When he awoke, it was dark and there was a fire a few feet away. He sensed a creature on the far side of the fire and he tried to get to his feet to flee, but his right arm did not respond and his left foot shot searing pain through his senses and he collapsed into a curled defensive posture, tail ready to whip and teeth snarling to bite. A voice came from across the fire speaking a language unknown. He responded with a more aggressive snarl. The voice came again, this time in broken Draconian, “friend, food, heal” followed by the sight of a weird looking creature emerging from the other side of the fire, holding out an offer of a block of hard cheese and a cup of lingonberry wine. This was the wine of the Kenku, he recognized the smell. He relaxed and held out his hand and tentatively took the wine, then the cheese. He looked at his benefactor carefully - soft skin, a metal casing on his torso, weird clothes, really odd looking. This new creature again used the foreign language, pointed to himself and said “I am Igan” which obviously must mean “I give food”. The lizardman responded by holding up the wine and cheese accompanied by the words “Sklooh vur Riseil” meaning “wine and cheese”.
Over the coming hours, Igan’s broken Draconian succeeded in explaining what had happened, a water weird, and that he could help him heal and survive in his weakened state. With the very first magical heal, Sklooh gasped in amazement, arcaniss (magic) that didn’t try to kill him! This was good. It was odd however that Igan kept saying “wine and cheese” or simply “wine” in Draconic to start sentences addressed to him. It was odd but Igan was useful, he would simply accept the peculiarity.
There are two gods that exist as a duality: Ynaed, the god of Life, and Arreat, the god of Death. Though there are only two gods, each of these gods has multiple personas and avatars...
Ynaed has manifested as:
Forghe, the avatar of Birth, Love, and Growth.
Jerha, the avatar of Magic, Energy, and Strength.
Turram, the avatar of Hedonism, Frivoloty, and Pleasure.
Arreat has manifested as:
Kaela, the avatar of War, Aggression, Conquest, and Competition.
Nergul, the avatar of Corruption, Sickness, and Decay.
Moira, the avatar of Fear, Time, and Mortality.
These are not the only avatars of the gods, but they are prominent ones that have been recorded throughout history. Some have mistaken the two true gods as a pantheon of near-infinite proportions. Still others contend that Ynaed and Arreat are the same god in two tempraments. Whatever the case, the gods are not aligned according to good and evil, or order and chaos, they simply fulfill all aspects of life.
Oneday - Preparation day (Ynaed)
Twoday - Forghe; celebrated with fertility rites
Threeday - Jerha; celebrated with ritual casting
Fourday - Turram; celebrated with drinking/drugs
Fiveday - Rest day (Ynaed)
Sixday - Preparation day (Arreat)
Sevday - Kaela; celebrated with sports and fighting
Eightday - Nergul; celebrated with self-mutilation
Nineday - Moira; celebrated with meditation and NDE
Tenday - Rest day (Arreat)
Religion - The Scriptures of Sklooh
The only inkling of Sklooh's spiritual leanings came in an early evening fireside discussion with Igan, Lena, and Eggsy:
"When you do magic, you say Gods give power to you. Sklooh does not have God and no magic. But ..." he scratches in the dirt ... "Sklooh has hunted from one side of this forest to the other. Seen lot of strange stuff, but never seen anything to make Sklooh believe there's all-powerful gods controlling everything. There's no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. It's all a lot of simple hunting tricks and nonsense ... to take down what you need to live and to keep family safe and fed."
"Maybe someday a rock, a shiny lady, or ..." looking at Lena, "or whatever a god is, shows themselves to me and they fix this world to let the food, wine, and warmth flow for everyone, munth and arcaniss alike, THEN Sklooh will follow and defend God." He looks at his companions and quietly states, "For now I just defend you and your Gods."
It was quiet for a moment then Eggsy asked simply, "Why defend what you don't believe?"
The answer came back quickly. "Sklooh believes in Eggsy, Igan, and Lena". A quick pause and follow up statement brought the conversational tone back to fun, "and when you do magic it makes Sklooh happy ... except when Lena talks in my head, that's weird."
The Mythology of Bismuth
"Bismuth has always been and will always be." - Uknown and Ancient Kenku Prefect
The Kenku race came from a past master entity. Entering the world flightless and scared, the Kenku huddled around a massive boulder for shelter in the newborn world. The stone by which they cowered was not just a stone but a powerful god known as Bismuth. He, although unmoving, was moved by these creatures plight and took pity and gave them strength and hope. The Kenku were thus moved to build and center their lives and existence around him.
Early on the Kenku noticed that predators never ventured near the rock. They also noted that they felt safe and good when near the massive stone. Then the Kenku began to adorn the boulder with paintings and gifted him fruit and seeds. This adoration was not unnoticed. Soon the rock (Bismuth) began to coalesce a spirit, pulling a sentience and ethereal form out of the pure devotion of the Kenku. Through this spirit he granted a select few of the Kenku pieces of his own body that enabled them to use magics. The spirit also enlightened them with rules of magic and life to safeguard them in their hostile and wild world. That knowledge and those abilities are passed on by acolytes who have earned their fragment of Bismuth through trial and ordeal. It is only accompanied by an acolyte that the Kenku will seek new territories as the presence of Bismuth makes them brave and wishing to do good in the world.
The Kenku of Varda are all connected by and worship Bismuth.
A GRIPPING TITLE GOES HERE
Session #1: Putting One's Foot Down
Our adventurers stopped by a city called Sedgwick on their way West. Intending to lodge for the night, they entered the Speakeasy Pub & Inn. Inside, they met a less than hospitable bartender named Grypp who served them, who was wary of the menacing Sklooh, but nevertheless had meant to accommodate their stay.
Unfortunately, a drunken Kell was crippled by quick sword-work by Egg-Spiker due to his being a little too friendly with Lena. The situation quickly escalated into a brawl with Kell's companions--Enys, Finus, and an unidentified third ally--and the desperate Grypp tried to move the confrontation out of his pub and into the street.
Attempting to resolve the situation, Igan risked a run-in with Vardan forces by using divine healing magic. This only reinvigorated the antagonists, but their attacks were less than effective. When the township's authorities had finally taken notice of the disturbance, Lena used her powers to lull the foes into a state of slumber so that the party could make their escape.
As they left the city, a mysterious pursuant made himself known to the party and identified himself as the merchant Danglar. As a witness to their encounter, the strange man tempted the adventurers with an as-of-yet undisclosed proposition.
The Backstory of Sklooh vur Riseil
Hatched in the backwaters of the Birk Whedab river, deep inside the Vardan forest, Pazien was one of the seven siblings (Vdriy, Suing, Suaco Vepeks, Houpeir, Lotoc, and Motzu) from a clutch of forty two that survived the hardships of the unattended hatching and early life characteristic of the Lizardfolk race, where parental units only carried out aggressive and protective duties after the hatchlings navigated open water to find and join their kin on land. A journey laden with hazard. Even though the seven siblings stayed in close proximity in the early months of life, whenever a parent dropped food into their midst, or one made a kill, or one found scavengeable and edible food, there was an inevitable free-for-all to get as much of it as possible. Sharing was a class in fighting as much as it was getting dinner. He grew, just other Lizardlings did, living as a hunter, gatherer, and scavenger. Becoming more independent and separate from his familial group over time. His favored method of food acquisition was not to wander and hunt as others did, but rather to perch, on warm rocks or in still water, and use his sense of smell to provide direction to his effort. Thinking, watching, and stealth make opportunity.
Although skilled in hunting and scavenging, he also learned of the strange way of the nasir achthend pretur, the bird food horde. None of the Lizardfolk knew, or cared, why the multi-seasonal offering of edibles was laid out for them, but in seasons of rich hunting, it was luxury, and in seasons of scarcity, it meant survival. The young lizardman learned that keeping harm away from the nasir zhin (feather walkers – aka, Kenku) meant the seasonal horde would always be there. He also learned to watch them closely as the first to see or smell the new offering was the first to feast on their choice of foods and drinks. It is this attention to detail that developed a valuable ability to detect fermented drink and fermented foods accurately and from long distances.
This was also his introduction to other races, albeit from a distance. It was not uncommon for a passing Kenku to acknowledge and talk to him if he was encountered in the open, basking in the sun. He did not understand what was said but assumed it meant “dinner comes soon”.
The deep Vardan forest was the only place the lizardman knew and the only other race he knew of was the Kenku.
Until the day he pushed his hunting and scavenging further down river than ever before. This day he had not seen signs of other Lizardfolk for more than a day and he was thinking of establishing this as his own domain. He left the easy passage of the river banks, followed an extraordinarily clear tributary stream inland a bit, and quickly came across a bright meadow and a sparkling clear spring fed pond, perfect for getting warm and then easily hunting for a fish dinner. After spending some time in the sun, he crept silently into the water and slowly began to stalk a rather large brook trout that was itself hunting insects landing on the pond. He followed the trout into a very shallow part of the pond, right at the cool mouth of the springs source. He was almost near enough to the trout to snatch it when he was grappled and slammed to the hard rock bed of the pond shallows. He turned expecting to find a crocodile, a python, or some other beast but saw nothing more than churning and seemingly coiled water. As the coil of water lifted and slammed him, he bit it and punched it while using his legs and tail to push and pull against the rocks towards the shore, anything to escape and survive. And then it was a blur, then black.
Religion – The Scriptures of Eggsy
Bismuth is the revered rock god of the Kenku from the Vardan Forest.
His teachings state:
- Do not eat that which walks on earth.
- Do not hoard wealth, be charitable, though not as charitable as to be a pauper.
- Do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you.
- Be loyal to the tribe that you grow with.
- Respect those that are aged and wise.
- Do not stray from your tribe.
- Do not war with your own.
His prescribed hierarchy of a tribe:
- First the chieftain who will give orders to the settlers, gatherers, and warriors.
- Second the Prefect and his/her acolytes' who convey Bismuth's order to the chief and tribe.
- Third the Warriors and Gatherers, to supply and protect the Tribe.
- Fourth the settlers to serve the chieftain in expanding and maintaining the tribe's home.
Acolytes must complete a trial or ordeal after sampling the forests' local mushrooms. If successful they will have communed with Bismuth and demonstrated aptitude and receptiveness to magic. They are then given a piece of Bismuth, a fragment of the original magical rock which heightens their magical abilities. The trial consists of leaving the tribe's boundaries with nothing in hand, exploring the physical and mental world, and surviving for a flock of days and nights. A tribal Prefect determines who is considered for and who succeeds in becoming an acolyte. When an acolyte uses vocal incantation, it is done so using the voice of the first Prefect as he channeled Bismuth. This holy manifestation has been imitated in perfection and passed on to every generation of acolyte.
The hours turned into days and he fully recovered. He did establish the area as his domain and he co-existed with the isolated Igan well, learning much about the soft peoples and their language. It was shortly into the shared learning that it became apparent that Igan’s use of “Sklooh vur Reseil” was in fact a comedic error, but it became his de facto name as his familial name, Pazien (“grumpy”), had no current value.
Then came the cataclysm and the death of things. It became harder and harder to find food and more and more races began moving through his domain. Some looking for food, most looking to escape from something that Sklooh did not care to understand. Soon a migrating Kenku named Eggsy joined Igan. This seemed quite good as the Kenku were good and useful. But another soft skin sought out Eggsy from amidst the chaos of the cataclysm. A young girl, Lena, of the same race as Igan came. It was easy for Sklooh to see and smell her fear, but she was fairly small and could easily be fed. If she was afraid of other soft skins, Igan was quite good in a fight, he had beli ternock (fake scales) to cover his body and he had magic. If that was not enough to deter anyone from menacing her, Sklooh was ready to dine on any softskin, or other creature, that posed a threat.
Life was good for a few years. Early on, as forest and river creatures moved away from the cataclysm, they were easy prey as they encroached on Sklooh’s hunting domain. And it turned out that all three of his companions possessed their own version of magic which amazed and entertained Sklooh to no end. But he was sworn to secrecy about their magic, he was given many reasons, he didn’t care, and doesn’t remember them, it’s just a secret that he will not speak of as his companions have value.
As the effects of the cataclysm evolved and decimated more and more of the Vardan forest and lands, everything living began to polarize towards either the deepest forest or towards the villages of the softskins. Both places posed their own benefits, challenges, and dangers. It remained that it was becoming increasingly harder to survive. Sklooh was having to be more creative and cover more square miles in finding foods for his ad hoc familial unit. This led to more frequent close encounters with magical creatures, the dangerous and nasty kind, who were being forced into closer proximity in the deep forest. This was making softskin villages look more inviting.
... and then came the pub.
Religion – The Scriptures of Igan
The Gods did not bring life into existence. Life beget the Gods and their aspects. It was the raw power of mankind's (lizardkind's, birdkind's, animals) emotions and thoughts that gave the aspects meaning, definition, and strength. The Gods are neutral. There is no good or evil to their actions and they rarely intervene in the cycle of life and death. Although there are rumors of the aspects choosing Champions whom embody their domain.
Aspects can both be born and die as the ebb and flow of existence demands. It has been many, many, centuries since the last time an aspect has been created or snuffed out. This could possibly be a catastrophic event. An example in our current campaign is the death of all magic and how that will impact an aspect of Ynaed.