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Zeitgeist Blue

Jungle Memories: Walking the Daydream

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<Hmm?> Doji's ears perk up at your story. As you continue he doesn't move from his seat. It is only when you end that he looks at Isa.

 

<You should go back to the gate or sleep!> He says, clapping his hands suddenly and the noise seems to startle her. <God knows you haven't had enough the past few days.>

 

<But---> Isa says, but he stands up before she can say anything else and ushers Isa out with a surprising vigor for someone his age. He bids her goodnight from the door and watches her leave. After a few seconds, he closes the door and slides a lock across it.

 

Only then does he move towards the table and sits down, the energy fading from him, and for a moment he looks a hundred years old. He steeples his fingers and thinks, eyes downcast, before he finally looks at you.

 

<There is no need to ask for forgiveness. The world is old and leaves behind many of its refuse hidden where few go. It seems to me you have stumbled across one.> He moves his head and shadow falls across his eyes. You see the wrinkles on his forehead, the drooping of skin. He is old and has seen many things. <I know of the temple you speak of. And that something lurks within.>

 

He pauses, then takes two mugs and pours what looks to be tea into them. He speaks as he pours. <Decades ago, when I was young and foolish and before the we had fully decided to plant our roots here, I had two friends who told me of this temple they had discovered, same as you. And that they planned to take whatever was inside to grow rich and give to their families. They began their trek and when weeks passed and I had not heard from them, I knew something was wrong.>

 

He passes you a mug, steaming with hot air. <I saw the temple, the lure that it brought to those plumbing its depths, and I turned away before I too could be caught.>

 

He looks down at his mug. Then he raises his eyes and they meet yours. <Are you seeking what I know? Stories of old myths? But I am not surprised that you think the beast assailing us is of the old world.> He smiles at you, scratching his neck. <Paruma, if I recall. A servant of the Beast, who stalks the jungles and reminds us that we are not the masters of nature we think we are. They were unshackled from their pens and given free reign when the Moon was devoured, a lunar eclipse, and so people would offer sacrifices to appease them at the same time sacrifices to bring back the Moon they so loved.>

 

<They were, like many things from the myths, part and parcel of Nature. Not unkind or giving, but just. Perhaps they mean for us to move, do you think? To leave them alone?>

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Snakebite

 

"<You have been honest with us, and I can only be honest with you>" said Snakebite, slowly and with a twing of shame. "<We are historians, archeaologists. We seek to understand and bring the history to the present. It is..well...perhaps we are tainted with pride and vanity...>" she said, head bowed. 

 

"<But we seek no harm. We have found that temple, and...we found...Paruma....>"

 

"<We do not understand fully what happened. But...I think they used human sacrifice to appease the beasts below this world. And we think one of those sacrifices went very wrong....>"

 

"<I do not know, but I think the only way the world can be saved from Paruma is by the ritual done correctly....>"

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<I see no wrong in your livelihood,> he says, leaning back on his chair as his hands rest on his stomach. <This is your way of preserving your people's past, or of other people's in this case, just as our oral traditions do in a similar way. If your pride and vanity has brought this upon us then at least you have the courage to attempt to fix it.>

 

<And while I appreciate you being so open to me about the faults you perceive in yourself but,> and his eyes dart to the door. <Your companion. Perhaps he won't be as admitting of his own.>

 

He shrugs his shoulders, shirt hanging loose on his wiry frame. <Maybe it is an old man's fears, to worry. Now, you were talking about human sacrifice? And that the Paruma is somehow connected to it?>

 

He pauses, thinking before he resumes. <I hope you are not implying we enact a human sacrifice.> He smiles tightly at you to show he was merely kidding. <But if you think you have a way, even if just an inkling, to stop this beast, then I will do what I can to help. My tribe will too, but their first priority is to the defence of our village.>

 

He sighs. <But I fear it will be futile if we continue like this.>

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Snakebite

 

I hope we don't have to sacrifice a human either. Especially not me...

 

Cassie was driven in many ways. But she wasn't so heroic that she would lay down her life. Risk her life, maybe. Sacrifice...well. That was another matter. She liked life. Quite a lot. 

 

"If we can help, we will. Although I really hope that doesn't mean human sacrifice. I...don't think it does. If we can just make sure the sacrifice that should have happened properly does happen properly, maybe that will work. But to get it right, we need herbs. Ingredients. Some kind of drug..." she offered. 

 

A thought struck her. 

 

She showed the old man her ring. 

 

"And if we can work out what this is...maybe that will help...."

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GM

 

<Herbs, ingredients, drugs.> He runs his fingers through his hair as he repeats your requests. <We have those and I did promise you them, but they are in scarce supply since that Paruma came, injuring many of us.> He nods his head, determined. <Yes, you will have the ingredients.>

 

He reaches over and slides a wooden board to the side, opening a window, then points to a nearby house. <Our healer holds most of our ingredients but I have some myself here. They will have to be prepared overnight but you will have it in the morning.>

 

<How else can we ensure this ritual goes properly?> He asks you as the cool evening air streams in.

 

Then he shuts the window as you show him your ring and he regards it with curiosity. <I'm afraid I don't know what this is. From the images these would be depicting the old gods?> His finger reaches out and he taps the cold iron once. And at that instant the ring warms and you see a younger man instead of the one who has seen decades pass him by. He is dark of hair and of skin, with a bookish sort of look and he regards your ring with curiosity.

 

Then the young man retracts his finger and you see Doji, old and wrinkled if still robust. The ring is cold around your finger once more.

 

<Something from the temple?> He shales his head vigorously then inspects the finger that touched the ring, as if it were burned. <I'm just an old man with a head for stories. I don't know much about rings that grow hot to the touch.>

 

He looks up at you, brows raised in question. <Is it magic? Can it? But if it is from the temple then it must be cursed magic that you wear.>

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Snakebite

 

"<I think it is....>" replied Cassie. "<Cursed that is. For I cannot take it off....unless you know some special trick to do so. I am afraid that, even though I dig through much that is old and forgotten, I am not an occultist, shaman, or witch>" she explained. 

 

Although Witches have a somewhat mixed reputation!

 

"<I think it is from the temple...but I am not sure. I found it on my finger after a vision of the past. A dream, you could say. Hmmm....the old Gods....>" she pondered for a moment. It was true she was no occultist, but she had heard of strange an terrible ancient Gods, the Cult of the Yellow Sign, the Unspeakable one....

 

"<If you can spare the herbs we can make the sacrficial drug. Perhaps that will end the scourge of Paruma. I hope so. In the mean time, we would help the village as best we can. Perhaps even fight the creature off, should it show its teeth to us....>"

 

"<As for your wounded, we have some medical supplies. I am no doctor, but perhaps we can help a little>" she added. 

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GM

 

<Then perhaps all we can do is hope and pray,> Doji says. <You were the ones who have experienced what the temple had to offer. So I will trust your judgement in this even if it seems like a last grasp for hope.>

 

He stands up, pushing his chair back, and leads you out to his door. He unlocks it and opens it for you, and leaning against the frame says to you, <It isn't so late that you would be waking people up, but tell Anne you come with my blessing. She can be testy with her patients.>

 

He nods to you once then shuts the door, drowning your surroundings in darkness. It isn't a bother for you though and you make your way towards the house Doji had last indicated, where the healer was. But before you could knock on the door, it opens and you see a short and stout woman glare at you from behind the door. You see that she too looks as if she has not slept very well for the past days. Her and clothes are ruffled, and from the inside of her house you can smell a sickly, sweet smell as if perfume was being cooked in a fire.

 

<Oh, it's the foreigner,> she practically snaps at you. <I'm busy. What do you want?>

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Snakebite

 

Cassie was not one for praying. A thousand hands praying cannot match one hand acting...

 

But that was her - and people needed rituals to survive. And hope. "<We must always keep hope, even if there is none>" she answered Doji. 

 

"<We came to help>" explained Cassie, pulling out her medical kit. "<If we can>" she explained. "<We aren't doctors, but if there are any sick or wounded, we will try and help>" she said. She wished now she spent a bit more time studying basical medical care - it was certainly handy in an expedition. She always ended up to distracted with history...

 

She did what she could, anyway, even if it was hardly of much help. The thought counted, although when it came to saving lives, it was the saving that counted more. 

 

"Seems the beast has followed us" she said to Neil whilst they tended. "We have a duty to this village. Protect them as best we can. We best check on the perimeter once we have finished up here. If time permits, even some old school traps and snares would not go amiss...."

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GM

 

Healer Anne stares at you for a second before she relents. <Alright, fine.> She waves you inside the hut. <If Doji's one to send you then maybe you aren't so bad. Just don't mess up or you're gone faster than you could say 'Ouch'.>

 

Inside, there is a row of patients, all in different states of health and care. Some are covered in bandages all around their torso, red with blood. Others have wounds that seem to have mostly healed, and they lay down on their cots peacefully. You lend your hands to a pair of assistants and Anne goes back to her work. The assistants bandage wounds, rewrap bandages, apply salves, and help the injured drink water. They give their patients what seems to be the concoctions, which put their patients into a near sleep. Healer Anne meanwhile, when she isn't working on creating more potions, walks among the mats where the injured lie, treating the worst looking among them.

 

You don't know their medical practices, but some things are universal, and you are able to bandage some of the wounded. Anne looks over your shoulder a few times but leaves with nothing more than a huff.

 

An hour or so after you had begun, Neil enters the hut, receiving the same treatment you had from the healer. He begins work he same as you do until he is beside you, muttering something about not being able to sleep.

 

He grimaces as you lay out your plan. "Sounds like it would achieve nothing, honestly. Traps and snares..." He sighs. "This isn't a dear we're trapping, or even a bear. Walking around alone's going to "

 

"If it's following us then it seems like the best plan is to get the hell out of dodge." He points at your ring. "Only thing worth following for. Maybe it wants that, maybe not. I'm no expert on the supernatural. But, sure, I'll go with you if it'll get you peace of mind."

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Snakebite

 

It was a fair point, and one she had mulled. 

 

"We can't leave until we have the ingredients to re-enact the ritual" she said, almost guilty. 

 

"Although...."

 

It was personally risky. She didn't like it. 

 

"...I could leave, and you get the ingredients"  she said, sounding him out. 

 

She didn't like it one bit. There was something she had not quite put her finger on...why was Neil so oft the target of the beast's accusations? Why the whispers and eyes always on him? Why, if it was she wearing the ring?

 

Do I trust him...

 

.,...no....

 

....at least not completely....

 

...I am not sure I distrust him, either...

 

She waited to see what Neil would make of her suggestion. It was a perilous one. She had barely survived the first encounter, and only with Neil's bullets to save her bacon. Facing it alone would be dangerous in the extreme. 

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He nods. "Another way to do it, sure," and he throws a thumb back at Healer Anne, who is glaring at the two of you talking instead of working. "But the old woman says it takes hours for one whole serving to be prepared."

 

"Go," he tells you. "I'll stay here and help what I can."

 

***

 

Traps. Snares. Deadfalls. Improvised bears. Stakes. You do what you can with what limited time and equipment you have. Even gathering the tools and raw materials, there is only so much one woman could add. A few villagers on patrol or brave enough pass by you and one or two stop to help dig pits or fashion holds upsized to the Paruma's size. They quickly leave after their work is done, exchanging with you only a few words.

 

It is hard work and more than halfway through your planned traps you look up to the sky and see that the moon has reached its zenith. It is midnight and the jungle is quiet, unnerving instead of calm because you know the reason for the silence.

 

One could feel more alone than they actually are just looking up and hearing nothing. Indeed, you are at a point farthest from the stream, where the clearing cuts off and the hills begin rolling up again into more jungle and trees. The huts are merely a short jog away but there is not a soul in sight.

 

Then silence is broken. You hear the sound of gunshots off to the distance. They come from the opposite of the village of where you are. They are cut off abruptly. Then running footsteps, shouting as the people in the perimeter run to find out what has happened. You all hear this from where you are but before you can move to see what the commotion, your eye catches sight of a human figure where the hills meet the trees.

 

Kayara steps out from the jungle and raises her hand towards you, as if beckoning. Then she takes another step and begins walking to you.

 

"The explorer," she says, and for the first time you see she is more kucid than you have seen her. More full, more human. More otherworldly and more real. Her hair shines bright like the moon, almost silver. "I find you here, explorer, bearer of my beloved's ring."

 

Her pupils burn bright with fire. Literally, like a video playing a montage. You blink and it is gone. "Bearer of my body and soul, of its body and soul."

 

She cocks her head as if hearing what you are hearing, then she lowers her gaze back to you and she is smiling, a beautific smile fit for a saint. "I gave it all to you and for all that you went through, you did not dissapoint."

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GM

 

Cassie felt something different this time. Kayara --- seemed less insane

 

Was this the past? or even the future? Did dimensions like time even matter to lunar dieties?

 

"It may be beloved" she answered. "But it is more than ornamental. It bears your body and soul then. And it seems stuck to me. Welded to my finger" she said, holding up the offending article. 

 

"Dragging destruction along with it. I am not sure how beloved it is to me" she said, a little angry now. She forced the anger down to her stomach. Fury would serve no purpose here, although she had plenty to spare. 

 

She went for a blunt approach. 

 

"How do I get it off? Return it you?....a sacrifice?" she wagered. 

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GM

 

"Of course you would hate it," Kayara says, absent-mindedly as she lifted her head to the sky. "Neither has any of the previous bearers I had bestowed upon it."

 

"But in destruction there too is creation. Power." Still watching the sky, she reaches out a hand and grips your own with the ring in hers, pulling your hand until you are touching her chest. The ring grows hot, as if she were a furnace. "I see so much greed in your life. A lust for recognition. But tell me, is it merely because of your family name? To live up to it or to remove yourself from their shadow?"

 

She lets go of your hand and lowers her gaze to you. Then she smiles. "You know well the power of the past and it is similar power which my beloved's ring holds. To cut to the truth of all things as the moon's light does on the darkest night. To guide your understanding on why and how they are."

 

"The beast knows this but can do little save deny me my fate for milennia. But you have the tools to complete the sacrifice, yes?" She waves a hand across the air and she almost seems sad as she does so. "The conditions are not ideal but so few things are in this world. Take your tools and come back to me quick for when we begin it shall know and do all in its power to stop us."

 

"As for the sacrifice... Is it not obvious?" Her fingers reach out to hold your gaze on her.

 

"It shall be me."

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Snakebite

 

Well there was some small comfort in knowing she was the not first, mused Cassie. 

 

She wasn't wrong about the greed, but Cassie was damned if she was going to respond to that jibe, even if it was true. In fact, this moon diety seemed to know an awful lot about everything. Which, given she was a diety, was perhaps not surprising. 

 

"Sacrifice yourself?" she asked, a little suspiciously. "You would do such a thing? Noble, to be sure. Bold and brave. But why? Is it to reborn, reincarnated? or transformed somehow?" she asked. "Or would this sacrifice lead to your end? Oblivion? That's a heavy price for anyone to pay, especially if they would otherwise live on for eternity"

 

She hardly dared ask these questions...the figure was mesmerisingly beautiful....but she was obstinate when it come to inquisition...

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GM

 

The shouts begin anew, more numerous, and accompanying it are more gunshots. Even without your enhanced hearing you probably could still hear the sounds of fighting from the other side of the village.

 

"I was told I was blessed by my people once," she begins as if nothing is happening, splaying one hand over her chest. She grows more imperious by the word, seemingly taller and bold. "Touched. A priestess. But they were wrong as they lived and they were wrong as they died. I am the Moon made flesh. Even after all this time I hold on to that and at my most lucid, when I shine the brightest I understand what I am capable of." Then her voice grows softer and sadder, and she averts her eyes to the ground.

 

"If only... I were to leave this mortal body. Yet the beast within wars against my true nature, crippling me always. I am wretched here and you would not understand the need for sacrifice with what you believe right and just."

 

She waves you away, turning on her heel and she calls back at you. "But I do not adhere to your sensibilities. Go now and return to where I am nearest to the Earth. These people hold the beast at bay but they cannot do so forever."

 

Then she walks back from where she had appeared in the woods, and even with your senses she melts out of sight. The sounds of fighting turn worse and they come closer, into the village you realize.

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