story interlude

A Day of Rest

[I shared this “story interlude” with players after session 1.0.1 and before session 1.1.1 last night. Characters were taking a full heal-up in the village, and I wanted to provide PCs with context, clearly show them the divide in the village, and pull them into it. I wanted to see: what will they do with this? This piece of writing did achieve those goals.]

In the late afternoon sun, Mard kneeled and reverenced the fish swimming in the paddy. She was stiff on old joints but uncomplaining.

Just after dawn, it was Mard who burst first into the hut where you slept. Forty or fifty lizardpeople--the whole village--followed her, all cheering, rejoicing, beating drums, and shaking bean-filled gourds.

It was Mard who presented Stink with the three grain-filled baskets originally intended for the harpies--in gratitude for his brave and (many said) miraculous fight with the ogre last night. Of course, they were eager to thank all of you. But as Herk told it, only Stink glowed with an inner light, light that guided his knives. Sung told of how deft, strong, and honorable Stink was, how the whimpering ogre fell before him.

It was also Mard who then whisked Stink and all of you outside. A feast was spread, modest compared to the recent death-feast for the elf Queen, but clearly a feast. Before she allowed anyone to eat, Mard orchestrated a lesson in how a family would work together to prepare the grain, chook (pronounced “chuuk” like mook). Mard insisted you all imitate them--soaking the chook in salt water, packing it into small cakes, and cooking it on a rock in an open fire.

But now, it was Mard who prayed alone. (Herk and some dozen or two others, excluding Sung, had prayed there earlier.) Mard began to chant, “Thank you, Provider, for sending us victory. Thank--”

“Hey!”

Mard tensed at the brazen interruption. A tall, muscular lizardperson shouted again from some yards behind her. Rill, was his name. “The fish had nothing to do with this!”

Mard inhaled, exhaled, slowly and stiffly took her feet, and turned. But Rill, shockingly, was already upon her. He moved in a flash. No one had time to react.

“We have to fight!” Rill cried, as he landed a blow that sent Mard sprawling.

In heartbeats, others rushed toward both of them.

Just moments before, the village seemed united in celebration, but the violence shattered the facade. The same strange tension you observed last night between Herk and Sung, mother and daughter, was suddenly obvious in the whole village. Around you, two groups formed subtly, dividing the village. You heard grumbles, whispers, accusations against each other. The “Faithful” and the “Fighters.” Those--mostly older lizardpeople--who wanted to let the gods lead them to a new, safer home and those--mostly younger--who wanted to fight for their honor and for this home they already had. Herk leading one faction; Sung, the other.

As Mard rolled onto her side, Sung wrapped Rill up from behind, pinning his arms. Two other of her Fighters helped pull Rill away a safe distance, all three of them scolding Rill angrily, demanding an answer for what he was thinking. Rill just laughed, taunting Mard.

At the same time, Herk tended to Mard, gently helping her sit up. Then she motioned calm to her Faithful. “Just some water,” said Herk. “She’ll be fine.”

A hushed but vigorous argument broke out around Rill. Sung and many of her Fighters insisting Rill apologize. Rill refusing, vehemently.

“What did the gods have to do with last night?” Rill bellowed. “Nothing! It was those warriors with their muscle and knives and magic. We should arm ourselves and train like them! What good are prayers?”

The argument continued, even after Sung left the Fighters’ huddle. She approached Mard slowly, eyes down, palms out. “My deepest apologies, Elder Mard,” Sung said, kneeling, head bowed. “Rill acted dishonorably. His shame is on me.”

Mard stood, wincing but resolute. “I want to hear him say it,” she spat. Then raising her voice above the argument with Rill. “I want you all to say it!” Mard gestured to Sung, Rill, and all of Sung’s Fighters. “To the Provider! A ritual of repentance! You all are blasphemers, and this has gone on long enough.”

A murmur went through the group of Faithful. Agreement. Maybe “blasphemers” was harsh, some said. But yes, repentance! “Who knows?” one said aloud. “Maybe Providence of the Sea will be merciful.”

Rill went silent. The Fighters looked around at each other, many with looks of shock. Some hesitated or took half steps away from Rill. Others straightened, stood their ground.

Still kneeling, Sung looked up, incredulous, and locked eyes with Mard. Sung seemed about to protest, but Mard cut her off. Keeping her eyes on Sung, Mard called out:

“Most Honored Speaker Oramir! Surely you will preside over the ritual, will you not?”