Thursday, March 4, 2021

Playing The Serpent


The Serpent

That evening in Strangerside, Tom summoned and then played The Serpent. Its sound made it impossible for Percy three floors up in The Salt Mill to continue his efforts toward sleep. Percy through on a nightrobe and descended to the main floor where Tom was performing. Pahoeho forms a conga line, there is more drinking, and Percy, Tom, and Pahoehe retire late.

Percy sleeps surprisingly well, but our Spherewalkers have hangovers. Tom, Pahoeho, and Percy order the Strangerside equivalent of Bloody Marys with breakfast. Then they head to the Walker's Pyramid to see the sights, and learn what they can about this whole Year King thing.

The Walker's Pyramid is huge. The steps of this step pyramid are too large and far apart for a human, but there is a scaffolding on one side of the Walker's Pyramid that humans can climb.

Tom is a people watcher and takes an interest first in a dark skinned acrobat and dancer, whose routine includes tumbles off the side of the Walker's Pyramid, and conjuring coins behind kids' ears in the crowds that gather to watch him. He notices another dark skinned young man with lots of rings and an earcuff. He is holding an golden-eyed black cat, and curiously the young man has similar golden eyes.

Using the Pisces Zodiac Force of his Star River magic, Tom channels a spirit cat to speak with the cat that the man carries. The cat's name is Whiskers. The young man's name is No Whiskers. The cat is from a faraway Sphere that reportedly no one from Everway has ever visited. 

What's Whisker's favorite realm? Merryflag, where humans delight in getting into bloody duels and vendettas over trivial slights. 

Where are the best fish? The realm of Shallowsea, where my human can wade out into the water with a trident or a net and catch a feast.

No Whiskers is his human.  Tom's spirit cat attempts to communicate with the human, but there isn't much Air there. What gives?

Pahoeho Sun finds this strange: he belongs to an Everwayan family and knows that there is no slavery in Everway. Well, maybe there is among recent immigrants in Strangerside; but any slave who sets foot within the city walls of Everway becomes a free person. 

The party observes a procession comin from the direction of the Council House and Palace down Walker's Way to the Pyramid. Bright Mask, the priest of Osiris that Pahoehoe chatted up on the golden barge performs a bridal ceremony. The young Year King, Younger Wood, is wed to a heavily scarred Emerald woman who is missing a left eye, but has an unusual eye glyph tattooed on the palm of her right hand. Is she a mystic? A sorceress? Her name is Righteye Emerald.

Next comes a visit to an office of the Sun family located near the west side of the Walker's Pyramid, and adjacent to the Gold family house. Pahoeho wants to collect his allowance, and fortunately, it's one of the uncles who likes him who is running the office that day. Uncle gives Pahoeho a string of cash. 

Local gossip that Uncle Three Sun shares: the Gold family (practically next door) is debating a name change to Jewell, or possibly to Jade. Pahoeho's uncle Three Sun speculates that the name change might invalidate some contracts that the Sun family has with the Gold family, which would be a great way to get out of some debt!

Pahoeho, Tom, and Percy ask Three Sun what he knows about the whole Year King situation. Uncle confirms that there hasn't been a Year King in Everway for hundreds or maybe thousands of years. The whole thing seems strange: one day, Great King Horizon Emerald is officiating at ceremonies, and the picture of health, and the next he is dead. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Year King project is pushed forward, and several rural Emeralds from the Emeraldcloak Forest of all places seem at the center of the project. For example, Righteye Emerald: who even heard of her before today. And the new Year King, who used to be Younger Wood (and now is supposedly Younger Emerald - for a year!) - he is from an obscure, unimportant offshoot of the Emerald family from the same area.

Three Sun shares his suspicion that all this has something to do with the trouble that Prince Woke, a recent arrival in Strangerside has been stirring up. He has been pointing to the refugee problem, the collapsing spheres, the stagnation of Everwayan culture, and the need for new leadership and civic renewal.  Three Sun has heard a lot about his so-called Woke Forum in Strangerside. This Righteye Emerald is no stranger there! Someone needs to look into this Prince Woke, Three Sun says.

Three Sun also asks which spheres Tom and Percy come from, and offers that the Sun family is always looking for local partners among the spheres, since the family business is leading pilgrims to shrines among the spheres.

The party agrees that maybe someone should look into this Prince Woke (maybe indeed, us!), and Pahoeho wishes his uncle well. They head out, but first let's get lunch. "No more fish, please" pleads Percy, and Pahoeho suggests pasta instead. He knows a second story pasta and tomato sauce place nearby, just the thing, a heavy filling pasta place that everybody who matters knows: The Red Brick. It's not far from the Sun business office so they go there. A good filling meal and wine, consumed in moderation.

The party was going to head to Strangerside next, and look for this Prince Woke. But Percy and Tom are still thinking about Whiskers and No Whiskers. What is Whiskers up to and where is he going?

Percy uses his Water Magic to search the city for a human with very low Air. The GM draws Failing to See the Diamond, Reversed, a propitious draw. Interpretation: Percy spots No Whiskers, just as Whiskers and No Whiskers pass through the wards at the entrance to the Library of All Worlds. They pass through the leftmost archway into the Library.

The party decides to head right there and figure out what Whiskers is doing.

Pecuniary Scratch is waiting for them right at the entrance. He demands an inducement in exchange for entry. 

Mosa Pijade (Self-Portrait)

Tom says he is at the Library to learn about Song. [You can almost feel the Platonic ideal form behind that capital "S".] Song, as in the mechanical vs. spiritual aspects of Song, as well as connections between Song and Magic.

Percy makes the practical offer with respect to inducements: knowledge about his Sphere, which appears to be unknown to the people of Everway. The party are welcomed into the Chamber of Welcoming Visitors from the Million Spheres [speculation here that its decor is as plunderous as that of the British Museum], and library staff bring out long rectangular Spherepath Scrolls which note details of individual spheres, and the gate connections between them.

Percy references knowing about Water Gates, which the Library's scribes and scholars dismiss with feigned disinterest (there is no credible record of gates tied to elements other than Earth!). Meanwhile, Pahoeho is browsing Library's gift shop, and about to get into trouble...

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