This is later, after the frustrating scene with the leviathan and the frustrating scene with the castration guy. My character, Bram, has a hobby studying the games and rituals of lost civilizations. One of his recent finds is “the Ritual of the Guiding Star”, an ancient storytelling/coming of age rite of a people who have been almost completely lost to history. I’ve been adapting it from the mechanics of Ben Lehman’s excellent Polaris. Anyway, I’ve been doing the “translations” from ancient texts, in-character, for several days, and have been dithering about trying to re-enact the ritual in “modern” times (the world Bram exists in is a hodgepodge, but mostly medieval fantasy setting). He’s sitting at the bar in the local tavern, futzing around with one of the “oracles” he’s cobbled together using playing cards and the few ritual phrases he’s been able to translate. Another character sitting nearby becomes interested, especially when Bram seems to enter a trance-like state. Together, they haltingly, and somewhat unconsciously, find themselves caught up in the ritual.
– – –
Bram’s face is relaxed, his eyes seeming to stare into the middle distance, the cards still fanned out in his hands before him. His breathing is regular and calm.
Bram’s voice is not quite a whisper as he repeats, “A voice called out from the darkness…”
Zeethran reaches and slowly draws a card, hand quivering with, something, anticipation? He glances at the card, a Jack of hearts.
Bram : “And the voice said, “Once, in the back of a brightly colored wagon, traveling down a dusty road…”” he pauses, expectantly…
Zeethran gazes down upon the card, which now displays a sort of caravan wagon alight with yellows, reds, and oranges in a merry display, down a road that looks old, worn, deserted. He furrows his brow a moment before lying this card down and taking another, a three of clubs.
Bram : “…was kept a young prince from a foreign land…”
Zeethran gazes quietly upon this too, raising a brow slightly at the sight of a young man with dark skin and hair, wearing a red robe and white turban of sorts. His facial hair is neatly trimmed, his fingers alined with gold and silver, but he looks almost, anxious. It’s almost like he doesn’t belong there at all. He slowly sets the card down, hesitantly reaching for another card, pulling from them an ace of clubs.
Black Sam glanced to Zeethran “What are ye doing?” he then looked around and yawned
Zeethran holds his hand up for silence, looking at Bram expectantly.
Bram : “…who could answer any riddle posed to him.”
Zeethran raises a brow, as this image shows an owl sitting atop a golden tree, the one most commonly used as the Tree of knowlege. Above the owl’s head would be a halo, and at the center would be the key of truth glowing a bright silver. Boot nods at this for a while, before setting this card down with the others.
Bram speaks solemnly, and it sounds as though he is farther away than he is. “Once, in the back of a brightly colored wagon traveling down a dusty road, was kept a young prince from a foreign land, who could answer any riddle posed to him.”
Bram : “Who among you will be a star to guide this one’s path?”
Zeethran murmurs softly, ignoring everyone else, “I will guide this one’s path.”
Bram’s face twitches imperceptibly, as if on the edge of speaking, but no words come forth…
Zeethran glances down at the cards for a moment in silence, then speaks again, sounding more sure and almost is in a trance himself, “I Zeethran will guide Sethir with all my light…”
Bram seems to exhale a long breath nobody had noticed he was holding. “We see your light, Zeethran. And so shall Sethir follow you through the darkness with trust in his heart.”
Bram : “And so it was that Prince Sethir of Khamandia rode in silence in the back of the wagon that bore a painted likeness of him on the side. Lost in reverie, he didn’t hear Balta calling for him until the old man was red-faced with shouting. “SETHIR! You worthless, gaudy parrot!“”
Zeethran leans forward intently, fennec ears up, alert, and cute! He seems to be thinking something over before murmuring softly, “He turns his head quietly, slipping from day dreams, “I’m sorry, I did not hear you from where I was, what is it?”
Bram : “Balta tugs the bit in the mouth of the shaggy grey pony until it draws even with the back of Sethir’s wagon. The old man’s homespun vest and breeches were almost indistinguishable from the dust that covered his hirsuite form. “What are you on about, boy? You’ve been in the back of this wagon for the last 300 miles. We’re coming up on a town in a couple of hours, so start getting your act ready. Zatan says not to overdo the finery, it’s a small place and we don’t want to attract brigands.“”
Zeethran : The dreamy eyed prince just shrugs and would remove the rings from his fingers. He wasn’t all that fond of them in the first place, but his mother, the second bride of his father, insisted he take them. “Very well Balta, it would make my hand’s feel lighter any how.”
Bram : “The young prince turned back to the small, mobile apartment in the left side of the wagon- the right side being the part that would fold out to form the stage for his act, and smirked as the coverlet on his pallet flipped up to reveal a pale skinned arm. “What the hell is all the shouting? Can’t a girl get any sleep at… what time is it, anyway?” Celia asked, wiping the sleep from her eyes.”
Zeethran : The young man would glance up at the sun and shrug, “My guess is that it is edging on noon, but this is a strange land to me so I can never be sure…” He smiles apologetically, that dreamy gleam in his eyes as he seems to fade away again, just for a moment.
Zeethran’s ears seem to be picking up one hell of a weird radio station…
Bram : “”Noon?!” she cries. “Are you joking?” she fairly leaps from the bed, heedless of her lithe nakedness, and peers up at the sky. “Sethir, you dolt! You were supposed to wake me in time to prepare my paints! Zatan will have my hide if I’m not ready when we make the next town!” she punches his shoulder angrily, and turns back to find her clothes, her fair bottom glowing in the reflected light like, well, a moon.”
Zeethran : [*howl*]
Zeethran : The prince would smile and glance over his shoulder, “I’m sure you’ll be fine if you told him it was my fault…” Glances back in the distance, much too dreamy eyed to be all that interested in anything other than distant thoughts and figures that exist only in and of the mind. He glances to Balta after a while, “When exactly do we return home, again?”
Bram : “The rough old man turned from the pair of rousties he’d been berating, threatening them with bodily harm if they didn’t perform to his satisfaction; which of course the rousties were used to and mostly ignored. “What? Home?” He laughs, long and loud, a trickle of spittle drooling from the corner of his mouth. “Oh, that’s a rich one, you little twat. I’ve a mind to go and share that with Zat-” he breaks off in mid sentence as he notices Celia hastily donning her garb. “Bloody carcasses! You little rashamen whore!” his face reddens toward purple as he reaches for the riding crop he uses to beat unruly rousties.”
Zeethran : The boy holds his hand up for a moment, a calm yet stern look on his face, “I do not need to speak to those above do I, old Balta?” It was one of the boy’s most useful tricks that no one else but his favorite older brother and the court “magician” know, something involving some minor chemistry.
Bram : “The old man grunts with derision, his piggish eyes narrow. “Boy, I’ve been a carnie longer than you’ve been alive, parlor tricks do not scare me. He urges his pony closer and, reaching up, grabs Celia by the hair and yanks her awkwardly across the neck of his mount. She doesn’t cry out, too proud to admit the pain, as Balta bares his teeth at the prince. “I’m watching you, porkchop.” he growls as he rides forward to deliver Celia to the wagon she shares with her mother.”
Zeethran : Just sighs, it was a pity about Celia, a greater pity he had to travel with such hypocrytes and pigs. But in order to get what one wants, sometime you just have to endure humilation and depravity. He sighs again before taking himself into the wagon to get some time in the darkness, alone to think before the next bit of cruelty presented itself festering on a golden platter.
Bram : “Sethir managed to compose himself, picking through his apparel options and selecting an outfit that was gaudy and “exotic” without tempting any greedy eyes in the audience. He admired himself in his hand mirror, a rare and expensive treasure here, where sand for making glass was rare. It was fortunate that he held it so, for it intercepted the first of the flaming arrows that punched through the canvas of his wagon. Dazed, he sat up from his bed, mirror broken on the floor, blood in the cracks and down the front of his once-immaculate tunic.”
Zeethran : He takes no time to despair about his fine clothes or his now terribly broken and bleeding nose, he grabs a pouch filled with the special fire powder he took from home and ties it about his waist before jumping out of the caravan. If it was struck once, it would be again, and he figured there would be chaos enough for him to try and evade any arrows, although he wasn’t a fool to believe he would be spared.
Bram : “Sethir leapt from the frying pan of his rapidly burning wagon into the fire of wheeling horses and rough men with torches, bows, and axes. There were screams and shouts coming from further up the caravan, but the young man had no chance to find out who was getting the worst of it, as one of the horsemen immediately oriented on him and rode him down, fetching a blow to the side of his head with the haft of a woodsman’s axe. Eyes rolling back in his skull, he fell beneath the thundering hooves.”
Zeethran : But only if, two minutes before the thundering blow, had Sethir been able to throw the pouch down onto the ground admist the horses, upsetting the contents and causing them to conbust as he fell down to be trampled.
Bram : “But only if he himself will be badly burned by the explosion…”
Zeethran : And so it came to pass that, burned and beaten, the prince would not awaken for several days to find himself seemingly alone under a grey sky, his body terribly sore and his vision blurred and spinning. It would take him a long, long time, to realise that he was indeed alive, but he would not yet rejoice.
Bram : “Sethir woke gradually, as if he was swimming toward consciousness from the bottom of a deep well; a narrow circle of sky growing closer above him, slowly, slowly, until it filled his view. He heard a ragged, labored sound, and it was several minutes before he realized it was his own breathing. His right eye was gummy and when he forced it open, even the dim grey light filtering through the clouds was so painful he almost cried out.”
Zeethran : It would take another hour for the pain of the light to blend with the pain of his body, so immense that it felt numb. He would stare up in shock, despair, and very, very, hollow relief. He slowly ambles to his feet, gasping as the pain reminds him it is not gone, still here, probly for always, inside and out. And so it came to pass.
Bram : “And so the sun rose, and the star that guides Prince Sethir was hidden from view. But there will be another night, and there will be another star.”
Bram’s eyelids flutter and he seems to sink into himself.
Bram : “So, the ace of clubs… right. Let’s see, that’s….”
Zeethran shakes his head from his daze and looks around with a dreamy eyed look, “Where is everyone?”
Bram starts flipping through the pages of his book… “Hm… I can’t seem to find it…” he trails off, feeling very odd and somehow spent.
Bram : “Hm. I don’t know. Must have snuck off… ”
Zeethran blinks and yawns softly, a hand sliding over his ears, “Couldn’t of been that long…”
Bram : “No… Hey, I want to thank you. I realize my translation is incomplete, and a bit rough around the edges, but I appreciate you helping me get a feel for the ritual. Maybe some time we’ll have enough information to do it for real.”
Zeethran nods slowly with a faint, distant smile, “Sure, would be great….” He then slowly gets up, normally if he had been gone from “home” for this long, he would begin to panic, but he just doesn’t seem to care.
Bram rises too, wincing as his back creaks loudly, as if he’d been sitting for ages. He shakes hands firmly with Zeeth. “I’m gonna hit the sack, I’m pretty tired. I’m sure I’ll see you around the island.”
– – –
It really was something like 3am when we snapped out of it, both in- and out of character. It was pretty enjoyable, and although I think it needs more tweaking, it shows promise.
~ by oberon the fool on March 23, 2009.
Posted in Design, Gaming, Self Indulgence
Tags: Ben Lehman, Furcadia, Gaming, In Character, oracle, Polaris, ritual, role playing, role playing games, roleplaying, rpg design, rpgs, story, storytelling