The Snake kult

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The Snake kult

Postby Varnayrah » March 17th, 2019, 5:05:56 pm

(My last minute entry...I hope it's coherent enough. Not so easy for non-native english speakers^^)

Varnayrah the elven Mage let go of the notice with a curse. It tumbled to the floor and crumblet into a pile of ashes, soon to be scattered by the wind. That was not at all what she had hoped coming here around the time of the full moon. No unusual creatures, no mystery bags, no Alethin. Instead, this message. She was in a difficult situation now. Of course, one might think she'd owe Alethin for the awesome creatures he sold, but, well.... she'd always known that his wares might at least be suspicious if not illegal. Open inquiries for his whereabouts could be dangerous. But it might not hurt to visit one of the taverns aong the roads and harvest some rumors.

On the way there, Varnayrah had to struggle against the raising squalls and gusts of wind.. There might even be a grown-up storm on the way. Well, approaching spring those happened, but never that warm...? And there was a musty-smelling moisture in the air that reminded her strongly of the swamps rainforests of Raza. She even thought she could smell...

With a gasp, the elven Mage jumped. Something had slithered across her way! Well, that could not be right, could it? Those should be still fast asleep to survive the cold of winter. Moreover, that slithering reptile that had crossed her path was of a kind she'd never seen before. A black sanke with scales so glossy they might have been made of obsidian? Unusual, that - she would look that up in the keep's library. But first, rumors about Alethin.

Ink-black clouds gathered above. Distant thunder rolled. Varnayrah went on, lost in her thoughts about black snakes, unseasonable weather and black-marked merchants. Unseasonable weather - thunder-sorms should not happen right now. But that one did. Oh yes, indeed. The rain nearly washed the delicately built elf almost from the street, and thunderbolt and lighning rent the air now. It had come so suddenly it was really uncanny. Varnayrah tucked her cloak tighter around herself and hurried on. Just around the next bent in the road was 'The Unicorn', a well-visited tavern. Getting some rumors there should be easy. To access which ones were creditable was another story.

Varnayrah hastened through the pouring rain and entered the tabroom. It was quite full - more than one traveller had sought shelter from the storm. She ordered a pint of Cider, took a place by the fireside and settled down to listen to all that would be told. Rumors flowed thickly that day. The weather was one thing, but it seemed black snakes had been seen by more than one traveller on the road. One woman told how she'd been wood-gathering and encountered a whole nest of them. But more interesting was what a red-haired youngster of perhaps seventeen years whispered to his sweetheart. Apparently, he hat intended to visit Alethin to get her a real unusual present, but all he'd found was his empty cart. Or at least that's what Varnayrah surmised from the words she could snatch up. And then there was that... 'but, my darling, you won't believe what happened then! I swear it's true that a dead blackened stick that was just beyond that cart suddenly turned into a snake' Well, that was certainly a fanciful embellishment. '.... and it was not the only one! Four, no, five followed, and the last one was bigger in my arm, and now it comes - in it's teeth it carried one of Alethins mysterious bags! Well, I would have nothing to do with that magic so I ... left that placa and got you this beautiful necklace in the regular market, look, isn't that pretty?'

Varnayrah pricked her ears to hear more and just decided to raise and ask the youth when the door to the taproom flew open. The Sene was dramatically lighted by a blinding flash, followed by deafening crash. In the doorframe a dark figure appeared, about man-height but far to slim to be human. Green eyes glittered in the firelight, and the figure swayed slowly from side to side. The stench of swamp and reptile almost became overpowering. Then the figure hissed, menacing words: 'Anyone having knowledge about the hiding place of one Alethin, merchant of forbidden goods, speak up now. He has taken what was ours and we will have it back. Here is a reminder not to raise our wrath!' The figure raised what seemed to be a staff, and first Varnayrah thought ink was dropping and flowing in rivulets from it, but then the dark stuff turned into snakes - black snakes that looked like they were made from obsidian.
The slithered through the terrified tavern guests, mouths gaping open and showing venom-coated,green shimmering teeth.

Varnayrah had seen enough. In the alarum that was raised in the taproom, the screaming and scrambling upon tables and benches to get out of the way of the snakes, the lithe elf managed to slip out of the back door. She had recognised the figure in the doorway. This had to be a Naga, like her friend and ally Ssscrechchu. And from him she knew of the dark snake kult some of those cherished. Out in the street, she had to dodge two more Nagas, but she also was lucky to overhear their hissing conversation. 'That sneaking thief - he would soon have become a danger to us... but giving a hint to the Keep guards about his business was useless. Who'd have thought they'd get him and then loose him again.. ist was hard enough to have our little shiny black friends find out his route. Well, they will get him again. I'm sure he hasn't discovered the black scale that leads them on.' So it seemed these had set upon Alethin, but why? And what black scale where they talking about? What forbidden goods...no. Varnayrah knew that Alethin traded in forbidden goods. But what would it concern the Snake kultists from faraway Raza, if he smuggled some rare eggs? But... one snake had carried a mystery bag, the youth had said, That would be the key. But only Alethin would know the answers to that, if she would not ask that Snake cultist. So she had to find Alethin. How to do this? She thought about the many creatures in her care. There was bound to be one to help. The best would be to send her flock of birds. They were numerous and between them could explore most territories.

Finally, it was her favourite Yatagarasu Rave that brought tiding, from a Dust Bunny that had been gathering Dustballs in one of the deeper vazults of the Keep and ebcountered an stranger there that seemed to hide. The Keep! Of course Alethin would have the cheek to hide there of all places. But, on second thought, it was not so un-wise. Noone would look there. Her blue raven led her to the place. The Keep was full of nooks and corners and forgotten rooms. And in one of them, indeed, Alethin crouched, full of fear and only a shadow of his old self. But when he recognized one of his customers, he seemed relieved. Quickly, Varnayrah told him about the snake cultists and the obsidian coloured snakes, and then she remembered the scale the Nagas had been talking about. 'I don't know what they ment by this, but if the snakes can track you by that scale, it must kling to you somehow, doesn't it? Better search for it....'" Varnayrah mused. Alethin became pale, but then he began a feverish search, and then he really found a small black snake's scale sticking to the sole of his boot. Tiny silvery dots flowed over it, changing pattern and frequency. 'Whatever that is, destroy it!', Alethin cried out aghast. Varnarah tried the obvious first and set fire to it. That seemed to work, although the burning scale filled the hiding hole with acid stench. "I should have known better than to seacrh for unusual draughts and potions in Raza", Alethin muttered when they could breathe again. "But that Razan Cobra Venom was so tempting! Don't you think everyone would like to have one of those beautiful gemstone cobras they breed there with it's aid? I only wanted to rpoduce and sell my own to my customers. It seems they have hypnotic abilities, I more than once saw one of the Nagas use one to.... persuade others to do their bidding... just imagine the power! And they'

Varnayrah was quite alarmed about the prospect of such magic in the hands of dark kultitsts, but that would be something to debate with other magis. Perhaps something should be done about trhem. No, certainly.According to Ssscrechchu the Naga would use hypnotical properties of their pretty jewelled snakes for sinsiter ends. 'Alethin...', Varnayrah said. 'I will discuss with my fellow magis what to do about the Snake kult. But I advise you strongly to stay hidden until that is sorted out. They might prove mighty enemies. I'll see that you are provided for. For now I'll leave you..." She started to leave, only to turn around once more. Her curiosity about that point was to great. 'But by the way... who ever did you manage to escape? The keep prison is not usually a place people escape from." Alethin chuckled. "Ever heard about the steinlaus?', he replied. 'Scientists call that tiny rodent "Petrophaga lorioti". They eat stone, and their appetite is immense. My little companion was literally able to eat my into freedom.' Varnayrah laughed, shaked her head and left Alethin. Steinlaus. Could be useful.... but for now, the problem of the Snake kult was bigger. Adventure was in the air again...
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Varnayrah
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