Federation-Apocalypse Session 87 – Secrets of the Faithful

   Due to a special request for some off-schedule gaming, Session 87 followed the day after after session 86:

   The executions were, of course, proceeded by a reading of the charges, a formal plea for mercy by some of the Elvish missionaries in town, and some other ritualistic bits. The cases of the two followers of the Elder Eye were straightforward enough; Kidnaping people to sacrifice to an evil god in exchange for magic and control over monsters. No one had questioned what they wanted useless or elderly slaves for in the Underdark – but now that slaves were scarce, they had resorted to snatching people.

   Marty considered that pretty much a lose-lose situation there. Of course, even if the city had still been routinely sentencing people to slavery, two characters with supernatural powers to summon up monsters probably wouldn’t have been ideal candidates. Most of the Orcs and evil Underdark races had either gone to Battling Business World or had been left behind in the Underdark, most of the slaves from the surface races had been released as one of the conditions on getting aid from the surface elves, and the priestesses of Elistraee were generally against enslaving other Dark Elves – unless, of course, they refused to reform and stuck with being Drow. There were still all the slaves from the enemy army and the ongoing attacks against the fortifications around the gates in the Underdark.

   There was a disturbance of course. The Elder Eye granted powers over Abominations and Slimes, and there were a number of things lurking in the drains that the condemned prisoners called up in a last-ditch effort to avoid being killed – or possibly in an attempt to make a few final sacrifices before they met their god.

   Marty helped take care of that – and looked after his two apprentices. The battle wasn’t really that long; the two cultists didn’t really have that many monsters available and there were only two of them to control the things – but the populace did see it as a more than ample justification for a sentence of slow-and-painful-death. The authorities were grateful both for the assistance and for the healing of injuries afterwards: they still had arcane magic, but the only divine healing magic in town was from the missionaries and a few cults. With eleven Thralls along, Marty had more healing magic than the rest of the town put together.

   The noble kid and his servant boy were next up – and the charges there were rather vague. They were implicated in some sort of secretive cult and the disappearance of other children, and they had refused to provide any further information under interrogation – including somehow managing to resist thought-probing spells. They’d attempted to escape before interrogation, had been defiant and otherwise troublesome, and were suspected of being responsible for attacks on the city by strange monsters.

   It sounded like a laundry-list to Marty. No doubt the kids were up to something or other – kids often were – but the city population was in a new place, with new monsters, and their entire life had been turned upside down. The elders were pretty set in their ways, yet everything had changed – and the kids were up to something new and unprecedented. It looked to him like they were being scapegoated.

   Dang it, after Gelman’s lambasting, he was actually feeling ETHICAL!

   He backed the formal appeal for mercy – although he turned out to have enough local pull as a vital supplier, one of the architects of their escape, and potential bearer of unknown powers to get it commuted to banishment without even resorting to knifing people. Of course, they didn’t have too many places to go… The Dark Elves had picked this area because of the perpetual twilight, a reputation that kept most people away, and the scattering of monsters that helped ensure privacy and keep everyone together.

   Surrounding the area… There were the Dales, where persistent raids by Lloth-worshiping Drow had caused a great deal of havoc. Sembia, which disliked even normal elves and outsiders in general. The Empire of Shadows – a wasteland run by ancient evil spirits – and Cormyr, which was having a civil war. Not exactly ideal situations for a pair of Dark Elven kids.

   That left the ocean or shipping them out from the Amarant Solutions office. The Thralls said that they were ensouled after all.

   Well, he had just taken responsibility for them – but he wasn’t sure that he wanted to send Kevin more potential Thralls right away. He got them positions just past the first gate for the moment.

   The kids were quite grateful – and seemed to be slightly in awe of him. Was that really called for?

(Marty) “No need for that, just saving your butts.”

(Kid) “Thank you for intervening! I didn’t want to die that way…”

(Marty) “Did you actually do anything?”

(Kid) “Only a few minor healing spells and such – but the priestesses of Ellistraee and the old nobles got all upset… We should have left with the others, but the ones with commitments had to stay behind.”

   Wait, what? They’d done healing magic – even if minor – and had been involved with disappearances, but only voluntary ones… Ok, they really WERE up to something.

(Marty) “Really? Now why would they get mad at you for that? They NEED that!”

   They were a bit shy about explaining – but were willing to talk to Marty for some reason.

   It was because a few of them had thought Kevin might be a god – he was using incredible powers to intervene in the godswar after all – and so they’d tried setting up a little group worshiping him. There weren’t many approachable godlings who seemed to specialize in getting people out of danger and bestowing powers.

   It had worked. Several of them had gained minor powers. They’d been keeping it a secret, both because a few were running away to wherever the Thralls would send them (Marty sighed. Oh yes; the Thralls did have standing orders to recruit) and because the local priests were ALL very much against intruder deities. Almost as importantly, most of the older nobles were very much against both male and young deities.

   Oh, great, religion and politics mixing with possessive local deities. It looked like ALL the local priesthoods tried to root out new cults and such, lest they spawn competitors.

   Why hadn’t the Thralls just shipped them all out? He shot a quick query over, and found that the Thralls tended to respect contracts; some of the kids – like the noble youngster here – had agreed to apprenticeships, while the servant-boy had, of course, agreed to a term of service. Therefore the Thralls wouldn’t help them escape.

   Of course, the local Thralls knew that they’d probably performed the Spirit-linking ritual anyway, so even if they got killed, that would just send them to Kadia anyway.

   And that was why they were both in awe of, and willing to talk to, Marty – and weren’t bothering to disguise it any longer. They considered him at least a demigodling.

   This was making his two apprentice bards more than a bit uncomfortable – especially since the kids reported actually being granted divine magic thanks to their worship.

(Ashera) “Uhm… Marty… Are they serious?”

   Gah!

(Marty, with a lot more hesitation than before) “Yes…”

(Ashera) “But only a major outsider can grant divine magic! Gods or demons lords and such! What are you then?”

(Marty) “I am an agent of one of these beings.”

   There was a certain amount of upset there… They’d heard of the Godswar, and of the disruptions in the Underdark, and knew many legends of other Godswars (well, they were apprentice bards). If new gods were moving in, all civilization might be in danger! Especially if the new god was recruiting among the Drow; Lloth wouldn’t tolerate that! Was Marty – and this new deity – trying to get them all killed?!?

   Telervari was too busy making religious gestures at him and praying to talk though.

(Marty) “Hey, I’m having second thoughts about it!”

   The utter holy wrath of his colleague combined with news of the custody change had really affected Marty. He was actually starting to THINK about these things! Hm… Perhaps it was time for another god to enter the equation? How did you go about becoming a god anyway? He’d have to look into it…

(Telervari) “Where did this diety come from? What’s he like? Why is he trying to push his way into our realm? How long before the gods notice and go to war?!?”

   Marty explained Kevin to the best of his ability – but didn’t make much of an effort to sell him.

(Ashera) “Oh, WONDERFUL! A rebellious teenage deity! “

(Marty) “Yeah, that’s him.

(Telervari) “And already operating in several worlds? The Gods are going to be livid!”

(Marty) “Wish I knew that before I partnered up with him…”

(Ashera) “You’re PARTNERED with a DEITY? WHAT are YOU?!?”

(Marty) “I’m a … well, back home I’m a normal person, but a lot of places would call me a cartoon. A moving picture. You know, like minor image.”

   It took some time to explain that his body was like an illusion in some ways, but that he was quite real.

(Marty) “See? Flesh!”

(Ashera – the girl he’d slept with – flushed a bit) “Well I never doubted THAT… At least this “Kevin” isn’t actively trying to build a following! A few stupid children probably won’t attract the notice of the gods…”

   Marty – giving it a little thought – was inclined to agree. A few hundred street kids spread across the world and a few kids meeting in a clubhouse probably wasn’t worth a Godswar. A trickle of Drow youngsters from each city who thought that signing up was a lot easier and safer then their other options – probably wasn’t important either. He kept his mouth shut. Considering the Underdark, the Wererats probably got more kids than Amarant Solution recruited every year. Did they have many friends who were still active in their little cult?

(Marty) “So who turned you in?”

(Kid) “My older sister did… She caught me healing an injured pet.”

   Drow… Er, he meant, “Dark Elves”.

(Marty) “Well, hopefully that’s the last you’ll need to worry about her.”

   Apparently the kid wouldn’t miss her. She hadn’t ever been very nice to him, or at least she hadn’t been nice in the last few decades.

(Marty) “And what’s up with these strange monsters? Know anything about that?”

(Kid) “I think they’re just the things that live around here. After all, we couldn’t expect to see tunnelwyrms and mind flayers and things up here could we?”

(Marty) “Makes sense.”

   He really needed to do something to straighten out the traditionalists and to nudge them toward an understanding of how an aboveground life worked.

   Then he smacked his head with his palm. How silly could he be? In his local Identity he was a BARD, and he’d brought along some others! All he had to do was distribute information!

   He sent the kids on their way after finding out who else (another eighteen kids or so) was in their cult and set out to distribute what information he could about building surface buildings, the local fauna and flora, and just generally living in the open air, making it as entertaining and appealing as he could,

   That went over pretty well – and it helped that he could easily import some books. Oddly enough, the local elves teachings had been almost entirely concerned with gods and philosophical matters, and hadn’t included much that was practical.

   Marty HATED people like that. They were one of the reasons he hadn’t been thinking too hard about Kevin’s methods; he got results!

   Still, at least he’d given them a good kick in the rear!

   He authorized the Thralls to arrange transport out for the cult members, and to buy the members out of minor commitments and such. It was unlikely that the local gods would start anything over Kevin passing through every so often, but it would be best to show a willingness to get along – and that they weren’t really intending to try and take over.

   Next he’d have to catch up with that woman who’d wanted to talk to him – but children being executed had seemed a lot less likely to be able to wait. He had enough to answer for, both back home and to his own conscience, without adding any more.

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