Session IX, Part 2

As the party rested for lunch on their 10th day of travel, Aline declared that she was sick of fish, and was going off to hunt. Several companions volunteered to go with her, but she insisted that she wanted some alone time, and said she would be back in an hour. Eiluned noticed that Lucinda seemed annoyed, and that in fact Lucinda had seemed annoyed often of late. Spiderssen attempted to ask Lucinda if everything was OK between her and Aline, but for some reason Lucinda refused to discuss her love life with the sociopathic magic-user.

An hour passed, and another half. As they waited, Lucinda’s annoyance turned to concern, and she decided to try to find Aline. Naturally the entire party went along. They followed the trail to a brook, along which muddy footprints were seen leading to a single log across the brook. They crossed and followed the trail through bushes, and under the low branches of suddenly very high shrubberies, and up thorny thickets and up a steep hill. Then the thicket parted and they found themselves atop a hill, looking down about a half-mile into a valley under bright sky, yet surrounded by almost night-dark hills. On the valley floor there were several concentric rings of low long stones, and, next to a stream, a hut. They proceeded down the hill to the valley floor and knocked on the hut’s door.

They were greeted by a very old but well-preserved woman, with long white hair and steely grey eyes, wearing a simple brown dress, with a daisy behind each ear. She identified herself as Cassap, and when she heard that the party’s friend had gone missing, she invited them inside so she could try to help them. Stark was against entering the hut, but when Lucinda insisted, he acquiesced.

Inside, the hut initially seemed bigger on the inside than on the outside, but after a minute it seemed the real issue was how so many things could fit in so small a space. There were dried flowers and herbs hanging everywhere, with various feathers and bones scattered throughout, as well as occasional antlers. All manner of things were present, most of a creepy nature.

Cassap puttered around as she asked the party – in her archaic accent – about their missing companion: her name, where she had disappeared from, how long she had been missing. They answered her question, and to begin with even Koringa was polite. Somebody mentioned their experience at the Journey tone, and this interested Cassap greatly. They told her the whole story, and afterward she asked “What did you take from your experience?” Interpreting her words literally, they produced the grassy knots, stones, flowers, cup, and antler. She asked if she could see them, and laid them out on her table. She was very impressed, and asked again what they took from their experience “within yourselves.” Spiderssen muttered some pseudo-mystic platitude that she dismissed before saying “Never mind, it’s not important.”

(The party also asked her if she knew anything about man-eating space plants, but she was completely dismissive of these stories and their insistence that there was a wider world beyond the heath).

Stark began to get fed up with Cassap’s lack of cooperation, and demanded their things be returned to them. Cassap refused, saying they had been returned to where they belonged, and when Stark reached across the table to take them, she waved a hand and he – and his companions – found himself unable to move, except to speak. A long exchange followed wherein Cassap asked “Do you know how blessed you are to have had that experience?” She explained that the visions the party had seen had been of the Horned King and the Stolen Girl, two figures with tremendous significance to the Heath People. Each figure had two aspects: to some, the Horned King was a liberator, who introduced the Stolen Girl to wisdom and pleasure most people can’t even dream of; to others, he was a vile corruptor. Likewise, to some the Stolen Girl was a victim, but to others she is worshiped for her transcendence. When asked which she believed, Cassap replied that she was able to hold the existence of all truths at once.

Cassap informed them that the opening of the Journey Stone had not happened for many years, and that it had been foretold, but her calculations were apparently mistaken. That it had opened – and that the party had ventured below – was also significant; and thus she now had much to prepare before the evening.

Most of the party eventually became quite agitated at their predicament: held prisoner and being lectured to by a primitive witch. Stark and Koringa in particular demanded to know a) the whereabouts of Aline, and b) what was going to become of them. (Eiluned, meanwhile, was surprisingly – almost naively – sympathetic to Cassap’s position). Eventually Cassap replied that Aline had not been harmed, and that the party was going to have a chance to experience the faith of the Heath People firsthand, in order to best comprehend the nature and meaning of the visions they had had at the Journey Stone. This did not go over well at all, and when Bunny asked “Are you going to harm us?” she did not answer at first, which also unsettled the captives. The witch finally said that they would be participating in a highly spiritual experience, and what happened to them in that experience was up to them. The party was not satisfied.

Shortly thereafter everyone lurched slightly as they regained their mobility. Gathering a bundle of items, Cassap made her way to the door, the companions reflexively parting to let her pass. As she opened the door she turned, waved her hand… and everything went black.

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~ by erranttiger on August 21, 2011.

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