The Anti-Farasma Temple
So there we were – rolling out of the vampire crypt with all the goodies they’d been taken from travelers and villagers. The threat of the vampire clan had been vanquished by yours truly, Harrows Justice, and yes we are accepting donations and hirings – talk to Maia for details. I think our band is like a big fucking heavy rock. We take a while to get rolling – I mean we only hit every single pissing wrong outlying house before finding the right one and I’m sure the vamps got a few extra kills – but boy, when we start rolling, look out. We will go forward with heartburn and smash everything in our way. Nice to see Larisha take a hit like that too – builds character.
Back at the ranch and sacked out until noon the next day – just in time for lunch – and head down to the chow hall of the ranch. Orsini, Trina and Neolandis are already there. I check in with Trina – since I wasn’t able to the night before really. Find out she’s adjusting just fine to life on the run and in hiding outside the city. Turns out she had quite the adventuring background and is even something of an expert in Schauntee ways. I don’t want to speak for the company – so I let Arith know and leave it at that.
We’re getting good information on the path into the desert, which passes through KaraMagva and about that Derro we just killed. Second time we’ve messed with those three-fingered blue-skinned devil midgets. Orsini confirms that the Derro, like the ones we found with Rolf and the one in the vampire master’s crypt have been a bane on Korvosa for awhile now. Mataya had some insights as well – being the only one able to read that pictograph note – it seems after failing Rolf in some way those Derro have all been kicked out.
All our meals are interrupted when Zilaro’s ghost appears at the end of the table, having swiped Larisha’s Harrow cards. And Zilaro starts good god damn reading – right there on the table. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think Zilaro would harm us, even being a ghost and all. But I don’t like ghosts. And I certainly don’t like people playing with strands of fate. And when it’s a ghost doing the weaving – well I’m out there. So I leave, relieve myself behind a bush and of course it’s just killing me what might be on those cards.
Larisha’s poring over them, like the fact the ghost just dealt herself in to a hand of Towers was no bother at all. Of course Farisma’s Finest is hummana-humman this, and hummana-hummana that. All that Harrow stuff don’t make much sense to me anyways about which card is positioned where. Crazy fucking rules if you ask me. But I can read pictures. And in the row for the past there’s the Courtesan, obviously referring to the Queen of Whores. And then there’s this circled blue lizard. Clear as day. I thought everyone realized but I had to point out that was probably the agent of ZonK’thon, whose teeth are now sitting atop the Whore Queen’s crown. I mean good goddamned – you learn that all the problems of Korvosa, this weird ass demon infestation and manifestation – it all links back to some bad-assed old blue lizard – and there one shows up in the cards dealt by ghost of a dead gypsy princess – I’m not a soothsayer but even I don’t need to consult a book of rules to know that’s an important thing.
So Larisha’s all still hummana-hummana when Zilaro waves her hands over the cards, and I swear it was like I was looking down on the palace, the ziggurat, from very high, the whole thing fit in a space no larger than the cards themselves. But I could see amazing detail of the figures moving in the image. It was some sort of historical lesson – like painted pictures being flipped in front of us but the figures were moving. First it was the Schauntee getting run out of Korvosa just in front of the Chelaxian – but the blue dragon, or some piece of him stayed behind. Then it was us getting run out of Korvosa – and still some aspect of the blue dragon there. Then it showed us traveling along our happy merry-go-fuck-me-way with an army of insect helmeted guys chasing us – Arith and I figure they were the Red Mantis assassins and we hadn’t seen the last of them. Then it appeared there was an agent of ZonK’thon amongst us (I figure this would’ve been whip-chain girl). Of course we all in Harrows Justice see these images, but not Orsini, Neolandis or anyone else – obviously crazy travels in company – but doesn’t take well to strangers. When we look up Zilaro is gone – and both Arith and I are eying the door. It’s time to move on.
Still we had one more time for a harrow reading while we were saddling up the horses so I asked Larisha to deal a hand out – and I asked who was the rightful King or Queen of Korvosa – or who as the rightful power? I figure if we’re fixing to put the regi in regicide with the Queen might not hurt to know who’s next up – and whether we’re just going to have to dance this dance all over again. The long and short of it, and with Larisha’s it’s always more the long than the short (I swear overhearing her prayers are night is just another reason to stay away from organized religion!) we get that yes, there is a monarch in waiting, and that’s a sign of hope, and that they’re actually on their way. On their way where? Oh no fucking clue from the cards there. They could be on their way on a boat, on a horse, or all metaphorical like on their way working through challenges. But the cards indicate there’s a rightful ruler – and I guess I’m good with that. Higher powers working and all that.
We made haste for the exit, Arith made Trina and offer she couldn’t refuse (like any woman with or without a pulse can refuse him) and all seven of us are up in the saddle off on the road to KragMava. Thrice was staying with Orsini, but I have a feeling we’ll run into him again – though hopefully this time not in a bag.
Travel was mostly uneventful. I always enjoy traveling – getting outside of the city. I haven’t been all that many places so each journey is usually heading somewhere new. Got a chance to talk to Mataya a bit. Put a boot in her ass though about all this hand waving and fretting about how cool Harrow’s Justice is, how Harrow’s Justice is the neat, how she’s heard about all we’ve done. Hopefully I got her head straight on the notion that there is no “her” and “us”. Thinking like that gets people killed. She’s part of the group now – for better or worse, which come to think of it could also get her killed. Now it’s just us – she’s part of the team, part of the company. I also told her to find herself within the Harrows Cards – figure out a card that embodies who she is and own that image, that meaning. The people in Korvosa need something iconic to believe in, something that doesn’t have a last name or a personal history – something larger than life. Like Black Jack. That’s how I came on the Rabbit Prince concept. Hopefully it works for her. I also gave her a symbol for Caiden Cailyen – and told her a little bit of father’s history.
I had a good long talk with Arith around the campfire one night. See the way I figure it – battle shapes a person – it’s the crucible to forge your nature. Anyone can blah-blah talk chat-chat about who they are and what they’re for – but until they have to test that in battle it’s just talk. For me – personally – losing everything I ever held dear or valued has probably saved my life more than once. Because when it comes to battle – you have to fight like you have nothing to lose – or everything to lose. Anything less – anything in between, any hesitation or pause will get you, or someone on your side killed. When facing enemies you don’t stop to count numbers, you need to move forward and engage – calculating odds is something you do when the fight is over and you can count how many bodies are lying around you. That’s martial abandon – where everything you have, are and could be rests on that one exchange, that one interplay of thrust and parry, and in all that focus nothing else matters. Not tomorrow, not the day before, not what comes next. That focus on the one enemy you must kill to the exclusion of all else.
That’s the difference between a soldier a warrior and a leader – it’s all about purpose. A soldier is someone who wouldn’t fight normally – but is trained to fight on orders. That’s all the purpose there is for a soldier – the command to be follow. A warrior on the other hand issomeone who fights, purpose or no, because the fight is there. I mean, there is no grand scheme, no master plan – it’s you and the brother or sister next to you in battle, and that’s all that matters. That’s me. Sure I’m a soldier when I was in the Guard I fought on order – and I still would if I found someone besides Arith I’d ever take orders from.
But half the time as a warrior you just start fighting and you find the purpose in the midst of a battle. Pick the biggest, baddest, ugliest, meanest, toughest, most-unlikely-to-succeed-against foe you can – pick ‘em out and charge them because that’s the only place you’ll find a challenge worthy of testing yourself. Maybe that’s why I got such a hard-on for the Queen – for taking her out. Go figure. Maybe there’s something into that. Anyways Arith – he’s different. He’s a leader – he can define the purpose. That’s why he gets to make the calls – though I’m not sure he realizes it yet. He’d make a good Marshall or General – maybe even a King. Though I’d hate to see him become Chelexian by too much exposure to the system. Being on the outside is good for him – makes him realize the consequence of his calls.
Well a few days after that talk we came upon a camp that had been attacked. Looked like some teleporting types, folks who can blink like Arith, well they came up and grabbed some travelers. Me – I’m all for a fight but I defer to Arith here – and he makes the call to go after them. We track them to the entrance of a cave. Inside is a nasty looking set of rocks, coming down from the top of the cave and up from the bottom to meet in the middle like some hideous grin. Larisha spotted a Farasma symbol to the side – fortunately for us. Apparently you have to sacrifice some blood – make it painful, to bypass the trap. Nothing that I haven’t given before so that was easy enough. Just put a knife through the hand, twist a half circle and move on. Everyone else – you thought they were trying to have a contest of “who can spill the least drops”. Bunch of pansies.
Now of course by this point we’ve had a minor theological debate on whether these folks were really Farasmian followers like you find in Korvosa, or some kind of anti-Farasma faction. It’s interesting – I got two answers. Larisha was from the anti-Farasma camp – that this was some sort of heretical offshoot. Arith was more nuanced, which is surprising to hear nuance from a guy who’s cape is always fluttering in the wind like he’s posing. But he pointed out every religion has groups within it to ‘do the dirty work’, indicating he was perhaps just such a person for his God, and that these nutballs may be such a faction. It’s all blah-blah hummana hummana to me – I don’t care of the politics of the lobster before it goes into the pot – and these guys in the cave, they were about to meet the pot.
Having disarmed the trap we still knew it’d be hard going to get through – and chances were high the enemy was waiting on the other side. Naturally I went first. Wasn’t as bad as I thought, what didn’t give way crumbling around the edges I scraped through pretty well – though I put a tear in my cloak and almost lost a pouch. Once I cleared the other side three guys were waiting for me, I barely got a look before the whole world went black. And I’m not talking the black of night, where you still have the light of the moon or the stars, or even the black of a room inside where you can still sense that somewhere – nearby – there is some light. This was pitch fucking dark. Like you’d been shoved inside a bag, the bag put in a barrel, the barrel sealed and put in a box, and the box buried six feet under. And then people started hitting you with weapons.
And here I am – getting pounded on by these three goons and I can’t see a damn thing. So I start hitting back. Do I know what I’m hitting? Fuck no. Does it matter? Not really. Do I know how much damage I’m doing? Fuck no. Does it matter? Again…not really. See I know what my role is – get in the thick of it and hold attention until people above my pay grade can figure out what to do. I could be knocking Arith or Mataya to the ground for all I know but I assumed they had the smarts to get out of the magical darkness. I figure as long as I can keep the three occupied, the three smarter members of the group would figure out a way to lift the darkness. I’m not too worried, I’m pretty damn sure I can outlast any Farasma-worshipping crybaby goth candy-assed fae-weave-wearing wannabe. And you know what? I was fucking right! Sure enough – the darkness lifts – and I’ve got two bodies around my feet. Good gear on them too – like whoever their sugar mommy was paid well – too bad I got blood all over their fancy pants. One guy gets away, disappearing into a wall where Larisha swears is another giant Farasma symbol. We hang long enough to get our breaths back, just enough time for them to set up all the defenses they’ll need, and then we head in to follow them.
We come into a room with a huge encircled space on the far side, surrounded by more of those goon-guys and one evil looking bitch. The anti-Larisha as it were – figurin’ they both worship Farasma. In three of us are three Cyclops – but their powder puffs. Hit hard but go down quick. And this room? The walls – covered in all the nasties you’d expect in a meat cleaning shop and some weird laboratory combined. I’m just beginning to enjoy my newfound ability to see when, of course, it all goes back again. Fortunately I’ve keyed in on my opponent, the anti-Larisha chick – I know she’s the brains of the outfit. Even though I can’t see a thing – I can sense where the enemy is. So I move forward. To engage. I have no doubt this is going to be one hell of a nut-roll. My first move out one of those Cyclops hit me back into a wall pinning me on two hooks. But I’ll get off the hooks – and I’ll move forward. No grand scheme – no master plan – just stick to that witch-bitch and keep hitting until I feel her bones crack and break beneath my polearm. That’s the abandon.
Oh, Pharasma, this is very exciting! Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to do your work. So, in case you were paying attention to other things that were happening today, and I can’t really imagine that you were, but just in case…. Let me tell you about today’s exciting adventure. Did I already call it exciting? Well, I probably did, but it was very exciting. So…
I’m sure that you were paying attention to what happened this morning because what happened this morning could not possibly have happened without you. There we were at breakfast, planning our next step in our somewhat kinda sideways war against the Queen. We were sitting at breakfast with Orsini (wow, Orsini!) and Trina was there, and as we’re discussing our trip to the Shonti lands. Orsini tells us that Trina knows a lot about the Shonti. How perfect is that? I mean, I know that Orsini knows so much more than we will ever find out. But, oh! I’m sorry, I was talking about Trina. So…
So we start talking about taking Trina with us and I wonder why we even discussed it. It was a foregone conclusion. We are going to the Shonti, Trina knows about the Shonti, Fate happens! Sometimes I wonder why you don’t just strike all of us with some sort of glowing deific hammer. But then I realize that it must be hard to deal with mere mortals. And even the smart ones like River must seem pretty stupid to you.
Anyway, there we were at the table, and of course it’s a great day for fate. Because there is Zolara just sitting there with us at the table as clear as anything. And here’s what’s cool. She’s even visible to Orsini and Neolandis. So of course she deals Harrow for us, and it’s all about our mission and the Queen. And then she does this really cool thing where she shows us… I don’t even know what to call it! A waking vision of forces, moving across Korvosa. There is us, and the Red Mantis, and it’s pretty obvious that they are trailing us and we don’t have much time to find and get help from the Shonti.
But none of this is the really cool part, is it? The really cool part is when we find an abandoned camp, and it leads us to an heretical sect of your religion, who worship you through pain blood and death. I mean, what kind of nonsense is that?! It’s true that you are a god of death, but that’s sort of because you’re against un-death. Not because we should kill people in your name….
So I did a wonderful thing and led Harrow’s justice through their traps and portals until we managed to kill them all in your name. Well, not exactly killing them in your name, not like they were killing people in your name. I mean, it wasn’t really done for worship of you, except that I worship you and I wasn’t going to let them get away with that. I mean, you didn’t like what they were doing, right? So it was good for us to kill them, right? Because if you didn’t want us to kill them, you would not have let us find them. You do control that? Because otherwise I might feel really bad about encouraging my party to kill other worshipers of my God. So I hope that’s what you wanted, okay? And if that’s not what you wanted, then you need to let me know and I’ll be really sorry, but sometimes I’m going to get it wrong. But I think this is what you wanted us to do.
It was pretty hard, though. I suppose that this is just another trial on my way to becoming what you need me to be. Sort of like putting up with Lachellis, drinking all the time and making lewd remarks.
So, after all the fighting was over, I took all of their holy symbols, and I will take them back to the mother Church, where they can be given to real worshipers of your real purpose and your real word, and not some crazy people who think that they have to hurt others in order to please you. If you really want pain as a sacrifice, I would think that you get enough of it in the medicine that we perform and in the terrible chores we have to do in putting down the dead. But you don’t want that, do you?