshva mentions that they will not be able to provide this to all of the members of the group. Hamid looks to Zolf and Wilde and asks if they should explain the current state of the world; it would be a lengthy explanation, and Earhart says that she doesn’t want to. Azu says that they could mention that they’re looking for a cure for a disease, but Hamid mentions that they aren’t even sure how to correctly classify it.
Earhart grumbles but eventually agrees to explain, although instead delegates, foisting the duty over to Zolf. He explains the situation as the party understands it (the basics of there being a strange disease, that they’re losing the war against it, and that they are looking for a solution). Sohra (representative of the Clawed One) steps forward then, and asks what the nature of the malady is, asking directly about the blue veins. Zolf and then Hamid explain that they don’t know as much as they want to, but do describe the blue veins in detail (including how they form, the way that the infected act, the hive mind, etc.).
As they explain, the council is impossible to read - apart from Khantu, who is clearly mortified while hearing about this (it’s very clear that they may know what has caused this). Hamid continues where Zolf left off, and as he’s speaking, another representative (Sumutnyerl, representative of Yerlik), cuts him off and asks about the hive mind again. Hamid says that they all act as one; the council convenes again for a quiet conversation, and once again, Khantu is easy to read, looking confused and worried. None of the other council members give anything away, and eventually stop speaking together.
Kondha stands again and says that they have relevant information to share regarding the malady that the party spoke of. He continues, saying that first, he has to tell them that they recently received a visitor, not too long after the party arrived at the city. Azu asks what they look like, and Kondha says that they are an orc, and that they claim to know Azu. The entire party sits in a shocked silence as Kondha explains that they’ve been keeping the other orc away from everyone else; the individual’s name is Chinua, which gets a visceral reaction out of Azu. Kondha says that it may be best for Azu and the rest of the party to meet with this person before continuing, as they claim to have information relevant to the malady. None of the party is willing to trust this newcomer with only that information, and Zolf asks how they got here. Kondha explains that a cowled figure dropped them off, and then disappeared - presumably, not Einstein. Azu gets up and begins to pace around the room.
Zolf tells Kondha to quarantine the orc for at least a week, and to quarantine anyone who he’s been in contact with, since they still aren’t certain how the malady spreads apart from symptoms appearing in seven days. Kondha says that according to Chinua, blue veins will appear under their eyelids a day after they had been exposed. This is news to both Zolf and Wilde, and Zolf says that they won’t be able to determine if this is true or not until at least seven days passes regardless, since it would be a very effective lie. Wilde asks if Chinua has been allowed to roam around the city, to which Kondha replies that he hasn’t been. Azu says that if the infection gets here, it will have been her fault, and Hamid asks who this person is. She shares that it’s her ex-fiance from back in Kenya, and Zolf says that it absolutely isn’t her fault, which Azu doesn’t seem to agree with.
At this point, Khantu stands again, and Kondha sits; Khantu speaks very quickly, asking if they should take action immediately. Zolf and Azu both say that they should, and Khantu asks to be released from the council session to handle this situation. The rest of the council members grant this pardon, and they sprint out of the council chambers to begin the quarantine process. The rest of the councilmembers ask to continue with their explanations; Azu is clearly starting to panic, saying that they can’t trust anyone who may have been in contact with Chinua, and Zolf calms her down, saying that it’s unlikely and that they should continue this while they can. The council asks if any of the party could have the illness, to which they explain no, because they’ve all been out of contact with the rest of the world for three weeks.
Sumutnyerl looks deep in thought for a few moments and then stands again, looking at each of the party members individually. She apologises for the informality, and then explains that the malady that the party describes is known to them. This revelation sends shockwaves through the party, and Azu stands again, asking what she means. Sumutnyerl adds that it is a different form than the one they know, but the blue veins and the hivemind are known to them. She thinks that the way the malady is acting may have to do with a corruption of the Garden of Yerlik, and Zolf explains the seed that they’re bringing to Svalbard, followed by Hamid bringing the seed out. Sumutnyerl asks how they came across the seed, and Hamid awkwardly says that it’s a long story. They ask to hold the seed, and Hamid gives it over to her, letting her hold it in her hand. Her eyes close and she mutters something under her breath. She strokes a finger over the seed and a blue bloom sprouts from the seed. The entire party reacts, horrified, and then she repeats the process as the bloom disappears. She confirms that it’s a seed from the garden.
Zolf says that someone must have taken it and done something with the garden to corrupt the rest of the world. Sumutnyerl asks how long ago this happened, and then sits heavily as the rest of the council convenes to have a conversation. It is a long discussion; Wilde starts up a conversation, saying that this information is completely new and that no one has even considered this aspect. He’s smiling as well; Hamid and Cel both assume it’s from getting a new piece of information, but Zolf and Azu realise that it’s because this is the first actual breakthrough that they’ve had in an incredibly long time. They start to discuss Chinua and why he is there - Azu still appears to be incredibly worried about it; Zolf says that he hopes it’s Einstein, but that it most likely is the Cult of Hades. Regardless, they don’t have enough information to make a call either way. Cel asks if it’s possible that Chinua could just be following Azu (Earhart asks if he’s gunning for Azu), and Azu says that their recent letters have been friendly.
Barnes chimes in, then, saying that Azu doesn’t know that it’s going to be bad. He adds that all they know is that someone turned up, they spotted him quickly, and kept him aside before he could interact with the rest of the city. Azu doesn’t seem calmed, repeating that he shouldn’t be there and that he shouldn’t be involved with any of this. Barnes says that it’s not up to Azu to decide what Chinua should be doing; Zolf adds that most refuges went south, so it makes sense that Azu’s village is aware of what’s going on. Hamid says that it’s a war spanning the whole world; Cel interjects and says that multiple places are still unaffected, so it’s not technically the whole world yet.
Barnes asks Cel if they’ve ever heard of the Yerlik stuff through their travels; Cel says that they haven’t, but that they may not be as helpful as they’d like to be since they mostly worked together with their father’s people (who were English) and that a lot of their final years was them traveling, so they wouldn’t have as much deep magical knowledge. They start to babble, explaining that it wasn’t a focus of their village when they were growing up, and then they were off on a ship. Barnes puts his hand on Cel’s shoulder and they visibly calm down, apologising and saying that they could have researched more. Azu says that it’s okay, and Barnes says that they can’t be an expert in everything. Cel says that they’re working on it, and Barnes amends it to say that they can’t be an expert on everything yet.
Sumutnyerl stands again as the council finishes deliberations. They say that they are willing to offer something to the party, something that they never offer to outsiders. The party thanks them, and Sumutnyerl explains that she would be happy to bring them to The Garden of Yerlik to learn more about it. The entire party agrees instantly; Sohra stands, then, and says that the journey would be less than a day, but they could only take about 4 or 5 of them. They decide to bring the entire party and Wilde along; Zolf asks if Azu is okay with that, and she says that she’s okay with it and then goes off to find Kiko to say goodbye.
Kiko is waiting off to the side and encourages Azu to go, saying that shes the biggest badass she’s ever met; Azu laughs. Kiko does get serious for a moment, asking if she has anything to be worried about with Chinua showing up. Azu reassures her and says that she has nothing to be worried about. Kiko believes her, and then Azu tells her to take care of everyone, because she also has a bad ass. Kiko raises her eyebrow and then gives Azu a quick kiss as she says goodbye.
Hamid goes over to speak to Skraak, and mentions that they’re going to be heading toward the Garden in the next few hours. He suggests that, since he and Skraak are both relatively small, there may be an option to bring both of them as well. Skraak thinks it over and then decides he wants to go, asking if it would be possible. Hamid repeats the point to Sumutnyerl, who says that its fine and Skraak will be able to attend as well. She says that if they’re all set, they should prep for the journey; Hamid casts endure elements on everyone apart from Cel, who casts it on themselves.
After a few moments, Sohra and Sumutnyerl step out of the council building, with the latter leading. She explains that she and Sohra will be the ones transporting the rest of the party to the Garden, and asks that they do not relay the information that they learn back to anyone apart from their crew, since the Garden is hallowed ground to the Ursans. They all agree to do so, with Zolf saying that they all understand the importance. Both Sohra and Sumutnyerl transform into large eagles; Sumutnyerl is pure white, end to end. They settle themselves carefully, and then pick the party up carefully into their claws as they lift into the air.
As they ascend, the party gets the first proper view of the city; the city is incredibly dense, and they can see that there is a slight curvature to the city. At the corners and the edges are massive pulley systems of threaded rope, and they soon stop being able to see the people in the city as they begin to get a better look at the bear. It’s massive, almost impossible to get a sense of scale. It turns their head, and they realise that not only is it an incredibly large animal, it moves incredibly slowly for a bear. It seems old, with some grizzling on the snout. The party also realises that the city is definitely not a heavy weight on the back of the bear. There is a gatehouse toward the front of the city (toward the neck of the bear), and a smaller gatehouse toward the skull of the bear. Zolf and Cel can see that there’s a bit of borealis being drawn toward the bear as a strand. There is a strange dead zone that almost appears to be localised weather around the bear, and the eagle’s flight starts to take some dips and sweeps where they avoid the borealis surrounding the bear. It’s clear that they’re picking the route, and the reason of it being a day’s journey is because of this specifically, less because it is far away. The eagles begin to turn and head toward the southwest, in the direction of a very mountainous region.
Midday passes as they continue to travel, making it through the borealis without any issue, and the afternoon moves on as the mountains get closer, becoming more craggy and beaten up - sharp peaks, chunky rocks, and the like. The weather is much more blustery, with more snow coming at them. As they get a bit closer, they can see a spot of blue in the distance, a bright aquamarine, just beyond a peak. The eagles swing around the mountain and they come face to face with a natural valley sat in between multiple peaks. It is completely full of bright blue flowering trees - they are absolutely massive, and the blue petals are coming loose from the trees and being sprayed up one mountainside. The eagles drop a bit lower and they settle with the party on a cliff overlooking the Garden below.
The plants look wrong for the climate, but they are completely filling the cirque, in full bloom. As the party looks closer, they can see a portion of grey trees, almost like a rot, spreading out from the centre of the Garden. Sumutnyerl and Sohra transform back, and the former steps forward, explaining that this is the Garden of Yerlik, “the garden where one can follow the path from life to death and back.”
Dice rolls & mechanics
- Everyone makes a Sense Motive check on Wilde: Azu (19), Hamid (13), Cel (11), Zolf (17)
- Perception checks to look at the bear: Hamid (22), Azu (17), Cel (31), Zolf (29)
The lore, cosmology, names, and society of this arc draws on the places and mythology of north Asia, particularly the Khanty and Mansi people. Check this doc for names, mythology, and reference images related to this episode.